I’m excited to share my friend Jen McManus with you guys today. She’s that friend of mine that I wish I lived closer to because I know we would hang out more. She is also someone that continues to inspire me because let me tell you this girl works out and takes care of her body. Also, let me tell you that when she had cancer she worked out as well. She didn’t let cancer keep her from keeping her body healthy. Wow, I’m inspired! She’s also a foster mom, and here’s some great words from her. Show her some love and leave her a comment.
A few weeks ago, I said goodbye to my baby. I handed him off to a stranger and watched the car with him in it drive away. All the while knowing I would never see my son again.
No, I didn’t carry him for nine months, but from the moment he came home from the hospital he was mine. I was his Mommy. I held his small, sick body, and prayed he’d be healthy one day. I did the late night bottle duty. I answered every cry. I was there for his first smile, his first time rolling over, and his first beautiful giggle. I held him for days while he was in the hospital. But today, I had to say “goodbye.” I cried; no, I wept. I wept because I would never see him again. I would never see him walk or hold his little toddler hand. I would never see his face light up as he called me “Mommy.” I wouldn’t kiss his head as he headed off to kindergarten. I would never be his “Mommy” again. He’d actually never even remember me. He’ll never know about the hundreds of pictures I have of him. He’ll never know our family prays for him every night. We might even pass him one day in the future and never even know it. Yesterday was the day that I hate most of all. The day we say goodbye. I call it the “dark day.”
Six times I have had that “dark day.” SIX TIMES!
Every time, a huge part of my heart breaks off. Yet, every time I have found myself praying God takes my dark day and turns it into a beautiful story. I pray that each of my babies become a story of hope, rescue, and redemption. That prayer helps me welcome in the next baby, knowing there will be another dark day. The hope that my pain will be nothing compared to the beautiful story God will tell through my foster baby’s lives makes it bearable. That hope helps the tears dry. That hope in God’s power to transform the worst situations brings light into those dark days. That hope enables our family to say “yes” to the next foster angel.
Our family’s foster journey started in a classroom. The agency worker was blunt, honest, and sometimes callous to the harsh realities of fostering and the fostercare system. I remember where my mind went: I leaned over and whispered into my husband’s ear, “This is a messed up system. Let’s just adopt a baby and get out!!!”
Weeks after being certified, we got our first call for a placement. He was a nine month old baby boy, just two months younger than our daughter. We had three biological kids: Connor (5), Bryce (3), and Alexis (1). The worker told us over the phone that this case would more than likely “go to adoption.” I selfishly though, “Jackpot!” We accepted the placement. We loved that little boy. He immediately became part of our family. He loved our kids and they loved him. We would eventually call him and Alexis the ‘twins’, even though he was twice her size and a very different complexion. They adored each other. My husband was this little man’s first experience with a “Daddy” and he loved him. And me? Well, I could get him to light up when no one else could. “Mommy” was his first word, and he was talking about me. He was quite simply our son and brother. So, to say we were devastated when we found out the case was not moving toward adoption, but actually reunification, was an understatement. Our hearts were broken. We found ourselves picking up the pieces, all the while realizing that we now had to share our son with his first Mom, who was trying her hardest to get her life back on track. God softened our hearts toward her and although we were so sad, we began to have a relationship with our baby’s first Mom. As the day she worked so hard for got closer and closer, I prepared for the tears. We all cried. We cried for the baby who wouldn’t be “ours” anymore. We joyfully cried for a first Mom who had worked and worked for this day. We cried because we had loved so much and so hard and now had to say goodbye.
We picked ourselves up and began to pray for God’s guidance. I didn’t feel strong enough to EVER do that again. I mean what callous, cold hearted, crazy person could just love babies and then give them back? Who could sign up for that heartbreak again? Fool me once shame on you, but fool me twice shame on me. No way was I ever doing THAT again.
My husband and I were reminded that long ago someone did exactly that for us: loved so deeply knowing He would be betrayed, spit upon, rejected, and hurt. He knew He would have a dark day and would have to say goodbye, but He knew something even bigger and better would happen as a result. Something that could wipe the tears away. He knew there was a bigger plan. A plan that would bring victory, beauty, grace, love, forgiveness, and redemption. He knew that His moments of pain would never compare to the beauty of the story that was written. We began to weed through our pain and hurt and see a beautiful story. We began to hear the words our baby’s first Mom said to us, thanking us for loving her son, caring for him when she couldn’t. We began to realize that dark day was not dark at all. We began to see it as a day or victory, beauty, grace, love, forgiveness, and redemption. And it helped…
Our hearts began to heal, and God began to prepare us to open our lives once again. What I thought would be just a small part of our adoption story turned into one of the callings on our family’s lives. God was calling us to become the one thing I truly thought I could never do: become a middle family, a foster family. We became the family that took in babies who more than likely would leave us one day, always with the intention that we would adopt once God cleary said our time as a middle family was over. We have fostered 7 times now (currently loving on a 6 week old girl we have had since she was 3 days old). It has been one of the hardest, yet most beautiful things our family has done. My kids have learned to love without getting anything back. They have seen and heard about our broken world, yet seen beauty and grace in our hearts as we love bio families even if they have messed up. They have learned to be compassionate. My husband – who has never been keen about other people’s kids – has opened his arms and heart to seven kids that weren’t biologically his. He has sacrificed his home, his free time, his financial earnings and given them away with open hands. I have learned that I am capable of more than I thought only because I have Jesus. I have learned daily that I need Him more and more. I have learned that loving a baby that will break your heart one day is not about being “strong enough” to give a baby back. I have learned that loving these babies is no different than loving my own. Actually that isn’t true. It is very different. I must love these babies harder and more unconditionally than I ever love my biological babies. I have to love them, knowing a dark day is coming. I have to love them with every beat of the same heart that will feel completely shattered on that day. I have to love them in a way only someone who knows Jesus’ love can love.
The reality is we need more who are willing to have “dark days.” We need more who are willing to open their lives up and turn them upside down for the sake of a foster child. We need more willing to “give them back” even though it hurts. We need more willing to see the beauty in a broken system. We need more willing to love and care for overworked and underpaid state employees. We need more willing to look past a parent’s sin and love them instead of judge them. We need moms willing to rock a baby all night long in a hospital room. We need dads willing to become the only father figure these kids may ever know. We need more willing to love so deeply even if it feels like when that dark day comes they won’t be able to face it. We need more willing to love kids even if it means you never receive love back. Simply put, we need more who are willing to live and love like Christ: unconditionally, sacrificially, and completely.
My prayer is that you will consider whether God is calling you to be that crazy family like us. The family with a different face in every family portrait. You’ll get the funny looks. You’ll get lots of questions. But, you’ll also get to share the beautiful story of the kids God places in your life with those around you. You will experience God’s love in a way you’ve never known.
I was once like you. I was the “I could never do that” person. I was unwilling to open my heart to something that would hurt so much. But, the “I cant’s” turned into “I’ll try” and then “I will.” Not because of some greater quality in me, but because of the love I have received in Jesus. That’s the beautiful reality of the foster care story. It’s the story of God giving everything He had to love children that didn’t even know Him. It’s the story of God sacrificing Himself for children who could give Him nothing in return. It’s the story of God suffering the ultimate dark day to create the ultimate story of victory, beauty, grace, love, forgiveness, and redemption. I pray you will consider becoming part of that story.
Jen is a God-loving, hubby-adoring, kid-raising, workout-playing, sport-watching, west coast gal living in the south. She rocks the stay-at-home thing. She loves her kiddos, 3 who came the natural way and 1 foster daughter. She loves to work out, play outside, eat horrible food, talk, laugh, and watch sports. She’s a horrible cook and sucks at decorating, but she can clean anything and love to do it. Jen’s a cancer fighter stage 3 since 2011. #GodWins