A few years ago, we were scheduled to go onstage at church and talk about our experience as foster parents. We were only three months into this foster care gig…and why wouldn’t we be the perfect couple to speak into a microphone and convince others to follow in our footsteps?
When asked, I didn’t realize it would end up being on a morning where everything felt so hard.
Our 4 ½-year-old foster son was still wearing diapers. He would hide and poop, despite all our best efforts to potty train and bribe and encourage and incent. He was a trauma kid who whined more than he spoke in a normal voice, and he also arrived at our house with a stomach parasite…which he passed along to me. He wouldn’t say my name for weeks because he wasn’t planning on staying, and when he finally did, he spoke to me in a way that I could hear voices from his past that—quite frankly—scared me. But as much as we struggled to find our place with each other, I found myself loving him, wanting to protect him, sheltering him and helping him heal his broken little heart. It was all so hard. I felt poured out, emptied out and very much at the end of myself.
So on that Sunday, when he pooped in the corner right as we were running out the door and I had to pick him up and change his diaper, I pulled a muscle in my back and nearly lost my mind. If someone had handed that microphone right in that moment with the back spasm, I would’ve screamed, “Run! Don’t do it!”
Ah, the best spokespeople. The ones in the trenches.
But give anything time and things change. That day, all I needed was an hour. By the time I was handed the microphone on that worship stage, I was able to speak about fostering in a way that hopefully revealed the beauty and truth that comes from pouring yourself out on behalf of these vulnerable children. There’s a glory that comes from reaching the end of yourself because that is the place you see God.
Can I get a show of hands for who wants to sign up and do this messy and beautiful work?
Anyone? Why not?
I’ve never been able to convince anyone to become a foster parent. I can’t make it glamorous, no matter what I do to dress it up. Foster care is not just opening up your home to a child or another chair at your dinner table. It’s standing on the stage and asking you to trust God with an armful of unknowns and a whole lot of what ifs. It’s asking you to give up what feels comfortable and, in exchange, clumsily carry your cross and rejoice in suffering for your Savior.
See my PR problem here?
If you talk to me and honestly want to know about our foster care journey, you’re going to hear about heartbreak. I’ll have to tell you about the trauma. About the parent visits. About the therapies and the emotional, developmental and physical struggles. About watching my foster children say “goodbye” to their biological parents and carry the deep, deep wound of feeling abandoned. About saying “I love you” while hearing a roaring silence bounce back. About convincing somebody to trust me and how the only way of doing that is to continuously show up every day.
I’ll tell you other things, too.
I’ll tell you about a child who couldn’t name a single color or shape and now two years later can read a book to me. About a boy who cried throughout his first-ever choir performance and then miraculously stood center stage while raising his hands to the heavens just last week. About a child who would not call out for me in the middle of the night until two years into our relationship because, up until that point, a parent couldn’t be trusted. About a baby who couldn’t move or eat or speak and how she is now chasing a whole slew of brothers, reciting Bible verses and eating food like a normal toddler.
It’s almost too much to witness for the beauty of it all.
I’m starting to realize that it might not be my job to convince others to walk this path. My job is to answer my call and keep showing up…day after day after day. My desire is to walk this walk, albeit clumsily some days, one foot in front of the other. And perhaps someone else might witness my vulnerability and obedience and pay attention to the tiny spark in their own heart? Maybe my walk can fan the flame of something that is igniting inside the soul of another?
Maybe—just maybe—if I do my thing, you can do yours.
If that flame inside your heart burns for foster care or adoption, I’m here for you. You are my people. I can walk with you, cry with you and hope with you, helping you see the glorious and miraculous unfolding that comes from helping vulnerable children heal.
Oh, and diapers. I’m really, really good at changing diapers.
[This post appeared on FaithBridge Foster Care]
Katie Kenny Phillips
Katie Kenny Phillips lives in Atlanta with her husband, Jeff, and their five hilarious kids (3 biological and 2 by way of foster care and adoption). Their home is made up of two parts Legos, one part dirt/sticks/rocks, and all parts “whose underwear is this and why is it in the middle of the family room?” She and her husband help lead their church’s orphan/foster care ministry and spend time encouraging and supporting families who are on foster and adoption journeys. Read more of Katie’s blogs at Operation Leap of Faith.