Aug 262011
 

Today is my birthday.  Not just any birthday.  A big one.  The over-the-hill one.  The one where your friends buy you black balloons and laxatives.  So my co-workers asked me what I was doing for the big day.  Taking off?  Having a party?  Hanging out with the family?

Going to a DHS team meeting to explain the special needs of a foster kid.

Most of my friends just stare at me when I tell them my big plans.  But you see, he isn’t just any kid.  He is a beautiful little tow-headed kid with eyes that sparkle and a smile that takes up his whole face.  And he’s a foster kid.  Who needs a plan that will get him into a permanent home and on with life.  And while most people might not see that as a great way to celebrate a birthday, I think it is the best way to spend a day…and a life. 

“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus…”  Acts 20:24 (NLT)

May 192011
 

You ever have one of those periods of time when you just feel like things are out of sorts?  Like your rhythm is off?  And all your good intentions, the things you hope for, are going bad?  I do.

I frustrated my friend.  Strike one.

I said something stupid that made my child feel self-conscious.  Strike two.

I didn’t lead well at work.  Strike three.  You’re OUT!

(Sigh)

She was 16, and kind of a punk, although I fell in love with her the first time we met.  Life wasn’t easy.   A bad family situation had landed her in foster care by the time she finished grade school, and she had moved around a lot since then.  Mostly not her fault, although she wasn’t the easiest kid to deal with either.  But I was convinced I could change that.  After all, we had a great conversation.  We connected.  She needed some stuff and I got it for her.  Name brands that I don’t even buy myself.  She moved again.  Then she came back.  Needed some more.  “Where did it go?” I wondered.  But I helped again.  Encouraged her.  Expected her to do better.  To make something of herself. 

Time went by, then I saw her again.  She was heart-broken over a bad choice and a destroyed relationship.  I held her while she cried.  “Stay close,” I said.  “Let me walk through this with you.”  A few hours later she was gone, running to God knows where.

Strike out.

I sit here at my desk typing this and I can see her name on a little purple index card that is taped to the wall behind my computer.  It is one of many.  I wonder where she is.  If she has food and shelter and safety and friends.  Maybe I pushed too hard.  Maybe I enabled.  Maybe I should have done something different. 

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”    Lamentations 3:21-23 (NIV)

Maybe tomorrow I will get another chance to serve.  To influence.  To hit a relational homerun.

Apr 072011
 

I love to tell the stories of foster kids.  I especially love to tell stories of hope.  That, after all, is what this site is all about.  There is another set of words that are particularly hopeful.  And healing.  And life-giving.

When the two are brought together, the result is something beautiful.  Something powerful.  Something alive.  I hope you read it.  I hope it encourages you.  I hope it touches you.  I hope it trashes you.  And more than anything?  I hope God speaks to you, and that you are forever changed by that encounter.

Fostering Hope – Experiencing God’s Heart for Foster Kids. A 30-Day Devotional Guide (download)

Open it.  Download it.  Print it.  Read it.  Share it.  Fall in love with those who are closest to God’s heart.

For other downloading options, please click  here.

Mar 092011
 

She sat on the floor in the corner of her bedroom, pressing against the wall as if she hoped somehow to disappear inside it.  The voices from the next room rolled across her like waves of nausea.  Anger and contempt from her dad, passive meekness from her mom. Night after night, the scene played out the same way.   At 6, she didn’t fully understand the conversation, but she certainly felt the emotion.  And it hurt.  A lot.

Not that anyone else knew.  After all, she was an expert at putting on a happy face. 

Well-behaved.  Angry.

Smart.  Uptight.

Friendly.  Alcoholic.

Leading.  Cutting.

Athletic.  Anorexic.

 

Some kids carry the physical evidence of child abuse.  But for many others, the scars are not visible.  They are hidden deep in the soul of a child who emotionally hides in the corner, pressing into the wall, trying to disappear…

 

 

 

Mar 032011
 

captivate (verb) – to attract and hold the attention or interest of, to imprison or enslave

“My wife and I would like to know what it takes to become foster parents.”  I was silent, surprised by the question.  As I wondered what had pushed him to take that step, his voice came across the phone again.  “That kid really got to me.” 

She was 18 months old, with big brown eyes and short curly hair.  Lots of other kids would have been afraid of strangers, and she was afraid of me, but not of my student.  She reached toward him and he instinctively picked her up, looking a little uncertain at first, but then more confident as she tucked her head between his neck and shoulder.  Neither spoke, and their embrace only lasted a few moments, but it was enough to captivate him.  To prompt him to leave his comfort zone.  To make a call, and ask how to become a foster parent.

What would it take for you to be captivated?  What would move you away from the familiar and toward the tiny arms of a little girl?

Feb 152011
 

People go to the doctor to be healed.  To get relief from whatever ails them.  But I don’t always know how to heal.  Don’t always know what to say or what to do. 

She was 14, with thick, auburn hair that fell in unruly layers around her face.  She was beautiful but rough.  Even in her short life she had experienced her share of hardship, and it showed in the stiffness of her posture and the edge in her voice.  I found out she was in 8th grade, and that she liked math but didn’t want to be thought of as a nerd.  She had a brother but didn’t get to see him much.  She was not a stranger to foster care – had slept in other people’s homes off and on as long as she could remember.  Said she’d learned how to fold towels “correctly” ten different ways.  As she talked, she waved her arms, and I saw it.

HATE

Carved across her knuckles.  Other words across the back of her hands.  Horizontal stripes on her forearms.  Scabbed.  Fresh.  Evidence of pain that extended much deeper than the wounds that marked her skin.  She seemed surprised when I touched her arms, gently massaging antibiotic ointment into each line, grieving with each stroke. 

How do I fix that kind of pain?  How do I speak life to someone who has only known death?  I don’t always know how to heal.  But I do know how to touch, how to provide the most basic of human contact.  I hope that was enough for today…

Jan 142011
 

He was a three-and-a-half feet tall bundle of emotion.  In a few short years, he had unfortunately witnessed much more bad than good, a fact that became painfully clear to his foster parents as he ran screaming through the house.  As they struggled to settle his fears, their silent prayers were filled with doubt.  What could they do?  They weren’t equipped to handle a kid like this.  Finally the screaming stopped and there was silence, except for the sound of the sobs of a little broken heart.  The man fell to his knees.

“We will never hurt you.”

At the simple words, the sobs stopped.  Time seemed to stand still as child and adult locked eyes.  Then the most unexpected thing – a sloppy, wet, little boy kiss planted firmly on his foster dad’s cheek.  He ran off to play, leaving his caregivers stunned, realizing that heaven met earth for just a moment that day.

 

 

 

“Heaven meets earth like a sloppy, wet kiss        

And my heart turns violently inside of my chest

I don’t have time to maintain these regrets

When I think about the way that He loves us.”

How He Loves – lyrics by John Mark McMillan

Dec 252010
 

He was a big man, with a full beard and broad shoulders and calloused hands that looked like they knew a good day’s work.  He didn’t say much, just listened to my questions and nodded as his wife supplied the answers.  “We think he was born on time, and he seems pretty healthy, but we don’t know much else.  We heard that his mom was very young, and that she wasn’t in a very good position to take care of him.”  This baby was lucky, moving from the hospital straight to their home.  I knew that a half dozen other newborns were laying in the foster shelter as we spoke, waiting for a place to go. 

He edged closer to the table, watching my every move as I examined the infant, as if he was concerned I might miss something or be too rough.  Only when the boy was wrapped snug in a blanket and back in the safety of his wife’s arms did he relax a little.  “How long have you been foster parents?” I asked.  “Four years,” he answered.  “Seven kids.  I miss them all.  I wonder what they will grow up to be.  If  somehow I was able to have an impact on them.  Never knew I could love someone else’s child like that.” 

It is a special thing to be a dad.  But it is a divine calling to be the dad of someone else’s child.  A holy opportunity.  Are you up for it?

…an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because He will save people from their sins” … when Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him.   Matthew 1:20-24 (NIV)

Nov 192010
 

It doesn’t rain much in western Oklahoma.  The wind blows all the time, and the soil gets dry and crusty and cracked. Rows of winter wheat seedlings struggle to survive.

Farmers aren’t the only ones who experience drought.  Pediatricians do too.  So do case workers.  And foster parents.  And judges.  Not enough help.  Not enough time.  Not enough resources.  Not enough good judgment.  Not enough compassion.  Not enough hope.  Not enough.  And when the foster system experiences a drought, the children and families who are touched by it suffer.  Mightily.

That’s where I have been living for a few months.  Operating out of a mentality of scarcity.  Consumed with the flood of children shifting from their own homes to a stranger’s house, or worse, to nowhere.  A temporary place.  A shelter.  An office.  Depressed by the collective sadness of their stories, and at the same time worried that many people they meet aren’t even interested in listening to them.  Fatigued from sleepless nights and exhausting days.  Dry.  Cracked.  Struggling.

A long time passed.  Then God’s word came to Elijah.  The message:  “I’m about to make it rain…”  (1 Kings 18:1, MSG)

Really?  I’ve been doing this a long time, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.  I can’t tell if there is any progress.  Kids who I saw 10 or 12 years ago as preschoolers come back under my care as teenagers.  Struggling.  With no healthy, meaningful relationships.  No mentors.  No one speaking into their lives.  No hope.  No opportunity.

(The servant) looked, and reported back, “I don’t see a thing.”  “Keep looking,” said Elijah, “seven times if necessary.” (1 Kings 18:43, MSG)

Occasionally, some encouragement.  A mom reunited with her kids who is doing awesome.  A foster family who is tickled pink to be adopting.  A case worker who is busting her tail to get a kid to football practice.

And sure enough, the seventh time he said, “Oh yes, a cloud!  But very small, no bigger than someone’s hand, rising out of the sea.”  (1 Kings 18:44, MSG)

A small non-profit supporting foster families.  A pastor teaching about the importance of mentoring.  A news reporter telling the behind-the-scenes story of foster kids.  A business owner hiring a dad who needs a job to get his kids back.  A mechanic repairing a car for a mom who needs to complete some parenting classes.  A neighbor providing respite for a grandma who is raising her grandkids.  A Bible study group praying every week for wisdom and courage for the case workers and police officers and district attorneys and judges who are faced with gut-wrenching decisions every single day they get out of bed.

Elijah said… “Up on your feet!  Eat and drink – celebrate!  Rain is on the way:  I hear it coming!” (1 Kings 18:41, MSG)

It’s coming.  The rain is coming.  Right now there is a drought.  There is scarcity.  Only a tiny little cloud of hope in the sky.  But that tiny little cloud is growing, in the hearts of people who are just beginning to hear about foster kids as well as those who’ve done this for years.  There is a sound, the sound of a few voices beginning to mention foster care from stages and pulpits and podiums.  It’s coming.

A long time passed.  Then God’s word came to Elijah.  The message:  “I’m about to make it rain…”  (1 Kings 18:1, MSG)

Sep 172010
 

It had been two years since our first encounter, when she came to foster care as a victim of years of sexual abuse by a close family member.  My mind flashed back to that day, to that kid.  To the anger, fear, and depression, the desire to leave this world far behind, with no hope at all that the next would be any better.  Flashed back to the fresh carving on her stomach.

“Worthless”

The sound of a baby crying in the next room snapped my attention back to the present.  To the confident, half-smiling young lady sitting on my exam table.  “I remember you from when I was here before,” she said.  She was so different.  I was speechless, didn’t know what to say or how to even ask what the difference was, so I stalled.  Listened to her heartbeat, looked in her ears, that sort of thing.  Finally, the words came. 

“How are you doing?  Or maybe the real question I want answered is how are you doing so well?”

She smiled even wider, and told me about the family that had taken care of her after she left the shelter.  How they had treated her like one of their own kids.  Had taught her about family and trust and relationships and value.  Her answer to my question?

“I have been with someone who loves me.” 

Simple.  Powerful.  Life-changing. 

Will someone say that about you or me?  That being in OUR presence meant that they were with someone who loved them?  I hope so.  With all my heart, I hope so.