God’s Faithfulness in Foster Care

Brian’s blog post a few nights ago motivated me to put some of my similar thoughts down so we could remember this journey more fully.

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In the past six months our new family of 4 + Beau the Border Collie have experienced an extreme amount of joy and more than our share of blessings. We wake up to mostly happy (we are still fully aware of “the Fall” and a lack of sleep is a direct result) and healthy toddlers who make us feel like we hung the moon and a few stars. In a lot of ways our journey so far has been a lot of sweet, and we have seen God’s faithfulness over and over again.

There has been so much good, but the reality of foster-care is that there is also a lot of unknown. The unknown is what brings me to my knees and reminds me of my need to cling to Jesus. There are twists and turns you don’t see coming, and sometimes they jolt you and startle you…and that’s okay, because it reminds me of my need of a Savior.

The Lord, in His faithfulness, has been teaching me that I may not see the outcome I want in this journey, but maybe I will. There is so much unknown….and that’s okay. It doesn’t make it easier or less hard, but what we as foster parents are doing (ALL of us, not just the Maloy clan) is of eternal significance.

In the midst of unknown, I do know that I must be fully present. I must be faithful to today and then faithful to tomorrow when it comes. Each day a gift and a new day to love these two treasures.

So, I must remember to trust, and in my trusting remember what’s completely out of MY control is completely in HIS. I’m called to be faithful, and my faithfulness is enough.

I’m not the savior of these kids. It’s my job to love them in the same way Jesus loves me and them – fully. In the known and the unknown on the good days and the bad, this journey is worth it.

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Protector

We are long overdue for a Maloy Family post… lots of chaos lately! But a thought struck  me this week that I needed to sit down and get out of me (and share with you).

We have had our share of ups and downs in our 6 months of being Foster Parents, and we have certainly had more than our share of blessings.  That said, I will be honest — we would absolutely love to adopt our kids.  We cannot imagine life without them now, even though everything has changed so drastically.  But adoption for us is not a certainty. There are a lot of details we cannot share — but suffice it to say, there are many hoops to jump through and we need to allow the system to handle it appropriately, and if the opportunity comes, we will certainly adopt.

But, this is hard.  We kiss our kids goodnight, tuck them in, and then check on them half a dozen times before we hit the sack — and there is no promise that they’ll be there in a year, or even a month.  That’s just the reality of Foster Care.  It is hard.

I give all this “vague” backstory to tell you this — it is hard for me as a Dad.  I want to protect my family, I want to protect my kids.  I believe Dads/Husbands/Men are called to protect and sacrifice for those around them.  I would do everything in my ability to make this happen for my family, my wife, and my children.  But with my kids, it’s very difficult to guarantee I can protect them forever.  I may not be able to protect them from whatever the outcome is in their particular case.  I hope it’s in their best interest, and I hope that means adoption with us — but there is NO guarantee I can protect them from what could happen in the future.

Now this is not an ominous blog post, and this is not a soapbox about the Foster Care System — this is simply me, a Foster Dad, sharing my heart about the struggle I have each day (especially when I am reminded of the uncertainty of my fatherhood), and the difficulty in not being able to protect my kids from whatever uncertainty may come in their lives.

It is really hard.  But it has taught me (again) the deep importance in surrender.  That I must trust this to God.  I cannot manipulate, control or change the situation.  I can simply love and protect my kids each day and surrender the worry of the future to God.  It’s a very unsettling and very peaceful place to be. 

Family Man

In a few days it will have been 5 months since our little kiddos came to our home. It’s funny because I can barely remember life before February 9th — and it’s okay.

Everything about our lives has changed in the last 5 months — our morning routine is totally different, we get up way earlier, go to bed way earlier, there are cheerios all over the house, we listen to a lot more kid music, we have random dance parties, we all stand and look out the front storm door a lot more to see what’s happening in the cul-de-sac, we have new fresh outlook on the importance of favorite teddy bears and giraffes, we also calm down fussy moments, anticipate possible meltdowns, and pray that naptime and bedtime come easy — but every little bit of this new life is totally worth it.

I could list all the things I (we) have given up, sacrifices that have been made, stressful moments and nerve-wracking changes — but truth be told, it doesn’t matter. My life has changed, our lives have all changed — and it’s good. It’s so much better than I would have expected.  To be blunt, we know it’s because God has been faithful just like He promises to be.  He called us to be Foster Parents, to love His kids in our home that didn’t have a home — why in the world would He not be there with us to remind us of the big picture, of His goodness, and of the love we have for these kids.  It’s foolish, but how often we all forget to abide in Christ, trust God & rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us and prepare us.  We try so often to do things in our own strength.  If nothing else, this process & the last 5 months, have been a concentrated dose of forced “STOP TRYING IN YOUR OWN POWER” — after all, Paul reminded us of this in 2 Corinthians:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

— 2 Corinthians 2:9-10 ESV

I definitely continue to pray that I will be content in my weaknesses, and in the certain calamities to come.  When it’s hard to let go and trust — I need to more quickly ask God to help me trust, if nothing else for the sake of my kids, who deserve a Dad who is willing to admit his weakness and trust The Lord to love them and grow them well.

For a LOT of reasons, the Andrew Peterson song, Family Man, is really resonating with me this days.  I always liked this song, it is on one of my favorite albums, but I never LOVED the song.  But the last couple weeks it’s been stuck in my head & heart.  I’ll post a link to listen to it (Click for Song/Video: Family Man by Andrew Peterson), and the lyrics below — but there are a few lines that I truly identify with — they are in red below.

Family Man — Andrew Peterson, from Love & Thunder

I am a family man
I traded in my Mustang for a minivan
This is not what I was headed for when I began
This was not my plan, I am a family man

But everything I had to lose
Came back a thousand times in you
And you fill me up with love, fill me up with love
And you help me stand ’cause I am a family man

And life is good, that’s something I always knew
But I just never understood
If you’d asked me then you know I’d say I never would
Settle down in a neighborhood, I never thought I could

But I don’t remember anymore
Who I even was before
You filled me up with love
Filled me up with love, and you help me stand

So come on with the thunder clouds
Let the cold wind rail against us, let the rain come down
We can build a roof above us with the love we’ve found
We can stand our ground, so let the rain come down

Because love binds up what breaks in two
So keep my heart so close to you
And I’ll fill you up with love, fill you up with love
And I’ll help you stand ’cause I am a family man

I’m saving my vacation time for Disneyland
This is not what I was headed for when I began
This was not my plan, it’s so much better than

Haha, ironically half of the song is in red now — hopefully you just read the whole thing.  Everything about that song is so true.  First of all, there are lines that just resonate around in my mind & heart over and over — phrases like, “But I don’t remember anymore, who I even was before”, and “I traded in my mustang for a minivan” (which is ironic because we are minivan shopping and the 4Runner will go).  More deeply, I see a man who is learning to surrender and trust God’s love, but then by the end of the song he is passing along the love God has shown him to his children.  Maybe I love this song so much more now because it’s become a prayer of sorts — almost an affirmation of how perfect the beautiful chaos is that came so quickly into our lives 5 months ago.

I’ll leave you with this line from the song, “And life is good, that’s something I always knew, but I just never understood”.  Amen.   

Redeeming the Ordinary

Often I struggle to know what to share, what to write down, what to record.  There are so many things that happen every day with the kids (and everything else).  People remind us how important it is to share our story, but I don’t always see it.  We are so very ordinary.

After all, we wake up early & groggy in a regular home, a normal quiet neighborhood, load up our stuff and the kids & drive to work like everyone else, work hard all day long, then hop in the heavy flow of traffic toward home, feed the kids & play for awhile, hurry to finish chores after the kids are in bed, then rather anti-climatically, we crash pretty early and repeat the process the next morning.  (p.s. that long run-on sentence is sometimes what life feels like now!)  From the zoomed out view, it’s all rather trite and mundane.  But when I take the time to think, I know that isn’t true.  I know that when I make the time to breathe, to rest and slow down — God allows me to see all the beautiful ways our life has changed forever.  (another p.s. — I don’t think this is exclusive to our lives as Foster Parents, but all of us…)

Of course our life is chaotic, but there are so many beautiful moments.  Moments like when we are sitting in traffic and little brother starts up a very joyful, yet indistinguishable song — then little sister joins in.  They are both loud, off pitch, can’t really speak words yet, and it is perfect.  We also have so many sweet moments of both kids sitting in their beloved wagon, going for a walk in the neighborhood — both will be giggling, laughing, pointing at every critter and creature they see & waving at all the neighbors and shouting ‘bye!’ — please note, they’re saying ‘bye’ not ‘hi’ — it’s cute and bizarre.  I certainly cannot forget the sheer glee little brother has when he sees a garbage truck — it’s as though there is no other happiness in the world aside from that trash truck.  There are countless other beautiful moments — and often, I fail to cherish them.  I often fail as a father to look back throughout the day and ponder and reflect.  I get task-oriented and move on to the next item without giving myself the grace to enjoy the tremendous blessing this all has been to us thus far.

Truthfully, I want a different life — maybe a new way of living.  I don’t want to live in a manner that I don’t enjoy & cherish the memories as they’re being made.  I don’t want to be so focused on being efficient and getting things done that I miss out on the daily miracles in our home & lives.  So now that I am realizing this a bit more clearly, I need to make some changes (although I suspect I will come to this realization more than once, as I have wanted to slow down and enjoy before & at some point after, allowed myself to get swept up in the hustle and bustle).

We are nearing 4 months into this little adventure with Thing 1 and Thing 2 — and I don’t want to look back in a year, or five years or 15 years and not have tried to experience all the beautiful, miraculous things God is doing in these kids (and our) lives each day.

So here’s to a fresh refocus on my part — and an exploration in setting new boundaries for myself and learning once more, to prioritize well.  In the spirit of new beginnings — I want to cling to these passages from Scripture and hope they help me focus on the restoration God can, and wants to bring — I will pray for His help to surrender well.

Perhaps our life is ordinary — but if we slow down, it’s in the ordinary that I believe God shows us the most beautiful things.  He is able to make ordinary broken people & their lives quite beautiful when we surrender and trust Him completely.  He is redeeming the world around us, He is making things new each morning and bringing joy to our normal, ordinary, seemingly humdrum & unremarkable lives.  And for that, I am grateful today.

Lamentations 3:22-23 CSB:
“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!”

Psalm 30:4-5 ESV:
“Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
    and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
    and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.”

Instant Parenthood

I love that title, it’s borrowed from a dear friend in Oklahoma (with some Bonus Boys) — and ironically fit with a blog post festering in my mind lately.

Being a foster parent can be a lot to swallow at times.  Gosh, even really thinking of yourself as a parent is a challenge.  For folks who have babies, they have months to prep and ease into parenthood.  And it’s still overwhelming then too!  But sometimes I wrestle with acknowledging myself as a parent.  I fear others would receive me viewing myself as a Dad, without birth kids yet, as cheapening their parenthood.  So sometimes I shy away from really thinking of myself as a Dad.

But the reality is, that’s not true or fair (to myself or the kids).  When you are up several times a night, when the whole family gets sick one after another in a week, when the 1-year old is getting 3 teeth in one day (and hasn’t really learned how to soothe or be comforted), when you have baby gates everywhere, when everything is baby proofed, when you have changed 3 diapers (on one kid) before leaving the house at 7am, when you have to think 8 steps ahead to avoid unnecessary 2-year old meltdowns… you’re a Dad.

When your back hurts inexplicably (but you know why…), you’re a Dad.  When you get just as sick as the kids were & you have to power through, you’re a Dad.  When you worry about coughs & congestion, and spend an absurd amount of your money on medicine to help, you’re a Dad.  When you are gently hold your hand on your nearly asleep baby girl, praying that God will help her grow up strong, brave & true — you are a Father.  It doesn’t matter if you had 9 months (or years) of preparation for the baby — or if like us, you had 3-4 hours of warning before everything changed. 

I may not be my children’s birth father, but I am their father.   My kids may have been a Friday morning surprise in February, but that doesn’t change our love for them and our hope that they can remain forever.  God has entrusted us with these precious children (and difficult children, let’s be real…) — and we are called to love them completely and accept them fully, just as God loves us.  The expectation is no different from parents who have given birth to children.  God loves these kids SO much more than we possibly could — and we are just His hands and feet to protect them, love them, guide them, shepherd them, make them laugh & love them.

That afternoon when the kids came home, we became parents.  It’s not always easy to remember, sometimes it still feels like it’s a dream we had — but it’s true — we are parents.

Instant parenthood is still parenthood —
and foster parents are indeed, parents — Moms & Dads.

In all the overwhelming and fast change we have had, and keep having — a few verses come to mind often during the chaos & quiet.  I suspect they come to mind as a prompt from the Spirit to listen and ponder — I should listen more.  This is one of the verses that comes to mind most often:

“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!”

— Lamentations 3:22-23 CSB

He Knows My Name

“Now this is what the Lord says — the one who created you, Jacob, and the one who formed you, Israel — ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine.'” Isaiah 43:1

On Friday night we sat in a circle with several other foster families and soaked in the wisdom of those much further along and with many more miles in their journey in Foster Care. It was a sweet night of learning and feeling encouraged. Over and over we were told to find a sweet community of foster families — and I am so thankful for One Heart.

As we sat there and questions were asked…stories were told…I was caught up in this Truth. The Lord delights in me. He delights in every couple or single mom in that circle. He delights in each kiddo accounted for by these families whether they are together forever or for a bit. He knows us and He is kind.

Not only does He know us, but He is never changing, so when the system isn’t consistent, He is. He knows us and our needs in each moment. When the behaviors of our sweet kiddos catch us off guard, He knows us and He cares for that moment. When babies are crying and there is no apparent reason…He cares! I’m so grateful.

After these realizations, it hit me like a ton of bricks.

He knows the birth families, too. He cares for them, even when trauma or dark situations get in their way of caring for these children. He cares for them. In their darkest day, He cares. In our darkest day, He cares. We are no different. He delights in each of us.

“…God delights in every detail of [your] life.” Psalm 37:23 NLT

Untitled

This morning I was convicted by something my husband said. We were on our way to church, incredibly late, after a sleepless night and a long morning of tears and general fussiness.

“I wonder sometimes, if our hard moments are God trying to speak to our hearts and remind us that we can’t do this on our own strength, and we are trying to.”

Those were true words. That’s exactly what I’d been trying to do.

A little background information for those who don’t know me:

I like order. My classroom is a better representation of that than my t-shirt drawer, but nevertheless. When there isn’t order in places I feel like I should have control, I become frazzled, and when I am frazzled, doubt creeps in.

We know where doubt comes from.

So this morning. I doubted. I was frazzled.

“Why are they crying? What am I doing wrong?”
“Why won’t she sleep? What am I doing wrong?”
“Why are we late? Why couldn’t I get us together faster?”

The truth is this. When I doubt….When I question myself….I am putting the spotlight on me. It’s not about me. It never was, I never want it to be….when I pause from the frazzle and think about that, I remember. My strongest desire is for this journey (all of it, not just the foster care part) to be about Jesus…for the kiddos with us to experience His love through me.

Here’s to extending myself grace. Frazzled or not. So that I won’t get in the way of Christ in us, our only Hope.