What’s wrong with our politics!

The current political and social turmoil has been weighing on my mind recently. “Oh no, Shelby, don’t do it. Don’t start talking about politics.”

RELAX! This is not going to be another political post bashing one party or group of people. In fact, I think it is time we pause all the noise and take time to listen. In our culture, I’ve noticed that politicians love to demonize certain groups of people. The two party system has gained success I think in part from the “us versus them” mindset. The formula goes something like this: First, you choose a people group who are different from the majority of your base and then you highlight how that group is not contributing. You point out the differences and create a mindset of fear. Then you talk about how life would be better if that people group would just change what they are doing. Politically, I think that this is a brilliant strategy because everyone loves having a villain to fight against.

Republicans seem to do this with immigrants and the poor, and Democrats do this with rich businessmen and women. The Republicans say, “Oh these immigrants are taking our jobs; if they would leave then your lives would be better. The Democrats say, “Oh if the rich people would just pay more in taxes, then our lives would be better.”

Then the jealousy starts. You start thinking “Yeah, that rich person has way too much money. I want some of their money.” Or  “Those poor people are abusing our welfare system. If they would just work harder, maybe I wouldn’t have to.”

At no point do we stop and look at ourselves. This is the perfect trap for humans. I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy taking responsibility for my actions. I like feeling validated in my opinion. I also don’t enjoy hearing about the suffering in the world. Our world is a broken place where people often experience violence, sickness, and pain.  When I stop and pay attention to the experiences of others, it makes me uncomfortable. It makes me recognize how blessed I am. It also makes me want to do something to help.

I’m currently reading a book by a Jewish Rabbi, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, who argues that poverty is the sign of a broken society. (Not implying that people who are poor are somehow at fault for their situation.) But that poverty is a sign that something isn’t functioning correctly in how society is operating.

Can we stop the noise and the name-calling? Can we actually listen to each other and try to understand what other people are going through? Perhaps with a little empathy and compassion, we can stop fear in its tracks and create change that helps everyone!

Foster Care 101

Recently a friend asked me some very thoughtful questions about foster care and what the process has been like. I’m very thankful that she asked, and I decided that a blog post would provide a more thorough response so maybe others can benefit as well. First let me start by discussing a few of the misconceptions that I have heard people express about foster care.

  1. Foster parents are in it for the money.While I am sure that there are people who are motivated by money, 100% of the foster parents I have met do it because they want to love and serve children. The vast majority of foster parents are actually kinship providers. These are often grandparents, teachers, or other individuals who know the kids and agree to take care of the kids while their case is being processed. While you do receive a subsidy as a foster parent it would be very difficult to make money from being a foster parent. One DFS screening requirement is that you make enough money to pay your own bills before they will license you. Children in foster care are automatically enrolled in Medicaid even if they are adopted. So there are programs that help with the cost but if you are looking for a job to make money, I recommend you look elsewhere.
  2. DFS just drops kids off at your house.There is quite a bit of training involved in becoming a foster parent. Yes, the training is time consuming but it is also beneficial for several reasons. One positive is that you have time to ask a lot of questions and decide what kind of children you feel comfortable taking into your home. During the training you learn about the trauma that children in foster care experience, creative ways to manage behaviors, the possible reasons a child could be removed from a home and more. However, even after you complete all the training, no child will be placed in your home without your consent. Some people become foster parents because they want to adopt. Once you finish the training, your trainer/ social worker will start sending profiles of children who are ready to be adopted. If you see a child or sibling group that you are interested in, then you can go through an interview process and apply for placement of the child/children. This is a great option because there are many children who are eligible for adoption but who age out of the system without ever being adopted. However, some people are not interested in adoption and if that is the case then awesome! Foster families are rare but very needed.
  3. I could never be a foster parent because I would get too attached.I want to be gentle with how I respond to this question because my initial response is one of exasperation. I want to scream, “OF COURSE YOU GET ATTACHED, THAT IS THE WHOLE POINT.” However as I reflect back on my own experience, I realize that I shouldn’t be judgmental because I am guilty of that same trap. As humans it is natural to want to protect our hearts from pain. At times I have found myself holding back and not loving my kids as fully as I could have because I knew it would cause me pain. This question comes back to a key point in your belief system. Who do you serve? The God of the Bible does not promise a happy and successful life free of suffering and pain. In fact God promises us that we will suffer and be persecuted. If you are a Christian, then you must decide whether you will spend your energy running from suffering or if you will follow God’s call and embrace suffering by taking care of God’s children.

 

Now I will come back to my friend’s initial question. How can I help foster families and kids in foster care? This is a fabulous question!

  1. Love the children and treat them just like you would any other kids. I remember in my training hearing a story of a foster family who was asked to leave the church because of the foster children’s behavior. DON’T BE LIKE THAT! Come alongside the family and help support them.
  2. Don’t excuse the children’s bad behavior but also be patient with them. Due to the trauma these kids have experienced they will often fall back on survival techniques that have gotten them through hard things in their life. These behaviors can include tantrums, lying, manipulation, food hoarding, and a sense of entitlement. While the kids don’t get a pass on their bad behavior, if people are patient and understanding it can help the learning process go much more smoothly.
  3. If you have extra clothes, furniture (especially a bed or mattress), bikes or other used items ask if the family could use them.
  4. Offer to babysit one day a month or consider doing respite care! (This can make a huge impact in helping encourage/support a foster family. We have wonderful parents who watch our kids for us, and it has made a huge difference! We couldn’t do it without them!)
  5. Learn more about foster care and consider becoming a foster parent. There are so many children who need a loving home. Don’t close yourself off to the suffering of others. It is so easy to ignore suffering when it seems abstract and there is so much of it in the world. Be brave! Lean in and learn what other people are experiencing!

2017 Lessons

Hello everyone…

Well it’s official. Today I am blogging.

Who knows if I will actually finish this post today or not? I intended to start writing at 8 am this morning and it is now 2:23 pm. #momlife

Today I started my morning with prayer, and it has completely changed the tone of my entire day. I think God was just reminding me how faithful He is. Anyway to catch most of you up, 2016 was a year of tremendous personal change and growth. I was working full time, taking graduate nursing classes, and trying to juggle my family with two energetic young foster boys.

Enter 2017… I found out in January that I was pregnant with our first child. This alone was a miracle. A reproductive endocrinologist had told us that we would be unable to have children on our own without IUI. My husband and I were thrilled, but I quickly found that keeping up with everything especially while being pregnant was going to be a challenge.

Honestly, I was mad. We had tried for years to get pregnant. Why now God? I had moved on. I had accepted that we probably wouldn’t have kids of our own. I had found a career I was passionate about. We had two beautiful boys that we were optimistic we would be able to adopt. I was getting ready to start my nurse practitioner clinicals. Why now God? Why now during literally one of the busiest seasons of my life?

I hated being pregnant. Then I felt guilty. I had prayed for this baby so many times. Why was I not filled with joy? I felt powerless, tired, and overwhelmed.

Motherhood terrified me. I was having a hard time bonding with my kids. I loved them, but I was so terrified that my own demons would ruin my children. After all when you choose to love something it always costs you. Would having this baby cost me my career or worse the dreams that I had placed all of my value and hope in?

Everyone has a god. It’s the thing that terrifies/motivates you more than anything in the world. Some gods hold more weight than others. My god was that I would accomplish nothing valuable while living on this planet.

God was making the executive decision that this god had to go, and I fought Him. HARD.

Three things I learned in 2017 that I would recommend to everyone:

  1. Learn about yourself: What makes you get out of bed in the morning? What’s your biggest fear? What do you believe about yourself? You can only help others if you are willing to explore and accept who you are.
  2. Find a counselor you trust who will provide you with an objective perspective on your life.
  3. Identify your god and decide is that who you actually want to serve with your life? (Money, power, influence, codependent relationships, children… We all have gods, but often we can’t see them because we are to busy letting them run our lives.)

I wallowed in self-pity and anger for a few months until finally I agreed with the decision God was telling me. I decided to quit my job and stay home. I was mad at first but by the end of spring I was so tired that I didn’t feel I had a better option.

August came and the kids went back to school. (At this point we had four foster kids… Another story for another time.) And I stayed home and waited for the baby to come…

And in that waiting God did something amazing. He showed me how to be still. He showed me how to trust him. My anxiety and depression were lifted. I had peace because I no longer had anything to prove. I’m valuable. And that value can never be taken away.

I sit here today watching my 4-month-old Tobias sleep peacefully beside me. I am so thankful for my children. God has rearranged my world in a beautiful way. Everyday I get to wake up and ask God for peace and strength. Peace for my sanity and strength to parent bravely and with love and passion.

I’m so excited for 2018,

Shelby

Psalm 18:2

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.