Fostering Hope for Foster Kids

Foster BabysitterPart of the human condition is to long for what we don’t have. Every season of life, we reach for the next or dwell on the past. Single people want to be married. Married couples sometimes wish they were still single. Students wish they were finished with school and out in the “real world”. Those of us working in the corporate realm sometimes long for the freedom of being back at university.

When I was in high school, everything I did was striving toward the goal of getting into West Point. I was the captain of my soccer team, president of my Girl Scout troop, an officer of the National Charity League, member of both student council and National Honor Society, as well as a straight-A student.

I was not the kid whose parents pushed them to work harder, study more and get better grades. I actually got grounded from reading. My parents insisted that I start getting Bs and Cs and that I go out and play more. They had the wisdom I did not at that age; that life is short, and if we are always straining for the next season without enjoying the present, what kind of life is that?

Now instead of feeling perpetually angry and frustrated because I dislike my job, feel unappreciated at work and am pushing 30 with no true marriage prospects in sight, I want to enjoy this season of singleness. There is so much I can do in this chapter of life where I have freedom from spousal responsibility. My parents are still in good health. I have no husband, no children and no pets. I am freer than I will ever be. The world is my oyster.

Last Sunday, I went to an information session on being certified to be a babysitter for foster kids. Did you know that foster parents can only hire certified babysitters to watch their foster children? God has placed within me a longing to build people up and inspire them to be who they were created to be. I am excited about the possibility of learning the unique passions and talents of the foster kids I babysit and then bringing a corresponding project for us to work on together.

I could bring my guitar and write songs with kids interested in music. I could bring my spare SLR camera and teach artistic kids about the light triangle and the effects of adjusting aperture settings. I could bring model airplane sets or a book of logic puzzles. The possibilities are endless. Each activity would be tailored to the needs and interests of each individual foster child.

I would love to spark to flame the inner potential of these kids so many others have overlooked. My heart longs to heal the hurting and uplift the downtrodden; to encourage those without hope and speak truth into those plagued by insecurity. God has placed within me a desire to, in the words of Frederick Buechner, help others find “the place where [their] deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Authentically Aurora

Sweet ’16

2016 Words2016 is going to be a sweet year. 2014 was the worst year of my life, 2015 was a year of recovery, and 2016 is going to be fantastic. I just know it.

I feel like God has given me four words for 2016: Discipline, Contentment, Light and Joy. Each of these words has come up repeatedly, either in conversations with friends, family, reading Scripture, prayer or even interactions with you, fellow bloggers.

Discipline is pretty straight-forward. I allowed myself to wallow and drift a bit in 2015, giving myself a lot more leeway because I was practicing extending grace to myself and receiving it from others. But it’s possible for that pendulum to swing too far, so it’s time to bring it back and show some self-control and accountability for my actions.

Every time the bible tells us to stop one thing, it tells us to do something else. Every time we are asked to give something up, we are promised something else. There is never a list of don’ts without a list of dos. In that vein, I want to speak less and listen more; make less statements and ask more questions. I need to rein in my tongue and practice using a filter. Cutting back on my love life, I plan to go on less dates and spend more time with friends and family. I want to eat less sugar and more vegetables. And I am going to watch less Netflix and do more exercise.

Contentment is a word J at Salvageable has spoken over me several times in the past month. And I know that the Apostle Paul set forth the example to be content in all circumstances. We are to rejoice always, pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances. Ugh. What a challenge for a shriveled, bitter heart like mine! But God continues to extend more and more grace to me.

One of the greatest sources of discontentment for me is my singleness. Not so much my singleness, actually, as my loneliness. I am profoundly lonely. I just long for a companion to share life with. But in the past week, in two back-to-back dinners, two of my married girlfriends have shared with me that their marriages are on the rocks and admitted longing for their days of singleness. Two other friends’ marriages were wrecked by affairs earlier this year. I’m only 28 years old, and already I’m seeing friends’ marriages torn apart?! I need to keep in perspective that singleness isn’t all that bad when compared to a difficult marriage. As one of my negotiating instructors once said, “No deal is better than a bad deal.”

Light is a special word to me that I sense God repeatedly speaking into my prayer life. All of the bible verses I’m clinging to right now have to do with light. “If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.” -Luke 11:36

“I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called” (Eph. 1:18), and “Once you were full of darkness, but now you have the light of the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true” (Eph. 5:8-9).

“Live clean, innocent lives… shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people” (Phil. 2:12-15). This is what I want for myself in 2016. 

Lastly, Joy. I have always struggled to have joy. Once time I did a word study on how the bible says to have joy, and I think most of the verses talked about trusting God. When we truly believe that God is sovereign and in control – and that He is good and loving! – we are able to accept our circumstances with joy, trusting that God is working in and through us.

There are also lots of verses about being thankful in all circumstances and offering a sacrifice of praise (and believe me, it is often quite a sacrifice!). Cultivating gratitude and releasing control of my life are going to be key in accepting the joy I believe God wants to develop in me this year. “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him.” -Romans 15:13

Yes, Lord. May this be the year of Joy.

Authentically Aurora

Choosing Joy

BlessingsIt’s funny how people change over time, some for the better and some… well, not for the better. Tonight, I’m thankful for rekindling old friendships and finding that the years have been good to us – defining, healing and sanctifying.

I recently moved into a new apartment and was getting rid of some old furniture and decor that didn’t fit in my new place. I posted an ad for the items on Facebook, and the first respondent was an old acquaintance named Kelly.

I say acquaintance because, although Kelly and I were in the same bible study for two years, she and I never really connected. At the time, I found her loud, brash and insensitive. I’m sure she found me negative and whiny. We were, needless to say, not the best of friends. It’s been four years since I’ve seen or heard from Kelly – I changed churches, and she was always on the road for work – so I was a bit surprised when she was the one to respond to my ad.

I foughtWe met for dinner tonight to make the exchange, and I think we were both pleased at the changes the passing years have brought about in one another – and in ourselves. When I’m with friends like Ashley, who has been a regular part of my life for decades, I don’t notice my transformation because it is so gradual. But being with Kelly, and remembering what our interactions were like four years ago, I was struck by the difference between who I was and who I have become.

Kelly, too, has shown remarkable change. Like me, she is a female engineer working for a major oil & gas corporation. She is smart, strong, confident, capable, independent and established. All of those qualities used to come off as somewhat abrasive, but she has softened over the years.

PlansKelly shared with me that a couple of years ago – all in one week – she closed on her first house, started a new job, went through a breakup, and her mom had a heart attack. People don’t come out of weeks like that unchanged. Kelly began to wrestle with depression. It’s a painful, heart wrenching battle – as I well know – but Kelly said to me, “I have grown so much in patience, compassion and mercy.” Her suffering taught Kelly a lot about both receiving and extending grace.

There is a kindness to Kelly now; a gentleness that I never saw before. For the first time, we connected on a soul-deep level, and I was astonished to realize just how similar we are. Our journeys of sanctification have been much the same – strong women being broken, for God’s glory; then built back up in Truth with grace and dignity; love and humility.

Tonight reminded me anew that there truly is a method to the madness and a purpose to the pain.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” -1 Peter 1:6-7

Authentically Aurora

Cultivating Contentment

Contented HeartSometimes we have to pause our Pursuit of Happiness and take the time to just Be Happy.

Sometimes the best thing we can do is just let a situation be what it is instead of what we want it to be.

Sometimes we have to do what we can, with what we have, where we are.

So this week, I am thankful for my church. It has taken me years to find a church where I experience God’s presence every single Sunday, but finally – finally! – I have a church home again. It’s far from perfect (you know, churches being comprised of sinners and all that), but the worship is powerful, the people are authentic, and the sermons are both convicting and encouraging.

Our worship band is full of talented musicians who choose songs with lyrics straight out of Scripture, and every week as I sing along, I close my eyes and experience God’s love and peace in ways I rarely do throughout the rest of my week.

Our people are servant-hearted, with a significant portion of the congregation volunteering as greeters, nursery workers, prayer partners and more. There is even a group of young adults that stand at a booth outside in the heat to make iced coffee for people as they arrive in the morning.

Significant portions of our tithes and offerings are poured back out into the community. This is a church that believes it is more blessed to give than to receive, whether the resource in question is money or time.

This week after church, I went out to lunch with a group of new friends, and our conversation was full of life and light. My heart felt full. My heart felt happy.

God is moving in this church. And I am so thankful to be a part of not only this church, but also the greater purpose: His Kingdom work in this city. “God, who am I, that You have brought me this far?” (2 Sam. 7:18)

Authentically Aurora