Foster Parenting Lesson 301: Vegans and Chicken Nuggets

Something I was reminded of during foster parenting training at Methodist Home for Children was about food insecurity. Food insecurity is something you and I probably have not actually experienced, aside from a delayed meal because of a meeting that went too long or the preacher preached too long on Sunday. Food insecurity derives from a constant exposure to an environment that lacks substantial nourishing food. A child, who hasn’t the means necessary to meet its needs, experiences food insecurity in a profound way. As a result, when a child comes to stay with a foster family the child may be prone to gorging themselves, not realizing that there will be another meal in the near future or even squirreling away food in their bedroom as a way to ensure that there will be something to eat. Such habits are hard to fathom, for how full are your cupboards with food?  

One foster parent shared how they will have freshly baked chocolate chip cookies for the child when he or she arrives. The aroma alone communicates welcome, warmth, and security.  Unfortunately, neither my wife or I bake. But we could offer Oreos. Which leads me to the place of creative problem solving. To meet children where they are at, and the most pressing needs, takes problem solving, something I’m any of you parents or grandparents knows about.  

Frist, the problem.  My wife and I are vegans (meaning we do not eat any meat or dairy). Shocker, I know.  Even more shocking, Oreos are vegan. I digress. Knowing that the child or children we may be placed with come from such food scarce environments, how should we address their needs for food?  Will we offer them our vegan delicacies? Or will we relearn how to cook meat? How will that work? Though not having all the answers to each particular case, I know that the primary need of the child is to feel secure. I cannot speak into that child’s life in a positive way if he or she is terrified of not having food or shelter or clothing. Meeting those needs are utmost important.  So the food I offer must be something he or she will eat. So if they will only eat chicken nuggets with ketchup and a side of Mac & Cheese, that’s what she will get. But you and I know that such a diet will not sustain a growing human body well or for long. So in addition to such a meal an alternate meal will also be offered too, such as a good salad with fake chicken OR black bean tacos OR fruit salad OR I could go on and on (frankly I’m getting hungry just thinking about all the delicious option so I’ll stop.)  

And now the solution. So the answer is..drum roll… both/and. We’ll provide what she will eat now and something we hope she will eat in time. Given time, and modeled well, children learn healthier habits as they see them firsthand in our lives.  Remember, Foster Parenting 101? Behavior is learned and therefore can be changed. Just as I hope the child will learn healthier eating habits, I hope, given time, and observed in our (this is the big “our” which includes you) lives the children will come to know Christ’s love and accept God’s love for them.  

Meeting children where they are at determines the kind of care each one will receive.  In a similar but not exact way, God meets us where we are at in our lives to provide for each of us the kind of love and care we need. God’s grace, God’s prevenient, grace meets us where we are at.  God doesn’t wait for us to stumble into the pastor’s office or the church sanctuary to meet us and our needs for love and acceptance but in our homes, our kitchens, our work, our cars. Prevenient grace is the grace often referred to as “fortunate” or “good luck” or “coincidence” by those outside the Faith. As such occasions, little does the person know that it’s God saying I love you. It’s God meeting the person where they are at. God doesn’t want the person to stay in that place, sustained by “coincidence” but to be lead on to a sustaining relationship with Christ.  

Unlike food insecurity, God’s grace is never in short supply. It’s never scarce, never running short. The cupboard is always full and overflowing, the refrigerator stuffed. It’s always more than enough, always. You may feel like you’ve missed the boat. That God has given up on you or a family member who has yet to come to faith in Jesus. Yet, that’s the good news, God never gives up on us, never. God’s grace is always secure.God’s prevenient grace provides for us enough nourishment to carry on until we’re ready to accept the wholesome, life giving, nourishment of justifying grace. It’s the grace that sets us upon the path to becoming whole and holy, that is the sanctifying grace.  

So friend, in what ways has God met you on your own terms, in what ways have you been surprised by God’s grace? Such answers are the stuff that make for a good witness to a world which has yet to know God’s nourishing grace. So share the stories of God’s grace knowing that you are filling the souls of those around you with the nourishment of God’s grace.

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