A year and a half ago, my husband and I sat in a room of about 20 other couples, eagerly waiting for the clock to strike 6:00. The room we were in was dingy and smelled slightly damp and stale. The face of every person in the room had expressions all mixed with anxiety, excitement, anticipation, and fear.
As the meeting began, the woman that sat in front of us welcomed the group and gave a brief synopsis of what to expect in the next couple months. There would be group discussions, guest speakers, videos, and of course, lots and lots of homework. She made it very clear that if we were not committed to this work, we would not make it in the work that would come after.
We recently went back to those days, in our minds, asking one another what we were thinking when we started to foster. Were we naive? Were we scared? Were we excited?
The answer to all these were ‘yes’.
We have just finished up a little over a year with our foster son in our home. This past weekend, we said “Goodbye” to B as he left to go to a new home. Obviously there are many things I cannot share and honestly, even if I could, it is not my story to tell. But the move was one that was quick and yet drawn out and if I was honest with myself, still being processed.
As I met and spoke with the parents of the new home he will be in, I listened to their excitement as they talked about the room they decorated for him and the fun plans they had for the coming week. It all sounded magical, but in my heart there was pain, agony, and truth be told, anger.
The pain stems from the year that I was mother. I nursed and clothed. Fed and hugged. It was me who calmed anxious hearts after a nightmare. I was the one that drove him back and forth to school, appointments, soccer games, and practices. Pain that I poured all of myself into this crazy little redhead. I agonized often if I was doing enough. The nights I laid awake trying to think of ways to help him through his trauma. The tears I shed as he said and did hurtful and harmful things to me, my family, and himself. Pain that he could so easily walk away to his new mother, full of excitement and hope, leaving me to pick up the pieces left behind.
The agony comes from something darker. Something that is not often accessed.
Did I fail? Was I not enough? In a whole year, he called me “mom” only one time. Why?
The anger at how the system has failed him. How his parents had failed him. How the community let him slip by unnoticed for so long.
I told you I was honest.
But here is the real truth of it all. If I were to wrap up all my emotions, put it in a box, and wrap it with a bow, it would be a beautiful testimony and gift to the Lord that He is not done.
I am NOT enough. Neither are any other foster or bio mothers that comes along. The system cannot fix B. The therapist cannot erase the trauma and hurt. The team that is lined up to help him get to where we all think he needs to be can do nothing…without Christ.
God knows his heart and every story from the past. He knows the deep, dark secrets that are hidden inside, locked with a key. I don’t think God wishes to fix B or fix really anyone. I think He wishes to take what is, use it, and make it beautiful. I know this because I have seen it time and time again.
So now that a full year has gone by. Now that we have taken in a boy in need on a cold December night, no home, no clothing, not even a pillow. Now that we have gone through a year of laughing, crying, discipline, crisis, and hope, I now understand why we foster.
Often we think it is a good thing to do. Help a child in need since we have been so blessed. And that is true. But they don’t just need a bed, warm home, or even parents that show them right from wrong. They simply need what we all need.
And as I examine my heart and reflect on it all, I can say with the utmost confidence that I absolutely gave that to him. Love through actions. Love through words. Love through Christ.
I want to end this with words from a song that sums up the hearts of the over 400,000 children in the U.S. in the foster care system. I want to remember these words as we continue on this path, welcoming in our home and arms whomever the Lord sends out way next.
My feet are sore from walking all night long
No direction when there’s nowhere to go
Empty picture frames of times all gone
Lonely echoes of the stories we‘ve told
If you put on my shoes, walk a mile or two
‘Til your eyes open wider than they used to
Then I will meet you there where the air is clear
Pinky swear I’ll meet you there
Familiar faces as we chase the moon
Fall in love and I’ll come crying to you
Through the changes and the Earth’s bad moods
I’ll lay my troubled bones on you
And I’ll stay with you, I see new colors
And I’ll stay today until forever
And I’ll stay with you, I see new colors
My eyes are open wider today until forever
I’ll stay with you