Gary and I began foster care with such hope. For what exactly, I’m not even sure anymore. But we were excited about this thing the Lord has called us to, that I do know. No one told us how hard it would be. No one told us it would break our hearts over and over and over again. No one told us we would literally lay our lives on the altar for this, for them. No one told us.
We walked into our first placement with giddy excitement. The caseworker brought us a little girl, had us sign some papers, told us we were that little girl’s last stop because they’d exhausted all other avenues, and then left. We didn’t get into foster care to adopt, but we got our first placement and were told she would be adopted, most likely by us. Being that we had literally just begun our foster care journey, we believed her.
The first few months with Lexi were HARD. She didn’t know many words, but she knew the word "no" very well and often shouted it loudly. Speaking of shouting, she did a lot of that too - screaming and yelling at the top of her lungs for no reason whatsoever. She cried pretty much every second we were together - from the moment she got up in the morning until after she was in bed at night. She hit and kicked and spit and bit and threw up on purpose.
But we did the things. Every day, we did the things to bond and build love. And eventually, months later, the love came. Small baby steps of love turned that little girl into our whole entire world. Step by step she received the love we gave until one day we couldn’t imagine a life without her, nor did we want to. She was ours; we were hers. The mere thought of adoption day brought me to tears. She was our treasure on earth, that little girl. Our very greatest joy.
Going on a year into her case CPS went to mediation seeking termination. Somehow, some backwards way, they came out with this agreement: if her dad, a 19-year-old lifetime registered sex offender who had never met her or made any effort to get to know her, could make it to a couple visits at a McDonalds, they would give her to him. The people who were put in place to protect her decided that going to trial to fight for my girl was too much work and caved to this agreement instead. They told us and her that she was staying forever...and then they did this. And oh my heart, it broke and broke and broke. We endured 2 weeks of losing her. Two weeks, four visits, one overnight. And then she was gone. And so was who I used to be. The person I was when we started foster care doesn’t exist anymore.
To make matters worse, we had recently found out we needed some help in the bio baby making department, and it wasn't going well. We were losing our girl while losing our battle with infertility. During the three weeks from mediation to Lexi leaving, my calendar looked something like this:
-Friday: Fertility acupuncture
-Saturday: Lexi’s first visit with bio dad
-Sunday: Lexi’s second visit with bio dad
-Monday: Negative pregnancy test after second IUI
-Tuesday: Appointment with fertility doctor
-Wednesday: Lexi’s third visit with bio dad
-Thursday: Appointment with fertility doctor
-Friday: Fertility acupuncture and counseling session
-Saturday: Lexi’s fourth visit with bio dad
-Tuesday: Hysteroscopy in preparation for IVF and Lexi’s overnight visit with her bio dad
-Saturday: Lexi leaves to go live with bio dad
Despair doesn’t even begin to touch what I felt. And thus began my journey of learning what it really means to trust Jesus with our kids. Really though, it’s a journey of learning to abide in Him always; to trust Him in all things, not just this.
It’s a strange kind of grief… to grieve the loss of a person who is still alive. It’s a unique situation to navigate. For me, it was uncharted waters. To us she’s just a memory, and all we have left are the pictures snapped on our phones and the memories stored up in our hearts. I worry about her safety and her salvation because of where she is, because she’s not with me. The problem is that I can’t find comfort because I can’t be sure she’s safe and loved and cared for and being pointed to Jesus. And that problem is birthed from my false belief that even if she were with me, I could keep her safe and secure her salvation.
The truth is that God sustains her life and breath, and He is the author of salvation. He is the one that both keeps our bodies safe and saves our souls. When I can see her with my eyes I know if she’s safe or not, and I can point her to Jesus, which brings me comfort. But the truth is that wherever she is, if she is safe and if she finds salvation in Jesus, it’s because the Lord has done so.
I wonder about her all the time. What is she doing? Is she safe? Is she crying for me or having fun? Is she missing us? Hungry? Sad? Scared? Is she ok?? As each of these questions rolls through my mind, I follow it with a prayer for my girl and a reminder for myself that God loves her, too. And then I put one foot in front of the other and do the next thing. This is the only way that I can keep moving forward. It’s all I have left. All that I have to offer my girl now are bold, fervent, ceaseless prayers to the God who holds the answers to all my questions.
We’re doing this really hard foster care thing because the Lord asked us to, and to be completely honest, in my heart of hearts I don’t understand why He made having bio kids hard for us in the midst of so much suffering. Our hearts were already so weary, and this just added to that. I know “unfair” isn’t a thing to God, but sometimes I couldn't help but feel like it was terribly unfair – to have been surrounded by all these babies that we love that weren't ours to keep, but unable to make our own. However, we know God doesn’t owe us anything. We are His to use however He pleases, and we trust Him even when we can’t see what He’s doing.
Following Jesus will cost each of us something different. For us, it’s this. And the magnitude of the cost feels so great I can hardly calculate it. But I know it’s worth it, even though it doesn’t feel like it. I felt like an empty shell of a person, and I was weary down to my very soul. I was clinging to Jesus all day long, with everything I had. (God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. – Psalm 46:1). I know that when God created us, He knew we would say yes to Him when He called us to foster care. When He created our hearts, He knew they would have to endure this immense heartbreak, this deep grief. He promises to be the strength of our hearts. (My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. – Psalm 73:26).
Over and over again He asks us, “Do you trust me? Am I enough?” We don’t just hand over our lives to Him once. We must do it again and again, every single day with every single thing. We laid our desires down at the foot of the cross. We pleaded our requests before the Father, and He has asked us, again, to wait. So we waited.
A little over a year later, after much heartache, He finally answered us with a YES! We went through IVF, which brought us Everly Joelle, and she is one of the very greatest gifts I've ever been given. She has brought healing to our hearts and home. Shortly after that we adopted a sibling set of three kids from foster care - Laurel, Bennett, and Christopher.
Our family looks different that I ever imagined it would. It was built in ways I never imagined it would be built. And even still, after all His yeses to me, I daily lay down my desires for how it should have been, how I wish it was. I'm daily learning to trust His plan, His purpose, and His timing. I drag gratitude from the depths of my broken heart because there is much to be grateful for, even when my flesh rails against the how and why of it all.
I don't know why we had to struggle through infertility. I don't know why we came so close to adopting Lexi just for it all to be ripped away from us. But I do know that our God is good. His timing, perfect. His plan, best. He LOVES us. And this place we're at, in the middle of exactly what He has for us? There is nowhere safer, nowhere better to be. My prayer for myself, and for you too, is that we would trust the truth of that, even when it doesn't seem like it could be true; that Jesus, in his kindness, would help our unbelief.
“We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety. This is especially true when those treasures are loved relatives and friends. But we need have no such fears. Our Lord came not to destroy but to save. Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.” — A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God
Natasha is a CPS/adoption lawyer and mama to 4 kids that she and her husband, Gary, acquired through adoption and IVF - Laurel (7), Bennett (5), Christopher (2), and Everly (7 months). She blogs at Let's Be Brave.