Fruit of the Spirit in Foster Care

Once I started to become invested in foster care, I began to see everything through a new lens. I did the same thing when I was a paramedic. Everything I watched, read, or heard was related back to EMS. Becoming truly immersed in a topic causes you to see everything differently. As I’ve been thinking about how to share the message of foster care, I started to think about classic passages and stories from the bible. It’s pretty easy to see that many popular passages can be used to encourage people who are considering foster care, or are in the middle of it. The fruit of the spirit is a great example.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV)


Love: “That’s because love is never stationary. In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or keep planning for it. Simply put: love does.” Bob Goff wrote that in his book aptly titled Love Does. It’s impossible to be passive in foster care. Love is an action, and foster care is a very active ministry.

Joy: Children have an inherent joy about how they live their lives. The same is true for kids in foster care. It’s incredible how much joy our kids still possess even after the trauma’s they have experienced. We can learn a lot from them. Rend Collective says “Seriousness is not a fruit of the Spirit, but joy is”

Peace: Peace can feel like a distant memory when you welcome a new child into your home, especially a child who has experienced trauma. John 16:33 says I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. You will undoubtedly face trials in foster care, but with the love and support of a strong foster care community, like Thornwell, you can find peace in the midst of the chaos.

Longsuffering: Most translations say patience, but the NKJV uses the word longsuffering, which I think is much more fitting when it comes to foster care. If you have kids, you know the truth to the saying that ‘patience is a virtue’. It can feel a lot like longsuffering.  Kids in foster care need you to be patient with them. They come from some pretty hard places, and need time to adjust to their new normal.

Kindness: Being kind to someone who isn’t being kind to you is a challenge. The children who you welcome into your home won’t always be kind. Sorry if I ruined that for anybody. Many times children express their past hurts through harsh words, because they don’t know how to handle all of the new emotions they are experiencing. Understanding that those hurtful words are not a personal attack can help you respond with the kindness that those kids need.

Goodness: God is good. We know this, but when we hear about some of the injustices and horrors that kids in foster care have lived through, it’s important to be reminded of His goodness. His goodness is greater than any badness that our kids experience. One of the great things about having the Bible is that we know the end of the story. We know that good defeats evil. We know that love wins every time.

Faithfulness: Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12 NLT) Whenever I’m talking to someone who is frustrated in the licensing process, I encourage them to keep fighting. Foster care truly is the good fight. Fighting for love, safety, and justice for children is always the right thing to do.

Gentleness: Kids in foster care are usually used to living in harsh environments. They’re used to harsh responses and harsh punishments. Providing calm and gentle responses can play a huge role in building trust and attachment with our foster kids. If you don’t believe me, it says so in the Bible: A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. (Proverbs 15:1 NLT)

Self-Control:  In the Teaching Family Model, this is called quality components. The ability to maintain your composure and remain kind and gentle in the face of a tantrum or hateful words from a child who is hurting, when all you want to do is yell back at them. Like many things, it’s a tough but invaluable skill when working with kids from hard places.


It’s easy to say “master these things and you’ll be perfect foster parents.” It’s true, but unattainable. The best we can do is to strive to be better than we were yesterday. As long as you’re trying, you’re headed in the right direction.

Advertisements

Hanging Out on Friday

I’d say my favorite holiday is Easter. Yes, my family was pretty heavy on the traditions for Easter, and that has made it top the charts for celebrating. But also, I love singing, saying, and proclaiming that my Redeemer lives. If I had to pick a favorite part of Jesus, it would be that He is alive. It allows for the true message of Hope and Trust. I am able to put my whole faith in One who is very much alive. I don’t search after or put my trust in a myth or a legend or a person who no longer exists. I serve a living God!

Even knowing the end of the Resurrection story, the redemption, the risen Savior, the defeating of death, it’s hard to move past the devastation of Friday. Our work in foster care has brought me to this place. The despair felt on that weekend of the very first Easter is sometimes similar to how I imagine the depth of grief in our children. Seeing something you put your hope and trust in be put to death and taken away. People didn’t know that Jesus was going to rise again, they thought He was dead. Our kids trust (or have trusted) their parents, teachers, families because that’s all they know. But then. Then there is abuse, degradation, lies, and more abuse. Then there’s no one to help, no resources, no food. Love has ceased, darkness has descended, people have come and taken them away to a stranger’s home to stay for an indefinite amount of time. It’s Friday.

The past 2 years we have felt grief, deeper than we ever have, I think. We know that we were called to this place and this work, but the extent of empathy and love required to be the hands and feet of Christ is more than I anticipated. Stories and faces make it all the more difficult to see that there is a day of redemption. It feels like we’ve been called to hang out with people on Friday, and move with them into the uncertainty yet forward progress of Saturday. Because I know Jesus and His story, I know there is a day when He rises again. I hope that within 6 months to a year a child’s family will be able to take them back or a new family will take them in as their own. But we know it’s coming, we just don’t know when, and we proclaim it. We attempt to be their cheerleader in the darkness of their current reality.

We are His disciples, who have heard Him say that He will be back when no one else is sure what will happen. I feel like most of my posts are about acknowledging the grief, the sadness, the reality of people’s lives. But that’s where foster care happens. Grieving with friends, family, and our children sure does feel like that Friday night. Listening to difficult questions about the future feels a lot like that Saturday. Some days it is tough to remember that on Sunday Jesus wins. I know He does. It’s my favorite part. I just get jealous that on that first Easter, the people only had to wait for 3 days. It is a bit harder to accept when a child, a grieving family, or a sick friend must wait a year or 10 or not until Heaven to feel the ‘win’. But I have something that those people never had, the knowledge that He will indeed come. Until then, you’ll find us hanging out on a Friday.

First Birthday!

Our little blog is turning 1! Heidi made the first post one year ago and we could not be happier with the response we have gotten from friends, family, and colleagues. A lot has happened in this past year, and blogging has helped us share our joy, our struggles, our challenges, and our ever changing family with you guys. “Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.” (Swedish Proverb) It has helped us cope with losses and it has helped us become better foster parents. I have been able to think through a lot of things and figure stuff out while writing that I probably wouldn’t have figured out on my own.

Some fun facts about our first year: We published 26 blog posts (27 counting this one) that were read 2,869 times by 1,934 people. Our blog has been viewed by people in 14 countries. The most popular post has been Uncomfortable, followed closely by Loving When It Hurts. Since we started this blog we have had about 35 kids come through Bryan Mac. Heidi and I had the chance to attend a great orphan care conference that continues to stick with us and inspire new ideas and ventures. We’ve started the process of obtaining our foster care/adoption license, and have moved from an apartment into a house closer to campus.

To celebrate our first year, we’re changing up the look of the blog. New year, new look. New look, same great blog. Heidi and I are so glad that you have enjoyed hearing from us, and we are excited to see what will happen in the coming year. Feel free to let us know if there is anything about our lives or jobs that you’d like to read more about. We’d love to hear from you!

Unconventional

Unconventional: not based on or conforming to what is generally done or believed: unusual, atypical, irregular, abnormal.

           In my research about blogging, there were many suggestions on how to capture an audience, what not to write, and ways to address your readers. And while we surely don’t want to bore you with our posts, we need to be honest: we’re not writers. We love to use proper grammar and tell funny anecdotes, but we will never claim to be gifted in the area of written stories. We like voice inflection and using our hands and hearing reponses when we share. We find this idea of a blog to be a tad unusual, unconventional if you will. 

         So, why would we put ourselves in such new territory? We have been called to make some pretty big changes in our life  over the past year. God is shaping us through this crazy adventure He has taken us on. Are we the only ones who are being stretched to be stewards of God’s Creation and bearers of His Kingdom to a broken world? Surely not. We want to share our story, our unconventional calling. “Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out!” Psalm 107:2 NLT

         We got married and had quite a time getting settled, but once we seemed to find a routine in our lives we found ourselves craving something more. We suddenly felt out of place in a very welcoming environment. Stable jobs, an active church family, buying a house, and raising a puppy hardly seemed like a life to be unhappy in. It was a challenging period in our marriage as we discussed and prayed about how to address this. After doing a random job search, I found a description for foster parents. It seemed harmless, as well as unalarming to us since we have always planned to foster or adopt children. But thanks to Google, a few quick clicks around the internet, and we found ourselves looking at fulltime, paid careers in residential group homes hundreds of miles away. Within a month we were saying yes to a job as family teachers at Thornwell Home for Children in South Carolina. Future posts will hold more specifics and personal stories about that decision, but for now let’s just say that we were 100% sure and 100% unsure about what God was calling us to. Many people were confused about how we came to this decision, why we would move from our familiarity, and when we’d be back living in Michigan. We asked the same things! This was exciting and frightening to us, but we felt above all else, God was moving, unconventionally. 

          All these changes and we hadn’t even started our job yet! We had no idea how crazy we actually were for following this call. We will be sharing about the ups and downs of being family teachers periodically. It is an intense and active position. We are learning new things everyday. We work alongside some amazing people who model, train, and encourage us as we learn how to do our job. It is essential for us to be flexible in this field, and there are constant reminders of a need for God’s grace. It is unconvetional to say the least. God is surely using this new career path to draw us to Himself. With that, we have heard God’s voice consistently louder in our marriage leading us to parenthood. This comes as no suprise to most. It is assumed that children come next in our timeline of events. Yet, it is not a usual, regular calling to be parents. We are moving to a life as foster and adoptive parents. Let us clarify something about this: we are NOT currently adopting children. There is no active process happening for adoption or even private foster kids. This simply means we have confirmed God’s leading that the legacy children bring will not look the same for this Sampson family as it does for many other families. It means that we may never have children that share our blood, but ones that will be loved just the same. God is entrusting us with an unconventional family.

          Since we met, Jonathon and I have desired to be more like Christ, to help people in need, to love like Jesus did. It is evident that God has a purpose for our family, whatever that may look like. Our desire is to be intentional about the lessons God is teaching us on a daily basis, and as He leads, share them with you. Please join us on this journey!