She will always have a special place in our hearts. “B” (11 year old girl) was our very first foster care placement. We had received a call around 3:00pm about a child who needed a temporary home to care for her until her more permanent home was ready to receive her. This type of foster care placement is called respite care. Respite care is a very temporary stay (just a few of days). This a great way to care for children in need of a home if a longer “commitment” of time is a hindrance to you. IMPACT training classes are required to be certified for respite care, but it is totally worth the effort!
We were told she had been in and out of the foster care system at least 3 times. Because of this constant transition, she had previously exhibited behaviors that were challenging. Empathy is the key here. To be taken from your mother who is loved dearly three different times and placed in three different homes each time is not a normal childhood by any means. I cannot imagine the pain of loss this child has experienced in such a short amount of time.
As the car pulled into the driveway, Gabe and I said a prayer together blessing our home and our time with her. We opened the door to see a young girl carrying one bag of clothes and a bookbag. We awkwardly hugged and introduced ourselves. As we went inside, she immediately picked out “her” room. She then commented on our Christmas tree saying, “I love Christmas. I like this tree. My mother could not afford a tree this year.” We sat down on the couch with caseworker as she explained B’s story a little more. We talked about medicine, school routines, and food allergies. I will admit it was a lot to take in and I was getting overwhelmed thinking about the responsibility of caring for this child. Just as my eyes began to glaze over and I was beginning to become flustered, the verse “My grace is sufficient for you” washed over my mind. Praise God that my capability comes from the promise of His grace in my life.
Once the social worker left, B opened up and began chatting with us about everything under the sun. She was not shy and we were slightly surprised to see how well-behaved and polite she was acting. We went out to eat pizza, watched “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs II,” and drank hot chocolate. It was such a fun night together!
We were under the impression that she would be with us for at least a week. However, late that night we received a call that she would be leaving at 7:00am the very next morning for her new permanent home. We chose not to tell her until we woke her up the next morning. We wanted the one night we had with her to be very special for her. We wanted to pour our love out for her and give her a night of normal childhood!
This may seem romanticized; it truly was a great night. Having the opportunity to give a child something every child deserves: love is very fulfilling. But, I must be honest about something that is not a romantically portrayed image of foster care. The sinful nature, that is, my pride. As we were eating dinner I realized an emotion in my heart that I am ashamed to admit. I felt a certain insecurity; I felt pride. As we sat with a child who was obviously much older than our marriage I thought to myself, “What are people thinking about us right now? Are they judging this situation? Do they think that because of her appearance and behaviors that we have failed to care for this child?” This placement was not the cookie cutter family portrait. This was not a cute little baby. B was a young girl with poor hygiene and special needs who was in desperate need of love and care. These terribly honest thoughts were a revelation of sin in my heart that the Lord needed to chip away and He did later that night.
As we were driving home from eating pizza, B began to make up a song and sing it quietly in the back seat. These were the exact words that she sang to herself just loud enough for us to hear, “Jesus loves all of the children. Jesus loves every boy and girl. He cares about every child. Jesus loves me. He died on the cross for my sins. We believe in Him. We are His princesses and His princes. Jesus loves every child.” Tears streaming down my face, I humbly thanked the Lord for this beautiful reminder given through this beautiful soul. We rejoiced when hearing of B’s childlike faith.
I share this with you because I think there is a tendency to think that we are “saviors” because we have chosen to care for orphaned children and children in need of a temporary home. This could not be further from the truth; we are frail, imperfect human beings who are striving to serve the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ. Without the grace and mercy of God, we would not choose to love selflessly. By nature, we are all self-centered, egocentric humans who love ourselves more than anyone else. The beauty of the Gospel is that because God chose to love us in our self-centered depravity, we can now choose to love others with a selfless love. In a moment of ugly weakness, Jesus shattered my pride into a million pieces. Through the sweet, sincere song of a child He brought those pieces back together to form in my heart a compassion that only He could create.