Christmas can be a hard time for children in foster care! Think about it...
These children have been taken from their families (for necessary reasons but still taken) and are forced to live with strangers! Those strangers may become family to them, but they may continue to feel like strangers for a long time. They are forced to learn new family patterns, learn new personalities and be a part of traditions that they are not accustomed to.
I used to work at a local group home and I lived there as a part time employee when I was in college! Christmas time was always fun but there was a "gloom" over Christmas day that didn't make sense to me at the time. I was young and had so much to learn about foster care.
These kids would have complete strangers come and pick them up and take them to a big mall and let them shop for whatever they wanted. I was jealous! haha. Not only that, but Christmas morning our living room at the group home was filled with presents upon presents upon presents! I have never in my life been given what these kiddos were blessed with on Christmas morning! It would make my mouth drop to see how much people blessed them with. Yet, I would become frustrated when I would see them be ungrateful. It would seriously make my stomach turn to see some of these kids walk out in anger or frustration because the gifts they received somehow weren't enough.
I have thought about those Christmas mornings from time to time over the 10 years since living there! I believe I have learned and matured quite a bit! I have learned that gifts aren't as important to kids as we think! Family means so much more! I have learned that just because you shower foster children with gifts and things they want, doesn't mean they will be happy.
These kids who were blessed with more than you could ever imagine with tangible gifts were still sad, angry and broken after they received countless gifts. Something was still missing! Someone was still missing! You see, these kids were sad, angry and broken because the people they wanted to be with were not us: these strangers who they were forced to live with as family. They wanted to be with their REAL families! They wanted to be WANTED by their REAL families! They wanted to celebrate this holiday with the ones they loved most and they couldn't. It makes me so sad just thinking about it.
Right this second, I have a 6 year old who is anxiously waiting for a visit with her birth mom. You would think it was already Christmas morning the way she is so excited (I wrote this on the 23rd)! She keeps running to me asking me if it's time! I continue telling her "soon" hoping and praying I don't get a call that it's been cancelled. She told me just the other day that she misses her mom when she has to tell her goodbye.
I wish I could go back and tell my 20 year old self to be more patient with those kids living in the group home. I wish I could go back and remind myself that I haven't experienced the same loss as them. I wish I could have known that no matter how hard I'd try, I'll never understand. I wish I could go back and hug them more and just be there. I wish and still hope every single one of them knows the love I had for them was immature but also so real! I had much to learn but through the years, I have learned, that even though life is so hard sometimes God is always good, even in the middle of the hard.
When tragedy happens in our lives, we don't just forget about it! It sticks with us forever sometimes! And sometimes we process those emotions in healthy ways and sometimes we process those emotions in unhealthy ways! For a young child or a teenager, often times they have no idea how to process all the things they have gone through and continue to go through! And honestly, sometimes I wonder if any of us really know how to process tragedy, get through tragedy and overcome it!
I have been blessed in my life but I have also dealt with tragedy and heartache! I'm no expert when it comes to getting through it or having HOPE in the middle of it. However, Hope is a word I have had to learn more and more about. It's a word I have come to cling to more and more over the years! I will say that with Jesus, WE ALL HAVE HOPE! I believe that wholeheartedly!
It says in John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
This is HOPE!
God is HOPE!
He has overcome the world! We may not feel that or see that in our lives right now, but God's word is truth! God is our HOPE! He is our only hope!
I struggle at times to know how to be hope to the foster children that are currently in my home. Their "hope" is to be reunified with their biological families. Yet, that may never happen for some! So, how can I still show them there is hope? How can I still show them that life isn't over just because their real parents can't be with them?
So often we (subconsciously) think of our own mothers or fathers as a picture of who God is. Yet, that isn't true. We cannot look to our mothers or fathers as God. God's character is incomparable to any earthly mother or father, no matter how good or how bad!
I remember speaking at a Young Life event several years ago and I spoke on the one word that described God to me! That word was "steady". There have been so many times as a child, teenager, young adult and even now where life was changing all around me. People and circumstances changed when really, I just wanted them to stay the same! Change was hard for me! I dealt with my share of it as a child and so the older I became, I longed for something steady in my life! When I found Jesus, 17 years ago, in Colorado, surrounded by silence & a clear night sky full of stars, I found my "steady"! I had searched and searched and I finally found Him! God! Someone, something that was never changing!
My son says, "Thank you God for a never changing, never stopping, never breaking, always and forever love." THAT is what God is to me!
Always and Forever Love!
Hebrews 13:8 tells us that "God is the same yesterday and today and forever."
When I hear that verse I go back to my 17 year old self and I am reminded of that night when I found Jesus: the one who gave me HOPE and the one who steadied my world! Have you found that? Have you found him?
Maybe you are reading this and you are a foster child who is struggling through this Holiday season knowing you can't be with the loved ones you so desire to be with. Maybe you are a daughter or son who simply has a strained relationship with your parents. I encourage you to reflect on the birth of Jesus as He came to this earth fully God, yet fully man. He gave up everything to give you the ability to be made right with Him. His love never fails! His character never changes! His faithfulness endures forever! Let Him be your great comfort, your true "Hope" this holiday season. Let Him fill that void in your heart!
This picture reminds me that we all walk through darkness in our lives. We all go through stuff. We all feel sad and even depressed at times. Even in the darkness though, there is light. "God is the light; In Him there is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5) God is there. Even if you don't know Him or believe in Him. He is still there and you can still choose to walk towards Him. He is our Hope so keep walking toward the light! You may be in darkness longer than you want, but He will bring you out of it if you choose to put your Hope and trust in Him!