Dear (foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child (letter #8)

You sat across from me; worry and sorrow dripping from your pores. Your mind wracking with concern. Your heart aching for an answer. You said, “I was told this is how the system works. This is what I should expect.” For a brief moment, I froze in my seat; my own heart plunging into despair. Dear (foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child, the least comforting words you can hear are “This is how the system works.”

People say that to you, don’t they? They seem to just let it out without a care in the world. In the upside down that you are experiencing, there really are no care-free words. What you walk through each day is far from that.

I refuse to be someone who reminds you of how the system works. I won’t let you feel less validated or that you are in the wrong for having strong emotions. Actually, on the contrary, I welcome your feelings.

Dear (foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child, it’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay to wonder when you will have to let go or when you can finally rest in permanence. It’s completely well with me for you to be human.

If anyone knows “how the system works”, it is you. Sitting through weeks (maybe even months) of training about how to care for strangers’ children, your own childhood is being explored. Your financial statements are viewed, fingerprints logged, and friends are called upon to give a reference. You are studied over and over again – watching each and every move.

You show up at meetings and speak the truth that needs to be shared – how the stranger’s child you are loving on is doing. Court hearings, therapy sessions, and visits with anyone who is related to the child are just a part of your new normal. Case managers, licensing workers, attorneys and therapists knock at your door. You prep the child for what is to come of the day, wipe away the tears, comfort the wounds, take the wrath of trauma and whisper hope to the Heavens.

As you sit back and listen to everyone discussing a child whose future is unknown, you want so much to voice your opinion and in doing so, you tremble with fear that someone might think you are “sabotaging” this whole thing. You gain the courage to speak but with anticipation of hearing “this is how the system works”.

Dear (foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child, you deserve to be heard.

The reality is that you want so very much to see success. You are gutted at the thought of anyone living in despair. If you could, you would wrap the stranger, that has come into your life through a child, and nourish him or her with just enough healing and love to break the cycle and carry on. You desire to do this, even if it means a total loss for you.

There really is no other scenario in life where raw feelings of loss would be met with callous words. Would we say, “well, you knew it was coming”, to someone experiencing the death of a loved one? Gosh, I certainly hope not. Yet, in foster care, this is said a lot. These words do nothing to comfort. They fall flat on anguished hearts.

Dear (foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child, don’t forget that while the rest of the world might be judging you, the child you are caring for is growing and changing BECAUSE of you.

It’s okay to get attached – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Without attachment, there is emptiness. On the outside of love, there is stillness. When hope is left out, there is no future. This is how love works. It is unreasonable to expect anything less.

To love a child you may let go, is something that most people would not do. If this were easy, everyone would do it. Sure, all of this may be how the system works, but you know how resilience works, don’t you?

Stay strong, (foster) Momma. Never forget the impact you are making in this world. It has ripples. Those ripples become streams that soon turn into waves. It is more than just a “system”. It is our future.

For you, this is life. This is how you mark your place in the timestamp of history. Your love is changing generations.

Dear (foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child, don’t forget that.

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child {letter #7}

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Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

I remember the first time I felt I could exhale.  I was sitting at a table with a pitcher of water, Styrofoam cup, microphone, couple of attorneys, a social worker, juvenile officer, Judge, and my husband with the twenty-month-old little guy who had stumbled his way into our lives, and our hearts.

The moment the Judge declared him as our son, I exhaled.  I didn’t even realize I had been holding my breath through the year and a half we had been fostering him, but that incredibly beautiful moment seemed to deflate my lungs.

Here I am with two more kids and nine years removed from that pivotal moment, and I’m still thinking about that time back in 2008; the first time I understood what it truly meant to exhale.

You’re still waiting, aren’t you?  You get up each day with the same things on your mind:

“Is a decision going to be made today?”

“Will they let me know the answer soon so that I can prepare?”

“What if the Judge disagrees?”

“What will happen if this child leaves or stays or just keeps lingering along in the system?”

“Can my heart take any more?”

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

You are not alone in your thoughts.  There are others out there walking a similar path. It’s not an easy one to navigate; although, it is an important one.  Even if others seem to fluff off the gravity of life as a foster parent, you know it.  You live it.  Your life is changed by it and your love dwells within it.

One of the hardest parts of fostering is not knowing what to expect and when to expect it.  It is raw and unbearable at times, yet, it also makes you feel every ounce of what it is to be human and to completely be at the mercy of others.

In many respects, it can be a beautiful experience.  It unveils humility, love, patience, selflessness, and change.  In other ways, it is ugly.  It rips the mask off of hardship, addiction, grief, abuse, and pain.  There is truly no other experience that compares.

I’ve had this thought lately, “Is this what Jesus felt?”  In His walk on Earth, He must have been covered by the pain and the beauty of lost souls; children in need of a Savior.  Just to be clear, I am not comparing the sacrifice of Christ to being a foster parent for nothing compares to what He gave.  Yet, when I think about you, (foster) Momma, choosing to walk with the broken, I can’t help but think of Jesus.

Nothing in my life has had a greater impact on my heart and faith than the time I was a (foster) Momma to a stranger’s child.  On the one hand, I don’t want to go back there; back to not knowing, worrying, and not being able to exhale.  On the other, I would do it all over again…and again.

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

Anything you do for a child matters.  Despite your own weary soul, keep at it. Stay strong. Don’t let those whispers of doubt take root in your heart and mind.  Even in the moments when you feel like no one notices what you are doing, you know and the Lord knows.

Take a deep breath.  Don’t hold it in.  Exhale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child {letter #6}

Dear Foster Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

You drove away the other day, didn’t you? You packed up your car with a year or two worth of memories of the child you have loved on, held on for one last time, kissed goodbye, and drove away.

You just wanted to turn the car around. You wanted to grab that little one, and hold on. You needed to feel that sweet embrace one last time, but you could not. As the miles began to separate you from the child you have called your own, the tears began to flow.  You held them in.  Brave warrior.  You held them in.

Now as the silence is thickening the air around you, the tears just seem so desperate to escape. Each tear carries a memory, doesn’t it?  The first time you saw the stranger’s child, that moment when you had a “breakthrough”, the silly laughs in the morning, the transformation you started to see in the birth mother, and the sound of a Judge’s voice determining that the child needed to return to the stranger whose child you have loved – are all just a glimpse of the lifespan of fostering that little soul.

To say it isn’t fair is an understatement, right? After all, you have been there to pick up the pieces of this broken child. You have worried night after night wondering if the child could get a few hours of sleep without calling out or having bad dreams. You mended that little wounded soul when there was a setback. It was you who watered, fed, and enriched this precious child’s roots with love, stability, and maybe just a bit of hope for the future.

Dear Foster Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

You had to drive away, didn’t you? I cannot imagine. I don’t want to. You did all of this while listening to the opinions of others who just don’t get it. It’s okay to be heartbroken. It’s okay to be angry.  It really is.

However, dear Foster Momma, those pieces of your soul that you gave away to the child you said goodbye to will carry on. They will carry on in the prayers you taught him or her to say.  They will carry on in the ability you taught to cope with surroundings, and the roots that you have toiled to establish. They will live through each success the child has, and in every heart-moment to come.

It will take a while for you to heal.  After all, no one has ever said that foster parenting is easy.  It is so hard.  You have delved right into the despair of generational abuse and neglect, drug abuse, chronic poverty, and misguided souls.

In every way, you are a missionary.

Dear Foster Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

I find myself thinking of you, a lot.  I want you to know that there is nothing greater than pouring yourself into a child….even if only for a little while.  You may have had to drive away, but at least, you were there. You were present in every moment. You dried each tear.  You voiced your concerns, and praised progress. And, after all was said and done, you had to let go.  Through your faith, you have stood tall, and because of your faith, you will carry on.

Nothing will ever take away what an incredible blessing…a miracle, really…that you have been in this child’s life.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. -2 Timothy 4:7

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child {letter #4}

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

A year has gone by since the child of a stranger entered your home.  You look back on the year, and it seems like a blur.  On one hand, it feels like the slowest year of your life.  On the other, it has gone by in a flash.  So much has happened, but one thing that seems to stick out the most is this,

You are no longer loving on a stranger’s child.

The stranger that you swore you could not begin to understand is not a stranger to you anymore.  No.  She is someone you have experienced an array of feelings over.  You have gotten angry at her choices.  You have felt pity for her own life story; especially the parts you have learned about her childhood.  You have been exasperated by her failure to respond, felt fear over her sudden motivation, and then, felt incredible sadness over her life falling apart again.

The stranger that you swore you could not begin to understand is not a stranger to you anymore

You don’t want to care about her.  You don’t want to pray for her success.  Still yet, when you look in the eyes of the sweet little one that you have grown to love, you cannot help but catch a glimpse of her.  You see her in the way he gets a certain look when telling a little fib.  You see her when he smiles a certain way.

You catch moments of her when he holds his tongue a certain way while concentrating on what is being said.  You’ve seen it as well…at court hearings, in meetings, and in pictures.

The stranger that you swore you could not begin to understand is not a stranger to you anymore

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

It has been a year since your eyes first met the stranger’s child.  It has been a year since you tucked him in for the night, attended his meetings at school, watched him unwrap presents on special days, carried him while he was sick, cried with him when he was crying for his first Momma, stayed up all night to watch him just in case he needed you, and found yourself falling in love.

It has been a year since you sat quietly at that first meeting just taking it all in.  It has been a year since you heard the allegations, attended the court hearings, helped with visits, and started praying fervently for God’s will to be done.

It has not been easy.  You know that.  You have even thought to yourself, “I don’t want to pray for her life to fall apart again, but how do I pray about this love I feel for him? How can I separate my selfish love/desire to be his forever Momma while also praying for the very soul who birthed him into the world?”

You look back at the year and cannot believe how far you all have come.  The little one who entered your home is making incredible strides.  He still has his moments of complete melt-downs (which are all completely heartbreaking), but these moments seem to be further apart.  In their place, you are now witnessing the growth and gifts of a child to whom had been stifled by the chaos of neglect.

You look back on the year, and while you do not see a whole lot of progress in the stranger whose child you love, what you see instead is a human being that is and always will be near to your heart.  You see someone, once a child in need herself, who has failed time and time again, but you cannot help but yearn to see her through eyes of love.

After all, when you look in the eyes of the sweet little one that you have grown to love, you cannot help but catch a glimpse of her.

You look back at the year and you remember when you started on this journey.  A bit naive?  Perhaps.  A bit of a superhero complex?  Maybe.  A bit scared?  Absolutely.  You recall that first phone call about placement, driving to pick up the little one, nervously greeting the case worker for the first time, meeting the stranger that you did not understand, praying and crying in your pillow at night, exhaling in exhaustion after the court hearings, and welcoming case managers, attorneys, and others involved in child welfare into your home on a routine basis.

You look back at the year and you remember those special moments of discovery and healing that you and the little one have embarked on together.  You recall the joy at first successes, the sadness of first disappointments, and the day in and day out of growing a child who belongs to someone else.

And then…

The stranger that you swore you could not begin to understand is not a stranger to you anymore.

She is now someone you have come to care about.

After all, when you look in the eyes of the sweet little one that you have grown to love, you cannot help but catch a glimpse of her.

Most of all though, you are beginning to recognize the gift of life that the Lord has given you.  You are able to see His hand-prints and His footprints that have marked the path to which you have walked this last year.  You see how He has answered your prayers. Each day, you have grown more in your walk with the Lord.  You feel renewed, refreshed, and refined.

You look back at the year and you now see how the very child you love, the stranger to whom you swore you could begin to understand, and the reflection of yourself in the mirror are all part of a bigger story that is still being written.  You see your part in the story of a precious life that was crafted by our Creator in Heaven.

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

You are no longer loving on a stranger’s child.

You are loving on His child.

Psalm 139:1-18 (The Message Bible)-  I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too – your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful – I can’t take it all in! Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of your sight? If I climb to the sky, you’re there! If I go underground, you’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute – you’re already there waiting! Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you. Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God – you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration – what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day. Your thoughts – how rare, how beautiful! God, I’ll never comprehend them! I couldn’t even begin to count them – any more than I could count the sand of the sea. Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you!