We Didn’t Want to be Foster Parents, But God Knew Better
Written by Melanie Singleton
Is this really my life?
I fought hard against this calling. This is not what I really wanted. I wanted a simple life.
Holding a child in my arms who is thrashing against all my efforts to love her is not what I dreamed for motherhood. Our life is continually disrupted by birth family visits, social workers, and court dates.
I signed up for this?
It’s always this way: a child slipping into an infantile state and wailing for anyone else to come hold her besides me. Anyone but me. Muffled sobs against my shoulder that she wants her brothers who live with another foster family on the other side of town. And I rock and struggle to draw her flailing form into my arms. She shrieks foreign guttural sounds.
After returning from a visit with birth family, this is what happens. But this time isn’t really so bad. Last time it was projectile vomiting.
And I rock and whisper…
“I know you are confused. I know you are angry. Mommy loves you. Will you be my baby and let me rock you?”
Over and over we do this– my chest heaving with hers, our tears mixing a salty stream between us. She battles hard. Her exhaustion eventually wins, as she relents and her body becomes still. I sway back and forth to the music of our beating hearts.
I hear it all the time: “I could never be a foster parent. I just could not let them go.”
You want to know a secret? I said the exact same thing. But what if God may be calling you to foster care?
Do you think we do this because our hearts are stone hard and we have a special gift in letting go? Or that we are not fearful? We, too, have wrestled with every fear and reason for why we should not do this. For years.
Even when we signed up for ten weeks of intensive training, we still questioned if this is what we were supposed to be doing.
Our family walked the tough road of watching my daughter’s best friend from kindergarten and her foster family. The court dates and uncertainties were difficult, as we were always wondering if she would go back home to her mom at the last minute. After three years, she went home to her mama, which is almost an hour away. Along with that came the pain of the girls rarely getting to see each other anymore.
The Lord pricked our hearts years ago to work with abused and neglected children; however, life got in the way as we had three biological children within three years. Personal circumstances in our lives kept the door sealed as well. In His absolute perfect timing, He swung the door off the hinges— a path beautifully forged by the friendship in my kindergarten daughter’s life, along with our broken past.
We decided we would start slowly by trying respite care– ministering to foster families when they needed a break. The call for our first respite placement came before our licensing was complete, the call to take a seven-year-old boy for a week— a short time span, but it rocked my world emotionally.
He was the same age as our middle son. He endlessly spoke of his losses, his words permeating every quiet space. My ears burned with stories of his past– his mama’s choices, his grief. My kids were carefree, laughing and talking about superheroes while this dear boy attempted to connect by sharing his stories of drugs, police, and guns.
My chest was a cavity of shards every night I knelt down with him. He was a bundle of blankets and tears asking, “Why?” Every single night.
My heart was filled with anguish and prayers for his mama.
My two biological boys fought like tigers all that week due to the extra testosterone in the mix pressing against their comforts, their stuff (especially the Legos).
I thought I would die. I didn’t know how to handle it.
Was this really where He was calling us?
It was no mistake this sweet boy was our first placement, a ripping away of our comforts. Yet, a bursting of our children’s comforts is not a bad thing. They are called to more, just as we are. I am repeatedly caught off-guard by how children love with pure hearts. No agenda or to-do list.
My kids aren’t perfect, just as we aren’t, but they are unencumbered by life or worries — a freedom to love without bounds that I don’t have.
Babies seemed to rain from the sky last summer. My kids spent the months of June and July bouncing fussy babies, feeding hungry ones, and bringing joy to little faces. Meanwhile, this mama breathed into a paper bag, trying to regulate my oxygen level. Because it was hard loving other people’s kids, adjusting to different schedules and stages of babies.
As my kids begged for more babies, my heart was unsure if I could manage this calling.
So, we detoured. We pursued adoption for six months while we continued to serve as a respite foster family. We thought adoption seemed safer, you know? Insane thinking, as my friends who have adopted can testify to that. Adoption bears its own heavy grief and uncertainties. The Lord shut the door on adoption for us. We ran after every country and adoption agency known to man, and He slammed that door tight.
I grieved all last summer, as the realization set in– He was cementing our feet in foster care. We couldn’t run from our calling, our passion. We could not unloosen what He had sealed in our hearts.
And the phone call came in October.
Would we take the little bitty girl we loved with all our hearts? The same one that had us wrapped around her tiny brown fingers as she sobbed against my chest. She had occupied our crib more than any other respite foster child, spending countless hours in our home. Full-time foster care frightened us and kept me up at night, but we knew our answer without a doubt.
We said yes to Little Bitty, jumping in with both feet and all our doubts and fears. Holding out empty hands to the Father, knowing this was our calling. She is worth the thrashing in my arms, the grieving for her brothers, and the bursting of our comforts.
We are not extraordinary.
We are normal, fearful, questioning, struggling people doing what He has called us to do. Often we do this with anger at injustice and shaking fists, accompanied by fear and trembling. But we are still standing.
He strengthens the weak-kneed. Gives hope to the weary.
This is not the dream I had. His plans are bigger and better.
We serve an extraordinary God.
About the Author: Melanie is a daughter to the Most High King. She spent most of her life running from the True Giver of Life and is tremendously grateful daily for His rescue. She has been married to her man for nineteen years and has three biological children and one foster daughter. She is a strong advocate for orphan care and the body of Christ answering the call to care for the least of these. You can find Melanie here: blog, Facebook, twitter, google+.