Monthly Archives: May 2012

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What’s on Your List?

By: Kerri Young

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven….” Ecclesiastes 3:1

“What time is it?
Summertime
It’s our vacation
What time is it?
Party time
That’s right, say it loud

What time is it?
The time of our lives
Anticipation
What time is it?
Summertime
School’s out, scream and shout!”*

That’s right; school is out at my house. This summer I decided to do something I’ve never done before: make a bucket list. A friend of mine had one posted as her Facebook cover photo for a few days and it inspired me. Maybe it’s because this might be our last “normal” summer in the states, but I feel like this needs to be a summer of intentional memory-making.

So, in light of that, I grabbed my two bigger kiddos and asked them what they would love to do this summer. After we had fun coming up with different kinds of ideas (some easier to accomplish than others – but that’s the beauty of it all…. Kids are easily entertained and pleased!), I took an old mirror that was collecting dust on the floor behind our dresser and turned it into the keeper of our 2012 Summer Bucket List. I used colorful sharpie pens (which will wipe off with rubbing alcohol, by the way) so the list would show up well.

Now that it’s finished, it will be hung up in the living room for us to see regularly (after my husband can change the brackets because I accidentally wrote the list upside down – oops!).

How about you? What’s on your Summer Bucket List? Maybe you have some great ideas for me to add to ours…after all, I can always add more once the others start getting erased. Please share!

Either way, whether you create a bucket list or not, I challenge you to make this summer count!

* Lyrics from High School Musical 2’s “What time is it? (Summertime)”

Related Articles: Summertime ScheduleSummer Schedule: Take Two

For a list of bucket list ideas: Three More Weeks: Not Too Late For a Summer Bucket List

 

 

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

By: Kerri Young

One of the things we have been blessed the most with since joining our church a year and a half ago is amazing community with a small group of three other families. There is just nothing better than doing life with people…holding each other accountable to the important things, reminding each other how beautiful you are in Christ when you aren’t feeling worthy, providing each other with shoulders to cry on when life gets hard and rejoicing with each other when life gets really good.

Awhile back we had two of the families from our group over for dinner and conversation (the other couple hadn’t returned from a trip yet and we missed them!). The weather was beautiful so two of my kiddos played outside with the other three big kids most of the night, and the rest of us hung out inside and laughed…and laughed…and laughed some more. (Even our littlest guy joined in…that little dude is a social laugher! There is nothing cuter than a baby who has no idea what he is laughing about cackling like a hyena just because everyone else is hysterically laughing.)

I am so thankful God created us to be in community. He even says in Genesis 2:18 that it’s not good for man to be alone. Hallelujah for that! Even though I’ve always thought that just meant Adam needed a wife, I’ve come to the realization over the years that it means so much more than that. We are created in God’s image and even He isn’t alone! God is in eternal community with Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If God isn’t satisfied alone, how can we be?

I know there are different types of personalities. If you haven’t guessed from what little you know about me from reading, I am an extrovert. I know; big shock! But, introverts need community, too. Deep down inside we all want to be known, which is why the lyrics from a well-known sit-com from my youth (Cheers) ring so true:

“Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.”

Praise the Lord the author and perfector of life knows us, but we also have a desire to be known by people. And we function better when we are known. Iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). Two are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9).

If you don’t have a group of people who lend you a hand when you are overwhelmed, who delight in getting on their faces before God and offering prayers up for you when you most need it, and who accept you just as you are warts and all, you are truly missing out. You will be a better Christ-follower, a better spouse, a better parent, a better everything when you aren’t alone. I understand that there are seasons, and in some seasons for some reason the Lord might make being in community impossible for you. But in general, I think community is something we need to pursue wholeheartedly.

So, if you aren’t currently in community with a group of people (whether it be with other couples as a family or with other moms), I challenge you to pray and ask God to introduce you to some people with whom you can start sharing your life. You won’t regret it!

 

 

Voices of Foster Mothers

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Focus on Foster Care

I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; …to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. Isaiah 42:6-7,16

In this, our final post for our Focus on Foster Care week, we asked our friends and family who are or have been in the trenches as foster mothers to respond to this question: “What is the greatest joy and the greatest challenge of fostering?”  Here is what they had to say:

 

  • (One of) the greatest joy(s) of fostering is watching your biological kids love on kids and accept them graciously. So many people seem to think they will suffer so much doing foster care. That isn’t true.
    (One of) the great challenge(s) of fostering is not judging the kids’ biological parents for having put their kids in bad situations. We ALL fall short. Learning to show grace when people don’t deserve it, is a hard lesson on how God has shown US grace when we didn’t deserve it!    

                        ~Kelly, Rogers, AR

  • Greatest joy: Having one of your foster kids say- “Thank you for loving me.  I wouldn’t be the mom I am if it wasn’t for you”-a decade later.  Greatest challenge: Learning to work with a very flawed system and giving it grace as God gives us- nothing and no one is perfect!

 ~Tiffany, Frisco, TX www.simplestofgifts.com 

  • The biggest challenge is seeing such very young people who carry so much pain.
    The greatest joy, specifically for me, the day the judge signed the papers stating that the boys were legally permanent members of my family. Overall, it was seeing the resiliency of kids who had been through terrible experiences. For me, seeing them smile was a testament that God really is in control and provides comfort to those in need. I felt blessed to be the physical arms that represented His comfort and support.

~ Kendra, Rogers, AR

 

  • The greatest joy of fostering is the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a child who has never experienced unconditional love. The greatest struggle is trusting God through all of the uncertainty that comes with being a foster parent. That uncertainty comes from not knowing how long a child will be in your home, questioning whether or not you are doing everything possible to meet a child’s specific needs, and second-guessing yourself when those around you are quick to judge.

~Ashley, Bentonville, AR

 

  • There are great joys and challenges with each placement, some are reunited with parents, for some its adoption into a forever family.  As a foster-mother, my heart remembers each of these moments. For my husband and me, the stress on one particular day was heightened, as the biological parents of a child in our home were in court, facing termination of all their parental rights. It had been a long three-year journey. As we were waiting on the call concerning the outcome at court, we had also accepted a new “placement”, a 2-day old, drug-exposed baby girl. The worker brought her into our home and she was so tiny, so seemingly perfect, we immediately fell in love, knowing the goal was reunification with her mother.  I would do all I could to walk-out the process with this drug-addicted mother, knowing it would be a steep, up-hill battle for her to change her life style and gain back custody of this child. And just as this new journey was beginning, the phone rang…the Judge had made his decision, termination of parental-rights granted. It was bittersweet moment even after 3 years of refusing to take necessary steps to gain back custody of their child, I felt deeply saddened for these biological parents.  More often than not, these children leave a foster home to reunite with biological parents or being placed in a new adoptive family. But for these two girls, the journey led to being adopted into our family. You don’t always know what God has in store when you say “yes” to a child!

                                                                                                                                                                                  ~Tayna- Kansas City, MO

We want to hear from you! If you are or have ever been a foster mother, please comment below and tell us your greatest joy and greatest challenge.

Focus on Foster Care Week:

Sunday: Introduction: Focus on Foster Care– We highlighted three unique ministries that serve foster children in creative ways.

Monday: For the Love of a Mother; Safe in the Arms of The Father– Becky Shaffer shared her testimony of growing up in the foster system and how those experiences shaped her as a mother.

Wednesday: 10 Things I Forgot About Life with Strangers– Becky Shaffer gave practical advice about fostering from the perspective of someone who has lived it.

Thursday: Voices of Foster Siblings– We heard from two children, who are now adults, about what it was like to grow up in a home in which their biological families welcomed foster children.

 

***The above picture was provided by OpenOurEyesPhotography.

They recently did a photo shoot day in May for families who Foster. Six families received free 30 minute photo sessions and a CD of all edited photo’s. One family will also receive a love offering from all sessions done in the month of May. (p.s. There is still time to book for May to go towards this gift!)
 
10% of all photo session earnings go to either a family adopting, fostering, or going on missions.
25% of all fundraiser days go to that family.

Voices of Foster Siblings

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Focus on Foster Care

“Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”  Isaiah 1:17

One huge stumbling block for families considering fostering is this question: “How would fostering affect my biological children?” That is why we decided to include testimonies from individuals who are now adults, about what it was like to grow up in a home in which their biological families welcomed foster children.

After reading these three accounts, we think you will agree that the effect is not what you may expect…

Love Goes Beyond Bloodline: By Lindsey of Kansas City, MO

When my parents became foster parents they made sure we were prepared for the change in our home. My mom taught my brothers and I to love and treat each baby or child that came into our home as if it were our own sibling. This was our family’s mission field. I believe that every child that grows up in a Godly home desires to share the love of Jesus and make a difference even when they are young. For us it meant loving these babies back to health, playing with them, and giving them a piece of our heart never knowing how long they would be a part of our family.

I will always remember the baby girl who came into our home with two broken legs and fractured ribs. She was in our home for almost 3 years.  During that time, I became very attached to her. All the while the reunification process with her family was going on, and after 3 years it finally happened. I wish I could tell you that it was a happy day but it wasn’t. It was a hard day because for almost 3 years this precious baby girl only knew the unconditional love of our family and church family. She had been deeply touched by the love of Jesus. The family dynamics in hers would be very different and she was old enough to know the difference. In that moment we had to let go and let God. God brought her into our home for a season.  I rest in the hope of knowing that the very same unconditional love that she experienced in our home is still available to her through Jesus.

I didn’t know then, but the Lord was preparing me for the wonderful life he had in store for me in the future.  The same day I married my husband I became “Mom” to his two biological children. I am very grateful to my parents for being such wonderful examples as well as training me in all the skills I use on a daily basis raising my own children, but most importantly they showed me that love goes beyond bloodline.

Home of Safety and Love: By Josh of Kansas City, MO 

The best part of being a foster family is watching lives change and even bringing life to little ones who are close to death. More than once I saw a doctor or social worker send a sick or wounded baby home with us that they had no hope for. I would watch my mother love that baby to life again. It didn’t matter if the wounds were physical or emotional, love and the grace of God changed so many lives.
The hardest part for me was dealing with the fact that we can’t fix everything…. Sometimes we just had to give it to God and trust Him to work it out. I saw at a really young age that the loving and safe home I enjoyed was not the norm in many homes in our city, but I also saw the grace of God at work.  For a season our home was that loving and safe place for lots of little lives. Looking back I know it had a huge impact on my life and I wouldn’t take a moment back for anything.
 

We Believe in a God of Miracles: By Madison, Dallas Baptist University

I am an eighteen-year-old, biological daughter of a family that has participated in foster care for over fifteen years. Ever since I can even remember, my family has been having children come in and out of our home. When I was younger, we always had teenagers in our house, and once I became a teen we had babies in our house. Now I am eighteen and have one biological brother that is twenty-one, and three adopted siblings that are ages one, two, and three.

Most people look at my family and think that we are crazy, but I would not want it any other way. My parents have instilled a passion in me for the children without homes. Our household lives by the verse Isaiah 1:17, taking very seriously caring for the orphans and pleading the case of the widows. Growing up this way quickly taught me that life is not all about me. I remember the first time we adopted, waves of anxiety had come and gone all day and I felt a little bit of jealousy begin to creep in, then I paused and remembered Jesus had a perfect plan for my family and this little precious baby boy without a home was a part of it! I remember in the midst of all my crazy feelings declaring to God: “great is Your faithfulness”. I remember feeling comforted. I remember Him feeling so near. I remember His encouragement. I remember His mercy. I remember His listening ear and His assuring voice. I remember His grace. He was my guide when my tears blurred my vision. He showed me that my family was a beautiful picture of how he intended adoption to be.

My family has been through much heartbreak with children in foster care and failed adoptions, but we believe in a God of miracles – and let me tell you…the three children we have adopted are complete miracles! I am so grateful that He doesn’t ever leave my family to fight for ourselves, but rather pursues, protects, restores and lives inside of us. He continues to bless us tremendously through the lives of the children in foster care.

Focus on Foster Care Week:
 
Sunday: Introduction: Focus on Foster Care– We highlighted three unique ministries that serve foster children in creative ways.

Monday: For the Love of a Mother; Safe in the Arms of The Father– Becky Shaffer shared her testimony of growing up in the foster system and how those experiences shaped her as a mother.

Wednesday: 10 Things I Forgot About Life with Strangers– Becky Shaffer will give practical advice about fostering from the perspective of someone who has lived it.

Friday: Voices of Foster Mothers– We will hear from several foster mothers about the greatest joy and the greatest challenge of fostering.

 
***The above picture was provided by OpenOurEyesPhotography.

They recently did a photo shoot day in May for families who Foster. Six families received free 30 minute photo sessions and a CD of all edited photo’s. One family will also receive a love offering from all sessions done in the month of May. (p.s. There is still time to book for May to go towards this gift!)
 
10% of all photo session earnings go to either a family adopting, fostering, or going on missions.
25% of all fundraiser days go to that family.

 

10 Things I Forgot About Life With Strangers

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Focus on Foster Care

By: Becky Shaffer of Saving Grace Inc.

“Father of orphans, champion of widows, is God in his holy house.” Psalms 68:5

Before being taken from my violently abusive mother, and being sent to a children’s home, I found safety in a family of crank/meth users and dealers.  Although this was a very dangerous place for an eleven year old to be, I knew I was safe…mostly.  They were a protective bunch and I could depend on them to give me a place to sleep and something to eat.  Looking back now, I can remember certain people in the “family” being “taken care of” and not ever being seen again.  I began to get into trouble with the police and ended up in and out of jail…still just a child.  After getting busted at school with a large amount of marijuana and I slipped off to the “bathroom”, left school went on the run.  My older sister and I lived on the streets in Hot Springs for two weeks (unspeakable things happened—my sister protecting me as much as she could) before going back to Mena and turning myself in.  My mother called the police and as I sat handcuffed in the back seat, my father slipped in beside me.  He cried, felt sorry…yet did nothing to step in….he was more worried they would arrest him than any trouble I was in.  I honestly don’t think he knew what to do.  I stayed in a juvenile detention center for several weeks before being taken to the children’s home.

I want to share a few of the quiet sufferings…I dared not share with anyone.  Doing so would only reveal thoughts and fears that would bring about distrust and more insecurity…so I suffered alone.

  • 10 things I forgot about life with strangers…that aren’t such good memories, that I wish I would have remembered when I became a foster mom.
    • I never felt I belonged.
    • I never felt good enough.
    • Always felt alone.
    • Grace?  What grace?
    • I would do anything to be a part of a family.
    • I asked for it….good, bad and very ugly….I asked for it.
    • I quit believing anyone cared after…one by one, they left and never looked back. 
    • Crying is better done in the shower…nobody cares and it almost always makes things worse.
    • Eat what’s in
    • I missed my “monster mom” and longed to be with my family.

Psalm 137:5-6

5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
Let my right hand forget its skill!
6 If I do not remember you,
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth—
If I do not exalt Jerusalem
Above my chief joy.

I was not forgotten…not unloved.  God promised to never forget me…I was the one who forgot.   

Sometimes I forget that I am very, very, very loved and never forgotten. ~Brave Girls Club

These are things I learned after “aging out”…it was one of the most difficult times in my life.  It was “me against the universe, in a fight for survival”…nobody cared if I lived or died, would they even know if I did?

  • 10 Things I learned after I “aged out”
    • You can be surrounded by people and still the deafening silence of being alone can take your breath away.
    • There’s a lot of shame in survival.
    • After I moved to college…I knew it was do or die, so I got pregnant.
    • ….having a baby doesn’t make anyone love you more…or maybe ever.
    • ….having a baby doesn’t make anyone proud, yet I was so proud of this precious life growing within.
    • Feeling very unloved and unworthy of love…made it difficult to give love.
    • I didn’t know how to write a check.
    • I didn’t know how to pump gas.
    • I had a baby and truly felt loved for the first time in my life by another human being that would never leave me. (lot of pressure for a little one)
    • Husbands and wives don’t divorce just because they have a fight.

 

Things I learned from my children as a foster/house parent…that made me a better mom:

  • Take a shower and get dressed first thing in the morning.
  • Do my least favorite job first…paperwork.
  • Do something that I love every day…so I’m good for everyone.
  • Pray for our family every day.
  • One verse a day keeps the blues and the PMS away.
  • Have cookies baking or popcorn in the microwave when hungry kids come home from school….it’s amazing what they will share while feeding their hungry tummies, plus it’s a beautiful memory they can refer to when they start their family.
  • Be happy when I see them walk through the door after school…praying for them the half hour before they come in changes my attitude and helps me see them through the eyes of The Father…even on the hardest days.
  • Consistency causes them to trust….have a similar schedule for morning and night.
  • Repetition penetrates the dullest of minds….Jesus calling for kids  –even for the older ones.
  • It takes one month for every year they are old before real change begins to happen…then a beautiful thing begins to happen as their heart wounds heal.
  • They really don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
  • The louder they get + the quieter I get = a much quieter conversation. (I wasn’t always very good at this)
  • Mealtime needs to be lighthearted…no crying over spilled milk.

  

  • Lighten up…it’s not all about me.
  • Grace, give lots of grace.
  • Blood is thicker than any “good home” I can offer.
  • Birthdays and Christmas hold no joy if they don’t hear from their biological families.
  • No matter what….if I let them call me mom, I need to plan on being grandma too….

 

I want to leave you with one more piece of advice if you’re a foster parent or if you are pondering the thought. 

  • First of all, treat them like your own…even if you can’t love them like your own just yet. 
  • Keep a realistic level of expectations….there are times when your foster children are just trying not to hold their breath and they just need to feel safe enough breathe….think about how your own children behave at times! lol  Goodness, I could write a book on the things my own children have done to make me want to pull my hair out!!
  • Don’t be a control freak…allow them room to grow, while giving natural consequences.
  • Love them like they were dying….they feel like they are.
  • Pray, pray, pray….and get in the Word…even if it’s just one verse a day.  DO IT!!  This is your lifeline!  Listen to uplifting music…find your style and find a Christian group and put the positive stuff in!
  • Make time for time with other foster mamas and hang out once a week to encourage…not to gripe, but encourage!  Woot!
  • Take care of YOU!!!  Eat right, exercise, make time for the hubs and make your marriage a priority…ya know what I mean here girls, get counseling and make sure you are healthy emotionally….in my case for too many years I ate myself into an oblivion and was too unhealthy to enjoy a hike with my children!  If you are so over weight you can’t fit into a regular seat at the baseball game without feeling injured afterwards, you might need some help with more than just eating habits.  I know this is a sensitive subject….I want you to know I struggle soooo much in this area.  There’s no blaming 50-100 lbs on my thyroid or big bones!  I’d have to have the bones of a hippo to support this kind of weight!  It’s hard, but can be done!  Just start small and change habits…if you’ve seen me lately, you know I have a lot farther to go in this area…but I’m doing it!  (read “Made to Crave”…I’ve got extra copies and the dvd that goes with it…you are welcome to them!!) J  Ok…whew!  This lil’ paragraph may get me into some trouble, but PLEASE know it is written in love…lots and lots of love. 
  • There will be very difficult days ahead; these are His children…not ours.  He knit them together (Psalm 139)….always remember His mercies are new every morning!

Lamentations 3:22-24

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”

 

Recommended books:

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne

Write me at info@savinggracenwa.org if you would like to meet for coffee!  I would love to support you in this adventure in any way that I can!!  YOU are a delight and God adores YOU!  Bless you as you care for His babies!

God’s grateful girl,

Becky

Check out Becky’s blogs: http://godsgratefulgirl.wordpress.com/ and http://thebeautyofsavinggrace.wordpress.com/

Related Articles:

Sunday: Introduction: Focus on Foster Care– We highlighted three unique ministries that serve foster children in creative ways.

Monday: For the Love of a Mother; Safe in the Arms of The Father– Becky Shaffer shared her testimony of growing up in the foster system and how those experiences shaped her as a mother.

Thursday: Voices of Foster Siblings– We will hear from two children, who are now adults, about what it was like to grow up in a home in which their biological families welcomed foster children.

Friday: Voices of Foster Mothers– We will hear from several foster mothers about the greatest joy and the greatest challenge of fostering.