This morning I sat in the car after my monthly three-hour, 3 a.m. Walmart trip, at Chick-Fil-A to fill my Coca-Cola fix, and I listened to caller after caller phone in to share memories of their mothers on Focus on the Family radio, and I realized I was crying. Perhaps it was the exhaustion of the week, or perhaps it was the aching I felt knowing that some of my children could not, and may never be able to phone in and share memories. Perhaps it was that I remembered I'll be tucking in three children tonight who will wake to tell me happy Mother's Day, but their souls will be dreaming of another.
I'm aware there are numerous stereotypes of foster children, foster families, birthfamilies, and the whole sha-bang. Trust me; I've gotten the emails. But, I suppose I have been surprised by two things: 1. Our older foster children's willingness to own themselves as "foster kids," and the complete ignorance of the general public in regards to their situation.
About a month ago I took the whole kaboodle to have our hairs cut. So, as I wrestled the three screaming littles and attempted to bribe them from kicking the kind hair cut lady in the gut, I asked Big Sis R to watch Baby J. We were making a scene, and a conversation something like this emerged according to R.
The lady next to her said, "My, your Momma has her hands full."
"Yes, always." I can almost imagine R rolling her eyes at this.
"Are all those children in your family?"
"I'm a foster kid." Bis Sis R has always been incredibly open about this.
"Well, has your foster mom not adopted you?" (Lady better be glad I was across the room.)
"I don't need to be adopted. I have a great mom who just needs to get back on her feet."
"Well, obviously, honey, your real mom has gotten into some trouble."
Enter me, as Bis Sis R runs out the door screaming, "You aren't allowed to talk about my Momma."
We had a precious little guy for respite last week. (Respite is when you provide short term care for other foster families so they are able to catch their breath.)
Obviously, we are noticeable at the baseball park with six kids under the age of 10. So, a well-meaning father approached Little Guy and asked where his mother was.
"My Mom ain't here. I'm a foster kid."
"Who do you live with?"
"Well, I live with other people right now, but Jamie and Catie let me play this weekend."
"Do you like living with them?"
"It's ok, but I really just want my Momma back."
Last and Final Take:
A little over a year ago, our Chinese 13-year-old daughter at the time hollered my name and said she had to show me something right away.
As I walked in her room, she lifted up her shirt, and pointed to a mark, asking what it was.
"Honey, don't you know? That's a birthmark."
"What's a birthmark?"
"Well, when God brought you out of your real mom's belly, her body left a mark on you when you came out."
Her eyes opened wide, and she said, "You mean this is a piece of my real mom?"
"Yes, sweetheart, it is."
"Maybe God let her make the mark so that I would never forget her."
- Be still my soul -
Some of you have messaged, commented or remarked to me of birthmother terminology, the brokenness of the foster care system, or even the pros/cons of adoption itself. Sometimes I become defensive and attempted to justify, but the truth is, my only adoption is spiritual. And I have not been a birthmother in a crisis situation.
But I have been somewhere some of you have not...
I've stroked her back as she cried that she just wanted to see her Momma before she went to bed.
I've stood there while she screamed at me, "I hate you because your not my Momma."
I've listened when she's asked to call me Mommy because she says she just wants a mommy so bad in her house with her.
I've watched in discouragement as Mommas' lives are paraded before family court, outlining their shames, their addictions, their every little flaw...their blankets of unbelief in something they have not even heard...or been told of.
And I've run home to nurse my own unbelief in the shadows, in the dark corners, where I know no one can see.
I know all the views and perspectives of the broken foster care system. I know of those who wish to speed up termination, and I'm aware of the great injustice.
But you see, when Jamie and I became foster parents, we bought it lock, stock and barrel. We became missionaries. We became broken, messy, damaged vessels with HIS vision of "repairing the ancient ruins, raising up the age-old foundations, being called Repairer of Broken Walls, and Restorer of Street with dwellings." (Isaiah 58:12)
The children aren't the ancient ruins, or the foundations, or the broken walls or the dwelling. The birthfamilies are, and so we show up for His love to restore, and so we open our mouths for His truth to repair, and so we lay out our hands and feet for His strength to rebuild.
He doesn't need us, but I'm so honored He's using us, teaching us, breaking us.
Through our children's Mommas and Daddies, I've seen the depth of my darkness. I felt the suffocation of jealousy. I've been Jonah in the belly of the whale, and then one day, the tables suddenly and unknowingly turn, and it's me who they are loving, and it's me who they are teaching, and it's me who they are inviting to be part of their lives.
And I realize I'm the one being repaired, restored, rebuilt.