Thanksgiving morning, I was busy cooking while our five children played in an adjacent room. Every few minutes, I paused to peek in, and on one particular glance I lingered at the heart-warming sight before me.
As the fire crackled, the television played scenes from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Piled on the sofa were ten legs attached to five bedheads. As I surveyed the giggling, messy-haired gang of children, all relaxed and safe at home, it was not apparent who shared DNA or a last name.
If every realization has a moment, this was mine. My heart exhaled the last bits of long-held concern and truth settled into the deep recesses: These kids are going to be alright.
We welcomed our first foster placement seven months ago to an already busy family with three, biological 11-year-old triplets.
Entering this ministry was a whole family decision, made prayerfully with the input of our trio of pre-teens. As hypotheticals have become reality in the last several months there have been moments of fear, particularly as it relates to how this will impact my bio kids.
Our once peaceful home has seen extreme emotion as our foster children process the changes in their lives. My biological children have had to adjust and make room for new personalities and their roles in the family. Because we are a foster—not adoptive—home, the little ones with whom we have shared sofas, meals, toys, holidays and memories won’t be here long-term. In the back of all our minds looms the reality that we will one day pack up their things and help them move to their forever family, whether it is through reunification, adoption or another permanency plan.
I can read the faces of people who care about our family, and some voice their concerns. “How are your kids doing with all this?” “Is it hard for them to hear the foster kids call you mommy and daddy?” “How do you think your kids are going to deal with letting them go?”
All five of the kids that sleep in our home are our kids. God has called us to care for those in need, and He wastes nothing. A wise woman took me by the hands at church a few weeks ago and reminded me: “There are seeds being planted in your foster children’s hearts in this season in your home and also in the hearts of your biological kids.” We have no idea when and how God will bring this to bloom, but we know that He will.
The impact on our biological kids has been one of the greatest blessings of this experience. As they share their home, parents, pets, toys, books and such, they are given daily opportunities to put values into practice, such as giving, serving, sacrifice and conflict resolution. We’ve taken them on short-term mission trips, served at soup kitchens, participated in youth camps and packed shoeboxes, but this is a whole new lesson in sharing our lives. We are fumbling our way through some days, praying God will fill in the gaps. The watchful eyes of my children are taking in all of it. Frankly, the compassion my fifth-graders show me after a particularly challenging moment often humbles me. And when I hear them pray for the hearts of our foster children, I truly feel we are partners in this ministry.
I overheard them tell inquiring adults that fostering is, “hard but important.” What a lesson to learn at their age!
There are sacrifices, squabbles and issues to be resolved, no doubt…but God has been so gracious to give me glimpses of how He is using all of this.
A couple of hours after that scene on the sofa, our extended family took turns sharing one thing for which we were grateful. When our tween daughter smiled brightly at the two extra children at our table and said, “I’m thankful to have you with our family,” I heard God whisper again: These kids are going to be alright.