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From Surviving to Living
From Surviving to Living
(13) WHERE'S MY SON? An Astonishing Look At Foster Care
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Are you curious about the Holy Spirit’s power? Do you desire a deeper connection with spiritual strength in the midst of life’s challenges? Join me on a transformative journey as I navigate a challenging new job and fight for my parental rights, all while discovering the profound influence of the Holy Spirit.

In 2015 I would encounter new struggles as my youngest son Tim, in foster care, disappeared. I would face a lying social services caseworker willing to perjure himself in court to cover up his actions, and fight to find my son. As I embarked on this journey, a seed of faith was planted within me. Through exploring the teachings of the Holy Spirit, I uncovered a source of true power, ability, and resilience. In “Where’s My Son,” I’ll share my personal experiences and insights, revealing how you too can overcome uncertainty and adversity starting today.

Are you facing anxiety, uncertainty, or challenges in trusting others? Do you long for a sense of peace and purpose in your life? This content is for you. Together, we’ll explore the transformative work of the Holy Spirit and uncover practical steps to find peace, healing, and empowerment.

Join me on this journey of spiritual discovery and transformation. Together, we’ll unlock the power of the Holy Spirit and experience a newfound sense of purpose, resilience, and peace. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to transform your life from within.

TRANSCRIPT

How much do you know about the Holy Spirit? Do you want to experience the power of the Holy Spirit in your own life?

Join me as I start a challenging new job and fight for my parental rights. Amidst it all, a seed of faith is planted as I explored the teachings of the Holy Spirit, discovering the true source of power, ability and might.

I’ll reveal how you can overcome uncertainty and adversity starting today. Listen until the end, you won’t want to miss a word. This is Where’s My Son.

“Come work with me!” Jae urged me in the fall of 2014. “We need another tutor.” I shuddered at the thought. “Not a chance,” I answered. Jae was a tutor in Adult Basic Education (A.B.E). It could be argued that prison has neighborhoods with the unemployed its roughest and Education its angry twin. As one lives and eats with the people you work with, I had no interest in moving to that depressing neighborhood.

I worked as a clerk in the mental health unit. I had a very flexible schedule which allowed opportunities to call my son Tim who was in foster care. Our phone visit times were dictated by Brian, Tim’s caseworker. As an inmate in prison, nothing could be counted on. Unexpected raids, riots and lockdowns often prevented me from calling Tim, however any failure to call as scheduled would be written up by Brian in his reports as intentional on my part.

Sick of being described as an “uncaring mother who doesn’t bother to call her son when scheduled,” I’d obtained the most flexible work schedule possible. Soon I’d learn this job also had its drawbacks. I wasn’t making enough money to call Tim even when I was available.

Students like Edith, however,kept me from a better paying job like tutoring. Her mental health needs meant she didn’t live with the other students. She was Thin and anxiety made her awkward. She often asked for help with homework outside of class.

“I don’t understand this,” Edith jabbed at her paper. She was seated next to me in the day room. she crossed her arms. I leaned forward to study the work. Edith was learning basic math.

I decided to help her, as I picked up a pencil and wrote a number. “This is how you start,” I answered. Tensing, her shoulders rose, elbows dug into her side. I set the pencil down calmly, smiled.

Edith pushed the paper with a finger, huffing, “How did you know? How did… How did… How did…!” She squeezed her eyes tight, pursed her lips. She was winding up to a frustrated outburst. Lucy, sketching nearby, disappeared from the room with her things, eyes rolling. Edith didn’t notice. Winding up, she shook her head, teeth clenched.

Edith’s tension was contagious. A tiny woman, Edith took a room hostage, an emotional terrorist. She had few friends. The day room had gone silent, an army of heads turning at the noise, irritated at the disruption. Someone hollered, “Shut up Edith! You’re stupid!”

Edith’s eyes popped open and spinning in her chair, she studied my face. Her shoulders sagged as she rushed out, “Thank you for being nice to me!” blurring the lines between gratitude and desperation.

Edith had low standards. An absence of cruelty isn’t the same as the presence of kindness. While students like Edith were a big reason I didn’t want a job as tutor, my depression was another. School started early in the morning, lasted all day, five days a week. I was emotionally unstable so failure seemed certain for me. I feared being fired.

Do you struggle with anxiety and asking for help? Is it difficult for you to help someone even when you love them?

The following spring in May 2015, Jae urged me again to become a school tutor. This time I agreed. I met with Ms. Shaibley, an experienced DOC teacher. She immediately hired me and became a role model for me, an example of strength and grace in a hostile environment.

My new job meant moving out of the mental health unit. I was relocated to Tubman and here, in this new room, my personal transformation began, even though I was unaware at the time that I needed to change.

God orchestrates every detail of life and all falls into His plans. He was about to reach out to me, raising my awareness that I didn’t really know Him like I thought. A good friend loaned me a book about the Holy Spirit. I read it, intrigued and wondered, “Is this true?” I knew of the Holy Spirit, the third Member of the Trinity, however I was unclear about the Holy Spirit’s role. This book spoke of power, power given to us.

I read, “But you shall receive power (ability, efficiency, and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses … to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth,” which is in Acts 1:8.

I still felt skeptical and uncertain. In past I’d relied on my church and parents to teach me. Why had they not mentioned this?

The author continued to cited the Bible and referenced the original Greek language. The author encouraged readers to seek the Holy Spirit, His power. I whispered in my heart, “If that’s real, I want it,” but I doubted. Where would I get this power if I didn’t have it already? Who was it for? Another week and I returned the book, dismissing it. A seed, however, was planted in my heart that would soon blossom, changing me in ways I didn’t know was possible.

I began my new job and my negative bias against students was confirmed immediately. Leah* sat in the back of class and slept every morning with her head on the desk. “Ms. Shaibley, can you help me?” Leah whispered one day, raising her sleepy head an inch or two.

I was busy grading papers but my attention was caught as Ms. Shaibley crouched beside Leah’s desk. “What can I do for you, Leah?” she asked, searching Leah’s tired face. Leah pushed up, frustration creasing her forehead.

“My meds make me sleepy,” Leah complained, “but I have a directive to take them. I take them at breakfast, then I have this class.” Leah paused, sighed. I froze, listening. The room emptied of noise and people. Ringing began in my ears as Leah continued, “Can you help me, Ms Shaibley? Maybe switch when I take them?”

I didn’t wait for her answer. I felt embarrassed and guilty. My eyes lifted to the rest of the room. Who else did I misunderstand? Who else was hurting? Stung at the thought, I returned to grading papers with fresh eyes.

Evenings I called my children. The previous summer, after receiving a more flexible job schedule, I’d requested more phone visits with Tim. My request was immediately rejected, and visits terminated altogether. My request was seen as suspect and attributed to my crime as evidence of my evil character. Eventually Brian had insisted my phone calls with Tim be supervised and visits were restored.

Tim’s newest foster mom Melissa agreed to be a “supervisor” of our phone visits as soon as Tim was placed in her home. This had never happened before as previous supervisors were chosen by Brian from his office. I soon understood why Melissa was so eager for this assignment.

“Hi Holly! I’m so glad you called,” Melissa gushed as soon as she answered the phone. “I’m so excited to meet you! I told all my friends about you, Tim’s mom. We are going to be greaaat friends, I know it!” Surprised, I hesitated. Past phone supervisors had only listened.

 “Um, thank you,” I managed. “Is Tim there?”

“Oh yes,” Melissa cooed. “Timmy-kins is sitting right here, aren’t you honey bunny?” She paused for a breath. I heard Timmy meekly mmm-hmmm in the background. Returning to the phone Melissa marched on, “Tell me all about you, your day, prison! I want to hear all about it and then I’ll tell you all about myself!” I imagined Tim somewhere in her house as our minutes ticked away along with my five dollars.

Fifteen minutes later I had just enough time with Tim to say, “I love you, Tim. Next time we will get to talk to each other, I promise.” Drained, I went to my room. Melissa was a self-described hero, a perfect foster mom who did everything with L.O.V.E.

Summer bled into fall. “Holly! So glad you called! I look forward to our visits!” Melissa oozed. Traffic sounds echoed in the background.

Quickly I rushed in, “Actually I’m calling for Tim, remember? Is he there, please?” Tim’s voice echoed dimly in the background. “Tim?” I pushed.

“Oh don’t worry sweetie. Timmy-poo is here somewhere. We’ll get to him in a minute,” Melissa’s voice developed an edge. “Don’t you want to hear how I think he’s doing? Don’t you care about me?” The edge of her voice became hard. “I’m beginning to think you don’t like me. You’re always asking for Tim. Don’t you think I take good care of him? Tim Tim Tim!” she ranted.

Alarmed I wondered how to respond. For weeks and then months Melissa had dominated the phone visits, soaking up attention. Requests to speak with Tim were ignored, Melissa joyfully sharing. Eventually my insistence created a fracture in her composure. Irritation now leaked through easily.

Finally I asked for help. I explained the situation to Brian and he agreed to take care of it. I was relieved, but that relief would be short lived.

Spurned, Melissa refused to answer the phone again, terminating our visits. She then evicted Tim from her home, labeling him a trouble maker. At this point Tim had been in so many foster homes that his age (almost 13), medical condition and new label as “trouble maker” made him a difficult placement. He experienced several rapid temporary placements.

I was frantic to locate him, reassure him. Where was he??? I had no phone number for Tim now.  I called Brian. Brian’s slow, lazy voice contrasted my urgent panic, “Well, he’s moving every night or two, often spending the day at my office.” I pictured Tim with his meager belongings, shuffled from home to home, spending days with his backpack in an office.

I continued to write Tim, care of Brian, reassuring Tim I wanted to call. Brian stopped delivering the letters to Tim. I had no idea and continued to write.

Frantic to restore visitation, I called my Washington state attorney. She refused to answer and I left voicemails. ‘I’m not receiving visits. Where is my son??’ September turned into October. ‘Where is my son?? I have not spoken to my son!’

October turned to November. I received social service reports written by Brian stating Tim was receiving his court ordered visits with me. Outraged, I called attorney, social worker, frantic. ‘I have not spoken with Tim in three months! These reports are a lie! Where is my son??’

Feeling dismissed and ignored, I acted. Using the library computer I wrote a court petition to request a new attorney. I included documentation of several bar violations I’d experienced at the hands of my current attorney.

I mailed the petition to my attorney. This time she was interested in talking. She told me, “You cannot mail this directly to the court, so I will take care it.”

Late November a hearing was scheduled; I appeared by phone. The judge had not seen my document. My attorney had not shared it. “Ms. Aho,” the judge intoned, “we are here today because you’d like a new attorney?”

“Yes sir,” I responded, unaware the judge was uninformed. I waited. My attorney filled the silence.

“Your Honor, Ms. Aho, is very demanding. But if she doesn’t like my hard work, I will step aside.” I wondered how she could say this in light of my petition.

The judge didn’t wait for me to respond. “Ms. Aho, this court has provided you with a free attorney. I’ve received no information that your attorney is not adequate. Don’t bother us with your nonsense. Motion denied.” The phone disconnected.

Shocked, I stared at the receiver. I could almost here my crooked attorney laughing. I pursed my lips, resolve straightening my spine.

I mailed my petition directly to the judge the next day. Another court hearing was scheduled and the mood was quite different. “Ms. Aho, I see you’ve outlined reasons you’d like a new attorney?” the judge asked almost gently. I was surprised at his new tone.

Before I could answer my attorney interrupted, “Your Honor! Ms. Aho has sent this petition to the court without my permission! I’m outraged!”

“Excuse me, but if half of this document is true, then your behavior is an outrage!” the judge surprised everyone by saying. Pausing to regroup, he resumed, “Ms. Aho, you have this court’s apology. While we provide a free lawyer, we believe in providing a good lawyer. I am granting your request.”

This felt like a win, but it was a temporary triumph. Brian continued to lie. The court moved on, uncaring. Meanwhile, my letters to Tim, undelivered, stacked up on Brian’s desk.

Tim had no idea any of this was going on. His dad had stopped visiting him long ago. Tim received all of Brian’s false reports and now believed I had abandoned him also. He cried alone in his room, wondering where everyone was.

Initially compliant with social services and my attorney, I’d signed a voluntary waver of my parental rights 2 years previous. Shocked by these events, I reevaluated. In January 2016 I asked my new attorney to tear up that waver. I wanted my son.

Immediately social services moved to terminate parental rights and a trial date was set. The gloves were off. I would not be in the fight alone. It was at this time, the perfect moment, that God revealed His power.

Listener, Are you tired of feeling stuck in conflicts and frustrated by your circumstances? Have you achieved temporary victories, only to find yourself back at square one? Are you searching for a lasting and effective solution to your challenges? The answer lies in the words of Jesus in John 14 and Paul’s teachings in Galatians, which shed light on the transformative power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Jesus tells us in John 14

But the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf, He will teach you all things.

In Galatians Paul tells us more, saying

22 But the fruit of the Holy Spirit (which is) [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy, peace, patience (an even temper), kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 Gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

The first time I read those verses, I misunderstood, interpreting the qualities listed as goals for me to achieve, rather than recognizing them as the natural outcomes of the transformative work of the Holy Spirit. Focusing on my external actions, rather than internal transformation, I believed I needed to actively work on being kinder or more patient, rather than understanding that these qualities develop organically because of the Holy Spirit’s presence and influence within them. However, these verses do not instruct us on what actions to take; rather, they illuminate the transformation that occurs within us through the work of the Holy Spirit.

So, what is this transformative work, and how does it lead to the qualities mentioned in the verses, ultimately bringing us peace? Let’s review the roles of the Holy Spirit as Jesus describes.

Jesus tells us the Holy Spirit is a Comforter. The science of comfort tells us comfort can calm emotions and give us time to sort our feelings.  Whether you are happy, angry, worried, sad; comfort is as mood stabilizer.

Are you facing challenges with your mental health? Comfort is a key to your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well being. It is more than just a warm feeling—the power of comfort can:

  • Increase your capacity to relax and rejuvenate.
  • Slow down your breathing.
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Boost your energy levels
  • Activate your body’s natural healing processes.
  • Reduce stress hormones, fostering a sense of peace and balance.
  • Alleviate pain and suffering
  • Enhance your creativity

The Holy Spirit is also a Counselor. Counseling allows individuals to explore their feelings, beliefs, and behaviors, work through challenging or influential memories, identify aspects of their lives that they would like to change, better understand themselves and others, set personal goals, and work toward desired change.

The Holy Spirit is a Helper. Helpers aid people in accomplishing their life mission and purpose while acting as a companion.

The Holy Spirit is an Intercessor. This is someone who talks to God on our behalf, asking for God’s divine intervention in our lives.

The Holy Spirit is an Advocate. This is someone who provides information to help you make informed decisions. They contact relevant people and support you in your meetings and appointments.

The Holy Spirit is a strengthener, increasing our strength and making us stronger.

Finally, the Holy Spirit is a Standby for Jesus, which means a person we can rely on, especially in emergencies.

Are you aware that the Holy Spirit does all this work on our behalf, for us and with us? With great comfort and counseling I can imagine easily becoming more patient, with self-control. With a helper and advocate I can see joy and faithfulness filling my life. With new strength and someone to rely on I see peace within reach.

Would you like to have all of this? This, my friends, is awesome and possible for you! Jesus tells us how to begin:

If you then, evil as you are, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him! Luke 11:13

Why is persistent asking important to do?

Persistent asking demonstrates your commitment and. It forces you to clarify why it’s important to you and what you’re willing to do to make it happen, helping you understand your priorities better. Finally, it also strengthens relationships by showing your dedication and commitment and demonstrating your trust in the other person’s ability to help you.

Wow! Just imagine what we could do with all of that! And it all begins with asking God. Let’s start today!

Dear Jesus, I pray for the person listening right now, and I pray for me. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit for Your great work in us. Cause us to continue asking, desiring more of You and bringing peace to our lives today. Amen

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