I am a 30 something year old mom of five precious boys and two sweet girls. Five 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, our youngest daughter through foster care, 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!
When we decided to go into foster parenting, we went in full steam ahead, knowing that is what God was calling us to. Then Jacob came along, and threw an unexpected and amazing wrench in that plan. After we got him home and things settled we were still both feeling the pull to foster. We figured we'd do it for a few years at least and be His hands and feet to as many kids as we could. We signed our contract in September of last year. We've provided a home temporarily for four little ones and had several respite kiddos. While it is truly one of the hardest things I've done, the foster shoe has seemed to fit. I feel like we are tangibly doing exactly what God wants us to do and I have truly never felt more at peace in my path even in chaos.
I have been more of a homebody than ever lately partly because taking five young kids out is a lot of work, partly because naptime is sacred, and largely because I am still working on that part of me that cares too much what others think. We've had more than our fair share of rude and condescending comments while we are out and about and while I know I should just let them go, they bother me. It bothers me that people think we are out of our ever loving minds to do this and that they somehow have the right to ask personal questions about how so many kids, the last two being so close together, came to be in our family. I crave normal. I want to be just the regular girl next door, and the funny thing is that I have never been and likely won't ever be her. Following Jesus is radical and I know I am told to expect the criticism and stay focused. That said, it is still hard and I still struggle.
I look at my three older kids. If I had stopped with them, we'd be done with diapers, bottles, and all the baby gear that has engulfed my home. We'd also be being disobedient and likely just struggling somewhere else and we'd be missing out on the amazingness of Jacob and our foster daughter. I think it is human nature to crave easy. I won't lie, there are moments in the middle of the night when I am up for the sixth time with two babies who tag team me all night long that I think of or dream of how "easy" my life would be if I had just stopped with Hope. The thing is, it likely wouldn't be easy because if it weren't foster care it'd be something else. The thing is, this is where God has called us. The thing is, Jacob is a challenge for sure but is the most amazing kid ever. He has taught me so much, has humbled me in ways I have NEEDED and opened my eyes to so many things. The thing is that God loves these children...and He expects US to love these children.
Foster care has wrecked me, broken my heart and made me want to run screaming for an island somewhere to lock my family in a bubble. The thing is...we are changed. Once we see the brokenness, it cannot be unseen. We can't turn away. We can't run away, if we try, it will find us...it will haunt us. Foster parenting has opened my eyes to the fact that all that junk we see on the news and try to shield our kids from...it is happening...for real...to real people...affecting REAL kids...addiction, prostitution, abuse, neglect, violence, sexual predators, they are all for REAL, they are breaking people every day and once our eyes are opened to this reality, we cannot run from it. It becomes a part of our hearts.
Today, we live with not just the awareness, but the intimate knowledge that not all children are fed, loved and cared for the way children should be. We have always known that this is the reality but now our eyes have truly been opened and we cannot look away. Once you’ve seen the face of abuse so horrific you’re sure you yourself wouldn’t have survived it, or have held a tiny child who has not had even some of their most basic needs met let alone been appropriately interacted with, you cannot turn back. It burns in your heart and in your mind.
Our family has been blessed to be able to love and hold a few children in our nine months since we’ve been licensed and our lives have been forever changed by them. Survivors in their own right, these kids are absolute miracles, but nobody has told them that. We get to. We get to love them and feed them and rock them to sleep at night assuring them that they are safe and secure and the next meal is sure to be served. There is a chance our current foster child will be our last for a while anyhow...it seems God has more in store for our family than we bargained for! Guess I won't be running away anytime soon. :)
It is hard to believe it has been a YEAR since I got on a plane and headed to Phoenix to meet our sweet boy. I sit here in tears as I look back at ALL the Lord has done in the last year! Jacob has come SO far in every way possible! He amazes me each and every day! As I look back at what the Lord HAS done I can't help but look forward to what this year has in store...I have a feeling He isn't done with us yet! ;)
Yesterday I rolled out of bed, changed a diaper, fed a baby a bottle, put her down, fed the next baby his breakfast, made beds, got both babies dressed, got dressed myself combed my hair, brushed my teeth and greeted the older three children as they woke...they got themselves breakfast, cleaned up, got dressed and brushed teeth. During all of that, more than one child shed tears (I may have also), someone bled, someone peed on the floor and the UPS man delivered a case of toilet paper to my three year old daughter who was sure the package was for her...well...sure it is sweetie! ;)
We read a book, got math pages done, sunscreened children and sent them out to play. I tripped over a mountain of laundry the children had haphazardly thrown down the basement steps, picked up that laundry threw it in my only half working washing machine and set it to wash...put one baby down for morning nap, cleaned the aforementioned pee off the floor and took a deep breath.
I swept the floor, changed out the scentsy fragrance to give the scheduled occupational therpaist the illusion that my house was clean and serene. She knocked at the door as she has every week for nearly a year now and I greeted her, today proud that I was fully dressed in REAL clothes, not yoga pants and a tshirt. I had make up on and my hair was somewhat presentable. What I didn't realize was that my maxi dress, which was strapless had slid down below my bra and since my cardigan was only buttoned on the top button, well you get the idea. We laughed and she made a comment about how well I do with chaos. (at least I finally bought myself a NON Nursing bra?) ;)
She sees a snapshot. A small window into my world, we all put our best foot forward when someone else is watching, right? ;) The truth is that I don't handle it all that well, that I explode and mutter things under my breath and deny the grace that is so freely given to me most days. The truth is some days I allow the chaos consume me, but some days I don't.
The day continued and I took the kids to the zoo, all five by myself. I am certain some folks thought we were a zoo exhibit in and of ourselves, alas we had a fabulous time, the older kids were overwhelmingly helpful with the smaller ones and we stopped for milkshakes on the way home. We won't talk about the fact that I had to pull over, rearrange car seats and children because the smallest boy was beating the TAR out of the boys on either side of him and they were strapped in and defenseless. By the time we got home I felt like I used up all my "good mom energy" for the day, I threw some chicken sausages on the grill and got the boys ready for baseball practice. I could feel exhaustion starting to set in...it was that point in the day where you know if you sit down it will be ALL OVER. The boys headed to practice with Howard, I cleaned up dinner and fed a baby or two. I painted Hope's nails and brought clothes in from the clothesline.
Then...I sat down...with a book, while Hope was busy playing...and then my phone started buzzing, I looked and suffice it to say that there is just a LOT going on in our foster care case. I am praying hard for the family and have no idea what the outcome will be. We go to court next month and I am praying for wisdom and clarity as the time approaches...I find myself panicked with the prospective outcomes and my husband reminds me God provides grace for the moment but not for the future because it isn't here yet...trying to live in the moment is really hard sometimes, isn't it?
The truth is I don't do well with chaos. I like order and plans. The funny thing is that my life seldom if ever goes that direction...chaos, albeit organized chaos reigns most days. Foster care brings a chaos all its own and it is an infuriating, and sacred kind of chaos...like most things in life a paradox all its own. I want to plan life out and know what life will look like a year from now, heck, I'd settle for knowing what life might look like next week, I want to feel secure and settled, and yet God continually calls me to a state of uncertainty, gently pushing me to be reminded that my certainty comes from NO circumstance, my certainty comes from Him and it is a certainty I can always count on. I have got to do better about handing it all over to Him and residing in His peace and stability.
If I had a dime for every time someone said to me, "I could never be a foster parent, It would hurt too much to give them back, I just couldn't do it.", well I'd be rich. That is the typical reaction when folks find out we are foster parents and for the most part I know that more often than not people just don't know what to say to that because in a large way it goes against the social norm. It extends beyond the American Dream of raising 2.5 kids in a big house with a white picket fence and retiring at 60 with a load of cash in the bank so you can travel and enjoy life then. It is uncomfortable, OY is it uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable as people stare as we wrangle five little ones into a grocery store visibly doing the math trying to figure out how we have some so close together, it is uncomfortable when the kids can't quite understand why her pictures can't be included on our Christmas card the way theirs can. It is uncomfortable when she has issues with the doctor or therapist and because I am not her mother I am not authorized to make big decisions.
Fostering is needed because of the brokenness of this world, much like adoption and because of that it can't be expected to be pretty or to feel good all the time. I will tell you however that there is a sacredness to holding a crying and scared little one and promising them that your home, now their home will be a SAFE place for them where they will have plenty of food to eat, clothes to wear, toys (gasp of their own), and hugs and kisses for however long they are there. There is a strange sweetness about rocking a sweet one in the wee hours of the morning, knowing that just for a moment you get to BE His hands and feet to her. I know that fostering isn't for everyone and that is okay. It just needs to be said though that most of the foster parents I know, don't do it because it is fun or it makes them feel good or for the money (hahaha!) they do it because it ISN'T about them. They do it FOR the children that God calls His. They do it inspite of themselves, because He calls us to. Sometimes it is beautiful, and often times it is ugly and it hurts like crazy.
I am still relatively new to this whole foster parenting world. We've only been in the trenches since the beginning of September, but we've seen four children placed here, all four leave, one come back and several respite children. Each time a child has left it has hurt. EACH TIME. Even when they were only here a few short days...they were ours for those days and we loved them as best we could. Most days between therapies, social worker visits, parent visits, doctor appointments, WIC and the like I am ready to rip my hair out, it is hard, it is time consuming and it often doesn't make sense, and yet I KNOW full well this is where he's called me.
Anyway, our foster girl, we've had for months now...of her short life she's only known a few weeks without us. The kids love her and we love her and she loves us. She looks for my face when she is scared, she screams like she's on fire if I walk out of her view. She looks at her foster siblings just as a little sister would look up to her big brothers and sister. She is our girl. In our hearts she will always be our girl. The truth is, that none of our kids are TRULY ours, none of them. Next month there will be a court hearing that will judge what happens next and who will be her mom for the next portion of her life. The mother who loved, carried, nourished, and birthed her will have to sit before a judge and answer hard questions, and this breaks my heart. This sweet baby has just this week begun visits with her mother and the father she doesn't know and to say it has already caused havoc on her sweet little self is an understatement, it is gut wrenching to see her have to go through such instability. She is freshly into the stranger anxiety phase and the next month is going to be hard on her, and gut wrenching for us...as we sit idly by and advocate for her as best we can. We know her mother loves her and that sometimes love isn't enough...we are trusting that the judge will see the whole picture and do what is right by this little girl, whatever that is.
I am the one who has been up countless nights when she just wants to party, I have been the one to take her to the ER when a cold grips her little lungs, I am the one who has worn her vomit when her belly hurts and her first mouthfuls of baby food as she sprayed them across my face. I have witnessed every single one of her firsts thus far and I am the one who sings her to sleep each night. It will hurt like crazy to let her go if that is what I am called to but I know loving her has been worth it.
If I were to tell you that my heart didn't sink each time she has to go and be with her biological parents, I'd be lying, though to tell you the truth though it would hurt, nothing would please me more than to see her family reunited and whole. I am not sure if that is possible but I do pray for it each day.
My point here is this. Even for those of us who are chosen for or choose this...it hurts a lot...we are not super human or unfeeling, we don't guard ourselves so that we won't be hurt and we aren't some kind of saint. We are every day broken people who know that sometimes God calls us to put it all out there...to lay our hearts on the line and allow it to be broken. Having Isaac and Asher taught us that no child the Lord gives is ever fully ours...they are His, and sometimes we have to let go...and it hurts...it always hurts...we serve a God who calls us to tough places and to serve Him and His people. This is our way of doing it...it hurts us just as much as it would you, we are just being obedient to what we are called to and trusting that there is a purpose that is greater than our pain because oh man...it DOES hurt.
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