Just over a week. That's how long we've been a family of six. For the first three days or so, it was hard to grasp. It's an understandably difficult concept to go from being the parent of three children on Monday- picking out three sets of clothes, making three snacks at a time, tucking three kids into bed at night- to being the parent of four kids on Tuesday. But very quickly it became "right". It wasn't even our new normal. It was just the normal we were always supposed to be. Our "finally" normal.
Even as I express how relatively easy this foster care transition has been, and how right it feels, I fully understand that at any moment things could change. We're only responsible for this two-year-old boy for as long as someone else will let us be. Somewhere between one more day and forever, that's all we know. But for now, he's part of the family.
So, how does a stranger become family so quickly. Is it because he's adorable? No, though he is. Is it because he's a "good" baby? No, though he is. Is it because his laughter makes all our hearts melt? No, though it does. My children have taken him in as a brother, and my husband and I have taken him in as a son, for only one reason: GOD. It’s supernatural. Beyond our capabilities. God makes that kind of thing possible. Not us. Psalms 68:6a says, "God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains:"
The day before "A" came to us, my eight-year-old daughter said, on the ride home from the beach, "I feel like we're missing somebody." All of us were there in the van, including our two dogs. She wasn't talking about Grandma and Grandpa that we left behind at the beach. She was talking about "A", though we didn't yet know who he was. And I knew exactly how she felt. God had been stirring anticipation in our hearts for many months.
On our refrigerator, we have our names linked together, written out in magnetic Scrabble tiles. Just as easy as it is to add our foster son's name to our five, that's how easy it has seemed to make him one of us. He slipped right in like the letters of his name on the board. And it's a perfect analogy of what God has done for us.
In Romans 11, Paul uses the example of an olive tree. The natural branches he speaks of were the nation of Israel, God's chosen people. But we- believers who aren’t descendants of Abraham- being the wild branches, have been grafted into the tree. He added us into the family. He has made us a part of Himself.
Galatians 4:4-5 says it plainly. "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons."
How can someone become part of a family so quickly? God. With our foster son, it’s God’s love in our hearts and a divine plan that makes it possible. For the seeking soul, it’s a measure of faith and God’s grace by which they can instantly be made His child.
Nine months. That’s approximately how long it takes for a baby to fully develop inside its mother’s womb. It’s also the time it took Alex and I to complete all the requirements and get our application for foster care licensing submitted to the state. The irony of the timing wasn’t lost on me as I signed my name to the paper today.
There are so many unknowns about this process. We don’t know exactly when our application will be approved. Possibly in the next couple of weeks. We don’t know who God has chosen for us to invite into our home and family, or when He’ll send them, or how difficult the adjustment will be. We don’t know if we’ll be called to minister to a child’s needs for a short time or, perhaps, forever. As I held the pen to sign the application, fear of the unknown brought worry. But I am reminded of some things I do know.
I know God has called us to this. I’ve known it for a very long time. I know that every life is precious, and there is a child that needs my family to teach them they are a valuable creation of Almighty God. I know that providing a child with a safe and loving environment will have a positive impact on future generations. I know a foster child will mean added stress, but I also know God’s grace is sufficient. I know God’s love is a free gift that replenishes in my heart as I share it with others, and it’s His will for us not to be stingy with it.
We didn't go through the process of the last nine months because we enjoyed it, but I know God has used the "gestational period" of foster care licensing to prepare our hearts for His purpose. I’m sure there will be many more revelations as the plan unfolds. For now, I'll hold onto these truths as we continue to wait.
Thank you, Lord, for my children and for the gift of summer vacation.
As this new school year begins, I pray for your blessings on them:
Lord, please give my children Christian teachers. Let the people who lead and teach them be led and taught by You.
Surround my children with kind and patient authority figures, who are also consistent and structured.
Lord, please help my children know and remember their identity in You. Help them understand how You see them .
Help my children have a healthy self-esteem throughout the school year. Let them be confident in how well You made them.
Lord, please put people in my children's paths that will encourage them, motivate them, inspire them, and guide them in the right way.
Give them friends who will encourage them in their faith, and let my children encourage others. Teach them how to be a friend.
Please let my children encounter people who are different from them, so they will see how creative You are in Your most important handiwork.
May you expand my children's knowledge of science this year, so they will marvel at Your awesome creation. Let them learn more about the history of the people you have placed on this earth, so they can learn from the mistakes and the successes of the past. Give them a passion for reading, and for language, so they will learn how to think and to communicate. And, let each lesson my children are taught contain only truth.
Teach them how to be responsible. Teach them how to deal with stresses and pressures.
Please give my children endurance to accomplish the tasks set before them every day. Help them to try their best at everything, with a good attitude. Give them a healthy pride in their accomplishments at school. Please teach them to accept and learn from their mistakes.
Father, let this be a fun and happy school year. I pray school will be a joyful place for my children to spend their days. I pray this year will be exciting and memorable to them.
Please protect my children from all mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual harm. Guard them, Lord, with Your strong hand.
Help my children to let their light shine for You. Please present them with opportunities to show people Your love, at school and everywhere they go.
Above all, let Your will be done in the lives of my children.
This summer, my children and I have been working on scripture memorization. For us, that means taking a verse per week and saying it together every day so by the end of the week we have it memorized. We've been focusing on the book of Psalms, and I'd like to share with you the verses I've selected for us to learn.
I think Psalms is especially great for verse memorization. The psalms are passionate and inspiring. They teach us about worship and about the character of God, and the lyrical nature of Psalms makes many verses relatively easy to memorize.
Some verses may take more than one week for kids to memorize. That's okay! Sometimes you may want to learn two in the same week. Just be consistent with reciting the verse daily- maybe at the dinner table- but, learn them at whatever pace is best for everyone in your family.
The Smith kids reciting Psalms 19:14.
Something I've found interesting is that verses I thought were difficult were memorized easily by my kids, while some of the shorter verses were a little more challenging for them. Also, it has been easier for us all to remember the verse based on the week we learned it, rather than the actual verse number. So, I plan to go back and work on making sure the chapter and verse are memorized as well.
Challenge one another to come up with a melody for some of the verses. Many of the verses have already been set to music and are well-known songs (links to a couple are included below). You may choose to offer a small incentive for memorization or use a wall chart to show kids their progress.
Obviously, you could search Psalms and pick out many, many wonderful verses for your family to learn together, but perhaps this list will make it easy for you to get started. (The verses below are KJV except two which are noted.) After our verses from Psalms are learned, I hope to choose another book of the bible from which to memorize. How do you encourage scripture memorization in your family? Please share your ideas in the Comments section!
7 Verses from Psalms to Memorize with Your Children
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My heart is bursting right now. I just talked to my ten-year-old daughter for the first time in four days, and she's finally on her way home from camp! I am so excited to see her, and hug her, and hold on tightly for the rest of the weekend!
This post is a little more personal in nature than other recent articles I've written. I want to share that this has been one of the most challenging weeks I can remember. As a full-time working mother who has always wished she could be a stay-at-home mother, I have been reveling in the opportunity I have this summer to take several weeks off just to spend with my kids. It has been glorious! We have laughed, and played (and fought and cried), and have been so busy seeing and doing fun things for most of the month- then one of my three left me for almost a whole week!
My family is involved in a group called American Heritage Girls (I tell people it's like Girl Scouts, but Christ-focused). It is a remarkable organization. I serve as the troop Shepherd (kind of like a chaplain), Elizabeth is in the "Explorer" unit, and Sarah is a "Tenderheart". We've gone on family camp-outs with the group, and Alex has taken the girls on many of troop outings during the last two years of our involvement. We love American Heritage Girls. But when Elizabeth wanted to go to an AHG summer camp five hours away, my faith was tested in a big way!
You have to understand, I have not gone without seeing this child for more than a day in ten years! Other than a few one-night stays with grandparents, the only times I've not slept under the same roof as her was when I was in the hospital having her sister and brother. But I knew this experience would be good for her, and she was so excited to go. To be honest, the only reason I could let her go was because her dad took a week off from work to go volunteer at camp. (Thank you, Lord, for a wonderful daddy for my children.) He took four girls from our troop (including our girl) and drove from Lewisville, NC to Crawfordville, GA on Monday, and they are returning on a Saturday.
Campers are not supposed to call home, I suppose for a few reasons. Logistically, it would be impossible for that many girls to have access to phones. I think they also feel it makes homesickness worse instead of better. Plus, camp is supposed to be a place to escape the hold technology has on us. Still, I balked at the restriction. It doesn't feel natural for a mother not to speak to her ten-year-old child for that long! (We bent the rules a little, and I did get to speak to her for about 60 seconds on Tuesday. And, of course, my husband sent me text message updates and pictures every day, plus I could talk to him on the phone in the evening.)
But, what a lesson God had for me this week! There were a few lessons actually. I could talk all day about learning to have faith that He will take care of my children. But the biggest lesson was something I thought I already knew: Thou shalt have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3).
Another one of the moms from our troop and I got together this week and discussed it. We are guilty of worshipping our children. It is a difficult thing for me to distinguish between the love and devotion of a mother and idol worship, but I have to admit that I probably cross that line sometimes.
Deuteronomy 4:24 says, "For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God." God's rightful place is at the center of our lives. He belongs at the top of our priority list. The thought of being without my daughter for a week almost made it hard to breath! But do I feel that kind of devotion for the Lord? I definitely believe He created a mother's heart to long for her children, but I need to be very careful that I am not placing them above Him in my life.
I can't say that I've learned any special secrets for avoiding elevating my children to idol status, but I think just recognizing I do it is an important step. As with any sin, all we have to do is ask forgiveness and ask Him to help us overcome it.
I am so thankful that when we walk with the Lord, He helps us to grow and puts circumstances in our life that draw us closer to Him. There were times while Elizabeth was gone that I thought, "Why on earth did I let her go?" and "Why did I agree to this?" The answer is simple. It was a God thing. He helps us grow. He teaches us the lessons we need to learn when we seek Him. This week was so beneficial for my child. And as much as it hurt, it was beneficial for me, too. I pray I will succeed in not having any other gods before Him, including my children.
The world is changing, my son and my daughters
A lot for the worse, but much for the better
Hope whispers, love beckons, joy calls all around
Amidst all the raucous and clamoring sounds
Listen for truth, cling to it, live it!
There's only one Source, simply believe it
Be grateful for all of this life’s simple things
Treasure each breath and the life that it brings
Don’t let fear overtake you, when darkness is looming
Love grows each moment, even now find it blooming
Though the world may be changing, the Word is yet true
The Maker still holds it, and He’s holding you, too
Heather Norman Smith, 1-4-16
I found this "note" on my iPhone. It was composed on 10/16/10. Sarah was one month old. I guess it was a blog of sorts, except at the time I wrote it just for myself.
We still have nights like these on occasion, but now with three kids instead of two. Thankfully, the good times always outweigh the rough ones. And some of the rough times even provide a laugh later on down the road.
"There was an hour-long debacle in our house this evening that looked like scenes from a movie about the trials of parenting. Our three-year old had the most extreme tantrum ever because she couldn't have cake for dinner. We promised she could have some after she ate something else, but this reasoning didn't work. The tantrum was so bad it caused her to have a nose bleed which resulted in a bloody couch. While I'm pre-treating the blood on her shirt, Alex is scrubbing the couch. Then I make Elizabeth a turkey sandwich and she is happy. When I empty the washer so I can wash the bloody shirt, I discover a disposable diaper had been washed this morning and the gooey diaper gel is stuck all over the wash basket of our brand new machine. While I'm cleaning it out, Elizabeth finds a travel size bottle of baby soap which she thinks is hand sanitizer. I take her to rinse the soap off her hands then go back to the washing machine where I realize there is also blood covering the back of the shirt I just treated (not quite sure how that happened). At some point during all this the baby started screaming. Alex took over cleaning the washer and I went to take care of Sarah to find she had a dirty diaper and her clothes and blanket were soiled as well. It was so bad in fact that I immediately put her in the bathtub. Elizabeth wanted to help, but ended up re-soaping parts I had already rinsed. I had to call Alex to help. We finally got the baby and the couch clean, the washer is going through a 'cleaning' cycle, and we've all settled down for now. And, Elizabeth forgot all about the cake."
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Thank you for visiting my blog. I share devotional articles and musings about life, parenting, and the writing journey, as well as important news about my books. I hope you find something of interest here!