God thwarted my plans, and that’s okay.

As Christians, we often wonder if we are doing God’s will.

Before my husband and I began our journey of fostering children, we thought for almost a year if it was God’s will to foster children. I am going to say something very bold: If both you and your spouse have thought about fostering children, it is God’s will, because if it is not, I promise, He will close that door. Most couples never consider fostering and those that do consider it, it’s usually one (usually the wife) who is more open to it. So if both of you are up to it, please take the next step in getting certified.

In life, we are sometimes so fearful to take any step in any direction because we are afraid of making a mistake and somehow and in some way thwart the will of God (Job 42:2). Let me take a whole load off your shoulders: God loves you, and “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?  Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Rest in this knowledge, my sister or brother take the next step.

I say all this because I want to tell you about the time in my life God didn’t give me foster children. My husband and I had completed our classes. We had gotten our fingerprints – TWICE (that’s another story). We did the home test, the body test, the psycho test. We got our CPR certifications. We turned in all our paperwork, watched all the videos and drew out our fire escape plan. All we were waiting on was our background checks to come back. I had only been living in Kentucky 4 years, so being an import from Texas, I needed a background check from there also. So I submitted my background check application and sent it off to Austin, Texas. My Kentucky background check came in 6 weeks and I got nothing from Texas. Nada. All the people in my church who took the foster classes with me, they all began getting their placements, and I was left waiting for this background check. I. was. devastated.! You just don’t understand, I have the organization skills of a squirrel on crack and the attention span of a puppy when it comes to paperwork. I loathe paperwork, and I had done it! Every single piece of stinking paper. And I wanted my foster kid! I had finally stepped out in obedience. I was finally unafraid of getting a little monster kid! I had tried so hard to get my home up to par. I was ready to be the hands and feet of Jesus to all the orphans of Western Kentucky! But flipping Texas was taking its flipping time! Months went by and nothing came.

Then came a call that changed my life forever . . . . .

A friend of mine asked if I wanted to translate for a young man that had just arrived from Guatemala. I would sit with him in all of his high school classes and translate for him what the teacher said from English to Spanish. The answer was an easy “yes” because my life was on hold, not being busy with foster children. That’s when I met Kendell. And as I sat with Kendell day in and day out, I found out that he was orphaned at 6. That he had no support here in the states and slowly, God revealed to me that this was why the Texas background check never came. The child God had for me, at this time, would not come from foster care, but would come through Crittenden County High School. The child God had for me was not Kentuckian, but Guatemalan. The child God had for me was not a youngster, but a teenager. The child God had for me would not be speak with a lisp or a stutter or have delayed speech, but would speak Spanish.

God uniquely brings about our passions. Not all of us have the interest in loving a child who doesn’t share our DNA. Frankly, it’s so rare that even radical Christians struggle with the idea of loving children who are not their own blood. This is why I want you to see how special you are if there are tugs at your heart to foster children or adopt them. Not everyone feels those nudges.

Six years ago, tomorrow, Kendell moved into our home. He has my heart and loves me fervently. He takes care of me when I am sick, lavishes me with hugs and kisses and makes me laugh every day. He is sweet and caring to all of his brothers and sisters, and there is nothing he wont do for any of us. About a year after he moved in, he became my brother in Christ! Seeing him grow in his faith has been inspiring and I can’t wait to see how God will use him to further His Kingdom. Almost 2 years ago, we officially adopted him and gave him the middle name Josiah. Josiah in Hebrew means “God supports”. And He does.

Two years later I did get my 3 little monsters from foster care, and that’s another story!! (There are so many awesome stories when you say “yes” to God!) But by then I didn’t need a background check from Texas. They have also been a blessing to me and I love them to pieces! And in them, I see the healing power of Jesus Christ and the magnificent sovereignty of our Lord. Just wow! (more of this later)

My friend, trust our Father! Do not lean on your own understanding (Prov.3:5). If you are not in His will, he promises to work it out. Ephesians 1:11 says: In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will. God’s purpose will stand with or without you (Isaiah 46:10). You know the way, the way that was given specifically to you, now walk in it, boldly, knowing full well that He will support you or even thwart you. (Isaiah 30:21)

By the way, I never got my background check from Texas,

Instant Family – Movie Review

I did not want to see this movie. When the link was sent to me by another foster mom, I immediately told her I was not going to go. I don’t like going into situations knowing my heart strings are going to be pulled. I don’t do lifetime or hallmark Christmas movies. It’s just not my cup of tea. I realize that this is a foster care movie, I realize it would make me laugh, but it was just too close to comfort. I didn’t want to do this! And they couldn’t make me. So a group of foster moms and I went on opening day.  I hate/love my friends for making me do things I don’t want to do!

The movie was very real. It did make me cry, but they didn’t leave you there for as long as other movies in this genre like to do sometimes. I also appreciated that they didn’t sugar coat the life of foster parents or kids. It was obvious that the writers of this movie did their homework and interviewed many social workers, foster kids and parents. So many aspects of our fears, of our secret thoughts, and of our joys were covered by this movie and I was grateful for it.

Would I take my foster kids to see this movie? I cannot paint with a broad paint brush with this question.  I would recommend it only for the older foster kids who feel safe with their foster parents and only if your kid is capable to deal with strong themes like seeing a drug addicted mother repeatedly abandon her kids. For example, I think my 13 year old foster son would be okay watching this movie.  On the other hand, my 12 year old foster daughter who struggles with missing her mom and abandonment would not be okay watching this movie until she is much older. She still has a lot of healing to do before she sees her nightmare played out on the screen. But for my older one, this movie will provide so many awesome opportunities to have deep conversations with him. We can talk about what he related to the most or what he thought wasn’t right. He could also see (hopefully) just how difficult it is to be a foster parent and some of our fears and concerns. I do recommend you watch the movie first on your own and then assess if your foster kids would be okay with it.

I do recommend this movie to all who have thought for more than half a second about fostering or adopting out of foster care. I also recommend this movie to anyone who likes family drama genres.

The movie does contain adult themes that are not strangers to foster parents like comfort masturbating, sexting, cuss words, manipulation, drugs, sexual abuse, running away etc. There is also several times that God’s name is used in vain. There is also a gay couple who fosters a little boy. Generally the mood is light about all these things and I really enjoyed the political incorrectness. This just added more to the general authentic feel of the movie and frankly its comedic value. There was no nudity or sex scenes.

Just be aware, this is not a “Christian” movie. There is a Christian couple that is made fun of, but everyone is made fun of – even the gay couple! The movie is all around very secular. There is a scene at the very end where the main actors answer the question “why they chose to foster” to their teenage foster daughter and although their answer is very sweet, it is also very humanist and came short for me. This is why as Christians, we have such an advantage in foster care to live out the Gospel with these children. Our answer to this question runs red deep in meaning and purpose! I wrote more about this in this blog.

When we enter into the world, the world in all its non-glory exposes itself to us. We cannot shudder away from this with tight lips and eyes closed. The world was us and there are still many not yet part of our fold who are in it. Let’s go get them.

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There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. The one who fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us.
– I John 4:18-19

Blank Birth Certificates

About a week ago, my 3 foster children lost their biological parents. No, they didn’t die, they just chose not to show up for most of their lives.  After years of being in the foster care system, the powers that be decided that my kids parents were unfit to be parents and their rights were rightfully terminated. Technically, on paper, my foster children are orphans. They have us, but legally their birth certificates now have blank spaces where their parents’ names should be.

Unfortunately, their case is not unique. Today, in Kentucky alone, there are over 8,000 children in the foster care system. Many of these children age out not ever “belonging” to anyone. Their birth certificate being blank for the rest of their lives. We live in a very broken world.

But I tell you all this so this little, minuscule light of mine shines even brighter.

This morning, I fed my kids chorizo con huevo (Mexican sausage with egg). They saw me take out the plump, greasy, fat links, then squeeze the red clumps out of their casing, my fingers covered in red-orange ooze. “What is that?” the smallest one asked. “It’s chorizo, and I’m going to mix it with your eggs this morning.” He being the most sensitive to my feelings just slowly said “okay” and walked away. I accompanied their eggs with some quesadillas filled with Oaxaca cheese, and grilled them in butter and needless to say, my Kentucky native foster children ate every bit of what I made and loved it. And, may I add, they pronounce “chorizo” beautifully.

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This morning’s breakfast

My foster children, who we plan to adopt, are themselves adopting me and my culture. The oldest one, whose name is John, has adamantly stated he would like to change his given name at his adoption hearing to, get this, JUAN! My littlest one is always requesting for me to make fideo, a type of Mexican spaghetti that I grew up with. My foster daughter is looking forward to her quinceanera (a huge party celebrating her 15th birthday) where we all celebrate her becoming a woman.  All of them can sing Lalo Mora’s song “Un puno de tierra”!

Yes, this is all a good thing, but there is a larger part of my culture that they are also adopting which is the most important and that is my Christian culture. I pray so they pray, I attend church and they do also, I confess my many, many, many failings and I help them confess theirs, we forgive, we worship our God, we fight being hypocrites and fail some more, we practice hospitality – something they really enjoy. My whole worldview is through the lens of my faith. My identity and the identity of my home is mostly found in Christ. My home of Mexicans, a Guatemalan, Kentuckians,Texans and a Yankee comes beautifully together seamlessly under Christ. This is why I beg Christians to consider foster care and/or adoption. What better way to further the kingdom of God than by having them in your home where habits, culture, and character – specifically Christian ones – are naturally absorbed!? Will you mess up, of course. My first summer with my very pale foster children was drenched in aloe because I didn’t know anything about sunscreen AND that you have to re-apply that stuff! AND that SPF 40 does squat! AND just get SPF 70, trust me! AND what does SPF even mean!?! – My poor white babies were burnt red all summer, sizzling as they slowly walked!  Their brown mama had no clue! You also will mess up in other ways. You may not want them anymore – it will pass, sometimes I didn’t want the kids I birthed. You will regret doing foster care, don’t worry, it will pass – sometimes. You will question yourself, you will lose your temper with them. You may even consider an exorcist for them and even yourself. BUT! This is where my faith, my Christian culture, comes to the rescue. Because it is in my faith where I remember my own adoption. My Heavenly Father adopted me. I was an abandoned baby and he raised me and clothed me (Ezekiel 16:5-6). I was his enemy (Romans 5:10) and he made me His friend (John 15:15). I was dead and he brought me to life (I John 3:14). My birth certificate had blanks (John 14:18) and he filled them and signed them with the blood of His Son (Ephesians 1:5)!

My foster children have blanks right now on their birth certificates, but soon they will have Nathan and Anna Tobey written in on these empty slots. They will be given a new last name – and some a new first name too! They will belong to someone. It is my constant prayer that they will not just be a part of our temporary family, but also our eternal one. I hope that they don’t just become my children, but also my eternal brothers and sisters – sharing with me in my inheritance who is Christ Himself!

Ephesians 1:4-5 says: For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence. In love, He predestined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the Beloved One.…

 

 

The Gospel Comes with a House Key – Book Review

Rosaria Butterfield has become one of my most favorite authors.  Her writing style, her vulnerability and her sincerity in her books creates a paradox in me of wanting to greedily gobble up her books and slowly relish them at the same time. Her latest book is no exception. She challenges the Christian to reach out to the hurting and lonely and be a beacon of refuge and hope to a dying world.

The book is mainly about the lost practice of Christian hospitality and how vital it is in this post-Christian society, because it is in homes where believers and unbelievers can let down guards and shatter assumptions and be together. She reminds the reader that “God’s people were strangers once” and that we should not be “told on the Lord’s Day that we are part of the family of God, but then limp along throughout the rest of the long week like an orphan begging bread”.

She challenged me to ask the very serious question: When was the last time a stranger was in my home? Thankfully, due to her previous books, I can admit it was last week, but it really has to be an effort on my part. I can not expect strangers to come visit me, or to initiate conversations with me, I have to seek them out; just as Christ sought me. How quickly I forget that I once was lost, that I once was a stranger, that I once was an enemy and outside the fold. Rosaria’s book is a gentle but firm reminder of our mandate to practice “radically ordinary hospitality” and see “strangers become neighbors and neighbors become family of God.”

In her book she shares her life with us. Her ordinary life. She shares the beautiful stories of doing life together with Christians, and also the very ugly details of the pain that sin causes. Just like any family, there is dirty laundry to be handled, BUT we, as Christians, have something strictly biological families lack, and that is the ultimate purifier and cleaner, Christ Himself and the sweet smelling aroma of grace.

Rosaria practices what she teaches and like always she brings new perspective and vitality to my faith. She is also a foster parent that truthfully exposes the insecurities and blessings of foster care. And as a foster parent myself, her compassionate words of wisdom were a balm to my aching soul. Foster care and radical hospitality are difficult, but Rosaria is able to beautifully orchestrate the Gospel around these practices making these hardships worthwhile and brave.

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I strongly recommend this book to all Christians. This book will change your life if you haven’t read any of Rosaria’s books already.  It will challenge us to be the hands, feet and voice of Jesus. It will encourage us to see the equal dignity and humanity bestowed on fellow Image bearers. It will saturate you with the Gospel and the eternal hope we have as a family in Christ. I also recommend it if you are a foster parent, or know of any foster parents that may need encouragement, this book would be a good gift.

You can order the book here.

Here is a short video of her.       https://youtu.be/8XXHXWrh-Rg

Words in quotations come directly from “The Gospel Come with a House Key”

 

 

I took back my children’s medals . . . *cringe*

This year, 3 of my 6 kids started the running club and two of them (the two girls) whined and complained so much that they quit with 2 meets left. I will confess it was just easier for me to just let them quit. I hate it that I allowed them to quit and that I should have forced them to just finish, but alas, I gave in to their squeals of despair and side cramps.

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email that our school would be recognizing the kids of running club at the annual rally. I told our family that we would all go and support our little runner. We all (including the girls) agreed to cheer him on. When it came to honor our little runner, the two girls come running towards me saying that they too will be honored and given a medal just like their brother. They beamed as they accepted their medal along with their brother. The award had lost its luster to him.

Don’t worry – I realize I should have never let them get the medal in the first place, but I had no clue they were going to call out their names in front of a gym-full of people, and I wasn’t going to make them sit this out. My heart was not to embarrass them publicly, but to teach them privately.

After the rally, we had to have a very serious talk with the girls. My husband and I waited until we could tell them privately that they did not deserve those medals and that we would have to give them back to the coach. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. We told them that while their brother was running and sweating during practice, they were at home playing. While their brother’s heart was pounding at the meets, they were at home sleeping. Their brother had finished the race, they had not. They had quit, and quitters do not get medals.

All three of them take karate and all three have received their orange belt. They had to take a test and show up to practice for over 6 months to have earned that belt. I told them, “How would you feel if your oldest brother –  who doesn’t do karate – how would you feel if I bought him an orange belt and he wore it around the house and told others he was an orange belt? Would you like that?” Both the girls gasped and said “no”.

As we asked for their medals, one cried because she really wanted the medal, but after this story settled a bit, she said she understood. The other – the more competitive one – understood immediately.

Medals mean nothing if the quitters get one too. Trophies mean nothing if all who participate get one. I saw this with my two older boys who are great athletes. The trophies that were given to all – even the ones who showed up to one practice and two games, are in the trash. The ones that were earned are on display for all to see and even polished.

As parents, these are hard lessons to teach our children. We need to teach them to lose gracefully and learn from that loss. We need to teach them to get up and going even when they feel down. We need to encourage good sportsmanship especially when they’re defeated. And we also need to understand that our children are uniquely made with different talents – not everyone gets a trophy and that’s okay. My two girls learned that you don’t get a medal when you abandoned the team, and their brother appreciated his medal and hard work even more.

In the Bible these qualities are exalted in believers. We are to run to finish the race set before us (Heb. 12:1-2). We are to persevere. (2 Thess. 1:4-5; Romans 5:3-4) We are to work out our salvation (Phil. 2:12). We know that he who endures trials to the end will be blessed (James 1:2-4, 12).

To those who are appalled at my words and think I am going to ruin my children’s self esteem, here is a video that plainly describes what I think about self-esteem.

I leave you with the words of Jesus found in Matthew 24:13:

But the one who endures to the end will be saved.