So, We Will Love

Our imperfect human side always tries, and often succeeds, to get in the way of what God really wants from us as parents.  As worldly creatures we like being better, doing better, and getting more done than the next person. We want to prove our worth in others eyes.  As foster parents, we want to show our kids this is what “good” parenting looks like.  We want them to see our “normal” and we want that to be their new “normal”. 

But, in reality, we are not any better than their biological parents.  While we do not abuse our children physically, emotionally, or sexually.  Nor, do we  neglect our children, but, we still sin.  And, sin is sin in God’s eyes.  Therefore in His eyes, we are really not any better than the parents we are supposedly protecting these children from.  Our judgement of the biological family, for the choices they have made and make, is clearly just as wrong as the choices they have made and are making.

We are beginning to  understand more and more each day that we are not only here to love the children, but also their parents.

At the end of the day, God has called us to love and protect these beautiful children.  We get to play an important role in their lives for now.  Our goal should never be about how much better of a parent we are than their biological parents.  Instead, the goal should be love.  We are here to show these children they are special and they are loved.  To show them they make our world crazy better every day!  We get to kiss their hurts, celebrate their accomplishments, praise their great works, and tuck them into bed every night after we pray for their mom and dad.

Our imperfect human side wants to make this about us.  But, God’s plan has always been to make this about the children.  And, in that, the biological parents are a clear extension of their children and God’s plan for redemption.

So, we will love.

We will love not only the children, but we will love their mom and dad.  We will pray for them.  We will root for them.  We will encourage them.  And, we will remember, this journey is about love, grace, and mercy for all involved.

– Howard’s Party of 8

Messy Redemption

Redemption is messy.  Being a part of the redemptive story hurts.

We knew this going into foster care.  Even so, somehow, we convinced ourselves there would be times where we would be able to compartmentalize the brokenness, pain, and heartache.  Yet, being an effective foster parent, does not allow for one to compartmentalize, it means we willingly take on the pain, heartache and brokenness.  Trying our best to carry the burdens of the children in our home.  To be their protectors, caregivers, keepers, and defenders.  Much like Christ has done for each of us.

It doesn’t get easier.  No, in fact, it only get’s harder as we go deeper with the children and hear more about their story.  It only hurts worse as we see their biological parent fail them week in and week out.  Even if the children just blow it off as, “dad must of just been tricking us”, when they don’t get the much anticipated present they were promised last visit.  We get mad at dad, but then we remember,  he is broken and lost.  We are too.  He needs redemption.  We do too.  We remember, redemption is messy.

Yet, it is worth it.  Because we know redemption is in the works.  We know the story being written is greater and more unimaginable than we could ever imagine.

Redemption is messy.  But, the new story being written is beautiful.  We do not know what the next chapter holds, but we know we are ready: pain, heartache and all.

After all, this journey is not about us, but about them and Him, and redemption.

The Human Factor

In the beginning, we agreed that we were all in as a couple when it came to Foster Care.  We knew we would love a child or children for a season.  We knew we would empty our hearts, knowledge, and compassion into every child that came into our home.  We would get attached, we would love until it hurt, and then when it came time to say good-bye, we would say good-bye and share our grief with each other.  We still believe this, we still own this, we are still walking this.

But, nothing ever really follows our nice laid plans, right?  The Human Factor always throws us a curve ball and leaves us standing there wondering, what the what?!?

We tell ourselves on a daily basis, reunification with biological family members makes sense.  It is good for children.  We’ve read the stats, we’ve heard the research–reunification leads to less trauma long-term.  We know it, believe it, and own it……then, BAM, the Human Factor says, ‘but, what if?’

  • What if we are the better placement long-term?
  • What if biological parents continue to make selfish, detrimental choices?
  • What if biological parents never own their mistakes, only repeating the cycle?
  • What if they don’t protect these most incredible gifts?
  • What if they don’t love them?
  • What if they quit their job, because their simply too tired and the job is too hard?
  • What if they can’t maintain stable living?
  • What if they don’t help them with homework?
  • What if they don’t go to ‘Open House’ at the school and let their child show them every single thing in the room, including the stickers in their locker?
  • What if they don’t believe in them?
  • What if they don’t provide meals, clothing, and other items needed for them?
  • What if they choose their needs over their child’s needs?
  • What if they drop them off with complete strangers, over and over and over again?
  • What if they are just too tired to be a parent that day or night?
  • What if they don’t properly fasten them in their car seats, making sure their most precious possessions are always safe?
  • What if they don’t teach them to cook?
  • What if they don’t play catch in the yard, draw pictures, and laugh until their sides hurt as a family?
  • What if they just suck as a parent?
  • What if the children are just a status symbol and a way to get another check?
  • What if they don’t take the  children to church?
  • What if they don’t show the boy how to treat women and show the girls how to respect their bodies and hearts?
  • What if they don’t model an appropriate relationship, so their children know what love and happiness really looks like?
  • What if they use drugs?
  • What if they never ‘get it’?…That these children are truly God’s greatest gift to parents.

Our brains tell us, reunification is best, but our hearts are thrown off by the Human Factor that takes a journey of its own.

Regardless, four months in, we are still owning this, believing this, and walking this.  Now, if someone would just tell that stupid Human Factor to shut up and leave us alone!!

– The Howard’s – Party of 8

This Is Our Season

“All of us wonder how we would have acted in the epic struggles of human history. Would we have stood up and been counted among the courageous and just? Now we don’t have to wonder.  It is our time. Over 30 million worldwide live in slavery.”  – David Batstone, President Not for Sale

As a child I remember hearing the stories of Indians being massacred by settlers who took their land.  I remember hearing about how slave owners abused, mistreated and kept people in slavery.  I remember walking the grounds of Dachau and hearing the stories of the holocaust.  Every single time I would think, ‘if I were alive then, I would have stood on the side of justice and change.’  And, then I would think about my family, my friends, my neighbors and I would wonder to myself, ‘what would they have done?’

But, as I read the quote above I realize I do not have to live in the ‘I would have’, but I can be part of change today in the here and now, because slavery is still strong, genocide is still rampant, and throughout the world the mistreatment of people groups is ongoing.  I’m sure there were many who lived through the previous seasons of our history who had to live with, ‘I should have.’   I do not want to be one of those regretful people.

“There are more than 30 million slaves in the world today, more than at any other point in human history.” – Not for Sale Campaign

This is our season, this is our time, this is our chance to stand on the side of justice and change…..Will you join the movement, or will you look back twenty years from now and say, I should have…..??  Educate yourself, become aware, but more importantly begin to ACT!

Groups Standing for Change:

Love 146, http://www.love146.org

Not for Sale, http://www.notforsalecampaign.org

IJM, http://www.ijm.org

Polaris Project, http://www.polarisproject.org

Exodus Cry, http://exoduscry.com/

Freedom Place, http://www.freedomplaceus.org/

http://allwewantislove.org/wordpress1/

www.humantrafficking.org

***Statistics on Modern Day Slavery:  https://secure.notforsalecampaign.org/about/slavery/

The Gospel Alive

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One thing we love about being foster parents is the fact that the Gospel regularly comes alive in front of us.  Since the first day we took children into our home we have continually expressed our love to them and reinforced how important they are to our family.  The three youngest were pretty quick to reciprocate love back, although never encouraged nor expected.  The oldest child, the boy, has been the most guarded with his words of affection.  And then, sometime around Christmas he began writing us little notes.  Each note simply said, “I love you” or “I love you so much”.

These notes are his way of sharing his heart.

Reading these notes and watching all of this unfold we are reminded of our own lives and the spiritual conflict we have had with accepting God’s love for us.  And yet, regardless of our response, God has always affirmed His love and affection to us.  Gradually, over time we came to a place where we began to affirm our love back to Him.  It wasn’t overnight, but it took time, trust, and experiencing God’s pursuit.  Similar to the process it has taken this young man to understand we love him with no strings attached.

In our opinion, the beauty of foster care is the opportunity we have to love deeply, regardless of any return of affection.  To put ourselves out there day after day to love these children and affirm their importance not only to us, but to the world as a whole.  Much like God has always done for both of us.

Simply, the Gospel has come alive within our home and for that we are humbled and thankful.

***The note above is his most recent one.  I walked in from work this afternoon and he was very excited to give me the note he had painted earlier in the day.

As Those Who Are Called…

This field will jade you. It will chew you up, spit you out and leave you sitting on the curb, spent. As a result, we attempt to poorly insulate ourselves, we learn to cope, we learn to deal with the evil and abuse around us, trying somewhat to disconnect just enough so we can find peace in the midst of the continual storm. And then, a child comes along and her story penetrates and smashes through every attempt of self insulation. Her hurt reawakens the primal and spiritual anger we should feel every time we hear about a child touched, a child abused. A holy indignation arises from our soul, an indignation that is aligned with the heart of the Creator…..and, in that moment we feel, we hurt, we mourn, we ask questions, we scream, we feel hopeless, we feel angry, and we should because every time a child is hurt or touched in a harmful way, I’m positive the Creator feels it too. I’m positive the Creator weeps, mourns, screams, yells, and is filled with anger. And, every time this happens, we are reminded of the evil and brokenness that is so prevalent in our society….the evil and brokenness that even wages war against our own souls — trying to steal, kill and destroy everything the Creator has worked so hard to create in me, in you, in this world. It is good to feel this way, it is good to be reawakened, it is good to feel the blood rapidly course through our veins as we grapple with such hurt and brokenness.

It is also good to be reminded, that for some reason, you and I were called into this place, into this field, into this brokenness. It is not by chance we find ourselves here; the Creator knew. He knew you and I would align with His heart and His emotion for these children. He knew we would get it. He knew amidst our grandest attempts to insulate ourselves that our core, our DNA, our soul would be awakened time and time again to feel, touch, sense, and hear our children’s stories. But, it wouldn’t just stop with hearing and seeing; He knew we would act. So, we find ourselves daily standing in the storm with evil and brokenness swirling around us, and we are given the task to move, respond, love, and create hope. We are given the task to climb up to the highest point and scream out, “Evil will never have the last word! NEVER!!” So, that is what we do, when evil and brokenness arise, we arise to answer them, not armed with answers, but with Hope, Faith, Love, and Belief that the Creator will redeem and restore. While the rest of the world zooms by, trying to turn their face away, we stop and answer the call, because it is who we are.

This field will jade you. It will chew you up, spit you out and leave you sitting on the curb, spent….and yet, the Creator, the children, the brokenness are all calling out for you. May we stand as individuals awakened and united to charge into the storm as those who are called and created to meet evil with hope, knowing the Creator goes with us, so that evil will never have the last word. Never!!

**These are some brief thoughts I wrote down while wrestling through some emotions/anger, etc. I was having regarding the story of a child we recently took into our emergency children’s shelter. May we all be reminded of the call, in the midst of complete brokenness….stay the course and be encouraged; Love wins, Hope wins, the Creator wins!