My whole life, I have had a passion and a heart for those who come from a not-so-perfect family and home life. I have always been attracted to those who are hurting or who need help in some way or another and I have always done whatever I could to help out. I know what it's like to not want to be at home and to feel like your world is falling apart as a child, and my heart breaks for people in that situation. Somehow God has always brought people who are or who have hurt in that way into my life. I don't ever know when I first meet these people, but I am instantly pulled towards them.
I would seek out the new person in school and be their friend, only to later find out that her dad beat her and she needed someone with the courage to stand up and let someone know. I went with her to the police liason at our high school while she filed a police report. I would feel drawn to the quiet person in the back of the classroom, only to find out later that their boyfriend made them have an abortion and it was the biggest regret of her life. Anyone who was hurting in any way immediately got my attention and I did what I could to help, even if it was just be there and listen.
Jack came from a completely different household and home life than I did, and because of this he had never experienced these situations first hand. He also was blessed to live in a community where the people he knew and was friends with never had to go through most of these types of heartaches.
When we first began to struggle with infertility and with medical problems concerning infertility during the first year we were trying to get pregnant, I asked Jack at what point would we consider adoption. He said after we had been trying two years. In a few weeks, we will lament over our third anniversary of trying to add to our family. I had felt a small tug towards foster care from early on, but never wanted to give in to that feeling. I was like Jack, we wanted to conceive children. We wanted our son to have my eyes and Jack's nose. We wanted to be able to look at little people that were half of me and half of him. What we wanted was only natural. We were made to reproduce, right?
After months of fertility treatments and over $10,000 out of pocket expenses for tests and treatments and diagnostics, I was at my end. I began to pray more for answers of what do we do next. That is when Jack and I finally went and checked out the adoption seminar. The idea of going to that seminar was what motivated and inspired me to start this blog to share with the world that experience. And that experience of God opening our hearts to adoption.
It turned out that neither of us in any way felt any sort of pull towards infant adoption. We weren't ready. We left the seminar and I cried most of the way home. I was overwhelmed and unsure and surrounded by families who had to be hurting and confused in the same manner that we were, and they just wanted to be parents, like us.
Not very long after that, while listening to my normal Christian Radio station that I listen to all day, every day, God began to speak to my heart... through Bethany Christian Services' radio ads about Foster Parenting. The advertisement talked about how these children just need a safe and loving home environment to go to after they are ripped from their home. These kids are abused and neglected and mistreated and hurting more than most can even imagine. Bethany just asked if anyone out there had room in their hearts or in their home to give these children a refuge for a little while, then to give them a call.
I knew after our seminar with Bethany on domestic infant adoption that Jack would not be open to it. I talked to him about it a little bit and he had no understanding for the kind of suffering that can happen to a child when they are abused or neglected at home. When their parents who are given the gift of a child squander it and allow their lives to be run by addictions or anything else that leaves them neglectful or abusive to their children. These children desperately need someone just to love them for them, someone who will feed them dinner at night so they don't go to bed hungry, someone to push them on the swing at the park, or show up to their school play and just support them. I knew that someone could be us!
I told a few close friends about how I felt like God was really calling me to do this and that I knew that Jack wasn't there. I knew that Jack's heart wasn't in it and there was no way it could happen if it wasn't that way. My dear friend encouraged me to pray for Jack and for God to soften his heart. And I spent months praying. Of course my prayers weren't the most loving at times, in my desperate hours of wanting so deeply to become a parent.
Then one day, as clear as day, I was walking upstairs and putting laundry away and praying for Jack. God, please help me change Jack's heart. And immediately, I heard that small voice answer, That's my job. I will do it. Right then, I felt this huge weight lift off my shoulder. I changed the way I was praying for Jack and for his heart to be opened, I began to pray for God to reveal the need of these children and the very real pain that they were going through to Jack. I prayed for God to open Jack's eyes to suffering that he had never seen before and for God to show Jack that there was something that we could do to help.
At church a few weeks ago, there was a small boy sitting all alone in the front row of the church. We were sitting the next aisle over, in the second row back so we could see his face very clearly. During the worship time, while the band played and the worship leaders sang, this little boy sat in the front row singing his little heart out. He couldn't have been more than 10, but he sang with his arms held high and his eyes closed. Just worshipping and loving every minute of it. I elbowed Jack and nodded towards the boy.
After we got out of church, I asked Jack what he thought of the little boy. I told him that I saw that little boy as a possible foster child. That we might be the only chance these children ever get to go to church or be involved in any way in a community. We might be the only way that they will ever hear the Gospel and hear that no matter what, Jesus loves them and God sent Jesus to die for them so that they may have eternal life in Heaven with Him. Jack said that he felt the exact same way.
We began to talk more and more about the practicality of Foster Parenting. Still not having done any research on Michigan regulations or talking with a social worker, we talked about what little we did understand of it. That these children would just need a temporary home. That we would be serving God by opening our hearts and our home to them. We talked about fears of parenting and concluded that there was NO way we would do more harm to them than the situations that they came from. There was no way that our home wouldn't be a positive in their life that was so full of negatives.
More and more that we talked about it, I finally started to look up some rules and regulations for Foster Parenting in Michigan. I was surprised to see how open they were to Foster Parents. You can be single or married, owing your home or renting, you may even live in an apartment. You can work full time, or stay at home. They just need good, moral, law abiding and loving families to take these children in who literally have no place else to go, and they can't go home.
Jack said to me, "So... what happens if this kid comes to live with us and we fall head over heels in love with him, and then we have to give him back to his parents?" I said, "Jack, that IS what's going to happen." We WILL fall head over heels in love with these children. We were made to be parents and both of us have this extreme love for children. And the primary goal of foster care is to help these families while they get their lives back on track and then they can bring their kids home. To work with these families in rehabilitation to get these kids back to a safe home, and in the mean time, to keep them in a safe home where they are loved and cared for in every way.
While researching Foster Care, we discovered room size regulations and last night we measured our other bedrooms. Both bedrooms, by their standards and regulations, can hold up to 3 children each! We could technically have 6 children in our home!
We discussed how we would like to be able to be more financially stable and secure before doing this so that I would be able to stay home with the kids. That was always our plan, that when we had kids, I would stay home. Most likely, what we were thinking, was that I would only work one job instead of the two that put me over 45 hours each week. The more we researched it, we discovered that they will give stipends for child care if need be, they also financially provide for clothing for each season change and birthday gifts and christmas gifts. We were shocked, we had no idea that we would have that much help and we were willing to do this before we found that out!
As we read through the rules about foster parenting, we were disgusted by the fact that some rules even had to be there. "The foster children must eat at the table with the rest of the family." Are there really families who would not allow these children to eat at the same table? The last thing these children need is to have one more group of people making them feel like they're not worth anything! Or, "The foster child's bedroom must be free of major appliances." So these children were put in bedrooms that were actually the laundry room or something like that. Or the furnace room! What on earth? How is this even happening? These kids are so broken hearted already and then they get put into a foster home where these foster "parents" treat them like slaves? One more that was another should-be-not-mentioned-and-common-sense: "Children can only do age appropriate tasks or chores." Again, these poor children are basically treated like slaves and being made to do things that are far above what they should ever be expected to do. It's terrifying to think about these poor children being removed from abusive environments, supposed to be protected, yet placed into another abusive environment.
We wouldn't do any of those things. We would never abuse these poor children in any way.
We watched a video on Bethany's website about Fostering and this woman was talking about how they almost immediately in their marriage started fostering children and they were 25, 26 years old, fostering children who were 17 and 18. She was laughing at all the strange looks that they would get. And she also said, she felt like God said to her, "If not you, then who? And if not now, then when?" That really resonated with me, and it speaks volumes in my heart. It is like God is saying to me, "what are you waiting for??"
While there is still a constant ache in our heart, especially with our third anniversary of trying to conceive approaching, I feel this amazing joy and hope for what's to come. I feel like when we paint our upstairs bedroom for it to be the kids' room, it really will have a child residing in there. Whether God gives us this child for a week, or a month, or 15 years, we will be so grateful for every minute that we get to be parents. Maybe God will still allow us to conceive, maybe not. But we aren't going to stand in our own way. We aren't going to stop ourselves and make excuses about why we can't or won't foster parent, when we are more than capable and called to do it!
The Bible says in James 1:27, "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."
My job at the nursing home really blesses me in so many ways that I never thought possible. It is such an honor to be able to help these women who are widows, all at the end of their lives on this Earth and to see how big of an impact just a little kindness and compassion has on them is just overwhelming. By doing so little, I can change their lives so much.
Now I can also see that by doing so very little, Jack and I can change and have the opportunity to better these children's lives, even if just for a small amount of time. Nothing that God does is by accident, and, if it truly is God's will for us to be Foster Parents, each and every child He brings into our home will be by divine appointment. Each of these children will have certain needs that we will be given the opportunity to meet in their lives, and at the same time, each one of these children will be there to meet needs in our lives.