The husband and I have based our marriage on two values that we hold dear: hospitality and generosity.
When we first got married, that looked a lot like opening our door to our small group from church, or inviting people over for dinner.
I never, ever thought it’d look like foster care.
My infertile diagnosis was a hard pill to swallow. I had made motherhood an idol, something I pined after, something I aspired to. I was going to be a mom and I was going to be good at it!
And then it seemed like God stripped that away from me, from us. I was so angry with him. My life verse has always been,
“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
What I saw happening was the exact opposite of His promise. And I was angry.
It took me years to be able to look back and see the indescribable beauty and blessing that came from that diagnosis.
After we semi-recovered from that shock, we immediately turned to adoption. We were planning on adopting, anyway. We just thought it was going to be how we rounded out our family, not how we’d begin it.
And it was good. It was really good. We spent months raising money, telling our story, and begging God to provide. Friends, family and complete strangers helped to start the Bring Baby Burdick Home fund. We were blown away by offers of fundraisers and gifts galore.
Almost a year into our adoption journey, we hit a time of pause. The hubs and I lacked motivation to move forward. We finally had the funds to start our home study, the packet of information was all filled out, but there it sat in a cupboard, untouched for months.
It was in that time God started putting pieces of a puzzle together.
You see, we hold firmly to the command in James 1:27 to care for widows and orphans in their affliction. We thought that meant adopting a baby from a woman who couldn’t or wouldn’t care for her. We thought that meant partnering with an adoption agency that cared for the mother (in a remote, very hands-off way).
We also continue to keep hospitality and generosity at the forefront. We thought this meant opening our home to that baby and giving a lot of money in order to do so.
But in this time of pause, foster care was brought to our attention. I had bucked against the idea for so long, citing some personal reasons for not wanting to work in that system. And then, while we stopped and started to re-evaluate where God was leading us, it seemed like our values, our commands, our call started to take another form-the form of foster care.
The foster care system is full of orphans. There are some whose parents are still alive but unable to care or provide for them. There are some children who are legal orphans, where no adult has legal guardianship over them. There are some who are literal orphans, with no living parents.
The foster care system is also full of widows; birth moms and dads who don’t have anyone to support them, rendering them unable to care for their children, or teen moms who are wards of the State, giving birth to little babies who will enter the same lifestyle.
Foster care requires us to be hospitable. The homes of foster parents must have a revolving door so therapists, case workers, licensing workers, nurses, and sometimes even birth families can visit and help care for the children. It requires being able to drop everything on a moment’s notice to open the door to an unannounced visit from a social worker.
This also includes opening our lives up to scrutiny. Not only does our agency closely examine our lives, the outside world does, too. That is part and parcel of being a foster parent!
Foster care requires generosity. Foster parents must prove that they are financially able to care for themselves. I personally do not know of any programs that provide the necessary items prospective foster parents need in order to be licensed. That means foster parents must provide clothes, cribs, car seats, beds, bedding, eating utensils, bottles, etc. There are some items that are covered by WIC or other State-funded programs, but those don’t go into effect until after the child is placed in a foster home. So the upstart costs can skyrocket.
Generosity (and hospitality!) in foster care also looks like opening your heart to a birth mom or dad you don’t think is fit to parent the child in your care. It means loving that person despite your greatest desire to turn from them and judge them. It means sharing the child in your care with them because you HAVE to even when it is most inconvenient and painful. It means encouraging the birth parents to straighten out their lives. It means praying for them unceasingly.
And while all those above are great lessons to learn and to live out, there is one that has been the hardest for me to grasp ahold of and to flesh out. That is the lesson that foster care is not about making me a mom.
You see, I have been pretty darn good at making motherhood an idol. If I couldn’t have my own kids, we were going to adopt so I could get a baby and call her my own. All of my arguments with God were about how He was robbing me of my desires, how He was keeping me from being a mom.
But I was missing the point. My life isn’t about being a mom. It isn’t about Pinterest parties and cool crafts and adorable outfits and nurseries. It isn’t about the accolades I’d get from other people about how well-mannered my children were or how beautiful they looked.
No, my life was about growing closer to God so that my desires started to look more like His desires.
If I REALLY wanted to claim Psalm 37:4, as my life verse, I had to claim ALL of it, not just the, “and he will give you the desires of your heart,” part.
And that is what the time of pause and our eventual venture into foster care has done for me. It has given me time to realize the idol, to tear it down and replace it with the One who deserved to be my sole focus. I had to pay as much attention to God as I did to becoming the best mother.
In that process, God began teaching me that the kids we’d be welcoming in would destroy the hopes and desires I had of being a put-together mom. These kids are going to have trauma and medical conditions and behavioral issues. These kids are going to act out against me and others because they have been separated from their moms and dads.
The more I learn about foster kids, the more I realize that I can’t decide what kind of mom I’ll be. I can’t make expectations about well-mannered the children will be in public. I can’t endlessly dream about doing sensory activities because some of these kids will have aversions to certain textures.
And the more I learn about foster kids, the more I realize that yes, this journey has been about my own personal growth, but also that it is ultimately not about me at all. It is about these kids. It is about bringing Jesus into their lives in the form of 3 am bottle feedings, tantrums, meltdowns and dysregulation. It is about giving them a space to heal so they can go back home and live fruitful lives.