"For You O Lord are a shield about me, You are the glory and lifter of my head. Psalm 3:3

"For You O Lord are a shield about me, You are the glory and lifter of my head. Psalm 3:3

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Before Foster Care

There's not a delicate entry sentence for this topic. 

Foster Care.

When you say it out loud, it can bring the room, the conversation to a lull.  It's uncomfortable and it's messy.  Honestly for me it's been the place I'd rather leave my head in the sand than acknowledge the need exists.  No, beyond just need, I'd now characterize it more like a desperate crisis.  Because before foster care I never entertained the notion, the idea that I could bring in someone else's baby in to take care of them only to one day give them back.
How would we as a family even begin to step into realms and realities where the innocent learn to suffer before they learn to speak and crawl?
How do you wage war on a world so deep in violence and desperation that your seemingly minimal contribution could even make the smallest of a difference?

But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

This is our story so far.  It's different than the next story or anyone else's lens in this process.  It's unpolished with plenty of mistakes, misconceptions, and immaturity.  I'm sure in seasons to come my reflections will change and adapt.  But I don't want to discount this season of learning, the challenge, the newness.  Just a few short months ago I had a small grid for this dark reality.  Years ago I had called DHS on students back when I was a teacher for obvious neglect.  I've felt that pit in my stomach when you see the mama struggling in the checkout line with her child and you know she crosses lines that aren't meant to be crossed.  I've heard the statistics of the thousands of children who wait in foster care, how our state is among the highest in child abuse and neglect.  I've been honest with myself in the most secret places, I'm not cut out for this.  I could never and would never do foster care. 

...because I just couldn't ever give them back.

I said it, I've thought it, and I've heard it a hundred times in the past few months.  In fact I'd say I hear it daily.  Foster care felt and still feels overwhelming.  So many aspects that pull on my heart strings, my energy, my calendar.  Feelings of hopelessness in my mind, opinions of others, and the reality of the enemy's game staring me down in the face.  There's no half way here, it's all or nothing.

Does taking this child in really make a difference?
Is this going to mess with our life?
Is this new reality going to push us to the point of quitting?

Yes.

The answer is yes.  Yes to all the above and more.  The cost is high, there's just no way around it.  We knew this coming but have since walked in more understanding whether we were ready or not.  I've never been more uncomfortable, challenged, and desperate.

Our story.

A few months ago late in the evening, the phone rang.  "Meg, we've got a newborn boy.  That's all we know.  Do you want him?"  All the stacks of paper work, the home studies, the background checks, the hours of training and classes.  And now here we were.  I asked the questions I knew there weren't answers to...his name, race, health, location.  No answers on the other end of the phone.

"Yes, we want him."

That was the day we jumped, we jumped off a cliff and gave Him our scared, unknowing, unscheduled yes.  Days later NICU nurses walked us into a small room full of babies and there he was.  Tiniest baby I've ever held, tubes coming out from all over his body.  Nurses waiting to read off his chart.  His story had a begun.  Our story had begun.

Nothing prepares you for the moment you sit in that rocking chair and they place this precious, innocent life in your arms.  In your care, in your heart, in your home. 
Nothing prepares you for the way he would tremble and shake because brokenness has a hold of his mama too and she made choices that would lead us to this very moment.  When it's written in a medical chart of an infant, your brain can't comprehend and no explanation is suffice of how innocence is shattered and this tiny life is left to clean up a mess he never asked for.
But you see, neither did his mama.

A hundred times in our short time in this process I've begun to understand why the Cross was so violent, so blanketed with darkness.  Because He took the sin of man and bore it on His brow, on His blood soaked shoulders, driven into His hands and feet.  And yet the same Jesus calls us out of the boat to wade into the waters of the darkest battle we've ever stepped into.
The truth is I'm not made for this.  No one is.  I'm too weak, it's too hopeless, and it's beyond impossibly hard.

Good thing it's not about me.

Foster parents aren't super parents, they're not perfect parents with hearts of steel that don't feel the pain of this fight.  They sit in parking lots of DHS and weep, they cry over hospital reports and parent visits.  All of life, calendars are shuffled for therapies, court dates, endless meetings and doctor's appointments.
Unending engagement with people once overlooked in parking lots and street corners, now the weekly investment in relationship and sacrificial love.  And the mess of it all creates the perfect opportunity for rescue, for exposure of my own weakness and ugliness.  When we come to the end of our flesh and we run out, there in that place is where He waits.  In our weakness and desperation His strength is the only thing that sustains.

Before foster care I never knew or saw the tension and where the lines blur between what's happened to these precious children and babies, some even before they are born, and those responsible for the devastation that's happened.  What does justice look like, grace, margin for error, second chances...is there such a thing?  Because those mamas and daddies, the boyfriends, the ones who come in and violate innocence, who raise hands and fists, who in full operation of fear and abuse choose the very things that shred preciousness into brokenness, because it's the only thing they have ever known.  And years ago they too hid in closets to avoid being under hands of violence, dug through trash cans for food, and looked after siblings while the ones meant to protect them and teach them wouldn't, couldn't, and chose not to.

And we're only scratching the surface.

Where's the line between calling someone to ownership for their behavior and at the same time seeing through the mess into a life so broken they don't even know the pieces that need to be put back together?  That's the place I swirl in today.  I want answers.  I want solutions.  I want His return because I can't handle the mess I've stepped into.
I need Jesus.  They need Jesus.  The system needs Jesus.  We were made to know Him and follow Him.  We were made to pick up and carry the torch for causes, we were made to seek and fight for justice on behalf of a Kingdom at hand.  We were made to be loved by a Father who loves us when we're unlovable to the point of grief because our sin hurts His heart so deeply.  We were created for rescue and redemption.



Today an older woman praised me, how wonderful it is to foster and how amazing I must be.  I smiled and thought to myself how it couldn't be further from the truth.  Tonight as I sit, I'm exhausted.  I've cried every day this week.  I've fought and demanded excellence for this baby because he's worth it.  I've crossed lines and I've made plenty of mistakes already.  I've stumbled into my living room early in the morning desperate for my cup to be filled because it ran out yesterday way before the demands of the day were finished.  It's not noble or great, I think any foster parent can attest to that.  It's the hardest thing we've ever done.  I've come to the end of myself and today it's for His glory.

Everything is for His glory.

So tonight we will take kids to dance and practices.  Homework will get finished and hearts will get reconnected over dinner.  We'll make lunches, hear about each other's days, and give baths.  And after all those babies are tucked in tight, foreheads kissed, prayers said, we'll sit grateful and tired.  Today was hard, today we fought and lost, today we fought and won.  Today I didn't see in the physical realms the steps vital for this baby to have a safe home to return to.  If I wait for that I lose hope, my hope is in the One who bestows the impossible.  I'm believing for the impossible, I'm believing for the things I cant even begin to imagine.  And then He will do what He always does, the most faint whispers to be still and trust.  To lay it down and rest, to lay down the yolk of this world and take upon His and not forget the Rock He's been faithful to set us on.
And tomorrow we will rise and begin again because the Lord's grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in my weakness.
"to all who mourn in Zion, He will give them a crown of beauty for ashes,
oil of gladness instead of mourning,
garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
they will be called the oaks of righteousness,
planted of the Lord for His glory."
Isaiah 61:3