Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Foster care update.

There's a Daniel Tiger song where Daniel is nervous about going to school and his parents sing a song about how "grownups come back" to help calm his nerves. (Can I make it more obvious that we live with young kids by talking about Daniel Tiger?) I get the point of the song, and I'm not trying to put down Daniel Tiger, but it makes me ache every time I hear it because it's not true for every kid. For some kids, the grownups don't come back, or at least not in their time frame or when they want them to. The people who are supposed to make them feel safe, loved, and cared for sometimes make them feel the exact opposite and for that, my heart breaks.

My heart breaks that foster care is necessary, but if I think about the depths too much it's overwhelming. I believe that Jesus is light and His light overcomes. Every time, even if I don't understand the timing or reasoning from my earthly perspective. I don't know why some kids end up in foster care, but I pray that whoever is in our home, for whatever amount of time, can experience a little light. Probably the most common phrase I hear about foster care is, "I could never do that." I do believe that foster care is something you have to be called to do, but I also think that many more people could be called to it if they would be a little more open. I don't say that to guilt anyone, but I say that because I feel the exact same way. I struggle with it. I don't feel trained enough. I don't feel experienced enough. I don't know what I'm doing. I often feel that I can't do it.

But, it's amazing the strength God has given us when we needed it. We can do harder things than we think we can. Sometimes Kley and I look at ourselves when we're doing respite and just whisper, "We're actually doing it!" God has used our yeses so far in ways beyond what we imagined. It's been hard, yes, and some kids have been harder than others, but there has been light every time. (For those who don't know, so far our family has done respite foster care for the last few years, which means that we are doing short term care for kids who are already in foster care, like when their long term foster family needs a break, has a crisis, goes on vacation, etc.)

Recently we did respite for a 6-year-old girl and a 16-year-old girl (not at the same time). I've been wanting to write an update for awhile, but it's hard to put what I feel about foster care into words. Sometimes Kley and I feel like we can't do it, but we just rely on Him and then we can. Sometimes we just whisper to each other, "What do we do now?" when something happens and we just do our best to figure it out. That said, I am so thankful for Kley and that we can do this together.

We did the 6-year-old girl first. She was more challenging because she acted younger than six, so there were more challenges with sharing, vying for attention, etc. since our girls were so close in age. Sometimes I don't feel like I can talk about foster care because I feel shame and guilt that I should be better at it, like if my heart thoughts were splayed out people would see that I'm a fraud. I know that that is Satan trying to attack and those are the times that I need to speak truth to myself and turn to Jesus. Neediness is a good thing. We can't do it without Him! It was particularly hard, for whatever reason, for me to be patient and gracious that week, but I'm thankful for the refinement of it. The first night we had her, she had huge, sad tears rolling down her face at bedtime because she was scared. They were quiet tears because she was trying her hardest not to cry, but I felt so deeply for her and sat with her that night and every subsequent night until she fell asleep. (I know that if this was a long term placement, that would definitely be something to work on eventually, but in a short term situation I was perfectly fine with sitting by her if that was comforting.) I can't imagine how scared she felt and how scared I would feel if I was placed into a similar situation. We can tell her over and over again that she is safe, but that doesn't at all make her automatically feel safe.

An amazing God moment we had with her was it ended up that her twin brother was staying with a friend from our church in our town who also does foster care. Regularly, they live much farther apart and don't get to see each other often. That weekend, they were able to see each other several times at the park and pool, and it was beautiful to watch. I truly felt that that was God in action organizing that and it was so neat. (These get togethers were done with the proper okay from all parties involved, obviously.) She also asked us during our prayers later to thank God that she got to see her brother.

When I asked the 16-year-old how much she got to see her family, she got tears in her eyes and said it wasn't often and that there were some family issues going on. I don't know what kinds of activities she got to do growing up, but she told us several times that weekend that she was having so much fun. Even a simple comment like that is a huge example of His shining light into darkness I think. These kids experience so much hurt, and what amazing ministry to even be able to take them to the pool and see a genuine smile on their face. She loved photography and had fun taking pictures with my camera. I found my old ipod and she loved listening to it, like seriously loved it and had music playing almost nonstop. It made me feel a little cooler because my ipod is super old and I haven't updated it in many years, so I was flooded with memories of college and high school and happy that apparently there were still a few cool songs left on it. A favorite God moment from our time with her was she loved horses and was so excited when we went to the youth fair and they had pony rides. I was initially scared because it was meant for younger kids and there was a 90 pound limit, but she so desperately wanted to ride, so we let her ask if it would be okay. The owner of the horses actually had one that was bigger than the rest (so it could handle more weight), that he was trying to train, so he wasn't letting the younger kids ride him. Since she had had prior riding experience, he said she could ride. Even though it was just walking around in a circle, she was so very happy. It brings tears to my eyes to remember these small moments back, because even though they are small they are actually huge. It meant the world to her to ride that pony in that moment. For that day, in that time, I'm so glad we got to witness God at work in letting that sweet girl ride a pony.

All those little light moments add up into a flame. I'm sure of it. We are so thankful that God equips the untrained and strengthens the weak. We don't know what we're doing or what He has in store for us next, but we trust that He does. It's amazing how He's made it so clear to us each time whether to say yes or not beforehand, which was one of our big questions beforehand of how do you decide what to say yes to? The conversations we've been able to have with our girls about showing His kindness and love are so tangibly real when a foster kid comes in. It's challenging for everyone, but the growth it brings is so good.

So we will keep going, praying that we can keep experiencing little flickers of light with whoever is in our home, that His love was poured into them while they were with us, and that it will burst into flame later in their life. God is big and God is working and God is good.

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