There was three children under the age of three. After the first one had been adopted through foster care, their hearts had been enlarged and they felt called to adopt a handicapped child, truly one of the least of these. In the process of the Maine to Colorado adoption, they received a phone call about a two month old baby girl who needed a foster home right away. There was a punctured lung and bruised skin, the little child had been beat so badly she had almost died.
They told the agency that because they were in the process of adopting a high-needs child their names would have to be taken off the placement list, but they couldn’t say no to the two-month old innocent.
The adoption went faster than they thought and the little girl stayed longer than they imagined, though they didn’t mind. All of a sudden they had three children under the age of three, one who couldn’t see, could hardly hear, and was contending with severe physical development issues.
Their mother’s name was Faith, and it couldn’t have been more fitting. I will always remember her response to someone who looked at her and said, “Faith, your plate is full.”
She smiled, her sweet faithful smile, and said, “My plate is full, but my cup runs over.”
I remember the day they stopped by my parent’s place and their eyes shone and they smiled wide. The little two month innocent, now past her first birthday, was officially part of their family. Forever.
I took the tiny little one into my arms and cried into her hair, tears running down my cheeks. And I remember thinking I want this. I want to do this.
Years later, I stood barren and empty-handed, teetering on the edge of early menopause, wondering if children with names would ever fill my heart and grow in my home.
And a few more years later, the extravagant God opened unexpected doors and turned our world upside down and our hearts inside out with the gift of Leo. Leo, the one my heart labored over, the child of my heart, divinely placed in my arms.
My friend Paula is a woman with a heart for always one more. Earlier this year, when my husband and I stayed with their children so they could go on an anniversary getaway, we marveled at how their children melded, at how you would never ever guess that there were two who had not been born into the family.
“They are the perfect family for those boys,” Ryan said, “I love how they have blended in so authentically.”
“When God places a child in your arms (or heart) it is a Divine placement, a Divine privilege, and the gift of motherhood—regardless of the method of placement.” Paula wrote these words to me in an email, but the ink of her words seeped straight into my heart.
The day I leaned over his crib, crying, trying to sing his restless spirit to sleep, feeling exhausted from a long day of shots, hearing degradation from a sneering onlooker, running low on sleep, I remembered the words and I spoke them over his little body struggling to rest and over the frustration beginning to edge my spirit and over the mothering helplessness I felt. Leo, you are my divine privilege.
It stopped my heart from anxious flutters of irritation, that after over an hour he just wouldn’t settle… it stopped my spirit from wildly fretting because he just got shots and mama doesn’t like shots, and what if something happens because I sleep him on his tummy (he will not sleep on his back)? It stopped me in all my motherhood tracks, the tangled web of what if, should I, maybe this and washed over me like peace.
When God places a child in your arms (or heart) it is a Divine placement, a Divine privilege, and the gift of motherhood- regardless of the method of placement.
The truth is that it doesn’t really matter how Leo came to be in our home. Though he is not born of my flesh, he is born of my heart, and while he is here, he is here by the divine placement of a sovereign God.
The “fostering” world feels like a whole different world than biological parenting. In so many ways, it is probably much the same, with the addition of visitation, relating to birth parents and families, and maybe an extra dose of that what if I don’t do this right? worry.
While Leo feels very much like my own, I feel the constant pressure of raising a child that will not (unless God wills otherwise) be my child forever. My husband is kind to my heart and gentle with my soul, quick to lace his fingers through mine, kiss my forehead and tell me: “We just need to do the best we know, the best we can and trust God with the rest.”
And I feel like I should etch the words When God places a child in your arms (or heart) it is a Divine placement. on every wall in my house, so that every where I turn I am reminded that I am equipped and empowered, by a holy God, to raise up my son and raise him up well.
Where God gives a commission, He gives ability.
Where God gives a vision, He gives strength.
Where God calls, He gives courage.
Fostering a child is not easy. If you foster and this is your first, you are a brave soul. If you foster and you have other children, don’t think raising your foster child “can’t be much different than raising your other children”. Fostering a child is a whole different ballgame.
I feel tug and pull when we visit Leo’s mommy. I love bringing him to her and watching them reconnect, but every time I also feel a sharp twist inside.
It gets old to constantly feel urged to explain your child…why they don’t look like you, how long you will have them, what happened to the birth parents.
Sometimes you might be treated with suspicion…“If you didn’t give birth to him, do you feel bonded? Are you letting yourself fall totally in love with him?” It’s hard to not let these kind of comments or insinuations create fears or doubts within yourself.
Fostering a child is not an easy journey, but it is a beautifully rewarding one. Though I do not have three children, like my friend Faith, or a dozen children, like my friend Paula, I do have one, and on the days when my plate feels full – my strength overextended, my heart weak, my spirit discouraged (Can I be the mommy that Leo needs?) – I am trying to stop and see how my cup runs over with the beauty of my divine privilege.
My beautiful Leo.