When the Church Responds to Foster Care Needs

On most Fridays I join the challenge to write for five minutes on a prompt given by Kate Motaung. Visit this inspiring community by clicking here. Today’s prompt is: PROVIDE

My children are grown and married. Currently we are taking care of my daughter’s children while she and her husband attend a seminar and celebrate their anniversary. As grandparents we are being introduced to foster care—we have two foster grandchildren. My eyes are being opened to the circumstances that many children face.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau, 437,465 children in our country were in the foster care system in 2016. The most common reason a child is placed in foster care is neglect (61%). The second most common reason is drug abuse (34%).

I was talking with my son-in-law and he said that poverty is a factor. He has participated in a poverty simulation course and was awakened to the stress that poverty places on a family.

Some children bounce back and forth between foster care and their biological family. It is heart breaking. But I have been encouraged to see the way the church in this community has stepped up.

Last Sunday we attended church with our daughter’s family. A dedication service took place for a young couple and their foster daughter. The children’s pastor invited people that wanted to  support  this  young   couple to come to the front of the church.

About thirty people, from teenage to elderly, walked to the front. They encircled the couple. The young mother had grown up in the foster care system and had been befriended by a family in this church.

My daughter’s family is part of a community of believers who are taking in foster children, providing support to families (children’s clothing, furniture as needed, meals as their family grows suddenly).

The community provides material and emotional support. The love and compassion for children is palpable.

It has blessed my heart to see this faith community engaging in the needs of children. I am so grateful that my daughter’s family has this support system.

Musing About Family and Privilege

The snow has come as forecasted and the world outside my door is cold and white. It is a good day to stay inside. It is Five Minute Friday—the day that we take five minutes, or just a little more—to write on the prompt that Kate Motaung gives us. Today’s prompt is: PRIVILEGE

There is a great benefit to growing up in a family with both mother and father. When the family reads Bible together and prays, there is additional blessing. This is God’s design. An intact family is not meant to be a privilege, but we live in a broken world.

My daughter and son-in-law have taken in two children through foster care. They have had some contact with the biological parents and are deeply saddened by the brokenness that has led to the child entering foster care. My daughter has shared with me her gratitude for our family, her growing up years.

Sometimes we don’t recognize the privilege we have experienced until we move outside of our comfort zone. Sometimes we need a new perspective. //

Family - Bouquet

As a nurse I had a dramatic change in perspective when I left the hospital labor and delivery unit to attend home births. For years I had taught Lamaze classes, giving instruction on how to stay relaxed, how to breathe, comfort measures for labor. When my clients gave me feedback, they told me about the hospital procedures they encountered. The breathing techniques and relaxation did not always help.

For home birth, the laboring mother is in her home. I was the guest giving her guidance and support. She was able to work with her labor in a way that I hadn’t seen in the hospital.

I am now an advocate of homebirth—with a clear plan for hospital transport when labor is prolonged or complicated. My hope is that hospital staff and homebirth attendants can have increased communication and understanding. All can benefit from a new perspective.

It is a challenge to step outside of our comfort zone. As Christians we have been given a great gift and the ability to reach out to others with love.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And it is not your own doing; it is the gift of God . . .

Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the common wealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2: 8, 12-13

 

My Third Trip to Grand Rapids

This past Monday I made my third trip to Grand Rapids in two weeks. I sat at my mother’s bedside in the hospital through the day and through the night. She has dementia and the hospital stay was traumatic and disorienting. I am thankful that she has been released from the hospital and is back at the nursing home. Questions remain about whether her condition will stabilize.

She was encouraged by the presence of my sisters and me. I was glad to pray and sing for her. Driving home I enjoyed seeing the beginning of fall colors along Michigan highways.

It is hard to deal with end of life issues. I am mentally and emotionally exhausted. When I arrived home I noticed the zinnias along the front walkway. They are continuing to bloom and have a certain majesty.

Majestic Zinnia

Beauty of creation and sorrow of approaching death. This is a great mystery that can only be resolved by God’s promises.

Then last night I sat on the floor with my 10-month-old grandson. He crawled around the family room eager to examine every item available to his touch. (Toys were not his first choice.)

I was delighted when he crawled over to me and smiled. As he tried to vocalize sounds I repeated what I heard. This brought joyful giggles. We were communicating and he was thrilled.

Zinnia

This post is linked to Five Minute Friday. Every Friday Kate Motaung gives a word prompt. And then we write for five minutes. Today’s prompt is DISCOVERY.  Visit this writing community by clicking here.

Colors of the Sunset & Seeing Answers to Prayer

The sky had turned a brilliant pink, and the horizon seemed to be in flame. It was gorgeous. But within minutes the color began to fade, leaving streaks of lavender. I was fortunate to be in the car,  my husband    driving, to see the sunset at the right moment. There are other moments that are important to notice.

The word I have chosen for 2017 is attentive. When I am prayerfully seeking the Lord I am more alert to his touch on my life. If I am watching I may see glimpses of his answer to prayer.

Recently my brother was hospitalized and his living arrangement was terminated. As I prayed throughout this crisis, I needed to be watching for signs of the Lord’s care. Here is what I noticed.

My brother had a nurse who looked beyond his mental disability and provided excellent care while he was in the hospital.

Because of this nurse’s attention, problems with his medications were seen more clearly and addressed.

Although my brother would not talk about Jesus or words from the Bible, he began to hum and sing a couple hymns. This amazed me because he is often angry with any talk about faith in God.

I wasn’t alone. My sister was with me. I had friends in the same town as the hospital. It was good to visit with my college roommate and another dear friend. We talked about our faith, and I was able to pray with them.

The bright colors of these moments guided me through a couple of tough weeks.

Isaiah has recorded these words of encouragement:

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. Isaiah 26: 3-4

Is my brother’s situation completely resolved? No, so I will give thanks for what I have seen and keep on praying.

Have you experienced answers to prayer recently? I would enjoy your comment.

Sharing this post with Thought Provoking Thursday and Grace & Truth

Family Time and the Gospel

The air was fresh. The leaves on the giant cottonwood trees were rustling with the breeze. My sister, brother and I were sitting at a picnic table at the botanic garden.

We had fresh apple cider and hamburgers. We enjoyed our lunch as we absorbed the joy of nature. We watched a blue heron standing in a nearby pond. I felt blessed with this interlude of rest from stressful thoughts.

My brother’s health is declining and as his guardian I have been asked to look into possible care situations. For a time the weight of concern was lifted.

My brother has a mental illness and his thoughts about God, about relationships, is tangled up. He has had a difficult life. But I believe that God loves him and can heal his emotional wounds.

My attempts to share my faith with him have varied responses. I feel like I am stumbling along. Conversations with my brother can be calm or erupt suddenly in an angry outburst. During one visit to his group home I asked if he reads his Bible.

He said, “No.”

I said, “The Bible is God’s love letter to us.”

He scowled and yelled, “It is not!” Then he stared at me daring me to say any more. I retreated—for the time being.

But on this day, after spending time in nature, he responded differently. On the way home, in the car, I asked my brother, “What do you think about Jesus?”

His answer came quickly, “He was the most hated man.”

Then I asked, “Why did he come to earth?”

After a long pause my brother said, “I don’t know.”

I said, “I think he came to show us God’s love.”

This time there was no angry outburst, only thoughtful silence.

I want the Bible to infuse my daily life and my conversations. God’s word is the source of our hope. I am still learning about putting this in practice. In the book of Romans the apostle Paul writes:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1: 16

Prayer: Lord God, thank-you for your Word and the example Paul sets for us. As I trust you day by day, may I be a witness of the Gospel.

Sharing this post with Word of God Speak

The Forsythia & God’s Faithfulness

Forsythia Marks the Anniversary

Today is the 27th anniversary of my son’s passing away and entering eternity. Last year I wrote the illness and faith of our little boy. You can read about Steven here.

God has healed the wound in my heart, but it took time. Only when I was far enough from my initial grief, could I look back and see the hand of God guiding and supporting our family.

Steven was loved. He knew that God loved him.

The Psalms convey both the pain of suffering and the confidence in God’s love.

He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and a buckler.

You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day,

Nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,  nor the        destruction that wastes at the noonday. Psalm 91:4-6

I must confess that in the last days of Steven’s life I felt like I was on the edge of a cliff, about to plunge into darkness. I wasn’t sure of my faith. But I never stopped praying. I poured out my pain before God. The Psalms provided an example for me to follow.

Christian friends stood by us, offering their faith and prayers. Over time I was able to see the places where God had been present with us. I believe that I will see Steven again, as the Bible promises.

If you are going through a stiff trial, don’t be afraid to pour out doubts and fears in prayer. God hears and He is faithful. Let others pray for you also. Trust that as you walk forward you will see evidence of God’s hand on your life.

Linking with Let Us Grow, Grace & Truth and Word of God Speak

Let Us Grow

 

The Family is Under Attack

The school board in my town met, and the community was invited. The federal government—specifically the Office of Civil Rights— has demanded that a transgender student be given full access to female locker rooms and restrooms.

School District 211

The meeting place, a high school cafeteria,  was packed.  Seats      extended to the back wall and people were standing at both sides of the room. The meeting was intended for residents of the school district but a large contingent of the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) community from the surrounding towns and city of Chicago showed up. They were carrying placards and wearing stickers in support of the transgender student.

Attendees were allowed to sign up for a 3-minute speaking slot, to express their opinion to the school board. When the first three speakers were from the LGBT group a gentleman called for a point of order. He walked toward the front of the room and stated that speakers should be living in the school district. The school board president asked him to sit down or be escorted out of the room.

My heart ached  as  one transgender or adult homosexual partner   after another testified to the pain in their life. And when a teenage girl said that she had just discovered that she was bisexual, she was given a round of applause.

A doctor said that it is impossible to distinguish the gender of an individual from their anatomy. Instead there are some internal markers. Really?

Teenage girls stood up to explain their discomfort and the awkwardness of having a transgender student in the locker room when they shower and change for swimming class.

Fathers spoke up in defense of their daughters. Teenage girls have a right to privacy.

One speaker for the LGBT community said that times have changed. The standards that we once had no longer exist. It is a new age.

The air was heavy and I tried to pray.

An article titled Educating for the Kingdom by Gerhard Cardinal Müller is in the current issue of Plough. Müller writes:

Rather, education is the entrusting of a gift from one generation to the next. The older generation’s accumulated culture, learning and skills are given as an unearned gift to the younger. But this gift also carries a responsibility: the younger generation must make the gift a reality in their own lives.

Overnight I have been wrestling with thoughts about the meeting. Families are breaking down. Divorce and single parent families are common. Children are susceptible to deception. We are experiencing spiritual warfare. Images from the Lord of the Rings come to mind. Remember the black riders? They were trying to get Frodo. In place of Frodo, I could visualize them seeking to destroy the family.

Pray for families.

Pray  for  the teens that are seeing so many distorted versions of    sexuality.

Pray for wisdom, compassion and kindness in sharing the truth of God’s design of the family.   God is good, and His ways are for our   benefit.

Thanksgiving and Ancient Questions

 

Thanksgiving

As Thanksgiving approaches, I am aware of so many things to be thankful for—family, church, blogging community and home.

On Thanksgiving my husband and I will have one of our daughters and her family, our son and his wife, at our home.  I have ideas for   activities for the grandchildren and a couple new recipes from fellow bloggers. I am looking forward to this day of celebration.

We will read some Bible verses together.

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.

I will be glad and exalt in you;  I will sing praise to your name,  O Most High. Psalm 9: 1-2

God’s greatest gift to us is the offer of salvation.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.        Ephesians 2: 4-5

In the midst of preparations for Thanksgiving, I am aware of difficulties among extended family and suffering that is happening in many places around the world. Perhaps you see things that prick your heart.

Praise and gratitude is mixed with questions and doubt.

The Psalmist was able to give praise and thanks in one moment. And then later wonder how God allowed some things to happen.

Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? Psalm 10:1

There are no answers except the character of God.

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:13

God is just and righteous.

As I give thanks, I will also pray for mercy and grace, lifting the circumstances beyond my control to the Lord.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4: 4-6

Bible

Linking with Essential Fridays,  A Little R & R,  WholeHearted Wednesday,  Titus 2sday,  Words with Winter and Word of God Speak

Country Road with Unknown Destination

When I visit my sister in Michigan, we frequently have an adventure.

Last weekend we had both driven to a community college event.
When we left the event her car wouldn’t start. So we hooked up jumper cables from my car to her car, and after a half hour her car was running. She needed to keep the engine running so I followed her to her place of work. She had to pick up some files. She left her car running while I parked next to her car.

After another half hour we were on our way to her home. Or so
I thought. I followed her car, passing by the expressway
ramp that I thought we should take. My sister was going down
a country road that I did not recognize.

What's Our Destination?
photo credit: pixabay.com

It was a beautiful day. She kept driving and I had no idea where we were going. I thought about pulling out my cell phone, but I’m trying to avoid using the cell phone while driving.

I was a little irritated, but she’s my sister. We are family and so I just followed. We finally stopped at a cider mill. It was worth it. The cider and doughnuts were delicious. Why didn’t she tell me? She had the idea while driving. We used to go to a cider mill with our parents when we were kids.

In the bigger picture, I sometimes don’t understand the path that God has for me. Some things don’t make sense. My brother has had a     tragic struggle with mental illness over the last 47 years. His health is    fragile, and I am his guardian. It is difficult.

My son was just eight years old when he lost his battle with cancer. It doesn’t make sense now. But I believe I will see him again someday. The puzzle pieces of this life will make a complete picture in eternity.

God’s plan of salvation is woven all through the Bible. The prophecies and promises have been fulfilled, are still being fulfilled. I have seen answers to prayer. I have a relationship with Jesus. I have faith in God.

So if I can trust my sister on a puzzling drive down a country road, I can trust God with all that I encounter in this life.

Linking with Word of God SpeakWeekend WhispersThought Provoking Thursday and WholeHearted Wednesday