Thursday, April 24, 2014

Foster parenting and terminal illness

So you might be asking what foster parenting has to do with terminal does seem like a strange connection, but it is the only way I can describe what we are now walking through.

When you enter the world of foster care, you always know that there is the possibility that these precious babies will one day be returned to the birth parents. In fact, a part of you hopes that this is exactly what happens because it means a restoration...something broken is now repaired.  Parents who were struggling have gotten the needed help and are now ready to reengage in the life of their children.  This is the goal of foster care.  But, I would be lying if I said that that this is easy.

To be a good foster parent, you must fall in love with these children from the very beginning of their placement.  They need love more than anything else in this world.  (Except Jesus, but He is love, right?)  So on one hand you are committing to love and treasure this child for some unknown amount of time all the while being ready to walk away without question when the courts or social service agencies tell you to.  Often times, you are allowed no further contact once reunification takes place.  Am I the only one who thinks this is crazy?

For starters, what message does it send the child?  Do they not wonder if you no longer care?  Do they not feel a new sense of abandonment?  Oh friends, this system is so broken, a system intended to help children seems to be causing even more harm.

And that is if the birth parents really have worked to get healthy.  What happens when that is not the case and the children return home, to the same broken situation they were removed from?  Then what?  How is a foster parent supposed to feel?  What is "socially acceptable?"

I don't know the answer to that question; I only know how I feel.  These last few weeks we have been preparing our hearts (as best as we can) for the beginning process of two of our babies transitioning home.  This transition is happening, not because the parents have worked to "get better" but rather because the social service agency failed to do their job and these babies have fallen through the bureaucratic cracks.  Because of confidentiality, I cannot go into details but if I did, I assure you that your heart would be sickened.  I have literally been told by a caseworker that, "It is not a matter of if these kids will get hurt, but when," and yet I have to allow them to begin having overnights as we prepare for full transition.  So how do I feel?

I feel like I am sitting in a conference room at a hospital.  The team of doctors are all looking at me with serious, frightening faces.  My stomach is turning and threatens to spill as I prepare to hear their words.  The doctor in charge pulls his chair up next to me and begins, "I am sorry to give you this news, but the results are in and I am afraid their is nothing we can do."

The room starts spinning as I try to focus on what he is saying, "... terminal and it seems there is no hope... try some new treatments but ... no guarantees ..."

My sobs escape from somewhere deep inside my body. I am no longer able to contain my emotions or the contents of my stomach.  The hopelessness feels like it is suffocating me and I struggle for each breath.  Someone is asking if I am ok, if there is anything they can do, but I have no answers.

This is a dark, dark place.  This place of no hope.  And this is where I am, foster parenting and terminal illness. 

I honestly do not know how we will be able to walk this road, how we will do what we are required to do, but I do know that God is still God, He is still good, and He is still on the throne.  I guess this is where faith comes in, trusting God even when I cannot see past the hopelessness.  I blogged about Hope and its opposite, Anxiety a few years ago and as I was rereading those words, I was reminded of this verse in Hebrews:

Hebrews 10:35-36 “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  For you have need of endurance so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.”

So as I sit hear in the dark, trying to find that confidence I have lost sight of, I will call on the endurance that comes from knowing I have done all that Christ has asked me to, and then I will TRY to rest in what He has promised.

So as I close, I ask you to please, please pray for us in these next few days and weeks as we cling to the promises these two songs remind us of...

I Will Praise You in This Storm, Casting Crowns  and

Bring the Rain, Mercy Me

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Easter, Sacrifice and Lessons Relearned

Déjà vu- that is what I am experiencing this weekend, that feeling that I have already been here, seen this and done this.  Sometimes that feeling can be a good one, like bringing home a newborn child, or a worship time where you really connected with God. And other times, that feeling of deja vu can be less pleasant, like the actual birth of that newborn child, or a trip to the dentist.

The deja vu I am having is so deja vu(ey) I have even blogged about it before. The trouble is, I must be a slow learner and so the Lord is allowing me to walk this road again and (re)learn the lesson.  What lesson is that?  Well, I'm glad you asked.

Just this past Friday I received a phone call from the social service agency who we work with.  It was to inform me that two of the four of these precious babies were suddenly going to start overnight visits, beginning this Sunday and running through Tuesday.  There was no warning, and to say the least it sent our world spinning.  My momma tiger heart was racing and there was really nothing I could do about it.  Well, except pray and...

And what Marla?  Why is it that we feel like we have to do more than pray?  Maybe it is my Type A personality, or a lack of faith, or just a restless momma heart, but to simply just pray about it seems just that, too simple.

But is it?  I think back to the first Easter season, the night before Jesus was to be beaten and killed.  What did he do?  I bet you already know what I am going to say, but let's take a peek at the Matthew 26:36-39:

 "Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”  Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

He prayed.  He sat in the garden surrounded by his closest, albeit sleepy, friends and cried out to the Lord. 

Of course I still feel the need to argue my case, remember I said I was a slow learner.  So here is a glimpse at my conversation with God...

Me-"But Jesus knew what tomorrow was going to look like, I don't"

God-Knowing what tomorrow holds sometimes is harder than just trusting that I will be there, no matter what happens. Proverbs 3:5 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding."

Me-"But I've worked so hard to keep these kids safe, how can I just let go?  Do you know how hard that is?"

God- Marla, you silly girl, I've got this. Psalm 37:7 "Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes."

 Me-"But I am so afraid, how can you say to rest?  All I can think about are the what if's."

God-If I am for you then who can be against you?  Psalm 27:1 "The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?"

Me-"Do you know how hard this is?"

God-Did you forget that I sent my son, my one and only son, to a cruel and hateful world?  A world that would despise and reject him? A world that would mistreat and kill him?  I've been in your shoes.  I sat back and watched my son suffer agony and chose to allow it.  (Matthew 27)

Me- "How could you do that?  I can't, there is no way I can walk this road you are asking me to travel."

God- I did it because I loved you, enough to make a sacrifice, it was the only way.  John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him will have everlasting life."

God- and one more thing, you CAN do this.  Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."

As you can see, God is pretty wise.  I have spent my weekend fretting about things that I truly have no control over.  I know you won't be surprised to hear that the overnight visit....well, it got cancelled (oh ye of little faith!) and we have court in the morning to determine what direction the next few days and months will take.  I would be lying to say that I am resting easy and not fretting a bit about tomorrow. However, I am trying...and isn't that all any of us can do?
I will leave you with two verses,

Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you."


Psalm 37: 5-6 "Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun."

 Trying to SHINE,