One of the major components of dealing well with kids is being a person of grace. What I mean when I speak of grace in regards to parenting is the ability to grab hold of beauty and reflect it in the midst of even the most chaotic circumstances and genuine strife…the ability to maintain a calm and choose peace despite all else swirling in unpredictable ways both in and outside of yourself.
Fostering children puts this character trait on the fast course to growth and makes our lack of grace all the more obvious on a moment to moment basis. Just the other night my husband ran quickly outside to grab something — I suppose he thought it unnecessary to take the time to put any shoes or jacket on even though there was two inches of snow on the ground. He later told me that while he was outside, walking barefoot through ice that night he thought to himself, “If anyone were to ask me how to best prepare for foster care, I would tell them to wait until it snows, then go outside and stand barefoot and shirtless for a long time and remain perfectly calm.”
Since writing my previous blog, our foster daughters have moved from our home into their paternal Grandmother’s home (who plans to adopt them). We fostered them for 10 months and experienced situations within those months that I couldn’t have made up if I tried. Slowly discovering the “norms” of the foster care system has been heartbreaking and overwhelming for my family. Even if we had been fortunate enough to work with the most highly recommended and regarded agencies in the country, I believe we still would have learned that what we see as acceptable does not often exist in dealings with “the system.” From the lack of general professionalism, willingness to put in any true effort, quickness to lie or manipulate, to fights among parties and ridiculous disregard for the people doing the caring (foster families) and the children involved, we have well learned that having grace with the system is an extremely difficult task. Putting yourself in a position to have to deal with these things is not a decision to be taken lightly.
From the start, my family has tried to be very realistic about our expectations. Even so, it is difficult to express how the weight of such heavy sin, past and current mess ups and trauma can impact a heart and a household. Adoption is a beautiful, biblical calling, but the mere fact that the need to adopt exists should cause us first to stop and truly analyze the nature of our fallen world, not failing to include ourselves in that picture and doing our best to understand that adoption means working with sinners. It means making a covenant with sinners and humbling ourselves enough to deal with a lot of other sinners in the process. This is so much easier articulated than acted on.
The Answer Through It All
The only way any beauty can come from such wreckage is grace. As believers, we’ve received the ultimate grace of the cross of Christ, ourselves being welcomed into God’s family as his adopted sons and daughters and we have the ability to extend the same grace to those around us. This past season has also called for an abundance of grace to be shed onto — not just working professional strangers but my foster daughters, my biological son, my husband, my extended family members and myself. Fostering, adopting, parenting….these are tough jobs. Getting into the deep well of the grace of God for me was a vital piece of my survival of the past several months. If I took my eyes off of the cross, I quickly began to sink. Almost every interaction with my girls was stress-filled because trauma ruled their thoughts and actions; very few interactions were available for my husband and I that were ruled by peace or included thoughts or feelings outside of our role as parents (which often brought out our worst); conversations with well meaning friends and family were difficult because we were so fragile and broken. Grace had to cover.
What Daily Grace Looks Like
Over time, I began to learn that often grace simply looks like not fighting back. Choosing the peace of Jesus and having faith to trust His Spirit in that very moment to give you exactly what you need. Grace, in my mind, encompasses a lot of attitudes. Meekness, love, mercy, patience, forbearance but overall it evokes a picture of beauty. Like a ballerina gliding, not without much effort but seemingly effortlessly across a space in such a way that inspires. Do my actions and reactions inspire more beauty and more grace or inflict more pain and keep tempers burning? The Bible is full of advice, commands and observations of this topic. How often have I looked like a complete fool because I chose anger, let the comment get to me, caused pain when I could’ve shown love and been a peacemaker….
Trusting Each Step of the Way
I believe that true grace comes from true brokenness. Being broken also points us in the way of true trust. When I learned that I simply could not rely on the people I thought were there to help me, my kids to learn their lessons, my husband to be a superhero, my family and friends to know exactly how to help at the exactly right moments or myself to somehow rise above it all blamelessly, I also learned true dependence.
In our helplessness there is not a loss of hope; we serve the highest ruling authority in the universe. As He taught me grace, He forced me to learn trust. Trust in His ultimate plan for my life, trust in His goodness and sovereignty over my foster daughters’ stories, trust in His timing for circumstantial and heart change and trust that He’d remain true to His word and genuinely equip me for the good work that He’d prepared in advance for me to do. Many moments came and went that were filled with anger, depression, and so much doubt.
And then again, I’d find myself back to learning grace. This is not an easy road and my parenting journey is really just beginning. The beauty in it all is that God does indeed work all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. He orchestrates our stories to form us into his very likeness. A good Father, calling his children to look, think and act like Himself. Praise Him who does so ever so gently and faithfully, never leaving us to figure it out on our own. With His glory as my highest aim, I remember my calling, my passion, my purpose, looking forward with great hope to the next steps of this journey.