A Foster Mom's Heart
Jenny is your everyday 24 year old who simply said yes when God called her to foster care over a year ago. She has since cared for and parted with two placements (three children total). We sat down to talk to her just shy of one week after saying goodbye to two little ones (for a little background, check out Part One and Part Two of Jenny’s journey up until now). As we celebrate the gift of every person serving the role of Mom, we invite you to look at Mother's Day through her unique lens.
How long have you been doing foster care?
Jenny (J): “I have been an officially certified foster parent for a little over a year and a half! My first placement, Baby A, was 3 months old when I got him and I had him for 4 months. My second placement was a sibling pair, L was 3 years old and D was 2 years old when they came and I had them for 10 months!”
Wow! So, what does it mean to you to be a Mom? Is there only one definition?
J: “Hmm, I feel like it’s so many things just wrapped up in one. I don’t know if there’s a way to completely define motherhood and all that it entails - and that could be so wrong, maybe there is I have no idea - but for me, I have a hard time having one definition of everything that a mother takes on and does, as well as all she needs to let go of. It’s kind of difficult, because I’ve never been a biological mother but I think for me, giving a child the opportunity to have the comfortability with you that they can be so happy all day long with every stranger, but the moment they see you walk through the door they melt down. This can be one of the most frustrating things, but at the same time, it shows me that they have such a comfortable spirit around me. They know that I will hold them up when they can’t any longer; I will love them unconditionally and be there to hold them as they cry, to make them laugh, have tickle fights - everything. As a mom, you’re there. And as a single mom you do take on that Daddy role, too!”
Have you experienced Mother's Day while caring for a child in your home?
J: “My first placement, when he left was a couple weeks shy of Mother’s Day. So it was actually very difficult my first Mother’s Day of being a Mom. It was very new that he was gone; it was such a traumatic ending to that story, my heart was not ready. I was still in the beginning parts of grieving for that child, and I had lost most communication with the biological family so there was really nothing there. I had a difficult time with it. I even remember Pastor Jerry having the moms stand up during service to be recognized, and I didn’t stand up because - there was no child calling me Mommy at that moment - I didn’t feel that I had that honor to stand up and be recognized as a Mom. But when you really think about it, you still do, your heart still holds that child as if he or she is right next to you. And just throwing this out there to all moms, if there’s something so deep missing in your heart that you don’t feel like you’re able to be recognized in that way, know that you’re not alone and stand up anyway. You are a mother no matter what that means in your own story.”
That is heartbreaking! Tough question: In your experience so far, is all this pain worth it? Is there any beauty in it?
J: “Absolutely. I would not trade any of the amount of moments that I’ve had whether good or bad because I see how the Lord used each child to change me and take my faith so much deeper. He broke down so many walls that would never have been literally shattered if it weren’t for these children, and the love that He showed me through them. It makes it all absolutely incredible. I couldn’t imagine who I would be if I hadn’t gone through the loss, especially of the first [placement, Baby A], because that just took me to a completely different level of love, and a different level of understanding loss. I was 23 and I had never suffered from some of the things that first little baby had gone through, and most definitely never came close to the things my second placement had experienced. But you see the strength the Lord has given these children and - I don’t know - it gives you such a different perspective of the Lord and His goodness, even through tragedy. His goodness is so evident, especially when you get over that little - I guess it’s not little - bump in life, you know? It’s sad that their bump starts so soon but you see that the Lord is there and He is working.”
So, being real, you've lived through and seen some tough things, you've experienced hurt. Do you ever get angry or are you always happy/resolved?
J: “Definitely not always happy or resolved, I wish I could be! I think because of the support system that I have, my friends and family allow me to talk openly and process my emotions. Turns out this stuff can amke me very angry and feeling quite hurt. And to be honest, angry and hurt by not only people, but God. There was a point after Baby A that I realized where my heart was so stuck: it was the fact that I was so angry and feeling hurt by God. Not only because He took him from me, but because in my heart, he shouldn’t be in the home he’s in right now. Trying to understand His reasoning for everything is impossible, and I have been dealing with this and working on this so much in my heart because I don’t understand why. When something is ripped from you so suddenly and so unexpected, there’s nothing in you but hurt. How do you see the joy and the blessing in your grievance of your child, you know what I mean? It is… I don’t know. You have to have that hope up ahead, but in the moment of it all, it feels like torture, even when you know the goal of the foster care world is reunification. How do you move forward grieving such a loved being? I don’t know. But that was definitely something that I struggled with a lot. In my wrongful mindset, leaning on the God for protection and strength and power that hurt me and put baby A back into a place I couldn’t know? For me, that thought was impossible. How do you trust Him again when He ripped your world apart? How do you continue with this love and full obedience to the One who seems to have hurt you so badly?”
- We pause to revel at the the parallel between this question and the very same mindset trauma brings for many children in care, who struggle to learn how to trust again. -
J: “But He [God] was just there and He let me be silent with Him and He let me be angry with Him. I had never been so close to God - as in that moment - just because of the depth of our relationship and how much it expanded in that realization. Thankfully, the Lord is faithful and is teaching me how to love Him through it all. He’s strengthening my faith to a point that I could not know without thse trials and I am so grateful for that! You just have to get through it. And then you start to see where His hand was truly in it. If I didn’t lose the first one I never would have had these two, I never would have had L to lead to Christ. I never would have realized the amount of patience and strength I needed from the Lord to just make it through an evening after no naps (for any of us) and school/work all day. I never would have gone through all that if I still had my first baby. You see how the Lord had to take him [Baby A] out to bring them in, and though that killed me it built me up so that I would be strong enough to lose these two. And it was double the love and double the amount of time that they were with me, so it was double the bond; it was literally double everything! And the Lord, He allowed me to do it, He allowed it all to happen to show me the love that He has for me, to help me continue with all He has planned for me, and to not be scared but to keep going. You have to keep your eyes on the fact that the Lord has so much more for you, even through the trials He blesses you with.”
Thanks so much. Is there anything you'd like to offer to Moms who have also had to experience difficult goodbyes?
J: “Make sure your support system is there - whether it’s friends or random women in the church who are willing to come alongside of you. I honestly don’t know what I would do without some of the women in the church who will send an encouraging text every once in a while, friends who will take the kids for a weekend, or even just for a night allowing me to have some free time. It’s just amazing how the Lord will use the people in your life to help keep you going. Also, make sure you allow yourself to be open - obviously not with everyone - but allow yourself to be vulnerable with other people as well as with God. I feel like it brings healing to yourself if you’re able to talk about it. We’re all women, we all talk, we all love to talk about everything...why not the real stuff, too?”
What thoughts might you give to friends or loved ones of mothers in similar situations?
J: “You don’t always have to give advice! Maybe not everyone will agree, but a lot of times going through such a difficult thing... we may not hear, and we may not be ready to accept being “poured into”. That time will come, but in the midst of it all, we know the Lord is with us and we just need your presence to be a support. Jesus wept, and so will I. You love that child and I love that child, so let’s cry together. We know who we can trust, and we know who will be there the minute we call on them. And just, be ready for the emotional rollercoaster ahead!”
What is your prayer on Mother's Day?
J: “For me, my prayer for moms on Mother's Day is that every mom feels that true blessing of being Mom. Whether biological, foster, adoptive, or maybe your baby never made it... you still carried that baby. Every child is a child of God’s and it’s an honor that we are entrusted with a life no matter how long they are with us. My prayer is that all moms stand up proudly and are willing to accept their story of motherhood.”
What do you think we as the Church can be praying for on Mother's Day?
J: “For children, that they each have someone to love them - whether it’s an aunt, a friend, a friend’s mom, or even a dad - to step in and show them a genuine love. Also, a prayer for the women who have fallen into bad situations or have made choices that cause their children to be removed. I pray for these moms that they would find a way to realize their mistakes - because a lot of times they just don’t realize or they’re in a bad situation and can’t get out at the moment - I pray for their safety and that their hearts would find true healing. Gosh, and the women who lose their kids whether it’s miscarriage or their child passes away. I couldn’t imagine the loss and hurt. Pray for the mothers and fathers who have gone through anything like this. And also pray for the many Dads that fill the role of 'Mom' each and everyday, but might especially feel an ache on a day like Mother’s Day.”
Thank you so much, Jenny! Any final thoughts you'd like to add?
J: “I want to wish each and every mom out there a very happy Mother’s Day! You all deserve to be recognized for everything you do in and outside your families! This life we live as ‘mom’ is beautiful, no matter what that looks like for you. Keep the Lord close to your heart and give your children to Him every single day. The Lord blessed me with this passion for foster care and I am so grateful for this. It’s not as hard as it seems. It has been one of the most heart-wrenching, amazing things that I’ve ever done. Stepping out in faith to follow God’s will for your life is incredible and it will change your faith in so many ways. His path may seem scary to you, but I encourage you to go... follow Him! His faithfulness will prevail. Say yes to the mess, the Lord’s journey for you is not always our version of beautiful, but in saying yes to Him you will find Him, and in that place you’ll find the things He sees as beautiful.”