I’ll never forget the first phone call we shared. She was very nervous and so was I. She had her stereotypes of folks like me and I had mine of folks like her, but when our lives suddenly collided, everything changed.
“Hi Sandra*. I’m Jami.” (*name changed for privacy)
Just a few days earlier, I was pacing the floor. I was nervous, excited and clueless about the craziness we were about to step into. When the caseworker pulled up, I ran out to the car and for the first time saw, Dayd (3 yrs) and Bobby (7 mo). Oh Dayd, he was so quiet, so scared. I picked him up and kissed him on the forehead and told him, “I’m so glad you are here.”
We had walked through a journey of heartbreak that opened our eyes and our hearts to children in foster care, so when God brought these kids into our home, we were overjoyed. But on the other side of our joy was a family that had been ripped apart. On the other side of our joy was a mom and dad whose arms were empty and hearts broken.
To hear Sandra’s voice that day and to learn her story, her fears and hopes over the next several months grew in me such love for her.
Sandra was the product of foster care herself and sadly, like so many others in her situation, the hopeless cycle had continued for her kids.
When she became pregnant again, she asked me to be there with her as she gave birth. I was honored she asked me to be there but terrified at the same time because I’m telling you, I’m weak in the mind!
Literally, if we were together right now and you started describing your recent surgery, for example, I might just pass out. In fact, this happened once. Clint and I were on a vacation and during our final night there, we dressed up for the white gala ball.
The gal next to me started sharing about her health problem she was struggling with and I listened intently and sympathetically until I started to feel nauseous. I politely excused myself to go to the restroom but instead all I could do was squeeze my husband’s shoulder. “I’m going to pass out!”
And then I did.
Right then and there I went down. My knight in shining armor caught me before I hit the ground and I woke up seated yet slumped next to him and my legs were crossed! Call me graceful. That was definitely a swoon!
Another time, while at the ER with Dayd, I had to be escorted over to the bed across the hall because I almost passed out while they were making sure he was okay!
After a minor surgery on Paige’s eyelid, she came back completely swollen and looking much worse than I expected. I started feeling squeamish and while they checked her vitals I asked how she was doing. The nurse said, ‘She’s doing great. She’s doing better than you!” Apparently, I was completely white! They had to get me a cold Sprite and call my husband who came and picked us BOTH up. I laid in the back of the van and moaned all the way home.
I could go on and on.
The point is…I’m weak in the mind. Weak. in. the. mind.
And so, I knew that if I was going to be any sort of support to Sandra that day, the Lord would have to work supernaturally in me!
I’ll never forget that day. The phone call came at 9 a.m. She was having contractions every few minutes and needed a ride to the hospital as there was no gas in their car. I was still in my pajamas getting ready to take my kids to school…while in my pajamas (can the otha motha’s give me an amen?!) Anyways, I called Clint and he was able to pick her up and take her to the hospital.
I arrived about 45 minutes later and after her pain was under control, she started telling me about how Clint had picked her up. He cleaned off the seat for her and made jokes about how long it had been since he’d taken a pregnant woman to the hospital. She hadn’t found it very funny at the time as she was in pain–but nevertheless, the fact that he came meant the world to her. I could see it all over her. She felt so special, so cared for, so loved.
I kept thinking of my mom while with Sandra that day. I thought about how important her presence continues to be in my life, and I saw firsthand how powerful my presence was to Sandra. At one point I was going to grab some lunch, but before I even walked out the door she stopped me, “Can you come right back up?”
It was evident: there is power in just being there.
I sat with Sandra, breathed with her, encouraged her and stayed by her side during her labor and delivery that day. She asked me to cut the baby’s cord, and I held him 5 minutes after he was born, sang “Jesus Loves Me” to him and whispered prayers over his life. That day was profound and one I will never forget.
Sandra has made mistakes, yes. Big ones. But Sandra, like me, was created by God for a beautiful purpose. She is His prized possession. She is deserving of dignity, respect, and love.
People like Sandra don’t need our judgement. They need our presence. They need us to step into their lives–to walk along with them and SHOW them Jesus through the way we live. They need us to believe in them, to mentor them and to invest in them.
These vulnerable parents are not the enemy. The enemy is the one who sneaks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he can destroy. The enemy is the one who kills, steals life, and works tirelessly to destroy.
Let us step up and fight! But let’s make sure we are fighting the real enemy and be there for those who are hurting, broken, and forgotten.
Jami is the founder and Executive Director of The Forgotten Initiative. Jami and her husband, Clint, are parents to seven children: two biological daughters, two sons adopted internationally (Guatemala and Uganda) and a sibling set of three (two boys and a girl) adopted from foster care. Jami shared often on her blog, Life with a Personal God, during her family’s adoption and foster care journeys, and she is now sharing them here in hopes of being an encouragement to you!