I had a completely unexpected and hilarious conversation with my seven-year old this week. For some reason, he was really interested in the photos that are on our refrigerator.
Luke was looking at them and asking questions about when they were taken and he came to the photo of Ethan and him holding Jackson about two weeks after I had him.
Luke looked at me in utter surprise:
“I thought we got Jackson from foster care!!! I forgot completely forgot!!!”
I had to pick myself up from the floor I was laughing so hard. Luke was almost four when Jackson was born, so I assumed that he remembered everything, but clearly his memories are more fuzzy than I realized.
The really cool thing about it though, was that it didn’t really make any difference to Luke how Jackson joined our family; they are brothers in the same way the girls who have come to us through the foster system have been sisters.
Being a foster family has changed the dynamics of our family… and it hasn’t.
On one hand, the kids all act like siblings and think of each other as such, no matter how they joined the family. They are all my kids and I don’t see them any differently. It is just our family like any other.
And then on the other hand, our family is very different. Let me make one thing perfectly clear: you don’t have to be special to be a foster parent. I’m no different in my capacity to love a child and then have to let them go. No one ever wants to send home a child they dearly love; we do it because it needs to be done… and the police will come looking for me if I were to refuse (just kidding… well… only kind of… the police really will come looking for me and I have actually considered this fact. I’m sure most foster parents have). We are different because we’ve been a foster family.
Hence my conversation with Luke.
And the one that I had with then two-year old Jackson a few months prior that is still making people in social services laugh.
Our foster daughter had just left for visitation when he asked me where she was going with the CPS employees.
I answered, “She’s going to see her parents.”
“When I get see my parents?”
I hadn’t expected that. “Umm, Jack, you are looking at one of your parents. I’m your parent.”
“No, you not my parent. My other parents.”
He then proceeded to insist we spend the rest of the time while my foster daughter was at visitation looking through Facebook so he could “find his parents”. Granted I’m sure most kids wish they could just pick new parents some days, but I’m pretty sure he was looking for whoever had the most Disneyland photos in their timelines.
Two-year old problems in a foster family: you can just get another set of parents if you want.
Luckily this only lasted until Luke and Ethan got home from school and called me “Mom” and Jack started screaming that I’m not their mommy and I’m only his mommy… I had to explain to the older two that this was actually an improvement over that morning so they’d drop it. Siblings like to argue over these kind of things after all.
Come to think of it, this is probably where Luke got the idea that Jackson came to us from foster care…
One of the biggest concerns people expressed to me when I shared that we were going to become foster parents was fear for the impact on our kids. Fear for what they would be exposed to. Fear for what might be taken away from them. Fear for what might happen to them.
My biggest fear: them living in a home where they see their parents willfully ignore God’s commands. He asks us to take care of the widows and orphans in James 1:27 and I just couldn’t get away from it any longer. Foster kids are really the orphans of today, you know. They are viewed as broken, unwanted, damaged, and the kids that very few people would consider taking in. Hence all the fears people expressed to me.
It’s ugly, I know and I’m not going to lie that it is anything but messy. It is a lot of pain we wade through in a daily basis and are bearing for my foster daughter who fortunately doesn’t really understand yet all that she has lost. But she will one day and I want to be able to say that we did everything we could for her. She deserves it and not because I’m fixing her. I’m not; I can’t. I’m just as broken and damaged. She deserves it because God loves her and sent Christ to die for her. He died for me too and He’s the one who is fixing me; I’m just passing along the grace that has been given me.
I can do nothing else. Grace has changed me.
I’d be lying if I didn’t have a bit of momentary fear when Luke and Jack made their really confused about our family comments. I thought, “Oh no, what have I done to mess them up?” and then I realized something very profound.
This is exactly what family is whether by birth, fostering, or adoption. Grace knows no bounds and salvation was extended to the Gentiles instead of being limited to just the Jews through the death and resurrection of Christ. It is this grafting in that is talked about Romans 11; it is a painful process innately. We don’t get to choose the lovable to help. Instead, we become lovable because He first loved us.
So if my boys have a very open definition of who can be a brother or a sister, all the better. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ.
Ministry will always change us, as it should. I am firmly convinced that ministry is just as important for our sanctification, the scraping off of all the dead parts in order to make us into the new creation we are meant to be, as it is for those we minister to. And it starts small. It is a daily choice to get up in the morning and Him. It is something we all can do: we can start to view things as He views them and act accordingly and pour into those around us. God is responsible for the results.
Those very same concerns about what doing this would mean for the boys have been used for good. They are learning compassion and empathy in ways that I could never hope to teach them otherwise. They are learning to love whoever is in their lives. They are learning what true acceptance looks like without enabling. They are learning that following God always has a cost and the amazing thing is no matter how pricey it seems, it is always worth it. Always.
No matter what we do, no matter where we are, God wastes nothing. But we have to make the choice to not waste everything.