Sunday, May 8, 2016

The story of Max. When Fostering makes you feel like a Bad Christian.

The call came during my homeschool co-op. Disrupted placement. *Max was being transitioned again. The family that had been planning on adopting could not.  Could we take him again?  Tonight? And the weight was instantly around my neck again.  That familiar burden for this little boy. My husband and I talked, and he pointed out again, that we aren't foster parents because it feels magical and the timing is perfect.  So I told the social worker that we could take him several days later; that Saturday.

This little boy, Max, we'd had before.  Over a year ago, he had come to us as a 4 year old.  On paper, he fit into our family well. His age and gender worked. He was a sweet boy with a sad past.  I wanted to want to adopt him.  What a great thing that would be. What a picture of redemption.  People would think we were doing the Lord's work.  For months I struggled and pondered and dreamed and tried. Daily, I would waver. One day I'd think, "Sure, he could totally be my son, he's so cute and needy." The next day I'd wonder how many more days we would have to have him. Finally my husband told me to let the idea of adopting Max go.  Shann wasn't bonding with him at all, and that's a cleaned up version of reality.  Shann struggled to like him.  And my daughter was irritated most of the time with him.  We had well-meaning family members us ask whether we really had to love him to permanently make him a part of our family.  We had friends ask how we could possibly let him go back into the system.  Being a people-pleaser by nature, what other people thought of the situation killed me.  I talked to a long-time foster mom who told me, 'Sarah, every foster child who comes through your door isn't necessarily your son or daughter.' So we realized that it wouldn't be kind to Max for us to adopt him out of pity, and we asked social services to find another placement for him.

Fast forward more than a year.  A year in which I told friends who asked about him that he was in the process of being adopted by a great family.  I really thought this was the case. Then that call. We would be keeping him for a couple of months until he transitioned to a family who had already adopted his biological brother.  Except. This family is a single mom with an adult transgender son. That weight on my heart. I cried out to God. How could this be God's plan?  Again I scrutinized our family dynamics. Why couldn't this work for us? The answer isn't a pretty one.  But there just wasn't any chemistry.  It seemed when we had Max with us that everyone was on edge.  I couldn't do that to my family.  Its odd, being able to try out having a son for awhile. Being able to choose a child doesn't feel right.  Many days I wouldn't choose to keep my biological kids!  Kids are not always pleasant to be around!  But because I'm not put in the position to decide with my own kids, it isn't an issue.  This whole mess of fostering is broken and weird.  Having to be foster parents, kids in the foster system. It is all because of brokenness.  And it doesn't look neat and tidy.

Max is doing well with his adoptive family.  We care about him deeply, and God has taught me to pray in a new way through his story.  I'm claiming blessing and healing for he and his family members. God has also taught me to care less about what other people think is right for our family.  Only my husband and I can make those decisions with the help of the Holy Spirit and the wise advice of trusted people who have been there.  So when our pastor talks about the service and calling of fostering, I still sometimes feel a twinge of guilt or regret that this one didn't work out they way I would have written the ending. But I know that God can take our weak offering of service and turn it into something beautiful.  So I will continue to pray for Max. And I cannot wait to see what God does with his life.

*name changed.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Too Attached

Most commonly said phrase when someone finds out my husband and I foster: I could never do that. I'd get too attached.

I don't say, "Oh really? Aren't you sweet? Aren't you the warmest hearted person ever to walk the earth? Because I'm not at all emotionally affected when they leave".

I don't say that, but sometimes I'd like to.

I've heard this so often, that for awhile I did actually wonder if God had specifically called us to foster because maybe we're cold-hearted, and can handle kids coming and going with relative ease.

And then came Malachi.  He came to us under 6 lbs and under two weeks old. He was a tiny live doll baby that we loved to pieces.  I reverted again to mom of a newborn, waking in the night for feedings. I read Babywise again. We watched Malachi go from tiny baby to a happy chunky boy.  He spit up in every square inch of our house.  We worried over him in the night. My kids learned how to change diapers, give baths, get him dressed, and get him in and out of the car for me. He had numerous nicknames. He grew and smiled and walked and got into everything. We often dreamed about keeping him.  And though that was never the plan, as the months went by, he felt like mine.  Ours.

He was given to his mother December 31st, 17 months after we brought him home from the hospital. My husband took him to the parking lot where he met his mother for the exchange.  I couldn't go. I was a mess.  And though Shann was a mess too, he did it for me. He told Malachi's mother that we love him like one of our own children.

I don't know how to grieve.  Its not something you study up on. I'm not sure how to help my children walk through this time while we feel Malachi's absence so acutely. Part of the difficulty is chatting with every person who knows me about my deepest feelings. And of course, our family and friends should ask how we're doing, but it isn't easy to keep rehashing.

And yet. He is near to the broken-hearted.  He binds up our wounds. His mercies are new daily. Joy comes in the morning. He restores my soul.  This list goes on and on. And its all true. We are sad. We miss Malachi. And we are okay. We are okay because I can feel the presence of Jesus.

We foster partly because we feel invited by the Lord into the pain and brokenness of the lives of children who need us. I foster for many reasons, and many of them aren't as pretty as that first one. But God uses my half-hearted weak gift and makes it something beautiful. But just because we feel called to foster doesn't make it easy for us.  This doesn't mean that we aren't sad when someones leaves or that we aren't 'too attached'.

So next time you chat with a foster parent, instead of telling them that you could never do it because you would get too attached to the kids, maybe tell them you're praying for their hearts. And ask the Lord what hard thing he's called you to.

Friday, March 7, 2014


In this season of my life, I often feel desperate.  I feel desperate to get going on school for the day.  Desperate to keep the kids moving on school. Desperate to get school done. Desperate to drop off little man at school and maybe have quiet in the van. Desperate for Shann to come home. Desperate to get kids in bed. Desperate to make the right school choices. Desperate to get to the next stage in my life, sometimes. Definitely desperate to get out of Walmart.
But I am also desperate for God to work in me. Desperate for His presence. His help. His strength, and His encouragement.   I feel pulled in so many directions and I need God to sustain me. I realize I sound a bit crazed, and certainly I don't feel this way at every moment of every day, but lately the D-word has seemed to hover over my hours. 

God, may my desperation drive me to You.  Thank you that You are The Giver of Life and Peace.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Hard things

I'm discouraged tonight. Noah was supposed to have his Christmas visit with his mom and she didn't come.  His grandma was there, and lavished him with gifts. But he told me that he cried that his mom wasn't there. Yesterday he asked me why he doesn't live with her. I told him that she's working on being a better mom and hopefully he can live with her again.

Tonight, after all the new toys were played with, Noah told Caden that his momma doesn't like white people.  "She doesn't like you, but I do", he said.

Why does this make me feel so ill?  This woman doesn't personally dislike me for who I am. She doesn't even know me. Perhaps she really does hate all white people. Perhaps she dislikes me because I'm getting some of Noah's affection right now and she wants it. Perhaps she feels that because I'm white, I can't properly care for a little black boy.  Maybe she's annoyed that he likes us.  If I were in her shoes, I might feel quite resentful of whoever had my kids. But I'm super annoyed that she's pouring her hate and bitterness into her 4 year-old son, who didn't realize we were white and he was black until she pointed it out. Or that this is supposed to be a big deal.

Poor confused baby boy.  One day he tells me he wants to live with us forever, and then the next day he wants to go back to his momma.  God heal us all.

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