November 28, 2012

R & R - Waiting with Purpose

The ringing of the telephone interrupts my day.  Actually, the telephone often interrupts my day.  It’s practically a requirement for being a foster parent.  I never know exactly what to expect when I hear that familiar sound, so like Pavlov’s dog, my heart has been trained to give an inevitable little leap. I say a quick prayer, take a breath, and answer it.

This time, it is indeed a social worker calling, informing me that my current foster child will soon be leaving.  The date has been confirmed for her to be admitted to a long-term care facility.  I experience so many conflicting emotions in the next 30 seconds, that it’s almost impossible to describe them all. 

Regret.  Although I have known that this was the official plan for her, my heart can’t help but sink.  This is the very opposite of everything I believe in and work so hard to achieve . . . I want to rescue children from institutions, not send them there!  “They will take good care of her at the Home,” the social worker states, in an attempt to demonstrate her magnanimity and the certain benefits that surely await this child.  But the name the facility is a thin disguise of the truth . . . How can it be a “home” without a mother to hug and kiss her?  Without sisters who will paint her fingernails and make hair-bows to match her shoes?  Without the people who truly love her holding her and doting on her 24/7?  The social worker’s words bring me no comfort.  Oh Lord, help me to accept that your plan is always good!

Resentment.  Despite my repeated requests to allow her to stay, and my assurances that I would commit to caring for her, my appeals went unheeded.  My consistent track record and respected reputation in the foster care community mean very little sometimes.  The frustrating truth is that judges tend to listen to social workers rather than foster parents.   The situation was entirely out of my hands; the decision had been made.  Please, Lord, help my anger to not take root.  Help me to forgive quickly.

Relief.  Yes, if I allow myself to be completely honest, there is a bit of relief mixed in with the other thoughts rushing through my mind.  Relief that her many, complicated needs would no longer be my responsibility.  A glimmer of hope that I might be able to sleep through the night, or maybe plan my days around something besides feeding tube schedules, medications, and doctors appointments.  Selfishly, this imminent move would be a good thing, at least for me.  But at what expense?  Those small sacrifices are nothing, minor inconveniences I gladly endure if it means a child’s opportunity to grow and thrive.

Well, it doesn’t really matter what I think or feel or believe to be the best for this child.  The date has been set.  The reality is that I will only have a few more days to be her mama, to love on her and show her what it means to be a part of a family.

I had barely begun to process the soon-to-be loss in my heart, had just started getting all of her paperwork in order, and hadn’t even packed the first sock yet when I hear the familiar sound . . . Ring, ring, ring!  My heart once again skips a beat in anticipation.  Who would it be this time?

Yet another social worker from yet another county.  “I’ve heard that you will soon have an open bed in your home,” she casually remarks, as if my home is a cheap hotel, “and I want to let you know about another situation.”  Uh oh, I know what “situation” means.  “There is a medically-fragile little boy who is in the hospital.  He’s been ready to be discharged for three weeks, but no one will take him.  Are you interested?”  I ask for a few more details, gather as much information as I can, and then, regardless of my initial reaction, I respectfully end the conversation with my now-standard reply:  “My husband and I will need to pray about.  We will let you know.”

For two days and two sleepless nights I struggled with the decision, contemplating the pros and cons, not only for this new child but also for me and my family; praying for wisdom and direction; counting the cost.  And once again, I found myself faced with varying thoughts and emotions - extreme, contrasting, and confusing.

Resolute.  I resolved long ago to always be obedient to the Lord’s calling, regardless of how I “feel” about something.  I know that there will never be a perfect time to open up my heart and home to a child.  I will never be less busy or have more energy.  If God wants me to be His hands and arms in the life of a child, I am grateful that He would entrust that responsibility to me!  Dear God, I want to be available and obedient to whatever You ask of me.

Really?  I am really the only person in my entire state who can care for this child?  I hear all the time about loving families who would be willing to provide a home for a needy child.  I look around at the big homes in my neighborhood.  Homes, no doubt, with spare bedrooms.  I often see my friends “like” the adoption and foster care websites on their Facebook pages.  Where are they right now?  Surely there are others who are equally capable and willing to care for this little boy who needs a family.

Reluctance.  I’m not sure what is causing me to feel hesitant about opening my home to this child, but I do.  Proverbs 3:27 is often in the forefront of my mind when making decisions.  It says, “Do not withhold good when it is within your power to do it.”  Providing a home and family for this child is entirely within my power.  Wouldn’t it be selfish for me to withhold that from him?  Lord, please give me wisdom in this situation.  Show me what You want me to do.

Many, many times over the years I have said yes.  And almost always, I have been blessed beyond measure, so glad that I did!  But now?  I can’t say for sure that this is what God is calling me to do.  He seems to be strangely silent.  Maybe I need more time to grieve the loss of the little girl who hasn’t even left my home yet.   Perhaps it is necessary to process all of my conflicting thoughts and emotions before jumping right in to focus on this new little one who would certainly require my undivided attention in the foreseeable future.  Could it be that I’m just physically tired and could benefit from a reprieve?  Whatever the reason, I reluctantly call the social worker back and give her my answer:  I’m sorry.  Not this time.

So now I rest.  And regroup.  And reflect.  Our little girl is settled into her new “home,” and my home is relatively quiet – well, as quiet as it can be with a rowdy preschoooler and three energetic teenagers.  Still, compared to the constant stress and frequent emergencies that accompany a special-needs child, my days are suddenly unstructured and my schedule curiously flexible.  But that doesn’t mean I am now idle, with nothing to do but eat bonbons and watch daytime television.  No, I can wait with purpose.  I may have been temporarily called away from the playing field, but I am still very much in the game.  Still a part of the team.  Only now I can play with different equipment, more effective ones than the ones I usually hold in my hands.  Now I can fill this unexpected free time with prayer. 

I can certainly begin with myself, praying that God would protect me from discouragement and anger.  Does He really want to have a disgruntled, resentful servant who mutters, “It’s not fair!” under her breath?  I don’t think so.  I can pray that He would use this time to refresh and renew my passion for caring for His precious children.

He knows the sweet girl who is now being cared for by a changing shift of people who do not know her.  He is fully aware that there is a little boy who is still in the hospital with no one to take him home.  I can plead for them, and for the thousands of orphans in my community and around the world, that they would never for one second be out of His sight.  The fatherless and motherless children who will go to bed tonight with no one to tuck them in.  Lonely, afraid, another ray of hope slowly fading.   I can ask that He would protect them and would orchestrate events as only He can, providing families who will love them and care for them.

I can pray for the families who have an abundance of love and resources to share, that God would prompt them to open their hearts and home to a child in need, removing their fears and doubts and hesitations.  These children desperately need a family, whatever form that family may take.  Yes, in a perfect world, families would consist of a mom and a dad; but in a perfect world, there would be no orphans in the first place.  Wouldn’t it be better for an unprotected, forsaken, disheartened child to be cherished by a single parent or older parents, along with the wild and crazy extended family, rather than have no one at all?  I can pray that God would compel those families, urgently even, to call the foster and adoption agencies.  To attend the informational meetings, to take the steps necessary to begin the required paperwork and homestudy.  To do whatever it takes to connect with a child who so earnestly desires a home.

And finally, I can pray for church leaders - our respected, influential shepherds, that their eyes would be opened to the importance of orphan care ministries.  That they would realize that their parishioners who are fostering, adopting, and sponsoring orphans are actually demonstrating “pure religion” (James 1:27), and would seek ways to strengthen and encourage them, wherever they may be along that journey.  Even that they would be willing to start a tax-deductible fund, so that those who can’t adopt would be able to financially support those who can.1

For this time, at least, I will patiently wait and continue to pray.  I will embrace the respite He has given me.   What exactly does this R & R mean?  

Rest.  My soul is content, knowing that God’s work, His plans and purposes are always good, and are much greater than just one person.  

Rejoice.  In the midst of weariness and grief and frustration, my heart has a reason to dance.  Why?  I can fully trust “Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).  I look forward with anticipation to see what HE will accomplish!


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