THE Question

I feel like it’s a bit clique when seemingly every post about fostering address the comment, “How do you do it? I could never foster because -->I’d get too attached.<-- but sadly, that is THE thing I hear from strangers, family, and even close friends. It’s something I probably thought years ago even if I wouldn’t have said it out loud. I’ve learned there’s some major breakdown when we have this thought process though.

I’m not here to make anyone feel guilty for not fostering, embarrassed for asking that question, or even ashamed for thinking this way. I do want to make people thing for a moment though. To reevaluate our thinking and motives because it is our core believes that dictate how we think, and our thinking how we behave.

So, when someone asks, How do you do it? I could never foster, I’d get too attached.“ I just want to cry and shout and jump with joy and walk them through my family’s journey and ask,

“How could you not!?

Do you think I am heartless and am not the kind of person who would cry over the bag of teeth?

Would you rather these innocent children live in houses with there’s no chance for attachment, real love, belonging?

Should we leave it up to the pagans of this world to show them the love we are supposed to be sharing in order to point them to Christ?

Can we justify furthering their painful long-term suffering because we might be uncomfortable, inconvenienced, or heartbroken?

Has Christ not enough love showered on us to multiply onto those seeking refuge?

Do you not want to experience His joy that comes from giving all you think you have only to be given more to share?

Do you not want your biological children to learn how to selflessly love at a young age?

Would you rather we sit complacent with where we are instead of growing in our knowledge and spiritual understanding of what adoption looks like in a Heavenly Kingdom?”

 

I’m not here to say the road of fostering is an easy one; by all means, it’s the hardest thing I’ve even done. I'm not here looking for accolades, because, for Real, we are no heroes, lots of people could do this better, we are just attempting to serve a big God. We'd much rather have more people join us than think what we do is unattainable. I'm not here to scare people off from this hard work.

I am here to ask, “Will you please investigate your heart and what God is calling you to do in the area of caring for orphans?” Not everyone is called to open their house to become foster homes but all of us who claim to be under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, are called to do something. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful day if DCFS was having to turn away families because there were too many volunteering, too many answering the call, too many so they had to be picky about who’s homes were opened.

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A Bag Full of Teeth

I’m gonna be honest, when we first looked into working with DCFS, it was to become adoptive parents not foster parents.

As we went through training we changed our minds and chose to go the route of fostering as well as hopefully adopting eventually. Over the past two and a half years, we’ve loved 20 kids, ranging from 5 days old to 8 years old. Their time as a part of our family ranged from a record 3 hours to nearly 8 months. We’ve worked through eating and sleep fights to behavioral issues that involved physical violence toward our biological children.

I will never say we’ve seen it all; the friends we’ve made have us beat either with placement stories of their own or cases they’ve worked. I will say it has been an eye-opening adventure, one that allows us to live the deepest sorrows as well as the greatest joys that life has to offer. We experience the need for God’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace. We celebrate His provision of family, protections, and restoration. Some of these things, I’m unsure could be learned in any other realm.

Let me tell ya, if you’re considering working with DCFS, at all possible- Chose One.

  • Go the route of fostering and use your gifts of flexibility to love children whole heatedly as they work toward reunification in healed homes.
  • Go the route of adoption and use your gifts of perseverance to seek out children whose parents have lost their rights.

Attempting to do both may kill you. To some extent, that has been the source of all our frustration with the system: battling the emotional stress of loving a child that might stay forever or might leave in an hour is torturous. Giving your all and making yourself stay checked-in for the sake of the child is agonizing.

That means, rocking that newborn for his at 4am feeding to make sure he develops healthy attachments, even if that’s with someone else. That means cheering on strangers as they make progress to earn back the right to parent the children you’ve fallen in love w children.

That means consistently disciplining the child who doesn’t know how to resolve conflict without his fist, even if your biological children are at the other end. That means being frustrated with parents don’t make the progress you [and your self-righteous standards] wanted them to before their children go back into their care.

That means waiting for a child to wake after an oral surgery. That mean holding his something tightly, wondering if these will go in his baby book as a treasured memory or if, to someone else, you’re just holding a bag full of teeth- an odd thing someone else possibly won’t care about when you’ll eventually send with him as he leaves your care to finish the rest of his life.

It means trusting God to use all things for good in your life because you love Him.

Trusting God is good and has good things He desires for you in your life is a process of being broken, shattered, smashed to smithereens and then reformed, molded, and made into something new, hopefully stronger, braver, and more faithful to the plans God has for us. How does God want to break you in the area of caring for orphans in order to grow you in your walk with Him?

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Toy Jail

I’m tired of being the manic mom who has to holler to get things picked up.

Yesterday I decided to print this saying as well as my own list of chores, glued an envelope and magnet to the back of the card-stock, and hung that and an empty plastic bag on the fridge before kicking off this new resource last night. After waaaaay too long asking them to clean up their random messes from the day I picked up a giant tub of stuff still left our. We’ve tried something similar before, but of course, follow through on my part is key. Now that they're a bit older, I'm hoping it will come easier to enforce.

You may or may not have a hard time guessing who the main culprit is [ehem, tiny] but needless to say, everyone had something in the bucket [even *cough* my hubs *cough*] I anticipated the festival of chores to begin today while I prepped food for the Super Bowl party but surprisingly there were at least 4 chores knocked out last night before bed earning back very specific desired items. This morning, a beautifully unexpected thing happened.

I watched my kids’ masterful, late-night plan unfold: all the girls were up as soon as they were allowed, did their morning chores, daily chores, made breakfast, and then started drawing new chores to earn back jailed items while the muffins baked. They worked together, helping one another accomplish chores, and celebrating with each other as each new thing was bailed out of the box. The boys woke and quickly did theirs chores with the encouragement from the girls that they could go early to the valley [church service] with their dad if they did. -news to dad, lol-

Though it’s hard to carry out and remember among the squabbles and basic routine of our days, kids are just tiny humans. We all need a commonality to keep us united. We need to stay focused on a common enemy, the mission at hand, to aid us in minimizing nonsensical arguing and laziness to take over. In our American churches we often forget our common enemy, and it's not other countries, the wrong political party, or those who sin differently than we do.

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Cor. 10:3-5

The cure to our nonsensical squabbles and set in laziness is to refocus our energy. Unite with one another against the actual common enemy. There are bigger things to focus on, the eternal kingdom that actually matters. We've got to put on the full armor of God, forge a beautiful, masterful, late-night if need be, plan to take on what God has called us to. And no, that's a local cause, a single political agenda, or even a worldwide issue. The real goal we should be united under is the great commition Jesus gave us:

18 Then Jesus came to [us]and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." -Matthew 28

#jesusjukedbymykids

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Seriving in Your Community {WITH Littles}

YOU can serve in your community WITH your littles. They're not keeping you from serving and their not just in tow while you do so.

In some countries, having children is seen as "tying your feet". To be honest, I've felt that way on and off again. Structuring my day around their needs and the routines that help my children thrive occasionally feels like tying my own feet. I know God is at work in so much going on around me and I'd love to be apart of it, all of it. I feel like I'm missing out on blessing when I see God asking us to get to work where He's already working and I can't. I've even felt jealous of others and the serves they're able to do as a single or as a mom of older kids or even a mom of fewer kids. But here's the thing:

God HAS and is continuing to bless me right where I am.

In the this current season. With aaaaall these tiny humans I'm allowed to claim, even for a short time. God has blessed me with a husband after God's own heart. God has blessed me with home after home to raise my family and welcome others into. God has blessed me by abundantly meeting my needs. God has blessed me with friend upon friend, even if some are for a short season and others from a distance. Focusing on my blessings and learning to say no to good things in order to be apart of the Best things has taught me--> I can and Should be serving right where I am, with those placed in my life, when I see the opportunity, because God is bigger than self-pity, routine's, and excuses. I've also learned some practical ways to serve with my children and I'd love to share them with you to help untie your feet.

10 Practical Ways to Serve in Your Community with Your Children

  1. Invite neighborhood children over to play consistently 
    I've totally laid younger children down for a nap while my older children and the neighbor friends played. My children are also getting to participate service to our King through hospitality.
  2. Host a block party in your neighborhood
    I've also put a child down for the night while carrying a baby monitor into my front yard to mingle for the rest of the block party. Depending on your neighborhood, over a holiday weekend, consistently on a specific weekend, or celebrate something fun one time a year might work for you.
  3. Serve within your local Church
    Most churches work hard to put on service events during a time that is family friendly. I've also learned that messing up my kids routine momentarily is well worth the rewards of living and serving in genuine community.
  4. Make and deliver seasonal gifts to neighbor friends, delivery people, grocery store employees, civil servants
    Letting kids come up with fun gifts and who they're give them to helps them be more aware of each person they naturally come in contact with on a daily basis and just how easy being missional in our living can be.
  5. Donate food, clothes, and toys to a local drop off center
    Having children help in decluttering, purging, whatever you want to call it can help them make it natural in their own lives. Being grateful for and generous with our belongings is good stewardship.
  6. Host homeschool meet-ups, field trips, or parties
    When we moved to this town we were told there were lots of other homeschoolers but we've had a hard time finding them. I guess they're all in their homes. lol SO, we created our own coop and simply started advertising it on Facebook. We meet up once a month for a simple party, field trip, or class of some kind.
  7. Go to a rehab or retirement center and sing or dance, then stick around to chat with residence
    The dance class my girls are in actually planned this and take the opportunity to have a mid-year presentation for the grandma's and grandpa's at the local rehabilitation center.
  8. Create and host original events in your city park [or other neutral space in your community] 
    Our community is large in residence but small in things for those residents to do so we've had to get creative from Movie Night in the park to Water Day that included a giant slip-n-slide and huge water gun fight.
  9. Clean up trash on the side of the [back, low-traffic] roads
    This was actually an idea my kids' had while driving down the road after a storm so we grabbed random plastic bags out of the car and hopped to it.
  10. Participate in and serve at as many community events as possible
    This takes most of the prep work out of serving. Stay involved in community and or school events. Find places they need volunteer or just participants and have fun being a part.

Those are just 10 of the simple ways we've found that are fun to serve as a family in our community. Living Missionally [or being intentional to spread the love of Jesus as You are going] is simple but not always easy, if you don't know where to start.

PLEASE, by all means, share what you've learned works!

 

 

 

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Missional Living: When People Leave, Rewards Feel Scarce, and Things are Hard

In Christianity, missional living is the adoption of the posture, thinking, behaviors, and practices of a missionary in order to engage others with the gospel message. Or at least that's what Wikipedia says.
I've talked some about what it looks likes to "live missionally" and even some practical tips for being missional in your community. As Facebook friends watch from afar, I'm sure it seems easy enough to #missionalliving to just about anything we do around here but today I wanted to share about when people leave, rewards feel scarce, and things are hard.
While Missional Living is simple, it's rarely if ever easy.
Starting off in a new town, community, and neighborhood is all together terrifying and exciting. Nearly 5 years ago we came to land where we are with a strong call on our lives to plant a church here. We did lots of research on the town, even visited other churches in the area to make sure we weren't doing what was already being done to spread the gospel, and then of course wrangled some other hopefuls in order to begin what we now call The Valley.
In our first year, we had typical pumps like staffing a nursery even though we were all so eager to take part in the services and meet new people, muster up creative ways to serve our community with little to no capital, find those to place in leadership with all the right motives, and even figure out how to branch out our ever growing small group. As that year pasted, we finished up some details on our meeting space and were beaming with pride right before a massive tornado took that space from us. The only affordable/available property in tiny but quickly expanding town. Even so, God showed up in a BIG way; providing us with an unexpected platform to share His gospel among the despair and for a bit, an influx in nickles and noses. People were yearning for the peace we had among the chaos.
Then, slowly, those nickles and noses faded. Due to misplaced faith, self-assurance returning, boredom, or even the lack of religiosity among us, people left our regular meetings to either better suited places or back to a state of being de-churched. I'm here to share the not-so-enticing side of church planting and missional living. Not to look for pity, to scare you away, or to say everyone's experience with this is the same but merely out of realness. When I google my experiences, no one else seems to have dealt with this and I have a hard time believing no one has, just that no one had share it yet.
Missional living articles will tell you how to share Christ as you are going. {HELLO- I am one of those, hence my blog name} Don't segregate yourself. Be involved with what you love, your passionate about, things you already enjoy and simply take Christ with you. A huge component of The Valley is the truth that The Church is not a building or a service we attend. The Church is the body of Christ, the believers who have made Him Lord, and live their lives accordingly. What most missional living articles will not tell you, is that so many of us have been religified, leaving us with no love, passion, enjoyment in anything that doesn't have a churchy purpose or title attached to it. We lack a life outside our churchy click. Even when we try to "share Christ as [we] are going", those we are among already know Christ; or at least think they do.
Missional living articles will tell you that leading someone to Christ takes masses of time. A true friendship takes an average of two years to develop. Reading someone the Roman Road in your first encounter will likely hinder that development. Sharing bits of the gospel as you develop is discipling. Allowing someone to belong before they behave is what Christ would have us do. What most missional living articles will not tell you, is that even after investing more than two years into a relationship, gradually sharing the gospel in applicable situations, allowing and encouraging someone to belong before they behave can still lead to them eventually claiming faith in Christ, all while running from you, spewing hatred about you and how you chose to lead them there. That the changed lives around you are slow and hard to count. That teaching adults biblical disciplines seems religious when they're coming from abusive-church backgrounds thus leading to immature believers.
Missional living articles will tell you that loving people on mutual ground is beneficial for everyone. That putting down the white-hero complex and admitting our need for aid from those outside our part of the church allows mutual respect to grown, aids relationship development, and benefits The Church as a whole. What most missional living articles will not tell you, is that some people will still feel like a project. No matter how hard you try to find giftings and ease your way into recruitment, we live in a consumerist world {at least as Americans} and people are very possibly looking for a church to meet their needs rather than sacrificing together for the furthering of His kingdom. People may choose to church-hop in the same manor that we store-hop looking for the best deals, only utilizing a store for parts. Caving to the pressure to offer services to keep someone will only result in them eventually leaving because no one/where can offer everything...oh, and because it's NOT about us.
Missional living articles will tell you how to live outside your home in order to love your neighbors. Be gracious with sinful lives. Be hospitable, with doors always open. What most missional living articles will not tell you, is what to do when people move away as quickly as they move in. When seasons change and neighborhood kids no longer want to play. They don't talk about people avoiding you out of their own self-shame because of their sinful lives. They don't tell you how to handle relationships that don't develop, even after two years.
Missional living articles will tell you being bi-vocational is one of the best routes for a pastor. It saves The Church money, allowing funds to be utilized in facilities, ministry, and missions. What most missional living articles will not tell you, is that while that is VERY true, finding the right vocation that allows enough time, income, and flexibility to still know your family, live where you're called to serve, and lead others in creative ministry to your community is beyond difficult therefore leaving certain areas of life to suffer.
Missional living articles will tell you is this way of doing ministry: living on mission for Christ, making everything you do no matter how big for small it seems, believing every relationship -new or old- is part of how Christ wants to use you in the every day to make much of Him. What most missional living articles will not tell you, is that doing such is hard, requires constant focus, yields little tangible [worldly] rewards. Living this way feels, at times, lonely as the rest of the christian world is counting their nickles and noses asking about yours...or lack there of. Living missionally feels that your meek, humble, quiet life is making no difference; especially compared to those creating huge non-profits, new ministries, innovative ways to change lives.
But God.
But God had called us all to different parts. I have to believe that in the Body of Christ, in some seasons, you can be a leg and others be an ear hair. All important. All loved. All utilized by Christ. Some of us will be called to wait upon God to "give us a child in our old age" while the rest of our lives we sat silent but steady. Some of us will begin to follow Christ in our last season and "die a martyr's death". Either way, we are loved and called to His purposes the same. Be encouraged today that no matter how pretty the insta-filter, everyone is trudging. Some seasons are sunnier than others.
What are we supposed to do when we are living out what the Bible says and things don't "fall into place"? What are supposed to do when you have to fight to serve a community?
Love Jesus. Seek Him and His will. Search for ways to do good and be love in His name. Pray for peace in what He continues to call you to and find contentment in His joy through the hard days. I wish I had better advise. Some days suck. Some weeks, months, years, "seasons" are super hard. Persevere.
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