Coping Skills

We see it every day. Children who are sad, scared, and anxious act angry and destructive because they simply don’t know what else to do. They are experiencing a lot of intense emotions, and they aren’t quite sure how to handle them. They want to be helped, but they have never learned the right way to ask. All they know is that they’re scared. Kids who have born into traumatic situations don’t always have the emotional regulation and coping skills needed to make healthy choices in stressful and uncertain times. They are attempting to process adult sized issues with child sized brains. It’s really not a fair fight.

Infants in healthy environments quickly learn that crying is an effective way to get their needs met. When they are in an unhealthy environment, they learn that crying does not get their needs met, and could actually be harmful, so they stop crying. Once they are in a healthy environment, they relearn the effectiveness of crying. Sometimes, their needs are never fully met until they are toddlers or even school age children. This process often begins in foster homes after they are removed from their unfulfilling home. Once that begins to happen, they often revert to where their development was initially stunted. That means crying, or somehow being disruptive, when they have unmet needs. Over time kids (hopefully) learn better communication skills and ways to more effectively get what they need.

That’s why family teachers, foster parents, and parents in general have such an important job. Teaching social skills and coping mechanisms to kids doesn’t just help them to be successful at home and school. It gives them tools to use when they grow up and go out into a stressful world. Proverbs 22:6 says Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.  I just had a conversation with one of our boys about how sometimes we turn little issues into big issues because we’re trying to teach lessons about life that will help them when they grow up. Lessons that they probably should have learned already, but haven’t.

An incredibly effective way to teach these things to kids is through modeling. Kids are so often a mirror of what’s going on around them. If there’s arguing and yelling in their house, they are much more likely to argue and yell. If they’ve experienced sexual abuse, it’s much more likely that they will mirror that behavior with their peers. This is all they know, so they think it’s normal. They assume that’s how it’s supposed to be. That’s why the cycle of poverty and abuse is so strong. They don’t know any different. We get the chance to show our kids, maybe for the first time, how to interact respectfully with others and take care of themselves. As foster parents and family teachers our job isn’t just providing a home for children who need a safe place, it’s working to break the cycle of generational poverty and trauma that often leads to a child needing foster care.

Since I’m a non-confrontational person, I try to stay away from current event and political debates, but I have a hypothesis. What if rioting and unrest is the go-to for some people because as a child they were never taught coping skills to positively deal with negative emotions? Just like we see so often with our kids, these people are angry, anxious, fearful, and sad. Often rightly so. They want help and comfort, but they were never taught how to ask for help. So they act out. They respond with destructive behaviors, because they don’t know what else to do. They feel unheard and lost, so they make sure their voices can’t be ignored. I don’t have an answer for what’s happening now, but I believe that teaching social skills and coping mechanisms to kids can help future generations of adults better handle the inevitable hardships and negativity they will face.

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Foster Care is important

I know we finished the ‘foster care is’ series, but I can’t stop thinking about a picture and I think this title is fitting. If you haven’t seen the picture, it was posted on Facebook by the East Liverpool, OH police department. (I’m not going to post the picture, because even though it’s shockingly real and helps to shed light on a huge nationwide problem, it’s not really fair to the individuals in the picture. The problem needs to be seen and addressed, but public shaming isn’t the best way to do it. If you still really want to see it, it’s here.)  It shows two adults who appear to be unconscious in the front of the car, and a 4 year old boy in the back seat. According to the police report, the vehicle was pulled over due to erratic driving and the officer found the female unconscious and the male severely altered, saying that he was attempting to drive the female to hospital. Both adults were given Narcan (a medication that reverses opiate overdoses) and were successfully revived and arrested on a variety of charges.

It’s a really hard picture to look at, but, as the police department said in their Facebook post:

We feel it necessary to show the other side of this horrible drug. We feel we need to be a voice for the children caught up in this horrible mess. This child can’t speak for himself but we are hopeful his story can convince another user to think twice about injecting this poison while having a child in their custody.

As a paramedic, I was able to see the struggles of heroin addiction first hand. I’ve given Narcan to bring someone back from the brink of death and listened to them cry about how addiction has ruined their lives. This isn’t a post about the adults or the illness that they are victims of though. This is about the 4 year old in the back seat wearing the dinosaur pajamas. It’s about the system that he is now a part of, and will forever be connected to. It’s about, as the police department said, being a voice for the children caught up in this horrible mess.

Foster care is important. It’s important because that 4 year old, like hundreds of thousands of other kids, didn’t do anything wrong. He was placed in a very unfortunate situation and needs someone to speak up for him and protect him from the brokenness that he’s known his whole life. Foster care is important because we have a chance to be that voice. We can protect that child and others like him from the evils that their caregivers can’t escape.

That picture is really hard to look at. The picture of the little Syrian boy in the back of the ambulance is absolutely heartbreaking. As horrible as those are, they are real, and they highlight a need. Orphan care is important because those kids need our help. They need our voice. Obviously I am passionate about foster care, but you can ‘find your something’, as Jason Johnson says. Find what you can do to help children here or abroad and do it. Foster care, orphan care, and adoption are amazing opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus. The first part of Deuteronomy 10:18 says that  He [God] ensures that orphans and widows receive justice.  He ensures that through people like you and I. We need to love these children like Christ loves his children. Meeting them in the midst of their brokenness and being a consistent and loving force for good in their lives. Love God. Love People.

 

Foster Care is a Family

That title might seem obvious. The point of foster care is to provide a family for a child who needs one. That is true, but entering the world of foster care means a family of foster care providers that you are now a part of. A family that knows what you’re going through and can give you advice and encouragement to navigate the troubled waters of foster care. Like most other things in life, foster care is much more doable if you have a supportive community around you.

It’s not completely fair to say that foster care is providing a family to a child who doesn’t have one. Most foster kids have families, albeit insufficient ones, and they love them. Regardless of what was done to them, children are loyal (sometimes illogically) to their parents and families. They are in a stable, safe place for the first time in their life and they kick and scream because they want to go home. It’s all they’ve ever known. In his book The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, psychiatrist Bruce Perry says that people, children included, often prefer the certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty. Foster care could be better described as filling in the gaps of what a family should be. Ideally, foster care should be a group effort between the foster family, birth family, caseworker, and court system to ensure the best possible outcome for the child’s future. Nobody can do it alone, each piece of the puzzle needs to rely on the other to do their part.

It takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to be a successful foster family. The parents and families that invite children into their home are definitely an important piece, but equally important are the people that surround that family with love and help to make their difficult job a little easier. Preparing meals, babysitting, home maintenance, and prayer support are all important skills that will ultimately benefit the life of the child. Jason Johnson says “We’re not all called to do the same thing, but we’re all certainly capable of doing something.” Not everyone can be a foster parent, but everyone can help foster kids.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7 NLT)

A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. That means you have a spiritual gift and you should use it to help others. No excuses. If you think you have nothing to offer, you’re wrong. You have things that you’re good at and you enjoy doing. Find a way to use those hobbies and skills to help foster families. Spiritual gifts aren’t something that just pastors and ministry leaders have. You don’t have to take a test to figure out what your spiritual gifts are. You just have to think about what you already do, and how that can be adapted to help.

Family Matters. Karl Winslow said so. Earthly families matter, and so does the family of God. We’re called to live life together and encourage one another daily. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25 NLT) So it’s not enough to just meet together and live life together, we need to get creative. We need to come up with new ways to encourage and motivate those around us to do good and make the world, foster care system included, a better place. 

Foster Care is Fun. 

Yes! Foster care is fun! We write a lot about the weight that it carries. But looking at our day-to-day life, fostering can be so much fun! We get to watch kids grow up and experience life with all their commentary along the way.

We get to help kids experience new things all the time. And while that can be scary for some, most of the time it brings some hilarious reactions. Kids have no filter. So whether it’s a new food or new place, kids say the darnedest things!

We get to do things like arts and crafts, building things, coloring, playing outside – those are just simply FUN to do with kids. Seeing their creativity and abilities brings us joy and laughter.

Nehemiah 8:10b says “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

We have the privilege to raise some of God’s most precious creation. They truly are the joy of the Lord. We find strength in our laughter with children.

Example: A child saying my name over and over while I’m trying to pack the cottage for camp. I’m obviously getting frustrated in hearing them call me continuously. It’s the typical “mom. Mom. Moooommmmm. Mom mom. Mom.” To which I finally reply ‘yes. What do you need?’ Child: should I tell the boys that we need to shave our beards before we go camping?

Bahahaha! I almost instantly think  “This will work. We can do this.” The trip we packed for and planned for. It’s stressful, but it will be ok. We can get through it. Similarly, when we get more than 1 admission at once, and I’m well aware that we are causing a tornado at the doctor’s office for physicals. Then one of the children licks the patient bed in the room. All you can do is laugh. Like, what in the world is he thinking?!

These times normally come in between being scared and asking a million questions about what a doctor does and screaming because there is a strange lady (nurse) wanting to check their blood pressure. So it seems like there’s hope when they decide to show a very child-like weirdness of licking benches.

Children are such an example of the roller coaster of life and the hope that Christ brings. In the middle of  stress and chaos and tantrums comes a sweet kiss on the cheek or a small hand that wants to hold mine. God uses them to show us that He really is in our midst, especially when we don’t always feel it.

So, Foster care is fun! It’s not a deep, profound thought, but it’s a unique way that God strengthens us for the dark days. Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time to weep and a time for laughter. We are so grateful to work in a ministry that is so full of laughter!

I’ll leave you with my current favorite song from a 5 year old: ‘Hallelujah. Praise the Lordt. Come Jesus, don’t tell me what to do. Don’t you tell me what to do. Hallelujah.”

Foster Care is Hope

Unleash Your kingdoms power
Reaching the near and far
No force of Hell can stop
Your beauty changing hearts
You made us for much more than this
Awake the kingdom seed in us
Fill us with the strength and love of Christ

We are Your church
We are the hope on earth

(Rend Collective – Build your Kingdom Here)

We had a high schooler in our cottage who didn’t want to be here (to be fair, none of our kids want to be in foster care). He had lived on his own before after running away from his last foster home, and would rather be anywhere than in a group home cottage with 7 other boys, all at least 6 years younger than him. This all was after 10 years in the foster care system with 15 different foster families, a boarding school, inpatient treatment, and a potential adoption that was disrupted due to a medical emergency in the family. We had many conversations with him about living independently and we worked with him to develop his independent living skills, find a job, and get his learners permit. One day we were having a conversation about the future and he said something to the effect of “when I leave here I’ll live in some sort of slum, because that’s what happens to foster kids.”

Many foster kids feel this way, especially high school kids who are close to aging out of the system. They don’t have much hope for their future, and unfortunately, many current statistics support that. Kids that are aging out of the Foster Care system are much less likely to graduate high school or get a stable job. They are more likely to be homeless or incarcerated. Teen pregnancy is much higher among foster kids. Those are just a few statistics to tell you what you should already know: growing up in the foster care system is not an ideal situation for kids. However, it doesn’t have to be this way.

We are the church. We are the hope on earth. When bad things happen, people always ask where God was and why he allowed it to happen. I don’t have an answer to the second question, but I believe that when bad things happen, God is in the church. God is in the men and women responding to the situation with a loving and helping heart. Rend Collective says here: “Jesus wants to set the church on fire, so the world can warm themselves around us and find life and safety.” We, the church, are called to be the light of the world so that when disaster happens, and all seems dark, there is a light that represents hope and warmth to all.

Whenever a child is abused or neglected, it’s a disaster. It’s the darkest times of that child’s life. It’s often something they’ve never experienced before and it’s completely overwhelming in the worst way. Foster Care brings light to the child so they can feel the warm love and acceptance of  a family. They can feel the hope that things don’t always have to be as they had been. Psalm 10:17-18 says Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them. You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed, so mere people can no longer terrify them. Mere people can no longer terrify them. That’s a hard thing to say in foster care, because sadly there’s always the chance that they will be sent back in to a situation where they may be terrified again. But we trust that God knows what he’s doing, even when it doesn’t make sense to us. 

God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. (Hebrews 6:18-19)

Foster care is a lot of things. It’s hard, frustrating, fun, messy, and so many other things all at the same time. Ultimately though, foster care is hope. Hope for children who have never experienced it. Hope for a future that may not have been possible. There is hope for foster kids. There is hope for the foster care system. That hope is the church, and the people that strive to love like Christ loved. You have the chance to be an embodiment of the hope of Christ. You can be a strong and trustworthy anchor for a child who has never experienced a secure attachment. You can become a foster parent. You can support foster parents. If you have questions, please leave a comment or use the contact us section to send us a message.

Foster Care is Frustrating

Google tells me that frustrating means to cause someone to feel upset or annoyed, typically as a result of being unable to change or achieve something. Sounds like foster care! From the application process to the actual foster parenting to the reunification of children with their families, there are many points at which you feel upset or annoyed that you can’t change or achieve something. Happens all the time, sometimes for days at a time. It’s important at those points to remember the big picture when everything else is frustrating you. Remember that the God who has the whole world in his hands, including the foster care system. An important phrase to remember is from Zechariah 4:10: Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin. Every step forward is an important step.

The process of becoming a foster parent can be very frustrating. So many forms and requirements. So little communication. So much waiting and inefficiency. It’s easy to become discouraged. You have a lot of time to wait and overthink your calling and decisions. It’s easy to give up and say “maybe this isn’t for us.” But remember do not despise these small beginnings. Every form, every class, every inspection is one step closer to providing a home for a child who doesn’t have one. The LORD rejoices to see the work begin. God wants you to become a foster parent. God has a plan for you, and he has a plan for the child or children who will be placed in your home. He rejoices in every step, however small, that you take in faith and obedience to that plan.

Parenting is hard. Foster parenting is harder. I guess I can’t say that for sure, because my only parenting experience is foster parenting (8 kids at a time), but I’m sticking with it. Kids come in to foster care with a lot of behaviors, good and bad. Working with kids to unlearn negative behaviors and teach appropriate alternative behaviors can be very frustrating. They have been doing those things for a number of years without any negative consequence, so they don’t understand why they shouldn’t be doing them. No matter what you do to try and correct those behaviors, they don’t seem to get it. Sometimes you see some progress followed by significant regression. Super frustrating. They experience your consistent love and safety for weeks and months, but are still terrified to take a shower or go to bed because they’ve been so scarred by their pasts. It can make you wonder what you’re doing wrong. It can even make you start to resent the child, or wonder why you’re even trying. You get frustrated with yourself and with them until it starts to become unhealthy. (I’m not just writing, I’m confessing. This has happened to me) Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin. Look for any positives, and rejoice in them. Even if it’s a seemingly small beginning, do not despise it. Progress is progress. Potty training is a great example. If they can go pee in the potty, you celebrate like they won an olympic gold medal. If a child who refuses to try any new foods nibbles a carrot, let them have whatever they want for dessert. If a child sees and believes that you care about their progress, it will motivate for them to continue improving.

The end. Saying goodbye. One of the most frustrating parts of foster care is saying goodbye to a kid you know shouldn’t be leaving. The foster care system, at least in South Carolina, pushes for family reunification or kinship care even if that seems to be against what is best for the child.  That’s just my opinion. I’ve seen it enough times to start to become bitter. I hope for the best, but I expect the worst. Of course I have seen many more times that reunification or kinship care is the best thing for the child. But it only takes one kid who was placed with a relative only to come back into care because the relative preferred drugs to kids. Just one time will make you question the system. It’s frustrating, but it’s out of your control. Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin. That child might be going into a very uncertain situation, but have faith that you have begun the work in them, and the impact you made with be with them forever. One of my favorite examples of this is an old physics problem. If you shoot a rocket at the moon, changing the trajectory by just 1 degree will cause the rocket to miss it’s target by thousands of miles. Any affect you can have in the life of a child can result in big changes as they grow up. It’s not just you though. It’s not fair to that pressure on yourself. God has a plan for those kids, and he will keep working in them long after they’ve left you. If you don’t believe me, Philippians 1:6 tells us I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Every part of foster care can be incredibly frustrating, but it’s so much more than that. It’s an incredible opportunity to change a life for the better. If you’re on the journey of foster care, whether you’re at the beginning, middle, or end do not lose heart. You’re not on the journey alone. You are surrounded by a community of foster carers who wants to help you succeed. You’re supported by an ever present God who can move mountains to help you. Earlier in Zechariah 4, we’re told that It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel’s way; it will become a level plain before him! (Zechariah 4:6-7a) Replace Zerubbabel’s name with yours (unless your name is Zerubbabel) and have faith that your work is not in vain. Foster Care is the right thing to do.

 

Foster Care is Messy

How He Loves is one of my favorite worship songs. I love the imagery of “Love’s like a hurricane I am a tree” and “If His grace is an ocean we’re all sinking.” God’s love is an overpowering love. His grace is an all-consuming grace. But often times, especially in foster care, that grace and love manifest themselves in pretty messy ways. John Mark McMillan, writer of the song, says this about it’s most controversial lyric:

HEAVEN meets EARTH like a sloppy wet kiss

The idea behind the lyric is that the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of earth converge in a way that is both beautiful and awkwardly messy. Think about the birth of a child, or even the death of Jesus himself. These miracles are both incredibly beautiful and incredibly sloppy (“gory” may be more realistic, but “Heaven meets earth like a gory mess” didn’t seem to have the same ring). Why does the church have such a problem with things being sloppy? Do we really think we’re fooling anyone on Sunday morning, especially God? Are we going to offend him? I mean, he’s seen us naked in the shower all week and knows our worst thoughts, and still thinks we’re awesome. What if we took all the energy we spent faking and used that energy to enjoy the Lord instead? That could be revolutionary!

Foster care is messy. It’s a hand and feet, in the trenches ministry that looks sin and brokenness in the face and stands tall with the confidence that If God is for us,who can be against us? (Romans 8:31b). The foster care system is a mess. Working with kids from hard places can be a mess (literally and figuratively. This picture was taken after a 3 year old got so mad playing with moon sand that he took all his clothes off, underwear included) Foster care is hard and frustrating and messy, but through it all, God is present and working miracles in the lives of our children.

As messy as it is, and as dramatic as that last paragraph was, foster care really is a beautiful mess. It’s also a pretty fun one. Jon Acuff said “Messy is a lot more fun than perfect.” It’s such a privilege to provide a secure and loving family for a boy or girl who has spent their childhood  living in uncertainty and fear. We have so much fun with our boys, especially when it’s messy, and it’s always amazing to see a group of strangers turn into a big (mostly) happy family, if only for a short time. The opportunity to serve kids in foster care has changed our lives for the better, and it will be forever changed. Once you enter the messy world of hurting and needy children, It’s impossible for things to remain the same.

We see and hear an unfortunate amount of stories about how children are mistreated, neglected, and abused. These little kids have experienced lifetimes of traumas that would give adults nightmares. It’s our job to find the beauty in the mess. To show them God in the middle of the darkness and teach them that in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37 emphasis added) 

Our kids come with baggage from past hurts and experiences that is incredibly complicated, but the changes that we see in kids over days, weeks, and months of showing them consistent love and support is remarkable, and there’s only one answer for it. We like to think that it’s our systems and our love, but in reality it’s much more like the song. Heaven is meeting earth like a sloppy wet kiss. Except in our case it’s more like a 2 year old eating spaghetti or multiple conversations about why flushing the toilet is important. Messy and dirty and sometimes pretty gross, but beautiful and redeemed.

Foster

May was National Foster Care Month, so this post is a few days late, but we just got back from vacation and have been quickly reacquainted with cottage life. In my last post I talked about some of the whys and hows of foster and orphan care. I talked about some of the more simple things that you can do and I referenced some other ways you can help. What are those other things? What are some of the practical things that we can do to benefit kids in foster care?

The first thing you could do is become a foster parent. Take the courageous risk to open your home to children who have never experienced appropriate love and affection. Dare to get too attached. Some of you have thought about it. Maybe had some serious conversations. Usually it’s the wife’s idea and she has to convince the husband. Jason Johnson (one of my favorite foster care bloggers. Read all his stuff here) says “If you keep thinking, talking and praying about it you’d probably be great at it, and just need to do it.” You’re the type of people who would be incredible foster parents. You’re the couple who understands the weight of the decision and the vulnerability and humility that it takes. Praying is awesome, and it’s the right thing to do especially when you’re unsure about a big decision. But sometimes you have to stop praying and just do it. Actions speak louder than words.

What are the next steps if you are considering becoming foster parents? Do some research into foster care in your area. Google [your state] foster care to see what the system is like in your area. Read blogs or books about foster care. Find foster parents in your church and talk to them about their experience. Talk about it with friends and family. Pray about it. Get information from your local foster care association. Fill out an application and attend an orientation class.

What if you can’t become a foster parent? You can support a foster parent. If you know a foster family in your church or in the community, find out what they need and do you best to provide that for them. It might be babysitting, making frozen meals, mentoring, academic support, or any number of things. The key is to go to them and ask how you can be of service. Speaking from personal experience, foster parents are very reluctant to ask for help, but they will usually accept help if it is offered. Foster kids often arrive with very few clothes. Hand-me-downs and gift cards for random late night Walmart trips are huge. It’s very helpful to have a freezer meal ready for those nights when the schedule is crazy or you get a new foster placement unexpectedly. Gift cards for restaurants are great because with some extra mouths to feed it can get pricey, and nobody is in foster care for the money. Respite care is another way to support foster parents. You’ll go through the same process and get the same training as foster parents, but you can use that training to help assist foster families by providing a place for their foster kids to go if they need a few nights off. It could be a couple hours for date night or a weekend getaway. For foster parents, breaks like that are essential to longevity and effectiveness. In order to be the most successful, foster parents need support just as much as the children they are caring for. The old adage ‘It takes a village’ rings just as true in foster care as it does in so many other areas.

I’ll end with a guilt trip question. Why not? If you’re not doing something to help kids in need, what is stopping you? Some of you may have very valid reasons, but I’m sure there are some of you who have been thinking and praying about it, but have been fearful to take the leap. I’m here to encourage you. Do it. You don’t have to jump right into high level therapeutic foster care, but you can learn about the foster care system in your area. It won’t always be easy, but it’s worth it to be a part of something with such eternal implications.

And just like a drum I can hear their hearts beating
I know my God won’t let them be defeated
Every child has a dream to belong and be loved

You Can Do It Too 

There are many aspects of working with foster kids that stretch us, encourage us, overwhelm us, and stress us out. Many people have told us that they could never do this job or bring foster kids into their private home. I understand that residential group homes or even private foster care isn’t for every family. (Although it pains me to say that because it’s AWESOME)

But. I firmly believe that the way we handle people, emotions, conflict, and a million other things  within our foster care job is how everyone should be treating everyone!

(With this focus on Foster Care Awareness month for May, we have thought of many topics to recruit all/any of you to become advocates and active Foster care families. And I will add that yes, there are many ways to support foster and adoption, but nothing can replace an actual home and family for a child. You can give all of your money and investments to a child who needs a home, and they’ll still need a family. Just saying.)

But seriously, I was thinking about all the attributes and skills Jonathon and I have needed to learn in order to live with kids from hard places. And I don’t think it’s a valid excuse to say ‘I could never do that’ or ‘that would be too difficult’. Because if you try, you can!

Do you think I’m a patient person? (I’m not) Do you think I naturally give grace to people? (I don’t) Do you think I even enjoy cleaning up the literal and figurative messes of people’s lives? Let me help you out here. I don’t!

It is hard work on a personal level to see other people’s point of view. It takes a conscious effort for  me to think of someone else before myself. I have an attitude when someone else’s choices change my plans. I get mentally and physically tired caring for others. It’s not fun to cry with people.

But every day I’m learning that is what it means to be a wife, a mother, a Foster mom, a friend, a Christ follower. That is what it takes to be who God called me to be. Not just within the world of foster care. Not just within God’s specific call for me and my family. He wants me to do that for every person I meet! God wants me to strive to be better whether I’m working with my children or a stranger. We always want to strongly encourage families to look into foster care and adoption. But above all of that, we want others to see that when you say ‘Oh that would be too much for me to handle’ or  ‘That’s a wonderful calling for your family’ or ‘I could never do that’, you’re wrong! The things we do everyday and every night for our kids, everyone needs that! The people you work with, the people you worship with, the person in line with you at the grocery store, or the crabby receptionist at the doctor’s office. They need you to be gracious, to start up a conversation, to listen, to think of them first, to move your schedule around for them.

Yes, it’s hard to do those things, and yes, it’s much easier to say ‘I can’t’.  But you won’t know unless you try. Sometimes, you try and people don’t receive it. Do you think the first time I talk with kids they open up or accept my help or don’t think I’m crazy when I cry with them? Let me give you a hint again, they don’t!

The cranky cashier won’t thank you for being gentle and gracious. A coworker might not return a favor for you. Your children won’t be grateful for the daily structure and consistency you bring. Your spouse may not recognize your sacrifices.

God doesn’t call us to act Christ-like only if we think it fits or if it’s not awkward or if someone will appreciate it. It stretches, changes, hurts you most days.

So I don’t care if you never foster or adopt. I don’t care if you never support the cause of the orphan. But please, oh please remember that being a nice, kind,Christian person takes work. Our kids don’t feel safe and comforted because we get frustrated with them and say ‘that’s too much’ or ‘I’m not changing my attitude’. Every day, every hour we are choosing to get up, put up, listen, answer, and work hard for those we serve. It’s as exhausting as it sounds. I’d much rather be laying on my couch with my beautiful puppy or watching Netflix. Trust me.

If you ask God to change you, He will. If you need something, God provides it. If you try to serve someone, it is worth your time. And you CAN do it.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45