We all have an “inner voice” that sometimes whispers to us and sometimes screams at us. Mine is usually preaching a message of fear and doubt when I sense God leading me in a certain direction. Maybe yours is too. It’s asking, “Who are you to think you can make a difference?” or “What if you don’t have what it takes?” or “What if you fail and look foolish to others?” or “Are you sure you’ve heard correctly from God on this?” Your voice could be asking you a million other things right now.
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There’s no “just” or “only” in what you are doing. You haven’t “just” fostered a few or “only” adopted one. Rather, you have significantly altered the trajectory of a life forever. Generations to come will never be the same - not just in the life of the child you are loving but in your life as well, your kids', their kids' and their kids', and even in the lives of those at your church or in the grocery store…
Foster and Adoptive Parents: God is using you to love in some of the hardest places and through some of the most difficult situations. In the midst of all the uncertainties and unknowns that surround what you're doing there are some powerful promises and truths for you that are constant and sure and worthy to be reminded of. Here's just a few...
In the gospel God says, “I see you where you are and I’m coming after you.” This is the whole redemptive story of scripture – a God who sees the distress of His people and moves towards them, not away from them. Hovering over His people like a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night – God was close, but out there.
When speaking of the widow's small offering in comparison to that of the rich, Jesus says, "Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had...." (v.3-4)
What a provocatively encouraging statement - that somehow, the value of her offering was not measured in quantity but in humility; not by size, but by sacrifice. Jesus doesn't discredit the offering of the wealthy, He simply redefines that of the poor. In that moment He stops and essentially says to all those around, "Hey, there's something truly profound going on here that I want to make sure you don't miss."
We recently found one of our daughters crying in bed. She seemed fine the last we saw her before going upstairs, so this took us a bit off guard. In a home with four daughters there always seems to be something to cry about, but when she calmed enough to share with us what it was this time, we were shocked. Hitler. That's right, HITLER was on her mind, and apparently had been for the past several weeks. What?! She told us her class was doing a research project at school and each student could select any topic they wanted to learn more about.
The questions, comments and curiosities about foster care come with the territory when you bring a child into your home. They're an ever-present part of the whole experience. While most encounters are hugely encouraging and civil, some are not so much. Yet even in those, although it may come across as such at times, I'm convinced the majority of people are not intentionally malicious or insulting. I believe people are wondering - wondering what they are seeing, how to make sense of it and if they can go on with their normal lives as if they did not know what they have now seen to be true.
It's virtually impossible to fully prepare someone to become a foster parent. It's too nuanced and complex of an issue to prescribe a certain formula to it. This doesn't mean parents shouldn't be properly trained and prepared; it just means that while certain things are universally true and can be anticipated, most things are not when it comes to the messy and hard and raw of real peoples lives. You simply can't script it; you can only live it - discover it - piece by piece, a little bit at a time.
It was only a few years ago. We had three young daughters, a new church plant and a conversation one night that will forever change the course of our family. She was ready for us to become foster parents. I was not. It had been an on-going discussion for months. A very cordial one. We were on the same page, just different timelines. While I had been dismissing it in the name of it “not being the right time” she had become prayerfully convinced that in fact it was. The conversation that day was a carbon copy of the many other discussions we had on the subject up to that point. She believed now was the time.
To all those foster parents that are daily learning to navigate everything they need to do and everything they have to be for the sake of these kids…here’s three things you don’t have to be for them today, or tomorrow, or ever: 1} Perfect. You don't have to be perfect parents to be perfect foster parents. Kids in foster care don’t need you to be perfect; they need you to be present. They don’t need pretty and polished foster parents; they need growing and repenting ones. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts we can give children from hard places is the hope that broken things don’t always have to be final things.
The goal of your church is not simply to start a peripheral orphan care ministry a few are involved in; it’s to establish a foundation culture of orphan care everyone has a role to play in. An environment where it's understood that while we're not all called to do the same thing, we're all certainly capable of doing something. That's the goal. Everyone. Doing. Something. If we're not careful, we may unintentionally define "orphan care" too narrowly - to simply mean foster care, adoption or some other form of bringing a child into your home long term. While these are of course crucial and essential places for the Church to engage...
It was trial day for the baby girl we had been fostering for nearly a year up to that point – the day the court would rule on who would retain parental rights over her forever. But it was more than just a legal proceeding; it was a spiritual one. What was taking place in the courtroom that day, just like in many other courtrooms everyday all around the country, was more unseen than the negligent actions of birth parents, the hustle of lawyers and case workers and the proceedings of an overrun and under resourced legal system. It was by nature unseen – an attempt of the Enemy to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10) this innocent child’s life, and to perpetuate the systemic brokenness of past generations into hers.
You don't have to be perfect parents to be perfect foster parents. Inherent in the role is the pressure to be amazing because you are doing something amazing - an expectation no human can live up to, nor should ever have to. Foster parents are not saints or heroes or spiritual rock stars. We are humans. Real moms and dads that struggle, stumble and mess up. We get annoyed, frustrated and exhausted. We don't have all the answers and don't even know the right questions to ask most of the time.
I'll never forget the day it all changed for me. My greatest fear, like so many others who are considering venturing down the beautiful yet tumultuous path of foster care, was not whether or not I could love a child that was not my own but whether or not I could handle letting a child go that I have grown to love as my own. I couldn't get beyond this concern, and couldn't move forward because of it. I shared my fear with a friend who was a foster dad at the time, and his response both challenged and settled me. It revealed to me that my concerns were backwards, centered on me and how I might feel rather than on the child and how they do feel.
We are in the middle of building a home right now. The process has been fun, especially since our girls are for the most part old enough to enjoy it with us. They get excited about their new rooms, their new neighborhood and their new friends next door and down the street. It's also brought up several interesting conversations with them - most notably ones about how many more sisters they want in our family and where their rooms are going to be in the new house. On some level they understand something just as much as my wife and I do - this house is not just for us.
Foster care can be cold and sterile. Like courtrooms. Medicaid office. Hospital waiting rooms. This is not to say foster care is boring and monotonous - it's anything but that. It is to say, however, that the places foster care takes you and the demands it requires of you can sometimes feel more legal than relational and more painstaking than life changing. The humanity of foster care is often lost in the beuaracrcy of foster care. In the midst of training hours, paperwork, court hearings and medicare appointments the fact that we are dealing with...
I'll never forget the first time we found our girls playing "orphanage". It was our oldest's idea, eight years old at the time, and her two younger sisters followed suit. They had gathered every doll, blanket, book and toy paraphernalia they could find including bottles, bibs, high chairs and food. They spent their time feeding, rocking, reading books to and even singing lullabies for these "babies".
It probably comes as no surprise to anyone reading this post that foster care is hard. No one ever said become foster parents, it's super convenient and easy. Rather, the call to foster care is one which embraces the inherent inconveniences and inevitable difficulties as worth it for the sake of redeeming that which is broken and offering light into that which can be very, very dark.
While orphan care undoubtedly involves changing the life of a child, it inevitably brings about significant and profound change in our own lives as well. For whatever change we may bring about for them, they will no doubt change us in ways we never knew possible.
The weather in my city has been beautiful this week - mid 70's and sunny. The professional basketball team has been on a role, ranking among the highest in their division. The President of the United States even spent the night in one of our downtown hotels on Wednesday. It seems our city has had a pretty good week.