I sit here writing this from my favorite cafe. Local kombucha in hand and a chocolate ginger muffin (it’s cake, who are they kidding with calling it a muffin). My husband lovingly kicked me out of the house and said he didn’t want to see me until dinnertime. I desperately needed a break from all things parenting and he was ready to take over for much of the day so I could be refreshed.
I’ve only been a mom for about five minutes, so my experience is vastly limited on this topic. However, God’s grace and wisdom has been poured out on our family abundantly since our son showed up last year on that hot July evening. I trust He will use my words in spite of my experience.
Self-care is a buzz word in the foster care world, and for good reason. Some of these precious kiddos we welcome into our families have experienced trauma we can’t even fathom. The lasting effect of that trauma can manifest itself into some excruciatingly difficult behaviors that are able to destroy an entire family if we’re not prepared. Satan wants to destroy families and marriages, let’s not forget that. Foster care and adoption is war, and we’re fighting for the souls of these little ones we’ve been entrusted with.
Although the call is a high one, it’s an exhausting one. We can burn out quickly if we’re not cautious. We can feel entitled for the life we think we deserve if we’re not mindful of the lies Satan tempts us with.
All parenting is hard, I believe that fully. All parents ought to seek refreshment in order to more sacrificially and joyfully care for their family. I want to focus on foster parents though, and the unique challenges that come with this journey.
Being a foster parent can be extremely isolating. It’s the rare person who understands all the in’s and out’s of the system, birth parent visits, reunification goals, permanency plans, and the long list of regulations we’re expected to hold to. We’ve patiently endured heightened behaviors after a visit with their birth parents, and then held their tiny sobbing bodies close when they cancelled. Again. Our weeks revolve around different therapies, all the while trying to keep as much structure in their schedule as possible. Some of us have had failed matches or failed placements. We are constantly advocating for the unique needs of our children, pleading with God to heal them and use their trauma for their good and His glory.
If you’re feeling weary today, take heart. There is hope and you are not alone. Christ, who has overcome the world, is eager to take your burden and carry it for you. There is freedom from the guilt that crushes and the exhaustion that cripples. He is ready and willing to take it from you.
Last week my husband and I had to make a difficult decision for our son. There was this unspoken pressure from the world to do one thing, when the Holy Spirit was clearly telling us something different. The truth is, we didn’t want to be ‘different’. We already look different as a transracial family in a predominantly white community, receiving stares and questions wherever we go. This decision, if we followed the Spirit (which by God’s grace we did), would likely bring more eyebrow raises and questions.
I’m learning to be grateful for my lot and say with confidence “it is well with my soul.” There was a loss that came with the decision we had to make. It isolates us even more as a foster family and makes us look even more different than the typical suburban family in our area. Our decision was minor compared to most, however it is still an opportunity to trust that God will bless us for being faithful in our particular situation. This decision will likely bring great benefit to our son and, Lord willing, propel him towards more healing and wholeness from the trauma he has experienced.
I was at an event recently, surrounded by beautiful families. From what I could see we were probably the only foster family, and the only transracial family present. This event very unexpectedly stirred up pain in my heart. Pain that I needed to process through and lay at the feet of Jesus. Questions arose in my heart, and bitterness began to sneak in as I watched glowing pregnant women walk by, and children playing together without their parent’s supervision. My son has having a particularly difficult night and we ended up sitting in the car for a while. Selfishly, all I wanted to do was have an adult conversation, something that is precious (and rare) these days.
If you could see into my sinful heart that evening, you would have heard these questions asked through bitter sobs. God, why did you call us to this? Why can’t we just blend in and have our family grow the “old fashioned” way? Why won’t you heal this precious boy quicker? Why can’t it just be stinking easy?!
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…” Philippians 3:8-9.
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” Matthew 16:24-25.
Knowing Jesus is far more precious than any loss I may suffer. The loss of comfort. The loss of an easy life. The loss of blending in. The loss of typical milestones for our son. The loss of reputation among those who may not understand. The loss of the first two and a half years of my son’s life when I couldn’t protect him from all the hard things he experienced.
Just like I held my son this morning as he sobbed into my shoulder because his birth dad missed the bus again, and his visit would be cancelled, Jesus held me as I wrote loss over my life once again. He is so patient. So kind. So long-suffering. So merciful towards my bitter and entitled heart.
This life is not my own. I was bought with a price. A great price. I am weary, yes, but my little boy is worth it, and trading all my former hopes and dreams for new ones, for the sake of Christ, is even more so.
“The only way to have the power to follow Christ in the costly way of love is to be filled with hope, with strong confidence that if we lose our life doing his will, we will find it again and be richly rewarded.” John Piper, The Power of Hope.
Weary foster mom, your life is not unnoticed by the creator of the entire universe. He longs to be gracious to you and provide for all of your needs. There are great rewards for those who follow Jesus, risking it all, in this broken (but beautiful) world of foster care. It is worth the cost.