Monday, April 29, 2013

Peace that Passes Understanding

First, let me say thank you for praying for all of us today. We were blessed in many ways as we walked through the day. We had asked a few of you to pray that our case would be heard quickly, because time in the waiting room is not often pleasant. Today, however, we were thankful that the Lord's plans are not our plans. We sat in the waiting room for three hours talking with the boys' extended family and building a very cordial relationship with them. Without breeching confidentiality issues, we were able to clarify a lot of things and God granted us favor and peace.

Inside the courtroom, there were moments when we questioned whether Eden should stand and speak or not. In the end, she did stand and speak, and it was very well-received. We were able to advocate for the boys, expressing the reasons we believe the boys are thriving and what we believe are there needs going forward - namely stability and attachment to a committed parent. In the end, it was pretty clear that the case will, in fact, continue to move toward this family placement, but we know that our words made an impact on all involved. The judge gave a sincere, "Thank you." There were others, including their mother and extended family, who cried. Their mother caught Eden's eye in the end and nodded kindly. We were blessed to be used by God to speak out in favor of justice for these two children. We were also blessed by the opportunity to show a room full of jaded people something different - a sincere love for our boys, a sincere love for their family, a passionate desire for justice, and yet peace that could only come through faith in a good and sovereign God. 

In the end, we do have peace. We were somewhat encouraged by our conversation with the family. We also realized that much could still happen to prevent the boys from being moved at all. It's unlikely, but it's possible. At this point, there are a few remaining variables, so we're unsure about the timing of everything. We are grateful that we were heard and that we will likely continue to be able to support our boys after (if) they move. Please continue to pray for the home study process - that it would be thorough and that the evaluators would show much scrutiny when choosing whether to approve this placement or not. Praise God for giving us peace. We are, as always, overwhelmed by the blessing of the Church. Thank you for praying with us today!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My Shepherd Will Supply My Need

Walked into my parent's church late this past Sunday...just in time to open my hymnal and sing this hymn by Isaac Watts.

My Shepherd Will Supply My Need

My Shepherd will supply my need:
Jehovah is His Name;
In pastures fresh He makes me feed,
Beside the living stream.
He brings my wandering spirit back
When I forsake His ways,
And leads me, for His mercy's sake,
In paths of truth and grace.

When I walk through the shades of death,
Thy presence is my stay;
A word of Thy supporting breath
Drives all my fears away.
Thy hand, in sight of all my foes,
Doth still my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows,
Thine oil anoints my head. 

The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days;
O may Thy house be my abode,
And all my work be praise!
There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger, nor a guest,
But like a child at home.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Please pray

We have court on Monday, April 29. We have been on the phone frequently over the last several days trying to sort things out. It's looking more and more clear every moment that the boys will probably be placed with their cousin soon. April 29 may very well be our last chance in the court room to advocate for these children. We are struggling to find the avenue to do this or the words to say. To give you an idea of the struggle, here are just some of the things we need to consider:

1. We want to be gracious and kind.
2. We don't want to speak out of selfishness or out of self-righteousness. We want to speak objectively on behalf of the boys.
3. We don't want to unnecessarily burn any bridges. Grandma, mom, and cousin will all be present in the courtroom. They will control the extent of our interaction with the boys once (if) they are moved. We would hate to speak in such a way that we unnecessarily cut off all chances of a relationship with the boys once (if) they are moved.
4. However, we want to be faithful to our task of advocating for these boys. The unfortunate reality is that no one involved with this case has ever truly spoken on behalf of our boys. We have waited for that. We have hoped and prayed to that end, but it appears that it won't happen unless we do it ourselves.

Please pray for wisdom as my husband and I pour over all of this this weekend. We plan to write a letter to the judge. We're trying to arrange meetings next week with everyone involved. The word we're hearing from everyone is that nothing we do will make any difference. We just feel responsible to give an accurate picture to everyone involved. If we don't, we feel that we're not fulfilling our responsibility as foster parents.

In addition to wisdom, pray for peace, pray for faith, pray that our hearts would look like His in all that we do and say this week. Pray, also, for B-boy and K-man...too many requests to even state here. Pray however you feel led. We'll keep you posted.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Taking Thoughts Captive

"We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion 
raised against the knowledge of God, 
and take every thought captive to obey Christ."
2 Cor. 10:5

The Lord has been teaching me a lot lately about taking my thoughts captive. As you can imagine, and as you've probably seen in my posts often, my thoughts can just get away from me sometimes. I'm not often a worrier, but this foster care thing is enough to corrupt the best of us :) Allow me to illustrate what I mean using some of the thoughts that have been creeping into my head most recently since Tuesday's Family Team  Meeting...

What will K-man do if I have to tell him he's going to live somewhere else again and may never come back?
What if they don't let him finish the school year?
Will they be screaming and crying as I put them in the transporter's car with all of their bags to move away?
What if I'm tempted to just hold onto them both and not let them rip them out of my hands?
Will it be better for me to stay strong for them or show them my broken heart so they will remember how dearly loved they were?
Will they be here for their birthdays?
Will their birthdays come and go without so much as hearing their voices?
How will I ever have another child in this house again?
I don't think I'll ever love another child as much as I love these boys.
What if no one tells them they love them?
What if no one tucks them in at night?
What if B-boy only eats Cheetos every day for the rest of his childhood?
What if their hearts harden?

...and on and on it goes.

Some would say I'm entitled to these thoughts. They may be understandable, but at their core, they are anxious thoughts that deny a Sovereign God who is in absolute control of all things on this earth. It's similar to the feeling I get when I hear the age-old phrase, "Oh...I just don't think I could ever do what you do. I could NEVER love these kids and watch them leave." I get it. I do. BUT we need to really think about what that phrase might be saying about our faith. At the center of that phrase might just be a lack of faith in a very big and mighty God. If that has been your thought, I challenge you to check your heart.

"Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, 
for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. 
Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."
Matthew 6:34 are some things that have helped me in seasons like this.

I often heed Elisabeth Elliott's reminder that there is no grace for our imaginations. He's simply not pouring out grace for whatever horrible scenario I can dream up. He is in the business of giving all-sufficient grace for every real life trial that comes my way. I need not worry. His grace will be there to greet me. In the same spirit, I had a friend tell me once that God didn't intend for us to live things over and over and over. He meant for us to live them once, and He intends to sustain us. I need not start living that day until that day comes, with all of the grace that has been poured out on me in every trial before.

I read the Old Testament. I like to think on the great things He has done. He encourages us over and over again throughout scripture - from Genesis to Revelation, He encourages His people to remember His past faithfulness. My dear friend called and shared Psalm 77 with me just the other day. What a precious Psalm to meditate on, primarily because it causes us to look at God's past faithfulness, not our present circumstance, to increase our faith and devotion to the Almighty God.

Psalm 77

I cry aloud to God,
    aloud to God, and he will hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
    in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
    my soul refuses to be comforted.
When I remember God, I moan;
    when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah
You hold my eyelids open;
    I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I consider the days of old,
    the years long ago.
I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
    let me meditate in my heart.”
    Then my spirit made a diligent search:
“Will the Lord spurn forever,
    and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
    Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
    Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah
Then I said, “I will appeal to this,
    to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
    and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
    What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
    you have made known your might among the peoples.
You with your arm redeemed your people,
    the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
When the waters saw you, O God,
    when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
    indeed, the deep trembled.
The clouds poured out water;
    the skies gave forth thunder;
    your arrows flashed on every side.
The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
    your lightnings lighted up the world;
    the earth trembled and shook.
Your way was through the sea,
    your path through the great waters;
    yet your footprints were unseen.
You led your people like a flock
    by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

I also do my best to be honest. I'm thankful for the Psalms. I use them often. God has given us such a gift in the Psalms and even through many of the prophets. He has put his stamp of approval on some words that, honestly, seem downright faithless and disrespectful at times. He's given me these words that I, myself, can pour out to Him, because each and every time the Holy Spirit has written the words in such a way as to turn our hearts back to Him.

Psalm 13

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
    light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
    lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
    because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Finally, I think about heaven. It is often the only thing that sustains me. I teach fitness classes and often tell my class, "We have 15 seconds left. You can do anything for 15 seconds..." I guess that's what the promise of heaven does for all of us. When we know for certain that this life and these trials and this world and this sin is temporary, we can press on in hope of an eternity in glory.

"But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward 
to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness."
2 Peter 3:13

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.'"
Revelation 21:1-4

Friday, April 5, 2013

Family Team Meeting

Until Tuesday, not much has changed in our little world. The boys are thriving. They're excelling in most areas of life these days. Their momma's physical situation hasn't changed a whole lot. Her spiritual life has taken some dramatic turns that I'll share in a later post, but physically, she's still in the same place with no real end in sight. We do have a new case manager - an adoption case manager - not because the case is going to adoption, but because there's a termination court date on the calendar. We are excited about this new case manager. So far, she seems a million times more pleasant and diligent than our others. I'm sure that it's largely because, being an adoption case manager, she sees many more happy endings than our other case managers ever did. She also has a much smaller case load. Whatever the reason, we're thankful, and we're hopeful that she will go to bat for these boys.

On Tuesday, however, our world was rocked again. Ever since our last court date, people have made mention of a cousin who would like to have a home study in order to obtain guardianship for the boys. Mind you, we started hearing these things at the beginning of January. 3 months later, we weren't putting a whole lot of stock in it. We had a Family Team Meeting on Tuesday of this week. If you're unclear what a Family Team Meeting is, you can get the details at my previous post, Family Team Meeting. My husband and I were there as well as the older 2 boys' foster mother and foster sister, their therapists, their behavior aids, and their agency case managers. On the other side of the room sat our boys' grandmother and the aforementioned cousin. We knew she would be there, but I guess I hadn't really considered that it would be of any real significance.

They began with the older 2 boys - listing their needs (weaknesses) and what services they were receiving. The list was long. Their oldest brother is struggling in many areas. You know we love him. You know we think highly of his potential. The fact remains that he's in a tough spot right now and is struggling to hold it together. This was the beginning of the emotional roller-coaster for a few reasons.

First, we saw very clearly that his current foster mother, although she is doing a good job of providing for these boys' needs, is not treating them as her own children. I do not fault her for this, but it was sad to realize. Over and over again, people mentioned how much the oldest brother hates being in foster care and how much better he will behave once he returns home. It was quite clear that he feels this way because he doesn't have a real family right now.

Second, we were discouraged by everyone's approach to these behaviors. There was a lot of talk about consequences and reinforcement, but no conversation about this child's deeper motivations and the wrestling of his heart. I can guarantee you he is not going to change as a result of simply losing and/or getting privileges. I could write a whole post on this one point, but I'll spare you. The boy needs someone willing to parent him, love him, help him identify the idols of his heart, and give him the gospel.

Third, their identified solution to this child's problems was to place him with family. Virtually everyone in the room was nodding their heads in agreement that these boys need to return to family, because of how much the older 2 boys miss being with family and hate being in foster care.

When it came to be our turn to identify our boys' weaknesses, I was holding back tears. I told them some of the history of where we had come from and told them I was grateful to report that we really had no needs to identify at this time for either of them. I tried my very hardest to communicate how different their experience has been from the experience of the older two. You can imagine how awkward it was with everyone in the room to try to say, in more words or less, that my boys would be devastated if they had to move anywhere other than our home.

The result at the end of the meeting was a chart filled with needs for the older 2 boys - the solution having been identified as transitioning to biological family. At the bottom of the chart were the names of our 2 boys with the words "no needs identified at this time." All of a sudden, I felt like everything was spinning out of control with no way to put the pieces back together. The talk shifted to "when" the boys transition to their cousin's home, "when" the home eval is in place...I literally had to turn my head away a few times to hide my tears. Was this really happening?? Was there nothing I could say to change their minds??

My case manager was reassuring me that this is all very premature and that we really have no idea what might happen, but I couldn't fight the feeling that this was preparation for a hard few months ahead. At the end of the meeting, I tried to paint a very clear picture that my boys' needs will increase exponentially if they move. Their answer was to set a goal to ensure that "services" are in place after this potential transition in order to meet the needs of the younger 2 brothers.

So now what? We wait for home studies to come back...and we pray for truth and justice to be upheld...and we fight those thoughts that creep into our heads when we least expect them that attempt to rob us of our faith and our joy. Mostly, we meditate on the past faithfulness of an infinitely faithful, sovereign, loving, and almighty God, and we rest in Him.

"We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion 
raised against the knowledge of God, 
and take every thought captive to obey Christ."
2 Cor. 10:5