“I am Safe. I am Strong. Jesus Loves me.”

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“I am SAFE”

“I am STRONG”

“Jesus LOVES ME”

 

Trauma doesn’t begin when children are taken from their home and placed in foster care. Often times, children have endured a lifetime of trauma and traumatic situations before they are removed. Even a baby removed at birth can have a history of trauma. Children in the foster care system have been hurt by those they trust and they carry that hurt with them in their day-to-day life. The hurt shows itself through behavior such as: anger, self-harm, depression, rage, anxiety, and a whole host of other emotional manifestations.

 

Lately we have been working through a lifetime of toddler anxiety. All toddlers go through an anxious stage, where they are clingy, maybe afraid of the dark or monsters or bugs. But trauma behaviors are so much more. More than being afraid. More than needing to be held by mommy. I pray fervently that you never have to see your two year old have a full-blown panic attack, because it is one of the deepest hurts I have had to endure. It is helpless. And as irrational as two year olds are under normal situations, anxiety riddled toddlers have zero control over any irrational thoughts or behaviors.

 

Toddler anxiety in our home looks like extreme fear, sleepless nights, and a lot of tears (both from toddler and mommy). Having a routine, melatonin, deep hugs, and recently our little mantra have been helpful, not a cure, but helpful. And this morning we saw a mini-breakthrough. As the puppy started to get riled up, as she would normally start to cry and jump into my arms, she looked right at him and told him:

“I am SAFE”

“I am STRONG”

“Jesus LOVES ME”

My sweet girl is starting to speak words of truth over herself as I have spoken and prayed over her for months. She may not fully believe it, and it may be a lifetime of needing reminders, but these are the truths we are sowing in her little heart. I pray she always knows safety, uses her strength, and feels the love of Jesus.

 

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Passion and Fire

16406678_10155036637612792_5087112724171773469_nIt wasn’t an “ah-ha” moment, a sermon I heard, or a book I read. I cannot even pinpoint a moment in time when it was decided. It was just in me and slowly it bubbled forth. I knew long before my sweet husband knew. And even with every conversation that ended opposite of how I envisioned…deep within me…I knew. Someday we were going to be foster parents.

Maybe it was in junior high when my first close friend entered foster care. Maybe it was highschool when I went on short term mission trips and saw the brokenness of hurting children right in my own backyard. It possibly was college as I wrestled with what my purpose was and if I even wanted to be a mom someday. All I know is when we started dating and soon got married, it was a pretty constant conversation. We were going to be foster parents.

It took a few years of conversations, and moves, and strategically placed scripture for us to be on the same page. And even in that season of waiting, God was preparing our hearts. For heartbreak, hurt, and unmeasurable joy. God was preparing us for foster care.

Our journey to foster care wasn’t exciting or attention grabbing. But it might be right where you are. With a tug on your heart without a place to land. Maybe your spouse is so not on board you think you’re hearing wrong from God. Or maybe you are passionate about orphan care and aren’t sure if it’s the right time.

Just know, God does not make mistakes. He does not place a passion in your heart or put a fire in your belly without purpose. Our journey to foster care was long. Our journey in foster care is hard. But God did not make a mistake in calling us here. Because without this journey…we would have lost out on knowing some pretty amazing children.

Jesus Loves You.

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I will often sing this popular children’s Sunday school song over my children as they sleep in my arms or in their beds. As their eyelids get heavy, and I stroke their little hairs, I speak the most simple and powerful of truths over them.

 

Jesus. Loves. You.

 

If my children were to no longer live in my home tomorrow I want this to be so ingrained in their little souls.

 

Jesus. Loves. You.

 

When we have hard days and mommy doesn’t show grace and love, may they know that Jesus loves them. And when adults make choices about their lives that do not look like love, may they know Jesus loves them. When others are rude or ignorant or hurtful, may they know that Jesus loves them. Without question. The truth is so real and so evident that even in the simplest of children’s songs the scripture truth is so loud. When I sing, and sometimes absentmindedly mouth these words, may the scripture truth burrow down into their hearts. These are the not-so-simple scriptures that come to mind when I think of these simple lyrics:

 

Jesus Loves You this I know,

“…You are precious and honored in my sight, and because I LOVE YOU.” Isaiah 43:4a

 

For the Bible tells me so,

“…for they received the message with great eagerness and EXAMINED THE SCRIPTURES every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Acts 17:11b

 

Little Ones to Him belong,

“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them. For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

 

They are weak but HE is strong,

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower.” Proverbs 18:10

 

Yes Jesus Loves you,

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

 

Yes Jesus Loves you,

“For the LORD is good and his love endures forever.” Psalm 100:5

 

Yes Jesus Loves you,

“…so great is His unfailing love.” Lamentations 3:32b

 

The Bible tells me so!

“All scripture is God-breathed…” 2 Timothy 3:16

 

Dear little ones,

Jesus, Loves. You.

Amen.

You’ll always be my baby.

“I may not always be your mama…but you’ll always be my baby.”

I said those words without thinking to our baby as I fed him tonight…and wept.

He has never in his life known another mama. I’m it. When the toddlers yell for mama, a part of me wonders if they have memories of their first mom. But not the baby. When he is looking for mama he’s looking for me.

But that probably won’t always be the case. Someday, our babies will go home to biological family, and quite possibly call some one else mama. It’s likely this baby will never have a memory of me.

But this mama. She will never forget.

I will never forget his chubby fingers or the way he sings loudly every time music plays. I’ll never forget that it took for-stinkin-ever to get him to sleep in anything but the rock n play. I’ll never forget how he snuggles his face into my chest when he’s ready for bed or how his face lights up when he hears my voice.

I’ll never forget how brother has to drum on everything or how sister needs to be carried around. I’ll will always smile when I think of our silly meal times or watch a video of their sweet toddler prayers.

These babies will always be mine, even when I am no longer theirs.

For every today.

Tomorrow isn’t promised.

This short quote is true for every living being. But it is so much more prevalent in the foster care world. Everything we do with our children could be our last. Our last vacation, our last holiday, our last bedtime routine.

For us, we head into the Christmas week knowing it is possible we may be childless for Christmas. The reality is that we have a court date a few days before, and court could go many different ways. Which makes this Christmas unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. It makes me want to make every activity we do “extra” magical, because we may not actually get Christmas, or I may never know how another Christmas is for them for the rest of their lives. But it also makes it harder to get fully in the spirit because heartache may be right around the corner.

Most days, our lives look exactly like any family with multiple small children. We change approximately 25 diapers, fill 492693 milk cups, and snuggle bad dreams away. But some days we are reminded of why we are here, why our children are here, and how broken our world can be. These days I take a hot baths and remind myself that Jesus is bigger than our broken system and hurting world. I cling to the truth of scripture and ask for more grace to get through the next day.

If you’ve encountered me in person, and asked about our case, you probably heard me respond with “We will love them hard for as long they are ours”…or something along those lines. While I’m saying it to you, I’m also saying it to me. Because we don’t know if we will have tomorrow…but we will love them as hard as we can for as many today’s as we have.

On rising up…

Before becoming foster parents, you are required by the state to take a 27-hour course in which a majority of the material is geared around how to parent a child who has experienced trauma. You watch videos of various scenarios, role play different techniques, and discuss possible daily outcomes. There is required course reading and a list of suggested books on trauma behaviors and how to parent them. You are reminded that no matter the circumstance surrounding the removal, the removal from the home is trauma enough for a child.

And then, at the end of the course, they hand you a child who has experienced trauma and ask you to parent them.

It does not matter how hard you work to be prepared. It does not matter how many blogs you read, mentors you sit under, or audio books you listen to in your car. Nothing can fully prepare you for the days ahead.

When you see me and say, “I could never do it”, I want to say “me either”.  I simply am not enough for trauma behaviors. I could not handle typical two-year-old mixed with hurt and fear and confusion. I could never do the days that visits are canceled and I have to find a way to explain that to a confused toddler. I could never sit through three months and counting of screaming through getting dressed, bath time, and diaper changing because of something terrible that adults did. I could never rock a perfect baby to sleep every night knowing that someday he will probably never be in my arms again.

But we do it anyway.

Because these sweet children are going to be in foster care whether or not we do anything about it.

Because there are over half a million children in foster care in the United States.

Because God has given us gifts and talents and called us to love on the least of these in his name.

So, I will learn about trauma. When new behaviors start to surface, we will cry together, call someone wiser than myself, and work it out. We will lay on the floor doing deep breathing exercises until panic attacks subside. I will sit with my babies through the disappointment and though the breakthroughs. I will put aside my fear and insecurities for the sake of healing.

It is time to start asking practical questions and getting involve. Never hesitate to ask where to start…I have never met an orphan care advocate who didn’t want to share her story. As Christians we must rise up to be a part of the healing process.

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5 Practical Ways to Stand Up for your Foster Care community.

Stand up for Foster Care!

This Sunday is Stand Sunday! Even if you aren’t at a place where you feel God is calling you to open your home for foster care, there are so many ways you can Stand Up and do something for the foster care community. Foster families have the same “busy stuff” as other families (work, school, sports, church) with added time-sucking stressors (bio family visits, court dates, endless doctor appointments). Foster care can be such a lonely and isolating ministry. There is so much we cannot talk about, and it is hard to understand unless you have been there. However, there is so many different ways to be a support team and wrap arms around foster families!

 

5 Ways to Stand Up for your local foster care community:

1)    Set up a meal train.

This is such an easy and practical thing when a family gets a new placement. The day after we got our kiddos a dear friend set up a meal train. She brought a meal that day, and then others followed suit for several weeks we had a few meals a week. It was glorious! While trying to get to learn about a new little person (or people) the last thing I want to do is spend time away from them making dinner. By setting up a meal train you can let many different people bless the foster family!

2)    Diaper drop off.

If you know a foster family just brought some littles into their home, diapers are a super practical and tangible way to be a blessing. When our three came into our home we automatically had three in diapers! No time to shop, or prepare, or ease into it. We were so blessed by a few friends who brought baskets full of different sized diapers to our back porch.

3)    Become a respite provider or babysit for a foster family.

Respite: a short period of rest or relief from something difficult.

Friends, foster care is difficult. Court days alone drain everything from within me. If you have a heart for foster care but know you are not at a place to take long term kids, respite would be an amazing way to help! Sometimes foster parents just need a night away…or a vacation. In Illinois you don’t even have to be background checked to babysit. (many states are starting to adapt prudent parenting standards)

4)   Donate items you are no longer using.

Many foster families in our community have been blessed with like-new items their children have outgrown. Bicycles, cribs, highchairs, etc. Getting your children involved in deciding what you can donate is a great time for conversations about giving! If you are unsure about how to go about getting your items to these families, just ask me, I would love to get you connected to an organization wherever you live.

 

5)    PRAY.

Above all, keep the foster care community in your prayers. I love receiving messages of prayer and scripture. Knowing I have support all over the country in the form of prayer is extremely encouraging. Pray for foster families, pray for case workers, pray for biological families, pray for these precious children.

 

This is a brief list of ways to start getting involved. I would love to hear the unique ways you are Standing Up for the foster care community in your local community!

 

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