I am not the state. I am not a foster care home.

I am a mom.

So many thoughts surround having a 15-year-old injured boy that is not my son live in our home for a while. Originally, we took him in to live with our family in order to keep him safe and to make sure he got healthy and to make  sure got his educational needs met. All those things happened. It is the other things that I realize are what differentiates me from state foster care.

I am here for more than just food and warm shelter and a safe place to stay. When we took in this boy, 15, into my home to live with our family, I pour out my heart and my soul and life to him. I nurture and love him in so many ways as I do my own children. I give of my emotions and time and emotional energy, and I care about his success and about his spiritual life and who his  friends are and what he is texting on his  cell phone and what he is eating and what he is watching and what his attitude is like and what he is doing online and how his walk with God is growing and whether his emotional needs are being met and I worry and pray and cry my heart out to God regarding them.

I have cried more in the past 7 plus weeks that we have had this boy living with us than I have in a long time. Having another boy live in our home for a while has been an adjustment. And each of us getting used to one another.

Having another child, a teenager, live with us that has lived in a different household his first 15 years was quite interesting and it made my husband and me evaluate what exactly is our parenting philosophy. We wanted to be more than just a “safe” place. We wanted to be a place of refuge, a family to this young man who almost lost his life in an accident.

The first few days and weeks I must say were hard on us all. Adjusting. Learning to live in a new house with rules, though we are not a big rules family. But, we realize we do have standards, some basic principles. What some might call parenting philosophy.

We want to provide an atmosphere of love and trust and security, a place to grow spiritually, a place of real life faith, a family with accountability, a place for camaraderie. Family life, with gatherings around the dinner table and reading the Bible together and praying together and going to church together. And, all of us pitching in to help around the house, showing that we all matter. And what we do beyond the living room matters.

And this boy that came to live with us went to school in our neighborhood and loved it so much that he came home from school his first day and said, “I want to stay here for four years.”

And I did not know what to say to this boy who I have known for three plus years. I just said we will have to see. I did not even know if his dad would let us or what he would think. I also was unsure about the safety factor. So much at stake here that I have not been able to blog about it.

Then we had some hard times and there were some expectations that at first seemed difficult for this boy to accept. He did not understand what we were doing and why we were asking certain things and I felt like I was always having to explain things and argue and my energy was so spent on him, and I cried and I prayed and so much time and emotions were going into him and worrying about him and I told God that I could not do this anymore.

Then God said, “You always wanted to be a missionary to Africa.”

Okay, Lord, here I am.  

And some friends of mine reached out to me, and asked me how I am doing with this new boy living in my home, taking him into our house to be a part of our family, a boy from a different family and from a different culture and a different land, and I cried when they asked me how I was doing. I guess I did not realize how emotional I was. And, it meant so much that someone asked and cared.

And they asked me how they could help me and one friend brought our family a meal and got a Bible in the native tongue for the mom of the boy we were helping and this friend brought me the book, Crazy Love, which I had given to Rachel so it was in Germany and I wept reading that book.

And things got better for a while, but new challenges arose and I cried some more and I felt we were not appreciated and I felt we were misunderstood and I felt that the boy we were helping looked at me as if I were the state, just a foster care worker. But I am not. I am a mom. And I care about a child that comes into my home.

And I cried out to God again and I said, “Lord, I do not want to do this anymore.”

And, the Lord brought to mind 1 Corinthians 13: “If I speak in the tongues[a] of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”

And so I told God, Okay, Here I am Lord. I am yours.

And, I just realized that I wanted to reach out and love this “temporary new son” of mine, for as long as he was with us, and  I hugged him and I thought, that is what it meant by 1 Cor. 13. To show love so people can feel it. Kids need to feel love. Not just know that they are loved. And this boy that came to live with us grew on us and we grew on him and we adjusted to one another and he realized what we were doing was because we cared for him and we continued to try to show him love, in the context of order and accountability. We were more than just a safe place to be. We wanted to reach out to him and his family, yes, to be that safe place that he needed to stay for a while, but we wanted to be more, to make him feel loved and to give him an environment where he could blossom. And to make him know that we were more than just a foster home.

And other people from church came along to help and they asked how we were doing and I cried again and they asked what they could do to assist us and giving rides was a big one as I am juggling three other kids at home and one in college and friends gave the boy that came to live with us rides to church youth group and they gave him rides to see a counselor at church and they helped with clothes for him.

And we saw this boy that came to live with us grow and we saw him blossom and I cried more and I prayed more and I said, Lord whatever you would like. And over the course of the time this boy was with us, we had long talks at night and we discussed life and God and providence and the book Crazy Love and making a difference in the world for Christ and how his accident may have been a way to help him grow and we talked about school work and friends and church and he asked questions and he played with my kids and helped with chores and we had movie and pizza nights and a Super Bowl party.

Several people told the boy that came to live with us that he should watch the movie the Blind Side —BLINDSIDE about a homeless black boy who came to live with a family in the suburbs where he blossomed – which came out on DVD today (is that a God-thing?!) and so we rented it for our last night. Yes, the boy that came to live with us has to leave. We made a 6 week commitment and were willing for it to turn into more if it was God’s will but his dad wants him back and he says it is the safe thing to do. His dad says he needs to get out of here all together.

I am so torn and I know our “new son” is also. He says he loves his new life with us, that he is a changed person and he likes his new school and the friends he has made at school and church, yet he also loves his biological family. He says he is different now and he says it all happened for a reason. And, I say we are different as well. We love him and his family so much and I weep at the thought that they will be gone and we have to say goodbye. We have spent so many days together, sharing hearts and beach trips and church. 

And to hear the boy that came to live with us say he will go and make a difference in the lives of his siblings and that he will cling to God. He says he wants to go to his native country to make a difference there. He says he will try hard and I say, don’t just try, do. Tell yourself you will do well with God’s grace and mercy. Cling to God’s word.

And never, ever, ever give up hope.

And, I told him that he has a home here with us should he need a safe place again. A place that is more than a foster care home.

In the mean time, we will never be the same.

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