What I've Learned As a New Foster Mom
My husband Oscar and I always assumed that children would be a part of our story someday. Our immediate answer to those wondering about us having little ones was that we planned on waiting two years. We did wait a couple of years, then four, six, and so on until a decade passed us by. Having a thyroid issue that ultimately affected my entire health put a hold on our ability to grow our family.
The journey has been more difficult and beautiful than we could have ever imagined. However, one of my favorite authors, Alicia Britt Chole, writes in her book 40 Days of Decrease, about being invited into a holy weakness. I would never have chosen this path yet am glad that I was drafted into a deeper mission of love for Him and for others. We are currently fostering an adorable two-year old boy who we're praying to adopt. We call him X and are not allowed to disclose his full name nor post any identifying pictures (which is a shame because he's so darn cute!). There is so much that God wants to teach me, but this is a bit of what I've learned from being a mommy so far:
1. I throw tantrums and cry in front of Jesus just like X. As his mom, I know what's best. I can see the way, and God is saying, "Follow me. I know the way."
2. I advocate for my son and Jesus has already divinely advocated to the Father on my behalf. He has terminated Satan's authority over my life, and I have taken His last name.
3. Adoption day must be the absolute best day both here on earth and in heaven definitely. Although there may be mourning in the former, the angels rejoice in the latter when God calls us sons and daughters. I so look forward to celebrating "Gotcha Day"!
4. We do not fight against birth parents nor an incompetent system but the prince of the power of the air. We battle, are beaten, and bruised so that these precious kids have a chance. This is spiritual warfare at its finest. "Take heart for I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). "Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21).
5. Jesus needs to be at the center of our marriage not foster care. We mission together but are not to be consumed by it. Don't forget about your spouse who has been there before your child and will be there even if that child is reunified. Your beloved still exists.
6. My only hope is in Him. If I believe He is a good Father, then I must believe that His intentions are good towards us and our son. The final outcome is for the best. He loves X infinitely more than we ever could with our finite, human love. "Hope" will remain my favorite word.
7. When I am tortured by the process (and this happens frequently), I must remember that God is seeking to "perfect” me. Perfection in the sense that I do what I was intended to do. My mission is to love God and love others. Will I be hurt along the way? Yes. Will it be worth it? Yes. "There is no greater love than this but to lay down one's life for a friend" (John 15:13).
8. The process is necessary just as much as breathing is. God is doing a soul-deep work in me. I must lean into Him and "rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and constant in prayer" (Rom.12:12). The unknowns in foster care with birth parent visits, case reviews, and the overall realization that we cannot make anything happen, has brought me to my knees. There's no holier ground than when you have come to the end of yourself and sit at His feet. I can't, but He can.
9. It's ok to be righteously indignant. Jesus was angered and did not sin. We are called to hate what is evil and cling to what is good (Romans 12:9). He also had a troubled soul that he spoke of in his final days (John 12:27). To be angry at what angers God and troubled is ok. He has experienced both and understands. He moves us to a place of deeper understanding in His time. We need to trust Him as He does this.
10. People around you may not understand the nuances of foster care, but they don't need to all the time. If you have the energy to explain and would like to, then do so. If not, it's not necessary.
11. You will feel like you're living in crazy town at some point or throughout most of the journey. There's others that have traversed this path and made it to the other side or are in the trenches this very moment. Connect with them. They will more than likely rejuvenate you, or at the very least, remind you that you are not alone in feeling crazy. ;)
12. Take care of yourself. Do your part in taking a break, connecting with your spouse, loving and spending time with those outside of foster care. It will prevent you from becoming bitter or burning out.
13. Guard your heart by not guarding your heart. Will you love your child only 96% because it's not permanent? Love fiercely and recklessly. God will do the rest because your only calling is to love. I can love. I just can't do the rest. God will battle and intervene on behalf of his beloved children.
14. My normalcy vs. Christ's normalcy--there is no comparison. If I think that my life is turned upside down, then let me be reminded of "The Great Reduction" that is Jesus. He became man and left his heavenly dwelling so that we could become a part of His family. In following His example, we love sacrificially because then we love as were were intended to love.
15. "They were to carry on their shoulders the holy things, for which they were responsible" (Numbers 7:9). I was recently made aware of the Kohathite priests and their lack of ox-carts as they carried their parts of the tabernacle through the desert. They could have compared their calling to their fellow priests and perhaps they did. We don't know. What we do know is that they continued walking without allowing the absence of ox-carts to hinder their purpose. Procreation seems like a given for so many just as much as the ox-carts must have seemed to the sons of Kohath. The entitled mindset is that we deserve to be healthy, have children, and live a comfortable life. In reality, we deserve none of these things, yet our gracious Father has entrusted us to "carry the holy things, for which we are responsible." We have been given this little human being to love, take care of, and nurture either for a brief time or a lifetime. May we not look with comparison at others' journeys. They may walk with ox-carts in seeming ease, but we delight at the precious calling God has invited us into. What an honor and privilege to hold what is holy so close to our beings.
This process has completely challenged me in loving the unlovable (not their son). I knew going into this that I would want to reach out to the birth parents and minister to them as much as possible. Thirty days in and my reaction is much different than I would have expected. This journey is exposing the contents of my heart and what I'm finding is that honoring Christ is nearly impossible at times. We are called to do hard and holy things. I'm asking God to give me love and vision to see the situation and everyone involved as He does.
I've experienced God's grace in a whole new way. Before having X placed with us, we didn't have any answers. We had the freedom to choose the gender of our foster child, age, ethnicity, any special needs, etc., but we left all the details to God. We chose nothing. This was perhaps the most liberating act we could have taken. We would take in the child God had for us. I experienced such a deep level of peace in not having any answers. Fast-forward to today, and that peace is elusive most days. Again, I find myself needing to wholeheartedly rely on the One who goes before me. So here I am. Trusting. Hoping. Praying.