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.

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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.

 

The Joys

It’s easy to have a heavy heart in this job. Some days we feel trapped in sadness and despair when we look at the outcome of these children and families. But one of the strengths we share is humor. Jonathon and I both love to laugh and joke and tease. It was the basis for our friendship, and now it gets us through our crazy life. I may cry most days, but I also laugh my head off. Kids are funny. Their innocence, awkwardness, clumsiness, and ingenuity create hilarity. We know for a fact that it wouldn’t take long to get burnt out of this job without the ability to see joy in every day. So, you may not laugh as hard as we do about these stories, but we hope you can see the joys of living our unconventional life.

To start, here’s a list of things we never thought we’d say:

‘You cannot dip your shoes in your juice.’

‘Get your head out of the freezer.’

‘Stop biting the couch.’

‘It’s not safe to tie those shoelaces around your body.’

‘Why did you color in the hymnal?’

‘You can’t take a shower in the sink.’

‘Why did you color on your pants?’

‘Please give me all the nails in your bed.’

We learn so much as parents everyday, but mostly about how not to laugh in their face at some of these statements.

‘You’re lucky I’m not old enough to show you my middle finger.’

‘Is asking a girl out hard? I hear it’s pretty hard to do.’

A child asking me a “private question”: ‘Are my armpits supposed to smell when I take my shirt off?’

Brothers: ‘Can we sleep in the drawers under the bed?’

A picky eater: ‘What brand of pizza is that? I only eat certain brands.’

Mr Jon saw the child’s school picture with trees as the background: ‘You went out into the woods to get your pictures?!’ Child: ‘Ummmmm . . I don’t remember. It was in the gym??’ Mr Jon: ‘Well, in this picture you’re in the woods. Did they bring trees into the school??’ Child: ‘Ummmm. . I don’t even know, Mr Jon!’

3 Year old whining, Mr Jon: ‘What happened, buddy? There’s a bunch of hair in your mouth.’ Child: ‘I licked Phoebe all the way to her tail’

Elementary boy: ‘I called a girl Squidward from Spongebob and my teacher said I liked her.’

3 year old: ‘Miss Heidi, these are my NIPPLESSSSSS!’ (lifts shirts)

‘Miss Heidi, close your eyes! It’s a zombieeeee!!’

3 year old: (in timeout) ‘Imma take my pants off!’

Mr Jon doing morning routine while Miss Heidi gets ready for the day. Once I come out, the 5 year old says: ‘Miss Heidi, you like to sleep? You always want to sleep.’

At church: ‘Are they drinking blood? Miss Heidi, is that wine?’

‘Miss Heidi, there’s these things. They’re sheets, but not normal ones. You have to get them in the corners just right. But once they’re on there, you don’t even think the corners are there. It’s pretty complicated.’

7 year old girl: (with a mouth full of food) ‘all I want to do is just eat garlic bread’

‘Our teacher said a bad word today in class. It was really bad.’ (gets his textbook to show us the word “asexual”)

Middle school boy slams: ‘I don’t make sense. I make dollars’

(lots of stuttering) ‘Don’t even laugh. I can’t fix all that. I even forgot what I’m supposed to say.’

‘Miss Heidi, your dog is freaking me out. Every time she looks at me, her eyes are brown’

‘Miss Heidi, the thing I want to be most is a nut cooker. The guy who cracks peanuts with his hands and throws ’em in a pot and cooks ’em. Like a nut cooker.’

‘Miss Heidi, I would never smoke the cigarettes. It’s a gateway drug.

From middle school boys singing Oklahoma in the shower to 2 year old’s picking their nose at the table, we think our life is pretty comical. We thank God for the ability to see humor. He makes good things come out of bad situations. I thought of that as a long term plan, but in this role, we see it daily. It’s in the small things. It’s a bit unconventional, but God uses dance parties and farting and middle school awkwardness to help our whole house see something good in all the chaos.