One of the facets of this blog that has been most enriching, is contacting people from all over my past and present to aid me in the focus of this site: women growing women. One such link to the past extends far behind me, to the beginning of childhood. Jo- my cousin- has been a piece of me for as long as I have memory back. Her mother and mine are sisters, so in our relationship there exists that comfortability of being somewhat the same. Jo is many things: wildly creative, articulate, energetic and hilarious. But above all, she possesses a passion and determination for life well-lived that is challenging. Jo has never sat down at the foot of a challenge and said: I cannot take take this one. God has knit together in her equal parts bravery and integrity. And it is with this spirit that she and her husband embarked on a foster care journey 3 years ago. The outcome, though without neat and tidy edges, was nevertheless marked by the goodness of God’s careful hand.
I asked Jo to kick off what I hope will become a monthly feature here – Profiles of Courage. Jo graciously agreed to write down for all of us, her experience in foster parenting – a process in which she has been emptied and filled.
I used to say I wanted to adopt someday. I envisioned a dark hand in my pale one. And maybe a few more little hands as well. A full colour pallet of little hands. It was a pretty picture that I now realize was sustained mostly by a rosy-coloured romanticism. Adoption and Christianity just seemed to go together. But whether or not adoption and I went together was another thing entirely.
I also used to say that I’d marry young and have a handful of kids. I envisioned a mob of us. Loud. Chaotic. Bursting with messy love. In this case, hope became reality at a whirlwind pace. I met my husband at 19, married him at 20 and had my first child within a year. My next four children came quickly on the heels of the first. And that loud, chaotic love wrapped itself around me like a second skin.
Somewhere along the way I began to learn about being filled and emptied. God would fill my mind and heart with His designs for me, and I would expend myself on them. The association was slow in coming, however. In my immaturity it went down more like this; I would obsess about something and then go after it with wild abandon, heedless of prayer, meditation or counsel. Slowly, I realized He was trying to lead me, and it went far better when I slowed to listen and talk to Him about it.
Simple as it seems, that was the spiritual process by which my husband and I became foster parents. We had five healthy, thriving children, the youngest of whom was three. I couldn’t carry any more children of my own, but the desire remained. Our home was safe and secure, as was our marriage. We were inundated with supports of all kinds. And we began to be all filled up with God’s design. He told us he had more for us to do. More children for us to parent and to love.
It was a series of connected messages on a theme. Our local Christian radio station began Adoption Month and my drive-time was filled with stories of fostering and adoption. Sermons seemed to refer to God’s adoption of us as sons and daughters everywhere I went. Friends of ours began the process of becoming foster parents. And finally, we visited a church where we reconnected with a family that looked a lot like ours. They had five kids of their own, but had launched into foster care a few years earlier. It was in the air. A palpable calling.
The practical unfolding was a high-speed ride that was a pleasure to be a part of. I made a first inquiry online to our local Children’s Aid Society one morning as I sat sipping coffee. That was all it took to rapidly launch us on to a 6-month path to becoming full-fledged foster parents. Everything lined up for us. We had prayed for a foster care worker who would understand our hearts. We got her. We prayed for a new vehicle that would fit a few more little passengers. Within a month a huge white van with a bumper sticker that read “I heart foster parenting” on the back was parked in our driveway. We flew through every hoop. Even the sticky ones that come up when a Christian family butts up against a secular system. The way was smooth.
Why fostering rather than adoption? I credit my husband with offering up the gem of insight that settled us on this path. He said that through adoption we would be able to help a few kids. But through fostering we’d be able to help many. Foster care comes with a special kind of pain because you can never ever mistakenly think of these kids as your own. They all have mothers and fathers waiting for their return. But, therein is found the other jewel of an opportunity in foster care; it is a ministry of love to the moms and dads who are watching and waiting. You are given a chance to love them right alongside their children.
And so, with all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed, we waited. And then on June 13th 2012 we got the call. A little girl needed a home. . .
Jo’s story will continue tomorrow. In the meantime, here is a definition of courage, as found in the dictionary:
*the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery*
Throughout Scripture, we see multiple accounts of God calling people to tasks beyond their limits. Moses, called to lead Israel out of the darkness of Egypt. Joshua asked to stand tall in the face of opposing and warring nations. Jesus Himself, our ultimate example, facing the brutality of the cross.
Courage has long been the Gospel’s call. It is not an easy call, but we were not promised easy, were we?