Yes, I Know It’s A Lot Of Kids, But What Are You Doing?

July 14, 2013 at 11:17 pm

securedownloadLast week, we took all eight kids to the beach. Kristi and I did not anticipate this trip being much of a vacation for us. We were determined to go to the beach with 8 healthy kids and come back to the desert with 8 healthy kids.

When we first got our newest three foster children, I noted that if you go to Target with eight kids, “you will get stares. And comments,” so it shouldn’t have been a surprise to me that we got stares. And comments. I mean, we could literally see people counting with their fingers in the air (. . . 1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4 . . . 5 . . . 6 . . . 7. . . ) I would spot them as we walked by and help them finish: “Eight. We have eight kids.” This, of course, was always greeted with a look of astonishment and a chorus of WOW! That’s a lot of kids! or Well God bless you! or, Well you’ve sure got your hands full, don’t you?! Like I don’t know I have a lot of kids! 

How have we come to this, that a large family is looked at like some sort of spectacle. Now, I’m not saying every Christian family should be a large family. Not by any means. We never intended to be a large family. But, what I am saying is that there is something very backwards, very idolatrous of a culture which frowns upon large families. Have we really lain so low on the altar of self-worship that we can’t imagine being put out by raising the next generation? But I digress.

Each time (and it happened more than once) we got the looks, the stares and the counts, I have to confess: my first thought was something along the lines of Yes, I know it’s a lot of kids, but if only a couple of you gawkers stepped up and helped the orphans, I might not be such a spectacle! Hear me: I am not defending my initial thoughts. Nor do I believe that every single family is called to foster or adopt. I’m just saying that continually strikes me as odd that we have opened up our home to help with one of our modern blights and we are continually rebuffed by society for not fitting in.

I mean, come on. It’s not an easy thing to even get licensed to foster. It takes months and lost of intrusiveness on the part of our government. It costs; time and money. And you don’t stop sacrificing once you have the foster kids. That’s only the beginning. You are literally opening your home in ’round the clock service. You have visits by “first responders.” Visits to pediatricians. Visits from CPS. Visits from your licensing agency. You have continuing education hours. You have to re-certify your license. You have to feed the kids the state has asked you to care for. If you’re lucky, the state will help pay for food. If you’re lucky, the state will help pay you to keep the child(ren), though they will look for every opportunity to not pay.

And yet, none of that matters. We are compelled to serve in this way, so we are compelled to sacrifice in order to sacrifice. It would just be nice if we weren’t gawked at in the process. It would be nice if we didn’t have to seek people’s approval because of our sacrifice. And, thankfully, we don’t.

Thankfully, we have all of the approval we could ever hope for, and more. Do you remember when Jesus went out to his crazy cousin to be baptized? And, as He came up from the water, the Spirit descended on Him in the form of a dove and a voice came from Heaven, saying “You are my Son in whom I am well pleased?” What if we knew that, when God looks at us, He says the same thing of us. What if we trusted that Jesus was, even now, interceding on our behalf? That we were free from seeking man’s approval, so we are all the more free to love sacrificially. Because we now that e have everything to gain and nothing to lose?

Then, and only then can we walk along the pier, under the lighthouse, and, without pause, say, with a smile: ”Eight. We have eight kids.”

The Gospel Love of Foster Parenting

March 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm

In order remain licensed as foster parents, Kristi and I not only had to go through the intrusive and long application process, we have to do continuing hours of training every year. So, not only do we open up our homes, our lives and our hearts to children in need, we have to continue to jump through hoops to have the privilege of doing so. But I digress.

This past Saturday, we attended a 6-hour training. As might be expected, some parts were more helpful than others. But the thing I most clearly came away with from the day of training wasn’t part of the training at all. Instead, it came from thinking about the fact that, in many ways, foster parents have to beg to open up their lives and how much that is an embodiment of the Gospel. I kept thinking of 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, where Paul commends the Macedonians who begged for the chance to serve:

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, [2] for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. [3] For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, [4] begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—[5] and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

I had to spend six hours of my Saturday in order to keep a baby we love. The Macedonians begged in order to give more money than they could afford (don’t show these verses to the Financial Planners in your church family)! What compelled them? Paul tells us in verse 9: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” Grace. Grace compelled the Macedonians to go to great lengths to seek opportunities to give and serve. Yes, Foster Parents have to earn the right to give of ourselves, but why would I complain about jumping through some hoops when grace reminds me that Jesus “for the joy that was set before Him” gave everything. He became poor so that we might become rich. How could the Macedonians not give exuberantly? How could we not joyfully pursue the opportunity to serve?

During one of the sessions, the teacher made a remark to the effect that foster parents don’t have the option of not opening their hearts to these foster children. These are kids who need love, stability and consistency and love. You have to love them knowing that they can’t give anything in return. You may have them long enough that they learn to love you in return. But you may not. Not only can these children not repay you, they may bring troubles and headaches, visitations, appointments, health issues, family issues, legal issues with them. Some of these kids may even resent you for trying to love them and let you know it. But they need love whether or not you want to give it. They need it more than you need to keep it.

What a beautiful picture of the love God has for His children. We take Him for granted. We rely on ourselves when things go smoothly and call out to Him when we need help. We complain when He doesn’t do things the way we think He should. We resent Him when He disciplines us. And yet He relentlessly loves His children. He pursues us when we want to run. He stands by the road, looking over the horizon for our return, running out to meet us when we’ve spit in His face.

Foster parenting is hard. It requires sacrificial love. But it has reminded me of the beauty of a Savior who has led the way of sacrificial love, taking on death so that we may live. How could we also not strive to serve?

Learning From Baby G

January 23, 2013 at 11:40 am

My wife and I are foster parents. Yes, we have four biological sons of our own. Yes, we are probably crazy. We’ve had Baby G. since he was two days old (we can’t even foster a girl!). He’s our third placement since becoming foster parents and we’ve had him just over six months. Up until very recently, we had been told by many people within the system that we would be able to adopt him. Then a family member showed up asking for custody (you can read about some initial reactions to that news here). I get it: we signed up for foster-care and we knew that we might lose him, but it’s been difficult. Baby G has become part of our family.

It’s been an interesting process. I can honestly say that Kristi and I have a peace about the situation. It will suck if we lost him, but God is Good, Right and Perfect, and we can trust Him. The possibility of losing Baby G (we still don’t know what will happen) has prompted some soul-searching and initiated some serious questions about my family and particularly my role as a Daddy.

If you’ve seen Baby G’s smile, you know how precious it is. If you’ve heard his laugh, you know it can melt hearts. We’ve come to the conclusion that, even if we do lose Baby G, our “job” right now is to love the snot out of him, make sure his needs are more than met and enjoy him. And that’s the way it should be. That’s the way it should be with my other kids. But it took the possibility of losing our foster son to realize how easily I take my biological family for granted.

I have been reminded to ask: “What is my life?” because “I am a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). I have learned again to know that, even though I should get on them more about bedtime, to enjoy the sound of their chatter. I have been reminded that it’s a small thing to live with the clutter of five awesome boys. I have been reminded that my boys are more important than my possessions. I have learned to love them for who they are instead of being frustrated that they’re not who I want them to be. It’s OK when they’re loud. I have been taught again to eat, drink and be merry, because life is good. Sometimes loss is part of loving. It’s not easy but it doesn’t excuse us from loving.

Jesus has a special place for children and so should we. Not just the dry obligation of “doing what’s right” to care for children but to actually enjoy them because they won’t be children for long. Baby G has reminded me that the heart is truly more important than behavior. True, behaviors flow from the heart but I worry too much that too many parents focus on the behaviors rather than the heart. And I can’t focus on my family’s hearts without first focusing on my own. My relationship with God will determine what kind of Daddy I am.

Thank you, Baby G for teaching me.