My Desperate PSA for 2020……

I mentioned several blog posts back that I took a short break from writing because I felt like everything I said and did was taken out of context. To be honest, it just felt nice to have a little pity party for myself so that’s exactly what I did.

But…I’ve decided to do my yearly obligatory post about fostering. So, this is your warning to do what only you can do in this moment…..quit reading if you so desire.

We opened back up for respite care about 5 months ago and had strict plans to only do short term placements. We stuck to that for a couple of months and then received a call for a toddler they hoped to have home by Christmas. We were on board with that and wanted to help mom succeed around the holidays. First rookie mistake….savior mentality hit me hard and I figured I better say yes so reunification efforts weren’t sabotaged.

Enter this toddler who is super cute and cuddly but cries as if he’s in a crying contest ALL. THE. TIME. We walk into our house at the end of the day and it’s what I imagine war to be like. Henry starts hitting him to try to keep him quiet (this doesn’t work by the way), the girls are doing homework, someone has a game or practice, and for some reason they all want to eat. J.O. and I are playing zone defense at this point and typically yelling out things like: “Where is his cup? Grab a diaper! He pooped AGAIN. Do your homework! No, you cannot have fast food. Yes, you can have fast food because I’m never cooking again.” And so forth and so forth.

A couple of nights ago I was sitting at home while J.O. handled the ballgame and I texted a picture of a screaming child to my friend with some very choice words. Needless to say, she was also having a bad day so we went on a 10 minute tirade about the inadequacies of the system, the failures of the programs, and the fact that our lives are just not very fun.

And then I put all the kids to bed and started over the next day.

Now, some of you reading this are thinking…. “exactly. This is why I didn’t choose this life and don’t do this. I help in other ways but I’m not going to bring this many kids into my home.” And I would say okay. That sounds pretty awesome. My only caution would be to never change that mindset because once you open this door, you will never be able to close it. The need is too great and the families are desperate.

Just yesterday I was texting our caseworker about trying to get our toddler with his other toddler sister. In the same home. Because they should be together. And she told me she would work on it, but there were simply no homes right now for all the kids in care. Let alone a home that could take a 1 and 3 year old.

Truthfully, I get it. The system is completely overwhelmed right now. And not everyone is able to foster. But I have to believe this…..if only a third of the homes that were CALLED to foster would open, this wouldn’t be an issue.

I’m exhausted. I’m raising a toddler that laughs in the face of obedience and a 1 year old that deserves way more attention than I can give him. But the truth is….if we don’t continue who will? That’s not me being a savior that’s me stating a fact. I get no less than 5 texts PER DAY for placements of multiple sibling groups. Homes are closing faster than they are opening. Trust me…I would love to have the church nursery worker mentality of: “I did my part and now it’s your turn.” But there’s no one waiting to tap in. That’s not dramatic…it’s just the truth. And now, I’m simply too far in to turn my back on it.

You should know this……working with the state can be difficult, working with kids who have lost everything near and dear to them can be hard, taking in kids when you already have kids can be busy……BUT….literal lives are counting on you. Are the blessings better in the long run? Of course. The relationships I have to this day would not be there if it wasn’t for this journey.

But……consider this my PSA for 2020. Please, for the love of all current foster parents sanity, go through the training and open your home if you know you should. This is not a poor pitiful me post, this is a poor pitiful kids post. We shouldn’t be their only and best option. Our toddler should be with his siblings who look like him and not thrown in with us. But….that cannot happen until there are more homes. Period.

So, don’t do it to give us a break, do it to give him all that he needs.

What’s our role?

I’ve been struggling, like many of you, to know what part to play in everything that’s going on right now. I can’t fathom the fear of being pulled over, profiled in my neighborhood, or fearing for my son’s life.

However, we’ve recently had a small glimpse of what’s been happening for years. We’re hearing from our friends and family about things that should’ve never been allowed to happen. And although we can’t relate, we should be outraged. As long as our outrage on Facebook matches our everyday actions.

The truth is, we can’t be quiet any longer about racial injustice. We can’t allow bigotry and hate to drive violence. But, let’s be careful not to turn this into empty words with no action. If you’re posting on Facebook but still hoping your daughter never brings home a black man, don’t post. If you’re marching downtown but only doing it for a good selfie, stay home.

I have no idea how my friends raising black children must feel right now. Truly I don’t. My heart is absolutely breaking for them. But, I do know what’s it like to raise white kids. If you’re a mom raising white children you have an immense responsibility. I will be the first to admit, our small circle is not very diverse. So that means my children will learn about different races and religions from us and the people we do life with. Choose wisely. I’ve heard people say racist things my entire life, and I’ve made racist comments before. And for not speaking up, or shutting up, I’m sorry.

The day Addison figured out she was white, she was in the back of my car and in 1st grade. It was a very innocent moment and one I will never forget. She had never understood that people were referring to skin color when they said white, black, brown, etc. However, from that day forward her ideals and values started slowly being shaped. They are still being shaped by her surroundings and friend groups, but primarily by me and J.O.

Parents, make sure you’re not telling your kids that God loves everyone, but hiding your valuables when your son’s best friend comes over and he’s black. Parents, make sure you aren’t telling your kids that Jesus would condone racism, but then questioning why whites don’t get a white history month. Or saying things like, “well, we don’t know the real story.” Parents, make sure you aren’t telling your kids that Jesus hates injustice, but then using terms like thugs which has a negative racial undertone. Don’t believe me on that one? If you’re ever tempted to use it, think about who you’re referring to. If you’re saying thugs and meaning upper/middle class white kids, I stand corrected.

I can tell my kids one thing all day long, but the way I really act is what they will pick up on. Maybe one of the most important things for white people to do right now is ask God to reveal our own hidden predjudices and racism? Maybe you’re worried about what your friends will think if your child dates a black guy or girl? Ask God to call that out. Maybe you inadvertently clutch your purse tighter when a black man walks by. Ask God to reveal that. And then turn away. Repent. And do better.

March. Post. Speak up. But make sure you take that behavior home. Especially if you’re raising a house full of privileged white kids like me.

Entire Span of Life….

Years ago, I heard Christie Erwin give a speech on fostering and adopting and it completely changed my thinking. She began her talk by saying she realized she had to do more than just say she was pro-life. She had to put action to those words. I’ve been thinking lately about what that should really look like for those of us who are pro-life.

If you’re pro-life, you’re pro-family. Period. The 12 year old who is raped by a family member and has no one to turn to? She needs food stamps, free childcare to attend school, help finding a job, and housing as she ages. She doesn’t need judged if one kid early, leads to multiple kids later. It might mean multiple kids on food stamps or standing on the corner asking for money. But, she didn’t abort.

If you’re pro-life, you don’t rejoice when families fall apart. This is a controversial topic and one you may think hypocritical coming from me. However, although I cannot imagine life without 3 of my kids, I wish even more their family would’ve been restored. That hurts even typing it. It really does. Don’t get me wrong. As Christians we are called to stand in the gap when reunification doesn’t happen. But, it’s a family born out of loss. Period.

If you’re pro-life, your thinking changes from: I need to call DHS on that mom, to I need to help that mom. Again, don’t misunderstand me here. There is no tolerance on abuse, sexual misconduct, etc. But most kids enter foster care due to neglect. That typically means poverty. Lack of food. Lack of housing. Etc. Our mind usually goes to worst case scenario when we meet foster kids. Myself included. We picture kids locked in closets and starved to death or beaten. And make no mistake, that happens. But, we tend to only hear about those stories because they spread around Facebook like wildfire. Reading about a child locked in a closet is more interesting than reading about a mom struggling with alcohol and homelessness. Sad, but true.

When sin entered the world, there became a need for foster and adoptive parents and that need will not go away this side of Heaven. If you have always considered fostering or adopting you should do it. Especially if you are pro-life. However, just be prepared to do it with eyes wide open. Fostering may lead to adoption and that can be a great thing. We just tend to stop there. But pro-life means so much more than stopping at birth. It means helping the moms who chose life when the world told them not to. It means helping the children who are affected by addiction. It means helping a foster family BUT it may also mean helping a birth mom. It might mean buying her clothes, food, etc.

If being pro-life meant it ended at birth, we would call it pro-birth. Or pro-pregnancy. But, we are implying that we are pro birth-death. The entire span of life. So, maybe we should either change our thinking a bit or be honest with where we really stand.

When you don’t see the ram..

I wrote a post last week about God’s provision and specifically used the story of Abraham. I made the point that Abraham knew God would provide when he was asked to sacrifice Isaac. Either by providing a replacement, or bringing him back to life. In the end, God told Abraham not to harm his son and there was a ram in the bushes to fulfill the sacrifice.

But, what about when the ram isn’t there? What about the times you pray specifically and there is no visible way out. J.O. has been blessed with an amazing job the past 14 years. He went to work at this place when Trey was a baby. The way the door opened for him to work there was nothing short of a God thing. J.O.’s dad met a guy through his John Deere business that was in the exact field J.O. was looking to get into. This man wasn’t looking to hire anyone at the time, but said J.O. could come in and talk with him. J.O. had another job offer at the time, but wasn’t too excited about it. It was a grant writing position and the epitome of a desk job. J.O. couldn’t imagine sitting behind a desk all day, but he was also terrified to turn it down.

When he met with this man David, they hit it off immediately. David decided to take a chance on him and the partnership was born. J.O. loved this job. He was good at it and thrived in the environment. He worked a lot and was often stressed, but it was easy to overlook because it provided a great life. I often felt like a cheat when people would tell me how great it was what we were doing with fostering and adopting. I knew so many others that sacrificed so much financially and it wasn’t that way for us. It felt wrong to put us into that category.

Time marched on and and things were going really well. Until they weren’t. Seemingly overnight things at work got more stressful and no matter how hard we prayed they just weren’t improving. We had friends praying with us, and one of our friends put it best: “It seems the harder I pray, the worse it gets.” J.O. and I started praying for God to show us what to do. But truthfully, we were praying without really expecting anything to change. Really, what I meant was this: “God help the stress to go away and the money to come.”

Looking back now, I was praying bold prayers with my own thought process of how they should be answered. I assumed the ram was there but just hidden for a bit longer.

Then, on Friday, J.O. was called into the office and let go. You could’ve hit him with a ton of bricks. He was hurt, devastated, and lost. He still is. I was mad. Still am. That ram isn’t stuck in a bush. It’s not even there. 14 years, 5 kids later, seemingly down the drain.

However, once I somewhat calmed down, I realized J.O. would’ve never walked away from this job and I would’ve never encouraged it. But, I could see the stress and strain this job put on him. The time it took away from our family. The burden he carried for everyone he worked with. The way he and I had both allowed his identity to be caught up in his job.

He was on the phone with someone after this happened, and I heard the person say “but this is who you are.” And it stopped me in my tracks. This is NOT who J.O. is. J.O. is the man who for the last 15 years has gotten up before me and made my coffee, who has fixed breakfast for kids for the last 13 years. Who has prayed with me, for me, and over me. Who has looked the other way when I spent too much, or came up with crazy ideas for our family. That’s who he is.

The ram wasn’t there. It never came for us and that’s okay. Because the Lamb was already sacrificed. God knew this day would come and that we would be hurt and lost and wondering what to do. We don’t know what the future holds. We don’t know if we will have to make major life changes as painful as that would be. But, we do know this. Just because our prayer didn’t turn out the way we hoped, doesn’t mean it wasn’t answered. We have a choice to make. We can be bitter, angry, and resentful that God took something so important from us. Or we can praise Him for His answer. And as hard as it may be; we are both praising Him for His answer.

Provision

J.O. and I were recently talking about some things that seem to be going in the opposite direction of where we need them to go. It led us to talk about all the ways God has provided in our life, and how we had to trust He would continue. But did I believe that? Or did I only believe that when I wanted Him to fix something? How often did I trust in God’s provision now matter how things were going?

One morning, I decided to look up every time the Bible talked about God’s provision. One of the hardest stories for me in the Bible is when God told Abraham to place his son on the altar. Do you remember that one? If you don’t, here’s a quick refresher: God told Abraham to take Isaac into the woods and build an altar. As they were building it, Isaac became curious what they would sacrifice. Can you imagine being Abraham in that time? Honestly, this story has always made me a little aggravated. Why in the world would God expect Him to sacrifice the child he had waited on for years. That seemed so unfair.

If you continue on with the story, you know that Abraham obeyed. He strapped Isaac onto the altar and was getting ready to sacrifice his son when he was stopped by a voice. This voice told him not to harm Isaac and suddenly a ram appeared for the sacrifice. As hard as this story is to believe, I do think it’s literal. I believe this actually happened even though some argue it’s an illustration. I mean, I get why it’s so hard to understand. If I tried to strap Trey onto an altar of wood and light him on fire, I would be arrested and Trey put into protective services. And rightfully so.

However, while this is hard for us to understand, for the first time it hit me: Sometimes, we have to be taken through things we don’t understand to be reminded there is a ram in the corner. Now, I’m not naive enough to think all our hardships look the same. Some seem extremely unfair. I look at friends who have lost a spouse, a child, their house due to finances, and grieve with them, but I can’t understand it.

However, I know that in my own life I am so guilty of becoming complacent and putting my trust in other things until they are slowly stripped away. There’s more to the story of Abraham that is easy to miss. When Abraham was told to go sacrifice his son, he told people they were going to worship God, but that they would be back. Now, you can think one of two things here: Abraham thought God was just playing (we have no evidence that God had tricked Abraham before so that’s a reach) or he knew God would provide.

Here’s the hard reality in our life all these years later: Sometimes, the ram doesn’t show up to save the day in a way we would expect. Pain and suffering happen. Jobs are not good and money is not there. Illness strikes and people die.

Sometimes, we don’t see the ram waiting in the bushes. Sometimes, we see no way out of a situation. But make no mistake….the ultimate sacrifice has already been made on our behalf. The day has already been saved. We don’t have to wonder what God will ask us to do next. We already know. Sometimes His provision is hard to see. Sometimes we may not understand it this side of Heaven. But, it’s always there because it’s already been done. That is provision we can count on even when we don’t understand.