Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Foster Parenting: From the Outside Looking In

I am not a foster parent.

That's how I feel I need to start out this post because I need to be clear about the fact that I haven't the slightest idea how they feel and what they go through. But I am really good friends with some foster parents. And it has me looking at those who choose this particular ministry in a whole new light. 

I've been sort of like the creepy stalker friend who has been around from almost the start of the process and watched this foster thing unfold from the sidelines, praying and cheering on my two precious friends.

I've never really been exposed much to the foster system. I've known people who have fostered in the past. For some, it actually turned into adoption. For others, it turned into having a piece of their heart removed from them or having to make the difficult decision to let someone else take the reigns. I cannot imagine the emotional roller coaster these special people are sent on when they take the leap into the unknown and decide to become foster parents. 

Who knows whether God will ever call us to become foster parents. I pray that if He does, then we will follow. For now, He has called us to "take care of the orphaned" by coming alongside those that do to be there for them in the dark hours, and believe me, there are some pitch black dark hours in this ministry. He has called us to "take care of the orphaned" by loving on those kids and showing them the light of Christ. He has called us to "take care of the orphaned" by praying fervently for the kids and their new parents (as well as the ones now considered unfit by the system), to bring meals when things get tough, and to lend an ear for the weary mom (or dad) who is trying to figure out what works.

The system is certainly flawed. That is a fact. Ask these fostering friends of mine and they will be first in line to tell you. But you know what's not flawed? The love of Jesus. That kind of love is perfect and whole and liberating. I have been blessed to be in the front row of what some might call a crazy circus, to see that love poured out on hurting kids. I've seen the sacrifice of Abraham, the patience of Job, the wisdom of Solomon, the wrestling of Jacob, the strength of David, and the obedience of Daniel all rolled into a few amazing stories of foster parenting. 

In my past writing, I've used the word "foster" as synonymous with "encourage" or "cultivate" and so it made me consult the dictionary to see what exactly its definition was. I decided to check out the famed Oxford English Dictionary and this is the definition (in verb form) that I found: 

"To supply with food or nourishment; to nourish, feed, support."

I looked at this definition for a while and ya know, it just doesn't do the action of fostering justice. Sure, part of their jobs is to provide food and clothing and a place to sleep. But it's so much more than that. It's not just the task of fostering kids - it's more what they foster in the kids that matters.

They foster spiritual growth - teaching these children about who God is and what He can do.
They foster peace - teaching them how to handle their emotions in a controlled way.
They foster patience - in the kids' lives as well as their own and the lives of their homegrown kids as well.
They foster gratitude - showing them how to be grateful in all situations and for all things.
They foster joy - because to have joy in the midst of this depraved world is necessary.
They foster trust - in their broken world, no one has been there - it's a building process - and it might be a long one, but it must be done.
They foster hope - so many of these kids lost hope a long time ago - foster parents can help find it again.
Most importantly, they foster love - the love of the only One Who gives them the strength to carry on - Christ. Without love, these precious people could not do what they do each and every day for kids that have been entrusted to them. 

It strikes me that God calls on people in so many different ways. I really believe that if God sincerely calls you to foster (or adopt), then you must really have a heart like His. It's one thing for Him to entrust our own children to us, but to choose you to entrust someone else's child to your love and care is a call like no other. 

So to foster parents everywhere, you are seen. 
In my eyes, you are warriors. You are champions. You are conquerors. You are heroes. Don't give up the good fight. You have people cheering for you. And more importantly, you have a God that called you to this battle to fight for His children. Don't give up. Don't back down. You've got this! Well, HE'S got this!

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