Wednesday, February 27, 2013

real life stories: fostering and adoption {the smiths}

[this is the second post in our real life fostering and adoption series.  today we are hearing from the "smith" family, which is a pseudonym to protect the identity of a family in a hard situation.]

Tell us about your family (how long you have been married, where you live, ages of your children, 


I've been married to my highschool sweetheart for 20 years and we have four biological children (14,
12, 10, and 7 1/2) and one foster baby (Baby Z who will be two in March). We homeschool our children  
and run a small hobby farm. I love to refinish furniture and living in a hardworking, century-old home!
 I'm typing in the kitchen with Baby Z on my lap and my seven-year-old singing silly renditions of “Old
MacDonald” over his math book. My 10-year-old is making dinner (sausage from the pigs that we 
raised and eggs from our hens). My oldest is out in the barn reading to her animals (think Fern and 
Wilber), and my 12-year-old stole my kindle and is snuggled up somewhere reading Little Women 
(this only after years of vision therapy and many struggles over reading). My passion is literature and 
my greatest love is the Word of God! "For it is no empty word for you, but your very life" (Deuteronomy 32:47).

What got you interested in fostering/adoption? Why did you decide to do it?

I didn't start out wanting a big family or desiring to homeschool. Or always knowing I'd one day seek out adoption. And when we started praying about adoption, fostering was the farthest thing from our minds! But when God changes your heart, He also changes your want-to. “…for it is God who works in [me], both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). This is what I need more of: God to work in me to desire to do what pleases Him!

Has anything surprised you about the process?

It’s hard to know what to say and how to feel when a woman is holding her baby and her baby reaches for you and calls you “mommy.” You wonder at the sinking look you must have as you reach back for the baby and mumble an apology and something about “she must learn it from the other kids.”

But in reality, for all practical purposes, you think and feel like you are the baby’s mother and you wonder if birth-mom can see right through you?

You wonder if she knows you have forgotten that you only birthed four of them. And you get confused when people ask you how many children you have. And you’re not sure who’s your youngest anymore. And you started using phrases like “where’s your sister?” And you can’t shake the haunting feeling that she’s napping or playing in the other room or in the church nursery or—the dreaded of all nightmares—that you left her somewhere, when she’s really at the agency visiting her birth-mother.

It’s hard to live with equal parts overwhelming joy and deep, gut-wrenching sorrow cause you know she’s going to leave but you love her so much, more and more even, every day and every minute she’s with you, even though she is a frustrated little girl that loses her temper and pinches her own checks and bites and throws toys and grits her teeth hard and lays herself out flat on the floor when she doesn’t get her own way and sometimes smears unmentionable substances in unwanted places.

But you can’t imagine living without the big-eyed little girl that folds her hands at dinner and prays “thank you welcome, Jesus” and snuggles in your arms at bed time and begs you sing “Tis so sweet” ONE. MORE. TIME. by repeating over and over “more Jesus, more Jesus.” And she tries on the little pink boots at the store with the tassels and balls and bats her eyes and says, “Pleeease, Auntie.” Yeah, you had to teach her to call you something else because mom was upset that “she doesn’t even call me ‘mommy’ anymore.”

It’s these, and a million other little things that surprise me.

How have you/your family/your spouse grown in this process? How have your biological children 
handled it?

When Baby Z first came to us we didn’t know how to pray for her. We desired to keep and fold her into our family forever, like God did for us. But we also wanted so desperately to see her mother healed—to see what was broken become a whole and healthy family, saved by the grace of God. We were (are) very conflicted.

God is changing the way we look at all of this and giving us prayers for this little one.

First we prayed that the cycle would be broken. Whether with us or with her birth-mother, that the generational pattern would end here and a new way of life would begin! We prayed from Psalm 40 for Baby Z and her birth-mama… “draw them up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set their feet upon a rock, making their steps secure. Put a new song in their mouth, a song of praise to You, God. That many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord”!

Second, through the example of a friend, He gave me another prayer as Baby Z leaves our home. I pray that God would send her places I will never go, and that she would know people I would never know, and that she takes the gospel with her the entire way!

Of course there are a host of other little prayers in between (safety, healing, healthy attachments, growth in the knowledge and grace of God, etc., etc.). Do I still want to keep her? Yes. And in my most honest times with God I ask Him, from a broken heart, to let her stay. But He is teaching me to be totally surrendered to His sovereign will and to trust Him completely. My constant song is “Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus” and the refrain is my constant prayer, “O for grace to trust Him more!”

What difficulties or frustrations have you faced in the process? What motivates you to keep going 
on in spite of this?

We can only continue because we believe in a sovereign God who works all things according to the council of His will and knew the end when He laid out the beginning. We can only continue because we believe that our God—the One who breathes out starts and speaks entire worlds into existence and even the seas and the lightening obey Him—that THAT God humbled Himself to be born as a man and did what I couldn't by walking a sinless life and then laid it all down to be crucified on a cross. And that He didn't stop there but that He rose on the third day and conquered sin and death and He did it all for me while I was yet a sinner, dead in my trespasses, a hater of God (Ephesians 2:1-10).


Because He loved me first.


And because of this, He bids me come. But not to a life of ease and comfort, not my "best life now." But to lay down my life and follow Him. And in doing so I choose suffering and I know it will cost me everything. And I do it for this little girl that didn't ask for all this—because He did it for me. He didn't look at the cross and count the cost and walk away. He faced it, sweating drops of blood, calling out to Abba Father to walk it with Him and give Him the strength. He did it because He was obedient and I do this cause I want so desperately to be obedient to my Father, too (Hebrews 4:7-10).

He came for the poor, and the captive, and the blind and the opressed. The outcast. And that’s who these kids are. They’re the ones you have to give back—and truth is, those are the ones that nobody wants ’cause they won’t ever legally belong to you. So like Jesus did in Luke 5, we recline at the feast in Levi’s house with the tax collectors (the sick and the sinners) and people look on and say, “why are you doing this?” Some days I think I don’t really know. What are we doing? But in the end, I just wanna be like Jesus.

Do you have a relationship with the birth parents? What does that look like?

Yes, we do. It’s a slow growing relationship. We’re unlikely co-parents of sorts, like you would find in a divorced couple’s situation. We both understand the feeling of loving this kid and having to give her up. I have the freedom at this point to call and text and send pictures and even take her and the kids to the zoo or library, etc. We haven’t done a lot of this yet but I’m hoping to as we get to know each other better. We live about 40 minutes apart so scheduling is tricky. She has expressed that when she gets Baby Z back she would like us to still be a part of her life, so I’m curious how that will look and practically work out. If she wants Baby Z back, and Baby Z is going back, than I want her to be successful. I want to support her. I’m not perfect, and I don’t claim to be, but I want to live life beside her and show her what it looks like to do this laying-down-your-life-thing called motherhood. I want to show her what a life sold out for Jesus looks like. I’m not sure we have the typical relationship between birth and foster parents.

What advice would you give to other couples considering fostering/adoption? (What questions
should they ask? How should they seek out support? etc)

Stay grounded in God’s word every day, gather around you prayer support, stay connected with a Bible-teaching church. Proverbs 14:4 says, “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” Be prepared to get dirty as you work for the harvest of God’s crops. It’s gonna get messy.

[view the next post in this series here]

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