It’s Okay to Suck, Really It is.

As Foster Parents we have heard it several times, “Oh, y’all are amazing!!  I don’t know how you do it!!” 

True Confession:  Sometimes we suck as foster parents.  There you have it.  Real life.  Transparency.  Open book.

We wish we didn’t.  We wish it was fairy tales, cotton candy, and white picket fences.  But, let’s face it.  When we willingly opened ourselves up to take on four children that we did not have anything to do with for the first 20 months, 5 years, 7 years, and 9 years of their lives we opened ourselves up to a BIG task!

From day one, we began to take on the stress of their trauma, the frustration of their boundaries, their struggle with food issues, and the heartache of their hearts.  

We willingly chose to do something fundamentally in contrast to our human nature side that shouts ‘protect yourself, protect your family, protect your nice little life.’  Why on earth would we choose to reject that shout?? Because, we hate playing it safe, and well, we hate white picket fences!!

But, that does not make it easy. 

We get asked the same question 20 gazillion times!  Not 19.999999 gazillion, literally 20 gazillion.  Most people’s patience runs out at 11 gazillion, so give us some props people.  Just last week we had a 10 minute conversation about glow sticks and if they would make your skin light up if you busted it open.  After answering the question 17 times, there was absolutely no redirecting, NONE, I tell you.  They just kept going and going and going.  What the crap?!?   At that point, one of us (whom shall remain nameless) said, “We are done, and now we will never get that 10 minutes of oxygen back EVER, thank you.”  Therapeutic?  No.  But, we are being transparent, right? 

Food issues??  Oh man, these are hard!  Some of it there is no rhyme or reason too, they simply Will. Not. Eat. It.  As parents, one of us understands this a little, the other one is a ‘eat what I give you kind of person’.  So, do we always make the best decisions with food issues?  Nope.  But, the children never go hungry!!  So, pat us on the back, right?

When we have been told for the 37th time that a parent was arrested for stealing from the very store we are walking through, our heart will usually do two things.  First, it will break that a child had to experience that and secondly, it gets mad that a child had to experience that!  Seriously, last night, while at Target we went through our whole family with one of our foster kiddos asking the question of, “Have they ever stolen anything?”  Rest assured Nana, Gigi, Papa, Gramps, Uncle Paul, Aunt Jessica, Aunt Christal, and Uncle Tim you are all free and clear of any theft charges.  We do our best to love the biological family, but dang if their choices don’t occasionally piss us off a bit! 

Let’s see, what else makes us not so awesome?  We raise our voices, we get frustrated, we feel burn out, we wonder why we can’t be more therapeutic, we ignore questions  after they’ve hit their 20 gazillion max, and we don’t always respond in the way that each individual child needs in that exact moment.

But, you know what?  It’s okay.  God didn’t call us to be foster parents because we were perfect (well, one of us is, the other not so much!). No, He called us because He knew we would say ‘yes’.  And, most days, a ‘yes’ is hard to come by when He wants His people to do something really, really hard! 

It’s okay, because we love.  We love like crazy! 

It’s okay, because we admit our wrongs.  We are a family of grace and forgiveness and ultimately, that starts with us, the parents (suck!).  If they see us admit failure, they are more likely to understand it is safe to do so too.

It’s okay, because we are committed.  We are committed to see the lives of these four kiddos changed. 

It’s okay, because even when we are frustrated with the biological family, we know they love these kids, just in their own way.  And, it’s okay if that is different than our way.

We are okay, because He called us.  We are, broken, flawed, unworthy, struggling, and yet, useable. 

What we know is this:  It is okay to not always have it together, to struggle, to lose our patience, to get frustrated, to be stressed, and to not always respond therapeutically with every single question.  No family is ever perfect, including ours.  We are just willing to learn how to be better parents and love these kids better, even when we are not very lovable ourselves.

So, on the days we suck, we remember, it has never been about us, but it has always been about them and Him and that is more than enough to get up and try again. 

NOW, NO. MORE. QUESTIONS ABOUT GLOW STICKS!:-)

-Howard, party of 8

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To Fix or Not to Fix…

Most of us like to ‘fix’ things.  Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean you want to fix things in the physical/structural sense.  I, for one, have very limited skill when it comes to tools, carpentry, mechanical and/or work revolving around such.  Likewise, I have very limited interest in ever really learning. 

And yet, most of us would be hard pressed to disagree with the fact that we all have this built in desire to ‘fix’ something in us, in others, or in our world,

  • our weight
  • our appearance
  • our attitude
  • our life situation
  • our job situation
  • our spiritual walk
  • our relationships
  • local/national politics
  • world issues
  • And, on and on and on…..

So, is it any wonder that most of us inherently address fostering the same way?  We want to ‘fix’ the child and in the process we forget that it is just a child, with a lot of brokenness inside them.  Most of which, we have very limited capacity to touch, if we don’t first accept, love, receive, admire and affirm who they are ‘unfixed’. 

As foster parents, we can get so busy in the ‘innocence of fixing’ that we forget we are just called to the journey.  God enables the ‘fixing’ in His season, but more importantly, in His timing.  (This can be really, really, really hard!)   

The reminder to myself:  Don’t miss the journey, because you are too caught up in the ‘fixing’.  Model love, model boundaries, model appropriateness, model acceptance, model patience, model trust, model healthy relationships and one day, maybe,  just maybe that kid you started out trying to ‘fix’ will be the best adult he or she can be. 

Let the journey continue…….

 

Dear Church: Racism is OUR Problem

Dear Church,

I love you. You have helped raise me, you have taken care of me, and you have shown me immeasurable amounts of grace and mercy. You have taken me in with all my scars. Scars formed by failures past and present. Scars formed from sins small and large. For this I will forever be thankful. You are the Bride of Christ. This makes you beautiful. You are His hands and Feet, this makes you powerful. And, yet, as the Bride you are not perfect. In fact, your scars are also evident. The brokenness of your heart and walls is on show for all to see. People love chipping away at your cracks, mocking your Groom and mocking you, his Bride. But, I still think you are special.

That is why I want to talk to you. You, the Church. I need you to know something. I need you to hear the heart of the Groom. His heart is one of diversity, and yet, Church we often fall short of the Groom’s heart.

It is not your fault. You didn’t create the shades, but you did allow the shades to divide in your name.

In fact, it is not within your walls that I learned of such evil. I learned it from those in the community who claimed to be a part of you and from those who claimed not to be a part of you. That both agreed, often made it very confusing for me. Aren’t we supposed to be different?

I still remember my grandpa using the word. You know the word, n****r. He said it during his normal conversation while talking about the recent signings of the Dallas Cowboys. I sat there as I heard him say, “Well, they signed a bunch of n****rs.” I’ll never forget that moment. I won’t. I was confused. My closest friends were all African American. I was blessed to be raised around a very diverse, accepting clan of Army Brats. We were not white, black, brown, or tan. We were simply, children. Children, who loved and accepted one another regardless of the color of our skin.

Church, do you remember when I was in the 8th grade in San Angelo, Texas? Do you remember that day at lunch when I was sitting with all my friends (all African American’s) and one of them asked me why I never sat with the white kids? You remember me being confused and angry, right? Why would I sit with the white kids? Why did it even matter? Those were my friends and I sat with my friends. But, that day, I began to feel some of the racial divides of our country.

And, then I would hear that word again. It was in the ninth grade, my family and I had just moved to Yukon, Oklahoma. One morning, while in the locker room, a teammate mentioned, “n****rs.” Once again, I sat there stunned, speechless, and unsure of what I was really hearing. It hurt. It hurt deep. In fact, I wondered, why in the heck was I living in such a place like this?

And yet, nothing would hurt as deep as my college years. It was post 9/11. My roommate, my brother, my friend is of East Indian heritage; somehow this would classify him as an ‘Arab’. As if, being of Arab descent was bad? Every day he would mention things that were yelled at or spoken to him on campus in those following weeks. I would get so angry. You remember don’t you Church? I had quite a temper back then. I would fight anyone, anywhere, anytime. And so, I was mad. That set up that fateful night during an intramural basketball game when an opponent asked him if his ‘camel was parked outside.’ You remember that don’t you Church? That was not my finest night, but I had to fight, I had to defend, I had to stand up. All around me I didn’t see a single member of your body getting angry. That was the only night in my life that I threatened to kill someone. In fact, I’m ashamed to say I threatened to kill the guy’s whole family. I remember the anger, the rage, my body shaking and being held back by others. In that moment, I would have done it Church. I would have murdered everyone who dared speak racism against my brother. I’m not proud of that moment Church. It is a moment that the Groom covered with His grace. For that I’m thankful. But, I’m also not ashamed for being angry and reacting. Why would no one else stand up?

And yet, in the days, weeks and months to follow it has only continued to spiral. I’ve heard it since then. All the stereotypes of supposed ‘Arab’ people. They are ‘towel heads’, they ‘own 7-11’s’, and they are all ‘extremists’. Church I know this breaks your heart. Especially, since your Groom, of Jewish heritage, most likely had a darker, more defined complexion than that of the Caucasian Jesus I grew up looking at. I bet you hated having that picture on your wall, didn’t you?

It still hasn’t stopped. Church, it is your body I have seen rallying against the ‘Mexicans’ who are here illegally. I know you don’t mean too, but your name is all over it, because we, your body, love to do things with a sprinkle of the Groom on top. And, yet, ‘those people’ are part of YOU! They are members of your body, they are also the Groom’s Bride. Why, why can’t we see that? Church, why do we promote racism in the name of being an American, being a Republican or being a Democrat?

Church, is your heart breaking yet? Mine is. It hasn’t stopped. You are aware of the recent trial that took place and the racist undertones that have accompanied it. The President spoke some strong truths yesterday. Did you hear it Church? Did you hear him express the reality of profiling and stereotyping that he, as a bi-racial African American man, has faced throughout his life? I know it’s true, because I’ve seen it. I know it’s true, because as much as I’ve touted my diversity and openness I too have made judgments based on conceived ideas about certain populations. I’m guilty. I’ve laughed at jokes that only enhanced racist stereotypes. I’m guilty. I’ve made blanket statements about people based on their race in my mind, even if I never spoke it out verbally. I’m guilty. I’ve stood quietly by while listening to others spew brokenness without standing and rebuking it every time. I’m guilty. Those moments have not been my finest moments Church. Admitting these failures hurts. It hurts deep, because all my life I’ve said I’m not that person. But, it is also freeing. Don’t you see Church, when we admit it, own it, and bring it to light, then the light will cast out all darkness, evil, and ugliness. Church, it is okay to admit we’ve failed. In fact, it is more than okay. It is beautiful.

I’ve heard friends, co-workers, church members and family members say things that don’t make you proud. I’ve seen them post things on Facebook or forward an email with a racist undertone. And, you know what hurts? I didn’t always respond Church. I didn’t. I wish I had. But, Church, I failed you, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I have not been who you need me to be. I’m sorry I have not been who the Groom needs His Bride to be.

Church, why am I talking to you? I’m talking to you, because your body operates like this. Racism, prejudice, and bias are real inside your walls. I know you know. You see it every single Sunday. Caucasians worship within your walls with other Caucasians, African Americans worship within your walls with other African Americans, Hispanics worship within your walls with other Hispanics, Asians worship within your walls with other Asians and on and on and on. You see Church, I understand, it is not just a Caucasian problem, African American problem, Hispanic problem, or an Asian problem. I understand the problem is not centered around one tone of skin, or one society, or one culture. Within each race there is racism, prejudice and bias toward others. Church, within your walls, no matter the color, racism still runs its course like a virus. Why Church?

Why are we like this? Why Church? Why are we okay with racism and at times even try to ignore it? As if, it will just go away? Or, act as if it really “is not that big of a deal”. Our silence on the issue only further perpetuates and condones it. The words not spoken speak volumes. Why are we so quick to praise the Groom with our lips and hearts, but decimate His beautiful creation with those same lips and those same hearts?

Why am I talking to you Church? I’m talking to you, because you can change this. You can call all people to the table and hold everyone accountable. You alone can blend the shades and spread the message. You can call racism what it is, sin. And, as we know Church, sin will always separate us from the Groom. The Groom covers our sin, but we have to address it and then we have to confess it. We have to own our sin; we have to be accountable for our sin. You know this Church. You know the Groom stands by wanting to take His Bride by His side. But, she is ugly. She is racist. She is prejudice. She is bias. She is broken. Church, you can fix this.

I still believe in you Church. You are beautiful. You are the Bride. But, Church, racism is OUR problem.

Please Church, please let the Groom restore you to the beautiful blend of shades you were meant to be.

Sincerely,

A guy who loves the Church & loves the diversity with which it can be..

“I am not what I ought to be.
I am not what I hope to be.
But I am not what I once used to be
and by the grace of God I am what I am.”

~ John Newton (1725-1807), former slave trader turned minister and abolitionist; author of the hymn, Amazing Grace

*These are my thoughts and honest reflections about the issue. Some terms in this post are not politically correct, and it was meant to be that way, to highlight the racist under tones in our society. Some things may offend you. If they do, ask yourself, why? Why are you offended? Full disclosure, I’m a 33 yr old white guy trying to be more like Christ, but often falling short of who He wants/needs me to be. I struggle daily with my own temptations, sins, struggles. I have not experienced extreme racism or prejudice directed at me, so I don’t claim to be a victim or even to fully understand. But, I do believe the conversation needs to be had. And, what better place than the Church? The very place that was intended from day one to be full of diversity. We’ve dropped the ball, we’ve been silent, and we’ve perpetuated evil in places evil should never have a foothold.

Parenting Individuality With a Touch of Trauma..

As we pulled up to the amusement park, we heard a sweet voice in the back seat say, “When do I put on my swimsuit?” My wife looked at me and then turned around and asked, “Do you not already have it on? Where is your swimsuit?” “No, it is at the hotel”, came the response, along with a very confused look.

The simple instruction to our five oldest children prior to getting dressed earlier that morning was, “kiddos, be sure to put your swimsuits on under your clothes.” This child heard the direction, but had failed to do so. So, what were we to do? Is this a life lesson moment? Perhaps a logical consequence of, “Well then, no swimming for you!”?

We headed down that path, but then, we stopped. My wife and I looked at each other and asked, “What was our role in reminding her?” It sounds simple, it really does. But, the deeper discussion we were having was not about swimsuits, but more so, about where our 6 year old was functioning due to the trauma she had experienced in her life.

We’ve been to the trainings and even read a few books, but for it to come to life, we had to own it, understand it, and respond properly to it.

What did we have to own? We had to own the fact that trauma almost always stunts development. So, while we were hearing our 6 year old say, “she forgot”, in reality, it was the 3-4 yr. old child in her speaking. This was in contrast to our own biological children. They’ve grown up with limited trauma, they have developed properly (whatever that really means) and have an understanding of our expectations and we have an understanding of their capabilities.

We both agreed that due to where she is at, we probably should have given her a reminder and followed up to make sure it was done. We even purchased her a swimsuit at the amusement park, so that she could enjoy the time with all the other children. If you know us, then you know this action is contrary to who we are as parents, but that is what foster care has done for us. It has taught us to be different, much better parents. It challenges us to get out of what we think is right and really invest in what is right for ‘this child’.

Here is what we know, trauma almost always stunts development. It messes up boundaries, it alters brain development, and it wrecks trust.

We also know, that when we parent with a clear understanding of ‘WHO’ each child is, we are able to be more effective, more caring, more attentive and the headaches that follow statements like, “no, it’s at the hotel…” begin to come less and less, because our expectations and understanding evolve to meet that specific child’s needs. The expectation of “you’re six, so you should act six” will lead to a lot of frustration for both the parent and the child. The action of, “I’m your parent and will meet you where you are.” will always be a game changer in dealing with children from backgrounds of abuse and trauma.

So, what are your thoughts? Have you seen how trauma has effected the development of a child and have you catered your parenting style around that?