Jul 232013
 

Sometimes I’m like a bull in a china closet and I was on this day, barging into the room without any kind of notice.  It’s not that I was being rude; it’s just that I thought I knew what I would see.  But I was wrong.  The foster mom was there, and the little boy.  But so was his dad.

My mind raced back a couple of years, to the first day I met the boy.  Dirty.  Disheveled.  In need of a bath and a haircut.  Not too long after, I met the dad.  He looked about the same.  It was clear he cared about the boy; equally clear he wasn’t really able to take care of him.  But he tried, attending court, and visits, and parenting classes.  Working odd jobs in an attempt to find stability.  It didn’t really happen though, at least not in a way a little boy needs.  At some point the judge and the case worker gave up, and scheduled a trial to present the evidence and allow a jury to consider taking away the rights to his child.

I expected him to fight – he’d always been proud and a fighter.  Long after I thought he would give up.  Long after most parents would have.  But I had heard that in a meeting a few days earlier, he had surprised everyone with his humility and the most generous but also painful gift to his son that a parent could ever give – the opportunity to be in a better place than he could provide.

iStock_000002683730XSmallI didn’t expect to see him that day.  Or maybe ever.  Figured he would cut ties and be on with life.  So when I saw him lying quietly beside the sleeping boy, stroking his hair and whispering to him softly, I was stunned.  Stopped in my tracks.  And immediately, I was overwhelmed with the love it takes for a father to give up his son.

“This is how much God loved the world:  He gave his Son, his one and only Son…”  John 3:16 (MSG)

Nov 162012
 

She stood at the front of the room, feeling very small and conspicuous.  A half dozen people stood in a semicircle behind and beside her.  Most were unfamiliar, but she thought she recognized her case worker, although they had only met a couple of times.  A large wooden table separated them from the judge, and she could barely see him as he sat perched on the elevated platform behind it.  No one talked – the only sound was the shuffling of papers from behind the desk.  After what seemed like an eternity, the judge spoke, raining down questions on the group.  Was mom attending parenting classes?  What were the results of her psychological evaluation?  Did she have a reliable job yet?  One by one, the others in the room – attorneys, therapists, child advocates, case workers – shuffled through their own papers, attempting to capture in brief answers their opinions on who she was as a person and as a mom.

Poor

Uneducated

Unmotivated

Depressed

Failing

Some of the answers were accurate.  She did struggle with depression and loneliness.  We all do at times.  It had been hard for her to find work.  She hadn’t ever finished high school, and most of the jobs she could land wouldn’t come close to paying the bills.  The one job she found that paid well put her in a spot to be taken advantage of by others – not exactly a career you are proud of or want to tell your case worker about.   But many of the words spoken in that court room seemed to carry a different kind of judgment.  The kind that comes when you are looked down on.  When others don’t think you have any value as a human being.  The kind that make you realize you are disposable – that no one would even notice if you didn’t exist any more.  Or maybe they would even think the world was better off.

She felt paralyzed.  Suffocated.  Unable to speak or to defend herself.  Humiliated.  Worthless.  Uncertain.  She loved her kids, but maybe these experts were right.  Maybe she was a terrible parent.  A terrible person.  As quickly as it started the hearing was over.  Head down, she shuffled out of the room.

It is extremely difficult to weigh the needs of a child against the ability of a parent to meet those needs.  But as we do it, we must be careful not to judge the heart.  To lift up and not to crush.  To recognize that every single one of us was made by the same creator.  Made in the image of God.  Realizing that changes our own hearts towards a broken mom, and provides an opportunity to show her who she was really meant to be.

Valuable

Healthy

Hopeful

Successful

Beautiful

“So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God…”  Genesis 1:27 (Amp)

 

 

 

Nov 092011
 

Her eyes were wide as I opened my trunk lid.  The van was filled to the roof with Christmas presents – toys for the kids, new pillows and blankets, groceries, and a few nice things for mom too.  She stood still, as if she was afraid to believe it was all for them – for her little family. 

My mind flashed to the day in clinic when another family caught my attention.  They were part of a small Bible study group and wanted to take on a family for Christmas.  Wanted to provide for someone who didn’t have much.  I agreed to watch out for the right opportunity, and within 24 hours I had found a match.  A single mom who had arm-wrestled a meth addiction.  Who had lost everything – her kids, her job, her home – but who along the way had found herself.  Had scratched and clawed to become a mom again.  But it wasn’t easy, and the full-time job she held barely paid the bills.  There wasn’t much left over for Christmas. 

Until she crashed headlong into a small Bible study group.

It took 18 trips up the apartment stairs to carry everything in.  The little Christmas tree could barely be seen.  The living room floor was half-covered.  And in the middle of  the mess, I held onto a sobbing, sweet, beautiful mom who experienced, maybe for the very first time in her life, grace and love that were extravagant. 

Who will you love extravagantly?

“Mostly what God does is love you.  Keep company with Him and learn a life of love.  Observe how Christ loved us.  His love was not cautious but extravagant…Love like that.”  Ephesians 5:2 (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!

(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 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)

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.