This post is a hard one for me and it's one I have contemplated sharing for a long time. It's not even one I necessarily desire to write. However, when you have long conversations (tears involved and even feelings of guilt) with several different foster moms separately who deal with these same emotions, I know we are not the only ones. So I feel that even while this is hard for me to write about and even talk about, I need to, for the sake of other foster parents who also have felt or are feeling isolated and confused.
Before I go any further, I want to state that everything you feel is NOT a fact. Relying on your feelings and emotions can often lead you astray. However, sometimes God uses our emotions as well! Only God can reveal your heart and direct you in making tough decisions. My prayer is that, ultimately, we will all lean into Him and allow Him (and only Him) to help us in what we should do.
This blog post is written to those foster parents who have had biological children before making the decision to bring foster children into their home. And while I know that I am not alone in these feelings and emotions, I also do not assume this is the way anyone else feels. All of our experiences are different and I recognize that! I am speaking from my own experiences.
There are days where I sit back and look at my son (my biological son), who is going to be 9 years old this year, and I am just in awe. I look at his eyes and am reminded immediately of his Dad. I look at certain features and expressions that he makes and am reminded of myself. I look at his love of sports and see where that comes from (his Dad's love for sports). I look at his hands and feet and cannot believe how quickly time has passed and I'm reminded of his 4 pound body almost 9 years ago. I look at him and can remember so clearly his legs pushing against the inside of my stomach, his elbows pressing against my side and his head pushing on my bladder! I am constantly reminded that I am his Mother simply because of the way he embraces me and wants to be comforted by me. But also for the love we have for each other. I desire to rub his back when he asks me to, to serve him, to embrace him all throughout the day. I look at him sometimes and I cannot believe that God chose me to be his Mom. I am so grateful.
Foster care is hard. You hear it a lot but there are certain parts of foster care that nobody talks about. I believe it's out of fear or shame or worry about what others will think or say. Possibly even worry about what that specific child will think if they read these words one day and those are feelings I am fighting through right now as I attempt to get these words out.
I have had and have children in my home right now that have dealt with so much hurt. They have dealt with more hurt than any child ever should. These children always need the attributes of love, but that doesn't mean you will always feel the emotion that most people associate with love, and that doesn't mean these children will either. We don't always accept what we need.
I look at my oldest foster daughter (whom I love) and I see a brown haired, blue eyed, sassy pants who will tell anyone very quickly that she is a foster child. She asks monthly to call her mother and she remembers her time living with her mom. She calls me mommy and knows I am the one who cares for her but she has another mom in the world and she will never let anyone forget that (and she shouldn't). So, our relationship has been a growing one, not an instant one. She came into our home the very 1st day and called us mommy and daddy because that is what she heard the other children in our home call us. She didn't call us mommy and daddy because she understood what that meant. She didn't know that being called Mom was an honor to me, a blessing, a gift. She didn't understand what love meant and so she didn't know how to show it. And I, also, didn't know how to make her feel loved because my emotions were not the same as the emotions I felt for my biological son. However, God doesn't call us to love others simply because it's easy to do so.
It reminds me of Matthew 5:46-48 which says, "And if you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?"
There have been many times where I chose to embrace Ali only to have her resist me or push away from me. Even after 2 years of her being in our home, there is still a resistance when she hugs me. This used to really bother me! However, I have learned over time that it takes time for wounds to heal! I use to think every child knew how to hug properly. Now I understand that many children don't know how to properly hug or embrace their own family members. I have learned that things will rarely happen in my own time. God uses hard times to not only grow me, but also these children. And that just because the "bond" is not there for a child doesn't mean that that child is not meant to be in your home now, or even forever.
Over the years, we have had many people tell us that when you have a child that is meant to be yours forever enter your home, you will "just know"! I pray we can be very careful with taking this advice because this advice (while given with good intention), can be similar to people telling you to "follow your heart" when that doesn't always align with God's will. Please don't misunderstand me, this advice has actually been given by Godly people. And there are times when it is in the best interest of the child and foster parent for a child to be moved. However, to simply believe that you will "feel" a connection early on with a child, a "bond" with a child or that you will just "know"is simply not true. I say that with as much love and grace as I can! If this statement were true, half the kids we have had would have not stayed in our home and our home would be a revolving door for children instead of a safe and stable environment!
Here's the thing. God has a perfect plan! His perfect plan is for birth parents to be with their children. That is His design! God's designs are perfect! However, sometimes we choose our own way over God's perfect design. And when that happens, things get a little messy! It's just a fact! We all have messy lives and we ALL have ways that we have gone against God's perfect design! We all make choices that go against God's original plan! That is why Jesus died on the cross! He died to pay for those mistakes, those decisions that we made out of selfishness and pride! I am so thankful God can give beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3).
So, when I look at Ali, I wish I could look at her eyes and be reminded immediately of my husband. I wish I could look at certain features and expressions that she makes and be reminded of myself. I look at her love of art and see where that comes from (her biological mom's love for art). I wish I could look at her hands and feet and reflect on how quickly time has passed and be reminded of her newborn body 7 years ago. But, I didn't even know her 7 years ago or even 3 years ago. I wish I could remember so clearly her legs pushing against the inside of my stomach, her elbows pressing against my side and her head pushing on my bladder! I am constantly reminded that I am not her birth mother simply because of the way she embraces me and doesn't always want to be comforted by me. I don't always desire to rub her back, to serve her, to embrace her all throughout the day. I look at her sometimes and I cannot believe that God chose me to be her adoptive Mom. I am so grateful. I am grateful because through this relationship, God is truly sanctifying me! I am grateful knowing that even though relationships are not instant doesn't mean they aren't worth fighting for! It may not improve in the time frame we want it to, but we can't forget that our timing is not perfect, only God's timing is. Let him sanctify us, grow us, use us and change our hearts.
The emotion of love has been a seed that continues to grow each and every day. However, the emotion of love ebbs and flows from my own selfishness and from the situations in foster care that have been based off of sin. The soil in my own heart determines whether or not the seed of Godly love grows or the seed of bitterness grows.
God had a very specific design for parenthood and when we go away from God's original design, chaos ensues. God gave us parenthood to show us a tiny glimpse of his own love for us as His children. He designed for us to desire to give our lives for our children! And those feelings don't always come naturally for these amazing children that enter our home! That is a hard thing for me to say, but that is reality and I believe other people need to hear it so that their shame can be quieted. I believe foster parents need to hear this, this super hard reality for even me to type, to release the guilt that some may have for the way they do or do not feel about these amazing children that enter their home. And to be able to see the spiritual warfare that goes on in our hearts and also in the hearts of these kids. Their literal souls are at stake, which is far too high of a cost to rely on simply how we are feeling.
Here is the truth and possibly the most important thing you take from this blog post: We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). God laid His life down (willingly) for us when we were at our WORST! He died for the sinner hanging on the cross beside Him who deserved to be there for His sin, yet Jesus forgave Him and told Him he would see him in paradise because of the posture of his heart. Yet He also died for the one next to him on the other side who mocked him and didn't believe He was the Messiah.
He died for ALL! And He calls us to be a picture of Himself to others HERE and NOW. Whether the emotion of love is always felt within foster care, God calls us to love the orphan, the widow, the forgotten, the overlooked. He doesn't say you must do it perfectly in your own strength! Sin on this side of heaven prevents us from ever living life perfectly! But that doesn't mean we don't continue to strive for perfection and God gives us the Holy Spirit to help us and guide us! Regardless of how we feel, He still calls us to love whether we feel like loving or not!
As you take a minute to finish reading these words, I encourage you to PRAY that God would make His words more real to you than they ever have been. I encourage you to ask God to change YOUR heart, not necessarily your child's. I encourage you to ask God to remind you over and over and over again that We love BECAUSE God FIRST loved us. I pray we would realize that every single day and that in knowing and believing that, we would love from a place of gratitude for how MUCH we have been loved by the creator of the universe.
After 2+ years of fighting for a relationship with my foster daughter and not giving up on her simply because our "bond" wasn't instant, I can honestly say every moment has been worth it! We are getting ready to celebrate her adoption and I couldn't be happier about that! Foster care is hard, even when it's beautiful. Adoption is hard, even when it's beautiful. Only foster parents/adoptive parents can fully understand that. If you are in the season of hard growth right now or in a season where that "bond" is not present, I would say....
Hold tight. Press on. Stand firm (1 Corinthians 16:13).
You may be in a planting season right now but the harvest is coming (2 Corinthians 9:6)! Keep running the race set before you!
1 Corinthians 3:6
Names have been changed in this blog to protect the child as well as the child's foster care journey.