Thursday, May 30, 2013

3 ways that being a foster parent sanctifies

getting married is sanctifying (by sanctifying, i mean that it grows your faith in a way that makes you more like jesus).

and having children is really sanctifying.

but having foster children is really, REALLY sanctifying.

and thats the beauty of it.  because when you become a foster parent you set out to do this really good thing and be a blessing to a child in need.  but then they turn around and show you that YOU are the one who needs help, and they give you the opportunity to grow to be more like jesus.
i really want to put a pic here of one of our super cute foster
kiddos, but we aren't allowed to post those on the internet

as i have been reflecting recently, i have been thinking of how being a foster parent has grown my faith.  these are a few of the things that have come to mind.

1. you are not in control.  the best way to think about your role is something in between that of a long-term babysitter and an actual (ie legal) parent.

you feel like you are being watched.  you are asked about how you discipline, what kind of food you prepare and serve, what activities you do with them.  now, i understand that the state is responsible for the children, so they have to ask questions like that.  but its not easy to be constantly barraged with questions, and harder when you are told that you are doing things the "wrong" way.

you have to get permission for silly things like giving them the best milk.  you have little to no voice in making decisions about their future, like whether or not they will be reunited with their birth families.  home schooling is rarely if ever allowed.  you have no say in medical decisions, and have to pray that the state-paid pediatricians are making the right decisions (even if they do something irresponsible like writing a prescription for antibiotics for something that is obviously a virus).  most parents want to make what they feel like are the best decisions for their children regarding issues like schooling, nutrition, medical care (including prescription medications and vaccines).  we want to feel like we are in control.  but foster parents don't have that privilege.

it has grown my faith to have to constantly remember that God is in control and that he can take bad decisions and bad situations and work them for good.  in fact, he took the worst evil (the murder of jesus) and made it the most good (the forgiveness and salvation of all who trust in him).

so, when i am forced to feed a newborn baby formula (when she has access to breast milk), drive a 4 year old to have 20 mercury fillings put in his mouth, allow a 2 month old to be given 6 vaccines in one day, or take four young children to see their mom right in the middle of nap time twice a week and listen to them scream from exhaustion the whole drive home afterwards, i realize how small i am, but how big God is, and i am thankful that i can trust Him.

2. immense sacrifice.  foster parenting is a 24/7 job.  and even if you try to get a babysitter to take a break and go out on a date with your spouse, you find that there are even restrictions on that.

all parenting is a sacrifice as you give of your time, money, emotion and energy to another being who needs you to care for them.  but in "normal" parenting at least you get to look forward to the end result: a fully functioning adult (even if it takes a while!).  but with foster children, you aren't living for this result.  there is no "reward" at the end, except seeing them reunited with their birth parents, which you may or may not feel like is a good thing.

sometimes it even feels like little strangers have invaded your home.  and sinfully, you may feel like you want to take you home back from these small invaders.  but the motivation for a christian to do foster care is knowing that the bible commands hospitality to strangers, and jesus himself even says that the service we are providing to these little ones is as if we were even doing it for him.

furthermore, even as i see the immensity of giving my life for these little ones, i realize that even that pales in comparison to the ultimate sacrifice jesus made: humbling himself by coming from heaven to earth, humbling himself further to be a baby, humbling himself further to be a servant, humbling himself further by choosing to die and humbling himself most of all by choosing to die a criminal's death, even as he was completely innocent and perfect (see philippians 2:1-11).

3.  growth in love.  it frustrates and saddens me when people say things like "oh i could never be a foster parent because i would get too attached".  as if good foster parents don't get attached?  no, only the bad foster parents, the ones who do it for the money (though it pays almost nothing so i have no idea why people do it for money) harden their heart enough to never attach to the children in their care.

becoming a foster parent, you realize that all love (not a temporal fuzzy feeling of emotional love, but true, deep, sacrificial love) comes from jesus.  the bible says "we love because he first loved us" (1 john 4:19).  and it can feel, at times, that we have been given a limited amount of love to dole out to others over our lifetime. and if we view it this way, we are tempted to hold back and keep that love only for children who are "ours".

but i have come to learn, as we are on child number six (five foster and one biological), that your heart is like a cup.  and when you know jesus, he fills that cup full of love for your children.  and with each additional child, the cup just keeps getting bigger and bigger.  and he keeps filling it, so that we can keep pouring out that love to our children, whether biological, adopted or foster.

"by this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. but if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth." 1 john 3:16-18

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

best prayer prayed by a three year old. ever.

for mother's day, alex got me the book "when helping hurts... alleviating poverty without hurting the poor... or yourself".  i have been wanting this book for a while and am excited to read it.

in the first chapter, the author shares a prayer that his three year old daughter prayed.  it is so profound, yet spoken as only a three year old could say it:

"dear Jesus, please come back soon, because we have lots of owies, and they hurt."

sounds very similar to the way jesus himself taught us to pray: "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (matt 6:10)

i truly hope that esther (and all of our children) will have that deep of an understanding of the gospel by age three.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

holistic dentistry: 6 month update

when we first started with our new dentist 6 months ago, i wrote about our experiences and initial impressions.  now that i've had my second cleaning (and 4th appointment over all), i wanted to share an update.

'Tooth Brush' photo (c) 2012, David Street - license:
as i mentioned previously, at my first cleaning appointment, our dental hygienist watched me brush and floss and corrected my technique.  during that visit she mentioned that i really needed to focus on cleaning my gums better, as my gums were bleeding easily, had deep pockets (a sign of lots of bad bacteria) and generally looked unhealthy (i think she said something like they looked mushy or spongy or something).

she scheduled my next cleaning for four months later, sooner than the usual six because she really wanted to make sure my gums were getting better.  this week was that appointment.  as soon as she looked into my mouth she remarked that my gums were looking much better.  most of the deep pockets were starting to heal.  none of my gums bled.  their appearance went from red and inflamed to pink and firm looking.

yay!  this was such a relief to hear.  my hard work for the past few months on cleaning better was paying off.

but it wasn't really my hard work that did it.  in fact, i now brush my teeth for a shorter amount of time than i used to.  what has really made the difference is the change in my technique, taught by the hygienist at our new dental office and her focus on making sure we saw things improve in my mouth.  its like the saying: "work smarter, not harder".

one of the focuses of our holistic dentist is to teach people how to take care of their own teeth (and thus prevent dental work from needing to be done), not just repair teeth after the damage has been done.  and that is the distinction between holistic medicine (which is preventative) and western medicine (which is largely reactive).

so, six months in, i am happy to report than i am still pleased with our new dentist!  i am still waiting to get some cavities filled in the near future, so i will update again after that.

Monday, May 6, 2013

i love mondays

'Love Mondays' photo (c) 2008, Mark Hillary - license:
for the past couple of months, i have been really loving mondays.  its not my favorite day of the week, that would be sunday.  but its probably because of how great sunday is that i love monday so much.

let me explain.

one of the ways alex has been a huge blessing to me since we have gotten married is by helping me to observe the sabbath.  for the past couple of years, our sabbath pattern is to go to church in the morning, have people over for lunch afterward and hang out for the rest of the day with them.  i don't do housework on sundays, other than meal prep and clean up for our sunday lunch.  its so nice to sit for several hours every sunday afternoon while the girlies sleep and read or discuss life and spiritual things with friends.  i love sundays.

and then monday rolls around.  and since i am so well rested from sunday, i am ready to jump back in to things with two feet on monday.  i usually wake up earlier than normal on mondays.  i get right into doing the weeks' shopping, cleaning the house from the weekend's activities and planning and doing meal prep for the week.  God made us to work, and though our work is laborious because of the fall, we should also enjoy it because we are serving God through our work.  resting on sunday allows me to be joyful to jump back into work on monday.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

"all babies begin life 100% pure..."

"all babies begin life 100% pure... feed them accordingly"

so goes the statement on a certain brand of organic baby products we have in our house.

'first foods' photo (c) 2008, jencu - license:
on the surface it sounds good to our ears.  but if we dig down a bit deeper, we find that at best this is a platitude and at worst its an outright lie.

physically, do babies start out pure? no.

study after study recently has shown that babies are born with all the toxins found in their environment: pesticides, plastics (like BPA), and other toxic chemicals are passed from mom to baby from their first days in the womb.

emotionally, do babies start out as pure?  no.

in our foster care classes we learned that there are structural brain differences between babies born with moms who were abused versus babies whose moms were not abused.  this brain difference is because of the level of stress, and leads to the baby feeling more stress later on.

now fortunately not every mother is abused while pregnant.  however, every mother does experience stress while she is pregnant for some reason or another.  its a tragic reality in the broken world we live in.  take away everything else in life, and being pregnant alone is reason enough to cause stress.  all of this stress is transferred on to baby, though for most babies its less stress than having a mom who is abused.

spiritually, do babies start out pure? no.

the above statement about babies being pure is the general mentality of our culture.  but according to God's word, it is not true.  God's word says that ever since sin entered the world, things here on earth are tweaked.  they still retain some semblance of the good God created it all with, but things like hunger, illness, anger and death have entered the world through that sin.  and we are all born with a sin nature, a tendency toward sin, inherited from adam.  even the youngest of babies has this nature, and is not 100% (or even close to 100%) pure.

but this is not reason to despair.  it is possible to have a pure life.  but it doesn't come from organic baby food.

it comes from being washed by jesus' blood.

"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." 1 john 1:7