Thursday, June 19, 2014

Not My Dream

Is this really my life?

I fought hard against this calling.  This is not what I really wanted.  I wanted a simple life.

Holding a child in my arms who is thrashing against all my efforts to love is not what I dreamed for motherhood.  Our life is continually disrupted by birth family visits, social workers, and court dates.

I signed up for this?

It's often this way:  a child slipping into an infantile state and wailing for anyone else to come hold her besides me.  Anyone but me.  Muffled sobs against my shoulder that she wants her brothers who live with another foster family on the other side of town.

And I rock and struggle to draw her flailing form into my arms.  She shrieks foreign guttural sounds.

After returning from a visit with birth family, this what happens.  But, this time is not so bad.  Last time it was projectile vomiting.

And I rock and whisper...

I know you are confused.  I know you are angry.  Mommy loves you.  Will you be my baby and let me rock you?

Over and over we do this.  My chest heaving with hers, our tears mixing a salty stream between us.

She battles hard.  Her exhaustion eventually wins, as she relents and her body becomes still.  I sway back and forth to the music of our beating hearts.

I hear it all the time:  I could never be a foster parent.  I just couldn't let them go.

But what if God may be calling you to foster care?


You want to know a secret?  I said the exact.same.thing.

Do you think we do this because our hearts are stone hard and we have a special gift in letting go?  Or that we're not fearful?

We, too, have wrestled with every fear and reason why we shouldn't do this.  For years.

Even when we signed up for ten weeks of intensive training, we still questioned:  Is this what we're supposed to be doing?

We walked the tough road of watching my daughter's best friend in Kindergarten and her foster family.  After three years, she went home to her mama, which is nearly an hour away.  The girls rarely get to see each other anymore.

He pricked our hearts a long time ago.  When we became believers, we felt led to minister to abused and neglected children; however, life seemed to get in the way as we had three biological children within three years.  Life circumstances sealed the door closed as well.  Yet, in His absolute perfect timing, He swung the door off the hinges-- a path forged by the friendship in my five-year old daughter's life, along with our broken past.

We decided we would start slowly by trying respite care--ministering to foster families when they needed a break.  The call for our first respite placement came before we were licensed-- the call to take a seven-year-old boy for a week-- a short time span, but it rocked my world emotionally.

He was the same age as our middle son.  He endlessly spoke of his losses, his words permeating every quiet space.  My ears burned with stories of his past-- his mama's choices, his grief.  My kids were carefree, laughing and talking about superheroes while this dear boy attempted to connect by sharing his stories of drugs, police, and guns.

My two biological boys fought like tigers all that week with the extra testosterone in the mix pressing against their comforts-- their stuff (specifically Legos).

My chest was a cavity of shards every night I knelt down with him.  He was a bundle of blankets and tears asking Why.  Every.single.night.  My heart was filled with anguish and prayers for his mama.

I thought I would die.  I didn't know how to handle this.

Was this really where He was calling us?

His mama's addiction was the same that caught my husband and our family in a net and almost destroyed our lives four years beforehand.

There was no mistake this sweet boy was our first placement, a ripping away of our comforts and a reminder of our rescue- what our lives could have been.

Yet, a bursting of our children's comforts is not a bad thing.  They are called to more, just as we are.

I am repeatedly caught off-guard by how children love with pure hearts.  No agenda or to-do list.

My kids are big sinners, like us, but they are unencumbered by worries and exhibit a freedom to love without bounds that I don't have.

Babies seemed to rain from the sky last summer.  My kids spent the months of June and July bouncing fussy babies, feeding hungry ones, and bringing joy to little faces.

Meanwhile, this mama breathed into a paper bag, trying to regulate my oxygen level because it was hard loving other people's kids and adjusting to different schedules and stages of babies.

As my kids begged for more babies, my heart was doubtful.  Unsure if I could manage this calling.

So, we detoured--pursued adoption for six months, while we continued to serve as a respite foster family.

We thought adoption seemed safer, you know?  Ha!  Insane thinking- my friends who have adopted can tes.ti.fy to that.  Adoption bears its own heavy grief and uncertainties.

The Lord shut the door on adoption for us.  We ran after every country and adoption agency known to man.  He slammed that door tight.

I grieved all last summer.  The realization set in-- He was cementing our feet in foster care.

We couldn't run from our calling, our passion.  We couldn't unloosen what He had sealed in our hearts.

And the phone call came in October.

Would we take the little bitty girl we loved with all our hearts?

The one that had us all wrapped around her tiny brown fingers.

She had occupied our crib more than any other child, spending countless hours in our home as respite.

Full-time foster care frightened us and kept me up at night, but we knew without a doubt.

We said yes to Little Bitty, jumping in with both feet and all our doubts and fears.  Holding out empty hands to the Father, knowing this was our calling.

She is worth the thrashing and grieving for her birth family.

We are not extraordinary.

We are normal, fearful, questioning, struggling, people doing what He has called us to do.  Often we do this with anger at injustice and shaking fists, accompanied by much fear and trembling.

But, we are still standing.

Because He strengthens the weak-kneed.

Gives hope to the weary.

This is not the dream I had.  His plans are bigger and better.

Because we serve an extraordinary God.

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Anonymous said...

yes. yes. yes. thank you.

mary burrell said...

God will strengthen you and give you his wisdom to care for these children he has given you to care for.

Meredith Bernard said...

Oh wow. What a story. What a story of grace and hope and redemption yours is. And you are passing on to all of these children God is giving you. You have opened my eyes to a world I don’t know. I thank you for what you are doing and for being brave enough to answer the call. You and your husband are remarkable. For obedience. Bless you…xoxo, Meredith

Karen Brown said...

Such a wonderful example you are giving to your children about sacrificial, welcoming love. Thank you for this beautifully written glimpse into your life. Loved it!

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Melanie, thank you for sharing so transparently the joys and the heartbreak of foster care. My husband and I considered it years ago, desiring to try a foster-adopt program. God closed the door on that for us, but He opened wide the door to adopt two amazing boys. As they hit the tween years, we're seeing anger and trying to understand some of their struggles as they seek to understand why their parents would "give them up." How does an adoptive mom (or a foster mom) explain that? Our situation is different from yours. Thank you for sharing your perspective and giving me a deeper understanding of what foster parents walk through.

Melanie Singleton said...

Thanks for sharing Jeanne - we are on the brink of some questions as Little Bitty gets older. There can be much grief with adoption and foster care; yet, intertwined with such hope and beauty.

annierim said...

You and your family are so brave. Thank you for sharing so honestly. We have been pondering foster-to-adopt programs someday.... It's good to read about the reality - both the beautiful and challenging - of stepping alongside another family.

Stephanie said...

Melanie, this is beautifully written! Would you be willing to let us feature this post on "We Are Grafted In", the blog of The Sparrow Fund? ( If you are willing, I would just need a brief bio and picture to use when it is featured on our site so our readers can be directed back to your blog. Just let me know! Thank you!
Administrator of WAGI

Following Christ on a CrAzY adventure said...

I am sooooo blessed by this today and so grateful for your words!
I just started fostering and I am a little overwhelmed ( or maybe a lot...) and just reading this soothes my soul. I have been feeling like this really cannot me by calling and im scared and lost, But I know he will give me the strength to do this with HIM. Thank you!

Melanie Singleton said...

Thank you for your comment! It is such a unique calling! Full of brokenness and grief. Yet, He is bigger - equipping and surprising me daily. I'm not sure if I've ever been so needy for Him in this place. So hard.

Debbie Prater said...

Wow you are an amazing woman. I pray God blesses what you have to give. That the kids you touch will never be the same.