To continue where I left off, here is my continuing list of lessons I am learning as a result of being a foster parent.
5- Fostering has opened up a window for our family to get a glimpse of how others in different social/economic circles/lifestyles live life. We're not seeing it in a movie or reading about it in a book; we are seeing it up close. Previous to fostering, I think my family lived in a relatively safe, protective, bubble of sorts. If we want to reach out to the birth mom and grandmom, we must leave the bubble. I love that my children, alongside of us, can see another aspect of life, very different than our own. I've seen them respond compassionately at times and on other occasions, we've driven away from visitations with hearts full of self-righteousness. I didn't expect that my 10 year old and 7 year old would be asking me questions like, "Mom - what is cocaine and pot?" "Why does the baby need a paternity test and what is a paternity test?" "Why does the mom dress like that and act like that?" Stephen and Abbie have seen firsthand the serious consequences that are a result of foolish decisions made by parents. I think it has sparked great conversations among our family and more than anything, I see a deeper thankfulness in their hearts for their life, family, church, and friends. Most importantly, it's a reminder to me that before God, we are all sinners. It doesn't matter what social class we belong to, what economic bracket we find ourselves in, what zip code is on our address, or how "good" we think we are. According to God's Word, we have all fallen short of His glory. The good news is that Jesus came and died for sinners. Jesus says it this way in Matthew 9:12-13:
"Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."
The gospel tells us that God came for sinners. Like so many of us - like me - Jesus did not avoid interacting with sinners. In fact, He made it His purpose, that He might display His mercy. So, in a small but serious way, our family is stepping out of our bubble of safety in hopes of showing the love of God to people that apart from fostering, we probably would not cross paths with.
6- Fostering has helped me to better relate to moms with young children. Lack of sleep is not something I ever had to deal with until we had a 3 day old baby in our home. Stephen was 13 months when we adopted him and 3 years later , when we adopted Abbie, she was 11 months - so I only ever had a 4 year old and almost 1 year old in the house at one time. They both slept well and took naps and I missed the entire newborn experience - which IS an experience in and of itself! Getting dinner on the table and keeping things rolling along in our home suddenly became a challenge. When I see moms of several young children at church, I look at them with different eyes. Eyes of understanding and a heart that knows now how difficult it is on a Sunday morning to get everyone up, fed, dressed, loaded in the van, and dispersed to Sunday school classes all before the service begins. By the time the sermon starts, I am exhausted because I've been up and on the go for four hours. I look at moms in the eye and try to encourage them by reminding them of the grace it took to get to church! I pray for them and my respect for them has only increased.
7- Fostering has given me a fresh and vivid picture of how beautiful the body of Christ really is. Love and support has come to me in the most unexpected places and from the most unexpected people. Folks I barely know have reached out and opened up their hearts to Diamonte and Azariyah. These precious little children have been welcomed in as if they were our own. There is just a flood of encouragement and interest from so many people and not just adults, but other children. Each week, there are two children in particular who find me for the sole purpose of hugging and playing with our foster children. They always ask me how things are going with them and they have such a heart to show them genuine love. I tear up every week because of these kids. Then there are those dear singles who have come alongside of our family and helped us with the kids from day one. It's no wonder why Diamonte, when I am tucking him in at night, whispers the names "Miss. Owl, Aunt Becky, and Mr. Bat" as we pray for our families.
8- Fostering has revealed to me what a great sinner I am but what a greater Savior Jesus Christ is. Don't misunderstand me. I didn't need to be a foster parent to know that I was a sinner. But - in stepping out in faith in this area of service, God has been very kind in revealing to me things I just hadn't been aware of before. I would not have thought of myself as a prejudice person. My parents were a part of a group that was birthed in the 70's called "Prejudice Anonymous". They fought for rights for African Americans. I was raised in a house where racial slurs were worse than cuss words. I've had friends through the years that have represented all different races and never thought anything of it. I love foreign countries and meeting people from foreign lands. I don't think of myself as ethnocentric. But, early on in our experience of fostering, I could feel in my heart a real battle raging. Thoughts like: "We would be better parents for these kids" and "These kids will have no hope if they go back home" and "How could she do this or that when she is supposed to want her children back?" Yep, these are just some of the questions that rage in my heart. This is nothing short of self-righteousness and pride and a lack of trust in God and His wisdom. Sinclair Ferguson said:
"For this gospel of grace involves us in the ongoing discovery that there is still much in our lives that has not yielded to the demolition power of grace; and much remains yet to be built by grace."
I am so thankful that I have a great Savior who loves me enough to show me my sin so that by the power of His grace, He might demolish my self-righteousness, pride, and lack of trust in God. And in demolishing my sin, His glory is revealed and I have the opportunity to see new acts of love, humility, and trust in the Lord being built.
...to be continued...