For much of my walk with the Lord over the last 20 years or so, I have wanted to be willing to do whatever God asks, and to be stretched and changed by him. I think it is funny how He often brings that change about–carefully stripping out the pride that I have tied in to the roots of the desire, and gradually refining me, replacing my pride with trust and dependence as I reach the limits of my own strength and initial resolve rather quickly.
I have always been drawn to adoption, but never truly thought much about foster care, because it seemed even more intimidating than adoption. But then the Lord started us on the journey of pursuing adoption through the foster care system last Spring. Even through the whole process of getting licensed, we felt pretty certain that our call was to mostly adoption—providing a “forever family” for a child who needed one. Yet once we received the license, we kept reflecting on some of the case studies we had learned about in our licensing, and on the reality of the need (and lack of foster homes in Northern Arizona), and we decided we should open up ourselves to the possibility of fostering as a whole. We wanted to help meet the needs of children here, and wanted seek to truly live out the love that our Savior has shown us when we were weak and undeserving and needy. It tends to be much easier to say we are willing (yet try to confine our options to and even pray for the easiest situations) than it is to act. We determined to be willing to respond and act in the face of need.
Well, here we are, with two foster children in our home, overnight becoming part of our family for as long as God desires. I don’t think I even knew what I was really saying when I said “yes” to the phone call a couple weeks ago, but God knew. I am not going to give any case details here to preserve confidentiality, but wanted to share some reflections from my perspective as a first time Foster Mom. With the two new children, the ages of the children in our household are now 2,3,4,5 and 7.
It is not easy, and there are definitely times when Jeremiah and I feel in over our heads, particularly since we are the only Cru Staff couple here, and have many college “kids” we are already caring for. But love requires sacrifice, and only through that comes great joy. When the two children arrived at our doorstep late one night a couple weeks ago, we looked at their scared faces and immediately wanted to welcome and love them. Based on my very brief experience thus far, I will share a few amazing things, a few challenges, and a few blessings that are arising from this whole experience.
First, some amazing things I have noticed: (1) Children are truly resilient—I am consistently surprised by the hope and trust children can display in the midst of a complete displacement from the life they knew. And even in the face of crazy circumstances like neglect (by far the most common reason for removals in Northern Arizona) or abuse, these children (like all children), are wired to want close relationships, to have big dreams for their futures, and to rejoice in new fun experiences, while still treasuring memories and longing for restoration of their family relationships. (2) I am honored by how quickly these children have seemed to receive my love and rest in us as a place of safety. I don’t want to breech that trust, and long to continue to be safe for them in every way. (3) Children just cry out for love and acceptance, and are not afraid to express that need and pursue it. These children at least want hugs and closeness. It is not hard for me to seek to treat them as I do my birth children, with much affection and consistent boundaries (as much as I am capable of consistency with my many failings).
Some challenges that I perceive to be somewhat unique to Foster care are the following. First, When you are going to have a baby, you know pretty much when it will happen and what to expect. You also have figured out how to slow your life down when it happens. When receiving Foster children into your home, none of that is true. You don’t know when; you don’t know what age the child/children will be; and you certainly do not have a plan set in place to slow life down (at least I didn’t…).
Second, while we knew suddenly adding children of varied ages to our home would place stress on our birth children, we didn’t know exactly what it would look like. We had resolved to keep the birth order, at least for our older children, but were somewhat willing to flex a bit around Judah’s age. It has proven most difficult for him to have one new child on either side of him–meaning he has lost his “place,” his time alone with Mom, and most other stable things he had in place… He is adjusting, and often has tons of fun with the kids, but has been lashing out a bit more than normal…
Third, my sin is never far away…my impatience, my self-will, my desire to control situations. Yet I am even more powerless than I already was in affecting the lives and hearts of my birth children. With that come fears…
- What if I can’t do my job well because of this…with the ministry to students here, with my legal work for Cru… What if people are upset with me? (my people-pleasing…)
- What if I am missing out on certain focused time with my birth children? Will they resent me for it?
- What if I am not good at this, and I get impatient and don’t parent well?
- What if we don’t get to adopt because we took a sibling foster placement?
When such fears arise, I have to remind myself that I have a personal, compassionate, gracious Father in Heaven, who has given me all that I need for life and godliness, and who will not give me more than I can bear (when I put my hope in Him). He is sovereign, and has a plan for my spiritual growth, my character growth, and my family’s provision. He is with me. What a blessing it is to know Him!
And speaking of blessings…I have also seen blessings, and believe many more will come through this process. (1) Our birth children are learning what it means to love beyond their comfort zone, which will hopefully point them to Christ all the more and all He has done for us. (2) I get to see a more complete picture of what it means to come like a child to the Lord—to depend upon Him and cling to Him—as I observe and cherish both sweet and raw moments with these beautiful children. (3) I get to see my own need for Christ even more fully—as I am confronted with my limitations and my brokenness, with five children dependent upon me that I cannot possibly meet all the needs of. But God can meet their needs, and as I am driven to Him, I can more effectively point these children to Him. (4) We get to continue to grow our heart for restoration of families and renewal of individuals, trusting and praying that God’s power can reach into any situation, and His light can shine in the darkness, bringing hope and healing.
Thank you for your prayers as we are on this journey. God is doing a great work in our hearts and lives.