Wednesday, December 3, 2014

5 Things I Learned During Foster Parent Training

How you look at things determines what you see
I just want to say thank you to all the people who have supported us through prayer, babysitting, listening and training during these last 10 weeks.  We survived, we thrived, we whined (maybe just a little), we learned.  Now granted we learned much more than five things during all this and really this class would be good for all parents especially those parenting kids from hard places.  I will go on record to say that the training required for an international adoption is inadequate at the very least and insufficient at preparing parents for bringing a child home.  This does not mean to say that what we received these last 3 months was perfect or exhaustive, but very certainly a good start in preparing someone for the arduous yet significant task ahead.  So in no specific order here are at least 5 things I have learned:

Kids Need Compassion  My kids, your kids, the kids down the street, the brat you hear screaming at the toy store, the relentless 3 year old rolling on the floor having a fit.  They all need compassion.  Sometimes it is the last thing you want to offer.  Bad behavior or choices maybe has led to some  uncomfortable consequence or emotions and yet the kids God has given us need to know there is grace for them and that despite the situation we love them.  When we fall to our knees before God do we want to hear a scolding or do we want the arms of grace to surround us with compassion?  The gentle instruction will be much more warmly received after that and probably better delivered too.  With what measure of compassion does God give to us?  And what of that do we as a parents offer to our kids?  I think of the servant forgiven of his debt by his master who then was unwilling to forgive the very small debt owed him in Matthew Chapter 18: 21-35.  View that in light of us and our kids.  We often see that parable in regards to others outside our family or more for adults, but what about parents and kids?  It's a perfect fit.

Good/Right Behavior is NOT the Primary Goal in Parenting  This has been my goal for 10 years worth of parenting.  It may not have been a conscious one, though through my words and actions it has made it's way to the top of the list.  I get embarrassed when my kids misbehave in public because I take it as a direct reflection of my ability to parent.  When my children disobey at home I take it as a direct assault on my authority in the house.  The chaos of unruly boys and fighting brothers is too much to bear some days and I just want them to be good.  At first glance these all seem like nice, reasonable thoughts yet they fall short of the real task at hand in raising children.  It is to nurture and grow the seed of faith God has planted in the hearts of our children.  We want them to know the love of a Savior and the love of a family.  In time they learn to read, write, create and maybe obey, but not because they are made to, but because they learn right and wrong by your patient words and diligent teaching of truth.  A child will begin to trust your guiding when he has learned that he is safe, valued and heard.  If you are only an authoritarian you are only obeyed because you are feared.  I want my children to trust me because I am the first connection they have to God.


I'm Not Ready  About 4 weeks into our classes I realized I was in over my head.  And even now I am completely overwhelmed.  The subject of why kids end up in care is deep and it is real.  The burdens they carry are great and the needs they have are huge.  What I did not realize was how much these scenarios we covered were going to bring up hurts from my own past.  I wish that I could say I have moved on and that I've overcome them, but I have not.  That pain is still real and deep in my heart and unless I have come to a place of healing I cannot help a child walk that path of healing.  One other weighty thing that has come up is that I probably have ADD and that at least one of our boys does too.  Many children in the foster care system have been diagnosed with it and so therefore we learned a lot about it in our training.  As we were going down the list of symptoms Chris and I turned to each other and said, "oh my gosh!  That's ****!"  Then as I dug a little deeper on my own I began to put the pieces together for myself.  I don't really know where to go from this place, but I know that God wanted us to take this training for several reasons and hopefully one of those in the right time will be to welcome more children into our home.


Kids Are People Too  Have you noticed that kids have ideas, thoughts and feelings that are entirely their own?  Sometimes as if they are totally different little persons from you altogether!  My kids feelings matter.  Your kids ideas matter.  Their thoughts and opinions matter.  Now granted they will rarely display these at a convenient time or place during your already hectic day or in a fashion most pleasing.  But they will want to be heard.  In time a child can either learn that they matter or worse yet think they don't.  It may come in a small package, but all the things that come together by the hand of God to make you unique also comes together by the very same God to dwell in the heart of your child.


It Takes a Village  I can't do this alone.  Even with an awesome husband, which I am blessed to have we cannot expect that this monumental task of parenting can be done in a bubble.  I pray you have a church that stands beside you.  Seek out a friend who will partner with you in prayer.  Meet regularly with other people to pour over God's word.  Pick up the phone and call someone in that moment of utter chaos who can speak words of life and peace to you.  We were made for community.  I think I have said that before and I'll say it again.  We need each other.  Maybe your that other person.  See someone downcast or someone who could use a hand or encouraging word?  Be that for them when they don't have the courage to ask or even know where to turn.  In the Foster care system it takes a village of social workers, foster families, school teachers, judges, birth families and many more.  Be part of the village somehow.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Making Time To Make Memories: A Photo Update

An afternoon Sunday hike

Big brother

Growing and getting stronger

Day at the Dulles Plane Pull with Daddy

Now that's a serious snow plow

Turning 10

Wings and Wheels

Fall Festival with our church

Turning 6

Exploring DC

Photo extravaganza in DC

My Boys

Standing Strong

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

More Than a Bunch of Teddy Bears

In this picture you might see a crazy women who has a goodwill addiction or if you think like my kids, a pile of ammo for a stuffed animal fight or maybe you see what I see, HOPE.  I see the kids who will at some point come into our home and need care, love and lots of grace.  You see Chris and I are 2 weeks into a 10 week training course to become foster parents in our county.  These bears are part of my "nesting".  I won't have a child growing in my belly and we won't be doing adoption paperwork, but our family will be growing.  We will welcome kids into our home that are hurting, neglected, confused, angry, and maybe without hope.

I am very thankful for the training we are receiving and from the conference we attended in DC by Show Hope called The Empowered to Connect Conference.  Little by little we are growing our tool belt of knowledge and resources to care for kids from hard places.  My moms group at church will be using the Bible study that goes along with the book The Connected Child by Karen Purvis.  What I'm trying to say is that we are not alone.  We have others who stand shoulder to shoulder with us in this, praying, babysitting, listening and learning.  Granted this has already felt daunting.  The information is overwhelming and the task just a bit scary, but...

"The helpless entrusts himself to You; You are a helper of the fatherless.  
Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their hearts. 
 You will listen carefully 
doing justice for the fatherless and the oppressed 
so that men of the earth may terrify them no more." 
 Psalm 10:14b,17-18

Maybe it's just a bear.  Or maybe it says, "this is mine, someone cares for me and I will always have a room to put it in" even if that home is mine or that someone is me I can always find more bears for each of the children that God brings my way.

Please pray for us and our family as we prepare to open our home to more children in 2015.

With love,

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Raising Godly Men

As a mom of four boys we are on a mission in our house to raise godly men and to teach our boys that there are indeed differences between males and females.  We have each been given different roles and gifts within a family and community.  Daddy is the head of our household, the leader, final decision maker and bread winner.  I am the homeschool teacher, boo boo kisser, cook and the bill payer.  Now this is certainly not an exhaustive list; my husband and I do share a great many duties, but we believe the Bible has given us a template to follow.  It helps us to understand where we each fit in and how to use our gifts to best support the family and to fulfill the purposes and callings to which God has put us.

Natural born leader:  Adam being the first man was given the duty to name all the creatures,  care for creation and to create.

Suitable helper:  Eve was created to be the perfect counterpart to her husband Adam.  She was not  made to follow him around and clean up after him, but to partner with him in his duties of care and creating.

 Now unfortunately due to sin these roles have been all screwed up.  Men are raised without courage. Women are power hungry.  Families are torn apart by divorce.  Single parents struggle to fill the role of both mother and father.  Women do not have strong men to lead their families.  And so many men either are too aggressive or not even truly present for their families.  Women all too quickly step in and take charge, never giving husbands a chance. We are not connected to each other as husband and wife and we don't get our roles.  But Titus chapter 2 gives us a window into how it should go.  I encourage you to check it out.

"In the same way, encourage the young men to be self-controlled in everything.  
Make yourself an example of good works with integrity and dignity in your teaching. 
 Your message is to be sound beyond reproach, 
so that the opponent will be ashamed, having nothing bad to say about us."  
Titus 2: 6-8

We are hoping to stop this cycle with strong biblical teaching, example and a whole lot of prayer!  Last year we taught a Bible class written by John Piper based on his book What's the Difference and let me tell you that raised a lot of eye brows.  We talked about submission, leadership in the church and how we fit into all that.  One other book I highly recommend is Wild at Heart by John Eldridge, a must read for all men and any women with a husband or sons.  My goal today is not to spell it out for you, but my hope is that at least today it will peak your interest and just maybe you will dive into scripture and see what it has to say.

The other day I had proof that maybe we were getting through to at least one of our boys.  Levi and I are just starting our Kindergarten year together and we needed to review letter names and identify things that were created by God or man made.  In the interest of time I figured out a way to combine the activities.  Each letter was on a puzzle piece that corresponded with a brightly colored picture starting with that letter.  We made our way through the pieces matching A and apple then shouting God created.  And so it went.  B and ball, man made.  C and cat, God created.   Then we got to J. Jam.  Levi just nonchalantly says, "women made." moves onto K.  The end.  To him that was a logical answer.  I laughed hysterically, high-fived him and immediately called my husband.  I love my job!

With love,




 





Saturday, August 23, 2014

My Story My History

My dad is a pastor which makes me an infamous PK or pastor's kid made famous by movies like Footloose and A Walk to Remember.  Now I might not have been as wild as Ariel Moore or as docile as Jamie Sullivan, but I did have a wild streak and a high school sweetheart.  I grew up in church; literally in the church building spending my summers as a little kid raiding the kitchen for Little Debbie snacks, pretending to teach school in the Sunday school rooms and eating the elbow macaroni meant for crafts.  My brother and I spent a lot of time with my dad at the church and in the homes of several older ladies of the different congregations.  I went on home communions, nursing home visits and everything in between.  Weddings and funerals were a part of life and I got to be a part of the ministry.  When it snowed we walked to the church and shoveled the parking lot.  At Thanksgiving time I helped my dad prepare 10 or more turkeys for a church dinner.  And so it went as a PK, but it wasn't that simple, because you see I had a mom who wasn't around much and when she was life was hard.  She suffered from mental health issues ranging from depression to what we would later learn to be Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).  Normal would never be a word I would use to describe my growing up years, but I have always had Christ.  Through the teaching and witness of my dad and others in the church my faith grew and grew and truly was what sustained me.  Even when nothing seemed to be consistent, God stood firm never changing and always faithful to His promises.

But He said to me,
 "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." 
 Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, 
so that Christ's power may reside in me.  
2Corinthians 12:9

Over the years we moved a lot, each time I remember secretly hoping for a chance to start over, but scared at the same time.  Maybe this time I wouldn't be the fat kid.  Maybe at this school making friends wouldn't be so hard.  And the last move leading into my junior year of high school I thought my life was over leaving behind a boyfriend, friends, track and cheerleading teams, but also the baggage of a life that didn't totally honor God.  Being a big fish in a little pond has always been my preference, but that isn't what I got.  Home was still a mess, however I did get to start my first real job and it was right alongside my dad!  He served as Director of the Lutheran Mission in Cambridge, MD and I was well.........the janitor.  As it turns out he was able to expand my duties and I got to help with sorting clothes, stocking the food pantry and waiting on customers.  Thrift shops are an indulgence of mine that I am not ashamed. To have the chance to work at one that also shared the love of Jesus and helped those in need was super cool!

Now before my short story gets too long let me introduce the new leading man in our story, my husband Chris whom I met at the new school and was lucky enough to date.  He must have hit his head or something because he was crazy enough to want to marry me, warts, scars and battle wounds.  He accepted it all, all of me, every broken part, even the Jesus girl in me.  He didn't get it yet, but he loved me!

With marriage and a new career as a Marine we were now faced with a whole new set of circumstances to trust God and to see his working in our lives.  This time was different though.  Never before had I needed to find my own church, but we had a lot of things to be new at like being married, looking for work, how to spend money and how to be grown-ups.  God used that time in Hawaii.....Oh did I forget to mention that was where Chris was sent for his first duty station?  It wasn't exactly paradise at first.  I felt very lost there and very much alone.  I had gone from being a daughter to the wife of a Marine all in the same year I graduated high school in, and then moved to an island in the middle of the Pacific. 

In those 4 years, at the church God eventually led us to our eyes were opened to a totally different way of doing church.  Small group ministry was the method by which almost all of the work of the church was done.  Most members were involved in a weekly small group.  They got together in peoples homes to eat, fellowship and share in the Word.  Prayer supported this whole endeavor and accountability to each other made growing my faith a team effort.  I was no longer alone.  I began to grow in my confidence of who God made me and my husband began to attend church with me and he was even coming to small group.  It was here that we witnessed the life changing power of God's word.  With the support of leaders in our church and our small group Chris accepted Christ and was baptized.   

We are back in the Mainland now, with 4 kids and ever changing circumstances.  VA has been our home for almost 10 years, certainly a record for this PK!  I have no idea what the next few years will hold.  I don't even know what the next month will bring, but small group is on the horizon again for our new church and I can't wait to see how God uses that in the next chapter of my story.

The years after we left Hawaii were filled with many trials.  I suffered miscarriages,  Chris was traveling more than he was home and I lost my mom.  In all of this one thing has remained, God's steadfast love for me.  From the time I was a little kid, to the lost young women in Hawaii, to the scared new mom in VA, God has been faithful to me.

Because of the Lord's faithful love we do not perish, 
for His mercies never end. 
 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!  
I say:  The Lord is my portion, 
therefore I will put my hope in Him. 
 Lamentations 3:22-24
 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

True Love

Now I hope that by my title you are not hoping for a wonderfully romantic post about my amazing husband and our perfectly delightful marriage and tips on how to make yours as such.  One of these days maybe I'll take some time to write about just how much God has blessed us in this gift of sharing life together in marriage, but not today.  Today I know deep in my heart God is attempting to stretch my ability to care more deeply and more His way for my children.

Our son Toby has been home over a year and a half now and yet I struggle regularly to feel affection for him.  It has not come easy and probably will not happen anytime soon especially if I keep doing love my way.  In 1Corinthians chapter 13 Paul is writing to the church in Corinth about how to love each other.  They were apparently struggling to do that and given the tension we find in families and churches alike in our own day, it is not hard to imagine what they were going through.  We share different gifts, different strengths and certainly different weaknesses as a church and as a family.  Sometimes those can work in syn or as a compliment to each other or they can rub you raw.  The secret ingredient to all the parts working together is the one thing Paul describes as the only lasting thing, love.


"Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love." 1Cor. 13:13

My Holman Christian Standard Bible puts it this way "Of faith, hope, and love, love is greatest because it continues into the next age.  Both faith and hope will be fulfilled in eternity, and so will not remain."  and thus we can understand why it is of greatest importance to us to live out now.  What we practice now with love will be lived out for all time in Heaven, but thankfully on the other side of a sinful world.

The love I am living out is reflecting a poor image of true love.  I started thinking about how I am the if's in the beginning of Chapter 13.

I love to talk and offer an encouraging word.
I love to sing and lift my voice in worship.
I have a great big faith that believes big things.
I love to be generous in sharing.

But if I do all these things without love I am NOTHING.

Many of these things, if not all I have done in love and with love, BUT my love has found many limits.  I pick and choose where and whom I love.  Can you relate to doing things on your terms?

As I read through this chapter today I use it as a guide for confession time, a way to acknowledge my shortcomings and to seek the perfect image of true love, My Savior and My Redeemer.
Love is patient

Love is kind
Love is not selfish

Love does not keep a record of wrong

Love hopes all things

Set aside some time today to work through the passage.  Make your own list.  Confess.  Seek Him who is perfect in love.  Pray for strength to love more deeply and to go where He leads you.




Monday, August 11, 2014

Got a Testimony? A Story From a Mission Trip To Haiti



Every summer our church sends out several mission teams; some are within the United States and the other is either to Kenya or Haiti.  With the return of these trips many stories are shared with the congregation to tell about praises, experiences, struggles and the working of God's hand in these many places.  When we share what God is doing in our life and in the life of His Church around the world we grow closer to one another and to the love of Christ for His people.  Your testimony is  a powerful thing.  It is unique to you.  No one else will have your same story.  You have a distinct message to share with others.  Here is one man's story of his trip to Haiti.

Worship was amazing.  Worshiping with a group of people from a totally different culture on a small island in the middle of the Atlantic ocean really made me feel small.  It made me realize just how large the Church is.  There are people all over the world worshiping God and it was very humbling.  The thing that really hit me was the sincerity of the worship.  According to our standards, most of these people did not have much.  We too often praise God for all the things we have or the things we get, but the Haitians I met praised God just because He is God.  I didn’t understand a word of the 2 plus hours of worship Tuesday evening, but it was the most powerful worship experiences I have ever had.

I am not sure if I really made a difference in anyone’s life.  I’m not sure exactly why God wanted me to go, but I do know that He really wanted to teach me about dealing with fear.  I have a very, very real fear of flying.  The kind of fear that will grip you and take over all thoughts.  When my daughter and I decided to go to Haiti, I knew the flying would be the most difficult part for me.  I kept putting off thinking about it, but as we got closer to the date, my fear became almost crippling.  I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to go through with it.  Everyone tried to help, but I couldn’t put this fear to rest.   I looked to scripture and started to focus on Philippians 4:13

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

 I thought of our Pastor's recent sermon when Jesus asked a man if he was willing to be healed (John 5:1-14).  Pastor then looked at the congregation and asked if we were willing to be healed, are we willing to surrender all, no matter what the cost?  I determined I was!  

 As we got to the airport, I opened my passport and noticed my wife had written me a note and it ended with Philippians 4:13

 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”   

Later, waiting for the plane, I saw an armband on another team member's wrist which said,

 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” 

 This may sound odd to some of you, but as I sat, waiting to take off on the airplane, praying for strength and courage, something happened that I am convinced was God letting me know all was going to be okay.  I have a passion for working with people with Intellectual Disabilities.  I looked up from praying and in front of me, a young boy looked back from his seat.  He had Down Syndrome and I knew God was providing the comfort I so desperately needed.  He knew exactly what would bring joy to my heart in that moment.  The boy didn’t say a word, but he truly encouraged me. 

 I made it through the flights.  My poor daughter probably had bruises on her hands from my grip as we were taking off .  How many times does Jesus tell us not to fear?  How many times do we read it in scripture?  I really think God wanted me to surrender all of me…to rely on His strength and to not let fear rule me.  If fear had kept me from going, I would have missed out on a truly remarkable experience.  I would have missed a wonderful and powerful week.   

Too often I have let fear run my life.  Whether it be fear of dying or fear of failing, or fear of what others may think, I now know that I can rely on God to get me through it.  When I got home I went running with a good friend.  We had discussed my fear of flying and he was praying for me.  He had a gift for me.  He had gotten me a running shirt, and you’ll never guess what it said on the back?

 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”


  Each of us has a story to tell and I think it is safe to say that God worked in each of our hearts during that week.










I am thankful for friends like this at church and in my community who are bold enough to show the world their imperfect selves so that our Perfect Savior Jesus Christ is made know through them.


"You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 
 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. 
 Instead they put in on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 
 In the same way, let your light shine before men, 
that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."  
Matthew 5:14-16
View from our front steps of God's handiwork

With love,
Ruthie