From the outside in: our foster care update
From the outside in, this looks like another post where I harness the rosy in my routine, producing images that bring a smile and an appreciation for the small things in life. Where rain becomes art, blooms help our eyes behold the beauty of spring arriving in all its glory, and something as simple as my cat perched upon the green grass makes life seem simply dreamy in the country.
From the outside in we look like just that, a family of four living the dream in the country, cows in the pasture, a country mailbox too. And I suppose for someone aiming to buy land and duplicate a similar lifestyle, they may be slightly right. But only slightly. For behind our wood board country fence, and inside our big house lives a family of four with a fire burning for foster care. There's nothing dreamy about the number of children just within the state of Arkansas alone needing a place to call home, a meal to eat, and a reason to smile and laugh.
From the beginning of our marriage (almost 9 years ago!) Brett and I have had adoption on our hearts. I remember sitting in church a few years ago and hearing about the foster care crisis on "Orphan Sunday". Back then, I thought tearing up at the Heart Gallery, which is a collection of photos of kids needing to be adopted, was enough. I counted my tears as my ticket into freedom from going any further into the foster care crisis. I came, I cried, I was off the hook.
Basically, I just didn't get it yet. I even remember some very passionate speakers urging everyone to get involved with this need and I sat fuming. We had a farm and a family! How on earth could they expect us to fit one more thing into our busy lives?
I just. didn't. get. it. !
If you've been around here for a while you know that we have been on quite the heart journey the past couple of years. That adoption dream I mentioned? Well it never went away and about two years ago we met with a local agency and went through the entire process to become an open home. I cheered on that wonderful day we were declared "open" and held my breath each time we would be approached about a baby. I remember the first one was on Valentine's Day, a sure sign the baby would be ours because that's my Momma's birthday and I AM the queen of finding hearts everywhere, right? I cleaned the house in a fury, and could hear my heart pounding as loud as a bass drum all afternoon. But then the pounding stopped and a new kind of sadness I'd never before experienced crept in all the nooks and crannies of my very being. The baby wouldn't be ours. Oh, how I cried.
Lesson one was dropped into my heart that moment though, because for the minutes and hours and days after I prayed hard for that sweet Valentine's baby. Not to be mine, but for warm clothes, plenty of diapers and hugs and kisses, and plenty to eat. For love, sweet love.
This went on for a while. We'd go months and months without hearing anything from our agency and then would hold our breath with every "yes" we gave when we did get called. Nothing ever worked out, at least not in the way that would have made sense to us. But boy how I prayed for each of these babies, every single time. I couldn't imagine a tiny, 7-pound baby facing the world alone and needing someone to meet their most basic needs as well as their emotional ones. In fact, I still can't even think about it without my heart squeezing so hard it makes me cry.
Over time as things got more quiet at our agency, things got louder in our hearts, the podcasts we listened to, the sermons we mulled over, the messages on the radio, and the very whisper of God that just wouldn't quiet. We just kept hearing about the words "foster care" every single place we looked. It was evident that this was something we needed to pray and talk about, so we did. Most of last summer was spent on our back deck, having conversation after the girls went to bed over what to do. I really wrestled with this, contacting every single adoption avenue I could think of, talking to anyone who would listen about our calling for a baby and yet, our void.
Part of the reason why I fought the foster care numbers so hard was simply because of being misinformed. I was picturing us taking in a whole slew of kiddos, and teenagers at that. Something we just weren't prepared for. I didn't know that God was calling me out on the waters, yes, but that He wouldn't let me drown.
Slowly over time, the faces of these precious lives in foster care crept in to every facet of my being. It was suddenly so clear that we needed to do something and do it now! I felt like I was standing in my front yard, my huge house stocked to the brim with clothes and food behind me, facing a crowd of hungry kiddos. I could picture their needy eyes, their brilliant talents and personalities staring back at me, just begging to be loved and given a chance.
We put a call in and closed things with our agency, a sadness I can't explain if I must be honest. We then started the foster care process, and were told we could pick what age of child to take in (we chose younger than our own), and how many children at a time. Both things I was highly fearful about in the beginning, yet God laid my fears to rest helping me see we could help right where we were, with the ages that would fit right in with our family.
The process to become an open foster care home was started and it was extremely lengthy. We had to start all over, from square one, none of the papers or state forms transferring from our previous agency. During the training God had his hand on us. We had two counselors for trainers, one of whom encouraged me through text when I needed it most. It wasn't all rosy. People always approach me with words like "wonderful, so exciting!" about our journey and while in the big picture it is, there have been moments where people have dumped discouragement on us about our marriage, our family, and our choices. During one of the lowest moments where I was seriously wondering if we'd made the right choice, our counselor trainer reminded me to keep my eyes on Jesus ONLY when walking on the water, and I'd be more than okay. If I looked around at the waves and the people creeping in with their doubts and discouragement, I'd drown. But if my eyes stayed steady on Jesus, the fire would burn, and we would be triumphant. I believe the words "More than conquerors" came to mind.
We've now completed all training, every bit of paperwork checked and marked and signed and filled in. We have been waiting two months for a BIG call to schedule our home study, the last step needed before we become an open home. We received the call last Friday (!!!!!) and will have our home study done tomorrow. Then we wait some more and hopefully within a couple of months we'll be an open home for foster care!
I hope the twinge of sadness in this post doesn't make you wonder why we're doing this or make you doubt our excitement. We are truly, truly excited! I've decorated the extra bedroom, the diapers are stocked, the chunky puzzles hidden away in a drawer just begging for someone to play with.
It's just that sometimes it feels almost wrong to use the word "exciting" because my excitement comes at the cost of another parent and child. I still dream daily of adoption, but I know in order for that to happen through this process, someone else will experience great loss. It's such a bittersweet concept to try to process.
So back to the church service where we were all urged to do something about the foster care crisis. Do I still believe we should? My answer has drastically changed, because now I think the answer is yes. There are literally hundreds of kiddos in the U.S. needing the basic, "boring" things we provide our families and kids every single day. Things like a safe home, love, a plate of food, a warm bed, and Jesus. To us, these might seem mundane, just look at the number of books written for christian moms on these topics. But these everyday things we do are actually our greatest weapon in the fight against evil.
Can you imagine the healing that can take place over a bowl of soup, a warm bottle, a clean change of clothes? Jesus says that whatever we do unto the least of these, we do unto him. We can be Jesus to these precious lives wandering the night, looking for a bit of light and a place to call home.
The thing is this. In my past life I worried so much about my weight, my art dreams, my weight, my perfectly decorated house, my BIG dreams to grow in popularity on the blog, that I had no room in the inn for the needs of others. I wasn't wrong necessarily, I just wasn't ready. When I read the verses that God had bigger things ahead for me than I could think or imagine I was picturing magazine layouts, a book deal, and craft retreats booked months in advance. Is any of that still in my future? Maybe.
But what I'm realizing now and what I hear whispered to my heart on a daily basis, is to grow smaller, so God can grow bigger. He hasn't left my dreams of painting or writing or photography in the dust because the same God that dropped foster care into my heart is the same one that lights my soul up like electricity when I pick up a camera or paintbrush. I still dream of things like writing a book and including my own photographs, and I have new paintings coming to the shop this spring. But these are all icing on the cake now, my hands and arms elbow-deep in the smallness of following Jesus in the quiet places, the less noticeable.
We are about to enter a new phase of our lives and I haven't a clue what God is up to. We've obeyed, but we have no plan for the future other than to be ready to say "yes, God". We are standing at the edge of the cliff or mountain and tomorrow as soon as our home study is done, we jump. As Erin Hanson writes, "What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?"
Although not fearless, we choose to fly.
Our foster care fire burns.
*Please send any questions regarding our process to firstname.lastname@example.org*
*I'll follow up with a post with some practical ways YOU can help too! There are so many ways to get involved that don't actually mean taking kiddos into your own home. From supporting foster care families, volunteering at a clothing closet, taking a family a meal, the opportunities to help are endless. And there is no such thing as one kind of help equaling more than another, in my eyes. Every single tiny bit helps! I'll share later this week!