foster care

Father's Day Recommendations

Father's Day Recommendations

1.      5 Dangers of Being Deprived of an Involved Father: Eric Geiger condenses 55 findings of researchers. He begins with two physical impacts: "Children who suffer the loss of a father have, by the age of nine, a 14% reduction in telomere length – the most reliable predictors of life expectancy. The more frequently a father visits the hospital of an infant who is born prematurely, the more quickly the infant is released from the hospital."

2.      To Spank or Not to Spank: My friend Benjamin Vrbicek with a healthy and nuanced perspective on the topic: " Yet this post isn’t part of my crusade to get you to spank your children. I’ve never written about this before and don’t plan to do it again. I certainly don’t want to be another polemical voice in the already overly opinionated milieu of Christian child-rearing. Instead, I’d like to talk about how parents can spank their children rightly." All 13 of his nuggets are worth considering.

3.      Why to Take Your Vacation: Ben Healy reports on the positive benefits of taking vacation and the negative impact of viewing other people's vacations. I don't think that not sharing vacation photos is the solution to the envy issue, but it's worth considering. Two of the positive benefits are: "From 1974 to 2004, those men who took at least three weeks of vacation were 37 percent less likely to die than those who took fewer weeks off... Vacation can yield other benefits, too: People who took all or most of their paid vacation time to travel were more likely than others to report a recent raise or bonus." 

4.      Teaching Our Daughters Positive Self-Talk: Tracy Lane considers how we ought to protect our daughters from the natural tendency of negative self-talk. She says, " I don’t want criticizing our looks or our bodies to be a natural inclination. Instead, I want the truth of who God made us to be, to become the natural overflow that we believe about ourselves."

5.      Foster Care and the Fear of "Getting Too Attached": Jason Johnson considers perhaps the biggest barrier to foster care, that it will be too hard because you will get too attached and concludes, "Yet despite all of that, over and over I've found the remarkable stories of those who also have this pain branded into their souls all consistently on some level sound the same - the goodbye was devastating and the grief is hard. Extremely hard. But so, so worth it. No question. These kids are worth it."

The Tears of Success

The Tears of Success

In class, philosopher Cornell West once said that every story that has ever been told is either a tragedy, a story with a sorrowful ending, a comedy, a story with a happy ending, or a tragicomedy, a story with elements of both. The tragicomedy, West said, is the most difficult story to tell, but it is the most powerful.

Angel Mateo was 17 months old when he entered our lives. We were his first non-family placement, but his fourth placement in four months. He had been shipped from one family member to another until none were left. We expected a traumatized child to arrive at our front door. But Angel Mateo had almost no signs of trauma. He slept like a rock, met every strange new face with poise, and greeted every ball he saw with an enthusiastic “BALL!” as though it was the first time he had encountered this spherical admixture of magic and fun. Joy exuded through every pore of this boy.

We fell in love.

One of the beautiful things about fostering is that you learn to love the other. When you look at your own child in your arms, you can be captivated by the ways this being reflects yourself back at you. There is a powerful beauty in beholding oneself in another.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Comparing Take-Home Pay Around the WorldSwitzerland tops this list by a substantial margin while Mexico comes in dead last. The US comes in at the edge of the top third. And goodness gracious, if you think American income taxes are bad, don't move to Denmark!

2.      God's Grace for Foster ParentsI resonate with James Williams's post, "Fostering is hard. A child comes into our home, alters the norm of our everyday lives for a number of weeks or months, and then by government order leaves as quickly as he or she came. Many find it difficult that we regularly let children we’ve grown attached to go back home, usually never to see them again. People often say to us, “I just don’t know how you do it.” That bewildered statement implies that we have some special gift or ability that others don’t have, but the truth is, we don’t."

3.      7 Things to Never Say at a FuneralIt's hard to comfort those who are have experienced a death. Aaron Earls tells us not to mess it up. Top on his list are, "They're an angel now," and "I know how you feel."

4.      What Generation Z Wants to Do Before Hitting 30Aaron Earls reports on Barna's recent findings: "Fewer Gen Zers say they want to enjoy life before having responsibilities of being an adult (38 percent), find out who they really are (31 percent), or travel to other countries (21 percent)."

5.  How Involved Should Your Church Be During Elections? Kevin DeYoung with sober and timely advice.

6.     Why Are Self-Driving Cars Taking So Long? Really interesting video by SciShow that considers why it has been so hard to put self-driving cars on the road.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

This week I want to introduce you to Michael and Ivey Ketterer, a normal couple whose hearts have been transformed to reflect our Heavenly Father's love for the orphan.

Watch all three of these videos in order, from top to bottom. Then, if you have kids or a spouse, watch them again together.

God is smiling.

Forgiveness Like a Child

Forgiveness Like a Child

Most every night a transformation happens right as our put our 20-month-old foster boy down to bed. Minutes after he is happily reading books with me and seconds after he is sweetly swaying in my arms as I sing to him, he transforms. The moment happens as I place him in his crib. He rolls over and, with big tears rolling down his fat cheeks, he wails. As I leave the room and close the door, he stands in the crib, looking at me with pleading eyes. “How could you abandon me?” his eyes ask.

The sun sets, the moon rises and sets, and the sun rises again. I open his door to find him sleeping. I turn off the sound machine and open the window shade. He hikes up his cute bottom in the air, rolls over, and pulls himself up and greets me with the biggest smile you’ve ever seen. I smile back and he giggles.

Forgiven.

Fast forward several hours, and a couple sits on my couch in my office. He can’t move past the fact that she won’t make love to him. She can’t move past the fact she caught him watching porn.[i]

Not forgiven.

The claws of unforgiveness are sharp and relentless.

Lullabies for Me

Lullabies for Me

Our biological children are 14 and 12. It’s so much fun to have adult (and semi-adult) conversations about faith with them, whether those are conversations about life or theology (my 14 year old daughter has recently been struggling with the book of Joshua and God’s call for the Israelites to kill the Canaanites). It's a joy to parent them. And frankly, I’m probably better suited for parenting teens and pre-teens than young children.

But there are hidden blessings of parenting infants and toddlers, too.

One of the unexpected blessings of welcoming foster children into our lives is opening back up children’s Bibles and singing lullabies to these beautiful children. There is a beautiful anchoring in bringing oneself back to the simple truths of the faith every day.

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

I still hold my teen and pre-teen children. I still pray with them. I still speak simple truths to them. But there is something powerful about the repetitive care of an infant. Something liturgical.

Every night with our foster baby closes with the same liturgy.

Farewell to our Easter Lily

Farewell to our Easter Lily

Maundy Thursday, 4pm

“Angel, give me a call ASAP. We need to talk.”

Not a text you want to receive from your DCS case worker.

We called immediately.

“We’ve decided to move Lilly to a home closer to her half-sister.”

We hadn’t been notified that was even a possibility.

“Can we pick her up tonight?”

We talked the case worker out of that idea and into waiting until Monday.

We hung up the phone and sat in silence, shocked.

Jesus took the unleavened bread that Passover night and he gave it to his disciples, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”[i]

Our bond with Lilly had come so naturally. She had only been with us three and a half months, but we were a mutual admiration society. After a couple of weeks of trauma-induced non-responsive behavior, she opened up. It wasn’t long before her squeals and belly laughs filled our home. We kissed her, squeezed her, and sung and prayed over her.

We dreamed of the possibility of adopting Lilly. We didn’t know if that would be possible, but we knew that the case would be a long one. We would get to enjoy her for at least another year.

Three weeks to Healing

Three weeks to Healing

She was the littlest thing. Fourteen months old but in nine month clothes. It was 9pm and the social worker put her limp sleeping body in my arms without ceremony. She was finishing up a long day and obviously wanted to get home. Handing the tiny bundle off meant that her final box was checked. She checked off the box and we stepped into it, not knowing what lay ahead. You never do.

They had told us hardly anything on the call: her age and that she was removed from her home because of neglect and abuse. And the social worker added no more details that evening. In fact, they got her name wrong. It would be a week before we would learn her correct name (which I'm withholding because of ongoing security concerns).

The next day we saw signs of neglect and abuse in spades. She wore nothing but a blank expression and cried every time we set her down, even for a few seconds.

What Our 2 Year Old Foster Child Taught Me About Care

What Our 2 Year Old Foster Child Taught Me About Care

Valentijn was hand-in-hand with the aid and Romeo in the crook of her arm. The aid had just driven the boys from the shelter, where they had spent three weeks. Chubby Romeo was ten months old at the time and well adjusted. It was two-year old Valentijn who had been impacted the most significantly. This was the third time Valentijn had been removed from his home. He was affectionate but fragile without boundaries.

As the Department of Childcare Services Specialist filled out the transfer paperwork to make our foster care official, Valentijn sat on my lap and pulled out the decorative pine cones from the bowl on the table and chucked them on the ground, one by one.

Not knowing what it looked like to love and discipline him well, I sat there, semi-stunned, and let him disassemble my wife’s handiwork. From that first moment, I knew parenting these two would prove to be a much different task than raising our two biological children.

All In Orphan Care by Jason Johnson

All In Orphan Care by Jason Johnson

There is a unique beauty in orphan care. Jason Johnson in All In Orphan Care puts it this way: “Caring for the marginalized, oppressed and orphaned is not only one of the clearest expressions of the heart of God but also one of the most tangible demonstrations of the gospel this world will ever see.” I’m so grateful that God has allowed our family to get a taste of experiencing our Heavenly Father’s love anew through our own journey in orphan care. And as we launch our first Orphan Weekend this weekend, I’m so excited to see others at our church get a taste of God’s love through this lens.