Foster Care is Brave

Want to know the truth about bravery?

When we think about bravery and courage, we often imagine those moments from movies.

A hero is up against impossible odds. It’s difficult but he leans into the challenge and survives! His girl, who is probably the brunette tomboy he ignored for the hot blonde all too long, will kiss him as the credits play.

Yay, bravery!

Bravery is grimaces and grinding it out and wiping sweat off your brow as you save the day!

Here’s the truth about bravery:

Bravery makes you want to throw up.

Bravery makes you cry. A lot.

Bravery makes you lose sleep.

Bravery makes you lose weight or gain lots of stress pounds.

Bravery is ugly and messy and not at all heroic looking when it’s really happening.

It’s hard.

Next time you feel like a coward because you’re about to make a difficult decision and you feel like throwing up, don’t beat yourself up. Next time you feel afraid and don’t want to keep going, don’t give up.

Bravery is a choice, not a feeling.

Choose it.

 

Jon Acuff posted this on his Facebook page yesterday. Reading this, all I could think of is foster care. Everything he says about bravery is also true about foster care. It’s true about the kids in foster care. They are the bravest, most courageous, amazing examples of God’s love. The joy that they live with after the traumas they’ve endured is unbelievable. To just meet these kids, you may never be able to tell that they have experienced abuse or neglect. You’d never know all they’ve been through. But we do. Foster parents experience the sleepless nights, the tears, the doubts and the fears that our children suffer through on their path to bravery.

Foster parents are brave people. I’ve written a lot about different things foster care is, but this sums it up well. We cry. It’s sickening to hear kids recount the horrible things they’ve seen. We’re exhausted. I’ve gained stress pounds. Foster care is an ugly, messy, nasty thing. It feels anything but heroic, but it is. Becoming a foster parent is a brave, courageous, and heroic choice. Foster parents are heroes to the boys and girls that they welcome into their home. Lots of people say that they could never do what we do, and honestly, we can’t do what we do either, but God can.

All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 MSG) 

It’s easy to feel like you’ve been  pushed past your limit. It’s easy to feel like God is giving you more than you can handle. God will always be there to help you come through it. He will never let you down.

 

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Loving When It Hurts

Not that I haven’t been honest before, but I need to be honest. The last month has been a struggle for me. We have an especially young group of kids. This makes things fun, more energetic, a little more chaotic, but lots more hugs and kisses. Ms. Heidi is completely okay with that! But when the fun, cute part of ‘six kids 6 and under’ starts to become realistic, it can be pretty overwhelming. Not only is that a large number of car seats, tons of water for baths, lots of food to cut up at dinner, and many spills and tears; in this job, it means six kids who don’t comprehend what is happening in their family. Six little minds that are confused, lonely, and scared with no answers to soothe them. Six most precious babies that don’t want a strange lady to hold them, but only their mom. They don’t yet realize how much they cannot control their lives; that they are at the mercy of the Courts. All of these small people who need so much take a toll on this heart.

Being the empathetic person that I am, this has been particularly tough. When we had more middle school boys, the stories and trauma weren’t any simpler, but they could process it better. We could sit down and listen to their fears and questions and provide some source of comfort. They understand why their house isn’t safe or why they need to be removed. Not that age and the ability to reason helps anyone understand why people they love make bad choices, but there is some consolation in seeing why things aren’t safe. We can’t do that with our current group. We have some third graders who grasp much more than they should have to, but all the others, they don’t get it. They want their parents, their bed, their school, their familiar surroundings. All they understand is that they can’t have those. With my experience as a teacher, working with kids, and my own health issues at a young age, I’m pretty good at simplifying something in order to explain it. Give me the inter-workings of the cell membrane, the importance of thiamin and niacin in your diet, or why I don’t work right without insulin, and I can tell you. I can break it down, say it without the complexities, only tell you what is truly important to know. I would LOVE to figure that out and explain it to you! But this month we’ve had to explain why Mom didn’t call when she promised, why they didn’t have water in their house, why he wants to hurt himself at age 7, why his Dad put handcuffs on him. With older kids, they realize through our conversations that drugs make people do bad things or that being loved when there’s not money to feed them means they can’t live at home. Small children don’t get that. You can’t explain that to young kids. My non-emotional husband tried to explain to a child just yesterday that he experienced things at home that no one should ever experience. He couldn’t get it out. Jonathon couldn’t even say it without his voice cracking.

We feel the weight of their situation even when they don’t. We are so sad that we could not have stopped those horrible things or prevented the tragedy they lived through. I have always told the kids in our home that they are loved, that no matter what they do that we will be there for them. This month, this week even, I have offered myself as their Mom until they can live at home again. I’m learning that they just need to attach. They don’t need or understand the reasons. They just need someone to love them, unconditionally.

It’s all so hard to explain, but I have this great, wonderful gift from God to see His children for who they are. I rarely see our kids as the misbehaved, annoying children others see, but I see them as hurting and forgotten. I see them with great potential. I look into their lives and personalities, not just things on the surface. Hence, there are heavy burdens. It would make my job easier to be annoyed with them, to not truly love, to simply fulfill the daily tasks of parenthood. My heart would be lighter, but I would not be living out the call God has placed on my life, on our life. It sounds all very loaded and overwhelming, but it’s not. Some weeks, this week, it was. This month has been especially hard. But each day I feel absolutely and completely that we’re doing what we are supposed to be doing. Casting Crowns says it the best in their song “Love Them Like Jesus”

You’re holding her hand, you’re straining for words
You’re trying to make sense of it all
They’re desperate for hope, darkness clouding their view
They’re looking to you

Just love them like Jesus, carry them to Him
His yoke is easy, His burden is light
You don’t need the answers to all of life’s questions
Just know that He loves them and stay by their side
Love them like Jesus

Lord of all creation holds our lives in His hands
The God of all the nations holds our lives in His hands
The Rock of our salvation holds our lives in His hands
He cares for them just as He cares for you