December 21, 2014

It's All About the Grace

Like a child having a tantrum, I slammed the front door on my way out of my house, the house that suddenly seemed two sizes too small.  I could not stand to be in there one more second.  The noise, the arguing, the clutter, the incessant demands that never allow me a moment of peace.  I knew when I became a foster mother that it would not be easy, but sometimes it just gets so overwhelming that I have to step outside and get away, even if only for a minute.

I stormed down the driveway towards the sidewalk of my little suburban neighborhood, tears streaming down my face, my thoughts raging, my silent prayers practically incoherent.  God, please do something!  I can’t do this any more!  You brought these children into my home, and I have trusted you to help me love them.  You have got to help me!

I hadn’t gone even ten steps, when I ran into my neighbor, who happened to be walking down the sidewalk at the same time.  Oh, great!  Is there nowhere that I can even cry in private?!  Of course on any other day, I would have been happy to see her.  I would have enjoyed a brief chat with her.  But not today.  I looked around in a panic, trying to find an escape route, but it was too late.  She had already spotted me.  She had already noticed my tears.

December 11, 2014

Good News!

To the 150 million orphaned children in the world who will face this holiday season without a family . . . this is for you.

Do not be afraid, the angel said.   If there is one thing that you need to hear first, it is this: Do not be afraid.  Although there are many circumstances in your life that are uncertain, and the unknown future is terrifying, you will not be able to understand the rest of the message until you let go of fear.  God knows that fear, that terrible enemy that sneaks in and tries to steal your soul, needs to be banished.  He knows that fear keeps your fists tightly clinched, unable to open your hands to receive His gift.  The most amazing gift that has ever been offered.

December 1, 2014

Not Me!

Do you ever feel like Moses sometimes?  There you are, minding your own business, living in the middle of Nowhere Desert, quietly herding sheep and raising a family.1  Nothing spectacular ever really happens, and that’s just the way you like it.  There was a time when you thought you might enjoy living in bustling Egypt, with its grandiose building projects, bountiful crops, and a vigorously healthy population.2 

However, as you got older, you realized that the government is corrupt, the average person is way over-worked and under-paid, and the laws, instead of protecting children, actually decree that they should be murdered.3  No, thank you, you think.  That’s not me.  I prefer living an average, peaceful life in seclusion and anonymity.  I like routine.  Predictability.

And then, in one moment, on one ordinary day when you least expect it, everything changes.  You don’t exactly see a burning bush or hear an audible voice, but the message is just as clear.4  God is calling you, not to go and deliver his people from slavery, but to go and deliver a child from a hopeless, fatherless future.  He is asking you to be the one to rescue an orphan. 

Your first reaction, the automatic response is, Not me!  You are asking the wrong person, Lord!  I’m not brave enough!  I don’t have any special skills or experience or training.  I don’t have the right personality for it, and I know nothing about children who have been abused or neglected.  And You know I don’t handle stress very well.  I really and truly can’t do this.  Please, oh please, ask someone else to do it!5

November 12, 2014

Love Your Neighbor

Story based on “The Good Samaritan” found in Luke 10:25-37. 

Ponderings based on a journal entry by Marc Ulrich,
a man who is learning what it means to “love your neighbor.”

Once upon a time there was a child.  An innocent child who experienced from a terribly young age what it means to live in a harsh world full of sin and evil and broken people who hurt one another.  Her parents, the very ones who were supposed to love her and protect her, were unable to do so.  Instead of being fed and clothed and cleaned, she was naked and cold.  Hungry and soiled.  She wept tears of pain and loneliness, longing for someone to love her.  But instead of receiving soothing caresses when she cried, she was beaten.  “Shut up!,” they screamed into her terrified face.  And then they abandoned her, leaving her half dead.

A man passed by.  A nicely-dressed, well-educated man who loved the Lord and had dedicated his life to studying God’s Word and teaching others the truths of the gospel.  What perfect timing!  When the child saw him approaching, a small glimmer of hope sparked in her heart.  Hope that someone, finally, had come to rescue her. 

October 22, 2014


How did I get here?  What happened to me?  My tiny body is slouched in a miniature wheelchair, and I have various tubes running in and out of my abdomen.  I am trying to hold my head upright and trying to make sense of my surroundings.  I am trapped in my own little world of severe disabilities.  And to make matters worse, I am trapped in the foster care system.  This is not the life I would have chosen.

October 11, 2014

The Heart of a Father

His life this past week has been a crazy whirlwind, and this evening he finds himself, once again, in a strange city on the other side of the country, far away from the family he loves.  It is a constant effort to find the right balance between taking care of his responsibilities at work, and taking care of his wife and children.  And since it is impossible to be in two places at once, the struggle remains.

He has an unexpected few hours of unscheduled time, so he decides to take a walk along the beach.  To take a few minutes to try to unwind after his long day of meetings, from the relentless pressure to produce more, more and always more.

As his feet sink into the warm sand, and he listens to the comforting sound of the waves whooshing in and out, back and forth, he takes a deep breath and feels his tight shoulders begin to relax.  His thoughts travel towards home, towards the one place his heart longs to be.  And in his rare moment of solitude he begins to reflect on the past week.  What a week it has been!

September 6, 2014

Invisible Orphans

Most likely it  is not any of the children at the birthday party.  She wasn’t invited.  How can a child learn how to make friends when she doesn’t stay in one place long enough?1

It’s probably not the kid on the soccer team.  How can a child learn how to play a sport when he doesn’t have a dad who will kick a ball with him?  A mom who will drive him to practice every week?

But maybe it’s the young girl who sits next to your daughter at school.  The girl with the slumped shoulders who never makes eye contact.  The one who shuffles her feet a little bit when she walks, a result of growing up with shoes that never fit quite right.  Or the one who, when the teacher asks her to read out loud and she stumbles over the words, gets teased and laughed at by the other students.2

Perhaps it’s the little boy you see when you go to the store.  The boy who keeps touching everything within his reach, and who has a tantrum when he hears the word “no.”  Or the one who bats his eyelashes at everyone he meets, knowing that they will inevitably say, “Ah, he is so cute!”

It could be the kid on the swings at the park.  Or the one in the Sunday School class that you teach every week.  Or the one who visited Vacation Bible School last summer.   

They are all around you, and yet they remain invisible.  They are foster children in our own community – in our schools and neighborhoods and playgrounds - who are waiting to be adopted.  They are our country’s invisible orphans.

August 24, 2014

I Didn't Know

I didn’t know, until I first felt his little hand tucked securely into mine, how much love my heart could contain.  A passionate, fierce, intense love.  A love so acute that it was almost painful.  A love that nearly took my breath away.

I didn’t know, when the Lord saw my empty arms, when I begged him for a child, for an opportunity to be a mother, to imprint my life upon the life of another, that this was the child He had chosen for me.  This charming, magnetic child who attracted people’s notice wherever he went.  Who would walk into a room and instantly meet his next best friend.  Who would go outside early in the morning so that he could knock on the new neighbors’ door and ask, “Do you have any kids my age?”  This bright, curious boy who taught himself to read when he was four years old.  Who carefully drew up architectural plans for his LEGO blocks, and made sure that the plans were followed accurately.  Who chose as his topic for his essay: “The Difference Between Alchemy and Nuclear Fusion.”  (Sorry, buddy.  If you want my help with your homework, you’re going to have to pick a different topic.  Or go ask your father.)

August 19, 2014

In Search of Ordinary

When we see the look of sheer panic on the teacher’s face this Sunday morning, we almost laugh.  We stand in the doorway, bringing in our assortment of children, trying to wrangle their energy and herd them inside.  She reacts as if we are bringing wild animals into her tidy classroom instead of spruced-up, shiny-faced, Sunday-best little boys and girls.

We have a rainbow of children between us, my friend and I, all of them close in age, all of them different colors, some of them differently-abled, not one of them quiet.  We do make quite a spectacle when we are out, two white mamas with red and yellow, black and white little ones following close behind.  We wish people didn’t feel the need to stare.  Or look at us like we are from another planet.  We just want to be ordinary mamas with our ordinary families enjoying an ordinary Sunday at church.

August 6, 2014

Praying for a Miracle

Once again we find ourselves sitting in a waiting room, waiting for the results of yet another test.  The same television on the wall is showing the same talk-show host that we’ve seen a hundred times, and the same outdated magazines on the table in front of us do nothing to help the time pass more quickly.

I look tenderly at the little boy here with me – the one with the gorgeous eyelashes, the perfect complexion, and the angelic curls that always tempt me to run my fingers through them.  And I ache with compassion.  Poor little guy!  When will enough be enough?  How many more tests and probes and scopes and scans will he be required to endure?

August 1, 2014

Breaking Chains

It is appropriate, she supposes, that the metal table under her back is shockingly cold.  It mirrors the coldness running through her veins at the thought of what the doctor is about to do.   Everyone says that this is her choice, but really, what choice does she have?  Her one true love, the one she thought would be by her side forever, is long gone.  She has little education, few job skills, and no means of supporting herself, much less another person.  She can’t ask the members of her church for help; they would surely ostracize her if they knew, looking at her with raised eyebrows, scorn and judgment.

The straps around her feet feel as heavy as chains, shackling her to this table, enslaving her to this terrible moment.  The child inside her will never be an orphan; he will never even take a breath.

This desperate girl
and her unborn child
need to be rescued.

July 6, 2014

What if . . .?

We sit on the floor of the sunny, colorful little room, each of us holding a specially-formed child in our laps, introducing them, some for the very first time, to the beautiful sound of music.   Because these precious children are blind, they are especially enjoying the rhythms of the songs, the tactile sensations of the drums and shakers, and the physical movements of the motions.  Some spontaneously try dancing to the tempo – awkwardly and yet completely uninhibited.  Some, like my foster child sitting on my own lap, are hesitant and fearful, reluctant to participate in this unfamiliar environment.  And one little girl across the circle from us just smiles and rocks back and forth the entire time, her ears savoring every delicious beat.

I can’t help but notice the little girl sitting next to me, the one with the disfigured face, whose deformed hands can barely grasp the musical instruments, and whose head is wrapped in unsightly bandages – either from a recent surgery or from a misshapen head.  It’s hard not to stare.

Suddenly, my 15-year old daughter, who is attending the musical event with me, interrupts my thoughts.  Leaning over, she whispers into my ear, “Do you see that girl over there?”  She discreetly glances over to the same one I had just been noticing.  Uh oh, I hope she doesn’t say anything too loud or embarrassing, I think to myself.  To my utter astonishment, she continues with pure sincerity, “She is so adorable!”

June 4, 2014


It was never supposed to happen.  From start to finish, every trail of your parents’ journey to reach you was stamped with a signpost marked “Impossible.”  The terrain was rocky and steep, filled with roadblocks, the view around each corner completely obstructed.

They did not qualify to adopt from the country where you were born.  Their finances were woefully inadequate, and they could never afford the adoption expenses.  Their spiritual leaders, the ones they respected and from whom they sought counsel, advised them against it.  She had serious health issues that prevented her from traveling.  And perhaps the most obvious Impossible sign:  another family had already begun the process to adopt you.

Common sense said no.  The list of reasons to quit just kept growing.  The obstacles seemed insurmountable.  Their efforts and prayer seemed futile.  And yet . . . they dared to hope. 

May 26, 2014

This One Child

“Hey, guys, it’s time to get in the car.  We need to run some errands, and I really need to stop by the market to pick up some ingredients for dinner tonight.  Sweetie, can you grab the diaper bag while I get my purse, my list, and this little guy?”

“Has anyone seen my keys?  I thought they were on the kitchen counter.”

“No, Honey, I don’t know where your shoes are.  Where did you last see them?”

“Hurry up and use the bathroom before we leave; we don’t want any accidents on the way.  I know you don’t need to go, but please try anyway.”

“No, we don’t have time to ‘just stop by’ the mall to go shopping.  Let’s just get our errands done, so that we can get back home in time for the little ones’ naps.  Please, just get in the car!”

The chaos that accompanies leaving the house always makes me wonder if it’s worth it.  How badly do we really need milk?  Or diapers?  I mentally review the check-list.  We need gas for the car.  And then I need to return the books to the library and cash a check at the bank.  The last stop will be the market, where hopefully I can find some inspiration for meals for the next few days.  I’m so thankful to be out of the house, albeit ever so briefly, on this beautiful summer day.  My reverie is interrupted, when less than two miles from home, on a beautiful winding tree-lined road, I hear it.  That unmistakable choking sound coming from the car seat behind me.  And then I smell it.  That unmistakable stench of formula gone sour from sitting in a little tummy too long. 

And all the other kids in the car smell it too.  “Ew!  Gross!  Quick, roll down the windows!  Mo-o-om, he’s car sick again!”  Gee, thank you so much for that helpful information.  As if I didn’t already know.

“Can you reach the wipes?  In the diaper bag?  Right there, on the floor?  What do you mean we don’t have the diaper bag?  Really?  I thought I asked you to grab the diaper bag!”   Obviously our errands will need to wait for another time.

When we get back home, I’m not even sure where to start.  I need to give him a bath and take out all the cornrows that I had just spent two hours putting in his hair that very morning.  I need to rinse out his clothes and put them on the “sanitary” cycle in the washing machine.  I need to disassemble the car seat and hose it down.  But first I need to get the preschooler occupied with something else so that he doesn’t “help.”

And then the phone rings and I hear my husband’s voice, his innocent voice on the other end of the line:  “Hi, Honey, I’m on my way home.  What are we having for dinner tonight?” Ha!  Does he seriously want me to answer that question?

May 5, 2014

I Could Never Do That!

“Wow, you’re a foster parent?!  I could never do that!”  How many times have I heard that comment?  As if what I do is something extraordinary.  As if I’m something other than who I am:  an average person, just trying to be faithful to what God has called me to do.  

If time would allow, here is how I would love to respond to that comment . . .

While it’s true that you may not be able open your home to a child in need, it is true those of us who are foster parents certainly can’t do it by ourselves.  You can support foster children and those who care for them by opening your heart, using your skills, and sharing your life.  Here are 25 ideas of things that you can do . . .

April 12, 2014

Making a Difference

Do you remember when you were young, that exciting season of life when you were just starting out, and the whole world was full of endless possibilities?  It was like holding a brand new travel book in your hands and being given carte blanche.  You could go anywhere you wanted to go.  Do anything.  Become anything.  You could devote your life to academia, a career, a family, full-time ministry . . . or all of the above.  And no matter which direction you decided to go, your goal was the same as almost everyone else on the planet: to leave your mark.  To impact people’s lives.  To make a difference.

So of all the options in the world, all of the good, noble roads you could have chosen, you decide to become a foster parent.  You’ve heard the stories of the underprivileged children in your very own town, children who are being abused and neglected and abandoned.  Children who need care and encouragement.  And so you think, Why not me?  You know that you have a lot of love to give, and you want to offer a child the hope of safety and the promise of protection.  Your foster care journey begins.

March 22, 2014

The Long Road of Healing

Don’t cry little one.  Take my hand.  Let us walk against the wind together.  Let me be the hand that guides you back to hope.  Back to love. – source unknown

Sometimes I forget.  I forget the years of his life that he spent alone.  Trapped in a crib that was less like a bed and more like a cage.  No matter how much he cried, there was no one to comfort him or hold him or rock him to sleep.  And sleep was rare for him, not only because of the constant pain caused by his medical condition, but because of the strangers who came in his room, coming in at all hours of the day and night.  Strangers who would do painful, excruciating things to his frail body.  He would scream and wail, begging them to stop, but they only restrained him more firmly, pinning down his arms and legs so that he could not escape their torment.  Sometimes I forget the horrible trauma that this child has experienced.

He may have no specific memories of those early years.  He would never be able to articulate now what happened to him, or describe why, even though it’s been several years, he continues to have frequent nightmares and unexplained anxiety.  Why he doesn’t want his Mama out of his sight for even a second.  Why hasn’t he gotten over it yet?  He has been rescued from that former life, and theoretically he should be living happily every in the safety and security of his loving family. 

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.  His body remembers.  His cells have not forgotten.  His soul bears the invisible scars of being abandoned.  The excruciating physical pain.  The utter helplessness.

Is it any wonder that he is plagued by fear?  That unfamiliar situations cause him stress? That he is hyper-alert to his surroundings at all times and doesn’t tolerate surprises or unexpected changes to his routine?   Even being hugged too tightly or being pinned during a tickle fight causes terrified shrieking.  The uncertainty and insecurity, the hidden wounds that are still healing, have taken a terrible toll on his behavior.  The behavior that everyone can see.

February 9, 2014

Rescue Me

I love you, O Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.  He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  
(Psalm 18:1-2)

- - - - - - - - - - -

“It’s here!” she hears from across the room.  “Come quick!  Let’s open it and see what’s inside!”  The postman has just delivered a small brown package, the one they have all been anticipating for the past few weeks.  The other adults in the room are willingly interrupted from their duties, and come over to get a peek at the contents of the package.  The older children nearby pause briefly from their activities, sensing the excitement in the air.  One little girl, who has been playing quietly, tries to see past the children who are crowding around, curious about this change in the daily routine.  She has no idea that with the arrival of that package, her life is about to be forever changed.

January 23, 2014

Great Expectations

The buzz of excitement in our home is so thick I can almost feel it!  A new little one will soon be joining our family, and we are all anxiously awaiting his arrival.  The older ones in the family are sorting through our large stockpile of clothing that we keep just in case - the assortment of sizes, seasons, and genders; and picking out the cutest ones they can find.  I am busy clearing space . . . in the dresser drawers for his belongings, in the kitchen cabinet for his bibs, bottles and baby food, and in my calendar for the many hours that I know his care will require.  His new papa is re-assembling the crib and re-installing the car seat – tasks he’s done so many times, he can practically do them in his sleep!  And the younger one keeps asking over and over again, “When is he coming?”  We are just like any other family who has a baby on the way . . . the arrival of a new foster child is a time of great expectation. 

January 9, 2014

A Tale of Two Mothers

Every time I hear the glass doors slide open, my eyes lift with a twinge of apprehension, wondering if it is her.   Because I had been warned that she would be here today, I have purposely arrived early for this appointment, so that I could check in at the front desk, fill out the necessary paperwork, and get settled in the waiting room before having to face her.

Inevitably, the doors slide open once again, and this time she storms in.   She takes one look at the child – her child - sitting on my lap, and scowls daggers at me before choosing a seat far enough away from me to ensure that we won’t feel the need for small talk.  I  mean, what could we possibly have to say to one another?  In spite of her strongest objections and denials of any wrongdoing, Child Protective Services has taken her child away from her and placed him in foster care.  In my home.  In a white woman’s home!  She is furious that I am caring for her child. Furious that someone somewhere considered me a more “fit” parent than her.  Even though she has never met me, in her mind I am the enemy.

While we are waiting for the child’s name to be called, I discreetly steal glances her way, trying to size her up and form an opinion.  I have been told that she can be confrontational and spiteful, so naturally I am wary.  She is smaller than I expected.  Short and extremely thin, with hands that fidget nervously.  Her tiny braids hang down her back and partially cover her face, a face that might be pretty if it wasn’t so clearly filled with anger.  I know the reasons why her child is in foster care.  I have heard about her faults as a mother.  I have little tolerance for parents who do not properly care for their children.  Why is she angry?  It’s her fault that her child is in foster care.  Even though I have never met her, in my mind she is the enemy.