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Fostering support for all the good things

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I tend to be a binge reader, especially when I come across something that speaks to me. This explains why I am currently half way through Jen Hatmaker’s book “7” after picking it up two hours ago. I finally got up for a potty break and feel the need to debrief via the blog before I keep going.

This book definitely has moments that make me want to move to a patch of prairie where we could be self-sustaining and give up the excesses of our consumerist culture, but I’ll be honest- I’ve kind of always felt like that. I absolutely have my vices, but living simply has always been where I’ve felt most comfortable. You would learn that from checking out my pantry, my closets, really most corners of my life have been picked through and purged to make way for less of. . . well, just less.  I hate feeling owned by things, which is the response I have to dusting things, putting new batteries in things, or buying accessories for things.  Simplicity feels like freedom to me and I like freedom.

So while this book has been so good on so many levels, I also feel like it plays into my natural tendencies. It is challenging, but maybe not in the ways that are challenging for my sisters and brothers who struggle with a desire for excess.  My struggle is in wanting to do ALL THE GOOD THINGS.

Do you have this problem?

I read this great book and my focus is on how I should be doing ALL THE GOOD THINGS that everybody is doing. I should be meeting with the homeless and buying local at the farmer’s market and sewing my own clothes and going to Haiti and then there’s this strange voice in the back of my mind that says I can’t actually do all those things. . . except the voice isn’t exactly saying that.  The voice is saying, “Mommy, I haffa go potty” and reminding me that God’s calling on my life is 24/7 and while there are tweaks I can make (I do love the farmer’s market), ministries I can support, and the ability to always contribute through prayer, I can’t necessarily do ALL THE GOOD THINGS right at this exact moment.

This exact moment finds me caring for the needs of four children, the oldest of which can just barely make a PB&J and none of them can be left unsupervised for any length of time. My mission is my family.

And my family is on a mission.

I like to think of foster care as my own personal pyramid scheme. I am the local Mary Kay saleswoman of God’s heart for children in need and somebody ought to give me a pink cadillac for the amount of advocacy, support, and actual childcare I have done.  Except nobody gives out such things and I don’t think I’d want it even if they did. The rewards for investing in these kids AND investing in the families that invest in these kids are much greater.

So how is this like a pyramid scheme? You see, I did my time. We spent five years as houseparents in a group home setting with boys ages 6-18. And I loved those boys with my whole heart and I still get sick to my stomach when the sporadic google searches I do reveal things I don’t want to know. They are the boys of my heart although legally they never belonged to me. And when we were done houseparenting we said  said “yes” when the right phone calls came until the house was full and the state said we couldn’t take any more kids. So after a decade in caring for kids in transition, we are now raising four who belong to us:  one international adoption, two adoptions through foster care, one we made ourselves (surprise!).

This has been an identity shift for me. I have taken solace in doing good by loving kids I couldn’t keep. It has been hard, but it became who I was in such fundamental ways that I didn’t realize it until that was no longer who I was. I really believe God made me for foster parenting. I love problem solving, I love court, I love trainings, I love diplomacy, I love kids, I love families in crisis, I love. . . paperwork (my secret nerdy shame). As I’ve transitioned out of the role of foster parent, I have found a new role was waiting for me.

There’s no job title for what I find myself consumed with now. Advocacy? Counseling? Educating? Recruitment? Nosey Bossy Pants? At different times it looks a little differently, but what it all adds up to is a desire to help people understand the need for quality foster parents and a passion to support them when they respond to that call.

I have been amazingly blessed to see friends become foster parents. I have watched infertile friends adopt an entire family of siblings that were waiting in foster care for their forever home. I have seen friends who had raised daughters to the cusp of adulthood now start back at square one with a temporary baby. I have friends who took on needy newborns when their oldest child was still in diapers, sibling groups with scary medical histories, foster toddlers with family drama that threatened to overwhelm. It is a big job and it can lead you to the edge of your sanity without support.

I love being the listening ear, bringing the meal when a new foster person arrives, connecting foster parents who need each other, praying for difficult situations, and helping people understand that foster kids aren’t FOSTER kids, they’re just foster KIDS. But as rewarding as those interactions can be, I also carry a certain amount of guilt.

These brave families are following me into uncharted territory. Cases don’t go as you expected them to. What you were told was temporary becomes permanent, or what seemed permanent turns out to be temporary. Families struggle with a broken system and hurting communities. Biological children are exposed to the realities of what life is like for children in crisis. Tears are shed for our foster children, our fallen world, the implications for our own families. And I feel it all very personally.

We can’t do all the good things. But we can do the good that’s set before us. We each have different gifts and when we use them wisely, that’s when we can really function as the Body of Christ.  For some of us that means impacting the lives of foster kids and their families. We don’t know how the story will end for the people we involve ourselves with. We aren’t promised easy times, especially when we truly follow Jesus into the lives and homes of the broken. But we do it anyway. And for me, right now, I support those who are doing this good work even though I’m not doing it myself. And to my joy, I am seeing the beautiful repercussions as foster parents who are well loved and supported aren’t burning out when things are tough, but are instead inspiring MORE people to foster by their example. Maybe it’s a pyramid scheme, but when the people who most benefit are the people who God specifically calls us to care for, I’ll work for that pyramid any day.

And also. . . we got our homestudy updated so we can take more kids. When the right call comes, we’ll be ready to answer.  We can’t do all the good things, but we can do what we’re called to do.

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6 Comments

  1. You are so right, Maralee! We all have that one thing that is super close to our heart, that we can do. I read 7 awhile back, too, and although Hatmaker was doing all these wonderful things, it helps to know she was getting paid to do/write about it. 🙂 It doesn’t make her contribution and attention to over-consumption less, just puts it in perspective for me.
    Sarah M

  2. Oh gosh. I’m glad you’re reading it instead of me. No offense to the awesome Jen Hatmaker, but I honestly can’t take on any more GOOD THINGS right now.

  3. This is great. I was feeling super burdened and stressed one time, and so wrote out a to-do list to get started. Well, by the time I brought the list to hubbs I was laughing and crying because the list was about 300 things long, and included such tasks as “go be a missionary” and “adopt children” and “visit all the elderly people at church.” Hubbs looked at me and said, “I haven’t asked you to do all these things! These aren’t all even directions our family is planning to go!” that was a really important way for me to rest, realizing that I could trust Gods leading through where he was leading my Hubbs, and if He wasn’t leading him somewhere, He wasn’t leading me there. (not to say Hubbs and I don’t talk about what’s on each others hearts, but you know what I’m saying)

    So I totally appreciate your encouragement that our ministries and efforts change over time, and that’s ok.

  4. I could just see Josh cruising with you in your pink caddie with that giant smile of his!!! I am thankful to have been part if the good you invested in for that season of life! And still of course 🙂

  5. i’m always so encouraged by what you write… i’ve been following you since i read one of your posts at the forgotten initiative, and i feel like you’ve been trailblazing ahead of me to speak truth into our future path. i’m grateful for you, your words, and your story!

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