Thursday, May 30, 2013

In Study

So, as is my usual position here at the Department of Human Services, I am actively writing another Home Study for a potential foster family.  I have taken the time to get to know them, in general (because in deep, who is really known all that well?  I am still getting to know myself, soooo....).  But this is my job to write the life story of saints.

Yes, saints....

Because who else would open their doors wide and let strangers inside - strangers that are prying and peeking in cupboards, under beds, in buried pasts and pulling apart the intricate layers of the lives that have been lived?

Who else would let the world all up in their house and place their lives under a microscope?

Who else would be okay with someone with a badge coming into their lives with rules and laws and regulations just so they can take care of children that are orphaned for one reason or another?


People who in retrospect and in vision have nothing to hide.  People that understand that perhaps their hard beginnings can help little disrupted lives have a better future.  People who don't see themselves as saints, at all.

I am typing the stories of two people who have been through their own private hells.  They have shared with me the reality that they are far from perfect but a perfect love in Christ has brought them near.  Yes, I know I am supposed to act like I don't share their faith when I walk through the DHS doors.  I understand that faith and politics and government intertwined is messy.  But, I think people are messy.  Lives are messy.  And having faith in God is something that can clean my mess up...not all at once, but in time.

I am writing the story so the people that give approval for this family to care for children can know the family.  How hard is that?  How can I introduce two people that are messy in some ways like me?  How can I tell their stories and say that they have the potential to be great foster parents?  How can I say this, knowing that they might make mistakes or have huge opinions about where the children come from or rub some the wrong way - including the parents that birthed the children to the point where they are?  And in the reverse, how can I write fully about the ways their lives have been shaped into more positive influences, despite where they have been and where their journeys have taken them?

As a writer at heart, a scribe, I am simply writing down the souls of the people so others can read them.  I am telling their truths, being honest that they will get tired and make mistakes and wonder if they were crazy some days.  I am writing down how willing they are to swim in the muck and the mire of life with other messy people.  I am writing down how they are willing to be changed by the very children they hope to impact.

Their hearts, these two that I am writing about, are open to the possibilities.

Every Home Study I write makes me wonder and dig deeper and even revisit whether any of us really know what we are getting into.  When you love these children, THESE CHILDREN, it is never easy.  We sign on to be challenged and have our hearts thrown into tailspins and have our lives opened up for the whole world to see.  We sign on to be raised on crosses and crucified in the courtrooms of public opinions.

We sign on to be Christ in the flesh...hands and feet and hearts and minds...willing to lay all that we are and ever were down.

I am writing the story of a family that understands this.  This is part of their story too....the laying down and dying to self.  This is being written and read of men....

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


I am still awed by the journey and praising God for the love.

When I think about the last 18 years of the boy's life, I can only imagine what the next 18 years (God willing) will bring.  I watched him in his cap and gown on Friday night, tears filling my eyes as I realized that the baby whose diaper I changed and whose love for God I loved and whose innocence drew me closer to God myself is now no longer a high-schooler.  He is now a young man heading off to college and beyond.  He is joining his two older sisters in the world of adult decisions, and I am nervous.  Nervous but not scared.

I know what his mother, his father, his grandparents, his Auntie Boo, and I have put in him.  I know, most of all an inkling of what God has put inside him to impact this world.  And I love what I see shining out of his eyes as he looks at the world around him, knowing that he has a place there.

I love that while he may be questioning a long-term career, he is not questioning his self-worth.

I love that God graced me to love a child I did not physically birth but loved like he was my own.

I love that because of God's Presence in his life he can question the world but he doesn't have to question his own reality...because he is who God made him to be.  His future is bright.  And even when he does things that make us all wonder if he heard us guide with wisdom but didn't listen, I know that he will be all right.  The decisions ahead are his to make, but we will always be here loving him no matter what.

His mom and I talked about my place in his life all these years, as his father's sister, as his doting aunt, but also as a member of his parenting village.  I acknowledged as she looked into my eyes with mirror tears that I wasn't just here, hanging out with nothing better to do.  The love I had for this boy-turned-man was the real lesson for me.

This boy is not the only one who graduated this past Friday.

I did too.

I accepted the honor of being his Auntie Mom.  I graduated from one who did not realize how important I was to his development to one who cried a parent's tears at his graduation...tears of pride because I know where he came from and I know where he is going.

He has grown up.

And so have I.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


This morning the Lord had me read 2 Samuel 4:4, introducing Mephibosheth - the lame son of Jonathan whom was rescued by his nurse after the death of his father and grandfather.  In that very moment, he had become an orphan, and this woman stood in the gap attempting to rescue him, though her methods caused more distress and brokeness.  Some years after he was taken away and kept safe in a different family and home (foster care), King David found about him (after asking if there was anyone left in King Saul's family that he could bless).

The generational blessing intended for him through his father and his grandfather was restored to him, once King David found out that he even existed.  King David gave him inheritance from his father's line and heritage.  Mephibosheth was not only restored to that lineage; he was also adopted into the King's family as one of King David's sons.  How powerful is that?

How powerful would this lesson be in the lives of any child in foster care or adoptive care - the lesson and reality that the good things, the beneficial bloodline gifts and the adopted gifts and inheritance from a new family are true for each one? 

Despite the crippled result of being taken from his biological family that Mephibosheth endured for the rest of his life, he was later treated like royalty because generationally and by adoption, he was royalty.  He was an adult, not a little orphan boy any more (at least not physically).  Yet, King David gave him what he had always needed - what had been forfeited from the night his nurse took him into "care" to the point where he lived with a different family to the point where he was restored to his rightful place in the Kingdom of David (as an adopted son).  King David restored his identity by this one act of kindness in 2 Samuel 9.

This man started out as an orphan after losing his family, after death and loss entered in, but his story wasn't over.  That is the powerful thing that must be translated through this story to children and youth today.  The crippled orphan's story wasn't over.  God is still writing it with the pen in His hand.

Although Mephibosheth entered life as a prince with royal blood, but because of certain dangerous and even selfish decisions made by his grandfather (which affected his father), he ended up in foster care (separated from his family but kept safe in "the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, in Lo-debar").  The way the Bible describes the location where Mephibosheth was found indicates that he was always looked at as simply a member of the household but not part of the family.  While he was kept safe and even given the chance to move on with his life, despite the losses of his childhood, there was always a sense of identity missing.  The family he lived with never gave him an identity within their family's lineage nor did they celebrate him being King Saul's grandson.

But King David did.  He did not treat Mephibosheth as the descendent of a king that disobeyed God.  He reminded him that he did come from a royal line; he did come from a place of majesty.  And not, only that, he accepted him as a King's kid.

For me, this is what foster parents and adoptive parents have to do for children that may be crippled by the foster care system.  They have to restore their identities and also give them a future.  This doesn't mean the process will be easy.  It will take some convincing.  King David even had to convince Mephibosheth that he was being placed in his rightful place simply because of who he was.  How do we do this for children and youth that really have had their identities stripped due to circumstances and situations outside themselves?

I have to say, as a substitute parent, aunt, and former foster care worker that each time we do this, it is an individual work.  Each child must have someone see them for who they are and love them simply because of who they are - not primarily because of who they are biologically related to, though I believe every family has a good inheritance (even if it has been forfeited).  This is of supreme importance to the next generation - particularly those living in Lo-debar.  This is what the call to care really means.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

New Direction, New Season, Renewed Passion

The mode for my life, my writing, my heart for ministry has again shifted.  I have decided after much thought that the main goal of this blog is bring attention to orphan care, foster care, and adoption, as well as my love for writing and my love for family.  It has taken some time to focus in on what I should be writing about, what my goal is for this platform, and today, after some serious thought, I realized that the main focus has to be more than me and my ideas and beliefs (although they may be in there somewhere).

I work as a foster home licensing worker (as my day job and heart beat/ministry).  I know people say that you shouldn't make your job your life in today's economy but one thing I had to ask myself was:  "What would I be doing if I wasn't doing this?"  And my answer is:  "This."  If I wasn't getting an income from this would I still feel this ache in my chest for the orphans (children in foster care, children that are displaced, children in need of families)? 

Unabashedly, yes.  Unashamedly, yes. 

I would find a way to reach children and youth that are on the edge of society, that are living in the marginalized areas of our world, even if that world is around the corner or down the street.  I was doing this work before I got to my position in the agency I work for and will be doing it long after my tenure is up.

That is what real ministry is.  That  is what real love is.  That is real passion.  If I wasn't in the location I am in, would I still care?

Today, at lunch time, I thought about how all roads in my life have led here.  As sunshine kissed my face and I wrote in my journal, I thought about how the family issues and the path I have traveled in such a seemingly round about way have led right here.  I even considered how this uncanny love for laws and policies and regulations have led here, because how can you right wrongs when you don't know the laws of the land?

Some years ago when I completed college in Grand Rapids, I thought I would travel far from the place where I am now sitting.  I never wanted to work in child welfare because quite frankly, I didn't think the ideals I stood for could mesh with the ideals child wefare agencies sometimes stand for.

But no one could have told me that my niece's journey through foster care would have opened up this desire within me to advocate for children and youth, to question even my own selfish motives and plans, to restructure everything so that my life would not be so hypocritical.  But here I am...and now I am deciding to let my writing be shaped by this call and passion for finding loving homes for children that are not able to remain with their biological families.

So, I believe because I say yes everyday, God finds a way to put my money where my mouth is, challenging me even beyond what a job description demands...because I would still be doing this, if there was no job description boxing me into the beaurecratic structure of things in child welfare.  There is indeed room for laws, but there is equal room for passion and faith and love and prayer.

So the focus, at least for right now, is this call and where it takes me and the way lives all around me are being changed.  I read a lot of blogs that have a focus and a pivotal point upon which all the posts are based. 

This is mine.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Oh the Places You'll Go...

In a few short weeks, the oldest of my nephews will be walking across a stage, handed a diploma, well on his way to the next season.  It's supposed to happen this way - him as man, him as no longer boy, him as no longer baby.  He hasn't been a baby in quite some time, but it was easier to ignore when he was slinging a backpack across his shoulders and heading out the door to the high school down the street.  It was easier to ignore the man emerging from boy, as the thin mustache and curls sprouting from his chin masqueraded as a beard that wasn't quite...beard.  It was easier to hear him call me "Auntie Mom" in his softly masculine voice, caring about things and thinking about life and observing everything before making decisions that could affect the rest of his life.

But...this boy turned man overnight, it he went down for one of his long naps like the baby he was to me and woke up the man he is.  On Easter Sunday this year, he went to church with Mr. and I, soaking in the knowledge and awareness of what Christ had done for all of us sitting in the sanctuary.  I cried at the enormous love God has for us.  And then he cried his own private tears.

Afterwards, I made it my intention to take him to shake the hand of the pastor that used to hold him on his lap as a tinie.  The look on Pastor Glenn's face was something that stays with me still - the look that spoke volumes.  He turned to me with wide eyes, holding this man's hand, with surprise and shock that time really does pass, and men that used to be babies actually do grow up and conquer the world.

I nodded with tears in eyes and a smile on my face - saying silently that, yes, this was the very nephew he mentored before the boy knew what mentorship was.  Yes, this was him all grown up.  Yes, the boy-turned-man was indeed eye to eye with him, smiling and full of life experiences and some wisdom.  Yes, this was him...still with me, in that moment.

"He is graduating from high school this year, next month," I said softly.

And the pastor hugged the boy-turned-man, whom embraced back...happy.

And now, here we are in May, a few short weeks away, and he will don a cap and gown with his grown-man swagger.  He will walk with purpose and passion as my tears stream down.  I am sure I will embarrass my family, but they know how much I love this boy-turned-man with the adoration of an auntie-mom.  They know I have sacrificed much for love; the miracle was expected.  I knew this would happen when I would rock him to sleep all those years ago.  He is successful already - not because of money or fame or acclaim, but because his spirit is in tact.

Last week, I read Dr. Seuss' story book Oh, The Places You'll Go to my husband as we sat in Barnes and Noble, enjoying tea and magazines.  I want to read this book to my nephew, my boy-turned-man.  I choked back tears even then, even though I still had time before we would read it together.

All I could see as my husband listened and watched the story unfold, much like a little boy himself was how time does bring about changes.  I'm not always ready for changes like this one; right now in view of what is about to happen, I feel a lot like Ann Voskamp in the blog post she wrote yesterday ("4 Steps to Take When You're Not Ready for Change").  She wrote about the very same thing in relation to her son.  (If you have a chance, please read it here:

Anyone that knows me, knows that I am a very passionate person, especially when it comes to the boy-turned-man and his siblings.  They have enamored me, held my heart in their hands, frustrated me, drove me crazy, loved me back.  I want them to be just as passionate about family and life and dreams and goals and GOD, most of all.  I want them to feel fire burning deep within when they talk about these passions like I do...when I talk about them.

This boy-turned-man looked me in my eye and told me that his trip this past spring break to our home would be one of the last.  "Soon, I'll be in college, Auntie-Mom, and won't be able to visit as much."

Of course, I wanted to say, you will be gone to the wide world out there with the intent to make an impact.  Of course, Nephew, you will be in college, learning and growing.

But, instead, I smiled through my tears, and thought..."You will go so many places, but I hope you won't forget where you've been.  The biggest impact is the one you've already made...right here."

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Elijah Moments, Part Deux

On Tuesday this week, my supervisor and I attended one of my historical moments.  Yes, one of MY historical moments when I came face to face with the passion and vision I thought no one else shared.  The people in the "Michigan Foster Care and Adoption: Faith-Based Summit" made me glad that day, just a little bit more, that Jesus is the Lord of Life, and  His Redemptive Work is still impacting lives everywhere -- and not just in my backyard and not just in my head.  The people in that room made history for me.

There was the bishop from Brownsville, Texas (Bishop Aaron Blake) that challenged whole churches and communities not to turn a blind eye to the plight of orphans living right there. 

There was Mary Hiatt, whom was herself abandoned in Korea as a baby but later adopted by a loving couple that is loving her from Heaven, watching her establish a foster care and adoption support network of other families. 

There was Trooper Sanders who remembered the family that cared for him when his parents couldn't, and now, because of their support, he is slogging away in political seats in Washington, making history in his own way as the founder of Wise Whisper.

There was Ta'sheema Jones-Murray, whom had lived through far more pain and misery than I could ever imagine in foster and adoptive care, but whom also has grabbed her future by the horns and held on - riding right into the next phase of life with her graduation from Ferris State University this month. 

There was Pastor Christopher Brooks with his wife, adopting three children and never having their own, and now, encouraging his ministry to love the fatherless and motherless.

There was Beth Harris, choking back tears at how the North Ridge Church body of members has made Foster Care and Adoption ministry a mainstay at their church.

There was Tennison Barry of Foster Hope, giving feedback about what churches and faith communities can do for the children and families that need them so desperately.

There was the President and Chief Executive Officer of Foster Care and Adoption Navigators, Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange, and the Heart Gallery - doing great work but most of all loving a girl named Ta'Sheema, whom will be walking across the Ferris State stage to receive her diploma...her family is his family.

All these people reminding me, like God reminded Elijah, that the vision is always much bigger than the problem.  It is always much bigger than any of us.  And thank God for that...that He works on a grander scale...