Lean not on your own understanding…..

I wrote this post a few weeks ago. When I got around to publishing I wasnt sure what to title it. And then it hit me. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I have written before on strange feelings that you experience in fostering children. There are so many. Strange not being necessarily bad, just weird, like butterflies in your stomach.

We had gotten to have our two previous foster boys with us for several days. Their grand parents were feeling under the weather so I was thrilled to offer some relief. We had little baby J a week and big baby K for the following weekend. I thought I was biting off more than I could chew. I mean 6 kids is one thing. But 3 of them under the age of 2 that’s another story. All in all it was a real treat. You really learn how to improvise with that many babies. “Here, have an appetizer while I fix your dinner. Puffs anyone?” Honestly the goal in my head goes something like this, “If we can keep the crying to a minimal it’ll all be ok. I’ll be ok. Here, have a go go squeeze.” I probably spent half our grocery budget in all that trendy baby junk but whatever, it works! And then Jason came home on Saturday with the big guns. Bubbles, chalk, and a slide. My hero! 😍

Back to the topic at hand though. As I watched Jason teach baby K, who is now totally a toddler, how to play teeball I felt mixed emotions. On one hand I felt a sense of happiness and Gods grace in this little guys life. Someone (us!) is teaching him teeball. Yet there is a sadness over the fact that we are filling shoes of his real parents. When I feed baby J his bottles and snuggle up to his precious face….. I feel privileged that I get to do this but I feel broken that his mommy isn’t. It’s good and sad all at once.

People often tell me, “I could never foster. I wouldn’t be able to let them go.” Honestly, it’s crossed my mind to respond, “Do you think I’m void of those emotions?” Usually I say something to diffuse the comment because I know people don’t mean what could be implied. A fellow blogger and foster/adoptive parent Jason Johnson has the perfect response, “Instead of letting the fear of getting too attached deter us, we should actually let the fear of these kids never feeling truly attached to someone drive us. These kids need people that are willing to love them enough to hurt for them if they ever have to let them go.”

We’ve only “let them go” 3 times so far and each time was different. We had our first placement (4 years ago) that we requested removal, that stunk. It was confusing trying to do what was right but fighting guilty feelings. Then we had a emergency placement. That was strange because two little girls came and went within a week and I have no clue how they are doing. Then came the boys. That’s been a roller coaster. In ways I have bonded with baby J like my own. And then there is K…. he has some quirks but something about him is equally endearing. I love these boys. God flooded me with peace when they left us. I pray for that peace to return. As their case moves forward and is coming to a close I am trying to grapple with what their future holds. I want to confidently place them in the sovereign hands of God but my mothering instincts and that pesky desire for control creeps in. I find myself wondering how all the choices that were made for them will effect them. I have this urge to spring into action, “What can we do?!?” And yet everything is out of my hands. And though Satan may tempt me to fear and worry, I am reminded Who’s hands they are in. And so I pray and I trust and I rest in the Fathers infinite love for those two little guys. And I cling to scriptures like this.

“Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them. You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed, so mere people can no longer terrify them.” Psalms‬ ‭10:17-18‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Love like Jesus

There is something about fostering that I’m learning and have wanted to share. It’s something that I’m not sure gets talked about openly, because it’s a sensitive subject. I imagine it’s very hard to understand if you haven’t fostered or adopted, but I’m guessing it’s not unique to me. :-/

Before we stepped into fostering, the idea of caring for children in need just pulled at my heartstrings. For the most part, I thought that loving someone else’s child the way I love my own would come naturally. Especially since, for now, we have chosen to foster babies and toddlers. I just couldn’t imagine it being difficult to love a baby. Additionally, knowing that these children are coming from such broken places, I assumed the compassion I had would further fuel my love and affection.

I thought too highly of myself.

There are days when my affection does not flow naturally. My love feels forced and fake. I get irritated by behaviors that I didn’t contribute to. I forget about their trauma and being compassionate.

I am selfish and self serving.

Honestly, the thing that confronted me most (and God has been dealing with me ever so gently) is all the selfishness and pride that is bound up in my parenting. My kids aren’t perfect, but they are healthy, generally happy, mostly obedient, smart, funny, and beautiful. And though I KNOW that is all because of God’s sovereign grace and mercy, there are moments when I’m tempted to think, “Jason and I did such a good job. We are such good parents.”

Children in foster care come with so much hurt and brokenness and it manifests itself differently in each child. It takes awhile sometimes to see the unique God given beauty and wonderful characteristics that He has placed in them. They come dealing with trauma. They come with quirks. Right now we have a screamer. My point is, I have been enjoying my children and parenting out of the overflow of GOOD things. We haven’t had to walk through anything really tough yet with our children and so, for the most part, loving them, liking them, it’s been pretty easy. In foster parenting you are brought a child that has been hurt, had no structure, and no loving discipline. They exhibit odd and even frustrating behaviors that are not their fault, at that point you are confronted with your true motives in parenting. I’ll be honest, I like when our children make us look good. It is an “I will invest in you and you will yield a profit,” mentality, with the “profit” being you respond in a way that makes me feel and look good. I know, it is worldly and consumer oriented. I know that’s not what parenting is about. Children are not our accessories though often we treat them that way.

Here to serve, not be served.

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”
Galatians‬ ‭5:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

God has revealed to me that if we are to be effective in fostering (AND parenting), we have to accept the good and the bad, the beautiful and the broken, just like he does.

Katie Davis makes a compelling observation in her book, Kisses from Katie:

It’s just different when it’s your own child who’s suffering. But should it be?…..I believe that this is a normal human reaction. I also believe it is wrong. I believe that every human being on this planet is God’s child, perfectly made and beloved and cherished by Him. I believe that His heart hurts, even more than mine when my baby is hurting, for each and every one of the hurting, dying, starving, crying children in our world. So I have to believe that if my heart was truly seeking to be aligned with the heart of God, that I would hurt for each of these children as well. But sometimes, I forget. Sometimes I’m busy. Sometimes hurting for my very own children feels like enough. I believe the world says this is okay. I believe it is wrong.

This was so very convicting for me to read. But I believe she is right! Not only have I thought it was okay to love or hurt more for my children but more selfish than that, I have been all about what is good, beautiful and easy, and when faced with the uncomfortable, bad and broken I realized how shallow my love is. Thankfully God has placed His Holy Spirit in me and THAT is what makes it possible for me to truly love. I pray my heart would continue to align with His so I can love like He loves. We are here to serve and especially in the hard, broken places. It’s our job to show our children and other people’s children and ALL PEOPLE how Jesus loves.

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.””
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭20:28‬ ‭NLT‬‬