A red songbird perched atop the utmost branch of our tree and proclaimed his presence to the morning, his crest standing straight up as he sang. I sat in a wicker chair on our back porch, hearing the song and filling up my soul with the beauty of the day, washed clean from the storms of the night before.
This morning I had felt so distant from God. Like I had forgotten how to commune with Him. I reached out to a small group of women that hold me accountable to spending time with Jesus each morning and asked them to pray for me. I didn’t really know what it was that I needed, just that I needed…Him. His presence. His nearness. I wanted to feel Him and I wanted the God of the universe to speak to me.
My friend, Rebecca, texted me back, assuring me that she was praying for me and she wrote these words,
“My friend, remember that God’s voice is not always heard, sometimes it is seen and sometimes it is felt. He’s always with you and has never left you as He promised in His Word.”
I thought of her words to me as I sat listening to the songbird. It almost sounded as if he sang, “Beware, beware!” Or was it, “Aware, aware!”?
I had so many questions still unanswered. Mainly, the one question. The question that always haunts me. The question of adoption. In a few weeks it will have been one year since we found out that we were not adopting Isaac. Our lives were so very different last year than they are now. We were prepping our home to receive a child. Gearing up emotionally, physically and spiritually for this. And now? A year later we have gone on with our lives. I am the very busy mother of older kids. I am preparing to teach a Classical seventh grade class next year and Jason and I have moved on from adoption. Definitely moved on from the diaper stage.
And yet, I haven’t really moved on.
I’m still there. I’m still holding on. That longing to enter into the miracle. I am holding onto adoption because, as crazy as it seems, I do not want to miss the pain and the blessing of sharing in the gospel of Christ.
It’s just that I don’t see how adoption fits into our life.
This morning, as I sat looking out over the lush pasture, I pulled out a bookmark from my Bible with declarations of my identity in Christ. I read them out loud and several of them jumped out at me, so much so that I knew I needed to slow down and meditate on them. The one that resonated the most was an old, familiar passage from the book of Philippians chapter 1.
God will carry on to completion the good work He began in me. Philippians 1:6
This was big. I grabbed my journal and started scribbling. And I wrote to the Father, “The completion of the good work in my life depends on YOU!”
How very quickly I lose sight, in my mad dash to work out my own salvation, that this very work is not my own. It is God’s work. He has begun it and He will finish it. Yes, of course, I partner with Him, but I don’t carry it on my own! It is from Him, through Him, to Him. It is all His!
And so, if the completion of the good work in my life depends on God, then…
I can stop striving to make sure I don’t miss out on His best for me.
I can rest in His promise.
I can trust in His perfect timing.
I don’t know if we will ever get to adopt. I don’t know what the future holds for our family. But I do know my Shepherd. He is good and He leads. We hear His voice and we follow. And He will bring the work of our lives, that He has started, to completion.
Over a year ago in February I received a call from my good friend, Laura that changed the course of our lives. She said that their adopted daughter’s birth mother had recently had a son in California and that little boy would be up for adoption. God had placed our family on her heart and would we want to adopt him?
Jason and I talked it over that night and the reality and gravity of what that would look like for our family sunk in. At the time we didn’t have a reliable vehicle. Our little farm house was falling down around our ears and would need a room added and significant work done to it to make it ready for another child. But as we prayed, we sensed the Spirit leading us to open up our home to this little boy.
That night I had a dream. In the dream I remember Jason saying, emphatically, “His name is Isaac!” I woke up in the middle of the night and wrote down the dream. It was so vivid and poignant. And Isaac is what I have referred to this little boy from that time on.
There is so much to this story. So many twists and turns, but shortly after we agreed to adopt him, I gave him up. There was another family wanting to adopt him very early on, who knew the maternal grandmother. This family was already certified to foster and did not have any children of their own. I read a letter that the mother wrote to Isaac’s grandmother, telling her that she and her husband wanted to adopt. And I called Jason, weeping, telling him that we needed to let Isaac go. So we acquiesced.
A few months went by and then in May of last year I received word that Isaac was still in a foster home in California waiting for adoption and this other family had since been placed with three foster sons and could no longer adopt Isaac. Oh how my heart soared with hope! We contacted my friend and told her we were all in and wanted to adopt this child. We had just recently purchased a Honda Pilot, big enough for all our children as well as this new addition. And Jason set to work planning, problem-solving and renovating our home to make room.
There was much work to be done, but little did we know just how long we would have to wait to find out if Isaac would indeed be ours.
We were finally contacted by CPS in California in the beginning of June of last year to begin the ICPC process. This stands for Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children. It is the process by which a family in another state is made ready to adopt a child. We were informed at that time that there were three families wanting to adopt Isaac. Two in New York, where the paternal grandparents live and one (us) in Texas, where the maternal grandparents live. (One of the families quickly dropped out.) The biological mother had three children previously to Isaac who were adopted into different homes. Two of these siblings lived in Texas and one had been adopted by the maternal grandparents. Neither grandparents were in a position to adopt Isaac and so the process began to move forward to get these interested parties ready to adopt.
Except that we didn’t hear a thing for three months.
During this time we framed out the back porch, knocked down a wall in our bedroom to make room for an interior hallway, remade our daughter’s old bedroom into a baby room, adding a new window to it. We also dealt with head lice, hurricane Harvey and the death of our precious farm dog at the very end of the summer.
We finally received word towards the end of September that CPS was going to begin the process of a home study and that time was ticking for them to get all the paperwork in. Jason scrambled around tape and bedding the baby room and our dear neighbors carpeted Addie’s new room and helped us clean fans and AC units. We received multiple financial gifts from people we had never met. A significant one was received the very day our home study was scheduled. But it seemed we still had so much work to get done!
We went through a four-hour, extremely thorough home study, we had fingerprints done, twice! as we battled through the communication breakdown in the government concerning the correct spelling of my name (CPS had at least three different spellings for Kristin), we struggled through the correct identity of my husband, (Jason Brown being so common of a name that it pulled up another individual on the criminal background check…one with a criminal history). During the fall Isaac had his first birthday, still in California. We continued working on the rooms and finally painted them and Addie moved into her new room just in time for Christmas.
To our dismay, we realized that now that we had our kinship home study done, we were required to have yet another home study completed and this one with our fad worker from CPS here in Texas. And we would need to complete online and in person fostering classes in order for us to be licensed with the state to officially adopt. We took the classes and started work on our boys’ room, as they had been living in a room without a window and that would not pass a fostering home study. During the end of the winter, Jason also poured himself into studying for a very competitive promotional exam at the fire station. It was a crazy time and we all felt the intensity of the pressure on many fronts, but the very day that Jason took his promotional exams, we were officially licensed by the state to adopt!
It seemed as if everything was working and coming together at the last moment. And we were pretty sure that the court would rule in our favor because there were two siblings in Texas. The final court decision for Isaac’s case would be made at the end of May. The few days before court, we were painting bunk beds and the crib, painting the boys’ room and installing carpet. Then I received word from the caseworker in California that they were waiting on a third ICPC report from another family. This was very troubling. We had waited an entire year for CPS to finally make a decision. We had jumped through every hoop we were told to jump through, some multiple times. We were weary of the wait. The fact that a third party had jumped in when they did did not make it look like things would progress quickly. The boys spent their first night in their new room the day I found out this new information.
The very next day, while we were grocery shopping, I answered a phone call from the caseworker in California. He told me that they had finally made a decision concerning the placement of the child. I took a deep breath as I was told that Isaac would be placed with his paternal grandmother in New York. I was stunned! The grandmother was the third party that had come in at the last moment. I told my kids the news and we all wandered around HEB in shocked silence. My boys kept hugging me, looking at me, sure I would start crying. But I didn’t cry at first. I drove down to the Woodlands to where Jason was on shift and told him in person the news I had just received.
Grief is a funny thing. The first thing I did in my sadness was to finish Isaac’s room. I had been working towards this all year long and so the very next day after we found out that we were not adopting, I had my boys put together the crib and I set up the room. We were finally ready. But for what?
It’s been one month since we found out the news. So many emotions. So many unanswered questions. Why would we go through all we did this year and have it culminate to…nothing? I grew to love a child I did not know and to give him away twice. It’s different from fostering, different from a miscarriage. It’s its own grief. It’s the death of a vision and purpose. And when the trajectory of your life comes to a screeching halt, you find yourself lost in a way.
I have not lost hope, nor do I believe for one minute that all this was done in vain. It’s just that I can’t make sense of it all right now. I’m in the middle of the story and I do not see the resolution yet. We’ve been memorizing Romans chapter 8 as a family this year and the day after we heard that Isaac would not be coming home to us, we recited it together. And I wept throughout it. I did not realize how much of it speaks to adoption. To our longing for adoption as sons.
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:22-25
What I see does not make sense. But, thankfully, the Lord has been developing in me eyes of faith this year. And I don’t believe that this story is over yet.
One year ago, to this very day, a three month-old baby girl was placed in my arms for the first time. I was given the charge to take great care of her until her parents got their act together. If they got their act together.
This was the second foster placement we had and my family knew somewhat of the unknowns belonging to the fostering realm. There were no guarantees really. Kids could stay for a month and then be whisked away to stay with some obscure family member with a freshly-done home study, or they could stay a year or two. Or the parents could relinquish parental rights and the child would stay forever.
The truth is, I didn’t want her parents to get their act together. I wanted to raise their daughter as my very own.
For about two months we heard absolutely nothing from CPS as far as if her parents wanted her or were doing their services or trying to get her back. And that was fine with me. Our family quickly bonded with the little joyful girl and we affectionately called her “Bella” (the Spanish way, with the L’s having the Y sound).
Two months into our story of doctors’ appointments and sleepless nights, Bella’s lawyer called me and scheduled a visit to check on her. When he came, he told us the heart-breaking news: Bella’s parents did, in fact, want her and were doing whatever they could to get her back. Apparently her father was seen crying in court because he wanted his daughter.
I say “heart-breaking” because how could I give this child back? I wanted to keep her. I remember standing in my bedroom, with my hands clenched tightly into fists as I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, “Give her back to me, my child.” I balled my fists tighter and cried out, “No, God! I don’t want to. I don’t want this story to end like that!” But with tears streaming, I knew I had to let go. I softened and my hands relaxed until I was holding them wide open. She is not mine. She’s never been mine.
We’ve always been stewards, haven’t we?
I got to see Bella flip over on her stomach for the first time. I captured on video the first time she called for Daddy, “Dada dada dada dada!” My children experienced the thrill of making her laugh. I experienced the thrill the first time she slept through the night! And then the agony of the first teeth she cut, and then she didn’t sleep for a long time. We got to witness her first time eating solid foods and then realized that she would only eat if Addie fed her! I was there for her first halloween, her first thanksgiving, first christmas. We shouted encouragements as she began to army crawl across the floor, in the particular way she would drag her whole body with her right arm. We were there when that turned into a true crawl and then when she would pull herself up to stand and stay there crying because she couldn’t get down! Oh how we loved her!
And her parents loved her too. Two times a month for two hours Bella had supervised visits with her parents. Four hours a month. Very early on, upon meeting them, we realized that they truly wanted their daughter back and were not just playing games with CPS. Little by little, our trust in them grew , as did our compassion for them. One day, we were invited to Bella’s mom’s birthday party at a park! And soon after, we invited them to our house for Bella’s first birthday.
You see, theirs is a success story that is not your average CPS case. Mom and Dad did their services. Completed every single one. Dad stayed with Mom, even though his leaving would have gotten him his baby girl. He chose to stick with her because he is an honorable man. And then, I just can’t help but think that with everything against Bella’s mom, an abortion would have been such an easy way out. But she chose life. She chose life even though she knew her baby would be ripped out of her arms when she was days old.
We’ve had them to dinner at our house and we’ve heard their stories. And I cannot even begin to understand the heartache and brokenness they have each experienced. We have such tender love for them both and it is only because of Jesus that our paths would be brought together and that I would be able to give them back their daughter.
Three weeks ago, Bella returned home to her mother and father. We miss her greatly, and the tears and the sadness come, especially from my tender-hearted Jeremiah, but there is such joy in this that it is quite difficult to be sorrowful. We loved Bella well. She has returned home to a good place with parents that love her and want to bring her up to love God. God has turned their lives around.
This story ends where theirs begins. And I can’t wait to see what happens next!
Last week I put my three kids back in public school.
Yesterday I had to carry my five year-old to the bus stop because he was crying and didn’t want to go to school. Last night I held my eight year-old as tears finally broke through the anger in his heart and he lamented that he misses spending time with his family and that school is hard and boring. And then my ten year-old daughter (who was the most excited about the change) admitted that she prefers homeschooling over public school. And my mother’s heart is breaking over the decision we made.
On December 5 we welcomed back the two foster children that had been placed with us back in May. These two children, a five year-old boy and a ten month-old baby girl (Jack and Jill), again needed a safe haven because the family they were placed with could no longer care for them.
We didn’t say yes blindly. We knew what we were getting ourselves into because we had weathered the storm when they first came. It took us several days to make a decision and when we finally did, we felt certain peace that this was what God would have us do. Even though we didn’t have a vehicle that would fit all of us. Even though we still had our seven month-old foster baby. Even though we were homeschooling our children. Even though we knew life would get very, very hard.
I cannot believe that we survived Christmas.
If it had not been for the generosity of people from our church family bringing us meals and watching our kids and giving all kinds of donations, I honestly do not know what we would have done. We were even able to purchase a suburban because of a generous gift from dear friends of ours.
But despite all the blessings, life with six children (which included two babies) was too much for me. I had to let go somewhere. For everyone’s sanity and the health of our marriage and our family, Jason almost begged me to put the kids back in school.
I absolutely love homeschooling and all that that involves. The freedom of our schedules, the ability to choose the curriculum I teach my children, the time we spend together, our coop that we are a part of. I didn’t want to let go of this part of my life. But we couldn’t see any way around it. Where we are, the only options for restoring our sanity were either to place all kids in public school or choose to disrupt the foster placement. When it came down to it, I knew that public school was what we needed to do.
This morning I met my sister-in-law in the parking lot of HEB so Addie and Jeremiah could spend the night with their cousins. She looked at me and asked, “Are you in over your head?”
She had no idea. I was drowning really. Desperate for air.
“I feel like my life has been hijacked,” I replied sullenly, “and I want it back.”
I wanted life back to the way it was a year ago. Before we started fostering. When we were just us. Homeschooling and gardening, rested and excited about life.
I went back home with the four littlest kids, the twin babies and twin five year-olds. I made myself a cup of coffee and sat down on the couch while Jill crawled around, trying to put everything into her mouth. I looked at my Bible and dreaded picking it up because I knew I was reading in the gospel of Matthew. And I didn’t want to hear Jesus’ words today. I was mad at him really. He had called me to this. Well, I had asked him for this too. I had told him that I would do whatever he wanted me to do. And this. This was hard! And I didn’t want it anymore. I wanted it easier.
I suddenly found myself opening my Bible (and accidentally spilling coffee over the pages of the book of Matthew). I found my place in chapter 10 and began to read of Jesus sending out his twelve disciples to go into the towns of Israel to heal people and cast out demons.
“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:37-38
And then, there it was jumping out of the page, confronting my angry heart:
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” 10:39
I scribbled in the margin the date, 01-10-15 and these words, “He has hijacked my life. I’m not so happy about it now.”
But as I have had all day to chew on those words from the one who bled all his blood, who chose to lose his life for my sake, I wonder what kind of life I’m hoping for anyways. Fostering is the hardest thing I have ever done. It is the hardest thing my kids have ever done. Sometimes I wonder if I am destroying them. If our whole foundation is being shattered by the infiltration of broken children into our own broken lives.
But maybe we are all losing our lives for the sake of Christ. Maybe we are losing ourselves for the good of others so that we may find the life that is truly worth living.
A few weeks ago we turned down the opportunity to adopt a five year-old little girl.
I cannot even begin to explain the emotional roller coaster we have been on these last few weeks. It began as I nonchalantly brought up the call I had received from our case manager to Jason that afternoon. It was in the middle of a string of information including the time of Jeremiah’s baseball practice and that we needed more baby formula and, oh, by the way, the five year-old girl we heard about (before being placed with our current foster baby whom I will call Joy) well her mother’s parental rights will be terminated soon and so she is adoptable. And do we want to adopt her?
Timing has never been a forte of mine. If I come across any kind of pertinent information, I must speak it at once. Especially to my husband. Perhaps I figured that adding in the adoptability of a little girl along with other tidbits of the days’ happenings would be the perfect way to enter into the weighty dialog of a major life change. Ha.
We did finally get to the conversation that night. But it didn’t end well. The last words I said, with hot, steamy tears were, “I challenge you to hear from God on this matter!” And then Jason got up and went to bed.
And that next day he was on shift so we both had a lot of time alone to think and to pray. And to repent. I’m thankful for a friend’s truthful words to me that day to seek to respect my husband and let him lead me. That next morning I woke up and spent time on my knees repenting of my own pride and self-righteousness. And then as I prayed for this little girl and the possibility of adopting her, the scripture came to mind: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things, at all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Cor. 9:8
Jason came home later that morning and we found the time to apologize to one another for that horrible night before he went on shift. And then Jason asked me what I thought of the name Rachel. Because of this little girl’s history we felt like if we were to adopt her, we should like to give her a new name. My first thought of the name Rachel was that I liked it. Jason told me that that morning he had awaken and couldn’t get back to sleep and as he lay praying about the little girl, the name Rachel came to mind. This was a big deal to me because Jason does not claim to hear from God all that often. It seemed to me that as he prayed, God gave him the name Rachel to name her. That same morning God had given me the scripture from 2 Corinthians. It seemed as if we were to adopt Rachel.
That next week we spent time talking and praying about adopting this little girl. In the middle of the week we were even contacted by the foster family that she has been with for the past year and were moving forward in getting a play date set up so we could get to meet her. Our kids were excited about it and we felt like God was leading us in that direction.
A few days later we were contacted by our agency, letting us know that Rachel had been broadcast throughout the state of Texas, unbeknownst to the foster family. Families around the state were given the opportunity to put their names in so that CPS could consider their home a candidate for this little girl. We had two days to put our names in for consideration.
What this did was force us to make a decision about Rachel. Were we in or out? It seemed like we were in. But then we began to evaluate our life seriously. Had we not just been placed with a baby girl, things would have been different. As it was, we now had four children, were physically exhausted from the night feedings, were homeschooling our three kids and just getting by with the responsibilities we had. As much as we tried to make it work, we just didn’t see adding another child to our family as being a wise decision.
I was the one who tried to push for it though. I could see all of the logic and wisdom behind keeping our numbers to just four, but I did not understand why God would have given Jason a name for her, when we wouldn’t even get to keep her. And the verse He gave me was all about God’s grace being abundant in our time of need. He could make it happen. God could work out the details. And if we said no to Rachel, we might have to eventually say goodbye to Joy, as there were no guarantees we would get to adopt her.
I went for a run in the heat to process all of this. I wept as I ran, telling God all that didn’t make sense to me. I know it’s my pride that seeks to understand things that are just beyond my understanding. But as I came to terms with my own finiteness, one thing that I desperately needed to know was that God did indeed speak to Jason this name Rachel. To me it seemed that if so, then wouldn’t that mean we were supposed to adopt her? A strange peace came over me as I sweated it out in the late September sun. A peace that Rachel is her name, regardless of whether or not we adopted her. I cannot explain the confidence I felt about this. God gave Jason the name Rachel for a little girl who would be adopted by someone else. I didn’t understand it, but I believed it to be true.
The next day we told our case manager that we would not adopt Rachel.
I grieved for her. And at the same time I was completely confident that we had sought the Lord in this decision and that He had said no.
I read in Ezekiel chapter 34 today about God’s disgust for the shepherds who have abused their power over the sheep and have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured or sought after the lost. So God tells his prophet Ezekiel to tell the people, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says, ‘I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep.” Ezekiel 34:11-12
The prophetic writers of the Old Testament all held one thing in common. Though some were shepherds, some priests, some influential and others obscure, the exile was what affected them all. When Judah fell to Babylon in 586 B.C. the Jews were forced out of their homeland. It was during this time that a priest-turned prophet named Ezekiel spoke about the lost sheep. The lost, exiled lambs.
You see, the name Rachel means “little lamb”. She is in exile. The children in foster care are exiled from their homes. Many of them for a short period of time, others for an indefinite length. And some are ready to be welcomed into a home right now.
Will you join me in praying for these little lambs that the Lord Himself would raise up men and women to search and find them and bring them home?
Will you pray with me for Rachel Grace and the family that will save her from exile?
Because just maybe we were given the name Rachel to be able to intercede for her in the heavenly realms.
I have the pleasure of introducing a special guest-blogger on my site: my nine year-old daughter, Adeline Rose. The following is a story written yesterday from my daughter’s perspective on meeting our new foster baby.“Thaddaeus, Adeline, Jeremiah, could you come downstairs for a minute? We need to talk to you about something!” my dad yells from downstairs. We all run into the kitchen. “What?” we ask. “Come to the living room,” my mom says. What could they want to talk about? I wonder. “But I wanna go play!” Thadd whines as he slouches on the couch. “I know, I know,” my dad says patiently. “OK listen. Me and Mommy wanted to get your opinion on something. There is a little three month old baby that needs a home. Casey, our case worker called and was wondering if we will take care of her.” My eyes widened. My soul was full of hope. “Yes! Yes, yes, yes YES!” I shouted excitedly. “Alright, how about you, Jeremiah?” Daddy said. “Mmm, sure,” JP said. “Thadd?” “Uuuhh nothing. Hmmf,” Thadd said. My dad laughed. “Ha. That won’t get us anywhere.” That kind of disappointed me. “Are you sure, Thadd?” I asked hopeful. “Huh, yesh.” My mom corrected him, “Yesss. Don’t forget to smile.” Then we all laughed. “Bu bu bu bu bu bu!” Rings my mom’s phone. My mom goes to the room to get her phone. “And who knows? The baby could be black, white, hispanic, anything!” my dad says. “Hello, Casey. Yes, we were talking about her,” my mom replies. My mom gives my dad a quick questioning glance. Dad nods his head. “Yes, Casey we’ll take her,” my mom answers. My heart bounces all around my chest. 2 months ago I had to say goodbye to two foster children. Now I’m going to say hello to another foster baby. I bounce on the couch, everyone’s excited! But the worst part is waiting. She won’t come ’till six o’ clock. The hours tick by. Everything is ready for the new baby. My parents start to get dinner ready. We’re having spagetti. (Not exactly my favorite dinner.) “Ding dong!” It’s Casey. He’s here for my parents to fill out some paperwork. “Hi Casey, do you want anything to drink? Any water, coffee?” Daddy asks. “Na, no I’m good. Thank you though,” Casey replies. “Alright kids dinner’s ready!” my dad says. “Wash up! Casey would you like to join us?” “Sure,” Casey says. “It’s gonna be another hour and a half.” “I’ll cut you up some bell peppers and apples, ’cause you’re on a diet. And you can have the meat and sauce if you want,” my mom offers. “OK, I’ll have some,” our case worker says. “Alright, let’s pray.” We all hold hands except for Casey ’cause you know, he’s not a part of the family. But he doesn’t seem to mind. “Dear father,” my dad begins, “thank you that Casey can have dinner with us, thank you for the little foster baby that will be staying with us, I pray you will bless her and keep her and thank you for this food.” “Amen,” everyone says. “So how long have you been on your diet?” my mom asks. “Um, about a month or so,” Casey replies. “Me and Jason were on a paleo diet. We were eating disgusting stuff like liver. For breakfast!” Mommy said. “Yup. We would have fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Dad said. Casey made a disgusted face. Soon everyone’s done with dinner. Daddy gets the dishes done while Mommy puts stuff away. “Guess what time it is!” my dad says. My mom reads my dad’s mind. “Coffee time!” my mom answers. “Hey Casey, do you want some coffee?” “Sure, I’ll take some,” Casey replies. I tap my mom’s arm. “Could I have what’s left in the coffee pot?” I ask. She smiles. “Yes, Addie you may,” she answers. I pour myself a cup of coffee, put cream in and a bunch of sugar. I take a tiny sip. “She’s here!” someone shouts. I run outside. But I can’t see the baby. I just get in people’s way. Finally, everyone’s inside. I look at the baby. She’s not exactly what I expected. But, I love her. Then I run upstairs to watch 1 episode of lego chima. Then I go to my room and start writing this book. After Casey and the woman who brought my new sister left, me, JP, Thadd, Mommy, Daddy and the foster baby gather around the couch. And this is the time I say 1 important promise. “Mommy I’m going to help you.”
Yesterday my family watched a case worker load up Jack and Jill, the foster children that had been with us for almost seven weeks. We watched her load them up in her trendy car and we waved as they drove away out of our lives.
A week before, we received an email that stated that the kids’ grandfather had passed a home study and that the children were going to be placed with him. This caught us completely off-guard as we were anticipating the children being with us until mom got her act together. We were sad. We were relieved. We were concerned for the children, but glad they could be with family. Then at the visitation on Friday the mother expressed reservations about the children going to grandpa’s and said that she wanted the children to stay with us. We were led to believe that with this information, the children would stay. But Monday evening we received the call that they were indeed leaving Tuesday morning, the next day. There was nothing we could do about it.
It was dinner time and I was trying to keep hungry children at bay while I made chili and cornbread. Jason started to pack Jack’s room and in the mean time Jack and Thadd ran outside and planted sunflower seeds in the middle of the backyard.
I had just gotten the cornbread into the oven and I was frazzled, to say the least, when Jason came downstairs from packing and asked me if I wanted to pack up Jill’s dresses that were still hanging in the closet. I didn’t think anything about it, until I started taking the clothes off the hangers. That’s when the tears started coming. I had asked God to bring us a girl. My children had wanted a girl. I hadn’t even seen her in half of these dresses. There were a couple I didn’t take off of the hangers, but left them there in the closet.
I ran around the house, setting the table, packing boxes, weeping. Trying to hide from the people around me. I happened to look out the window into the backyard and saw a beautiful sparrow sitting on our fence. His breast was puffed out and his black markings were striking. And God was trying to get my attention. It stirred something within me. Where had I heard that before? Something about a sparrow not falling to the ground without the father knowing. Something about people being worth more than many sparrows. Something about God being able to take care of these children.
Later that night as I had made a run to grab formula and cat food, I was taking the cat food out of the trunk when I noticed the stroller back there. The tears started up again. I wouldn’t get to take her on walks anymore. The kids wouldn’t get to go on vacation with us. My grandma wouldn’t get to meet them.
There was a heavy sadness over me all night, even as I slept. Diego, our cat could sense it, for he curled up right on my legs, which he never does. I could tell he was trying to comfort me in his own way. The next morning came too quickly, but Jack and Jill had both slept all night and I felt rested. Our whole family played the game Trouble in the living room as I took some final pictures of the gang and we passed Jill around greedily.
We waited for the case worker. I sat next to Jack and I held Jill as she fussed because she was ready for her nap, but I wouldn’t put her down. The case worker finally came and Jason helped her pack the car before we said our goodbyes.
I pulled Jack in for a final hug and told him, “Remember, God loves you and He will always remember you. And we will too.”
Jason made the sign for I love you with his hand and he held it up so Jack could see it in the car. The car started down our horseshoe-shaped street and followed the turn in the road.
There is a lone sunflower plant in our compost bin. It was planted in a pot and placed just outside our back door, but with all of the random pots and containers with plants and trees sitting around crowding the grill and smoker, Jason just picked up the sunflower pot and set it in the compost pile to get it away from everything else. And there it stands. Alone.
About the time the bud began to open to the light, we were placed with two foster children: a five year-old boy and a three month-old baby girl. We’ll call them Jack and Jill. Our family had been waiting for this moment to welcome the children into our home. Our kids were excited, Jason and I were giddy.
But excitement wears off quickly when life becomes difficult. In the welcoming of foster children we were not welcoming a fairy tale of acceptance and easy-going attachment. We were opening ourselves up to all of the pain and brokenness that these children carried with them.
Fear. Rage. Defiance. Medical Issues. Sensory Issues. Hygiene Issues. Day in and day out these things began to wear on all of us.
What is even more revealing is what fostering continues to show us about ourselves. We were putting ourselves in a position where these stormy days uncovered the lack of love in our own hearts. In mine and Jason’s. And in my children’s.
On the third night that Jack and Jill were with us Jason was working his regular shift at the station, so it was up to me to put everyone to bed by myself.
“Are you going to protect me?” Jack asked me.
He had asked me this same question four times already and every time I had promised that I would.
“Will you tell God that I’m scared?” he said.
I would start to pray and then he would interrupt again with another thing to add.
“Will you tell God that I miss my mama?”
“Dear God, Jack misses his mama.”
And then he began to cry for her.
“Oh Father wrap your arms around Jack right now.”
Between sobs Jack added, “Will you tell God to wrap his arms around me for this many days?” And he held up ten fingers.
And of course I prayed. With a broken heart. But the bedtime routine went on for a long time. And I had four other children to put to sleep and they all needed me. And they couldn’t understand why Jack didn’t just go to sleep. And I was getting weary.
So I backed out of his room again promising for the fifth time that I would leave the door open and the bathroom light on and yes, in the morning I would give him something to eat. I tried to say goodnight to my boys, but Jack kept getting out of bed or screaming in fear that I hardly spent any time in my sons’ room for having to take Jack back to his bed so many times. By the time I made it to Addie’s room, Jack had miraculously fallen asleep on his bed, but I could tell that my daughter was troubled.
“Mommy, I’ve never felt like this before,” she began, she looked as if she were about to cry and I thought she was going to say something entirely different than what she said to me. “I want to just run into Jesus’ arms and let him hug me.”
Her words hit me deep and I breathed them in. Yes. Me too. I pulled her close and wept into her hair.
A week later the kids watched the backyard flood with water as the sky rained down. Jack was the one to notice the sunflower, as he had taken quite a liking to the bright yellow flower in the middle of the brown.
“Look! The flower is dancing!” he called out and all the kids pressed their faces in the glass to see the wild dance of the sunflower in the storm. My heart sank as I had grown attached to the flower myself. This storm would surely kill it.
But the next day the flower held its golden head high towards the heavens. It looked bigger than ever. The storm had not killed it.
It’s been four weeks since Jack and Jill have come to live with us for a time. It feels like it has been one storm after another. Some days I think that I can’t go on. I am exhausted from sleep deprivation and constant trials. My children struggle to accept this new life and I am burdened for them. It feels like war every day. A fight to love. For all of us.
Just about every time I get in the car and turn the radio on I hear that David Crowder song in which Jesus continues to sing over me , “I am holding onto you, I am holding onto you. In the middle of the storm, I’m holding on. I AM.”
He’s got me. He’s got my children. He’s got my foster children. And this storm is not going to kill us.
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.