So often we take things at face value. For example: If someone is smiling, they must be happy. There are many faces in this world, but what is shown is not always what is real. I remember teaching a class at a Junior High church camp while on camp teams with my Bible college one summer. I gave an example of how often we don't take the time to look beyond a face and into the window of someone's soul. After the class a girl stayed behind sobbing. She said no one knew what a hard time she had been having. She'd been carrying her heavy burden around silently, plastering a smile on her face that fooled all those who thought they knew her.
When I was in Junior High I was this girl. From everyone else's perspective I had no reason to be sad, to be hurting. I had good grades, was involved in extra-curricular activities, and smiled A LOT. I actually had a counselor tell me, "You don't have a good reason to hate your life. You have everything going for you." Needless to say my parents didn't take me back to that counselor. I was hurting inside deeply. I was having a crisis of faith and asking hard questions. "Did I only believe in God because that's what my parents believed? If there was a God how could He allow so much evil in the world?" Every single day I got on the bus my friend Tera and I were bullied by two boys. They made fun of us, told us how fat and ugly we were, and taught us a lot of perverted words and gestures that I didn't want to know. One of my closest friends in school turned on me and instant messaged awful things like, "Why don't you just go ahead and kill yourself."
Unfortunately even the things I experienced in Junior High are minor compared to the world of kids today. The pressure of sexting, unlimited access to media and the ability to ruin someone's reputation through it, drugs, alcohol, and the ever more prevalent obsession with sex, and girls putting their worth in how 'sexy' they can be. Gah! Our kids are beat on every side with these things. I had supportive parents who sought out counseling for me, and I had a youth sponsor who would take me out to ice cream and talk with me. There were several people during this time who were willing to look beyond the plastered smile and into the window of my soul. They weren't afraid of not having the right answers or saying the wrong thing. They were there for me and I knew it. I knew they cared. They believed in me when I could not. When I questioned my faith they encouraged me to question, but to not stop at the questions! They encouraged me to search out the answers in the Bible and the historical evidence that helps verify it's truth. These people were safe to be real with, to be raw and without the fake smile. They were safe. They dared to look deeper.
I agree that not all of us are in a position to foster, but I believe that all of us are in a position to influence a child for the better. It might not be as hard as you think. Simply lending a listening ear, giving encouragement, sponsoring a child that might not otherwise get to be involved in extra-curricular activities such as music, dance, or sports. As a neighbor you might be the only kind, safe, and stable person your neighbor child knows. As a coach, spend the extra time on the kid who struggles more or doesn't have as much natural ability. As a teacher, go beyond the grades and academics and inspire your students through your own life, Live the example, don't just teach it. As a church youth sponsor, don't just show up for Wednesday night youth group. Find a child you can invest in, mentor, and love on. As a church elder or deacon, invest in the youth! They are the future! Don't be afraid to throw money at your youth program if it will change the future generations. As a foster parent, don't believe the devil's lies that you aren't actually making a difference because you're not "the ideal or perfect" foster parent. Remember that Christ's strength is made perfect through your weakness and inadequacies. As a parent or foster parent, let your kids see what matters most in life through your own life. What you spend your money on, what you talk about the most, what you spend the most time on. They will see easily if it's material things, a successful career, entertainment, or if it's Jesus. The most important thing in this world is not education. It's not money. It's not even family. It's knowing your Creator and loving Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Do the children in our lives see us living for the only thing that matters? Or do they see us chasing after the wind...
"For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.
So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most." ~Hebrews 4:12-16
This April marks 3 years since Darin and I first began fostering! Throughout the last 3 years we have had ten children in our home along with our son Winston. This is a reflection on these last 3 years for our friends and family, and an update on where FLM is
heading. There is some major news in this blog so please read!
Near the end of January, I began to feel very physically and emotionally exhausted trying to keep up with everything. We began to realize that all of our 6 foster children were going to be a longer term placement or potentially adoption. I was feeling like a failure because keeping up with 7 kids, housework, the church ministry, wrestling, counseling appts, doctor appts, court dates, monthly foster care meetings and case worker visits, and the ministry of Fine Linen made it hard to stay up on things.
While few people may have realized, I was a wreck at home and felt like I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Most of this was because of the pressure I was placing on myself, not the pressure from anyone else. I was sobbing nightly and struggling with exhaustion. The hardest part for me to come to terms with was why other people could handle having several foster children and not me? I am a stay-at-home mom and I have Jesus... so why did I feel like I was failing? Yes, my pride was in the way of seeing clearly. Darin and I realized we had bit off more than we could chew for a long term period. I asked a couple from our church who had bonded with our youngest two foster children if they would be interested in fostering them, and they were! The kids were actually asking us if they could live with them, which also hurt my pride and feelings, but showed me God's hand was at work in this whole situation and not my own. I believe it was His Providence.
***March 2016: (The BIG News)***
Our 4 boys' case goal was changed to TPR (termination of parental rights) and Adoption. This is a big one, and I want to explain so that all of our family and friends can better understand the situation. When a case goal is changed from reunification to adoption it does not mean that it's a for sure thing. It has a dual purpose: 1.) To work towards permanency for the children 2.) To continue offering the bio parents the opportunity to start working on the requirements to get their children back. For some parents when the goal is changed it serves as a wake up call to really get at it, but for other parents they continue to not do what is asked and at this point the parental rights will end up being terminated.
Darin and I would like to adopt our 4 boys if the parents continue to not be involved in the case plan. I want to explain something though. With older children, the feelings are very mixed on adoption. While we are extremely excited about the possibility of adopting them, there is a lot of grief in working with the boys through their own grief. It is a great loss for children when their parent's rights are terminated, and it is traumatic. No matter how great or loving the adoptive family may be, they are still losing something very precious to them. I say this because I want to ask our family, friends, and church family to be sensitive to this and not talk to the boys or in front of the boys about "Darin and Becky adopting them." If they bring it up on their own that's different, but I would ask for you to err on the side of caution and sensitivity. Remember that especially for the older two it will be difficult if their parent's rights are terminated, and the excitement that you and I feel may not match their own. If you have any questions don't hesitate to ask us!
We have been so blessed by our four boys. They are amazing kids. While adopting 4 older boys was not in our plan when we started fostering, the possibility floors us in a good way! There are some kids that you just connect with better than others, that you could see being your forever family. That's how it has been with the boys. They love the outdoors, camping, swimming in the pond, sports, playing air soft, and video games. They are very musically inclined. Our 13 year old D is playing the tenor saxophone for the first time and his teacher asked him to go to contest with the more advanced band class! The boys are super smart and creative, Two are very expressive while the other two are a bit more reserved and quiet. They are the best brothers to Winston. They love to cook, they love going to bed listening to Adventures in Odyssey, and they are very thoughtful. I could go on, but I wanted to give you a picture especially if you have not yet met them. We've also been blessed in that the boys have amazing Grandparents, Great-Grandparents, and Aunts and Uncles who have been supportive this whole time and very invested in the boy's lives.
Please keep the boys, their parents, and us in your prayers. Pray for God's will and His hand to move however He sees best in this situation.
So WHAT NOW for Fine Linen?
Many of you were very generous in supporting the "More Than Us" album project last year! In fact, producing the album would not have happened without your support! I would like to ask you to pray and consider continuing to support Fine Linen through Prayer and Giving. While we are a "small" ministry at this point: "Clothing the Broken with God's Word" is our ultimate goal! Whether through song-writing and recording, leading worship for events, teaching at youth and women's events, producing children's books, or promoting the ministry of foster care and adoption through educational materials and special drives for foster families. I hope to continue using my creative abilities to promote the gospel in these areas!
If you believe in the ministry of Fine Linen and would like it to continue would you consider supporting us monthly or through a one-time donation? 3 monthly partnerships of $10 would cover the yearly cost of the website, and 4 monthly partnerships of $20 would cover the cost of babysitting to be able to continue writing songs, blogging, and developing the ministry as God moves and works! You can click the link here to donate
FLM's Specific Needs:
Optional but Helpful Needs
Last week marked a major change in the Frey household. We are foster childless for the first time in a year and a half, and for the first time in our son Winston's short life. When our 9 year old foster daughter (C) went home in May the very next week we had two new little foster children move in. A 14 month old girl (J) and a 3 year old boy (D) who could not yet talk. Their 8 year old sister was in a residential home because of some more serious issues.
It's been a ride, and I'm personally ready for a break. At least that's what I've been telling myself. I thought I would be so relieved, I mean, it's been a very overwhelming year and a half. But it's so quiet now... It's just Winston and I at the house during the day, and to be truthful I miss having other kids for Winston to play with. The squeals of laughter, the tug of war with toys, J and Winston both throwing their food on the floor every meal and then looking for a reaction, the way D would look out for his sister J, D and Darin wrestling. There's a lot I'm missing right now, but there's also a lot I don't miss.
I'm a pretty emotional person. My husband can tell you that. I knew that foster care would be hard. I knew it would break my heart, and it has already. There are families who have been doing this for years who have plenty more stories to tell. We're still at the freshman level! There is one thing I've learned in my short time though: Don't become a foster parent for yourself. DON'T. If you expect even subconsciously that it will make you feel good about yourself or that it will fill some void in your life I can tell you it won't. There are a lot of negatives to becoming a foster parent. Here are just five:
1. Putting Your Family at Risk
This may be the number one reason people don't become foster parents. We have all heard the horror stories. The foster dad falsely accused of sexual abuse by a broken young girl, a child sexually abused by a foster sibling, a foster child physically hurting your child or even you! I don't think the risk is something to be taken lightly, and as bad as it sounds foster parents with children of their own must be much more selective about what children they bring into their home, albeit, there are issues that will arise which the case workers are sometimes unaware of. For example, with many children it is not known that they were sexually abused until AFTER they come into care. This is because they finally feel safe enough to tell someone. Darin and I have weighed the risk. We believe that God has called us to it and are walking in faith that if God called us to it He will also protect our family. That being said, I could not in good conscience take a child into my home who has been known to act out sexually towards other children, and would not leave my son alone with a foster child. Not because foster children are bad or evil, but because you cannot know for sure what a child has been exposed to. Children who have been sexually abused will naturally be much more curious or want to act out what they've experienced. This is a sad and harsh reality. While my home would not be the best place for a child who has a history of acting out sexually, perhaps a retired couple's home would be a great place. Every family has something different they can offer to foster children.
2. Becoming the Target of a Child's Anger
You might feel all warm and fuzzy when you think about becoming a foster parent. The love and affection you expect to feel from a child you've opened up your home and heart to. WRONG. It is not the same as raising your own children. These are children who have seen things you can't imagine. These are children who have had everything that meant something to them taken away. These are children that though they live in an abusive or dangerous situation--that is their normal--and when they are taken out of their normal can you imagine how vulnerable and scared they feel? A loving home can be very threatening to them. Ironically, the safer a child may feel with you the more he or she may direct their anger at you. BECAUSE you are safe. This has been difficult for me. Our 3 year old D had more anger than I knew a 3 year old could have. There were many times he refused to give Darin or I a hug but would plop up on a stranger's lap. There were times I would go pick him up from preschool and he would not look at me or acknowledge me because I was not his mom or dad. I felt defeated and so hurt. There were times I would go in my room and just cry because I was trying to give it my all... but felt like I was failing miserably. I wanted D to love me back, but many times he just couldn't. It's called unconditional love people. Giving even when you don't get anything back.
3. NO PRIVACY
To become a licensed foster parent you must go through STARS training in MO, which is 24 hrs of training, after STARS is follow-up training, and you also undergo an extensive home study. They will ask you very personal questions and even want to go back in your family history. Your house must meet several requirements, and home walk-throughs are done every month to every three months. Sometimes you feel like you are being watched, especially when you first start out as a foster parent. You will have multiple visits from case workers. One thing Darin and I didn't understand when we became foster parents was that we did not actually have custody of the children. The case worker has custody, therefore, decisions you think you will get to make you sometimes don't. There is a feeling of powerlessness at times because you might think one route would be best for the child and the case worker might think another route best. You are not even allowed to make the decision to cut a child's hair. There is also a rigid set of Do's and Don'ts regarding discipline of foster children. You cannot spank. I know that this will be more difficult for us as we plan to spank our own children, but they see that we don't spank their foster siblings.
4. Seeing a Child Placed Back in a Negative Situation
The goal always starts out as reunification for families. Some parents do very well with this. The wake-up call of having their children taken away motivates them to change. Some will make lasting changes, others will make no changes at all, and some will make changes until the state is no longer watching them. Sometimes the parents aren't the destructive ones, but maybe it's the family members. For me, the most difficult part so far has been watching a former foster child be emotionally abused, not by a parent, but by a couple of other family members. Unfortunately, emotional abuse is not something that weighs well in a legal court. The current reality is that this child will grow up being put down and not treated equally because this child was the one who told the truth about what was going on in their family. But you know what, I will continue to tell this child that they are worthy and that no matter what they have a God who loves them so much. If I had never become a foster mom I wouldn't have that opportunity.
5. Getting Attached and then Never Seeing the Child Again
So far this has not been the case with us, but I know if we keep doing foster care that it will probably happen. Once a child is home and parental rights are given back it is all up to their parents whether you can see them or not. In our training we've heard stories of never getting to see a child again who was in one's home for months.
These are just 5 realities one needs to understand before becoming a foster parent. While those aspects have been difficult I would not change the past year and a half of fostering. I would have missed the opportunity to get to know two very special girls and a very special brother and sister. I can honestly say the struggle through fostering has grown me in such great ways; it is not weakening my heart, it's strengthening it. It's forced me to look beyond myself, my feelings, my desires. It's teaching me what unconditional love looks like. It's forced me to ask for help and say to my church family, "I need help. I'm overwhelmed." It's given several in our church the opportunity to play a huge part in our foster children's lives. The other day D and J's mom came over just to talk and have tea. I would not have formed that relationship with her had we not taken D and J. For me the benefits outweigh the negatives as long as we are called to this ministry of fostering. We're taking a break for possibly a few months to reevaluate and breathe for a while, but part of me wonders who the next kids will be to come and change us again.
is a rural Missouri preacher's wife who stays at home with her son Winston and 4 foster sons whom she and her husband are in the process of adopting! (Looking forward to the day I can put their names on here!)