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.
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!
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!”
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne
Write me at email@example.com 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,
Check out Becky’s blogs: http://godsgratefulgirl.wordpress.com/ and http://thebeautyofsavinggrace.wordpress.com/
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.