Fostering a Ready Heart

We had gone away to the Piney Woods for the weekend. To a charming cabin among the pines and the oaks, with the dogwoods shimmering their silver, white blossoms amid the Spring green.

We met up with our best friends, Ken and Britt, and their precious boys. And we met two other families we had never met before, one of which opened up their parents’ cabin to us and all of our children.

And the children had the most fun, I think.  Nine kids ages three through nine (and one tiny baby) and all the dirt and woods to discover, a fire to be continually provoked, golf carts to be driven, and other such toys.

The last night, after the kids had all quickly fallen asleep in sleeping bags strewn throughout the floor of the game room, the adults huddled together on the outside deck. It was chilly and lightning flashed far from the cabin, lighting up the darkness of the woods. Coyotes called to one another mournfully. We passed around dried figs, while the men smoked pipes and we eased comfortably into conversation. Strangers becoming friends.

We began to talk about the orphan. One family had adopted from Ethiopia, another family had spent time working with troubled children who lived in group homes, another family had fostered and then adopted their son. It was when this family began talking about their son that my heart began to ache.

The mother talked about how adoption is not God’s Plan A. She talked about how difficult it was and is for their son to come to realize that he did not grow in her tummy as her other children did.  She talked about how the adopted child grieves for the loss of his mother and father, no matter what age he is when he is adopted.

I sat there in the darkness, right up next to Jason, and I wept soundlessly.

You see, we are so close to receiving our fostering certification. It seems it has taken us forever to get to this point, but we are awaiting the final home study walk through of our home. It has been seven years, this Spring, that I went to my first adoption conference and felt the tug on my heart to adoption. Seven years, another child, a career change for my husband, a move to a different city, living with in-laws, paramedic school, moving into our home, homeschooling, and watching God change my children’s hearts to embrace the orphan. God’s timing is important and He has been preparing us all along for this next chapter in our lives. And we are almost there!

But throughout the excitement of being so close, I am constantly sobered by the reality of what fostering entails. We have been blessed to know many people in our church and community who have fostered and adopted and as they share their stories with us, the truth is: IT’S HARD!!! On so many levels. The stress of adding another person or two to the family dynamic is immense, and then there is the exhaustion of caring for the needs, the spiritual warfare of dealing with children who have been deeply wounded, the grief of these children, and on and on and on. No. I do not expect it to be a walk in the park on a sunny day. I expect pain and frustration and problems.

But I also expect God’s presence. And His leading. His strength. His provision.

Just this morning I was reading a biography with the kids about George Muller, the missionary to Bristol, England who is known for his incredible dependence on God to meet his needs and the needs of the orphans in his care. I read about when George first introduced to his church his vision of starting an orphanage and choosing to completely depend on God for everything they would need. I read how many people scoffed at the idea, how this just wasn’t done in England. But it was when I began to read about those who supported George and how they began to offer their service and their possessions and their money, that I started weeping again (and this time not very quietly) that I had to pass the book off to Jason so he could finish the chapter and I could blubber away.

It was like God was telling me that we will not be alone in this fostering endeavor. Though it will be difficult, there will be support. And the support will come in different and unexpected ways.

On the day that we left the cabin in the woods, Jason went out in the rain on a four-wheeler to get some clippings of plants to try to root them when he got home. He cut wild grape vines and blackberry vines and other things because that’s what he likes to do. On my kitchen table I have the white dogwood flowers in a glass that Jason cut from a tree in the woods. They remind me that Spring comes after Winter.

I do not enter this road to fostering with blind eyes to the pain that it will bring. But at the same time I do not walk without hope. For who knows, but that Spring may come to a child who has experienced more grief than I may ever know.