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Friday, September 28, 2012

Forgotten Fridays: From a foster mama's heart

A Kingdom- Minded Day in Family Court


I've always hated family court days.

The emotional weight over my own children's cases that those days hold are heavy for me, but it's also the atmosphere, the penetrating functionality of lives that hang in the balance, cluttered by consequences, paperwork, and waiting, sprinkled with the influence of social workers, lawyers, and judges - everyone attempting to do their jobs well.

Almost exactly a year ago was my first day in family court. We were scheduled to send Baby M home, but waiting turned into four hours. Parents walking in and out, and children rolling on the floor, whining because they've been still for so long for something they don't understand. And, then I heard it. From one of the meeting rooms, a woman wailed. As I watched through the window, her lawyer slipped through the door as she pulled herself to the fetal position in her chair, and she bellowed the groan of grief.

Since that moment, I've dreaded family court days.

My children look forward to them. It's an extra visit with Momma or Daddy, Ipad time on the benches, and fun snacks from Momma Catie. They know everyone is tense, but it really doesn't seem to phase them, because their definition of heaven is simply being with Mommy or Daddy,
no matter what the circumstances.

We are emotionally charged. There's the day they gave Jamie and I are own room because we were heartily discussing our children's future, and thoroughly disagreeing.

We're passionate people.

Baby J's family court day was last Thursday. I woke early, hit my knees, and asked God to give me His eyes as I walked into court. I asked that He would set my steps and hope secure, my conversations purposeful.

Then, I packed a bag full of bubbles, playdough, coloring books, and toys and headed to court.

I missed seeing the judge. I missed seeing the lawyer. I missed seeing my boy's Daddy until the end.

Instead, I talked with Grandmom for an hour. I shared pictures and stories of her grandchild. I told her of my sin, my sorrow, the Hope that does not disappoint us.

Then together, we went to the waiting children, the ones who don't understand as they sit for hours waiting. That day, they said Momma was with the big people, or Daddy was in trouble, or they were waiting to see Mommy for just a minute.

Grandmom and I gave away the playdough, and the bubbles, and the colors, and we played, and we told them they were special.

This morning Grandmom called. She cried, as she talked of how she hasn't been able to get our day at family court out of her mind.

She told of how for the first time she's been wondering, if she was made for more than just surviving. I used to hate family court days. I'll probably always dread them. But perspective changes everything, because I, you, they - we were all made for more. We were made for Jesus.


----

Catie Lumpkin 


Jamie and Catie Lumpkin have been licensed foster parents for 18 months and cared for thirteen children during that time period. They have three young biological sons and three long term foster children. Their journey daily takes them to the foot of the cross, where they find strength to love and serve their children's families, their caseworkers, and other parties involved.

To read more from Catie, visit her blog at:www.thishighcalling.blogspot.com


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Advocate Wednesday: Becky in Bakersfield, CA

faithful God.....
I was reminded again yesterday just how faithful our God is - and I can't stop rejoicing!
He's always working. Orchestrating His plan for our lives. Caring for the fatherless around the world. I stand amazed at how He moves and works on behalf of those He loves!

You see, we hosted an orphan from Taiwan over the summer. She was 7. She spoke no English and we speak no Mandarin. She walked into our hearts that Saturday at LAX and we haven't stopped thinking about her since.

We did not have international adoption on our radar - not for our family. If we were going to adopt again, it would be through foster care, not internationally. So, when friends and family (and our social worker) all questioned "why" do they bring orphans to the US?
Why are you hosting her?
Are you going to adopt her?
How will you send her back?
And a whole host of other questions, I started doubting the wisdom in signing up to be a host family.
Was it good for her?
Was it a trick to get us to fall in love and adopt her?
Why are we doing this?
We did it because there was a need, and we wanted to meet that need. We did it because a precious little girl needed a place to stay for two weeks - and I figured we can do anything for two weeks, right? We did it because we wanted to be used to share the love and truth of Jesus with a little girl who needed to hear that she was loved - by Him and by us!

I have to say, it was an amazing experience. I had the joy of watching my children love without words. It was precious to hear them laugh and play and "talk". Each of my children amazed me with their love and servant's hearts for our special visitor.

Shih-wun was brave and funny and kind and loud. She was gentle with our guinea pigs. She shared her french fries and candy and oreos with my kids. She blew bubbles for Levi. She learned how to sing Jesus Loves Me in English. And she sang it over and over and over again. My heart swelled as I listened to all the kids singing with her in the van - first in Mandarin and then in English and then in Mandarin and then in English - over and over.

As quickly as her arrival came, it was time to pack up and take her back to the airport. And then the reality sank in - for all of us. When she woke up the next morning, she would be back in the orphanage. All the questions came racing back - how can we send her back?

We were asked by the agency if we were interested in pursuing adoption? Um....yes? no? We had no real clear answer from the Lord. So we prayed.

Over the last months we have talked about and prayed for this special little girl. We have asked ourselves and the Lord if we are supposed to adopt her.
Silence.
Nothing.
We have waited for Him to tell us to "go".

And then....
I received an email from a lady named Donna. It said " We are very excited to tell you that God has chosen to bless our family with precious Shih-wun."


SHIH-WUN HAS A FOREVER FAMILY!

I am in awe of how the Lord has so beautifully orchestrated the details of her unfolding story. Donna and I were able to talk yesterday about how the Lord lead them to their daughter - miracle after miracle, I tell you. While His answer to us was "wait", He was speaking to the hearts of a family on the other side of the United States. "Your family is not complete, yet. You have a daughter waiting for you."

I am rejoicing - so full of praise - as I think about Shih-wun being a treasured daughter for this family whose heart is for the orphan. Their older daughter was adopted from Haiti and their son is from Guatemala. Donna said, "our family is truly a rainbow, a beautiful picture of what heaven will be like!"

The Lord is writing her story. One page at a time. We are a small, two week chapter in her life. How thankful I am to have had the chance to tell a precious child that Jesus loves her. What a blessing to see her heart gladly accept the truths of the Bible - with true child-like faith. Truly, we received far more than we gave.

And now, we get to be part of her journey home. My heart rejoices that this once-upon-a-time-orphan will know the love of a family and even more, the love of a Savior.


He is so good and so faithful!!!

To God be the glory, great things He has done! 

  

----
Becky 

Becky and her husband Dominic have five children and are foster parents. When their hearts were burdened by the enormity of needs in the foster care system, they desired to be a voice for the fatherless. As an Advocate, Becky has a front row seat in watching the Body of Christ use their gifts and talents to share the love of Jesus with the foster care community. 

See what's happening in Bakersfield!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Forgotten Friday: Choosing to See


Sometimes I need little, subtle reminders in my day that God is good, when it feels like I am drowning in devastation with the families I work with.
I had a horrible moment this week.  One of my kids sees a counselor on a weekly basis.  This counselor walked into my office and he told me some of the worst words…

“Did you know he has been tied up to a chair and beaten with a belt on multiple occasions?”

Really? It doesn’t even seem real.  How does this even happen?  Can this be real?  Who does this? Seriously.  It is moments like this that I wonder how God can be good? How can God allow this?  But its choosing to see that GOD IS GOOD.  It is moments like this that I need to be filled with Truth.  Truth that God cares for this precious kid, Truth that God is a just, righteous God, Truth that God’s heart is for this little guy, Truth that He makes beauty from ashes.

It is our choice how we let our daily circumstances shape us.  Are you going to let the bad curve balls in life bring you down or choose to see that God is good, even admidst the heartache?  It is completely our choice in how we handle the circumstances that life brings us.
------
Jenna Rieker 

Jenna graduated from Bradley University in December 2010 with a Bachelor in Social Work. Jenna has been working at a local social service agency as a child welfare specialist since she graduated. Jenna feels God's calling to continue her education in the field and work towards her Masters in Social Work, in hopes to learn how to better serve the forgotten in the community. To read more on Jenna's experiences working in foster care, you can follow her blog at walkinglifewithchrist.wordpress.com.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Advocate Wednesdays—Charisa from Augusta County

A friend posted a while back on facebook that compassion is messy and it hurts.
I agree. It does hurt.
It breaks my heart and at times can overwhelm me when I look at Journey Bags and think of the pain that is in the children’s lives that causes them to need such a bag.
As I stand in a finished Sunshine Room and think of the visits that will happen there, I can be brought to tears thinking of the children, the birth families and the foster parents.
When I see needs that come across my email I am reminded to be thankful for what is to most of us simple basic needs.  A twin bed. A toddler bed. A car. A fridge. A stove. A washer. Clothes.
At times I can be overwhelmed and feel like I need to solve it all. My husbanded reminded me this morning
6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7
I need to turn it over to Him. I need to rely on Him. I need to TRUST Him. with everything.
I have hurt more in the last 4 years for others than ever. I have cried for people and children I have never even met.  I have begged God for things that didn’t come to pass.
And it hurt.
But I would not trade this path we are on for anything—
because while I have hurt—
I have also seen miracles, redemption, renewed lives and God move in ways I never would have dreamed.
And that is worth it.
~Charisa
___________________________________________________________________________
Forgotten Advocate: Augusta County, VA Charissa Knight Family picture
Charisa and her husband Greg have 5 children (two of whom they adopted from Ethiopia). Charisa’s was first introduced to foster care as a 6th grader, when she became best friends with her neighbor who was a foster child. Her heart for the orphaned and oppressed compelled her to become a Justice Advocate for IJM and to do more for the foster care community but she wasn’t sure how. When she stumbled upon The Forgotten Initiative, she knew that this was her answer.
“I have been blessed to watch the local church community come together and open up their hearts to the children, families, and workers affected by the foster care system.”
Find Current Needs and Events for Augusta County here.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Make a Difference Monday: Impact or Obedience?

Hello dear friends!  I've got a lot on my heart this morning....

We all want to make a difference. Right?  We want to know that our life matters.  That when we face death, we will know that the world will have been a better place because we lived. 

But what happens when we feel like our life doesn't matter?  What if we cannot see the difference we are making?

In ministry it is natural and good to focus on how we are making a difference.  What is our impact?  How can we make more of a difference?

But oh how quickly our focus can become skewed.

How quickly can our target and what we work towards be impact. And bigger and better impact,  instead of obedience

Moment by moment dependence on Jesus.  The one who called us to ministry in the first place - the One who knows the plan.

I'm not saying it's bad to dream and plan - it's not but I know first hand how quickly the dream and the plan can become too important to me and I forget WHO is in control anyway.  I can get so caught up in the BIG dream that I forget to love on the person right in front of me - like my husband - or my six awesome kids...  It's not as exciting to clean the toilets as it is to strategize a plan to change the world! :) 

The Lord has been speaking quietly but clearly to my heart lately.  To rest.  To listen. listen. listen. and obey. 

I encourage you my friends, to do the same.  I don't want to be so busy making my plans that I miss out on HIS plan.  I want to enjoy the moments - to be fully present with my family, to be Jesus to those I encounter along the way - and to passionately walk out my calling with TFI as well.

What has the Lord been saying to you lately?

I want to encourage you to listen to these two broadcasts.  They really spoke to my heart when I first heard them when they first aired - nearly two years ago but once again - I have been challenged.   

Finding Hope After Your Dream Dies: Part One

Finding Hope After Your Dream Dies: Part TWO

---
Jami



Jami Kaeb 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.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Forgotten Friday: The Less Traveled Road


This Road

For as long as memory serves, I can recall us "good Christians" always asking God for some sign to reveal His will for our life- something tangible, an audible voice, a recognizable reminder that He is here with us, holding our hand, leading the way, steering the wheel.

I've even been guilty myself of making deals with Him.

"God, if you will do this for me, then I will do this for you. 'Let this cup pass from me,' and then I will know you exist and care for me." Or, something along those lines-my decisions always predicated on what He would first show or do for me. And so for most of my life, I became a waiting expert- content to wait for that ostensible sign from God above, hoping somehow for a miraculous revelation of His holy road map for my life.

That was easy.

A much harder theology to embrace is that in order to find we must seek, and that seeking by definition means acting not reacting- doing something before we may feel led or inspired to actually do it.

Doing it before we get our sign.

So a few years ago my family, spurred on by the words of James to the early Christians, decided to turn down a less traveled road. We hadn't exactly heard God's royal voice, nor had we seen the irrefutable evidence of His will. Didn't feel some great calling either or especially qualified to do anything other than what we had been doing in our past.

We just figured we had an extra bedroom for some kids who might need a safe place to land for a while.

And so now, I find it mildly curious when people ask me if I worry about how fostering and adopting might negatively affect my biological children, even though a few years earlier I might have asked the same question of others so inclined. My answer is always the same:

Not worried a bit.

Worried about as much as I might worry about how my wife birthing another one herself would "harm" them. Not even a blip on the worry radar. In fact, what I really worry about is trying to explain to my kids how my religion demands I care for the defenseless, how my religion demands I give food, drink, and clothes to the needy, how we have such a charmed life- a life full of blessings and bounty and how we could then choose to ignore during the week the faith we profess on Sunday. How could we refuse to share in our undeserving abundance?

I worry more about obscuring His truth in a reclusive, self-absorbed, self-seeking, self-indulgent bushel of me.

I worry more about the negative effects of complacent faith, deceiving us into believing the chief aim of mankind is self-gratification at every given moment in time- a lifeless faith that never challenges us to get over ourselves

A faith without sacrifice.

Because,

God didn't save me to church attendance. God didn't save me to one hour of Sunday entertainment. God didn't save me to build up walls against those different from myself. He saved me to serve Him. He saved me to care for the least of my brothers.

He saved me to rescue the perishing and care for the dying.

I would be lying if I said our journey down this road was not without its sadness. The truth is our experience (despite appearances) hasn't been some cutesy, idyllic, picture perfect postcard of blissful living. It has been and continues to be hard work with a little bit of everything else mixed up and thrown in together. We've learned a lot about ourselves, about our children, about humility, about the kind of faith we hope to have one day.

And, in this process, we are still discovering something else:

We'll never see the signs along the side of the road,

while sitting quietly in

the parking
courtesy of photobucket.com
lot...

---
Jeff Jordan

Jeff married his high school sweetheart 20 years ago and together they have three biological children and two daughters whom they are adopting from foster care. He shares from his heart and personal experiences in hopes that those who read will see the Father's heart.

Read more from Jeff at: www.jeffjordanblog.com

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Advocate Wednesday: Hear from Denise in Prescott


What do you imagine is probably the most difficult thing for people in our world to believe about the Christian faith? I think it's simply the idea that God is good because there is so much pain in the world.

20,000 kids a day will die just because their parents can't give them enough food. 20,000 today, 20,000 tomorrow, 20,000 the next day....How are they supposed to believe that God is good? What about all the children that are hurting, suffering, abused, alone, abandoned. How are they somehow supposed to find it believable that God is good?

What is God's plan for making it believable...that He is good for those who are hurting so much in our world. Well the answer from the Bible is surprising because...

WE ARE THE PLAN!

Do you remember when Jesus says to his disciples in Matthew 5? “You are the light of the world. Let your light so shine among men so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Notice that Jesus does not say “you might be the light of the world” or “you could be the light of the world”or “I sure hope that you turn out to be the light of the world”. Jesus says to us “you're it!”

The Apostle Paul says one of the most amazing things in II Corinthians 5:20 “we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (emphasis added)

So for 2,000 years, Christians have been trying to make it believable that God is good, especially to those who are hurting and in pain, by going to them and showing them the love of God.

So if there is people who are suffering because they have never heard that God loves them, offers forgiveness and eternal life, we are the ones that get to go and share the Gospel with them.

If others are suffering because they need food, we can help them with that. If others need shelter, we can help them with homes, and when we do these things, they see us as the Body of Christ actually show up. Then it becomes believable to them that God is good.

I know in my own life, I can look at the magnitude of the need of children in foster care and look at our own resources and feel so powerless. It reminds me of a time when the disciples felt the same way.

Remember the story of the feeding of the 5,000? People were getting hungry. The disciples tell Jesus to send everyone home so that they can eat. But Jesus basically says no, you feed them. The disciples looked at the magnitude of the need and then they looked at their own resources and said in essence “well, this can't have anything to do with us”. But what does Jesus say? He simply asks “well, what do you have?” They don't have anything except a little boy's lunch with 5 loaves and 2 fish. What does Jesus say? He simply says “give it to me.”

Jesus asks “What do you have...will you give it to me?”

In that moment Jesus proceeds to take responsibility for the miracle and then feeds 5,000 people. He wasn't asking the disciples to perform a miracle. He didn't ask the disciples “well do you have enough?”. He just asked them “will you give me what you have so that I can do the miracle?”

My prayer is that God will rescue us from all things of fear and lead us with courage into a world that is yearning to see the goodness of God through us.

---
Rodney & Denise SteidingerDenise

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.