Sep 132012

I thumbed through the chart quickly and then stepped into the exam room, expecting like usual to enjoy meeting another foster kid and figuring out their story.  Within seconds my expectation turned to dread.  The air in the room was heavy, layered with anger, tension, and hostility.  The toddler didn’t seem to notice.  He ran back and forth between the toy hanging on the wall and the multiple adults in the room, ensuring best he could that he remained the center of everyone’s attention.  A short conversation revealed the issue – there were differences in opinions about what should happen in the case.  Not just differences of opinion – hostility.

About whether the mom was “good enough” to have another shot at raising her child. 

About whether the foster parents were “too attached” to the child. 

About whether the case worker was competent. 

About whether the therapist was taking sides.

About whether the lawyers were playing fair.

There is a difference between hostility and advocacy.  We should hope for a mom to be able to make it.  We should want foster parents to become attached to the children in their home, and we shouldn’t allow people to be foster parents unless they are willing to.  We should be respectful of the professionals involved in the case, being humble – encouraging, and educating each other rather than allowing ego, pride, and the adrenaline of “winning” be our motivation.  We have to remember that we are not fighting against people but against circumstances and behaviors, against powers and principalities and darkness.  None of us are so holy and wise that we have the right to judge the heart and motives of others, and none of us have a crystal ball that tells us whether the decisions we made today result in good or harm for the children and families we so desperately try to help. 

Within a few minutes the visit was over.  The room was a disaster, with goldfish cracker crumbs all over the floor and shredded paper from the exam table lying around like confetti, evidence that a toddler had come and gone.  I can clean the room.  But cleaning up the relational damage between the adults involved is a whole different kind of disaster – one that we must avoid at all costs if we are ever to win the war against child abuse.

“Where do you think these appalling wars and quarrels come from?  Do you think they just happen?  Think again.  They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves…It’s common knowledge that ‘God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.’  So let God work his will in you.”  James 4 (MSG)

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!


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.

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.


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.

May 172010

So this weekend I got in the mood to make cinnamon rolls.  The kind my mom used to make.  The kind you have to actually mix up and roll out.  I’ve never made them before, but it didn’t look that hard.  Saturday was the day.  I dug out the recipe.  Made sure I had the ingredients.  Invited friends for breakfast.  Got up early and started cooking.

Huh.  They aren’t nearly as good as I remember.

They looked like my mom’s.  Tasted like them too.  But the truth is, I’ve had better.  Much better.  When I was kid, they were the only cinnamon rolls I knew.  But by my age, I have experienced a lot more cooking styles.  More recipes and ingredients.  And now I know there is something better.

Many kids in foster care came from homes where parenting wasn’t done very well.  By most any standards.  Supervision is an issue when your mom is depressed or on drugs.  Role modeling is an issue when your dad is absent.  Or violent.  In many homes, simply surviving another day is the best a child can hope for. 

Huh.  Why don’t foster kids grow up and do better with their own kids?  Seems like they would have learned a thing or two.

They did.  They learned exactly what they were taught.  Which is why we have to teach a new thing.  A better way of parenting, of living.  A better way to relate to others.  Providing a model for new ways to live is one of the most important gifts we can give a foster kid. 

Will you be a role model? 

May 032010

So I have this friend.  Actually we have only been friends for a few months.  But it turns out that we have something unusual in common.  We both love foster kids, but that isn’t the uncommon part.  What sets my friend apart is that she loves the birth parent of her foster kids.  In case you blew past that, let me say it again.

She loves the birth parent of her foster kids.

She believes that she is called to do that – to create opportunities for a mom that has never had anything.  To offer relationship that doesn’t have strings attached.  Her husband believes it too.  And her friends are starting to.  In fact, she is rounding up a whole army of people who are willing to go deep with her. 

 To get dirty.  To work hard.  To hurt.  To get frustrated.  To pray.  To encourage.  To support. To hope.  And most of all?  To love. 

It’s really what we should be about. 

For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.  Galatians 5:6 (MSG)

Mar 252010

He was a cute, freckle-faced little kid, not yet 4 feet tall. The foosball champ of the foster shelter, or so he told me. Hmm, we’ll see about that, or so I told him. He gave up video game time for a chance to play against me – even recruited a friend for his team. I scored first, but then they caught up. Back and forth, neck and neck. Until the final goal rolled in. Then a shout of joy!!

By two freckle-faced little kids. Who beat me 4-3.

Time matters – spend yours well today.

Mar 222010

Have you ever seen something that you know has been there all along, but you never noticed it before? That happened to me this weekend. If my house is ever going to resemble clean, it does it on Saturday. I used to make fun of my mom’s scheduled Saturday purging of the household clutter, but as a working mom myself, I now understand that not only is Saturday the only day available to do it, but also that without it, the mess would overtake us all…but that is another story. So during my weekly attempt to resemble June Cleaver, when I was putting away my vacuum cleaner, I leaned over to wrap up the electrical cord, and that is when I saw it. This little tool, attached to the side of the vacuum, that is for reaching into corners and tight spaces. I have needed that tool for years. And I am sure it came with the vacuum cleaner. But I have never seen it. Not once. Even though it was right in front of my nose.

She was not a very noticeable person – a little short, with shoulder length brown hair, brown eyes, and a quiet, not very memorable manner. I guess I had seen her before in the clinic, bringing in the kids she fostered for checkups or illness. At least that is what my clinic notes said. Honestly, when I went in the room this time, she didn’t seem familiar at all. We talked about the child she had with her today – general health, school, behavior, vaccines – the routine stuff. But for some reason, the conversation turned a little. I was curious why she became a foster parent. Her face changed a little bit and she paused, as if weighing her next words.

“I was never in foster care, but I probably should have been.”

She went on to briefly describe years of emotional and sexual abuse that left her broken as a teenager, looking for ways to end her life. But right in the middle of that chaos came a series of relationships that showed her she was valuable. That her brokenness was normal, it was to be expected, and it wasn’t her fault. That she was lovable, and in fact, was loved very much. It changed her, and now she has learned to love. The object of her affection? Broken kids.

It was an amazing story – one that inspired me, but also convicted me of my own inattention to what is sometimes right in front of my nose. Be sure and look around you today – there might be someone amazing in front of YOUR nose.

Mar 182010

Trust is a small word with large, even gigantic, implications.

I remember those moments like they happened yesterday. She was 14, and was in my office for a check-up. We talked through some of the normal stuff that I like to know – how she is doing in this foster home, her school grades, whether she has good friends. Oh, and what about boys? Any of them hanging around? On that day the conversation was easy, though it had not always been. After a few moments of catching up, she handed me a notebook. The cover was faded blue and torn a little bit. It was also a little discolored, as if water had spilled on it. Or perhaps tears. I didn’t say anything, but my eyes must have asked the question. “It’s my story,” she answered. “My counselor made me write it, then told me I had to find someone I trust to give it to. I have carried it around for a while, but I decided I want to give it to you.”

I opened the pages slowly, carefully. Contained there were stories, poems, and drawings, each representing a piece of her history. Stories about her family, about loss and grief, but also joy and excitement. Pictures of her siblings, who she rarely saw but thought of often. I sat next to her on the exam table as we thumbed through the pages, and she filled me in on even more details than the pages contained.

It was a holy moment, a sacred time – one that changed me. Like many people, somewhere between childhood and adulthood I quit trusting people. Got burned a few times. Once bitten, twice shy – that sort of thing. But the truth is that trusting people is part of our DNA. Without it, we aren’t able to fully engage the humanity around us. Aren’t fully able to enjoy all that a relationship offers. It is not something to enter carelessly, to be sure. But if we are able to trust and be trusted, we will experience an unusual depth to our relational interactions.

That kid needed someone to trust, and I needed the reminder that I do too.

Mar 152010

In-flu-ence* – [IN-floo-uhns] – verb – To quietly affect the nature, development, or condition of a person or course of events in a way that operates without any direct or apparent effort, to MODIFY.

To have world-changing influence, we must be intentional.

She was not quite 2 when they took her in from the foster agency.  Her mom had a lot of struggles and could barely take care of herself, much less a toddler.  Her new foster family fell in love with her immediately, enjoying her laughter and the silly tricks that she would do, but especially the brief moments at bedtime when she would sit on one of their laps and snuggle.  Over time, both she and her biologic mom achieved milestones – hers included memorizing the alphabet and writing her name and learning her phone number; her mom’s had more to do with parenting classes and a steady job.  And after some time it became apparent that they would reunite.

They moved a lot – never could quite achieve the stability that most people crave.  She lived with her mom some, as well as a variety of extended relatives.  She called her old foster family every once in a while – she had never forgotten the phone number – and every single time they inquired about her new address and made a trip to the post office, sending off a box filled with goodies.

Art supplies.  Candy.  Books.  But most of all, love.

They were intentional in their influence.  They didn’t just answer the phone and have a conversation – they acted.  Even though it was painful.  Even though they worried about the fact that every call was from a new phone number in a new state.  Even though it took thought to adjust the contents of each box to match her age and interests.  Even though there was a physical and an emotional cost associated.

To have world-changing influence, we must be intentional.  We must be fully aware of the potential of our decisions, even when they seem insignificant, and we must choose to be intentional rather than careless.

So how did it turn out?  One day the phone rang at the old foster family’s home. “Mom, can I come home?”  It was her 18th birthday.  You can guess what the answer was.

Will you choose to be intentional with the decisions you make?