To Cherish and Care For, Part 1

Friday, June 10, 2011  ::  

Almost 5 years ago, God abruptly brought four beautiful girls into our home. Naively, we agreed to keep them with us for a few months. We were told it would be three to six months of time spent in our home and lives. Almost two years later, they were finely allowed to go live with an aunt in another state.

When they came to live with us, Chad and I were not licensed foster parents. (We became licensed a few months later.) To be completely honest, the thought of being a foster parent had never occurred to me. In that season of my life if you would have asked me to become a foster parent, I more than likely would have laughed in your face, told you kids just aren't my thing, and chuckled at your absurdity for days to come. This is probably the reason God chose to drop the four precious girls in my lap instead of asking me to take steps on my own.  My thick skull often requires unavoidable obedience.  

When the girls left our family, they took with them pieces of our hearts. My own four kids still regularly talk about and pray for them.  All six of us were forever changed. I knew for certain that I could not keep them forever, yet at the same time my heart was so downcast and broken when they left. The dualistic nature of my heart in the entire process of fostering them was astounding.  I would long to love and protect them while at the same time, long for our lives to be back to "normal." When they were finally in their new home, I boldly spoke that I was out. Done. Finished. Foster care wasn't my cup of tea. We told our foster care specialist that we would only be helping other foster families by providing respite which in my mind provided a needed service and required very minimal from me. 

Three years have past with many foster kids coming in and out of our home so their permanent foster families could take a short break. Respite was something I cherished during our time with the girls, so I was happy to help foster families in this way. 

Last October God put it on Chad's heart to take our church through the book of James. Over and over Chad talked about caring for those in distress... widows, immigrants, the poor, and orphans. My heart was stirred once again for foster care, but I was forcefully shoving it out of my mind. My excuse list exceeded all rational thought, but the basis of my denial was fear. 

The two years with the girls required almost everything I had. It was overwhelming, exhausting, heartbreaking, time-consuming. Feelings of fear of neglecting my own children plagued me. I didn't have the capacity to do anything but parent eight children. Our days were masterfully ordered like a boot-camp, and inwardly, all I had to give to God was my tears. During the book of James, Chad revealed to me that he had been thinking that we should open up our home again for a foster child. The confirmation that God had stirred the same conviction in both our hearts without us talking about it was timely and poignant. Our children had been asking for months if we could take in a young foster boy, and now God had showed his intent to Chad and me. 

Our placement was open for almost six months with no word of a child coming to live with us. The spring semester was so difficult because of life and ministry. Often if felt like the plates we were holding were starting to crumble because they were too full. I questioned often how in the world I could care for a needy child in the midst of all the chaos. God in His sovereignty knew we couldn't.  Because of the feelings of doubt swirling in my heart and mind, I really prayed about whether or not we should be doing this. Three weeks ago I specifically asked God to make clear whether or not he wanted us to keep our home open for foster kids. In less than a week we got a call for a five year old boy that needed a home immediately. I would say that was a fast, clear answer! 

So yes, we do have a foster son right now. In fact, our house has three extra kids because we are keeping two sweet girls for the week for respite care. However, let me be clear. None of this is exciting, happy, adventurous, wonderful, or makes us good people or heroes. In difficult circumstances, finding the words to say often eludes us as humans. I get that. Please don't feel like you can't voice your feelings about what we are doing, but please, at the same time remember what it is that we are doing. 

Innocent children are abused, neglected, rejected. People who don't know how to take care of humans have babies. Lest we become judgmental, people who do not have the means to take care of humans have babies. Many foster children's birth parents love them deeply, but they don't have skills, education, or money to care for them. 

People often ask me how we do it. How do we take them in? How do we let them go? How do we deal with their vast issues? How do we not despise their parents? How do we let our own kids be exposed to such difficult things? How do we balance the schedules? How? How? How?  

Psalm 84:5-7 talks about all of us being on pilgrimage, a journey. It says that as we pass through the Valley of Baca (of tears) it will become a place of springs and autumn rains. God gives strength to strength for each part of the journey. The strength we need for today is different than the strength we need for tomorrow because we don't know what tomorrow holds. 

That's it really. God's perfect grace gives my family the desire and ability to care for children in distress because it is what he has asked us to do. When it is time for them to leave our home we weep, but we also realize our pain is small compared to the pain they've experienced. When they act out in strange ways because of their abuse, we give boundaries and lots and lots of hugs and cuddles. When we are tempted to despise their abusers, we remember that abuse is often a generational issue, that people need education, financial help, to be loved themselves, that we also struggle with anger and bitterness and Christ works in our lives to enable us to love deeply. When I worry about my own children, I remember that they aren't really mine, but God's and He uses them to teach me deep, profound things about how to love those in distress. When I fret about overwhelming schedules, God gives us the strength to accomplish the important, and grace to not dwell on the unimportant. When I'm emotionally spent and struggling through deep fear, He reminds me that He is in control, that His faithfulness is great, and His mercies are new each and every morning.

The word foster means to promote growth or development, to bring up, to cherish or care for.  Proverbs 31:8-9 says, "Speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly. Defend the rights of the poor and needy." More and more it is becoming the desire of my heart to defend those who are destitute, the poor and needy. For now, God has asked the Haynes family to speak up and defend abused children in Tucson. As He empowers us to, we will promote growth, develop, bring up, cherish, care for, and love kids that come to live in our home. Make no mistake. This endeavor is not an easy one. This week has required much dependance on the One who develops, cherishes, cares for, and loves me and my family. I pray that we are reflecting Christ in authentic and tangible ways to the precious children that have come into our home over the last five years. Only God knows the impact He has on their lives through our family. Only God knows the impact He has on our lives through each child.  

4 important comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Janice... said...

Angel! Thank you for making your blog posts so vulnerable and heartfelt. You have a way to get one's thoughts churning.

Anonymous said...

Angel...once again your words touched my heart deeply! Thank you for reminding me to specifically pray throughout this journey for you and Chad and the kid. We know the Lord will continue to hold you in His arms and pour grace upon grace into your lives and into the lives of the children who come into your home!
I love you...

Alysa said...

Angel, thank you for sharing your heart so openly. What you and your family are doing is making a difference in so many lives, including those who are watching you. You all truly inspire those around you, and I thank you for that.

Heidi said...

Thank you for sharing about your first fostering experience! We too had fostering sort of dropped on us and when it ended (not in a good way) I felt a little disheartened about the whole experience as well. Glad/scared to see that God can change those feelings too!
One thing that having a foster son did reveal to me is the immense need for loving foster parents, you are filling such an important need, God Bless!

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