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Friday, November 30, 2012

Forgotten Friday's: Welcoming Jesus

The first time I preached after we welcomed our children into our home, it was during the Advent Season. I mentioned to my husband in passing how I related to Mary in a totally different context, not just as a first-time mom, but as a foster mom, and he asked me to expound on that in the pulpit.

Honestly, I found her story anew because I was a special kind of desperate. In the early months of fostering these three special and beautiful children-Tabbitha, Heather, and Ty-I felt overwhelmed, unprepared, and even panicked from time to time. Foster care can be an extremely lonely and frustrating venture, so I went looking to God's Word for the encouragement and motivation to keep persevering in the sacred task of rebuilding little lives caught in the devastation this fallen world has to offer.
I found hope in a most unexpected place: the Innkeeper's Stable.

As I revisited that timeless tale filled with promise and hope for all God's people, His presence assured me that I truly wasn't alone: God chose Mary to mother Jesus, and I found fellowship in her story-a young mom who probably spent most of her days with an acute awareness of her sinful heart as she fostered Jesus.

Sounds familiar.

Only for her, it was much more complicated as the child in her care was PERFECT.

Mary did not go looking for a great big assignment from her Creator. In fact, she had her own plans and dreams when God interrupted her life with one visit from a special messenger. Mary represented EveryWoman, and gave depth to the belief that all people, including those who are poor in spirit (like me) could host the Son of God in their hearts, and maybe even their homes.

The last two years have taught our family so much, but the greatest lesson of all? Letting love open the door of our home and our hearts has been such a means of grace to us. We have seen Jesus eat at our table. He has given us sticky kisses, and His laughter has echoed down our halls.

I still have moments of doubt and fear even as we look forward to our Gotcha Day in January. God is so faithful to remind me of another player in the story of Jesus' birth-the Innkeeper...the owner of that Middle Eastern Motel. Remember him? The guy didn't exactly roll out the red carpet for the pregnant lady!

He couldn't figure out a way to make room for a chance to entertain the One who lived and breathed redemption's song.

What he missed.

What I would miss if I hadn't made room or found margin in my life for Jesus and all the ways He comes to me. The most prominent way is through our children and as He promised in Matthew 25, when we care for them, we are really tending to Jesus. There is no greater joy than to look into their eyes and see that God is near.

God used a young foster mom to help orchestrate the most blessed event in History, as she welcomed Emmanuel, God With Us.

Two thousand years later, we can either act like that innkeeper-finding no space for Him, or like Mary, who opened her whole life as an invitation for Him to dwell.
The promise is real, and the forgotten ones are waiting to bring us nearer to the heart of the Most High.

"Whoever welcomes a child like this in My name welcomes Me."



---
Lauren Alexander is a storyteller, preacher’s wife, and mama passionate about foster care advocacy. She lives for finding victory through the pages of Scripture + dancing with her babies. Read more about The A* Team's adventures at www.ateamfamily.com

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Advocate Wednesdays: Melisha in Columbia, SC


I have been a Forgotten Advocate for almost five months, and that time has overlapped with our “waiting time” to become foster and adoptive parents.  One of my greatest joys in these past few months has been simply to be used by God to serve the foster care community in ways that I never thought possible.  God has amazed me!

Early November, I was able to share about TFI and our city’s needs in a local church.  I walked away with twenty-five names of people that were interested in serving and many of those people were specifically interested in mentoring.  Interestingly, TFI Columbia does not currently have a mentoring program, but I walked away from that building thinking, “God, You are obviously up to something here!  Please help me to steward well these people who want to serve.”  Feeling slightly really overwhelmed, I emailed the TFI leaders for advice and the contacts I have in my local DSS to assess the need.  A very excited worker emailed me back saying she was “thrilled beyond words” to get my email.  What a great encouragement to see God connecting the dots and begin the work of meeting a desperate need!  I feel so honored to be a voice for the needs around me, in the name of Jesus.

I’ve been stewing over this verse for several days: “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God” (John 3:21 NIV).   That phrase “done through God” could also be stated as wrought, performed, worked out, or produced by God.

I can plainly see that God’s hand is at work in and through me, as I desire to walk in His truth and light.  However, John 3 pinpoints our greatest goal: For those around us to plainly see that every good thing in our lives is a work of our mighty and gracious God!

---
Melisha 

After having two biological children, Melisha and her husband Ryan, began the domestic adoption process and through this experience, God moved them to also pursue foster parenting. They serve full time in campus and family ministry through GraceLife Church. As a homeschooling mom, Melisha’s motto is “Make disciples!” She is excited to do this in her family and in every opportunity God gives her.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Make a Difference Monday: "God doesn't need us to be ___________"

"God doesn't need us to be supernatural, He needs us to trust and obey."  

On Sunday, my pastor Mark said these words and they have stuck with me.  I'm so thankful this is the case.  I am so thankful He uses selfish, imperfect, messed up folks like myself to do His work.   I'm also thankful for How he continues to challenge and convict me of my selfishness but only in a way that is grace filled.  Whenever I am chastised by the Lord, I feel hope and loved.  When I'm being guilted and condemned by Satan, I feel hopeless.  But that's another post entirely. :)

On today's Make a Difference Monday, I want to encourage you with my Pastor's words.

"God doesn't need us to be supernatural, He needs us to trust and obey."

Do you believe this?

Do I?

How often do we try and wait to serve until we feel its the 'perfect' time, the 'perfect' circumstances, the 'perfect' version of ourselves?  God doesn't call us to have it all figured out.  He doesn't call us to be God.  He calls us to trust and obey.

What is that thing.  That feeling, that question, that cause that you can't get off your mind?  Maybe it's time to just take the next step and trust Him - even when, no, especially when you can't see how it's all going to turn out.

Please let us know if we can pray for you.  We would be honored to partner with you in prayer!

"God doesn't need us to be supernatural, He needs us to trust and obey."

And that's today's, Make a Difference Monday!


------
Jami
Jami 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.


To visit her personal blog visit: www.lifewithapersonalgod.blogspot.com

Monday, November 19, 2012

Make a Difference Monday: Gifts of Purpose



During this holiday season there are so many things to spend our money on...gifts to buy... stockings to stuff.....

What if we as the Body of Christ gave a gift of purpose this year? 


2012 Gifts of Purpose Promo from Lifesong for Orphans on Vimeo.


This year the catalog features a gift that can benefit the foster care community through the TFI First Response Program. 

Urgent needs arise quickly for those in the foster care community. First Response was created to provide a way for these immediate, physical needs to be met 100% of the time through the Body of Christ.

Why First Response?

We want to follow the James 2 model and show the love of Jesus to those who feel forgotten by meeting immediate, physical needs.

James 2:14-17 "What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

First Response is also a great way to help prevent the trauma of unnecessary transition for children, like Kaylee who is featured in this years catalog.  (link to the catalog is below) 

Through the First Response Initiative we seek to help:

1. Teens aging out of the foster care system are left with little to call their own – giving them no jump start into independent living and making it very difficult to succeed.

2. Grandparents or other relatives are the first ones called on when children are removed from their homes. Though these "relative foster parents" are often physically unprepared to care for these children, many choose to bring them into their homes so that the children remain with family.

3. "At Risk" Families often struggle to meet unexpected, physical needs of their children, thus causing them to be at risk of having their children removed from their homes and put into the foster care system.

4. Foster Parents are often called to take in children with only a moment’s notice – leaving them little or no time to prepare.

Will you consider giving a gift of purpose and supporting TFI First Response? 

To donate: Click Here
(make sure to mark your donation specifically for First Response)

To view the entire Lifesong Gifts of Purpose Catalog and to read Kaylee's story: Click Here

Your financial support and prayers make our mission possible!  Thank you!!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Advocate Wednesdays: Finding My Calling

Today I just wanted to share a recent experience that has taught me an important lesson—that we are not responsible for everything.
God has called us each to different ways of serving Him.
Several months ago we went through the process to be approved for foster care. We had signed up for emergency short term care or respite.  That’s what we felt called to do and what we thought our family could realistically handle.
We then received a request to take a baby in. long term. I wrestled in my heart.
How do you say no? What would Jesus do? It’s a baby! Why doesn’t anyone else say yes? How can we say no?
I talked to my husband and he wasn’t quite sure but said to do what I felt was right.  So I said yes.
( a lesson to be learned right there!)
I went down to pick the sweet child up and as soon as I held them in my arms, I knew. This was not the plan for us.
The child was beautiful and sweet as could be.
But I knew that I was so far outside of God’s will that I was physically sick. I prayed. I called friends who foster to help me work through my feelings to make sure that I wasn’t just emotional or overreacting. I prayed some more.
The next morning I called our social worker (who also happened to be a Christian) and just completely shared from my heart how I was feeling. That I said yes because I just kept asking myself what would Jesus do and how could I not say yes.  Her response?  “Charisa, you are not Jesus”  No, clearly I am not. :) 
My lessons? 
A lesson in humility for one. It was a very humbling experience for me.
God calls us all in different ways to help the children that He loves. My calling (for now) is through respite and support of those who are called to foster.  If I fill my plate up with stuff that He hasn’t called me to do then I can’t do the things He has asked me to do—or I can do them but not do them well. 
Just because He has called others to serve in one way doesn’t mean that’s how He has called me.
It is so easy to compare and measure ourselves against others.
Every single part is important and needed—whether it’s offering respite, encouraging foster parents, filling journey bags, loving on social workers or praying. It’s all worthy!
What has He called you to?
P.S.  One of my best buds has that sweet child and it is clearly where they need to be. I see them often and am loving watching them grow into a family. Now I can do what I am CALLED to do---provide respite and support to a family who is called to do the actual fostering.

~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.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Forgotten Fridays: Hear from a foster dad


Back to the Future...

If you are reading this now, it is because your mother and myself, agreed now was the right time. When I wrote this several years ago, we had no idea what the "right" time would be- no special insight, no clinical training, no crystal ball. All we knew is that it would come, and that we would know it in the way we know when to plant the garden, or when to go fishing, or even when to wake up in the morning- that our collective intuition would plot a distinct course. And so now, the signs are unmistakable and impossible to ignore any longer.

The time has come.

This letter isn't some secret revelation as both of you were old enough to recall inklings of your beginnings when you were adopted into our home- you both knew another mother and father before our paths crossed. Rather, it is an explanation of our motivations then, our fears now, and our hope for you both to find peace despite your current strife.

These are thoughts to which written words are better suited- words requiring more careful thought than casual correspondence, and which add some distance between speaker and audience- space and time to contextualize them with proper emotion. And that is why we chose this way.

Through no fault of your own, seemingly diabolical circumstances were thrust upon you. The mother and father you first knew couldn't care for you the way parents should. There are many reasons for their failures then, but insufficient fondness for their offspring was not one of them.

They loved you. And, they cared for you in the way they had been cared for themselves.

They cared for you the best they could.

This happened to you as we were beginning to accept that our family had stopped growing. We had other children who had come and gone. We had other children we had tried to make our own. We had failed with them all.

We had given up.

And then, the call came. It wasn't some fairy-tale or Hollywood script of love at first sight for you or us. For good reason you were wounded and we were wary. At first, our decision to keep and raise you wasn't because we immediately felt some overwhelming emotion.

Because of our faith in something more, we made a decision to love you.

The feelings came quickly, however. Soon, we loved you as our own seed and wished for you the same blessings as we wished for the two brothers and one sister you inherited. We shared tears and laughter and everything in between. You became one of us.

And, we became part of you.

Still, the nagging conflicts about who you really are simmered inside.

And now, you have lived with us for all these years and know us as mother and father. For this we are thankful. But, we know the curiosity of your past has compelled a search for a potentially different tomorrow. And the selfish truth be known, we wish the relationships of today outweighed your compulsion to begin that quest. Knowing this is not the case, however, we are content in your journey to wherever this road leads.

You have our blessing to discover all that you want to know.

But, please always know that our home is your home and that it feels empty without you. Please know that we will always love you no matter what your destination. Most importantly, always know that a greater, Heavenly Father loves you more than any mother of father ever could and has prepared a home for you beyond your wildest imagination.

We hope only that you remember your time with us, that as days pass you will think about your time here with fond recollections. We hope that you will continue to honor the God we all serve with your words and decisions. We hope to be part of your lives no matter what happens and that you find a peace in this life and a home in the one yet to come.

Most of all, we hope that when we are gone,


you will hold sacred the space around you,

because of a familiar spirit

that lingers about the air

our lungs once breathed...






----
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, November 7, 2012

Advocate Wednesday: Are you fully convinced?


My family and I had the privilege of going to a Christian Childrens Home called Casa Vida y Esperanza (The House of Life and Hope) in Magdalena, Mexico in October for a long weekend. They have a campus of about 7 homes that have each taken in children, with the mission of mentoring young lives with the truth, love, and hope of Jesus Christ for today and forever. This includes meeting their physical, mental, and spiritual needs through education, training, and the security and stability of a home life.  

While we were there, the director received a phone call that 4 children needed a place to go. No known father and their mother had been gone for 3 days and was not coming back. These children ranged from age 9 to 1, and had lived alone for the past 3 days.

I witnessed the director share with different staff members the situation with some form of the question “could you take 4 more children into your home?”

It wasn't a question of should we take them.

I had the opportunity to go with one of the staff members to the store to pick up some basic necessities for these children: socks, underwear, shoes, diapers.

Within hours, the children were dropped off at Casa Vida y Esperanza...not knowing one person there.

I was amazed to see the willing hearts of the staff....people were shuffled around and a home and a family was created that day.

The impact of what had happened did not hit me until we were back home again.

I had recently been studying through Romans 4 about the faith of Abraham. The Scripture says speaking of Abraham in verse 20 “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”

Then came the question: Are you fully convinced that God has the power to do all he has promised you in Christ?

I have wrestled with this question for weeks now! I didn't feel like I could answer that with a resounding “YES”!

I want to....I realize it's pretty easy to say “yes, of course”, but also realize the difference between saying that with my mouth and then my thoughts and actions not communicating the same.

I am thankful that my family and I had the opportunity to see the power of God and faith lived out in the lives of passionate people with servant hearts. Thank you Jesus! Thank you CVE!

 
 
Denise Steidinger
Forgotten Advocate, Prescott AZ
 
 
Rodney & Denise SteidingerRodney & 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.