We hosted sisters, ages 1 and 2, for two weeks at our house through a local program called Better Together. They provide resources for families in crisis so the family can stay together. This way the children avoid the state foster care system if they don’t need to be there.
Our caseworker told us that if it weren’t for Better Together, the girls would have most likely gone into foster care unnecessarily and mom would possibly even have to fight to get them back.
The care of children through this organization is 90 days or less, with 6 weeks being the average. Mentoring and regular meetings is required for parents as they take time to get affairs in order.
To participate in a national program, check out Safe Families.
Should we do this, God?
We heard about these programs through our church and my heart was stirred. I asked God if we should fill in one of the two doors in our home office and make it a bedroom to help kids. The thought made me nervous, but Marcello and I both felt the same way independently.
I told God He’d have to fill in the wall because we don’t know how and it wasn’t in the budget to hire someone. I was a little indignant about it to be honest. I figured that wouldn’t happen and we would be off the hook.
The next week some new friends offered to help us fill it in! And they did! Within two weeks it was all filled in and cost about $150. Seriously!
We got the call
A couple months went by before we got a call. We had to decline the first opportunity to take in kids because Marcello was out of town.
A couple more months went by and we received a call to host two girls. I met the mother in advance and we signed papers that gave Marcello and I temporary power of attorney. She seemed nervous and grateful at the same time.
She had left an abusive husband and was staying at the women’s shelter. She needed someone to care for her girls while she had her third baby. She was having a C-section and wouldn’t be able to lift them. She also needed to find a new home. She said she was done having children and would be having her tubes tied during the procedure.
I could see she was doing her best and trying to move her family out of danger and onto something better.
When I went to pick them up she was anxious, understandably so. She didn’t know us or where we were even taking them. I promised I would take care of them and send her pictures every day. She asked if I had food and I assured her I did.
On the drive home with five kids I wondered what in the world I was doing!
The first week was the hardest. There was a lot of work to be done — earn trust, give endless cuddles, establish a schedule and boundaries.
One day I was so overwhelmed with the baby crying, I put my hand up in the air as I sang a hymn, praying she would go to sleep! Please Jesus, I cried in my heart! She stopped crying and put her little hand up in the air too. My eyes well up thinking about it.
The baby cried for about three days before she trusted me. She only wanted Marcello and screamed any time I looked or talked to her. By day four I was finally her buddy and we started dancing and playing.
The girls didn’t speak English, so the best way they knew how to say they wanted something is to whine! Yikes. You should have seen me with Google Translate! It was quite the show.
¿Quieres que te cambie el pañal? Do you want me to change your diaper? I’m sure my accent was great too!
He was clearly answering my prayers during the time with the girls. It was so joyful that I told Him I never want to do anything apart from him again! I’m praying for these girls’ lives and salvation like it’s my job. Actually that was my main job for these two weeks, but I won’t stop when they’re gone.
They both needed so much love and assurance that they were safe and loved in a new place. Our kids (especially the youngest) needed cuddles too, and I thought that in itself was a full time job!
And meals and dishes seemed to dominate the rest of our time. My in-laws helped with some dinners and I went simple — lots of fruit, oatmeal, chicken nuggets, you get the idea.
These girls ate more than my husband, serving after serving. It’s one thing to know people are hungry or don’t have a variety of food available to them, but it’s another to see it at your own table.
My kids saw some of their gifts they’ve never noticed. They were staring as the girls ate anything we put in front of them. They delighted in seeing them swim in a pool for probably the first time and get excited about a car ride. They helped push them in the stroller and feed them with a spoon.
I began to better appreciate the resources I have available to me a parent that most moms don’t — membership to a kid museum, a pool in our backyard, a little extra money for projects to keep myself creative and busy, a car!
Don’t serve others to serve yourself
Most importantly I see that I cannot do for others to serve MYSELF. It’s not about making myself feel good. It’s not about proving to others I’m a good person.
It’s about moving out of my comfort zone to serve Jesus by serving others. It’s about making a sacrifice and expecting nothing in return — not a favor returned, not applause, not recognition. It’s about using what I’ve been blessed with to bless others.
We talk a lot about self care, self well-being, self love, but it seems we grow much more with self sacrifice.
It’s not easy to do the will of God. It’s messy to care for the orphans, single moms and widows. It’s not necessarily tied up in a pretty bow in the end with happy children, smiling parents and a time enjoyed by all. It’s tears, mundane tasks, inconvenience and sometimes even resentment. But that’s what God tells us to do throughout the Word, to pull up our sleeves and get messy.
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” — James 1:27
Francis Chan says in his Bible study “James” that we are to be DOERS of the word, not only HEARERS of the word. In fact the doers of the Word are the ones who receive the blessing. (James 1:25) The one who hears the Word and does nothing is double-minded.
As Christians we can’t sit in church and be fed week after week and do nothing. You can know the Bible verse by verse but if you’re not doing it’s worthless. (James 1:26)
Francis continues, “It’s kind of sick that we’ve got about a million churches in our country and then half a million foster kids. That means if even one person out of every two churches would take in one of these kids, we’d take care of the problem.”
Don’t get burned out. Don’t sacrifice your family to be doing “good.” You have to start at home! But we can always be doing something. (Unless you have a baby. Then, you just focus on taking a shower by yourself!)
Practical ways to serve:
- Set up a Meal Train for someone fostering.
- Donate money or gift cards to programs who help families.
- Be a mentor to adults in crisis.
- Offer to watch a single mom’s kids.
- Ask you local women’s shelter how you can help.
- See if babies need to be held in the NICU.
- Help out at the Boys & Girls Club.
- Pray right now for the people who work at theses places.
I think that most of the things people do to serve Jesus wouldn’t get a human standing ovation. He’s delighted when we do things such as care for crying little ones, an aging parent, a family member with mental illness, a child with a disability — when we love those who don’t “deserve it” — even those who have wronged us. Because, you know what, we don’t deserve it either.
Loving others when it’s hard is showing Jesus that we understand that He died for us when we didn’t deserve it. He saved our souls and we didn’t do a thing to earn it.
And that’s why serving others is also serving our King. It’s acknowledging and honoring his humility to bend down (as God), live a human life (with all it’s suffering) and die in our place (so that we can dwell with the Lord forever).
God says He will not forget how hard we have worked for Him and our love for others. (Hebrews 6:10)
If you want to talk to someone about Jesus or ask questions, don’t hesitate to send me an email! email@example.com
The girls were with us for 17 days. In that time we earned their trust and affection. We found our own way of communicating. We laughed. We danced. We established a real bond.
And as impactful as that time has been on my life, the most life-changing part happened when I returned the girls to their mom.
On the way to their new home there was no way for me to explain we were about to go see their mother. She just moved into a section of a mobile home that very day. When we arrived, the girls were in shock to see her. It was a little anti-climactic because they didn’t know whether to look around the home, talk to their mom or meet their baby brother. Their confusion almost came off as indifference.
I was taken aback by the small two-room space with a makeshift kitchen. Whoever helped her move just piled clothes in the kitchen. She had a bed, crib and Pack ‘n’ Play and that was it — not even a chair or shelf or dresser. There was one window in the kitchen and the shower was in the dining area.
I wasn’t sure what to do. I had my three kids with me, so I put them to work and we organized the best we could. She was grateful, but clearly overwhelmed.
The kids commented on the way home that it was small and not very nice.
It must have been the Spirit that told me not to tell them what to think. I didn’t lecture them about how big their home is or to be grateful they have food to eat … I got the message to let them have their own impression. Their own impressions would find a home in their hearts and affect their compassion much more than dictated emotion from their mother.
I was driving like a zombie. My heart seemed to become heavier and heavier in my chest. How could I earn their trust and then leave them there?
What can I do?
I got home, put my pajamas on and sulked for most of the afternoon. Realizing that would help nothing, I started to get ideas. She needed a shelf to put things on in the kitchen. She needed a table and chairs. She needed bins to organize the kitchen shelves because there were no cabinets. What about some string lights to make it feel more cozy at night or a tapestry to hang on the big blank wall? Or a rug for the little ones to crawl on?
I talked to Marcello and got to ordering shelves and lights and tapestry to pick up. I shopped my own garage for a rug and doormat and extra TV. I made lists.
The next morning Marcello came home from his flight and I told him I had to go to Target and the Dollar Tree. He didn’t even sit down or change, but got in the car with me. Now that’s a good man. He’d been up since 4 a.m.!
We got food and bins and basic kitchen things. I got home and pulled all the clothes out of Clara’s clear drawers. They would be perfect for them because they were lightweight and could hold little clothes. We filled up the van and Marcello and I drove to her house.
The girls jumped up and hugged us! They were so excited to see us again! But I am happy to say things were different. Our roles as caregivers (they even called me Mommy during that time) had shifted to friends, as it should be. They seemed emotionally fine in their new home.
We spent a few hours organizing and putting things together. It was starting to really come together! She and I went to pick up a small table and chairs at a nearby consignment shop while Marcello stayed with the kids. She chatted with me the best she could in English. I felt like we were finally getting to know each other. It was one of the highlights of this experience for me.
Leaving their house that time was drastically different than leaving the day before. They were going to be ok.
Though she would continually say thank you and express her gratitude, their mom didn’t show much emotion any of the times I had seen her. I imagine she had been beaten down emotionally and physically. I thought about the stress she underwent leaving abuse, longing for the safety of her children, gathering the courage to leave, taking a leap into the unknown of a shelter and leaving her girls with a stranger. Then she had to contend with a birth, healing from a C-section and trying to find a home at the same time.
BUT when we left she was smiling. I could see the relief on her face. It was over — they were safe, together and in their new home.
Marcello asked if we could pray with her. I prayed for their safety, peace, joy and for the Spirit to fill that house to the brim with love. As we prayed, she prayed with us in Spanish. I was overcome with happiness to see she is a believer!
When we left it wasn’t goodbye. We plan on staying in their lives and continuing to help.
God has a plan for you
On top of the countless ways I have grown during this experience, I have learned that I am capable of seeing a need and doing something about it. I don’t have to wait for an organization to get involved or hope that someone else will do it. I can ask God how I can be His hands and feet right here, right now.
If this all sounds like too much to you, that’s because this was the journey God called me to and prepared me for. He’s preparing you and providing for you to, but it won’t look the same. If you don’t know what He’s up to, ask Him! He will answer the prayer to help others every time. Every time.
I’m not sharing this with you for praise. How could one accept praise for something God set up and and provided for? Or when countless people are doing so much more? I’m sharing this to inspire and encourage you to get out there and serve the Lord by serving others. Let’s be doers of the Word, not just hearers.
You NEED to watch this video, below. It’s the most important video you’ll see this week! Press play.
How can I get involved?
The organization we are with is local, but Safe Families is national. You can be involved in many different ways: host family, supporting family friend, family coach or resource friend who helps with donated items.
Would you do it again?
Yes, we will do it again. I’ll be honest with you, it’s easier for me to donate money to causes or give away material possessions than it is to give my time. I’m so selfish with my time! So don’t you know God is asking for my time. A lot of it.
For two weeks, no blogging or projects or computer. I turned down jobs and forgot to text people back. My job was to be a caregiver and prayer warrior for these girls and teach my kids in the process.
The first week with the girls was rough. There was crying (so much crying!) and cuddling (touch is not my love language) and setting boundaries and earning love. We were originally only supposed to have them one week, but God knows what he is doing and gave us two.
If you would have asked me if I would do it again after the first 5 days I might have struggled to answer. But now they feel safe and loved, we have a schedule established and it’s not so chaotic. Now I would say, yes, we will do it again.
How did your kids respond?
My youngest was jealous for a couple days because she wasn’t the baby and the little ones were getting so much attention. But we helped her shift into a “helper” role, which she loved. She fed the baby and pushed the stroller and entertained them. The boys said they thought the chaos was great! Haha! They said independent of me asking that they liked it.
That said, when the girls went home, I had some discipline to do because they had gotten used to nonsense flying under the radar or mom too tired to do anything about it.
Do you worry you will become too attached to the kids?
Of course we’ll grow to love the kids, but the whole point of this is to get them back to their families. We know that going into it, and fostering long-term or adopting isn’t on our radar. The kids aren’t believed to be abused or neglected (otherwise they would be in the state foster care system), so it’s a great thing to be back with their parents.
Have you fostered children? Do you have a lot of kids? What is your best advice? Please share with us in the comments!
James, Chapter 1
Listening and Doing
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.