Our Ordinary Family’s Extraordinary Foster Care Journey

It’s hard to believe we are approaching eight months of being involved in foster care. It seems like just yesterday we were trying to pass a home study and focused on fire extinguishers, swimming pool safety, second-floor ladders, outlet covers, CPR training, respite care, and medicine lock boxes. Who knew we were unfit parents before foster care and it’s only by the grace of God our two bio kids ever made it to their first birthday living in the death trap we called our home?

Reflecting on the journey, we have found that people generally have the same questions and reactions when they meet our foster baby and ask about our involvement in the foster care system. As we enter November, National Adoption and Foster Care month, it seemed appropriate to share some thoughts from the last year and answer some of the questions we are often asked.

“You are a saint. What made you decide to do foster care?”

Let’s be clear: our family is no different than yours. We are overcommitted, trying to keep all the balls in the air while raising kids and trying to hold down a few jobs. Our kids fight, we speak in sarcastic rhetoric, our dog is dumb and barks too much, our milk is expired in our empty fridge and we sometimes parent in ways we swore we never would (i.e., select sports on Sunday mornings).

So we are a bit perplexed when people imply we are somehow different than anyone else because we have a foster child. We don’t consider fostering a radical thing to do and, honestly, we don’t think the Lord does either. Psalm 82:3 instructs us to “defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.” The Bible is riddled with examples of people who left their daily routine in favor of making a difference and helping someone other than themselves. In the Bible, this isn’t radical behavior; it’s merely obeying God and caring for those in need.

But more than that, we are burdened by the almost 28,000 Texas children in foster care that need somewhere to call home. We pursued foster care because we felt an uncomfortable nagging to go somewhere further than our comfortable life was taking us. Now, having been doing it for many months, we are that much more desperate for opportunities to do his work with his eternal perspective. We now crave opportunities that allow us to be a part of kingdom living, with utter dependence on him and no gain for ourselves. We want our children to know God and what it looks like to live his word – not to just know about God, hearing it on Sundays with no impact on how we live on Monday.

We are not saints. We are just an ordinary family that took the off ramp from our exhausting first world life for something hopefully better resembling a purpose bigger than ourselves, and serving God as he would call us.

“I could never do that; I would get too attached.”

Yes, we are too attached to this child—in every sense of the word. This attachment has created an inevitable roller coaster of emotions along the way. We will be absolutely heartbroken if when/if he leaves our home next month. We love him like our own. Our kids have bonded with him like I never thought possible, our extended family is crazy about him, our friends adore him. Our kids’ friends are even ridiculously attached to this little guy.

I knew that getting attached and potentially saying goodbye was going to be the hard part. I just didn’t realize how hard it was going to be because I didn’t realize we would love him just as our own. I prayed from the minute we started considering foster care that the Lord would either bring a child that we wanted and who could stay, or one that we would not become too attached to who was only with us temporarily.

Honestly, I’m not sure my prayer will be answered as I had hoped. Because I now realize the flaw with this kind of prayer—it’s focused on me. Don’t let me get too attached. Don’t let me get hurt. Don’t let me feel a profound loss. The Lord has made it perfectly clear in the last several months that it’s not about “me.” And once I take myself out of the equation, it’s a lot easier to deal with the attachment issues. This baby (along with many, many more) has needs that must be met, and who better meet them than those who serve his creator and can love him as Jesus loves us?

This emotional roller coaster has been offset with the unexpected blessing of experiencing a different type of desperate attachment: attachment to the Lord. We went into this knowing God and tried to walk in his ways. But I have never experienced the utter dependence and desperation in my prayer life that I have seen in the last eight months. I need to hear from the Lord daily. I constantly cling to his promises and rely on his goodness. I have laid on the floor next to this child’s crib and cried for the Lord to do his very best for this baby. I have begged everyone I know to pray my family through this process. For the first time ever, our family has palpably understood our desperate need for the Lord’s daily provision.

The fear of becoming too attached is a legitimate concern. But like it or not, we are all too attached to something. Our money, our kids, our security, our status—you name it, we are all attached to something that has more of a hold than we would like. The attachment to foster care and loving this baby is the most satisfying attachment I have ever known, and it has required constant dependence on the Lord every step of the way. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Will you do it again?”

Absolutely. Foster care has seemingly changed the entire trajectory of our lives and there’s no going back. We can’t “un-see” all the scared little faces in the CPS office with their possessions in trash bags. What used to be a statistic now has a face and a name in our house. We will do it again, not just because of this baby the Lord graciously placed in our lives, but because we have been gifted with a completely different perspective on how to fully live the lives we already had. I don’t know who my kids would be without the tender heart and the self-sacrifice they have gained in the last year. My husband and I care far less about what we don’t have and much more on how to use what we do have for God’s glory. Let’s be clear —there’s no sugar coating it—this has been a rough eight months emotionally, physically, spiritually, and everywhere in between. My friends and I laugh that I’m somewhere between broken (in a good way) and emotionally unstable (also in a good way).

I will be claiming Isaiah 26:3 for my family as we journey through the next difficult weeks waiting for the answer on where this precious baby will end up. “People with their minds set on you, you keep completely whole, steady on their feet, because they keep at it and don’t quit” (MSG). We will keep our mind set on him and claim his promises, even when it’s painful, because he is faithful.

One last thing: Please understand I’m not saying foster care is for everyone. I’m not called to Kenya (yet) and not everyone is called to foster care. But some of you are. If I could give you one thing to consider, it would be to set aside the “me” in this ministry or wherever the the Lord is calling you. The “me” aspect is where fear, inadequacy, and insecurity lurk. Chose to live bigger than you could imagine. Take risks that don’t add up. Stop calculating the cost and go to the place where you can make a profound difference and gain eternal perspective. I can promise you that, once you sell out to your calling and go to the place that Lord has reserved just for you, you will never be the same and you will never want to leave.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

 ~ Hillsong United