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.

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.

 

You Make A Way

Our job is full of burdens. There is always a tragic story, a rough life, a hard reality to accept in the midst of our home. The reason we have to take a child in is because they aren’t cared for properly. The lives of our children are rooted in trauma. It rarely looks hopeful. There’s not a way to escape it. This is the life our kids are dealt. Some days it feels like a mountain that’s impossible to climb, yet other days kids’ pasts seem to be forgotten. As one who is empathetic to my core, it is a constant thought. I am continuously thinking about how the operation of our cottage and the way we interact with children may bring up memories from their home. Putting myself in their shoes can be difficult to handle. I know it’s not for everyone. I would never wish for anyone to be treated the way our kids have been treated.

It is a humbling experience to be entrusted with the memories and offenses our children have endured. It makes each child seem so fragile. It makes me want to keep them inside all day in order to monitor all that they’ll witness. It changes the way I see childhood experiences. I am helpless to what they’ve already lived through. I cannot change one thing about their horrific pasts. For moments or hours or sometimes days, I slip into a deep sadness for their lives. Most of them don’t even know how the course of their lives has been drastically altered because of the home they’ve come from.

Now, I’m a practical person. Give me a list, or I could make one for you. Tell me what needs to be accomplished and when it should be done. I have a ‘Let’s change the situation with hard work and creative ideas’ kind of attitude. You can ask my husband, but I do not handle disappointment well. Being disappointed comes when I have to give up. I have to concede that something can’t be changed, the time is up, there’s nothing to be done. In order to simply love our kids, I have to give up the idea that their pasts can be changed. Between my empathy and practicality, this job is stressful! This is where God steps in.

I recently had a cousin pass away suddenly, tragically. There is nothing but sadness in my heart when I think about his family, the loss. It’s not fair. It’s heartbreaking. There’s nothing I can do to help the huge hole in our family. At his funeral, we sang the song “Make a Way” by Desperation Band. God placed that song there. I couldn’t actually sing one word of the song because of the deep grief all around me. But there is no doubt in my mind that God picked that song for us to cry through together. The chorus goes like this:

Where there is no way You make a way

Where no one else can reach us

You find us

Bridge:

Jesus, it’s always been You

Jesus, it always is You

Jesus, it always will be You

I can get a lot done. I can do every practical thing imaginable. But this job, this family, these burdens. I can’t even touch them. I don’t have one word. Looking at the insurmountable odds stacked against our kids, I’m done. Defeat. Watching my family grieve so deeply for Jordan, there’s nothing to do.

(don’t insert Jesus cliches here)

I know that this all sounds dark and defeated. I have rewritten this post many times already. I know that as a Christian I have hope because of Jesus. I’m aware. But don’t get out ‘Jesus’ answers. Life is hard. Loss is awful. And I don’t know how God will redeem these things. I don’t see how I can even step forward in praising His goodness or waiting to see how He changes a bad thing into good. Because I don’t see how life could get any worse than these situations around me. I look at these things and say ‘There’s no way out’. These practical hands and feet of Jesus are useless. My human nature has taken over.

And then God whispers, in the midst of weeping: “Where there is no way I will make a way. Where no one else can reach you, I will find you.”

So guess what my job is? To tell them that. To say with my actions “where there is no way, HE will make a way. And I don’t know how. But He will. He has to. He loves you. He loves you. He loves you.” Because, if I say that with only my words, I have failed to be Jesus. So, I fly out to be with my family. I cry with a child who misses his mommy. I make an unhealthy meal because it brings back only good memories of home. I stay an extra 10 minutes with a kid at bedtime to hear his thoughts. I spend a few extra dollars to buy the name brand shoes that a boy has never had before. I write a blog with their stories to honor their struggle. Most days I hesitate to tell them that “God will make a way” because no one even knows what that means in the middle of grief and trauma.

I’m learning that God’s love can heal more than I thought it could – the sadness, the despair, the trauma, the grief. I’m learning that my finite mind and empathy can’t always see beyond it all. I just need to do what I know God wants me to – love consistently, share in people’s pain, and let Him do the rest. He is good.