One (Selfish) Reason Not to Become a Foster Parent

When it comes to foster care, I can’t begin to count the many times I’ve been told, “I admire you so much. I could never do that because I’d get too attached.”

Oh please!

As if I don’t get attached. As if we haven’t cried when foster kids left our home for good. As if I don’t wake up in the middle of the night with a burden to pray for a certain former foster kid. As if I don’t spend time praying for that child to be safe and protected – and to know he is loved. As if I don’t care what happens to my kiddos.

As if it’s easy to invest time and sweat and energy into a kid who will one day walk out of my life. Forever.

As if I don’t care or miss them. As if it’s fun to have a former foster kid walk past me at Wal-Mart and act like she doesn’t notice me. As if during the annual parade downtown when a kid rides right by me and turns his head the other way – as if that doesn’t pull at my heart.

I get it. I get why foster kids find it hard to acknowledge their foster parents. We are a reminder of the day their world ended. We are the reminder that they went to school one morning and ended up in our house that night, then woke up the next morning with their world upside down in this house of a stranger they had never met before. Ever.

We represent that horror, that pain, that abandonment. In addition, sometimes our presence calls for a divided loyalty.

too attached

There was the day my grocery cart met a stepmom’s cart in the cereal aisle at Food Lion. We smiled and chatted for a moment before I noticed Little Miss hiding behind stepmom. Little Miss who used to call me mom peeked out from around the woman she now called “mom”, not sure what to do because I was her “mom” before stepmom ever was.

Little Miss gave me a tentative hug, but it was obvious she didn’t quite know how to respond. I was the one who rocked her to sleep at night, cuddled her for hours after visits with her real mom, and accompanied her on a visit to a specialist. It had been a few years, but she remembered and didn’t know what to do with me as her new mom and I chatted. So yes, sometimes seeing me conjures up images that bring divided loyalty. What is an eight-year-old supposed to do with that? How am I supposed to bridge that gap with her and let her know it’s okay to love her new mom, even though I’ll love her still?

Yes, call me too attached, but I get why former kids don’t know how to respond sometimes.

You know what?  

“Getting it” doesn’t make it a piece of cake.  I get it. Yet there’s still that tug in my heart when eyes fail to connect with mine.

So yes, I get attached.  You can call it too attached if you want.

You know why we do this? It is not for the court system, the social services system, or for ourselves. We do it for the kids. If we were doing this for us, then we’d be saying, “No thanks; I’d get too attached.”

too attached

 

You know what we’re really saying when we say we’d get too attached?

We’re really saying we’re just too selfish. We are saying that we have a right to not experience any pain from a loss. We have a right to cling to what is not ours. We have a right to possessing instead of losing. We have a right to invest and then be around for the return on that investment. We’re saying that we’re glad God the Father was willing to send His Son to die for us – but we’re not willing to die to ourselves to make a difference or to help bring life to kids.

When we focus on becoming too attached, we are forgetting that these kids need a safe haven we could offer, they need to be shown that there’s another world where folks still try to do things right. ‘Another world with real families who love each other instead of yelling, who tussle and tangle in fun more often than in anger. Families who are still intact and work at keeping it that way. Families who are free of drugs and booze and cursing and constant bickering. Families who love Jesus and want to make a difference in the world around them. Families who are willing to experience the pain from loss because they know what they’re doing can change a child’s world.

We’re not doing this for anyone else’s admiration. It is not about us. It’s about them.

We’re doing it for the kids because Eternity does matter.

too attached

I can’t fix all the problems or all the kids. But I can be a part of helping to fix one (or more). Like the little boy who was picking up starfish along the shore that had been deposited by the waves. When asked why he did this (because if he couldn’t save them all it wouldn’t make a difference), he replied as he tossed another one back into the ocean, “It makes a difference to this one.”

So yes. We do it to make a difference to one child – or two, or three.  You can, too.

Go ahead and make a difference in the life of one child.

It’s true that sometimes we don’t make as much of a difference as we’d like. We don’t have enough time with the kids before they go back to their old haunts or to some place new. But we can come alongside parents who want to do it right and who just need that extra push and applause when they make good choices.

So go ahead. If God calls you to do foster care*, say yes. Then go ahead.

Go ahead and get too attached.

Before you sign up for the opportunity, reckon with the fact that it will take both parents to do this well. It will take the support of your kids if they’re still at home. It helps to have extended family and a church family who love your foster kids as well. We are blessed with a church family who loves our foster kids and applauds them as much as any doting grandparents or uncles and aunts.

Think of the difference that Christian families could make in their communities if only they were willing to widen their circle and make room for other stragglers who need a place to call home. How much easier would be the life of a social worker if she knew she had more than enough homes waiting with open hearts and open arms to welcome a child who needs to be saved – families who are anxiously waiting to become too attached.

Think of the difference you could make if only you weren’t afraid of becoming too attached.

 

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*Not everybody is called to become a foster parent. There are, however, things you can do to support foster parents. Foster parenting is hard work, and sometimes foster parents  need “a break.”  You can be that “break.”  You can sign up to qualify for respite care so you can babysit for an evening or longer. You might not be able to do this 24/7, but you can lend a hand and a heart by helping those who do. If you can’t do respite care, you can provide a meal when you know a foster family is having a tough week; you can provide a certificate for a kid-friendly restaurant in town so the foster mom can have a break from cooking. There is always a way to help. Trust me – the money foster parents receive from the state does not begin to cover expenses. Every time we have had foster kids in our home, our income didn’t cover expenses. But then, we don’t do it for the applause or the money.  We do it for the kids. You can help others do it for the kids.

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The Problem – and Pressure – With Wanting a King

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It doesn’t matter how old we are, we feel the pressure of peers. It happened to the Israelites and it happens to us. It’s our natural bent to look about us and see what others are doing. We watch not only what they are doing, but how they are doing it. Before we know it, we are following their lead and playing copy-cat instead of basing our decisions on what God is asking us to do.

It happened to the Israelites and it became their downfall. God had a plan to govern His people through prophets, judges, and priests, a theocracy. His plan did not include an earthly king.

This wasn’t good enough for the Israelite people. They looked around them at the other countries on all sides. You know what they noticed? They saw that those people had a KING. How could God ask them to be different from others? They allowed themselves to feel the pressure of their own families and tribes.

Those people got along just fine by having a king. Why couldn’t they have one, too? Obviously, they knew better than God – or so it would seem. Why else would they have insisted – no, demanded that God gives them a king?! They looked around and got caught up in the peer pressure snare.

Samuel’s sons had been appointed as judges, but they were failing badly. The people told Samuel, “Give us a  king like all the other nations!” You can read the entire story here.

Finally, God told Samuel to give them a king. He said, “Samuel, this isn’t about their rejection of you. No, they are rejecting Me.”

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It was more important to these people to be like those around them than to follow God’s order and His prescription for their government and tabernacle. It was more important that they not be different from others than that they learn to know His heart.

I’m shaking my head reading this scripture again, yet I know I’ve been guilty of the same. These people just wanted to be like all the other nations.

Sadly, we can find ourselves being just like the Children of Israel.

How many of us choose a church, a community, a calendar or a career by looking around at others instead of going to the Word of God to learn what He has to say about these decisions? How many of us find it so hard to be different that we sometimes don’t even tell people the real reason why we’re not going someplace or participating in an event? How many of us succumb to the pressure of our peers or our family?

How many of us make decisions about how to do things based on what others are doing instead of searching scripture? Instead of influencing those around us positively, we are allowing ourselves to be influenced by folks who have no heart for God. Instead of learning to know His heart, we follow others and assume that the path they’re taking is right and good. Sometimes we simply don’t want to be different or to have to stand against the tide.

Swimming upstream is hard and can be lonely at times. Peer Pressure is never fun.

I’ve often wondered what the nation of Israel would be like today if the people had never looked around at other nations, wanting to be like them. What would have happened if they had followed God’s original plan for their nation?

These people thought they had an enlightenment and an entitlement. They were wrong because they based their enlightenment on others instead of seeking the heart of God.

What decisions are we making today that will affect future generations? Are we looking around us to see how we can become like others, or are we investing our energy in learning to know the true heart of God? If other families or churches are “successful”, do we try to copy their way of doing things or do we measure their methods with the plumb line of God’s Word? Are we running after Him or are we running to keep up with the pressure we feel from those around us?

Are we praying, “Let me be like You” or are we praying,”Let me be like others because I don’t want to be different!”?

Are we inclined, because of pressure, to drop our guard and “expand our horizons” even though it takes us to places we should not go?

Are we committed to seeking His heart above all other pressures we face each day?

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Those Last Tenths of a Mile Before Heaven Began

 

before Heaven

It’s the route that we take when we remember those lives before Heaven.

The roads on this route are full of curves and hills. Each homeowner/store owner remembers those days in 1998 and 2011. We do, too.

A few weeks ago when Dave traveled out of town for a meeting, he mapped out the route we’d take this Saturday for the annual Jerrel Good/Paul Slabach Memorial Bike Ride.  (You can read more about the people in this event here.) He stopped at each place we’ll visit and scouted the surrounding area for safety issues for the two dozen bikers who will be on this ride. He’d taken his weed eater and trimmed around the edges of the bank where the cross we’d place a few years ago could hardly be seen for the weeds and brambles.

Dave took the time to cross the road to visit with the store owner – who recognized him and marked his calendar for the event this year – June 17, 2017.

before Heaven

Because he traveled the route alone, Dave had a lot of time to think.  If you know Dave, you’ll know he’s a thinker, and you’ll understand how this route caused him to think. I wasn’t with him, but I am as sure as I can be that he also cried.

On Sunday when he continued his messages on the Lord’s Prayer and shared from Thy Will be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven,  he shared. That poignant sharing came from the depths of his heart.

We see life on this earth from our human perspective. As parents, we want to offer the best for our kids. We want their happiness, their health, and their success, and strive to help them achieve those goals.  Then, when “bad things happen to good people,” we don’t get it because we’re looking from our perspective as parents and not from the perspective that our Heavenly Father sees. The Eternal View.

“I watched the odometer as I neared the crash sites.  These guys had no idea that they were nearing the place where God would call them Home in a matter of minutes. They had no idea, but God knew. Five-tenths . . .  four-tenths . . . three-tenths . . . two-tenths . . .  one tenth, and BAM!  It was over.”

As he recounted those scenes, he cried. So did we.

“But THEN I remembered that it wasn’t over. It was only the beginning!”

That is why we ride.

This Saturday when we ride, we’ll certainly be remembering. We will remember the ripping rawness, the horrendous ache, the harrowing questions, and definite uncertainty. We will remember asking Why? over and over again.

This side of Heaven, life often doesn’t make sense – and sometimes it’s so unfair. Before Heaven, we wrestle and we groan.

Then comes Heaven – where there are no more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow. Where the old things will be passed away and all things will be new.

I’ve learned that when we answer the questions of our kids – and even questions of our own – it helps solidify our faith. We find answers to our own questions when we have to contemplate the ones others are asking.

This I also know: we can look back and see that God continues to be good, even when life hurts and doesn’t make sense. We know that His will is done here on earth – as it is in Heaven. Truly, reaching Heaven is really what this life is about.

before Heaven

 

So we ride and we remember. We will not forget the ache, the sorrow, or the pain.

 

before Heaven

before Heaven

 

Yet, more importantly, we will remember the faithfulness of the God we serve.

We have traced His hand in the years since Heaven claimed our guys.

This we will remember: that our God has been faithful.

And He is always eternally good.

 

 

 

 

 

Pinterest Before Heaven

Farming in the Boy and the One Who Owns The Cattle

farming

Farming. You can take the boy off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy. I’ve seen that in my man.

Dave would like nothing better than to be baling hay all day and helping calves and lambs take their first steps into the world. For a few years, he got his dream of farming. He managed two different cattle farms with hundreds of cattle and acres on which to make hay. We liked farming and farm life and thought maybe we’d be doing that forever.

Then things happened and the farming opportunity was over. Even though he was offered several positions on other farms in the state, we knew they weren’t for him because of the location and because of our growing family. So we moved, and Dave gave up farming and started doing construction.

The man grew up on a farm and worked in his father’s construction business. The farm was a side project and construction kept the family clothed and fed. He was the second of eight, and whenever the choice was given to work with Pop on construction for a day or stay home and work the farm, he chose the farm. Always. Little wonder then that he missed farming – and still does. Yet he’s content with the occupation he has. It isn’t without frustration, I know.

“I used to head to work every day and ask God to give me a heart for construction or to let me go back to farming. I knew if I was going to be doing this to provide for my family, I needed to be able to enjoy it,” he says.

You know what? In time, Dave grew to love construction and the flexibility that being self-employed gave him. When our kids had special events at school or I needed help with doctors visits with foster kids, he could take off work without any worries.

farming

So from time to time, we’ve kept cattle on the few open acres we own.  For years, our kids showed in the Halifax County Junior Livestock Show where they learned valuable lessons about dependability, responsibility, and caring for their animals. This gave Dave the opportunity to enjoy having cattle here as well as having a fun family project. To read about halter-breaking heifers, you can go here. 

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Tim, his first heifer and his sponsor, the late Dr. Ward, who delivered our son and saved his life.

A few years back we sold Roscoe, the 2300-lb. bull and got rid of the cattle. Then last fall Dave chose some new heifers to start raising cattle again. He also purchased Duke, who promised to be a good sire for never-before-bred heifers.

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Duke checks out his newborn while Mama watches.

The farmer who sold the bull promised to keep him until Dave was ready to have him added to the pasture with the heifers. All was well until the day Dave decided to move the electric fence further back to give the heifers more grass. He dropped the fence and walked to the end of the pasture to unhook the other end of the fence, expecting the heifers to forage right there among the fresh, new grass. Five minutes later he was back and discovered that the heifers had disappeared.

Dave followed their hoof prints to the edge of the woods where they vanished –  just like the cattle. So he walked through our woods, then through our neighbor’s, then onto the next farm, searching for signs, and found nothing. How could six heifers disappear so quickly and so completely?!

Those heifers had headed to the woods – only this time, I wasn’t the one to blame! (You can read about that here.)

For three days, he walked the neighboring pastures, drove miles along all the neighboring farms, talked to farm owners and property owners. No one had seen those heifers. Dave walked miles those days but it was in vain.

Finally, we printed up flyers about the missing heifers and left our contact number at the country store just across the road. We handed out flyers to neighbors while our sons and cousins came and helped walked the same places Dave had walked.

Then we went out of town. I wondered at my man this time. I wondered how he could just leave and not be worried about one of them getting out on the road and causing an accident. I wondered if we were crazy to leave town with six heifers missing.

“This is a lesson in how not to worry,” Dave told me. “God knows where those cattle are, and since He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, He can take care of them. They’re not my heifers. They are His. Besides, since there are six of them, it’s not likely they will start wandering the roads. They’re probably holed up somewhere with some other cattle. Worrying isn’t going to bring them back.”

After he had done all that he could do (which included a lot of praying), he left it with the One Who really does own the cattle on a thousand hills – including six heifers lost somewhere in the Cluster Springs area of Halifax County.

And I wondered why these fool-hardy heifers had to disappear just when it seemed Dave was going to get his chance to farm as a hobby again. If we lost those heifers, there would be no way we’d be able to buy any others.

We left Sunday afternoon and returned Tuesday evening.

Dave felt compelled to go check a farm where he’d seen a bunch of cattle the week before. Sure enough, there they were – all six of them. The farm owner doesn’t live there and the renters didn’t notice the extra cattle.

Twenty-four hours later, the heifers were back home. This spring, five of the six produced healthy calves. The barren one is named Hannah. We sit on the deck in the evenings watching the calves play and frolic in the pasture. Then we remember how nearly it might not have been, and how blessed we are that the lost were returned. We remember that it wasn’t worrying that brought them home. And we remember how easy it is to forget what might have been – and how often we fail to give thanks.

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Photo credit: Rebekah Slabach

The dream of farming was lost for many years; now, even though we’re not truly farming, we have enough to enjoy and to be at peace and at rest.

Pinterest Farming in the Boy