(if you can stick with this post to the end, you’ll find the beginning of a happy ending there)
For those of you involved in foster care and adoption, you know the process in infinitely complicated. My introduction to the world of the fatherless, however, was made at the age of three and as far as I understood the situation, my daddy found a baby at the hospital, saw that she needed a family, and brought her home that night. My take-away lesson from this toddler’s introduction to our family was that when children need a home, we give them ours. Her name was hard for me to say, so I gave her a nickname and without hesitation assumed she was the answer to my prayers for a sister. I remember being so pleased that Jesus had answered my prayers.
She was just little enough to feel like my baby. My mom says I never fussed about her, never seemed to mind that the attention that had previously been directed only at me was now split rather unfairly between me and a very sick, high-maintenance little sister. I only remember that I loved her and wished my skin looked like hers, so dark and beautiful. Her hair was even frizzier than mine, which also made me happy.
When God uses a life event to place a passion in your heart as a child, sometimes you don’t ever even realize that it has happened until much later. Over the years, I have carried a burden for the children who don’t have families…sometimes so heavy that my inability to do anything about it was suffocating.
It’s OK to feel suffocated by a need,
but sometimes when you try to meet that need
without first meeting a God who is big enough for you and the need,
you’ll find yourself suffocating still.
In 2005, the opportunity arose for me to move to Honduras and be a foster mom to 5 children whose stories, if I could tell them, would break your heart. I was 19 and the things these children had seen – the things that had been done to them – were things that I didn’t even know happened in the world. I walked into a dark apartment in the bottom half of a neighborhood market. Five little faces looked into mine, my heart was theirs immediately and in an instant, a slum of just over 14,000 people became home. At night, gunshots rang out and sometimes in the morning there was fresh blood on the street. Children sat hungry in the dirt and sometimes the electricity would go out for hours. Hot water was out of the question. In the midst of all that, though, we found joy. Perhaps even because of all that. Soon the number of children doubled and with that my need to heal them all, fix them all, and be everything to them all only suffocated me more. I was doing more and dying more all at the same time. We were a fun little family, for sure. We gathered trash and built a little town in the back yard. We climbed trees and brought in mangos and avocados for dinner. We took walks, did homework, and read books just like a normal family. We had runaways, suicide attempts, and lots of pooping in the wrong places. Satan tried very hard to mess up a good thing. And we messed up. A lot. But we also had many sweet moments of healing and experiencing redemption in their lives and mine.
The devastating part of the story for me was that I couldn’t bring these kids home with me. I was just a transitional home for them. Now they live in a group home where they are loved, but not by me. At the time, leaving them there felt like extreme failure. It has never felt right for me to stop being a mom to a child. That’s kind of the crux of foster care, though. The starting necessitates some stopping every now and then. And sometimes stopping being a mom happens to be the right thing to do. This world is messy and for me, being a part of foster care has meant I am never far from a place of trust…mostly because if I didn’t trust, I’d die.
As wonderful as their new home is, leaving Reina, Jorge, Julio, Wendy, Noe, Jairo, Jimmy, Jessy, Reinita, and Cindy in Honduras broke my heart.
As so many of my friends consistently remind me: it is OK to grieve. It’s necessary actually. One of the hardest parts, though, of not having these children in my life anymore is the fact that I’m totally out of control. I don’t know each intimate detail of their lives anymore and I’m not the one reading their bedtime stories. I don’t get to be the one to answer their hard questions and pray with them. Part of that is hard because I miss them, but part of it is hard because I just don’t want to let go and trust that the plan Jesus has for each of their lives is perfect…without me. His plan was for me to just have a tiny slice of their lives all to myself. And we’re promised that he is always good. How can I assume that his goodness doesn’t apply to my children’s lives?
Each time I’ve returned to Honduras, my heart has broken as I leave and they ask when I’ll be back. I never know. In April 2010, Reina (now a teenager), buried her face in my shirt and asked me to come back soon. I knew it would be years before I saw her again. Cindy, the youngest, crawled into my lap and whispered, “You were my mom, right?” Can I trust Jesus enough to heal her little heart that has now lost two moms?
This week, my heart has been aching more than usual to see her and the others, to hold their faces in my hands again and tell them how precious they are, how Jesus created them with purpose. Sitting in Starbucks last night, I had the sudden urge to call a friend who will be going to Honduras this week and ask her to do those things for me. Before I even got my question out, she said, “Do you know anyone who wants to go to Honduras this week?”
Well, I did know someone.
Within 24 hours, the details worked themselves out in that way I’ve come to love. I feel like a child again, watching my Daddy plan out a trip for me, every aspect perfect. This heavenly Father of mine is slowly wooing me out of a place where I feel that everything is “too good to be true” into a place where I can accept (and expect) that sometimes – often – what he does ends up being better than I could have ever imagined.
In just a few days, I will be on an airplane to the country where I first learned about so many things I love: Spanish, foster care, grace, chocolate covered bananas, and 10 little children. Honduras is where I learned that sometimes the very best thing is to fall down and fall hard, because Jesus catches us there.
And so as I prepare to go back and see their faces, hold their hands, and kiss their little noses, I’m getting my heart in the right place. I’m remembering God’s goodness to me and trusting that He is good enough for 10 little children in Honduras. I’m standing in awe of how tenderly he fathers me, parents me, corrects me, and loves me and it’s impossible for me to assume that he’s not enough to be father, mother, and everything else to these little ones I love so much.
In just a few days, I will get to walk into a place where my heart is still healing, ask Jesus to meet me there, and help me model to my children the very thing I claim to believe:
That nothing’s too hard to be softened by Jesus.
Nothing’s too wrong to be made right.
Everything sad will become untrue.
He turns everything dark into light.
Pray with me, please? I promise to let you know how it goes…