Tears fill my eyes as I think back to prayers I prayed as a lonely high schooler, and the beautiful way that God answered those prayers by making Natalie and I neighbors freshman year of college. Somehow, she wasn’t scared off when I walked right up to her and gave her a hug the day we met, and I am so grateful. Natalie has been a channel of God’s grace and love in my life, and in the lives of many others. The way that she obeys the Lord and remains steadfast in adversity speaks to the deep Love she has for Jesus. Today she shares with us the joys and struggles of walking in obedience to the Lord as a foster mother, and how the Lord offers himself to us, over and over again, giving us the strength to obey him.
Wednesday, July 2. I had just returned from a trip to Atlanta, and my husband and I were wondering how to spend our free summer day when the call came. “There’s a baby. 2 weeks old. Don’t know details. Are you ready?”
We were not ready. I had painted a lovely herringbone wall and bought a crib to prove to my social worker we had a nursery a few weeks before. It was a necessary step in the home inspection. The months of planning and nesting and whatnot had not occurred. Suddenly, the flimsy little foster care license that was stuck on our fridge- the one that had just arrived from DCFS 6 days prior- that license was going to make me a mother.
Baby Jack arrived at our front door a few hours later. A few signatures were scribbled down, a diaper bag was handed over, and we found ourselves staring at a carseat in the middle of our living room. This baby was little! He was brand new! How in the world were we going to take care of him?
The actual taking care of the baby has ended up not being that big of a deal. We figured out cradle cap, nighttime feedings, and our favorite board books fairly early on. Attachment has come naturally and we are so grateful to be parents to this precious little guy.
It is the sadness the future promises, however, that is our struggle. Our family is threatened by the law and system and even the Lord’s will. It is this part of foster care that is hard. This most recent season has found me worried that I am not enough. I don’t have enough. I cannot offer enough.
Court draws near. A court date I’ve been dreading for months, as it means Jack starts his transition home. His mom climbs up my porch steps, returning him home from a visit. I do not have enough in me to handle this. To greet her kindly and ask about their time together. Her time with her son. Her time with my son. I don’t have enough, but the Lord does. He helps me share my excitement for her. She is getting so close. He pours his love through me and onto her.
A new call comes. I take a few days off work to prepare for and help M Baby settle into our family. I tell Tim I DO have enough. I can handle the first evening being a mother of two and I send him off to his small group. Then both boys fall apart and I don’t know what M Baby needs. By the time they’re in bed, I’m crawling into my own bed with a glass of wine and my Bible, a complete mess. I am not enough. I cannot care for 10 and 15 month boys at the same time. I cannot fall in love with another son. I can’t even figure out what he will eat for dinner. I don’t have enough left to give, but the Lord does. It isn’t instant, but he helps me figure this new baby out. He helps me find patience for a son I don’t understand. He helps me start to feel attached. I’m even dreaming of a life that involves M Baby’s permanency in our home. Five weeks in, and I love being a family of four.
Suddenly, we’re told M baby is leaving. He’s leaving the next day. We cry and cuddle our boys and go on with our routine. Then, I creep around their room by moon-light, packing up our boy’s things into all the empty boxes I can find. Neither of us feel like we have enough. We are tired of mourning. We’ve already been mourning Jack’s impending return for months. We are brokenhearted. How can this injustice be done our our little guy? We are at such a loss.
The Lord knows what we need, even when we don’t. He provides for us through dinner and phone calls from parents. Our sweet sister and brother-in-law gift us Sandra McCracken’s newest CD, and He provides for me through these words of truth that are on repeat. A friend reminds me this was never about me, never about my babies. It was always about obeying the Lord. That echo of obedience, obedience, obedience continues to be repeated in so many recent conversations. The Lord has shown up and he is taking care of our fragile hearts.
We don’t know what our story holds next. We could transition Jack home and I could wait for months before I get to be a mother again. We could get a call this very night and once again welcome a little one into our home. What I do know, however, is that I will never be strong enough for this.
The evening M baby arrived- the one that found me curled up with wine and the Word (that’s fine, right?)- I found sweet comfort in Jeremiah.
“Blessed is the man who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green…” Jeremiah 17:7-8
Similar comfort comes through Jason Johnson’s words:
“God didn’t call you to this because he thought you could handle it. He called you to it to show that through you, He is handling it… He is faithful and good and right there with you, even when you’re not sure you can handle any more of this.”
I will never be strong enough to cheer on a bio-mother in her success. I will never be able to say goodbye to my first son in my own strength. I will never have enough to keep doing this again and again as we long to adopt but wait for that to become reality. I trust, though, that the Lord will carry me. When the heat comes, he will be there, sustaining me. Somehow, because the Lord is my strength, I do not need to fear.
I’d want it no other way.
**Natalie is a foster mama, 4th grade teacher, and new-recipe enthusiast. She and her husband, Tim, love to travel, play Euro board games, and engage in nerdy teacher talk. Tim wants everyone to know he says “Hi.”