Why foster again?

I’ve wrestled with this question for the past several days. Heart checks. Reality Checks. Sanity Checks. Why would I want to get back into the most stressful, heart wrenching thing I have ever done?

It’s not the money. There are other, much easier things I could do for money. My husband was off work for a time as he negotiated ADA accommodations for a new job assignment he was given. We talked about alternative income sources, but foster parenting never came up in that conversation.

Since Shane was off work, we’ve had some time to collectively exhale as a family. We’ve caught up on some projects. I’ve had time to write and reflect. Soon he’ll be back to work, and I’ll be back to manning the fort solo. This season was good. It gave us opportunities to refocus and reprioritize. It gave me space to acknowledge how much things have changed in the last two years.

I gave birth every two years that Shane and I were married, but not this time. This is about the time we would be welcoming another child into our family, except that, for health reasons, I had my tubes tied after our last. It’s the time of year that most of my babies came, our last child is three years old, and my arms are empty. While it is  nice to not have anyone in diapers, our family feels incomplete. I find myself looking for a sixth child every time we get in and out of our car.

A week ago, I thought about maybe going through the home study process again JUST to provide respite for a friend who is currently fostering.   I stood at the door of our middle bedroom, looking at an empty bunkbed. The room that most nights goes unslept in. The room that has been relegated to lego and clothes storage for one of my children. I thought : Why not? The old “why nots” quickly sprang to mind.

Do we really have the space? Fostering is exhausting. I already have 5 children. I’m not organized. We still live in an old farm house. If we have another home study, I’ll have to clean up my office. I’ll have to weed eat. Regularly. Fostering involves inviting a team of strangers into our home. Some of them may judge us. A hurting kid could make false accusations. Other (smaller, wealthier, more organized) families could give a kid a better life. We could get hurt. We’ll have to find another place for the legos and Child #3’s clothes.

Shane’s been doing devotions with the kids and discussing the work of Christ as they memorize Isaiah 61. This is the work of Christ:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me

To preach good tidings to the poor,

He has sent Me to heal the broken hearted,

To proclaim liberty to the captives,

And the opening of prison to those who are bound

To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord

And the day of vengeance of our God

To comfort all who mourn

To console those who mourn in Zion

To give them Beauty for ashes

The oil of joy for mourning

The garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness

That they may be called trees of righteousness,

The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified

And they shall rebuild the old ruins

They shall raise up the former desolations,

And they shall repair the ruined cities.

This has been the work of Christ in the heart of our eldest daughter, whom we adopted after fostering. We saw Him work in her life through years of deep grieving, through freedom, through acknowledging wrongs and learning to trust God to repay, through comfort, through joy, through resolute strength. She has now come to a point where she looks forward to her future. She wants to be an EMT, an art teacher, and a foster parent. She is the planting of the Lord and will be a repairer of ancient ruins.

I can’t fix a broken child. I can’t give back a stolen childhood. I’m doing well to make it to therapy appointments on time. I can give a kid a safe place to heal. I can offer a simple life with easy rhythms. I can love. I can forgive. I can wrestle through hard things. I can wait. And Wait. And wait. Seriously, I think the biggest part of parenting is living the Story and  responsively waiting on a heart work that we are incapable of doing. There are families out there with more to offer, but there aren’t enough. There just aren’t enough. I may have 5 kids, but they are 5 stable kids with a heart towards our ministry as a family. No excuse I can make compares with the joy of being permitted to join with Christ in the work of redemption.

So, yes, I plan to spend the next couple of weeks organizing my office and finding a home for those legos. I may even tackle a couple of closets. At least the remodeling projects have been completed. And yes, there will be times when I inwardly cringe as the dog tears up the trash 5 minutes before a worker arrives, or leaves a stinky dead animal on the porch. I’ll start praying now for the people that we work with, that they’ll be as amazing, and supportive, and kind as many of the workers we’ve encountered in the past. And yes, this will mean more stress and less time to write. It’s worth it. I am thankful for having writing as an outlet to work through things, but writing will still be there long after my parenting years are spent.

It won’t be easy. We’ve failed in the past, and will fail again. There will be kids that don’t ever heal this side of heaven. There may be years of sowing into lives with no visible fruit. It’s OK. This is the place where we, as a family, have found to enter into the work of Christ.

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