"For from the very beginning God decided that those who came to him- and He knew who would- should become like His Son"
I loved our little man from the first moment we saw him in the NICU as a little three pound baby born two months early, all hooked up to monitors and in an incubator. We had only received the call about him two days earlier; I remember sitting in the car with Matt on a conference call with 3 other social workers as they gave us a brief run down on his background and current condition. We were so excited driving down to see him. It was a completely different experience than giving birth to our daughter Jamison or being a surrogate for our friend Lynn, but we honestly did love him at first sight. And I went through all the motions of a loving mom; I drove down for hours through blizzards to spend time snuggling in the NICU, set up a nursery, woke up with him every 3 hours round the clock for months at a time, etc. I loved him, and certainly would have been incredibly upset if something had happened to him.
At 2 months when they did a DNA test to determine his biological dad, there was a chance that if there was a different biological father there would be new relatives that might step up to be his parents. For the first time at the thought that there was a chance I might have to hand over this baby boy I realized how much I loved him and had bonded to him.
I remember when Jamison was first born, and how when she would cry it would literally feel like my heart was being ripped from inside my chest; every other sense would completely shut down as my entire body became purposefully focused to getting my baby to stop crying. Obviously no one likes hearing a crying or sad baby, but when it’s your own baby it’s a completely biological response. I swear God has hardwired the human body to respond in order to keep the human race surviving, kind of like how in the wild animals recognize the call of their babies/moms in a crowd of other animals.
I can honestly say that up until now I hated to hear our little man cry, but it didn’t have quite the same biological effect on me. I loved him and hated to hear him cry, but I could still function. Up until now, that is.
Now we stand at 9 months old, and it’s crazy how much I am in love with this little man. Seriously I am in full out mama bear mode. He cries and it shatters every fiber in my heart. As we get closer to adoption day and TPR (termination of parental rights) has been finalized, I just want to grip on him harder and pull him closer every day. For foster parents, you are drilled into supporting reunification and loving kids as if they are your own but ready every day to hand them back and support their biological parents in hopes of reuniting and restoring a family. And while our little man’s situation was a little different, and honestly every foster case is a different unique story, Matt and I still had to go forward parenting as if he was our own but in theory ready to hand him over as well. Now that his case is heading to adoption and very soon to be officially ours, I feel sick at the thought of anyone else taking care of him, the same way I’d feel about Jamison if I had to hand her over to someone else.
The more and more I fall in love with him and bond with him, the more and more I want to hold on tighter. I want to grasp Jamison and our little man and Matt and hold them tight and never let them go. When it’s your biological kid, that instinct is good. But the crazy part that fostering has made me realize and learn over and over again is that truly, nothing in this world is ours.
“The earth is the Lords and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.”
I keep repeating this to myself over and over in my head. As tight as I hold on to these dear kiddos, they belong to God, who is the only one who knows how in the world I got lucky enough to know them in such an intimate way as a mother for a time here on earth. Our little man could have ended up with another mom, or his biological mom. Jamison was a complete surprise- how did we get lucky enough to have the privilege of being her parents? And as hard as I might cling to my kids, I have to realize that they aren’t mine. They are God’s creation, his children.
It turns out parenting isn’t that different from foster parenting after all. I need to parent and love with all my being and be ready to let go whenever God calls them home or somewhere else. And as much as I love my hubby with all my being, I know that someday either he or I won’t be here anymore either, no matter how hard I cling.
The earth is the Lords, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.
While I am surrounded by littles and their daily minute by minute needs, in another sense I am completely alone. When it’s all said and done, I am alone and completely dependent on God. He is the only one or thing that will never leave. I am attached to him and with him every minute of every day, and if I cling to him he will cling back.
At 28 years old I know I am young but sometimes I feel old. I stand here, completely alone. Walking with our little man through this year and the other kiddos who have stayed here and being immersed in their lives and issues that are never their fault or choice has worn me down. God has placed books and stories and people and kids in my life that have broken my heart. I feel so old, and know that the path forward to Jesus will break my heart a thousand times more.
“The sorrow I my heart is so great that it almost crushes me.”
Jesus said this while facing taking on the sin of the entire world. I don’t even have to be personally effected by the evil I see but I know this feeling so well. When Matt and I flipped through a physical binder of children waiting to be adopted we saw stories and backgrounds that are terrible beyond imagination, and these are children! Our own son has permanent brain damage because of things done to him, not by any choice of his or natural unavoidable mistakes or circumstances beyond control. Around the world there are children dying every single day because of hunger, or locked in rooms and forgotten because they look different or have special needs.
I can’t turn back now that my eyes are open and have seen. I can’t go forward pretending I don’t know what God’s strength is capable of and what we as Christ lovers in this world are called to do.
I was reading my bible the other night and came along this passage:
“There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don’t quit. Don’t cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors! Before you’ve run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived.”
-Matthew 10: 22-23
Reading this, I realized I don’t need to succeed. I don’t need to focus on succeeding in life, I need to survive. Before I’ve run out of options, Jesus will come back.
The goal isn’t success because success is both completely unattainable and inevitable. I will never be able to be successful on my own, or win over the world.
But Jesus already has.
The battle is already won. All the evil in this world, orphans abandoned and a broken foster care system with shattered lives seems insurmountable but that battle is already won. We are more than conquerors. It is finished. Jesus won that battle two thousand years ago, and I know with every fiber in my being that he will come back again and every tear will be wiped away. Death, where is your sting?
All I need to do is press forward and survive. Survive going back into the hard places and walking through the pain of sin. We can give it a lot of names and labels; drugs, addiction, selfishness, abuse, racism, etc. The truth is all of these are just sin. Sin has been conquered and forgiven. It hurts and it is evil, but if the joy of the Lord is my strength, that strength has already fought and won. I don’t have to win the battle. I just have to continue on and survive, and I have the promise of God that I will survive. He will always give me a way; I just have to follow him.
And part of that survival is forgiveness. It does no good to dwell on what could have been or who is at fault. The truth is we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Instead I am called to be more like Jesus, to walk into the dark and be Jesus.
Just survive. Cling to Jesus and walk on. I want to become more like Jesus every day, spend every day closer to his image.
In college I used to pour over the bible, reading every verse mentioning God’s will, trying to figure out his will for my life. The funny part is because I was so focused internally on myself I missed the entire point until the pastor at our church stated it so clearly in this weekend’s sermon, saying on Romans 8:28 that “pre-destination means that our God fashioned destiny is that we become conformed to the image of his son.” I was so focused on God’s will for my specific life that I missed that all of humanity’s will is become more like Jesus. Since the past ten years since college, I have slowly shifted more away from myself and more onto others. That shift in itself is more like Jesus, who had the mind and attitude of a servant to serve the needs of others, the kind who washes feet. The more I have gotten over myself and focused on serving others, the more I step out into the pain of fighting for others in the hard places and broken homes, the more ironically I get closer to God’s will for me, which is simply to become more and more like Jesus.
I don’t have to go forward and succeed. I don’t have to fix every problem. I don’t have to cling to the people I love in order to keep them safe and near. That wouldn’t work anyway.
I simply have to wake up and survive, love Christ and imitate him every day. I can’t solve the orphan crises or feed every mouth, but I can do that. And I know that God can do all things.
“That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. God knew what he was doing form the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him…
So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose?”