The Four Most Important Things Every Foster Family Needs To Know- Lessons From The Fostering Front

We recently took in and subsequently gave up two foster sons, all in the space of about 5 weeks. We loved a lot, we cried a lot, we prayed a lot, and boy did we learn a lot! Despite all the trainings and certifications, I wished that a few of these hard-won lessons had been told to us beforehand. As Gabe and I have reflected on everything over the last few weeks, as we’ve slowly brought our family back to normalcy (if there is such a thing), it occurred to me that getting what we learned out to the masses may not be a terrible idea. At the risk of being redundant, repetitive, too obvious, and re-inventing the wheel I’m going to assume that (like us) others may not have had these lessons taught to them anywhere in the vast fostering-world. So, without further ado, in no particular order, I give you my top four things you need to know but never have been told….

(To get a full-explanation of the entire situation, please read first blog of this set which sets the stage (and all the GodStuff that happened) for you.

It’s okay to say ‘no’.

Let me put it another way for those who don’t like to be negative- sometimes your best ‘yes’… is to say ‘no’. As most foster parents have no doubt discovered, there is no lack of calls to take kids. And despite the fact that we’d all take them all if possible- you need to hear from me (as I <clearly> speak for all authorities in this) that it is okay to say ‘no’ to some of these calls. I hate saying ‘no’, I know you do too. But I’ve come to find out that if my saying ‘yes’ robs someone else the opportunity to say ‘yes’ instead, if it disrupts my marriage, our family dynamic, my ongoing other ministries… then I’ve made the wrong call. Now don’t get me wrong, fostering at best will always be a <bit> of a disruption- children, whether bio or not, all tend to do that. Don’t misunderstand me… there will always be some stretching and adjustment that comes with each new placement. But if you’re already maxed- in time, energy, resources, bedrooms, carseats, finances, patience, etc. then ‘no’ may be a better and healthier Call. Kids need parents who have the time and energy to pour into them, love on them, lead and disciple them… an already stressed out mom or dad is not helping anyone. I’m giving you permission, here and now, to say ‘no’ if needed… and not feel terrible.

Discernment and prayer is key here as you seek God in who He wants in your house. Prayer is our go-to always for new placements. Sometimes He says ‘no’ to what would seem obvious great fits, other times He says ‘yes’ to the proverbial square-peg-in-a-round-hole placements. But let Him lead your decision-making, He won’t lead you astray.

You.Are.Not.Superman. It’s okay to ask for help.

I’m totally doing to pot and kettle thing here because I am the WORST at asking for help. I don’t know if it’s a subconscious pride thing or that it doesn’t even occur to me that I need it or maybe I’m just too freakishly busy to even have time to stop and ask… whatever the case may be- I’m sure some of you can relate. But I’m telling you right here and now that you not only will want help but you will have times when you need it (whether you want it or not.) Put away the cape and red undies and don’t try to be Superman- you’re not. Neither am I (hard as it is to admit!) So ASK .FOR. HELP. when necessary. There is absolutely nothing wrong with needing assistance in this fostering world. No one on the planet, especially those who love you, are expecting you to do all of it on your own. That’s an impossible task and one that no one is up for. So plan on needing, wanting, begging for help at times.

For those of you who still need a push- think of it this way. There are many people who are not called to foster but still want to support those who do (by the way, send them this blog on ways to best help you) By ‘never needing help’ (insert eyeroll..) you’ve robbed them of an opportunity to serve you and the Lord. Throw these poor people a bone… and maybe some laundry or yardwork to do….

Sometimes your part to play is short and temporary- and that’s okay.

Some placements are long, some are short. The average length in care here in Missouri runs around 18 months. We’ve had our current for 10 months, the last two were about five weeks, the previous before that was less than 24 hours, and somewhere in there we were placed with one that after four days of preparation we never did get. It varies- and that’s okay. I used to get super frustrated with unpredictable length of time. I’m a planner and organizer and not knowing is generally irritating and at times downright infuriating (can I get an amen?) but I’ve learned that there is purpose and a plan in all of it. Don’t ever feel that your time with a child is not without value. You are an important link in their chain, no matter how small, and each second you spend loving on that kiddo will echo in their hearts and in eternity (for more on that, read part one of this blog here). Spend what precious moments you have in the best quality ways you can, and leave the quantity to the Lord. You just never know what He’s cooking up for these little ones!

If it’s not working out, it’s okay to make the call and give them up.

If you’ve read the sister post to this one, you know that our last placement was short and not-terribly sweet. I struggled with coming to my limits and desperately needing to give them back. I felt like a failure, a horrible foster mom, and an utter fraud. I figured if we couldn’t keep these kids, who seemed on paper a perfect fit for us and us for them, then surely no one else could either. I was simultaneously prideful and completely ashamed of myself- a very weird place indeed to be.

I think I had unwittingly fallen into the slightly martyr-like mindset that many foster families do. We are doing great work. We have a worthy and admirable ministry going on. It’s usually rough, it’s always hard. And I fell into a trap of pride within the struggle. Once that decision to take them was made, we put our heads down, our noses to the grindstone, and we were gonna keep them until the end… come hell or high water. We were committed. In it for the long run. Ready to bear these little burdens until someone took them off our backs.

I just never thought I’d be the one to ask to have them taken off.

The best piece of advice a fellow foster-mom told me was that it’s okay to say ‘uncle.’ For my sanity, the sake of my marriage, the health and welfare of the other children we had… I needed to see the situation for what it was- which was not working or at least not working well- and make the call.

It wasn’t failure- it was honest. I wasn’t a fraud- I was human.

I really, really needed to hear that. Maybe you will too someday. If it’s not working, for whatever reason, it’s okay to make that call.

I hope these thoughts are ones that help release you (if needed) from so much of the emotional gravity that fostering holds. I needed to learn them for my heart and head and I’m so happy that we had people who had gone before to lead us down these paths. If you are a foster parent, I’d love to hear your comments on these or others you’d suggest- be sure to comment below!

Be blessed!

Flowers Among the Snow - The Untimeliness of a Timely God

For Those Who Live In Southwest Missouri, We Get To Enjoy Truly All Four Seasons Of The Year... Sometimes In One Day. I Kid You Not, This Weather In This Part Of The Country Is Downright Bipolar At Times. Case In Point, it’s March and it snowed last night yet it was in the 60s last week. It's Kind Of A Thing Around These Parts. Being March and with (supposed) warmer weather right around the corner All Our Bulbs And Flowering Trees have started sprouting.  It's A Welcome Sign Of Spring And Refreshment For Those Of Us Yearning For Warmer Days. Church was cancelled this morning due to the snowy weather and between our family’s pancake breakfast, a rousing game of hide-and-seek with the older three kids, and some school-work I stealthily slipped in (go me!), I was able to spend a few quiet moments looking at the snow on the new sprouts and flowers. It Was Beautiful To See The Juxtaposition Of The Snow Over The Flowers- And Striking Because We Don't See The Clash Of Seasons Like This Very Often.

THE BEAUTY OF THE VISUAL IS IN THE UNIQUE AND RARE PRIVILEGE IT IS TO WITNESS

SOMETHING THAT OCCURS 'OUT OF SEASON'.

THE PICTURE IS NOTHING SHORT OF MIRACULOUS AND CARRIES A CERTAIN SENSE OF

SUPERNATURAL TOUCH WITH IT.

Those of you who know me or have followed me for any length of time, know that I've Felt Quite ‘Out Of Season’ for going on 3 years now. God Has Me Planted In A Very Odd Place At A Very Odd Time In My Personal Life And Professional Career. In My Limited Capacity, It Makes No Sense, it’s generally uncomfortable, and I don’t particularly <love> the spot He’s got me in. And Yet I Know Without A Doubt That I'm Being Obedient. In Fact, The Doors That He's Had Me Walk Through Have Been Slowly Coming, Bit By Bit.. He Even Gave The Extra Grace To Spur My Spirit Very Early On That These Changes Would Be Happening. So It Is Not A Surprise... And Yet The Timing Is Still Utterly Confounding. The ministries He’s placed in my lap and other’s He’s taken out of it seem to make no sense.

I feel very much like those new, lovely little flowers… full of promise of beauty and purpose, yet bewildered by the temperature and scenery of my current spot. Ministries, especially my writing and speaking (which is so very, very my heart and desire) has needs-be been put on the back-burner to make way for another ministry that I <like> but is certainly not my heart. (Feel free to read more about our fostering and that whole situation here.) A second mission and heart I had and was doing as the medical director for Camp Barnabas God also asked me to put down and quit. I did willingly, but again, not without some questions about His timing.

Yes, I am very, VERY out of season right now. My head and heart’s desires have been put away and I’m doing my darnedest to be obedient to what God would ask of me instead.

Some days I’m pretty good, others I question. As I’m sure many of you do as well.

From the beginning of this season, with God moving me away from flight nursing on the very week that my first book Helicopter Mom was launching (believe me, the irony was not lost on me- read this original blog about that particular week…) There Is A Ton That Doesn't Make Any Sense About It, Especially At This Particular Time, But God Could Not Have Opened More Doors More Fully Than He Did. Being Obedient Was Easy Because He Made The Path So Clear... Even When The Instructions Were A Bit On The "Whaaaat?!?" Side Of Things.

I'd Like To Think That The Snow We Have Was Sent Just For Me As A Reminder Of His Sovereignty. The Flowers Don't Question When And Where To Grow, They Just Obey Their Instructions. The Snow Doesn't Argue With God That It's Too Late In The Season To Fall, It Just Obeys His Command. All Of Creation, Nature, The Weather, The Seasons... They Grow And Thrive, Come And Go... At His Command. Without Questions, Without Raised Eyebrows Of The Timing, Without Arguing That Something Is 'Out Of Season' Or Makes No Sense. As A Result, A Rare And Beautiful Clash Of Seasons Occurs- One That Stops People In Their Tracks To Enjoy The Scenery And Marvel At The Supernatural Hand That Brought Together Such Unlikely Events. I need to remember and use their example. It always astounds me how much of an example in obedience nature can be to us.

Today I Want To Encourage You Dear Ones, For Those Of You Who May Be Feeling Like You've Been Planted In A Bizarre Or Untimely Season. Search Your Path, If You Know You're Walking In Obedience Then Take Heart That God Is Using This Unique Planting For Something Greater... Something More Beautiful... Something Striking That The World Will Stop And Take Note Of. God’s timing is always perfect, even when it seems untimely. His path for you is always straight, even if it feels like a roller-coaster. His instructions to you always have a plan and a purpose and we would do well to obey, even in the face of incredulity.

For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper and not to harm you,

plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11