The Cutting Edge

I've been struck very much lately by the power of words. Written, spoken, heard, passed on- words have such weight in our lives. Parenting foster children has shown me a whole new level of the cutting action of our words. Many of my 'kids' over the years have come from homes where they heard a lot of words- many angry, many condemning, arguing and full of complaining. Many many without love or wisdom. Often even years later, these children will have moments of reflection, terror at times, sadness at others, remembering words that were spoken to them. Some haunt them in their sleep and waking hours, other are a balm to their little souls.

But all have weight.

All cut deeply.

Whether by cutting apart frail self-images or skillfully cutting away unneeded lies from a soul- the ability to separate things within a person is a powerful thing.

Words matter.

My kids are no different than anyone else though. All of us can remember harsh words spoken to us, or high praise from a loved one. Each make their own mark do they not?

Our tongues have the power to uplift and encourage, to correct and refine, to promote and enhance ourselves and others. Our words can shed light, give freedom, and even give life (Proverbs 18:21).

Alas, they also have the power to do just the opposite. Words on a sharp tongue can cut down, discourage, hurt, abuse, condemn, belittle, and destroy. Words can lie, hide, ridicule, and inflict life-long wounds.

What power we wield when we open our mouths!

And yet, I would guess that many of us don't particularly have any major issues with evil tongues. I'm not sure many of us (myself included) give enough forethought each time we utilize our voice boxes. I myself am not known to cuss, or to verbally abuse people. I work hard on not being a gossip or slander anyone. I imagine many of you are similar. We've worked hard to keep clean mouths. And yet, there is so much scripture given to minding our mouths that I am continually amazed at the instruction for using these voices of ours.

Look at just a few of the things the Word would say for when we open our mouths (or in other cases, keep them closed.)

1 Peter 3:10 (NIV) For, whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.

Colossians 4:6 Let your conversation be ALWAYS full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Philippians 2:14-16 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. (Anyone else get hit right between the eyeballs on this one?)

Ephesians 4:29 Do not let ANY unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but ONLY what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Proverbs 15:4 The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.

Matthew 15:11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes OUT of their mouth, that is what defiles them.

Proverbs 21:23 Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.

Psalm 34:13 ...keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.

Proverbs 12:13-14 Evildoers are trapped by their sinful talk, and so the innocent escape trouble. From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward.

Proverbs 12:18-19 The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.

Proverbs 15:1-2 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.

Proverbs 18:1-8 An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgment starts quarrels. Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions. When wickedness comes, so does contempt, and with shame comes reproach. The words of the mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream. It is not good to be partial to the wicked and so deprive the innocent of justice. The lips of fools bring them strife, and their mouths invite a beating. The mouths of fools are their undoing, and their lips are a snare to their very lives. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.

Oh dear friends, so much of this is convicting to me. I may not be erring on the side of 'bad' but am I intentionally pushing towards the honeyed wisdom, discernment, and knowledge that is spoken of? We can do more! May we of gentle tongues and wise words! This is so much more than not cussing or using the Lord's name in vain. It is not simply not being mean to people, gossiping about them, or spreading rumors. It is the chance to be totally set apart from all the noise that the world hears day in and day out. It is the opportunity to be radically different in our communication. It is the ability to speak LIFE into others! It is the chance to change someone's moment, hour, day, season, job, stress-level, outlook...for good. Better, yet, for GOD! Our mouths are swords, and yielding in the right way, with the the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can be a force for change in people. We can use His words to cut out sin, to help separate lies, to excise bad thinking and the speech of others that may have taken root in someone's soul. We have a cutting edge! But we must use it with One who can wield such a mighty thing- our Great Physician. As the Psalmist (141:3) writes, "Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips." May it be to us too!

Proverbs 31:26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

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!

Links in the Chain- How the ChainBreaker Can Also Be the ChainMaker

It’s been 3 weeks now since we gave up two of our foster sons to another family, and it’s time to finally write about it. It’s been a particularly hard blog to get my head around because there’s just so much I want to say- and I haven’t really been able to figure out how to say it. There’s so much we learned about fostering in general, but there’s even more I learned from a spiritual perspective. Even just now sitting here, I think there’s too much to write all in one blog- so….. welcome to part 1. Ha! (Enjoying my real-time writing decisions yet?)

Anyhoo, yes. Let’s dive into how 2019 started for us and what God has taught our family (and me especially) through this crazy-fostering-thing we’re called to. But to start, I need to give you some background so bear with me for just a bit.

Six days before Christmas I got a call from DFS asking us to take two brothers, a 7-year old with Down Syndrome (yes!) and his little brother who was 5. I felt a little leap in my spirit that usually doesn’t happen when we get calls. I immediately called Gabe at work and told him “I want these boys.” Much to my surprise and his credit- he told me we could pray about it. Now, for those who don’t know, timing is everything when you get a new placement. Often these poor children are literally sitting in the office of the case worker who is desperately trying to find them a family as soon as possible. So minutes are precious… hours are long, days are almost unheard of.

We had just hours to decide.

Imagine trying to weigh taking in two new children (to add to our other 4), one with Down Syndrome (to add to our other two with special needs)- not knowing their story, not knowing their behavior, their needs, how long we’ll have them (the average time spent in foster homes in MO is around 18 months), how it’ll affect not only short term but long-term plans, etc. etc. etc. It’s no small thing to decide upon… prayer is literally all you can do sometimes.

After an afternoon of talking extensively and praying, we decided (with much trepidation and convinced we were crazy) to take them. I called the worker only to find out they had just been placed with another family. Okay God- that settled that.

Fast forward 3 weeks.

My phone rang- another placement call I thought. It was. But not just any- it was for these two boys again. Apparently it wasn’t working out with the family they were placed with. I called Gabe again to see what he wanted to do. God love that man! He immediately noted that God had put them in our path a second time- basically how could we say no? Hours passed… we prayed again…. we talked again… we questioned our sanity again… and ultimately we said yes…. again.

Taking these kiddos was going to drastically change our life. Schedules, meals, outings, vacations, school pick-up and drop-off… almost every facet was going to be altered in some way. After all it’s no small thing to have six kids that young- with that many medical and developmental needs. But, clearly God had asked us to take them- so there was no going back now. Our hearts and minds were set and even among the crazy-factor we felt totally at peace with the decision.

Until five weeks later on a Saturday morning when I found myself sick, frustrated, bleary-eyed from lack of sleep, bawling on the floor of my bathroom- crying out to God, quietly and rather ashamedly asking Him to release us from the boys. This was the opposite of peace. I couldn’t do it anymore- no, we as a couple couldn’t handle it, our family-unit couldn’t maintain the current status quo. God I just can’t anymore, I tried, I failed, forgive me but please release us I found myself quietly sobbing to Him.

Please know that these boys were (are!) precious. They were not bad boys. But they were hard. They had been neglected so badly that many normal rules of behavior and conduct were completely foreign to them. Their medical needs had been met marginally at best. The boy with Down Syndrome was non-verbal, a wanderer, and didn’t sleep. They had never spent longer than a few months in any one school due to being moved around so they were hopelessly behind academically. And, truth be told, as previously noted, six kids is a lot. In this case, it was too many. Not one was getting the time and attention they needed or deserved. Both Gabe and I were walking zombies from lack of sleep and trying to keep up with the <very> special needs of our three designer-gened kiddos. It was just too much. Despite our church, the school (their teachers were amazing!!), our family and friends- it was just beyond what we could handle.

And I HATED the feeling of failure… and being yet another family to pass them along.

Yes, that Saturday my heart broke. Panicking for some wisdom, I flipped through my phone for someone, anyone who could offer me not only a sympathetic ear but some sage advice. Keep them despite the situation? Let them go and step out of God’s will? Something felt off, wrong, no peace could be found and that was alarming. So. Many. Questions.

I scrolled past family, I scrolled past best friends, I scrolled past regular friends… and landed on a lady who I’ve actually never met in person, but who has become a good online friend and fellow writer. Out of nowhere I texted her to see if we could chat. She immediately responded, I called, and long story short- through her words God released us from these precious boys. It turned out, she and her husband had fostered from a long time (who knew?? GOD knew…) and they had been in a very similar situation (whaat?!?) Her words of wisdom and experience washed over me like a cool balm to my agitated nerves. I indeed felt released. I felt God had stirred my soul, perhaps even cause my illness in order to bring us to a point of surrender. Chances are, we would have missed Him in the mess of following Him so we needed an intervention. We had put our heads so far down to walk this path that I think we forgot to keep seeking Him.

The rest of that afternoon God put countless people in our path through ‘random’ phone calls and texts that both assured and encouraged us that we weren’t stepping out of His will for us and that His plan was still being accomplished.

At this point I need to digress to a parallel story for a second. Rewind to only three days after we originally took the boys in. Gabe and I went to a marriage retreat and had to put the boys into respite. We had a hard time finding someone on such short notice to take them, especially with the special needs child. Finally their case-worker found a family, we dropped them off and three days later picked them back up. As I was loading them into the car, a seemingly passing conversation would turn into a vital link in this crazy chain. The lady told me that her daughter, who is a teacher is a nearby school district, had come to visit her during this respite and was pleasantly surprised to run into the two boys, both of whom she knew from school last semester. The daughter told her mom she was so relieved to hear they were in foster care and she couldn’t wait to tell the other teachers that they were safe- apparently the entire school had been super worried about them (knowing their living situation) and after they just didn’t come back to school one-day… well….. the questions and worries abounded. Especially for the older one’s special ed teacher, (we’ll call him Mr. Smith) who was particularly fond of the boy. The lady told me that Mr. Smith wanted to let us know that if the boys were ever to come up for adoption and we couldn’t or wouldn’t take them, that he and his wife would be interested.

Okay, so back to the main plot- fast forward now to the Saturday of woe (let’s call it D-day at the Douglas’s) around six that evening I get a random text from an unknown number. This is Jane Smith, my husband Mr. Smith used to be _____’s special ed teacher. We heard you may need to find another placement for them. Do you think we could have them? Who do we need to call?

Mic drop… or phone drop in this case.

This family, who we later found out had wanted these boys for years, who had been praying about adopting them, who knew their backstory and their needs, who God had been perfectly situating to take them in- called US to ask if they could take them. I’m telling you you can’t make this stuff up. It’s GodStuff! He was making links, laying the framework for this pairing, for months if not years.

Released from that duty, with the futures of these dear boys firmly and supernaturally taken care of, you’d think all’s well that ends well. Except I took the break in events to take a deep breath and get…. frustrated…

What was the point? Why, after five weeks of complete and utter life disruption, would You take them away now? I don’t get it God. Did we mishear you to begin with? Were we never supposed to take them at all? Why such a short time? Did we do something wrong? What was the POINT of it all? Questions and frustrations swirled. I was grateful, but (like all good {ex}flight-nurses…) I needed to debrief and figure out what went wrong.

It turns out… nothing did. it all went right.

Because what I learned, what God allowed me to see as He graciously pulled back the curtain just a bit on His plans, is that He doesn’t just break chains without providing new chains of protection.

What I learned is that as God was breaking the chains of their little lives of abuse, drugs, living in tents, hunger, thirst, and chronic neglect- He was also remaking chains of protection, love, safety, and security.

I learned that with each link broken from the old life, He was linking a new chain for their new life. The last day they saw their mom, nobody knowing whether it would be their last visit or not to see her… was also the same time that God was preparing their new, forever family to take them in. The last time they got to see their ‘new’ teachers in our school district (again, nobody knowing it would be their last parting) would make a link to go home to be with their new dad (who, incidentally, was the older boy’s special ed teacher!… because GodStuff).

What I’ve learned is that the God of closed doors and opened windows is also the God of ChainBreaking and ChainMaking. He never takes without replacing with something better.

The links to their old lives obliterated made way for the links to their new lives forged.

What I learned is that we, in that seemingly short time, were a link or two in their new chain. We were there for several of the breaking of the links in their old chains; we provided hugs and cuddles and explanations and prayers for bewildered and hurting little hearts. We were the link that got them to their forever family. Our family and friends who loved them, provided meals for us, watched them, asked about them, prayed for them each helped build new links in their new life. His teachers, their school, our neighbors, their case workers, our church- everyone who took an extra minute to acknowledge them, love them, pour into them, care about their welfare- in short, everyone who stepped out to be Jesus’ hands- forged a link in their new chain. (And to all of you special people who may be reading this… thank you… from the bottom of our hearts and on behalf of two very special boys- what you did, no matter how large or small- made a difference.)

So…. there it is. And just like that, though our part was small and just the very beginning of a new chain, our links were important. Just as everyone’s is.

Dear ones, my dear, dear friends. We are all links in God’s great chains. He’s breaking chains and making chains with US. We ARE the links. From the earthly temporal straight up to the heavenly eternal, God’s doing His thing bridging the vast chasm from death to life. Take note today of who’s life you are a vital God link in. Find the people you’re supposed to be linking towards God. Find the people Christ is using to help break their old and making their new. Be the chainbreaker and chainmaker in the Father’s hands.

Be obedient. Be brave.

Be their link.

Read Part 2 of this blog here

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

6 Super Practical Ways to Support the Foster Families in Your Life

Our family was led to fostering around a year and a half ago and to say this ministry is not for the faint of heart is the understatement of the year. We recently took in another group of two sibling brothers, which put us at 6 littles- all under 7 years old- 5 boys, 1 girl, 2 with Down Syndrome, and 1 with Noonan Syndrome. (Feel free to read about the craziness of that world in another blog I posted a few weeks ago.) But I digress- as we were desperately trying to keep our head above water with these new kiddos (and I do mean keeping everyone alive… seriously, read that blog!), our church and friends came around in a big way. I’m not generally a person who reaches out for help, and truth be known I should’ve asked for more help earlier on with this current situation, but it became clear to me as people came around us that there are some especially helpful things our friends did that helped keep us sane.

The following is a brief list of ways to bless the socks off the foster families in your life. It’s by no means complete, and it very much veers towards families with a lot of littles in particular. But the basics of blessing are certainly there and I can personally attest that they will be most welcome!

If you’re a foster family, please feel free to add to this list in the comments. The more ideas the better!

  1. Pray for us. Let me put it a different way… PRAY! The A, number 1, most important thing that I ask for on a daily (sometimes hourly!) basis is prayer coverage. We need it over our marriages, our sanity, our bio children, the house, the cars, the kid’s schools, the kid’s teachers, the foster kids, the foster’s bio parents, the case workers… you get the idea. None of this is possible in any way shape or form without a whole lotta grace, mercy, protection, and patience. If there’s nothing you feel you can offer in tangible ways… prayer is always something we can all do. It’s not a ‘throwaway’ gift, it’s not something to be taken lightly. I know from experience that I covet the prayers of those who love us and our family. Don’t take that huge way to support us for granted.

  2. Babysit- maybe not <all> the kids, but however many you can handle. We currently have six ourselves, and believe me we’d never push those numbers on anyone. But to have someone take a couple just to relieve the pressure for a few hours is always a God-send. Date nights for couples, an hour or two for a single parent, these precious minutes you can give us are invaluable to our sanity and often give us that extra bit of energy that we need to push on for another day. Better yet, become an official respite provider and get paid to do it! Ask your foster families for info about taking a class for respite. They are often quite short and easy to get licensed with (depending on your state). It’s always so much easier to know that we have family and friends watching our kiddos versus complete strangers. You can imagine how much easier a transition back and forth in caretakers it is on the fosters too!

  3. Bring on the food- even with state aid, let me just say ain’t nobody in this fostering thing for the money. Kids are expensive! Of our six kiddos right now, five are boys- and though they are young these little guys can quickly eat us out of house and home. When we took in the latest fosters, a sib group of two, several of our friends and neighbors brought over meals. Not unlike a meal-train for an invalid or new baby. These meals, especially on the onset of new placements were life-savers for this momma! Not only did they save us a but of money for food but they saved me an entire evening of cooking. That’s huge! Don’t have time to cook (after all, who <really> does)? Order us some pizza. Send some gift cards our way. Eating out with a large family is at a premium these days- it’s a luxury that most can’t afford regularly- a restaurant gift certificate is a treasure!!

  4. .Keep an eye and ear out for physical needs- often new placements create necessary logistics that foster families have to meet in a very short timeframe. Whether it be a set of bunkbeds, more linens, a full set of seasonal clothing or shoes, a car seat, extra dishes, or a simple toothbrush- bringing an entire new person (or people!) is no small thing to do. Thankfully there are usually many fostering resources to help with these needs, but it’s highly dependent on the location. Being on the lookout for good company sales, yard sales, or maybe what you’ve got stored in your attic can be a lifesaver for these families.

  5. Offer to run errands- depending on the number and ages of the kids in the foster home, running even the simplest of errands can become a small circus (or in our house, feels like its nothing short of the Secret Service planning an overseas mission for the President- the logistics can be insane!) Pick up their groceries, take the car to get it’s oil changed, grab the dry-cleaning, or offer to drop off the kids for soccer practice. Often I’ve found myself desperately needing just a loaf of bread and gallon of milk but the sheer logistics of getting all the kids in and out of the car to the store is just not worth the effort. What should be a quick 15 minute trip to the store becomes an hour+ ordeal- with varying levels of crying, fights, and momma exasperation. Taking 30 minutes to run an errand for us is golden and we’ll be forever in your debt.

  6. Use your gifts and talents- I probably don’t know you personally, so I’m not sure what particular giftings you have- maybe you’re a wiz with the lawn mower, you just love to walk dogs, you’re coffee lover who has a knack for knowing when that mom or dad needs some joe, you’re a thrift store connoisseur who can’t away from a great deal, you have a special relationship with laundry and you understand each other well, maybe you’ve blessed with extra tickets to that show or game, perhaps God’s given you an abundance of finances and you have a heart to give… whatever it is, be keen to use the gifts and talents God’s given you to bless others. You just never know what small or simple thing God can mightily use you in the lives of these families and kids.

(For those of you in the SW MO area, the following are a list of sites and services that are fantastic resources for foster families. Donating time, money, resources, and even just stuff to these organizations is tremendously helpful to many, many foster kids and families all over the region)

For the Kids- Aurora, MO

Sammy’s Window- Springfield, MO

The Cleaning Closet- Mount Vernon, MO

The Walk-In Closet- Pierce City, MO