I always thought that foster care and adoption were things that only really saintly people did. You know the people I’m talking about – the really “together” and “with it” ones.
But all that changed when two of my best friends began fostering. These were women just like me, with husbands just like mine. Their families and the problems they faced were similar, and in some instances even more complicated. Now I love these women dearly but I don’t think any of us were under the impression we were even remotely close to qualifying as saintly.
I figured the best way to support my friends was to learn everything I could about what they’d be experiencing. I started with the logistical stuff – court hearings, bureaucratic red tape, parental visitations – everything down to the 2 fire extinguishers required for licensing.
And while I read up on the emotional aspects of fostering, I wasn’t prepared for what I’d experienced when one of my friends brought home their first placement.
My friend and her husband had received several calls for placements after their license was set to go, but none of them had panned out. But then they got “the call.” A baby had just been born and would need to be picked up from the hospital immediately. They rushed to the hospital. They were quickly, almost secretly, ushered in and out of the facility.
Within just a few short hours, they were home – but not home in the way most people bring a newborn home. No flowers or balloons. No cards. No meal train.
I was overcome with grief for this sweet child, at the thought of an otherwise uneventful homecoming. Sure, the child wasn’t aware. But I was. And I needed to do something about it.
So I called my friend and told her we were bringing dinner for their family that night. On the way, we also picked up a cake and some sunflowers. We tucked a small “Welcome Baby” balloon inside the bouquet and we arrived with a mobile birth day celebration for this precious little one.
I walked away that night realizing that while those who foster take on the responsibility of parenting a child from a day to day perspective, everyone has a role they can play to bring the child up in a community of hope.
With all the emotional and logistical hoops that come along with fostering, I started to learn that small gestures mean a lot. Babysitting the child(ren) to give the parents some time to recharge. Running errands to shoulder some of the load. Texting or making a phone call to offer a listening ear and an open heart.
And you know what, I started to fall in love with these kids. Kids who by no fault of their own would bear the brokenness of others on their innocent hearts.
No wonder Jesus holds such high regard for orphans.
After several months (and lots of heartache), I asked both of my friends about what fostering was teaching them. Rather profoundly, one friend said, “It’s a broken system with broken people that are trying to heal brokenness in families. But it’s something only Jesus can do. I have grace for everyone we interact with because they may or may not realize that themselves.”
The courage of our friends impacted my husband and I in ways we had never imagined. Firstly, we realized that caring for children in need is not just for the “saintly.” But most importantly, watching our friends so generously dole out God’s grace in a broken world made us realize how limited we had been in accessing that grace in our own lives and our own undertakings.
And so this not-so-saintly, somewhat “together,” occasionally “with it” couple decided to embark on an adoption journey of our own. The ups and downs we’ve experienced in the process cannot take the place of the joy we’ve found through living life on the edge, fully exposed yet fully covered in God’s perfect grace.