I sat in my kitchen on a stormy morning about a month ago, looking at a precious baby boy sleeping in a bouncy seat on the counter in front of me. In many ways he’s just like any other two-month-old baby you’ve seen. He smiles, he kicks his chunky legs, he loves his paci (until it falls out), and he goes from zero to ten lightning fast when he’s hungry. But he’s different from most two-month-olds you and I know: he is in the foster care system, and my family has been caring for him as his foster family.
The call woke us up at 1:30 a.m. Would we take an infant boy that needed emergency foster care placement? We prayed (quickly) and told our agency that we were willing. CPS dropped off this precious guy about three hours later, and by 6:00 a.m. the paperwork was complete and our family had officially delved into the foster care system. The thirteen months of classes, paperwork, home studies, and preparation didn’t prepare us for the lessons that have blessed us after only a few short weeks.
1. Doing the Right Thing Is Not Always the Easy Thing
As our kids woke up for school that morning to the excitement of a baby, my husband and I were thoughtful about explaining this tough situation to our own young children. Naturally we knew they would want to know where his mom was, why she couldn’t care for him, and how he ended up at our house. Much of this information we didn’t know; however, we were able to share with them that the mom was a teenager who probably did not intend to get pregnant. Despite that, she chose to do the right thing at the expense of what might have seemed to be an easier road for her. She took responsibility for her actions and carried out this pregnancy for the sake of her unborn baby. There was surely humiliation and hushed conversations around her during the preceding ten months, and she had to feel inadequate to handle a newborn baby boy. But she had the wisdom and courage to know that the right thing often comes at the expense of the easy thing when it comes to parenting.
I wonder how often I take the easy road. Not deliberately doing things that are wrong with my kids and family, but just not taking the time to do what’s right. Do I side with my kids when there is probably more to the story? Do I use a half truth when it’s easier than the whole truth? Do I model sympathy and compassion even when my knee-jerk reactions are entitlement and anger? Am I willing to compromise, or do I stand firm and say no when everyone else around me is saying yes? It seems that our culture’s measuring stick for parenting as compared to that of Christians is getting further apart. Raising kids biblically is not often going to be the easy road. This little boy’s mom knew a little something about doing the right thing at the expense of what might be easier. I pray that my children have that same kind of mom.
“So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit.” Galatians 6:9 (MSG)
2. We All Need Help
I doubt this teenage mom had the baby showers, care calendars, doting friends and family, and the traditional excitement that carries you through the early days of a newborn. I wonder how many nights she stayed up with a crying baby, looking into those dark eyes and wondering how she was going to stay the course? She had to feel desperate, vulnerable and in over her head. Yet we know she was wise enough to ask for help.
But the Lord knows our plight isn’t far off from hers. When you strip it all away, we are all ill-equipped, lonely, and scared single moms attempting to fill the gap with higher education, investments, possessions, and status. We try to control and protect our kids so that our families appear perfect. But that’s not being brave and that’s definitely not the Lord’s plan for our families. This baby came to my house with few worldly possessions, and I sit here with many. But what he does have is a mom who recognized her need for help. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we all need that help—someone stronger, wiser, and more resourceful than ourselves. Our Heavenly Father is anxious to do that for each of us. I pray that my children have that kind of mom.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
3. God Equips Where He Calls
Growing up in church, I’ve always heard it said that the Lord equips where he calls. I can think of Moses, Abraham, Noah, and lots of others in the Bible where God did just that. But living it first hand is a new perspective for our family. We’re learning that ministry can be hard and the Lord may call us to places that are not easy, understandable or pretty.
For me specifically, we laugh in our house that I have a drop-off disorder. It’s strange because generally I’m unemotional—but when it comes to dropping my kids off the first day of school, at camp or anywhere else—I lose it. My son’s kindergarten teacher suggested I leave the first day of school since I clearly was struggling more than he was. So the fact that the Lord led us to a ministry that requires dropping off as its very essence—well, that’s a bit problematic.
All of which means that when we got the news last week that our little foster baby was likely to be placed with a relative and leave our house, I struggled. In an honest moment, I admitted to our kids that I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do this over and over again with other children. Thankfully, my thirteen-year-old spoke truth.
She reminded me that God called us to a ministry that isn’t about us. We can cry, be sad, and everything else, but the Lord has a plan for this baby (and all the others we get), and our job is to just love them and obey. My nine-year-old son chimed in to remind me that just because it’s hard doesn’t mean we aren’t meant to do it. In other words, if he has called our family to this ministry—He will equip us to do it.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your words through my children when I needed them the most. Because I’m realizing that I have come to like God’s callings only when they are easy and feel right. That couldn’t be more contrary to biblical teaching, and it was surely not the lesson of the cross. So I’m grateful for a Lord that calls us out of our comfort zone. Sometimes he calls us to go where it hurts a little, and we have to live out our faith, claiming his promise that He will equip where He calls us. I pray that my children have that kind of mom.
“May he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.” Hebrews 13:21 (NLT)
So as we sit here a month later looking at this precious baby boy, we do not know much about where he comes from, his family, or what’s in his future. But we have confidence in who holds his future. And we claim that hope for him—the same hope we all share with this little baby and his young mom.
Four months into their journey through the foster care system, Cynthia and her family are more uncertain than ever as to the future of this baby and how his journey in the “system” will end. But they trust that the Lord is good, his plan is perfect and his will is sovereign. Check back in June for more of Cynthia’s reflections on fostering and faith.