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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Make a Difference Monday (on a Tuesday!)

Yesterday was a day of great celebration for my family!  After beginning the foster care journey in April of 2010, walking through many ups and downs, times when we wondered what in the world we were doing or felt so vulnerable we could hardly breath, times of great growth, joy, stretching, and more! - our foster care journey came to an end (for now) yesterday as we became a forever family!

Today on Make a Difference "Monday," I need you to know how WE have been changed by foster care.  It easy for others to praise us and thank us for all that we've done for our three kids but the truth is, our three little kids - this whole journey, has completely changed our lives - my entire family's and mine.  I have grown to know the Lord in new ways .  I have felt His supernatural strength in ways I hadn't encountered before.  I have experienced Him loving through me - when I was too weak to do it on my own.  I have seen my own sin and selfishness quite clearly and I have also felt His great mercy. 

Because of you, His body, I have felt the Hands and Feet of Jesus in ways I never had experienced before becoming foster parents.  I love my kids so much - I am beyond blessed that the Lord saw fit to bring them into our family forever but please don't praise us.   You surely can celebrate with us, thanking Him and pray for kids all around our nation - over 400,000 of them who have been hurt and broken and need to feel the hands and feet of Jesus in their lives - through you and me.

He is calling you to make a difference in the lives of others.  How?  I don't know but I challenge and implore you to listen to Him and follow Him wherever He leads!





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Jami

Jami Kaeb has an enthusiasm and passion for the Lord that spills over onto those she meets. She is married to Clint and is mommy to six, three of whom they adopted from foster care. It was through a difficult season of waiting that the Lord drew Jami’s heart to those who feel forgotten and in April of 2011, she founded The Forgotten Initiative.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Advocate Wednesday: Worn Hands

I don't know about you, but my summer has worn me out so far!  I am realizing that I am not just a foster parent or an advocate for the foster care community.  I am also a person. A person in the process of lifetime healing.  A sinner in need of a Savior. 

Sometimes I think that I need to have it all together and then present myself to God as a person worthy of fighting for this cause.  But the reality is that if I held myself to this standard, I would never make it.  I would never be ready and I would never find the time to reach out and help someone else because I would be too focused on trying to get myself together first.  My confidence would be in me, instead of my competence in God.  I was reminded of this when I came across this verse this morning:

“Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God.  Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.  He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6, emphasis mine)

 I think if you asked most foster parents or our forgotten advocates, they would tell you that they never felt completely “competent” to take on all the unexpected things that go along with foster care.  Foster care is messy.  Even in the midst of fostering there are times when you think “What have I gotten myself into? I don’t feel competent!”  Whether it is advocating, fostering, or something else that God has asked you to do, do you share this same struggle of feeling incompetent to do what God has asked you to do? 

We are all broken.  We all have scars and wounds.  We all will continue to battle attacks from the enemy and rely on the grace of God to do what we are doing.   “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.” 

Are you a foster parent experiencing trials or dealing with old wounds and scars?  As painful as it may be to go through, does it help you relate to the wounded children that enter your home?  They too have wounds and scars.  They too are fallen and in need of a savior, just like you and me.  Are you placing your trust in God and allowing Him to work through you? 
When I am desperate for help, I don’t look for a perfect person who has never experienced the hardships of this world to reach down and help me.  I desire help from someone who has been there and knows how to look to Jesus for the answers.   Someone with a worn hand.  Someone with scars and wounds, one that understands the process of healing and who recognizes that they are no different than me.   I picture a worn hand reaching out to me, not a perfect hand reaching down to me.  This is what I hope to bring to the foster children in my home.  A worn hand ready to help.
The attacks from the enemy and the trials of life are giving me worn hands.  May you remember that whatever trials you are facing, God may be preparing you to help others through that same trial.  Is it possible that God has ordained your circumstances, however hard they may be, to give you a platform to portray hope in Christ and Christ like attitudes in suffering? 

“And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News.” Philippians 1:12

I am praying that as an advocate and a foster parent that I can learn to place my confidence in Jesus.  That I will continue to daily recognize my desperate need for my Savior.  I am praying that even in my weakness and with everything that has happened to me in my journey of life, that I can teach the foster children in my home the Good News.  There are children and families suffering and the answer isn’t perfect people.  The answer comes from worn hands that know and understand the healing power of Jesus.    

Today I am praising God for all of the Advocates and Foster Parents that are on this journey with me.  May we all be encouraged that our competence comes from God and may we place our trust in a God who is faithful.

“For your unfailing love is as high as the heavens.  Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.”  Psalm 57:10

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Jessi 
picture of kids standingJessi Esterling and her husband Zach have two sons and are foster parents to two more (an infant and a teenager!). As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and the former Director of Foster Care at the Children’s Home Association of Illinois, Jessi has worked in the foster care arena since 2003 where she experienced the overwhelming needs of this community. Jessi began volunteering for The Forgotten Initiative soon after its founding and in December 2012, she became the full-time Director of Operations.




Monday, July 23, 2012

Make a Difference Mondays: I think she liked it!

If you've been following TFI lately, you'll know that we've been sharing a lot about our recent big build.  I want to share today from the foster mom who received this home makeover.  We had to leave the project before she returned home but here's what she told us after seeing her new and improved home!!  (We love moments like this!)

“We just got home a little bit ago. I am shaking, speechless, and the tears are flowing. My home looks so beautiful. The impact of being gone and coming home to see this is almost unbelievable. I just don’t know how to say thank you enough. No one has ever done anything like this for us. Please know it means so much. I hope this program continues to do these awesome things for others too. I will never forget everyone’s kindness.”

BEFORE:


AFTER!!



Saturday, July 21, 2012

BIG BUILD VIDEO!!

Check out our recent Big Build!!  What a great time we had serving alongside members of the Body of Christ representing various local churches to bless a foster mom!! 

This is what TFI is about - connecting the Body to the Need!!

Thank you Jesus for allowing us to be a part of Your work!  We want to make You more famous!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Advocate Wednesdays: one simple (but difficult) question

To become a licensed foster parent, a 10-week class called PS-MAPP is required.

One of the teachers of our class was a foster parent for 21 years, taking in over 400 children. We were so blessed to hear her wisdom that comes through experience. Nevertheless, almost every time we left class to go home, I was filled with fear....fear of this, fear of that, fear of a whole list of things!

Early one morning, I left home for a run and time to talk with God...actually more of a wrestling in my heart and mind. My thoughts were more along the lines of: we aren't equipped, we are both stressed out keeping up with life now, we aren't investing enough time and energy into our three girls, and on and on. It boiled down to this one nagging thought: why would anyone in their “right” mind pursue something that they know ahead of time is going to be very difficult.

When I walked through the door after my run, I ripped off the paper on my flip calendar to see what the Bible verse of the day, and it was Mark 8:35 “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.”

The fact is we were called by Jesus to give up everything. His call is to come and take up the cross. It is a call to radical faith. Jesus is calling us to be willing to suffer anything and forsake everything for the sake of the gospel. His call is for total surrender. His call means realizing that His power is made perfect in our weakness, that when we are weak we are also strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

About six months ago, in a room of around 20 women, a friend asked for prayer for a little 6 year old girl named Briana that was living in a meth house and no one wanted her. That night I tossed and turned all night thinking about little Briana and praying for her, asking God to help her find a forever Godly family to love and cherish her.

And so my friends, it boils down to one simple question: do we care? Do we care that children are starving, abused, neglected and mistreated? And if we care, let us act, by the leading of the Holy Spirit.

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Denise
Forgotten Advocate: Prescott, AZ

Rodney & Denise have 3 daughters and after attending the Focus on the Family “Wait No More Conference” their eyes were opened to the great needs in the foster care community. They are so thankful to be a part of the TFI family - to share these needs with the body of Christ and to play a role in making a difference for this community.

Find current needs needs in Prescott, AZ




Monday, July 16, 2012

Make a Difference Mondays: thank you!

I received this email the other day from a foster parent and I just had to share it with you for without you, the Body of Christ, there would have been no Journey Bags for these sweet kiddos! 

"Last night at midnight three precious little beauties showed up on my doorstep. They each had with them a blanket, a stuffed animal, and a book bag....their Journey Bags of course. I kept waiting for more, anything more, but nothing came. The investigator told me that yes indeed this was all they had. Our 5 year old had come with shoes which were so bad they had to be thrown away, one of our two year olds had no shoes, the other two year old had two left shoes. When I asked about getting anything out of the home the investigator said it just wasn't going to be possible. The kids had nothing. There worldly possessions consisted of Journey Bags. As I stared at those bags I began to cry. What if no one took the time to fill those bags and deliver them?  What would our children have then. Absolutely nothing. Nothing to claim as their own, nothing to protect or cherish. Thank you for all you do. Thank you for my kiddos' Journey Bags."

For everyone of you who took time to organize a journey bag drive or bought items to put inside.  For each one of you who wrote notes and prayed over these bags.  For those of you who loaded up your vehicle and dropped off these bags at agencies all across the nation, this email is for you!  Thank you for being the Hands and Feet of Jesus!

To learn more about Journey Bags or any of our other initiatives, click here.


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Jami
Jami kaeb
Jami Kaeb is married to Clint and mommy of six, three of whom they are adopting from foster care. It was through a difficult season of waiting that the Lord drew Jami’s heart to those who feel forgotten and in April of 2011, she founded The Forgotten Initiative.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Forgotten Fridays: Anything but Natural

We recently signed our renewal contract as foster parents. There's a line in the agreement that states, "The foster parent will care for the placed child as he or she would care for other children in his or her home."

I was talking with Baby J's social worker, and she was asking various questions about how things were going, and I remarked, "You know, foster parenting is one of the most unnatural things you can do."

"What do you mean?" she asked.

My heart's response:

In this season, I am his mother, her mother. I've agreed to care with my whole being, as I do any of the sons I've birthed. I choose to love, when I know my heart will be broken, when I know there is another, dreaming of holding this child, of singing him to sleep. Of one more chance...

I set his schedule to have it thrown out the window for worthy time with his real family. I wake up, desperate for my Savior because I know part of me will die, will grieve, will dream of a tiny face and fingers I may never see again. But I have promised to care for him as I would my own, so he is worth every moment of that grief.

I haven't blogged the last month, especially about our ministry. I wish I could capture where we've been, but I can promise there are places of me that have been to the shadowlands and back. 

Jamie has led us through beautifully heartbreaking decisions that have crystallized my longing for Jesus. We've tasted death, sorrow, and pure annoyances, all within the month, and in sincerity, it's pushed me just over the edge of the cliff.

We packed Baby J's bags, wept and wailed our tears, said our goodbyes, only to have him stay once again. A natural momma's response would realize we may need to shy away from the shadowlands. But I'm not a natural momma, and we're unnatural. We're not of this world, so we walk our family right back into the shadowlands, deep inside the forest.

Jamie's heard me weep one too many times that I just don't feel this is making a difference. My narcissistic self wants satisfaction. Can we not do the ministry, but still claim the comfort?

He held me. And he walked me back to the shadows, where we love when it's not natural. When our body is screaming to brace itself, and our souls are aching for walls of protection.

He whispers to me to look, to listen...

And I see her momma hold my hand and tell me she has someone believing in her for the first time.

I hear myself telling her once again that I failed to give her the grace that has been given to me.

I listen as she comes down to the floor beside me and hear her say, "I forgive you. I just want your love."

I watch myself cradle a baby I love to the ends of the earth, and know that he will take part of my soul that no other child will have. So, I give it.

I see my husband love when it is not easy to love, and I see him seeking the face of his Savior.

I hear my oldest say we're the luckiest family in the world to have this calling, even when it's not fun.

And I hear myself say yes to Momma as she asks if we will be there by her side to do this with her, to keep believing with her when all is said and done.

My jealousy rises, my soul leaps in my throat, my hands grasp for comfort, and I surrender to the one who surrendered all for me, who gave the most unnatural thing possible. He knows where I am more than I do. He grieved as he led His child to slaughter. He care for this orphaned, rebellious child and made me His own, and He entered the shadowlands with me, and then He grafted the eternity of home in my heart so that I could face the unnatural here on earth.

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Catie
Jamie and I have been foster parents for 18 months and have cared for
13 children in that time period. Five of these have been long term. In addition to our three spunky biological sons (8, 6, and 4), we currently
have two daughters who have lived with us for over a year, and a son who has lived with us for nine months. Our hearts in foster parenting are to be present and engage with our children's families, so that the gospel can seep through our wretchedness, allowing them to see grace and to know it is not the end of their stories. My own blog is
www.thishighcalling.blogspot.com.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Forgotten Fridays: "My Foster Parent Faith Walk"


After our third child was born, Mike and I made a decision--if God called us to have any more children, we would adopt. 


After several years of prayer, we knew our calling: foster and adopt a local child. We have now been licensed foster parents for over two years. So, how many kids now live in our home? Three--the same three we've always had. Here we sit, our family of five, and wonder if we chose the right path. Used the right agency. Made the right decision.

Billboards screamed "Foster Kids are Our Kids!" The tears welled, my heart ached, but the phone didn't ring. The goal of being a child's forever family remained nonexistent.

How could God call us to something and not use us? But, you see, God has used us--for while no one else lives here right now, we have had the opportunity to foster four children. Temporary placements--not our plan, but each time that was the outcome. Four lives that forever changed our inward focus on self. Four lives that very likely will play a role in what vocations my children pursue. Four lives for whom we continue to pray. Not one, but four.

When our journey began, I never imagined I could be "strong enough" to be someone's momma for just a brief moment in time. But, God has stretched me. Used me. Grown me. Changed me. I guess we followed the right path after all. 



---
LeAnne
To read more from LeAnne - visit her blog www.ldklop.blogspot.com

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Advocate Wednesday: Project Sunshine in Champaign County!


Last month my husband, daughter, and I welcomed the birth of our son. It is at the same time a humbling new challenge and a precious gift. In the past week I’ve been getting caught up with all that took place in Champaign County while my involvement was more limited. I really enjoyed meeting with Marissa to hear about the recent project sunshine completed at DCFS. She led a group from a Champaign church in the transformation of a waiting room. A room that’s functional but more importantly a positive space for children who wait there for ‘what’s next’. It’s awesome to see how beautiful the room turned out and how many people got to be involved with the project.

 

The pictures showed children of all ages working together. My heart was happy as saw pictures and heard how they incorporated the project into their Vacation Bible School program. All ages were able to take part, contributing compassionately in some way. Some sewed pillow cases. Others cleaned, painted, and decorated on the work days. Even the youngest children took part by creating the wall art. The cooperation reached beyond the kids at VBS as parents and grandparents got involved too. It was great to see the fruit of the crew’s creative and resourceful efforts. Some cabinets from a recent remodeling project at the sponsor church now bless the agency with much needed storage for snacks for the children who await a placement. They had a stack with a note that told staff to keep out ;). It was so encouraging to see a church come together to fund, plan, and remodel a waiting room. It became clear to me that they operated as a loving family, extending kindness to the ‘forgotten’ in God’s family. It was particularly beautiful to see the children learning an active form of love by serving other children in their community.


Our contact at the agency sent out a thank you email and had positive things to say. I wonder how many children have been able to enjoy the room since it’s been done. I wonder if it encourages them the way it did me. I wonder if the leaves on the tree mural, the handiwork of young children, capture their attention.



Which fun chair do they run to? Instead of sitting at a conference table & chair, do they pick the comfy couch or the freshly re-upholstered, bright yellow chair?


My prayer is for each child that enters that room to feel loved and appreciated and important. My hope is that the room will provide a more inviting and friendly atmosphere. My prayer is that they would feel comforted, knowing that other adults and children care about them and desire that they know they are special; because they are! 

This recent project was encouraging. In the year that TFI has been involved in Champaign County, we have seen churches get organized with a desire to learn the needs in the community and then follow through, meeting them. I am excited to be a part of what’s happening and humbled knowing any good result is from God – His touch on the hearts of His people.  

It has also been a joy to go into the agencies in our community and meet some of the workers that give so sacrificially. I know they have hard jobs. I know they give more than they have most days. I know they see heartbreaking situations daily and deal with cases where a resolution seems painfully distant. Our desire to is to lighten the load, to be of help in whatever capacity we are able, and to engage the Body of Christ in the support and fulfillment of some of these needs. My prayer in the year to come is that we would have the wisdom to understand and pursue our proper role, that the relationship between the agencies and the church would continue to develop, and God’s love would be poured out on the forgotten in the community for His glory.

CLICK HERE to see more pictures from this project and find out how you can get involved in serving the foster care community in Champaign county visit: 

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Jen Young has a passion to share with others the hope and joy she has found in Christ. Jen worked as a Helping Coordinator for a non-profit organization that offered different resources to the local poor but when her daughter was born, she left her job to become a stay-at-home mom. Through her own journey of parenting and a close friend’s foster care experiences, God began showing her His heart for the foster care community and now Jen serves as a Forgotten Advocate. She and her husband Matt have one daughter and are expecting their second child.

“What excites me most about my role as advocate is to watch the Body of Christ respond to the needs!”