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If you are considering foster care or adoption, which I hope all of you are for some point in your lives, then I highly recommend the book Another Place at the Table.  I had a hard time putting it down it was a really easy read and took you through foster care from the experiences of one foster mom.  She shares her challenges, victories, heart break, mistakes, joy and despair while taking care of many foster and adopted children. 

From Publishers Weekly
It’s 1988, and Harrison, a happily married mother of three, takes a job with Head Start, working with at-risk four-year-olds. Her heart goes out to the foster kids; before long, she and her husband take state training and adopt two sisters. Five children make a big family, but Harrison finds it tough to turn her back on needy children. She and her husband start accepting emergency care “hot-line” foster children, too; soon, Harrison quits her day job and becomes a full-time-overtime, really-foster parent. In addition to a stay-at-home mom’s usual duties, Harrison is caring for children with serious emotional baggage and often complex medical problems. There are lawyers, therapists and social service people to meet with, plus the scheduling of visits to birth mothers, an emotional roller coaster for all parties. Birth mothers, she finds, are often “harder to hate than you might expect,” and when an especially difficult child comes along, it’s almost impossible to accept that even foster parents have their limitations. And how do you “give enough” to each child so they get a healthy sense of family, “without loving them too much to let them go in the end?” With over half a million American children in foster care today, Harrison’s personal but vitally important account should be read by public policy makers and by anyone with a spare room in their home.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist
With so much awful publicity surrounding foster parenting, Harrison’s story of opening her home to foster children, three of whom she later adopted, is tender and inspiring. It is also filled with heartbreaking truths about abused and neglected children and a social service system that is overburdened and occasionally negligent itself. For 13 years, Harrison, along with her husband, three biological sons, and three adopted daughters, has fostered abandoned infants, runaway teens, disabled preschoolers, and children discharged from psychiatric hospitals. The Harrisons also became hot-line foster parents, willing to accept children in emergency situations with little or no notice. Harrison describes the process social workers use to place children, the horrifying circumstances of the children involved, and the training required of foster parents. She brings her story home by focusing, with heart-rending details, on four troubled children, including Danny, a developmentally delayed eight-year-old; Lucy, a deeply depressed eight-year-old abandoned by her mother; seven-month-old Karen, eventually adopted by the Harrisons and later diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome; and Sara, a six-year-old who had been sexually abused. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

The Constructive Curmudgeon

I love this post from a blog Jeremy reads:

1. Read old, challenging books.
2. Talk to people in situations with no background noise.
3. Pray through the Psalms.
4. Read the Book of Ecclesiastes multiple times until it sinks in.
5. Talk to older people and really listen to them.
6. Sit in silence, doing nothing for short or long periods of time (but not in a yoga posture).
7. Thank God for what cannot be taken away.
8. Write a letter (not an email) to a friend or family member.
9. See a worthwhile film and then talk about it with a group of people. Don’t use the word “awesome.”
10. Drive in silence–no radio, music, cell phones, etc.
11. Listen to John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” until you get it. But don’t accept the theology of the liner notes.
12. Fast and pray for a few days (without telling anyone who doesn’t need to know).
13. Pray written prayers from The Book of Common Prayer.
14. Read historical confessional statements such as The Thirty Nine Articles or The Westminster Confession of Faith or The Athansian Creed.
15. Do not interrupt people when you talk with them. Do not finish their sentences. Maybe they are looking for just the right word.
16. Weep with those who weep.
17. Stop watching television for one week. Note what happens to your soul.
18. Listen to a classic book on tape when you are driving.
19 Buy someone a book they wouldn’t buy for themselves and ask them to read it.
20. Pray for strangers as they pass you by.
21. Take communion on a regular basis.
22. Look for opportunities to share the Gospel with strangers in creative ways. (I’ve done it in a public steam bath several times.)
23. Listen to Mars Hill Audio interviews.

Okay, I was “tagged” by my daughter, except I really don’t know exactly what that means…I am not sure if I remember most of this because it has been soooo long.

How long have you been together? married 28 years in November

How long did you date? don’t remember, we met at a baseball game in 9th grade

How old is he? 45

Who eats more? He does

Who said “I love you” first? I would assume him

Who is taller? He is

Who is smarter? Him, absolutely

Who does the laundry? Both of us

Who does the dishes? Mostly me but he is happy to pitch in

Who sleeps on the right side of the bed? me, but he sleeps closest to the door, supposedly to protect me but it is also closer to the bathroom 😉

Who pays the bills? Him

Who mows the lawn? Him

Who cooks dinner? Me

Who is more stubborn? Hard to say

Who kissed who first? Wow, too long ago but again I assume it was him

Who asked who out? Him

Who proposed? Proposed, hmmmm, it was more like hey what are we going to do, get married I guess.

Who is more sensitive? Him

Who has more siblings? Him, he is the baby of 4 and I have just one brother

What were you doing 10 years ago? Probably homeschooling four kids.

Four copies of Small Town, Big Miracle are available from FCC let me know if you want one, they are $10 each and I will wait to see if there are any left for the bookstand after I hear from you guys.  I just received a packet of information from Family Life about launching an Orphans Ministry in your church.  I am really excited about it and will let you know what progress is made.

This past week has been extremely busy, so I am just chilling out tonight and planning to work like crazy tomorrow after a good nights sleep.  Wednesday night, July 17th, the possibility arose that another driver was needed for the FCC Youth Mission Trip to Michigan.  Thursday morning I found out that I was going to go and we left on Saturday morning.  We were gone for 8 days and had a great time.  We were very busy, worked hard and were inspired and challenged to serve the Lord in ways we never imagined. We went to serve a church plant named Parkway Community Church that we learned about from our friends Josh and Missi Linebaugh who moved from Kansas City to Grand Blanc, MI almost a year and a half ago for Josh’s residency.  We miss them tremendously and it was such a blessing to spend time with them and serve their new church.  Please pray for Parkway and the devoted, passionate pastor, Andrew Lucas, and his charming, hilarious wife, Sera.  There are some real challenges here and I look forward to seeing what the Lord has in store.

Learning to Dream Big

by: Mark and Bethel Vatsaas

Throughout our adoption journey, we have tried to follow wherever God was leading. From the time God called us to adopt, we dreamed about meeting the kids God had chosen to add to our family. We never dreamed what else he had planned for us.

Our adoption application specified our preference for school age, legally-free kids. Wanting to leave God every option, we were willing to consider younger or legal-risk kids, but we didn’t believe that would happen and our expectations matched our preferences. Because we expected legally-free kids, we never expected to deal with birth parents at all, and in our minds they barely existed.

That all changed the day the county called with a potential placement. Instead of legally-free school-age kids, they offered us two legal-risk toddlers: Damien (2½) and Isaiah (1½). The birth parent we had expected to be out of the picture was suddenly popping up in the frame. It was such a shock that we prayed for two days before we were convinced that it wasn’t a mistake. One week later, they were in our home.

The boys’ single mother (we’ll call her Rita) was only 19. In addition to our boys, she had a third boy in a medically fragile placement due to drug use during pregnancy. Furthermore, she was pregnant again, and still using. We felt compassion for one so young who clearly needed to be adopted herself, but we also felt anger, resentment and even scorn for how her choices had caused so much harm.

It is impossible to describe just how difficult our lives became. We knew from our training that it would be hard, but we never imagined just how hard the reality would be. Already traumatized by their history of neglect, they were now dealing with the new trauma of leaving everything familiar to live with us. Damien clung to Mark like a barnacle, wanting (and desperately needing) to be held and carried at all times to relieve his anxiety. Every night between 11:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. Damien would wake up, crawl into our bed and practically smother us, unable to sleep without close physical contact. Isaiah would fly into a rage over the smallest thing, and we all bore the scars from his hitting, pinching, and biting. He also had night terrors, screaming bloody murder at 2:00  a.m., falling back to sleep only when we held him. What had been a peaceful home (as peaceful as it can be with four kids) became chaos, sucking the very life out of our entire family.

Visitation, suddenly a twice per week reality, was especially exhausting. Fitting the time required into our already busy lives was itself challenging, but the effect on the two boys was crushing. They had a strong bond with their mom, especially Damien, and the separation at the end of each visit reopened their wounds, escalating their normal level of rage and grief.

It was easy to lay much of the blame for our struggles at Rita’s feet. After all, her choices had caused the boys’ trauma that was now making our lives so difficult. Her attitude didn’t help, either. Threatened by us, she was rude, demanding, and unreliable. The day she failed to show up for visitation devastated the boys, and we had to pick up the pieces. We began to see the upcoming termination hearing as our salvation from the visitation burden, and our hope for the boys to finally start healing.

One month before the hearing, a scheduling error was discovered that forced the hearing to be rescheduled to some indefinite point in the future. We felt like we had been sentenced to prison. Rita, oblivious to our pain, was smugly delighted with the delay, and after months of lax compliance with the county’s rehabilitation plan, Rita began to turn things around. As we waited to get a new court date, Rita achieved her first full month of sobriety since the boys were placed with us. By the time the new court date was finally scheduled, Rita was confident that she would win back her boys.

It was during these long weeks of uncertainty that our pastor issued a challenge to our church, asking, “What are you willing to surrender to God to demonstrate your love and obedience?” We both knew immediately what we had to answer, and through grief and tears we prayed, “Yes, Lord. We will surrender these boys to you. We trust you.”

Rita’s confidence led her to tell the boys that they would be going home with her in just a couple months. Needless to say, we did not find this helpful to the boys’ state of mind. The case worker and the county attorney met with Rita and gave her a pretty stern reality check. They told her that it was by no means certain that she would get the boys back, and she must not lead the boys to believe otherwise. Even her own lawyer agreed that her recent improvement might be too little, too late. This conversation had a profound affect on her, and her cocky confidence disappeared. She became much more cooperative with the boy’s therapist, and noticeably more polite with us. The boys began to handle the visits better as they began to sense Rita’s change of heart.

As the new trial date approached, Rita asked the case worker to arrange a face-to-face meeting with us, and we met with her just three days before the court date. Rita explained that she knew that termination was likely, and that it was her fault for failing to get her act together earlier. Through tears, she told us she knew that we loved the boys, and if she couldn’t keep them, she was glad that they were going to be with us. Then, with visible fear, Rita asked if we would allow her to continue to see the boys after termination.

Fortunately, the boys’ therapist had prepared us for this possibility, and we had already considered how we would answer. We told her how we had prayed for the boys before we even knew them, and that we now prayed for her as well. We affirmed that we really do love her boys and that we want whatever is God’s best plan for them. We told her that we loved her too, and truly wanted her to succeed, even if it meant we didn’t get to adopt the boys. Finally, we told her that because of the strong attachment the boys have with her, we believe that cutting them off from her would only cause more trauma. We couldn’t say what it would look like, but as long as she stayed clean and safe, we would support a continued relationship.

After several hugs, we left the meeting in awe of God’s grace. God had used the delay of the trial to transform not only Rita’s attitude, but our hearts as well. The anger and resentment we had felt towards Rita had melted away, replaced by compassion and love. It was clear that God had a role for us to play in the birth mom’s life as well as her children. Three days later, the hearing was delayed for another five weeks. This latest delay meant that Rita would have four full months of sobriety behind her when we finally got back to court. We were disappointed, but trusted that God knew what he was doing.

In the last few days before the trial, we were surprised by how little anxiety we were feeling. We had, finally, completely surrendered the boys’ fate (and ours) to God, fully trusting that he would do whatever was best for them and for us. Mostly we just felt sad knowing that whatever the outcome, the boys were going to experience more pain. God had used the latest delay to make our hearts ready to fulfill the next part of his plan.

We walked into the courtroom about 20 minutes early to find Rita sitting completely alone. She had no one at all to support her, and she looked terrified. Without so much as a word to each other, we walked over and sat down on either side of her, comforting her with hugs and words until it was time for her to join her lawyer at the defense table.

The trial was hard on Rita, as her failures and their affect on her boys were listed in harsh, clinical detail. First, the boys’ therapist described the extent of their trauma, concluding with her expert opinion that returning to their birth mom would be even more traumatic. Then the case worker gave her testimony, concluding with her expert opinion that despite her recent improvements, Rita was not a fit parent. Each word hit Rita like a blow, and through it all, tears streamed down her face. It was an act of  mercy when the judge recessed for lunch.

As the lawyers and witnesses started heading for the door, Rita stood by her chair looking like a little lost lamb. We invited her to join us for lunch, and there we heard the rest of Rita’s story. Rita’s mother was only 13 when Rita was born. Her father was just 15. At 10 years old, Rita’s father abandoned them and her mom was addicted to drugs. From 10 to 15, Rita was the parent for her four younger siblings. Her younger sister even called her Mom. When she was 15, social services placed them all in foster care. Feeling like she had failed her family, she ran away from her foster home and she was pregnant a year later. We ached for the little girl in that story, and for the one returning to her trial.

The second half of the trial was even harder than the first. The pain Rita endured during the morning was relived during the closing arguments, and relived a third time as the judge read out his findings. Rita was weeping long before the judge gave his verdict, terminating Rita’s parental rights, and banged his gavel. The bailiff called out, “All rise” and the judge left for his chambers. Mark looked over just in time to see Rita wandering aimlessly out the door, and he followed her out into the hall. He found Rita sitting on a bench, sobbing uncontrollably. Mark sat beside her and held her, and soon Bethel was there, too. As Rita clung to us, we grieved for the grown-up-too-fast child in our arms.

The boys’ therapist later told us that when she walked into the court room and saw us sitting with Rita, it was clearly a “God thing.” We couldn’t agree more. Some people who hear our story try to tell us how admirable we are, but we know better. This was not our plan, and had we held tight to our misplaced expectations, we would have missed out on God’s much better plan.

If there is anything admirable in us, it is only there because God labored for months to put it there. Our dreams, you see, were simply too small. Although it was painful at the time, God had to clear our dreams away to make room for much bigger ones. We feel humble that he considered us worthy of it. God has plans for you as well. Are you ready?


This story is from


July 2008
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