Subconsciously I've got this answered. For me the image of a foster parent from the outside looks like some sort of saint. A person with endless patience and compassion. Possibly a large home, lots of open space in her calendar and heart. No time for nonsense like shopping for expensive shoes, no desire for a $5 Starbucks drink, she's way above that stuff and content at all times. She's sold out to the cause, maybe she takes care of herself but maybe she just doesn't have time for superficial things like make-up and hairspray. She's got one thing on her mind, the orphaned. Foster care. And in that she's relentless and consumed, praying day and night for this child's life meanwhile seamlessly pursuing birth moms and blessing her case workers with homemade bread. These babies come in and out and because her heart it strong as steel, made out of something thicker and tougher than most, she can release them into hard places and the next day receive another one into her home. All the while she's getting dinner on the table and leading the torch in her community for this high need in dark places. That's a foster parent, the measuring stick and the ultimate goal of duplication.
I used to think that's who she was. That's what it takes to become a foster parent and unless you can somehow emulate her, you're just not cut out for this. And I'll go ahead and not only completely miss the mark to measure up even close to anything about who she is but I'll also stay paralyzed because not only can I never become that woman, I've got this list of questions coated in fear and answers that don't come in pretty packages and sometimes the answers never come. And sometimes I like shopping, overpriced coffee, and my house is busting at the seems as it is. So why on earth would you even think about being a foster parent? I think every foster parent can answer this differently because no one person has the exact same journey.
After I left that early morning coffee I got to thinking about our journey, our story thus far, only 18 months in. How did we get here? Where did it all begin?
For anyone, for any dream walked out, the seed is planted before time began, while we were in wombs of our mamas growing the Maker was writing plans and destinies. And we can look back over the years and see the investment, the pivotal moments whether good or hard, the people that marked your life for forever, all of it used and an invitation to come in closer to who He is and what He's called us to. That one day He would use all things for our good and put His beauty for ashes into our hands to step into places we never thought possible.
September 8th, 2014 I sat across from my husband in a booth and casual date night talk took an unexpected turn with one question from me to him.
"What would you think about foster care?" He looked up from his plate and quickly responded "Uh yeah, sure." He further explained that he would be interested in the discussion of fostering. I had never entertained the idea of foster care. Adoption? Of course. Foster care? No way.
He kept eating and I was shocked at the topic matter now on the table. I asked if I could look into it, do some research and he said yes. So that night I stayed up pretty much all night. I read every article, blog, and document I could get my hands on. Statistics, records, percentages on anything and everything to do with foster care. I woke up the next morning ready to go with my arsenal of my findings and next steps. I convinced him if we wanted to position our family to say yes to the Lord, then we should just go ahead and be ready and by be ready I meant, be approved. I had already found the perfect agency for our family, memorized their phone number and mission statement. Normal approval, paperwork, home studies, back ground checks, personality tests, training, doctors' appointments etc. takes around 6 months. More convincing that it would be at least half a year before we had to do anything. He nodded in agreement and went to work. Two months later there was a state seal of approval on our file and our home was deemed open for placement and we were officially waiting. A week later I was comfortable on my couch, kids had been tucked in, about to enjoy some ice cream and that phone call came for our first placement.
Looking back at that story, I have a few thoughts and answers to my then questions at the time. The basic common fears and concerns that by no means are absent from my heart but rather the constant pursuit of where we land on the spectrum today, tomorrow, for the unknown to come all the while counting the cost and knowing the end result is letting go.
Someone told me once that I needed to count the cost of foster care. Make sure I know and have thoroughly considered what it will cost me and my family. I now have an answer to that.
It will cost you everything.
Your time, calendar, comfort, convenience, money, sleep, energy. Not even addressing how and what price your heart pays. How you learn to sit in meetings and hear beyond horrific realities about siblings and birth moms and you're the only one sobbing at the table because to them, they've heard it before and the norm is no longer alarming. The cost starts to settle in and these two realities of my life and this other dark world slowly start bleeding together. This so called cost and high price, for a long time I think I had it backwards. I had full focus on me. And so my answer comes just now, over a year in.
It's not about me and what it will cost me. It's about these babies, these children and what it will cost them if we don't step in and love them.
I'm not talking about rescue, I'm talking about the love and sacrifice to bring them in for a season without having my questions answered or my life unaffected by that choice. My job isn't to rescue them because I can't, it's not that simple. It's impossible. But the bringing them in part, the answer is they will wait in that place until someone can open a home, a crib, a heart. They'll stay in homes starving, sleeping in police stations, curled up on cots on CPS office floors, shaking in NICU's while drugs leave their bodies, waiting for a yes. The yes that unlocks the bondage of their hell, the setting aside of comfort, convenience, and ease to take a step closer to the innocent. Not asking to be the doorstep they come to but knowing we just happen to be. High cost unfathomable to consider because the answer is nothing is unscathed.
And the letting go. It's as hard as you imagine it would be, anyone who has let go can attest to that. When you let go knowing they're going into dark homes or even when they're going into good homes, the release of a baby or a child is gut wrenching. So this pain, this unthinkable letting go part of the deal, how on earth do you do that? A year ago I didn't have an answer but today I do and I realize my answer could change a year from now and each person may have a different response but today here it is.
These babies and children need the love, attachment, safety, and care more than my heart needs protection from the pain of letting them go one day.
It's that simple. That's how you let them go. It's nothing to do with that woman who has a heart of steel and is all things consumed in foster care. That lady, the one who can't be bothered with such silly things as lattes, I'm not her and I never will be and He's not asking me to be her. I'm only me, with the heart and set of tools, imperfections, and immeasurable failure on a daily basis. My heart is weak, vulnerable, fearful and selfish. There's nothing that allows me to give them back any different from the next person. Gratitude for His design that it's not about me and it's all about Him. The One who promises strength in weakness and healing in the broken places. And for all of the unanswered questions, the why's, the endless frustrations and grief, comes a desperation to crawl back to Him as cry out for mercy, more of whatever He has for me. Learning to let go from that place and there's nothing easy about it but Jesus help me, it's worth it every time.
So our coffee ended and I walked away feeling like I talked too much, gave some really raw answers, rambled on about things that she hadn't asked about. Not wanting to sound convincing or pushy that I know what's best for her precious family or that she should do this thing of fostering. But I walked away knowing He's moving and stirring it up. That this thing of bringing in the innocent pierces darkness with light and it shakes the gates of hell. Desperate for the promise that light always wins over darkness. The cross, the blood poured out for my rescue, for our rescue, the same sacrifice is carried in our hearts daily. Wherever we are planted and whatever we set out to do, we are enough and when we aren't, oh how lovely the hands of the Father who equips and empowers for His glory and greatness.
Every family's journey looks different. How incredible and creative that He would make it so. Faithfulness of the Lord we can look back and see how hard it's been, knowing more trials are coming and choosing to trust Him when we can't see a way forward.
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs and aching groans.
He knows us far better than we know ourselves, our condition and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of
love for God is worked into something good.