I am a 35 year old mom of five precious boys and two sweet girls. Four of our children are here with us and two are in the arms of Jesus. Our sweet baby girl Hope was diagnosed with Dystrophic Epdermolysis Bullosa and our youngest son came to us through adoption, and I've recently been diagnosed with malignant melanoma the Lord has shown us just how Faithful He is. We will continue to Journey and follow Him where ever He leads. We feel very blessed that God chose us to be the parents of each of our kids, and we look forward to what He has in store for us in foster care!
There seem to be two camps when it comes to other people's opinion of those of us who foster children. Either they are fully supportive and paint you as a saint lavishing you with the praise you know you don't deserve, or they think you are completely insane and ruining your life and the lives of your family.
I stood in a court house this afternoon, I sat through a hearing for our foster daughter listening to all of the sordid details of her case. Her parents love her. There is no question in my mind about this. It never gets easier sitting there in that chair and listening to lawyers lay out for a judge every single reason people are failing as parents. It always causes introspection for me and my heart aches for the mother sitting there in the hot seat having to defend her every choice.
No major changes happened for our foster daughter today and I am praying so hard that her family is able to come around and see what needs to be done and do it so they can watch her grow up. She is amazing. She is quickly approaching one year old and each milestone is bittersweet. I am so grateful I get to be here to witness each and every milestone, but my heart aches because her mother is missing them. New teeth, rolling, crawling, sitting, standing, new foods, new words. I get to witness them all. I get to snuggle her in the night when things just don't seem quite right and I get to be the person she said "mama" to for the first time.
We are really not looking to adopt again, but that is our plan, I have no idea what God's is in that regard. What I do know is that nothing in my life has ever made more sense than taking care of these sweet little ones. It is hard. I have done some hard stuff in this lifetime and this is by far the hardest thing I've done. I have no explanation for how we've come this far other than God himself has carried us and brought all of the right people along at the right times to encourage us on.
As I walked to the courthouse today I had a phone conversation with someone I love dearly. She asked where I was headed and when I told her, she begged me to tell "them" to find a new home for our littlest girl because surely I was wasting my youth and wearing myself too thin and ruining the lives of my family. While I know her intentions were good, she wants to protect me and see me happy, this broke my heart. She reminded me that I cannot save the world and that I've done my job in adopting Lily and Jacob. It took the wind right out of my sails.
Here's the thing folks, I didn't rescue Jacob or Lily. If anyone did rescuing, they rescued me...they rescued my family. They've opened our eyes to things we never would have seen if not for them, they've grown a compassion and selflessness in me that I would never have known otherwise. It is HARD work raising all of these little humans, especially the ones who've experienced early trauma, but I cannot for one minute think of anything else more worthy of my time. I am not trying to save the world. I am trying to be obedient.
I know fostering might seem crazy, I know taking on "other people's children" seems insane, but if not us then who? If we all just leave the job to someone else, who will do it? I am worn thin, I am on the brink of sanity and completely exhausted, but you know what...that is just where I need to be. I have never been so sure of anything in my life. In my exhaustion I have spent the past few weeks praying hard about what we are to do and I KNOW without a doubt we are right smack in the center of God's will for our family and that might look unorthodox, insane, or whatever you want to call us, but I am bull headed and right at the end of myself is where God keeps me because it keeps me ever dependent on him. I have complete peace about what I am doing with my energy and time. Do I sometimes wish I were sitting on a beach sipping a Mai Tai? Sure, but I'll do plenty of that in Heaven, right. ;)
So while I appreciate the concern, I'd rather struggle and suffer and be tired in His will than to walk on Easy Street outside of it. I believe the business of raising children is one with eternal rewards. While I know that not everyone is called to foster care or adoption, we are all called to help in some way, so if you know a foster parent, I'd encourage you to reach out to them, don't discourage them, if you see them struggling and you are concerned, that is valid, rather than stating the obvious and causing further frustration, maybe enter into their crazy and lend a hand. I don't know a single foster parent who'd turn it down.
In short if the ship is sailing at full mast, get on board or abandon ship, if there seems to be a hole in the sails, lend a hand and help the ship get back on course. A little support means more than you could know, for ANY foster parent. Sometimes God calls us to do hard things that don't make sense to the rest of the world. Sometimes the hardest part is just knowing you'll never have everyone's acceptance.
It has been almost 28 years since I've called anyone "mom". It was a title I held so dear that I never ever could have uttered that word to anyone but the woman who gave birth to me. I was hostile and bratty to anyone I felt encroached on that territory. I had many women pour into my life and fill some of the gaping holes but I knew I would never again know the love of a mother. I will probably mourn that loss for the rest of my life.
When I became a mother myself I found myself wondering in my lack of mothering if I would be able to be a good mother, I had held that title in such high regard despite my own anger toward my own mother. I knew I wanted to do everything I wished she had done. Thankfully mothering has been the thing that has come the most naturally. I know I was created to be a mother. I remember being giddy the first time Luke, Ben and Hope called me mom. I yearned to hear Isaac and Asher utter that word.
With Jacob, it was uncharted territory, it didn't all come as naturally. I had walked into the hospital room that HOT April day and my heart fell to the floor as a beautiful woman, tears streaming down her face, body still broken from giving birth, a mother in her own right, handed her son to me and I became his mother. Each time he calls me mom, even when he says it as though it is a curse word, my heart breaks and soars. I am so grateful and the heartache his first mom must feel every day isn't lost on me. There isn't a day that doesn't go by that I don't think of her and one day Jacob will understand his story and I can only hope he will see how much she loved him.
Lily came to us as a foster child, so for almost two years, the goal was to reunify her with her first mother. I remember feeling so conflicted when she started calling me "mama". I had no idea if she'd be a part of our family forever or if she would return to the mother she knew first, or if she'd ever remember me if she did. As time passed it became more clear that Lily would stay and I am without words for how grateful I am to have the honor of being her mom.
Our youngest foster child is now 8 months old. She has this week started looking at me and saying "mama". My heart breaks each time she says it because it is VERY likely that she'll be going back to her biological mother. I love her to pieces but I pray each day that the Lord places her just where she belongs and it is quite possible that IS NOT in our home...but today, I am her mom. I will do everything I can to live up to that title to her for as long as she is here and I will miss her like crazy when and if she is gone.
Today I did respite for another sweet foster kiddo. She is two. She immediately started calling me "mama". This took my own children my surprise. They asked me why on earth she was calling me "mama". Tears started inexplicably rolling down my face. It occurred to me that like me, they would likely never entertain the thought of calling anyone but me mom. They on some level get the sacredness of that title. They know that mom means someone who loves you no matter what and will fight tooth and nail for you. She'd give her own life for yours.
This sweet two year old...her definition of mother is very different, her first mother did not protect her. She was taken from the only mother she'd known and been taken into foster care and showered with love by a new mom and she's spent a few days with me here and there and now she calls me mom. The tragedy of this is not lost on me, foster care is SO hard. It is so hard on all parties, but it isn't harder on anyone than the children living it. Being a mom is the highest calling I can think of. The fact that I get to be "mom" to any of these kids for even a day is a privilege I cannot describe. I sometimes cannot fathom how someone as broken as me could possibly be used for His glory. Every time I hear someone call me "mama", I am reminded that He is JUST THAT POWERFUL. In his weakness we are strong and in Him we can do ANYTHING.
So...I will love with all I have and let go whenever He calls...it seems to be the theme of this life.
I never imagined ringing in my 36th birthday by walking into my girls' room at midnight to kiss them good night only to have the putrid stench of crap hit me in the face like an anvil. I turned on the light to find my sensory seeking two year old had retrieved the contents of her diaper and proceeded to paint her entire crib, sheets, pillows and self with it. It was everywhere. It was like a nightmare. I should also note, she then put her PJs back on before creating her masterpiece.
I stood there at the door staring in disbelief at the sight before me. Howard stood behind me also taking in the view. We took a deep breath (outside the room) and we just started cleaning. He took the child and painstakingly and gently washed her cleaning poop from under each and every fingernail, and I grabbed the Clorox wipes and a pair of rubber gloves and started scrubbing the crib, walls, floor and bedding. This process woke two other sleeping children who proceeded to scream through the entire ordeal. It wasn't fun.
Standing at that door, the task ahead seemed daunting, exhausting and impossible but the only thing to do is jump in and just get it done. Life is much the same. Sometimes we just have to focus on the next MINUTE and not worry about even tomorrow....sometimes, you hold your breath and hunker down and just do what you can do in the moment. Sometimes that is all you can do. This life I live...it is a crazy one...and while sometimes I would just like to escape, because the weight of all of it feels crushing ... sometimes, the sacredness and beauty of it also overwhelms me.
That baby we had to clean up after. She was born to another mom. This world is broken and heartbreaking things happen, and God chose our family as her family. I never could have dreamed that my thirty fifth year would bring me a curly haired, carefree and happy daughter forever. He placed that girl in our home, in a perfect world, she never would have needed to be here, and sometimes just the fact that these kids need a safe place feels like too much to bear, I mourn with her the loss of her first family, I hope that one day I can help her make sense of her past...but today, I get to clean up her poop, I get to he His hands and feet to this sweet gift...I get to help her work through the trauma of her past and show her that there IS hope and that life is messy and it is beautiful, just like her.
Today I turn 36. I won't be coy and pretend I am 21 a fifteenth time. I won't lie about my age. 35 brought a cancer diagnosis, an adoption, a new foster baby, several amazing new friends and so much more. I have been through a lot in thirty six years. I have encountered a LOT of loss, a LOT of love and a renewed hope and faith in the One who orchestrates it all. I have NO idea what 36 will hold, but I know He is writing the story and I know not one ounce of pain is for nothing. He uses it all. I will give thanks for EVERY moment...even the crappy ones...because they are a gift. We are never promised another one...the moment we are in is all that is guaranteed.
Go ahead and mention my child, The one that died, you know. Don't worry about hurting me further. The depth of my pain doesn't show. Don't worry about making me cry. I'm already crying inside. Help me to heal by releasing The tears that I try to hide. I'm hurt when you just keep silent, Pretending she didn't exist. I'd rather you mention my child, Knowing that she has been missed. You asked me how I was doing. I say "pretty good" or "fine". But healing is something ongoing I feel it will take a lifetime. ~ Elizabeth Dent ~
"When I Lay My Isaac Down" - Carol Kent "The One Year Book of Hope" - Nancy Guthrie "Holding on to Hope" - Nancy Guthrie "Empty Cradle Broken Heart" - Deborah Davis "Waiting With Gabriel" - Amy Kuebelbeck "Streams in the Desert" - LB Cowman "It Takes a Parent" - Betsy Hart "I'll Hold You in Heaven" - Jack Hayford "Crazy Love" Francis Chan "Radical" David Platt