Recently we were with our extended family for the weekend and John and I found ourselves venting all our frustrations with foster care. As we drove home we felt some guilt that our family and close friends keep hearing the negative side of foster care from us. This led me to write a letter to our friends and family. I suppose it’s a letter of explanation of why we choose to live this crazy life and why we need support. I’m hoping this letter can be used for others to share with their extended families and friends to help open a dialog about living the life of foster care. Because, let’s be honest, people who “do” foster care look pretty crazy on the outside!
Dear Friends and Family,
Let me start first by saying; Foster care was never on our radar. It was never part of our 3, 5, or 10 year plans for our family. Foster care found us, or rather, God found us and placed it in our path. It felt like I was minding my own business and then out of the blue the idea of foster care landed in front of me and it kept coming up again and again, until one day I was sitting at my desk and I threw up my hands and shouted to my co-worker, “I think God wants us to do foster care and that’s the last thing I want to do!” And so it started with a calling and one faithful step.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-8). He laid down his life. He humbled himself to death on the cross.
Foster care is a sacred call to live as Jesus did. We realize this now far more than when we started this journey. “Whoever claims to live in him [Jesus] must live as Jesus did.” (I John 2:6) and “In this world we are like Jesus.” (I John 4:17). Jesus was the lowest, he humbled himself, he gave all of himself– for someone else (us)! This journey is not of ourselves, but Jesus through us, doing more than we can imagine. We are conduits for God’s work on earth. When you ask us “when is enough enough?” or “are you thinking of quitting?” I want to remind you of this: “…to the point of death!” (Mark 14:34, Revelation 2:10).
Maybe that feels dramatic or crazy to you. Maybe you are looking from the outside in and you see us with graying hairs and worry lines forming and think, “They’re going to kill themselves with this.” Why would we open up our lives to pain and care for the vulnerable children? Because that is the Gospel; Christ did this for us. Foster care is the gospel in flesh. The gospel is Jesus stepping into our brokenness and bringing us into his care and protection. From Reframing Foster Care: “He is the kind of God who sees the broken and hard things and doesn’t step away from them, but steps into them… God saw us in our plight and moved toward us, not away from us. That’s the gospel message.” Too often in our Western culture we believe that God’s best for our lives is only found on the Smooth Road. Reality check: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” (Philippians 1:29). Jesus never said, “If you believe in me you will have nothing but smooth sailing in this life.” Quite opposite he said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
Don’t worry too much about us. Suffering is a horrible word and I keep throwing it out there. And no one ever wants to see their loved ones suffer. But I am encouraged, and also want you to be encouraged, by this: “For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:5). We are abundantly comforted! We pray a lot. And we talk a lot about this stuff. We are continually evaluating our family’s health, mental health, spiritual health, and physical health. When we feel a clear direction from God to stop fostering, then we will. But in the meantime, we need your love, prayers, support and to help us “keep our spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11).
We are bound by confidentiality, and this can feel isolating to us. And please respect that we cannot share details about the children in our care. We will share what we can, but know that there will be a lot of blanks that we cannot fill in for you. BUT (this is a big but) we still need your listening ears! Sometimes we just need to vent all our pent-up frustrations. We never expect you to fix our problems. We just need a friend to sit in the mud with us for a little bit. When we are venting, please don’t ask us when we are going to quit. That is the least helpful to us. When we are questioning why we are doing this, remind us that God is sovereign in the midst of the insanity and what we are doing has eternal implications.
Be patient with us: we are being refined. I do not even remotely have it all together. I am learning that when we open our arms to brokenness, we equally expose our brokenness. We were not called to do foster care because we have some superhuman abilities or are spiritual gurus. We are people just like you. We make mistakes every day. I ask for forgiveness every day. We are less-than-perfect parents; we send our kids to public school, they don’t brush their teeth twice a day, we don’t do family devotions seven days a week, and sometimes I feed the kids corn dogs for dinner. What I know now is that when we say Yes to jumping into the stormy sea with Jesus we become just like Peter reaching out and calling for help! You suddenly realize how not in control you are and you press into Jesus. We become refined by the fire and the chaff of our lives is blown away. The other day we asked each other, “What has been the most difficult and most beautiful aspects of foster care for you?” One of the most beautiful aspects, for me, is that never have I needed Jesus more and have experienced him working so much in me.
Know that when we vent there is still beauty there. We do not want you to hear only the negative. There is a beauty in the brokenness. Sometimes you have to be in it to see it, so it maybe harder for an outsider to find it, but it is there. The beauty is seeing our children’s stories unfold before our eyes and feeling God’s hand on them and us.
Family and Friends: you are a major, huge, ginormous part of our journey! We have come to know this more and more as we humbly admit this is too big for us to do alone. That is why I write this to you. We need you more than you may even realize (no pressure!) and we are so very thankful for you!