Thursday, October 24, 2013

You Can't Save Them All

There are several things you hear on a regular basis when you're a foster parent. 

  • "I could never be a foster parent..I'd get too attached."
  • "How do you not get attached to the children?"
  • "You guys are awesome for doing what you do!"
  • "You can't save them all, you know."

And there's many more. Each of these quotes deserve a post of their own really. Truthfully, some things that people say slightly annoy me. For example,

 "How do you not get attached to the children?" 

The sarcastic side of me wants to say, "How do I not get attached? Because I'm a heartless, cruel, evil woman who can let children come and go and never think twice about em!" I mean really...anyone who knows me knows that I'm attached as soon as I lay eyes on these kids or as soon as they are placed in my arms. They become mine in every way but one. We have been chosen to care for this child for as long as He deems necessary. Any child that He sends our way is ours..I don't care how long they live with us. I'm attached instantly....and forever.

Another good one is:

"You guys are AWESOME for doing what you do!" 

Now this one doesn't really annoy me per say. I know that people are being nice when they say this and I REALLY appreciate the compliments. I just personally think the word awesome is grossly overused these days. We are not awesome.

The definition of awesome is: 
inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear; causing or inducing awe

Now I don't know about you but I don't think I have EVER left anyone in awe with anything I have said or done.

We are not awesome. Our God is awesome. The free flowing grace and mercy that He gives to us is awesome. God sending His son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for you and me and every other sinner in the world is awesome. God showing up on time every time in our hour of need is seriously amazingly awesome. 

There is no POSSIBLE way we could do what we do without God. He is my strength, my comforter, my refuge when things get rough. When behaviors get so bad and I just want to quit...give up..throw in the towel..throw up the white flag...He reassures me.."Keep going..finish the task I have set before you." When even the mere thought of one of my kids going back to a not so ideal situation completely blasts me to my core..He is there..comforting me..reminding me again that His will will be done..in EVERY situation. Oh, how I love Him.

And then there's the "You can't save them all, you know."

This one doesn't annoy me at all. When someone says this to me, it opens a door...A window of opportunity to tell people that maybe I can't save them all but....

About a month ago, my family and I were at Wal-Mart. Just a regular trip to good ole Wally World to pick up some needed items. It was Mark and I and the kids. As we were standing in line at the checkout, I noticed two small children sitting on the floor in front of the customer service desk. They appeared to be between the ages of 4 and 6. They were wearing dirty, disheveled clothing and looked as though they hadn't had a bath in several days. They looked a bit frightened and seemed to be holding on to each other. There were a few Wal-mart employees standing over them..looking around. I remembered hearing about 10 minutes before an announcement going out over the intercom. "Two lost children are at the customer service desk. If you have lost your children, they are up front at the service desk." I brought them to Mark's attention and gave him the sad face. "I know it's sad, honey", he said. "But they are being cared for. There are employees with them." God bless him. I really don't know how he puts up with me sometimes. "What if they've been abandoned?", I asked him. "You know that does happen. We should do something." I have no idea what I thought we could do.  He replied, "Well, they are going to be fine. If that is what's happened, they will call the authorities and they'll be taken care of. I mean, they're not just going to give them to us to take home. You can't save them all, sweetheart."

So see, we even say it to each other. It's true. It's absolutely 100% true. I can't save them all. I so desperately wish I could. There is nothing I'd like more than to take every child in need of a loving, stable, secure home in and love on them 24 hours a day. It is my wish that no child ever have to feel alone or be abused or feel unwanted..EVER. But the sad truth is that I can't. It's just not possible.

There are so many children in need of a good home. The numbers are staggering. Every single day there are thousands of children being abused and neglected in their own homes by the very people that are supposed to love and care for them and protect them from such things. There are so so many.

Just for an example, I found statistics showing that there are 4485 children in our state that have been removed from their home for whatever reason and are in foster care or with an alternative care giver (this was as of 1/26/12). Living with someone other than their parents. 1500 in the upstate alone at any given time. I also found statistics showing that there are currently over 5000 active "Christian" churches in our state. See where I'm going with this? If only ONE family in each church committed to walking out God's commandment to care for the orphans there would not be ONE child in need of a home. You're absolutely right...one person cannot save them all. But the body of Christ..those of us who are called to be His hands and feet..absolutely can.

I read a short story one time that really laid it all out there for me. 



It made a difference for that one. It mattered to that one.

 It mattered to E. He knows he is loved by SOMEONE. He now knows that not every home has a Mommy that chooses drugs over him. He now knows that not in every home do you have to stay half awake at night just to make sure no one comes through the window. He now knows that there are homes where there is plenty to eat and you don't have to fix it yourself while Mommy is passed out in the living room floor.

 It matters to G. He knows that he is WANTED and CHERISHED by someone in this world. That not in every home are hugs given infrequently or never at all. That there is safety and security in a Mommy and Daddy's arms. That saying "I love you" a hundred times a day is very much okay. 

 It matters to a 20 month old little girl who is finding out very quickly that she is LOVED and ADORED by so very many people. That when she cries there is SOMEONE who comes to tend to her needs and tell her that everything is going to be okay. A Mommy and Daddy and a family that is there to kiss her boo boos away. It very much matters to her.

No, I can't save them all. But WE can. The body of Christ can RISE UP to meet the needs of these kids who want nothing more than to know that they are loved and cherished and WORTH the time and effort it takes to pour in to them.

Not every one is called to foster. Not every one is called to adopt. But we are all called to do SOMETHING. You may not be able to save them all...but isn't saving just one better than doing nothing at all? 


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"I Dropped My JESUS!"

Every day with our G is an adventure. It really is. He is just FUNNY sometimes! To not be speaking at all 13 months ago to the things he says these days is just crazy to think about...

And sometimes, the things he says comes back to me later..and I think, "Wow! Out of the mouths of babes"...Kids do say the darndest things...and sometimes they turn out to be great lessons for us grown folk.

This past Sunday is a wonderful example. We had just arrived home from church. As we were getting out of the car, G dropped the craft that he had made in his preschool class at church that morning. It was a paper that had a picture of Jesus on it. I'm ashamed to say that I'm not even really sure what the lesson was about that morning. But small things like dropping his paper..or his shoe being untied..or others walking faster than him...or anything at all really..affects G differently than it does other kids. It sends him into a tailspin sometimes. He gets terribly upset over what the rest of us may not think is a very big deal..

"I DROPPED MY JESUS!!", he wailed.

I turned around just in time to see him fall to his knees. (right beside the paper he was so upset about dropping) He threw his head back and wailed again..this time even louder...
 
"MAAAMMAAA! I DROPPED MY JAAYYYYSSSUUUUSSS!!!" 

Now, being that we've had G for 13 months..we know how to handle this type of thing. Trial and error has taught us the best route to take. If you get upset and speak loudly to him he's gonna wail louder. For example, "G! Pick up that paper and COME ON!" is kinda like saying "Okay, let's prolong this episode for at least another 10 minutes." You first have to get his attention by speaking softly to him (which is hard to do over the wails..I've learned to wait until he takes a breath) and calmly calling his name.

"G. G, calm down...look at me." (You got to get him to look at you or nothing happens)"What's wrong?"

"I DROPPED MY JEESSUUUSSSS!"

"Okay, you dropped your Jesus?"

"YESSSSS!!" BWAAAAAA


"Look, G. There it is. Right beside you. See it?"

(He's wailing the entire time)

"See it? Look G..there's your Jesus. Do you see it?"

Wailing stops. Bottom lip still stuck out. He looks down.

"See it? There's your Jesus. Do you see it?"

"Yes, ma'am." Sniff Sniff

"Ok, good. Pick it up. Got it? Ok, let's go in the house."

"Okay, Mama", he says, smiling ear to ear as he skips happily up the steps.

And there you have it. G dropped his Jesus. And it upset him terribly. But once he calmed down and was able to think about the situation, he realized it wasn't THAT big of an issue to begin with. He let himself get so terribly upset when all he really had to do was bend down and pick his Jesus back up and go on with life.

Today, I started thinking about this encounter in a different way. We as Christians do sometimes "drop our Jesus" too. I know, I know, it's crazy but hear me out...

Have you ever dropped your Jesus? I have. I try not to. I try very hard on a daily basis to hold Him tightly to me...to adhere to His teachings..to treat others the way I want to be treated..to speak kind words in love..to recognize the needs of those around me and do whatever I can to help...to never judge others or their actions..to try to understand others points of view before I open my mouth to tell them how very wrong they are and how very right I am. I try. I really do. I fail sometimes. In fact, I drop my Jesus more times than I'd like to admit.

A couple of weeks ago I recieved a phone call from the grandmother of E. E is our 2nd foster son who went home at the end of March.  You can read a little about our time with E HERE. "Valerie, they're coming to get E again!!", was the first thing I heard after saying hello. "She (his Mom) has messed up again and they (DSS) are coming to pick him up!! Can you take him? PLEASE!", she begged me. "What?", I said. "What happened? Calm down and tell me what happened!"

Once she told me what had occurred to get her family back to this point I told her I would call her back. I wanted to call E's Mom...

~I dropped my Jesus~

Now in my defense..I want you to understand that I have stood in support of this woman since the day I met her. Hugged her neck and told her how proud we were of her recovery efforts. Rejoiced with her in court when the judge said E would be coming back to her even though I was afraid that the very thing that has happened was going to happen. Prayed for her and her family. And countless other things I believe God would have me do to encourage and support her. I tried my very best to show her Jesus.

But that day...when I learned of the things our E had been through in the 6 months since he'd been home...well..my human motherly emotions took over. I said things I know for a fact Jesus would not have said. I said things that I'm sure added much more shame and guilt to her shoulders than she was already carrying. I let it all out. My frustrations with her..my frustrations with the system..everything. I put it all on her. I dropped my Jesus and let all my anger, sadness, and frustration out. I called her back later on that evening to find out what happened and where E had been taken. I swallowed my pride..picked up my Jesus..and apologized. I told her, once again, that I was here for her and E. If there is anything I can do to help or support her in any way I will do just that. Why did I do that, you ask? Because that's what my Jesus would have me do.

Over the last few weeks, I've watched as several of my dearest Christian friends dropped their Jesus. Someone has said something to offend them or something has happened to put them on alert. They feel that their reputations are threatened or feel someone they love or respect or admire's reputation is at risk. Their pride has been hurt. Egos have gotten in the way and instead of turning the other cheek or speaking out in love...they dropped their Jesus. They say the things they say are "in love" but are in fact filled with malice. The words and the way they have been said are malicious..causing nothing more than further discouragement and discord. They are casting those with a different opinion than their own aside as if they too are not God's child...chosen and adopted by our Father in heaven. I say all of that to say this..

Don't drop your Jesus

Cling to what you know is true and good.  You don't always have to be right.  You don't always have to have the last word.  It's okay.  Show them Jesus.  Let His light shine through you to them.  Turn the other cheek.  Speak in love.  Offer to pray for them..with them.  Just don't drop your Jesus or worse yet, use His word to prove your point.

And if you do drop your Jesus...once you realize it, stop and think about the situation..is it really that big of a deal? Probably not. Can it be handled a different way? Most certainly yes. Pick up your Jesus...and move on with life. Speak in love. Never to admonish. Never to cause hurt or pain to someone who is already hurting. You may not understand their situation. They may be fighting a battle you know nothing about.  Some people share more than others. Then again, you may be so tired of encouraging..supporting..praying. But pick up your Jesus anyway and continue to do what you know He would have you do. I'm thankful that we serve a God that never tires. A God that is never burdened by our troubles but promises to help us through them if we only call on Him.  I'm thankful that He loves me just as much as He loves those that I'm not in agreement with on any given situation.  I'm thankful that I am just as much His child as anyone else. I'm thankful that each time I've dropped my Jesus, He is right there beside me. People will always let you down. Disappoint you in some way. That's okay. They have their struggles too. Try to see them and treat them as Jesus would.

Pick up ya Jesus..and move on with life.



Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"That's why I'm here..."

6 days after G came to live with us I got another call:

"E"
4 year old male
Currently with an "alternative caregiver".  
Caregiver went to court today and said she can no longer keep him. 
No health issues. 
No known behavior issues.
He's currently at day care. 
She wants him moved this evening.

"Will you take him?" 

I immediately thought, "Who does that?  What kind of person says they can't take care of a sweet precious 4 year old BABY and he has to be moved today! How awful!" 
(Oh how naive I was!)
 After conferring with Mark we both agreed. 
 "Of course we'll take him.  Bring him on!"

That afternoon we sat in the living room and waited for his arrival. I was so eager to meet our newest little one. We saw the car pull up..watched as he and the caseworker got out and walked toward the door...
"Awe! Look at him!  He's so cute!"
I opened the door and they walked in. He walked confidently through the door with his head held high.
 "Hi, E! Welcome to our home! We are so glad you're here!", I remember saying. 
His response was one I'll never forget...

"Hey.  My Mama does drugs...that's why I'm here."

Ummm.
  Insert slightly awkward silence here. 
  Rookie foster Mama alert!
  Remember, we're new at this. We only had one foster son so far..and he wasn't talking...yet. 
What do you say to a 4 year old child who says that? 
I glanced at my 20 year old daughter who had come by to meet our new arrival.   She sat with eyes wide looking at me like, "Don't look at me..I have no idea". 
 I looked to my slightly sheltered 8 year old son who looked as dumbfounded as I did.  I turned to the caseworker for help...she just shrugged her shoulders and said, "Yeah, he usually doesn't hold anything back."  Ummm, okay. I have no idea what to say.  Errr...change the subject...QUICK!
"Ok, well..would you like to see your new room?"

He came with plenty of stuff.  
Clothes, toys, etc.  He was pretty set in the stuff department.  He had a huge collection of Matchbox cars.  He loved them...and was very protective them.  He and Kobe immediately began playing with the cars while we got his stuff moved in and finished with all the paperwork and all.  Watching them play, I quickly realized he was not like any 4 year old I'd ever dealt with.  He was mature for his age in some ways.  "Street smart" I'd call it.  I had introduced myself as Valerie. He told me "I can't remember that. So I'm just gonna call you Mama." "Ok, that's fine", I told him.  But I actually was thinking that was kinda sad..him calling a stranger "Mama" as if the term was interchangeable with whomever is there meeting your needs at the moment. 

Over the next several weeks we would come to realize that he also came with a lot of other stuff.  Baggage I guess you could say.  To be such a little guy he carried some pretty heavy burdens. He had seen things no child should ever see.  Heard conversations no child should ever hear.  At 4 years of age he knew way too much about way too many things that children should never have to worry about.  A few days later the kids were sitting at the kitchen table while I made dinner plates and out of nowhere E says,

 "My Mama does drugs...that's why I'm here with ya'll."

AHA!  I'm ready for you this time buddy, I thought. 
 "I know, sweetheart", I said in my most motherly tone. "But she loves you very much and she's working really hard to do better so that you can come back home!"
BAM! Perfect answer!  Whoop Whoop!  I'm AWESOME at this! Go Val Val!

 "Nah", he says. "She lies. She ain't gonna do right. She lies all the time".  

Sighhhh....'Ummm, who's ready for dinner?"

E was with us for 7 months before going back home to his Mom. One post won't do in telling this precious boys' story. I'll tell more in other posts of his time with us. Suffice it to say right now that our faith was tested time and time again. Those 7 months were a trying time for all of us. We dealt with behaviors and issues we had never dealt with before. We dealt with a child that had experienced deep trauma that none of us had ever known and watched as that trauma played out in so many different ways in his behavior. We leaned on God and each other more than we ever had before. We saw amazing changes in E that only God could have made happen. He was loved on by us and all of our amazing friends and family. We learned more about ourselves and what we were capable of (with God's help) during those 7 months than any other time that I can think of. We are so thankful for our time with E and continue to pray for him and his family daily. Who knows? Our story with him may not be completely written. We still hear from him and his family from time to time. His Mom will text me a picture every once in a while.  The day he went home was so bittersweet.  Our sadness in him leaving us was matched with his Mom's joy at having him home.  I cried all day...I only felt the sadness that day..we had come so far together..he was doing so well with us...Why send him home now?? I just didn't understand...it just didn't make sense to me...

But God... 
God was working it out..
God was moving...shifting things around..
in ways that only He can..

You see, on the EXACT same day...almost to the same hour...that E left our house to go back to his Mom...
another child was being taken out of their home by police and DSS workers...taken away from everything they had ever known in their little 13 month long life....and another Mama was crying..uncertain on where her baby was going and who she was going to be with...devastated that she didn't know what was going to happen.....