He Chose Love

My husband and I are celebrating our anniversary this weekend, and I am so thankful for him. We have been married for eleven years. As an adolescent and young adult, I once believed that marriage is something I would never get to have due to my barrenness. I am very lucky to have found someone who has accepted everything about me; the good, the bad, and the infertility.

I do not know what it would be like to be married to someone who is infertile. My husband does though. He knew before we were married that if he decided to take this ride of life with me then he would never have biological children. He has assured me that it did not matter to him when we were first got engaged and it does not matter to him now.

He has had to learn by nature of experience and witness that infertility is not just about babies, or actually NOT having babies. It is an emotional and spiritual challenge as well. He has spent an equal amount of time assuring me that I am just as much female than I have spent doubting myself or comparing myself to others. He has also been silent about the topic when I needed him to be.

He never wanted to fix my situation. He and I know he could not do that anyway. Instead, he wanted to understand it and allow whatever was meant to happen in our lives to happen. My husband has seen my grief. He has heard my cries and watched as I have wiped away tears. Still yet, he never once made me feel as though he has regretted our marriage, or the fact that he would never have a biological child.

Instead, he has embraced my barrenness while holding on to me. Trust me; there has been a lot of baggage left over from the years of strife. Even now as adoptive parents, we know we face issues that our friends who have biological children do not deal with. Yet again, there he is just going along with the flow. He chose this.

I have typically thought that infertility, foster care, and adoption were written for MY life. However, my life experiences have helped shape my husband’s journey. God wrote this for his life just as much as He did for mine. I have often said that when I lay sickly in the hospital as a child God knew the plans He had for me. The whole truth though is that the Lord also knew the plans He had for my husband.

This story is not just mine. It is his as well. Fatherhood is special to him and I am thankful that adoption has given him the chance to be a daddy. My husband’s Heavenly Father has greatly enriched his life, filled in the gaps, and placed him exactly where he needs to be in order to be the best dad he can. He has also blessed my husband with a genuine sense of empathy and compassion for others.

My husband was a fantastic foster dad. He attended meetings when he could, went to court hearings, supported case workers, and loved on the children. He got up in the middle of the night to feed them when they were newborns. He changed diapers, prepared bottles, and played with them before tucking them in at night.

I know fostering was hard on him as it was on me, but I also believe that his desire to be a dad was strong enough to keep him going through all of the ups and downs that fostering brings. There were many times when he would tear up at the thought of losing the children – although, we both knew going into it that the goal was reunification. He approached it all with an open heart and mind.

My husband was so compassionate to my son’s birth mother. He embraced her. He engaged her in supportive conversations, and never once made her feel less than human. This, of course, is one the many things that I found to be so wonderful about him. My son’s birth mother told me one time that she was so glad he was an involved dad because she wanted her son to have a daddy who would do things with him.  It was just awesome to witness him ministering in his own way to her. It reminded me over and over how truly blessed I am, and how blessed our children are.

When my husband chose to ask for my hand in marriage, he knowingly walked into it with the realization that our lives would be different from most people that we know. He truly did not know if he would ever be a dad.  He chose love over infertility, and I am so grateful that he did.  I am also grateful for the Lord choosing my husband for me.

Fostering Hope

Ever wonder what it is like to be without hope?  I don’t mean those momentary spaces in our timelines where we are feeling a little confused about what our next steps are supposed to be.  I mean truly without a sense of hope for the future.  I have talked with far too many young people in foster care who have no hope of a future, family, or anything better for that matter.

This week marked a movement in America called the National Prayer Vigil for Foster Children week.  It is part of recognizing May as the National Foster Care month.  Many churches, citizens, and agencies are spending time focusing on and lifting up children who have been caught up in the system.  These children and youth are victims of their circumstances.  They did not choose the system.  They were forced into it.  Many kiddos across America have been reunified with their parents or family members.  There are also many who have been or are in the process of being adopted.  Still yet, there are thousands who wind up with no family to call their own.

We see the signs everywhere; child abuse cases that shock the most seasoned professionals, newspaper articles displaying the staggering statistics of children in foster care, television reports aiming to try and capture the need for foster families. However do we really stop to think what that means and how it impacts our communities, our state, and our nation? What if there were more homes for children and older youth in this country than there were children actually needing foster care services? What an amazing testimony to the rest of the world that would be! Yet that is not the case. In our blessed land of freedom and opportunity, nearly 130,000 children live each day without a permanent family. This statistic does not, however, represent the entirety of the numbers of children in protective services in theUnited States.

Why is it that the children who fall into the world of foster care tend to be the last thing on people’s minds? As Christians, we are ordained by God to take care of the fatherless. Not every child in care is an “orphan” per se, but nevertheless, their lives are caught up in the turmoil of the poor choices of their parents. It is not uncommon that their parents’ lives were at one time also caught up in the problems of past generations. And so the story goes on….more children aging out of the system without a family to rely on. Often, they have children who end up in the system and the cycle continues. There are generations of families who are at risk for being lost in the midst of abuse, neglect, drug problems, and homelessness.

Thankfully, that is not always the ending of every story. Reunifications with birth parents occur on a regular basis throughout the foster care system. Committed efforts by professionals and birth parents are essential in the reunification process. Foster parents are also key to a positive outcome for foster children. Foster families that are committed to the stated goals of the case, act humbly towards birth parents, mentor, encourage, and pray for the birth parents are (in my opinion) the best representation of loving Christians.

I didn’t set out in this world thinking of working in child welfare or of becoming a foster or adoptive parent.  God sort of just wrote that out for my life.  And I’m so glad He did.  Foster parenting is probably one of the toughest, underappreciated; yet, compelling experiences in life.  Being a case worker is all of these things as well.  Child welfare is a beast of its own and is extremely complex.

One time while visiting with a pre-teen boy in foster care, I asked him “what do you want to do when you grow up?”.  He replied, “I don’t know.  I’ll probably be dead or in jail by the time I’m 21.”  How sad.  This boy had already been in care for several years, parents rights had been terminated, and finding an adoptive home was extremely tough due to some of the behavioral and emotional struggles he was dealing with.  I later learned that he did end up in jail after aging out of the system at 18 years old.  The system offered little hope for him.

Foster families can do more than just house, feed, clothe, and care for kids.  They can encourage them and give them a sense of hope for the future.  Fostering and adoption (if that becomes the goal for the child) can make a generational change in the lives of children.  Not only does can it make a tremendous impact in the lives of foster children, but also potentially in the lives of their future children and families.

I never thought of myself making a generational impact while fostering until I realized that my children’s birth families had struggled with historical cycles of abuse, neglect, and substance abuse.  My heart breaks when I think about what all my children have lost because of these things. I pray my children will never struggle with these issues in their lifetimes.  I know I have done what I can to fervently make a difference in their lives, and will continue to do so.

As Christians we recognize that we too were lost in the sins of the world. We were adopted and redeemed by a loving God. He is committed to us, He encourages us through His word, we should mimic His actions towards others, His humble servitude is written about in the Bible, He hears our prayers and we are given hope that is life-sustaining. Through our adoption by Him, generations of our families have been changed. We can pass down His legacy of love to our children and our children’s children. His sacrifice made an eternal and generational change in humanity.

What if our country looked at fostering the same way? Fostering a child is not just about that one or two children you may take in. The difference foster and adoptive parents make can change the course of generations. I cannot think of a more important and immediate need in our country than Christian families to reach out to the “least of these”. It would be an incredible transformation in our nation if children in the welfare system were loved on, cared for, encouraged, and witnessed to by families.

The overhaul of the system could start with Christian families committing to take a stand for our children in need. Christ took the ultimate stand for us and because of that we can pass on His legacy. Christian families should be doing the same for foster children not because it is the right thing to do, but because we too were lost and then found by a sovereign and humble Heavenly Father. Just imagine what it could mean to the lives of thousands of children and their birth parents if families would love on them, meet their needs, show them grace, and foster hope!