Tuesday, April 22, 2014

On Being the 3rd Mama

Photo credit:  Alan Matthews Photography

I hesitated several times before making this post- for many reasons. 

One, because we have a fairly easy case, relatively speaking, in the world of foster care. 

But, really, no case is easy.  My heart aches on a daily basis for Little Bitty and her siblings.

Another reason is I believe everything in Little Bitty's life has been providentially planned.  Her coming to us when she did was all part of a perfect plan.

Foster care still comes with a cost and there was grieving and adjustments that took place when she moved to our home.  But, we absolutely know it was His perfect plan and we are trusting Him in that.   

Also, we are so thankful-- more than words --for our agency (Lifeline), the foster families, social workers, transporters, and a host of others placed in our lives through this ministry.

We have been stretched, but abundantly blessed.  Our struggles have not been the super hard cases.  But our battles are still real.  And heart-breaking.   Especially for a deep feeler like myself. 

The cycles of abuse, neglect, and addictions.  Children stuck in the system for years.  

We see hope and beautiful stories of redemption, but we also see the stories that often don't end well. 

Life after the Fall is hard.  I long for Heaven.

So, how do I love well, without killing my desire for more?  How do I love without wanting to protect my heart?

I ache for Little Bitty and her brothers to have a permanent home, a forever place where they know they will stay. 

It is hard to have a child see me as just a string of mamas that have entered her existence.  Somehow it is normalized in her mind that having three mamas is just a part of life.

Does she wonder when her fourth mama is coming?

How do I respond to a a little one who innocently (and truthfully) says on a regular basis that she has three mamas, as she holds up three tiny brown fingers?

Selfishly, I want to stomp my foot and insist I am her only mama.

And that is true in the present day-to-day life-- I am the one mama who cares for her and meets her needs.

Yet, my insistence (in my heart) to be the one and only, does not honor her past-- who she is.

So my response is normally this:  yes, God has given you three different mamas.  Your first mama that carried you in her belly was ______, and Mrs. Stephanie was your second mama, and now you are here and I am your mama in this family.
And I fiercely want to be able to tell her that we will be her last family.  Her forever family.  
But I can't say that.  This case is still uncertain.   

Her birth mama carried her in her womb, labored, and swaddled her close in an heirloom crocheted blanket.

Then came her second mama-- the longest mama Little Bitty has known-- our sweet foster mama friend Stephanie and her husband Steven, who poured the gospel and endless love into her for almost two-years of her little life.

It was such grace and we are infinitely grateful she was in such an adoring family.  We are reaping all of the benefits from her time with this amazing family. 

During this time, we also had the privilege of establishing a relationship with Little Bitty for over a year as her respite family (we would get her when Stephanie and Steven went on vacation, etc.).  

This helped tremendously for a smooth transition when Little Bitty moved in with us last October.

So, just before she turned 3-years old, we stepped in as her new family.  Celebrating her birthday as blended families- beauty.

I have been her third mama for the past 6 months.

I want to fix the messiness-- make it nice and tidy. 
But there is nothing neat or certain about foster care.  
It is so unpredictable and broken. 

To paraphrase my foster mama friend, Catie, foster care is such an unnatural ministry-- this is not God's original design.  It's difficult to love a child deeply as your own with hands that are open.  Loving a child with the whole of your being, when the child's heart may long for another and/or battle a host of other difficult circumstances from their pasts.

It is only the work of the Lord that we can enter into these places.  We know this is our calling.

We have only scratched the surface in our journey of nearly two years of foster care.

So, really what is there to complain about?  We signed up for this and knew what we were getting into, right?

Is that how you'd respond to a foreign missionary who is struggling on the mission field? 

It is a ceaseless dance-- the attempt to love well in the midst of the chaos of birth family visits, court dates, social worker visits, etc.  There is always drama and last minute changes.

Trying to waltz through the unknowns is like staggering through a minefield-- loving a dear one that may not stay.  

Don't get me wrong, we want what is best for Little Bitty.  If that means returning to her family, then that is what we desire. 

However, if my eyes become fixed on the situation at hand, it can feel utterly hopeless-- combining my own sin with the fractured lives that cause children to wind up in foster care, along with a broken system with over-worked employees-- I can quickly head down the path of despair. 

I get frustrated.  I want justice and quick-resolution. 

Yet, I am reminded this is why He came.  To be light in the darkness.  Rescue the broken.  Carry the burden.  Give rest to the weary.  Protect the least of these.  Execute justice.

So, as I watch Little Bitty's sheer delight as she twirls like a princess in her new spring clothes, I feel the prick of my heart.

The answers are not found in my plans.  But in His plans.  His ways.  

Dying to self and surrendering to the Only One who knows the outcome.  He has written her story. 

Clenched fists can't receive.

Clawing hands do not belong to a soul that rests in Him.

And I can't muster up a heart of surrender in my own strength.

Because I naturally clench and claw.

It takes the work of the Father to give me open hands.

An open heart.

A love without bounds.

And, again, He runs to me with overflowing love.

Grace, sweet grace.

Mama, we are married!


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Anonymous said...

Wow. Great post. I was just talking with my husband and a friend today about how unnatural being a foster parent is and how much support we can use because it is hard... really hard... and like you our situation is relatively easy right now. We've had our precious foster daughter for the past year and a half and it is so easy to long for permanency and to "fix" all of this... and we can't fix it, just shelter and love. Only God has the ability to truly fix the heart of the situation and I'm so thankful for Him since I couldn't do this without Him. I'm so glad I found your blog! Thanks so much for sharing- this is so encouraging and keeping you guys in my prayers!
-Sara, uncommongrace.net

Davy Jolene said...

You have expressed so many of the thoughts swirling around in my head lately. Foster care is so complicated, and there is often no "ideal" outcome. Whew!

Thanks for sharing.