There are seeds planted in every person’s life that help shape them into the person they’ll become. I had very little exposure to the idea of becoming a foster parent until college, and it ended up being a change in major during college when the first seed was planted. It wasn’t until much later that it sprouted, and from there it still took a couple of years to come to fruition. Here is my story.
I set out to double major in Biblical Studies and English. I enjoyed kids from my time babysitting, but I never gave serious consideration to making a career out of working with children, nor did I imagine I’d open my home to children that weren’t mine. My dreams had centered around writing ever since I can remember. In middle school, I spent a summer carrying around a folder of loose-leaf paper. I figured if I could write two pages a day for the entire summer I’d be the youngest best-seller novelist by the 6th grade. Suffice it to say, it didn’t work out. At some point during the summer, I bought a book about writing while on a family vacation. In the back seat of our mini-van I stumbled onto a chapter outlining how to write a tasteful sex scene. I was embarrassed out of commission and decided to wait a few more years before becoming too adult.
On my 17th birthday, I purchased my very own typewriter in a part of Minneapolis they call Uptown. It was a vintage beauty, and although I hardly used it, it is still a part of my living room decor and a source of inspiration. I lugged that Corona typewriter with me to college in hopes of fueling my deepest passion for writing, but it spent four years in my cramped dorm room untouched.
It wasn’t until I went home for Christmas break my junior year and picked up a couple shifts working at an after school program that something clicked. My first day filling in, I met a 1st grade boy who asked me how I was doing. Apparently, saying I was fine wasn’t enough. He also wanted me to make a face to demonstrate how I was feeling. Every day for the rest of the week, he would greet me at the door, ask how I was, and plead for me to make the corresponding facial expression. By the end of the week, I felt more fulfilled hanging out with those strange and hilarious tiny people than I had in my major at college. I had found it- that thing that filled me with purpose. As soon as classes resumed, I went straight to my advisor and switched my major to Elementary Education.
Shortly afterwards, I was sitting in my first education class and felt a call to go to South America. I started researching different volunteer programs and eventually came across an orphanage in Peru that was looking for a long-term volunteer to teach kinder. I was applying for this around the time that I started dating my future husband. When things became serious between us and we got engaged, we sat down and talked about Peru. We decided that I’d hold off on the trip until we wed so we could go together.
We left for Peru two months after we tied the knot. At this point in my story I should caution newlywed couples from making a huge change so early in your marriage. I can’t regret going, but it didn’t allow us to bond properly. We weren’t working on solidifying the foundation of our marriage. I was so focused outward on my work in the orphanage that I neglected my new husband, putting our marriage on the back burner to prioritize the kids. That would create deep damage to both myself and our relationship when we returned to the States and it was just us again- us without any foundation aside from the experience in South America we had left behind.
My secondary mistake was that I didn’t guard my heart. I fell in love with each child in my Kinder class, and I fell hard. There was the precocious three year old that wore a blue turtleneck and looked like a little man- stubborn, moody, and intellectual. There was a two year old who loved his galletas (crackers) and was always dressed in a sweater and scarf because the Peruvians believed babies would get sick if they weren’t bundled like Randy from A Christmas Story. I caught that bundle of a toddler more than once drinking from an outdoor toilet when his house mother brought her kids out to play.
Those children were there when I started, but we had another three year old join my class a couple months after I arrived. There were signs of abuse from the get go: from the way he cowered under a desk with his five year old sister the entire first day, how he and his infant brother would constantly pinch other kids, and the fact that each sibling was largely nonverbal. I certainly didn’t know how to help, but I wanted to be with each one of them forever, take them home, and protect them.
It was heart wrenching to leave the kids at the end of our volunteer commitment. I wanted to stay longer or make plans to go back, and my heart yearned for adoption. I kept thinking that surely in some cosmic plan, this experience was meant to give me the heart for international adoption. For a while it consumed me. My husband, who was rightly telling me it wasn’t time and if things continued like this might never be time, seemed like the enemy keeping me from what my heart desired. I was pitted against him, and my heart ached.
It ached for a long time. It took me too long to put my marriage first and let God figure out the rest. Instead, I felt like my husband was keeping me from living out God’s will, and I burned with jealousy and heartache every time I heard someone share about adoption or foster care. And I heard many unwanted and infuriatingly inspirational sermons on the topic that I wanted to walk out on in those healing years. Why would God allow that family to adopt and not me? Why would God put me with my husband when he’s clearly holding me back?
Those were the thoughts that passed through my mind until my husband and I hit a brick wall.
I guess you could say our marriage hit rock bottom, but the truth was the damage had been done two months after we said our vows. It was just finally catching up to us. I remember the conversation that made the difference. We were in a coffee shop and laid it all out on the table, all the hurt, all the distance between us, and that’s when I finally put down my desires for a family to give space for our marriage.
Sometimes the Lord waits for us to surrender before He moves. As soon as I let go of my desperation for adoption, He started to make a way for foster care. It happened slowly over a couple years. There were logistical things that had to come together like buying our first house with room for extra kiddos. My son needed to grow up a little because we only wanted to foster children younger than him. And heart things needed to be sorted out. My husband was still reluctant to go there, yet I didn’t mind this time that he wasn’t on board. If ever he was willing, then I’d know it was the right thing for our family and the right time.
In the end it was about six years from when we were in Peru and the seeds of foster care/adoption had sprouted and when we accepted our first placement. During that time I would have seen it as six years before my husband finally figured out I was right and got on board with God’s plan. In reality, it was more like six years until I got out of my own way and let God handle it.
At one point we met with someone at our agency to get more information. The poor lady told us she had never had a couple ask so many questions. We took the paperwork home with us, and I filled out the many page background study before my husband confided that he still wasn’t comfortable with this. Yes, I was disappointed, but it didn’t break me and I could wait. It was another year and a half before he came to me one day and said he was ready.
Getting to this point was a hard fought journey: one that I don’t want to relive. But I can see the intricacies of God’s hand in the midst of it all, and it’s beautiful.
I love hearing other people’s journeys! Please include your story in the comments below!