Sunday, March 9, 2008

Input Needed...

Thursday night we are sharing our fostering story for a foster parents recruitment event sponsored by Covenant Kids. The anticipated attendees are church-going people ... most of the advertisement was done through local churches.

We are both going to share for about 5-7 minutes each. I'm telling our experience and Alex is going to 'rally the troops' as he puts it. We are not supposed to focus upon Prince Caspian's adoption, but rather on foster-to-adopt in general.

So, with that background, I'd like for you to read what I've compiled and offer suggestions. Is anything I'm going to say inappropriate for the audience? Go gentle on me, now!

"The seed, the idea of adoption, was planted before either of our natural-born children arrived. When we were told that we might not be able to conceive, adoption became an exciting option. Ultimately, we did conceive, twice. We were and are thrilled to be parents of two healthy biological children, ages 7 & 4. As our family has grown and matured, it was as if a person or two… or even three, were missing. It wasn’t a sadness, or a reduced sense of happiness; just an odd feeling that those chairs at our table were meant for someone permanent.

In August of 2006, our hearts were convinced that we were to adopt a child through the Texas foster care system. So, we began training to be an ‘adoption only’ home. During training CK asked everyone ‘adoption only’ to pray about being a foster or foster-to-adopt home. God slowly began to show us that this was not about us … but about Him and His greater purposes. So, we agreed to be a foster-to-adopt home. A foster-to-adopt home accepts foster children who may end up being adoptable as their case progresses.

After much preparation, our home was officially licensed with CPS through Covenant Kids on Valentine’s Day 2007. What a day to start this amazing journey.

Two short days later we received our first placement, an infant girl who had been abandoned in Dallas. We loved her instantly. From the very second I saw her face, all of the doubt about my ability to love another child vanished. We nicknamed her and she quickly became a part of our everyday life …

The chances of her staying with our family were very, very high when no one came forward to claim her after 30 days, then 60 days… But God had other plans for her life and for ours. The surprise call came out of the blue…. Our precious baby girl had brothers. Two completely opposite responses surfaced almost immediately... First response - Praise God! Two brothers! Second response - No, it simply cannot be! We had it all planned out, we'd already decided on her name, her bedroom, her first car, where she would go to college... OK, so not quite that far. But we LOVED her. We drifted back and forth between these two responses until we finally just began to accept. We take the gift for what it had been, pure joy!

We had the unbelievable blessing of watching a child unfold; of witnessing the transformation of a little one reaching out to a family who desperately loved her. How could we even ask for more?

Was this our 'plan', our ideal situation? Absolutely not. But did we finally rest in peace after wrestling with God? Absolutely.

We began asking some big questions about our faith … What exactly is God asking us to do when we love another? Are we to love only when we receive love in return? Are we to 'guard our hearts' and only love in pieces? Or are we to love with our complete selves expecting absolutely nothing?

Often people comment to Alex or me, "Oh, I could never be a foster parent because of the hurt of letting go." The letting go hurts; yet, when we make statements such as the one above, are we really allowing God’s love to work in and through us?

This is such a difficult thing. I do not claim to understand the depth of God's love for humanity; nor do I claim to understand the love we are to show to a hurting world. I do know this - such a love, one that exists beyond all self-motivation, is supernatural. It is of God. It is impossible for us, as believers, to 'create' on their own.

So, the question we had to ask … can we allow God to lovingly work through us, trusting that He will ease the grief of letting go? In other words, do we really trust God with our hearts?

We did not jump back in immediately. We decided to provide respite care for other foster families… Respite is short-term care for foster children when other foster parents need a break of some sort. During our 2 respite placements, God showed us that we could feel the same intensity, the same depth of love for other children. We found out that our calling to be foster-to-adopt parents was really from God; the love we felt was His love toward these children.

Our next placement was a baby boy, Little Boy Blue. Even as they were bringing him through the door, I thought to myself, "what if I cannot do this again?" But there he was. The choice was already made. He was to be loved by me, at least for now.

With Little Boy Blue's case, we had an even more difficult proposition to consider - loving the 'someone else' who caused this child to be considered neglected, abandoned, abused and unloved. I do remember the very first night we had baby girl … my sweet husband was up all night worrying that there was a Mommy somewhere searching for her baby. You see, although she was abandoned in a very ugly place, my husband still believed in a mother's love...

So, how do you love someone who does this to a helpless, innocent, child? Just like we love any other person... Only with the miraculous, life-changing Spirit of God can we view people through His eyes and not our own.

For a time, Little Boy Blue had weekly visits with his Mom and extended family. I was not doing well in the area of loving his Mom.... I began to pray for God to peel back the layers of my own prejudice and judgment and allow me to see his Mom for who she was. And, God was faithful to do just that.

Every week for his visit, I would send pictures and a note written from Little Boy Blue to his Mommy. And, then one week, I received a note in return. Funny, when you put a face on someone and you read words of gratitude, it is very difficult not to sympathize and even 'like' that person. Brutal honesty, I did not want to like her. But I found that I sort of did... you see, she and I are connected by this precious baby. She gave this child life!

Even then, I did not desire to meet her in person. Never did I fathom that I could look her in the eyes and see a woman more like me than I ever imagined or wanted to admit. In fact, I remember saying to God that I could never actually do it, meet her I mean. And then, the letter came. CPS wanted us to meet with the caseworkers and his Mommy to discuss permanency plans. Unbelievable! The very one thing I did not think I could handle had come to pass.

Honestly, it turned out to be a surprise blessing. I cannot clearly explain in words what it did for me to see her in person. I do know this... she went from being this negative image in my mind to being a living, breathing person, in the flesh. I saw our similarities. She and I are both fallen human beings who have made poor choices and are in need of a Savior. It really became that simple. In her, I saw a Mommy's love shining through, I saw a heart and mind capable of so many things.

After that meeting, our prayers changed. We believed and still believe, without a doubt, that Little Boy Blue's Mommy can change and we believe in the One who can speak to her heart. We began to pray that she would see Him everywhere she turned and, believe it or not, as a family, we were actually praying that she would have a chance at getting him back.

That was not God’s plan. After a series of serious missteps, she relinquished her parental rights to Little Boy Blue just over a month ago, almost 9 months since he arrived at our house. While it is not certain that we will be able to adopt him, it is looking really, really positive.

But, the story does not end there. Shortly after Little Boy blue arrived, we were selected as the adoptive family for another little boy, our Prince Caspian. His parental rights had been terminated before we ever met him. When he came to live with us, we knew he was going to be a part of our forever family. His adoption will be finalized next Monday, on St. Patrick’s Day.

There is no doubt that we, as believers, are to care for those who are unable to care for themselves. For our family, that means physically doing the caring. For other families, it may mean something altogether different. That is what I love about God... we all have a different task and we are perfectly equipped to complete the task that He asks of us.

It all boils down to faith. Do I trust that the God of the universe cares for our family? Do I really believe that He knows these children and will care for them? Do I really believe He loves me and knows what my heart can handle? Do I really believe that He will work all things together for His good? I do.

God has promised to be a Father to the fatherless; and He allows us to participate in this exciting task. Incredible.

This is my lesson... If God had pulled back the curtain and shown me what 2007 was going to look like, I would have said 'No thank you, this heart can't handle that. You'll have to pick someone else.' And I would have missed it all!"


Steve Sensenig said...

Personally, I think this is great. I would not change a thing. You have shared honestly about the difficulties, the joys, the love, the pain, the challenges, and the blessings of this call that many of us are answering to show love to a child for however long they are with us. (Not that we ever will stop loving the ones that we don't adopt, but you know what I mean.)

I pray that it will inspire many other families to consider this calling, if they haven't already.

I can't tell you how glad Christy and I are to have "met" you on this journey. I hope we can sit down together as families sometime this side of eternity and fellowship together face to face.

steve :)

Christy said...

I agree with Steve...great job at putting your thoughts together. It gives a very vivid picture of all you have experienced.

And congratulations on the upcoming adoption...I know that it must be an awesome feeling! I know we will be rejoicing when Hope Giver's is final...

bless you, dear friend :)

Wendy said...

Your words always hit the mark. They are so deep and spiritual. And, your last paragraph is so true! If we knew what God had for us, would we be obedient to what HE called us to do?

It really hits home for me especially this week. I think I may have made lots of excuses to God that I couldn't do this task if I knew what the adventure would really be. CPS transporter came to pick up the boys' things today. They had 6 garbage bags, bikes, and at least 3 boxes of items. After what Bill said yesterday, I decided I would put myself out there. I told her if the aunt had questions, she could call me. (The parents did not want this placement and they don't like the aunt or communicate with her.)

Have a great week.

H said...

I wouldn't change a thing. I was especially attached to the term "forever family". If this testimony fails to move a listener's heart then they just are not called... or are not ready to hear it yet. Well done!

gracie :) said...

This brings back precious memories of our "digital" correspondence over these last several months. How privileged I am to walk this journey along with you. You inspire me. The faith and courage God has given you to take the next step, and the step after that, and the one after that, helps me to know that He will do the same for me. Thank you for allowing God to use you in such a way to bless these precious children as well as the friends who watch your lives. You have expressed yourself well. Only wish I could be there to hear it!

Kerri said...

Your words are great!!!! I think God could really use you and Alex, and the honesty of your experiences to open the hearts of others to the ministry of fostering.

I was praying for you tonight and hope your presentation went well. I look forward to hearing about it!

love ya,

SeƱora Smith said...


We were so sad to miss (we had family in town) - but I am so happy to have been able to read this! You said it all perfectly. Btw, our classes start next Tuesday...! I'll keep you posted.