Another Good-bye

We said good bye to our little Foster son a few days ago. What a sweet boy. We were so blessed to know him. We have many special memories from our time with him.

We got the call one afternoon in Late February—a newborn baby boy. But I was in Florida for Cru legal team meetings, and Jeremiah was home with the kids. We decided to call back. Then more information, then they chose us. We would pick him up from the hospital the next day. But I still wasn’t back from Florida. Thankfully, my parents were there to help, and my dad even got to go to the hospital with Jeremiah. Then I was further delayed when my flight back was cancelled due to a freak ice storm at my stopover location… But I managed to get a flight back late that night, getting into San Francisco around 11:00, then taking Bart, then driving home…

That was how it started.  There were the sweet cuddles with the tiny newborn—the precious face. Eating, sleeping, doctor visits.  I had forgotten the weariness that accompanies nights with a newborn, awake every couple hours. “I am getting too old for this” I told myself many times. But I watched him gain weight, I watched his tense little body relax in my arms when his needs were being met. I carried him everywhere in the sling—the place he felt most secure.

I have to admit that I questioned if it was worth it… I thought: ‘I am doing all the night duty (with Jeremiah’s awesome help of course), but I have no guarantee that I will get to enjoy the joy of the next stages—laughing, rolling over, sitting up, sleeping better, crawling, jabbering.’  The unknown future; the uncertainty of how long any foster placement will be—It can feel exhausting when you want to know what the future will hold. “There is a relative” they said…

But then I did get to see him change; I saw the first smile, then the laughs, then grabbing at things and pushing up on his arms. I watched every developmental step of those first few months. I smiled at him and laughed with him. The kids entertained him, and we all gave him kisses upon kisses on his sweet little cheeks. He knew us; he felt safe and loved.

I also got to build a relationship with his parents as I saw them every week for visits.  I grew to care deeply about them and they grew to trust me. Our conversations became more casual. I took pictures of their family together and gave them updates of all baby’s adventures at our home. I want them to be healthy; I want them to succeed.  I will miss them too. We hope to maintain some connection.

I also enjoyed connecting with strangers who stopped to talk with me because I had a clearly black child with me. I love how he broke down cultural barriers. I love how he enabled me to engage with and learn from black culture. I love the advice I got from strangers for everything from hair care to teething.

It was a special 5 months. The last week we got to take him on our family vacation with us. We went to the beach, we hiked on the bluffs, we went to museums—all with him, our little guy.  Sweet baby boy.  So many kisses for those precious cheeks… Then came the morning when I took him to his relative—his new home. It was fun to meet more of the family—they will love him well.

Good bye beautiful boy. I pray that you will always feel loved and cared for. You will always be in our prayers.

It was worth it.

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#blacklivesmatter at Cru15

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One of the major themes of our Cru15 conference was racial reconciliation / ethnic diversity. As Lori and I looked over the conference schedule, we noticed a breakout called #blacklivesmatter. This refers to the hashtag that has been used to speak of the disparity in treatment of black people, especially men, at the hand of law enforcement officers in the past year or so. Part of the reason we wanted to attend the event had to do with the fact that we have cared for two black foster children in the last year, and recognize that we know very little about what it is like to be a black person in our country.

The main purpose of this breakout was simply to hear the stories of what it is like to grow up black in the USA. It was heartbreaking to hear of the racism that my brothers and sisters in Christ have dealt with that I’ve never had to endure. There was one story that gripped my heart more deeply than all the others, the story of a father speaking to his son on the cusp of getting his drivers license.

Part of the driver’s training a parent must now give to a black child must include what to do if you are pulled over. There is the sad reality that many have been pulled over simply for a DWB (Driving While Black). One father shared how he told his son that if you are pulled over, pull to where there are a lot of people who can watch the situation unfold. You must keep your hands on the steering wheel, looking straight ahead at all times. Only when the police officer reaches the window do you roll it down, very slowly. Do exactly what they tell you to, or else he may pull you out of the car. Do nothing suddenly, for the policeman may assume you are going for a gun and shoot you.  He told his son to swallow any pride or anger or anything but absolute submission, because his life may depend upon it. This broke my heart, because I never had that talk. Mine was simply, give respect to the police and you’ll receive it as well.

I do not write this to talk about how police act, or if anyone is responsible when pulled over or any of those things, but simply to show that there is an inherent bias against these young black men. It was a powerful time of listening to people who have suffered hurt, and some times at the hands of those who are supposed to protect and serve us.

19864301756_773cd03246_kThere were also stories of people being told by their black family and peers to not come on staff with Cru, because it is a predominantly white organization that they thought would not understand what it’s like not to be in the majority culture.  Their lives have been a different path than mine, and I hadn’t much—up to that point—stopped to listen to what their stories might be.

My desire is to be part of the solution that rejects the continuing inequalities of opportunity in our country. I don’t know what it will involve, but I think it begins with listening to people’s stories, making friends, and being an advocate for every person to be viewed primarily as a person of infinite worth, made in the image of God.

Blankness and Thankfulness

Have you ever stood during a worship time at church and felt blank? And yet, you know there are deep waters right below the surface. Then there comes a moment when you allow your mind to focus on a particular line in a worship song and suddenly you allow the truth of how deeply Christ intersects our lives—how much he understands our sorrows, how much he has forgiven us, how good he is, how intimately he knows me—to crack the surface of that blankness. Then a tear trickles out. Then the choice comes—do I allow myself to enter in to this emotion, or keep holding it back…?

Well, you may never have experienced that, but I have. It can be similar reading the Word as well. Sometimes I read it and I feel like a duck—it washes right off my back, interesting, but not going to affect me, not going to sink in. But if I stop trying to do the task of reading, and allow my mind to engage, it is so much more than a book, and it truly does pierce, discern and expose as is described in Hebrews 4:12-13. And this is a good thing, because being built up always follows being exposed.  Encouragement and care mean so much more when they come from someone who knows the real me (who better than Jesus?)—not the put-together façade I manage to maintain most of the time (although, I will admit having children around me that are not 100% in my control does hinder my efforts to look put together at times—haha).

I don’t want to have to be cracked. I don’t want to experience blankness. I want to live more fully in the light (I John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”). So how do I decompress on the inside in such a way that will soften my outside as well? How do I live authentically for Christ, not focused on my way, my reputation, my desires?

Ney Bailey shared at the Cru15 conference (one of tons of great thoughts) that we should “Bring God into the negative by thanking him for hard things. It allows him to be at work.” When we are frustrated by life’s circumstances, we should use discernment to pray instead of being critical. As I have thought about this, I think it is interesting that often when we are critical of circumstances, in our hearts we are blaming God for not doing what we want. That turns out to be pretty “me-centered,” failing to recognize that God has a lot more information and a lot more wisdom than we do. He is both more for us and less for us than we are. He is more for us in that he knows what we need much more than we do, and he will chose what is better, even if we would not have chosen it. Yet he is less for us in that he is ultimately for His glory and not ours. The place these two perspectives mesh, however, is in the reality that if we are for His glory and not ours, we will be happier too, so it is really “for us” to make that choice to be less focused on ourselves.

I am seeking to put this wisdom into practice in little ways. When I am frustrated by my circumstances, I am seeking to thank God for each thing that is frustrating me.

  • I can thank him that none of our foster kids has turned out to be adoptable because through fostering he has grown my heart for birth families, he has taught me about different cultures, he has given me opportunities to step outside of my comfort zone, and he has shown me that I can care for kids on the deepest level who are not truly “mine.”
  • I can thank him for my oldest son’s difficulty learning empathy because through it God is teaching me patience and exposing my own struggle to sacrifice my wants for the sake of others too.
  • I can thank him for legal challenges to our Cru Chapters getting registered around the country because it allows us to learn dependence on God instead of strategy, and leads many students to think about what it means to follow Christ and whether it is worth it to live our lives with a firm foundation on the rock of God’s Word.

This practice causes me to worship more deeply, taking my eyes even more off of myself, and allowing me to trust and hope in Him. And that makes me happier, takes away fears, and peels off the “blankness.” Thank you God!