Why Do You Care?

Today I had a conversation with a childhood friend. This friend, who will remain anonymous, sets on the opposite spectrum as me in almost every way. He is an avid atheist, who is pro-choice and adamant about abortion rights in general. Now, I want everyone to understand that this post has nothing to do with abortion, but context is king, so bare with me for a moment. He contacted me today because there is a current movie that he had read about that was making news that deals with the issue of abortion from the pro-life view point. He knew I was a safe space were he could hash out his thoughts with a pro-lifer without being ran over and labeled a baby killer. Let me be clear here…. I do not support abortion at any level and he knew this, but he did and still does feel comfortable enough to speak to me about issues and will also listen when I need him to as well.

While most of our conversations are friendly, this one was anything but. My friend did not hold back, he was angry and I was the best target he could find. For the first time ever he wanted to really make it personal and attack both my faith and me as a person. During the course of the discussion this man decided that not only would he speak on abortion, but also the lack of care that Christians have given to the those that are not aborted and instead are placed in the states custody. He knew that I was a missionary and that I had dealings with orphanages in Kenya and this is where he chose to attack. He said, ”Why do you care so much about abortions and African orphans? Why won’t you take care of those right in front of you? Your greatest failure as a Christian, as a man, is the fact that you talk about life, but you don’t support that life once it leaves the womb.” His comment hit close to home and broke my heart. While some of you will read this and think this man has no idea what he is talking about, let me give you a few stats that give credence to exactly what he spoke of:

• There are over 500,000 children currently in foster care.
• 45% of those children are in foster homes where there is no relation.
• 19% of those children are under the age of 1, 60% are under the age of 8
• Only 49% of those put in to foster care are reunited with their primary caregiver per year.
• There are over 107,000 foster children currently available for adoption.

These numbers make it obvious that the Christians need to step up their game.

I will admit that this man and I do not speak as often as we would like and he had no idea that we currently had three foster children in our home and are waiting for an opportunity to adopt as we speak. Despite this his argument is one that I have heard before. Christians and Churches failing to adhere to James 1:27, “Pure and undefined religion before our God and Father is this, to look after orphans and widows.” The Church must step up and do more for the “least of these.” We should be helping parents adopt from the foster system. Equipping all families for success even when times are difficult. Providing family and individual counseling for those who need it. Caring for foster children and their families should involve more than just prayer (while this is very important)it should also involve hands on actions from the Church.

All of these things went through my head very quickly and I wanted to shout them all back at him. Before I could say anything though, my mind went another direction. Why is it just Christians that should be doing something? Should we simply care for children because our religion tells us to? I will be honest, I did not take these children into my home because the Bible told me too. I took them in because I wanted a daughter. I took them into my home because they have no where else to go. It is human decency. Yes, Christians can and should be actively involved, but so should the rest of humanity. Why is religion the worlds cop out for orphans and children that are in need ( I admit this is not an absolute there are plenty of non-religious people who are involved in foster care, but that was not the argument that was put forth.) I asked my friend if he was helping with the issue. Of course he was not. I asked if he planned to, and he does not.

Here lies the problem! Everyone, on both sides, wants to argue, but neither side wants to do much about it. I believe that it is time to move away from the ideology that someone else will or should do it. I am that someone.You are that someone. Now lets start acting like it. It is not easy, but nothing worth while is. Except the challenge and get involved.

Let me take this moment to encourage everyone who reads this to get involved. That doesn’t mean you have to become a resource family. There are many other ways to help. Find a family who does foster and ask if they are in need of anything. Provide help for parents who have had children removed. Yes, they need support and help as well. Become a volunteer at your local school, church, or Boys and Girls Club as this will put you in direct contact with children in the foster care system. As the number suggest there is no shortage of children who have been placed in foster care, but there is a shortage of those who are willing to do something about it. We should really stop arguing and start taking action!

To my friend who I know will read this, I love you dearly! Keep your head up, I know this conversation hit you just as hard as it did me. I pray for you daily! I believe we can solve this problem if we will choose to work together!

For those that would like more information on foster care email us or click here.

Kassie and I would also love to come share at your church about our experience in foster care and how you and/or your church could help! If interested please let us know by emailing us here or by contacting us on facebook or twitter.

If you are looking for a way to help a foster family and the foster children who live with them click here. My wife and I are closing in our garage in order to better facilitate the foster children we currently have with us and those that will come in the future. This is link to a fundraiser that will help us offset the cost.

Sometimes, Momma Knows Best

I think one of the hardest things in foster care, is not being their Momma.  (Yes, I spelled it Momma, and not Mama because, frankly, that makes me so mad when people spell it that way).  Anyway…recently, we had a little boy come live with us.  When he came to us, they said he was still in diapers, but the mom said he was almost potty trained.  Famous last words when you’re dealing with trauma.  Little man would poop bigger than Dallas, and come in and tell us “I Pooped” and lay down in the floor.  Now, you have to remember, these aren’t your children.  You can’t make them feel bad for pooping their pants.  And don’t judge me…you know you have told a kid “I thought you were a big boy/girl?”  We told him that he was big enough to know he pooped, he was big enough to let us know when he needed to go!  We have seriously fought this for a few months, and he just didn’t care that he was stinking up the entire house with his man-sized poop!  One week it hit me!  I’m not his Momma!  He could care less at this point if he makes me happy. 
If you have lived in the foster care world at all, you know that sometimes things don’t work smoothly between the Bio-Parents and the Resource Family.  Even though it isn’t out fault, the parents need someone to blame, and we are the easiest target.  Trust me.  We have had little ones come back from visits and hug us and tell us they missed us, and in the same breath tell us that “Momma said not to like you”.  I get it!  I wouldn’t want my kids to like anyone else either.   Even though we know why these children were taken away from their families, and we might think terribly of the parents, those babies still love them.  They don’t care what happened, and in most cases, they don’t even know why they aren’t with Momma anymore, they just know they love her.

After stressing smooth out for months, I asked his older brother to please ask his Mom if she would let Little Man know it was okay to use the potty at our house, and that she would be so proud of him if he did that.  It worked!!!  He is wearing big boy undies!  We still have our accidents, but his Momma knew best!  I’ve had the chance to meet her.  I haven’t ever wanted to meet Bio-parents before.  But I feel a need to encourage this Momma.  Her babies need her, and she wants them back, I think she just needs someone on her team.  I can’t imagine having everyone against me, pretty much hoping I fail so they can say, “I told you so.”   We need to take time to think of how our actions affect the little ones.  Did you know they have ears?  Did you know they hear when we talk about their parents in both positive and negative ways?  I’ve had to make a real effort to keep my words pure, and always tell them how proud their Momma is of them. 

Yes, I am their Momma for a short period of time, and Yes I treat them like they are my own, but sometimes their Momma knows best.  It has been a tough lesson, but a lesson that we need to learn.

-Just a stressed out Mom, trying to make it!

I Just Had to Learn…

Two days ago, my sweet husband said to me, “You need to write a post about our foster care experience”. Sure….give that assignment to the woman who is TERRIBLE at expressing her feelings, keeps things inside until she explodes and just doesn’t like to talk about herself…great idea. Can you hear my eyes rolling? Because they are! I don’t have this amazing gift of speaking like my husband does. I mean, I can talk to anyone about anything, but I can’t speak. Does that make any sense? So this is just going to be my words! Hope you can keep up!
In a short sentence, I just had to learn. Period. I am still learning, but I have had to learn to express my feelings. These kids aren’t my children who have been around me since birth. They aren’t the kids that know I love them, even when I don’t express it verbally.
When I found out I was pregnant with our last son, I remember joking and saying, “If this isn’t a girl, maybe that means God is telling us to adopt.” Have you ever had God tell you something? I am going to have to start paying attention, and the next time He tells me something, I’m going to put my fingers in my ears and just sing “la la la la la, I can’t hear you!” This is a trick I learned from my 7 year old…if you’re wondering. Have I mentioned I have a short attention span… Anyhoo, Back to my story. On the day we found out we were having another boy, I cried.
I love my sons, all three of them, but I wanted bows and ruffles! God gave me what I needed, not what I wanted. Hold on to that thought…you’ll hear it again. That is when this whole adoption thing started to come out of our mouths. Honestly, I am sure after seven years, no one thought we would actually do it. I was really beginning to wonder myself.
Then, I saw a friend post that she and her husband had officially dove in and started the road to adoption. I was so excited that I commented that Daniel and I were doing the same thing…even though we hadn’t really taken the first step. She sent me a message that day, asking if we were going through DHS, or a private agency. At that point I was against foster care altogether. I didn’t want to get attached, and then send them back! She tells me she has just received a call about 3 girls, and more than likely they will become adoptable. She gave our number to a worker, and before I knew it I was running across the yard to our office, and asking Daniel what he thought. As per his usual answer, he said “If you think we can handle it, then my answer is yes.”
That night was spent cleaning a room, moving bunk beds around, an emergency trip to Wal-Mart for clothes, and no sleep! You see, we have always had a name picked out for our girl. Trinity. Did you see that? Meaning 3… I just knew these 3 precious babies were my answered prayer, and I was going to live my dreams of braiding hair, picking out matching bows for their outfits, and painting nails. Don’t worry, I can hear you laughing… I quickly learned that you can’t fit these kids into your cookie cutter mold for children. I had to learn to fit into their mold. I really think the Trinity and three connection, was God’s confirmation that we were doing the right thing.
These girls were NOT angels! Don’t get me wrong, they had their sweet moments, but nothing like I imagined “My Daughter” would be. While I can’t go into anything about them, I knew at that moment, these girls needed to hear Jesus as long as they were with us. It was like a switch flipped! We may not have them for more than a week, or a month, or a lifetime, but we have to pour Jesus into these children. I remember when we finally started hearing songs about God, instead of cuss words! Baby steps, y’all! While, we didn’t have the girls very long, I can only pray that they remember our home being a safe place for them while they were in our care.
Now, when you are a foster parent, you are not ever alone. Your every move is being judged. Someone is always going to stop by your house. For a while, I thought, everything has to be spotless! They won’t let us have kids if we are messy! Listen, I work full time. My husband is a missionary, and when he is in the country, he stays home and he takes care of most of the household stuff. I hate it.

He does a great job, but I feel like I am letting my family down, because as a Mom, I am not the one doing the laundry and the cleaning. I just had to learn…to accept that I have an amazing husband that will gladly help out. I also had to learn that my house is NEVER going to be spotless with all these kids running around. I’ve had workers stop by, I’m trying to make lunch, dishes are piled up, trash is overflowing, and I just tell them “we have 6 kids in this house, you’ll have to step over the laundry”. They just laugh. Did you know that DHS workers are Moms and Dads too? They have messy houses too! Who knew!?!?
After our 27 hour training, we officially opened as a foster home! They rushed us through so we could get the girls before our training was complete, but we did not get to stay untrained for long. The night before Thanksgiving we loaded up to stay with Daniel’s family. I had a gut feeling we would get a call. It wasn’t the one we wanted, but we got it. It was a baby boy. I didn’t want a boy! We got the call, and I didn’t call the worker back. We went to Wal-Mart, and I let it fester. I was sick to my stomach. We didn’t want to start taking in boys! We have enough, God!!! I had to learn. That is when it hit me. God doesn’t give you what you want or need. God gives you what NEEDS you! Baby Z needed us. We had him for a few short weeks until he went to live with family. He just disappeared.

I sometimes wonder if he was just an angel, sent to see if we would step away from what we “Wanted” and open our hearts to what was needed.
I had to learn to say No. There will be hundreds of calls. You can’t take them all. But more importantly, I had to learn to say Yes. Yes to what we need, not what we want.
Shortly after New Year’s Day, we got a call. Another boy… Real funny God! He had 4 siblings (all boys). We said yes, and would later request that his older brother come live with us as well. This took us to 2 foster children in our home and we are only approved for 3. We left the door open for a girl knowing that God would keep His word. She came!
Do we get attached? Yes. But it is a different attachment. I can’t even describe it. I love these kids, but I have had to learn to trust God in the movements. To trust that if they leave us, it was His plan, and things will work out. I have had to learn to tell these kids that I am proud of them, because some have never heard the words before. I have had to learn to express myself, because they NEED to HEAR it, and see it, and feel it. Does it hurt when they leave? Most of the time, yes. I still get a little teary when I find one of Baby Z’s socks in our laundry. Sometimes, let’s be honest, you’re relieved. Fostering children is a lot to handle from time to time.
I don’t know if any of these words make sense! I hope that someone reading this might learn to say yes. There are SO many kids living in a shelter because there simply aren’t enough foster homes. I know this, because the brothers to two of mine are those kids. The ones still waiting to find a home that will protect them and love them. It hurts knowing that I can’t take them in. It hurts knowing that every night, there is a worker calling home after home trying to find placement for a child who doesn’t understand why he can’t just be with his family. It hurts to know there are kids who get moved to home after home because they are acting out, due to the trauma they have experienced. They just need a little love, and whole lot of Jesus.
I had to learn to be their voice. They need someone who will help them and love them no matter the cost. Will you be that one?
Words from a worn out Momma…
If you would like more information on foster care or adoption through foster care visit AdoptUsKids.Org or email us!

Father to the Fatherless: A Mans Journey into Foster Care

It seems like only yesterday that my wife walked into our office and said that there were 3 little girls that had no place to go and DHS wanted us to consider taking them. I told my wife that If she believed we could handle it, I was ready to give this a shot!
Those that know me understand that having a daughter is something I have prayed for. For those that don’t let me explain myself. You see, I once promised God that if I didn’t have a daughter, I would adopt one into my family. I am pretty sure God chuckled at this statement and said wish granted.

God gave Kassie and I 3 boy who mean the world to us. I could not be more proud of the young men (and the 7 year old) who I call mine, but a promise is a promise. We needed a daughter for our family to be complete. Kassie and I traveled all over the world doing mission work and would see orphans and street kids that we would dream of taking home with us. Problem with that is adoption is expensive and as a missionary family the money is just not there. After years of talking and praying for funds or opportunities Kassie suggested that we instead look into fostering to adopt. I was immediately against it.
You see I am a very protective man. There is very little that truly upsets me in this world, but mess with my family, a woman, or a child and I might just lose it. I told Kassie that there was no way that I would ever be able to foster. I could not handle sending a child back to a home that could not take care of them. There was talk of my anger and how I would hold mistakes over the parents heads throughout the process. Not to mention how I could never deal with their selfishness. In all honesty, I just did not want to be a foster dad. I had three children, that should be enough.
With all of this going through my head, a quite time changed everything. The lesson took me to Philippines 2:3, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourself (NIV).” I remember reading this and thinking about my own selfishness. I blamed parents and their problems for my unwillingness to foster. The children are the victims and deserve to be loved and feel safe, but I was ignoring their needs. These children deserve to be looked after, built up, and if possible adopted into a family that will not only treat them with dignity and respect, but love them unconditionally. I was broken that day by Gods words on forgiveness and love. That my own selfishness should not stand in the way of others.
We took those 3 girls into our home and for 4 weeks we loved them to the best of our ability. They are now back home. We would later takel in a 18 month old little boy, who broke all notions of my quest to adopt a daughter. He was able to go back to a kinship home (in most cases this means relatives)3 weeks later. We then took in a 3 year old boy who missed his family so badly that we would later take his 12 year old brother in as well. I had no idea what was happening, I was no longer looking for that daughter that I had longed for. I was simply looking for children in need of a loving and safe home and we were more than willing to provide that. Then it happened , we received a call that there was an 8 month old baby girl who needed a place to stay. With arms wide open we took her in.

We currently have 6 children in our home. 3 are mine biologically and 3 are mine because I choose to say that they are. The question is always the same when people find out that we have 3 foster children, “Why and will you adopt them?” Let me answer these 2 questions.
First, why would we do something like this? It is always fun to watch the look on peoples faces when they find out we are a foster home. The comments are always the same as well, “I couldn’t do it,” and “are you crazy?” My answers are always the same, “Yes you can”, and “ maybe a little.” I once thought I couldn’t do this either, but God changed my heart. I thought I could never let a child go and that it would be to difficult, and admittedly it is. That being said, I know that if they are in my home for a day or for a year, the time will be spent in a safe and loving space. For a short time they will be free of judgment and embarrassment. While they are with us, they will be loved as the Bible tells us to love. They will learn that there are at least some people in the world that are willing to help them. That not every person is hateful and spiteful. While they are in my home, they will be HOME.
The second question is a bit more difficult to answer. While I would love to say that I would adopt every child that comes into our home, it is impossible. Will adoptions happen in my home? If opportunity is given, yes. I still dream of completing my promise to God and adopting a daughter. I also now have dreams of parents cleaning up their act and having their children returned to their home where things have changed for the better. I dream of children growing up to be adults and looking to help others because someone once helped them. I mainly dream of those children that enter my home growing up and being happy. For me, Foster care is not about money or doing good. Foster care is about showing children that there are men who care no matter what, and that there is a a God who cared enough for them to change this mans heart.
My wife once asked me to take in three little girls that needed a home, I am so glad that we said yes.

If you would like more information on foster care or would like to become a foster family visit http://www.okdhs.org/services/foster/Pages/FosterCareHome.aspx. If you have question please feel free to email us here.

Is Jesus Worth It?

What happens when you are completely and totally focused on Jesus and the advancement of his gospel? What happens when you are willing to fight the hard fights that most will walk away from? What happens when you worship in public, like you do when you are alone in your car? What happens when you let go of the world that hinders you, and instead latch on to Jesus and the world he wants to save. What happens when you stop talking about helping others, and you actually begin to help those in need? What happens when you stop seeking applause from others, and you start seeking applause not for yourself, but for Christ. What happens when you answer “yes” to the question, “Is Jesus worth it?”

These questions have been overtaking me recently. It all started with a simple fast that turned into so much more. Then continued as the year has progressed. From Kenya to Nicaragua, from Colorado to Nigeria, God has moved in so many ways in my life. My faith is no longer a game; my struggles are no longer overwhelming. My perspective has changed on so many things due to Gods revelation and love for me. There came a moment that Paul’s message on suffering in Philippians 1 became perfectly clear. The trials we face are overcome by Jesus, and for that alone I stand amazed and ready to take on anything God places before me!

Too often Christians get comfortable in their churches. This is not surprising as the most challenging aspect of the Christian life is getting to church on time or  making sure that the service is finished early enough to beat the rush at the local buffet. There is never a thought of sharing Christ with others or simply stopping to pray for someone who is in need. The simple idea that most follow is that the way they live should be the example of how all Christians live. The problem with this methodology is that those outside the Church don’t see much difference in themselves and those that huddle together to sing songs once a week in a building dubbed “the Church.”

Instead a choice must be made. One must ask themselves am I living the Christian life God has called me to or do I need to take real action and voice my love and concern for the lost and dying world that he came to save. If we are true Christians and believe that there is a heaven and there is a hell, why do we remain so quite about it? This one question should be our mainstay, our flagship, our cry. We should cry out to the world, to the lost, that Christ is the way, the only way (John 14:6). He is our hope, our light, and the one who came to save us.

What happens when you make the choice and say yes? EVERYTHING!!!What are we waiting for Church? It is time to maintain our focus on Christ, it is time to seek the lost and the weary, it is time to cry out!

I ask once more is Jesus worth it? Absolutely… unequivocally…. yes.

The Art of Prayer

Not long ago, I sat in a church with 40 other people and listened to the prayer of a man I did not know. He was an older gentleman who’s accent made him difficult to understand. This meant that I had to really concentrate on his words in order to make out what was being said. I have been in hundreds of churches and listened to thousands of prayers from those I do not know, but never like this. Let me explain, his words hit a place that many Christians never find themselves, confidence and comfort. This man spoke to God as though he were standing in front of him. He called him father in such reverence that you could sense the love this man felt. Somehow it still went deeper. For ten minutes this man prayed his heart openly for all to hear, “Father, as young boy I rode a horse to your house on Sundays, now I am driven by others, but I am still here, because you called me.” Over and over this man played out his life and what God had done through and for him.

  Just like Jonah, this man told of times he called out in distress and God answered. You see Jonah remembered that moment he was casted over board and in a prayer tells everyone who will listen what he went through, “In trouble, deep trouble, I prayed to GOD. He answered me. From the belly of the grave I cried, ‘Help!’ You heard my cry. You threw me into ocean’s depths, into a watery grave, With ocean waves, ocean breakers crashing over me. I said, ‘I’ve been thrown away, thrown out, out of your sight. I’ll never again lay eyes on your Holy Temple.’ Ocean gripped me by the throat. The ancient Abyss grabbed me and held tight. My head was all tangled in seaweed at the bottom of the sea where the mountains take root. I was as far down as a body can go, and the gates were slamming shut behind me forever— Yet you pulled me up from that grave alive, O GOD, my God!” (Jonah 2:1-9)

Neither Jonah nor the man mentioned above used words they had heard before. There was no mimicry in their prayer just the love that spilled over from knowing God would hear their words. We have a tendency to repeat the same words when asked to pray in a public setting. Surely this is not the heart that God has given believers? It is time to lay our hearts down, our hurts and joys alike. It is time to share and cry out to God’ in a way that others can hear and pray as well. It is time to let go of the robotic prayer life that so many have fallen into. It’s time to pray with righteousness, reverence, and power. Just as Paul says in Ephesians 6:18, “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” 

The title of this post is deceiving, as there really is no art to prayer. Prayer should come from your heart. It should be our offering and our worship not just individually, but corporately. Do not be afraid to pray aloud for those who are in need. When there is a n accident on the road pray. When a couple is joined in marriage, pray. When you are on top of a spiritual mountain and when you are in a spiritual valley , pray. Do not just pray to yourself, but pray so others can join in your prayer. This is not for boastful purposes, but so that Christian hearts and voice can join together in prayer when it is needed. You see when that older man was finished praying we all knew where he stood….at the feet of the Father. When your prayer is over, do those around you know where you stand?