Learning to Trust: My Journey Through Foster Care
Written by Fawn Kieser
I started with these verses as my prayer:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting.”--Psalm 139:23-24
“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good spirit lead me on level ground.”--Psalm 143:10
“Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that you may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”-- Hebrews 4:15-16
That day, I was finally ready to confidently ask God to lead me, search my thoughts, and make known to me if adoption was His will for me and my family. I wanted to seek God first in this. I knew adoption could be so beautiful, but the reality was the messy result of brokenness. The fear of giving up the safe and easy life we were enjoying was definitely holding me back. It didn’t help that we had just entered the sweet spot of parenting with no naps, diapers or pacifiers.
I sat on the couch, terrified to expose my thoughts. I felt like Peter. That day, the day my journey officially began, my couch turned into a boat like the one in Matthew 14:28-33, and I wrote in my journal, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to you on the water.”
So, I started praying and waiting on the Lord to tell me to come and join this movement of caring for orphans as my own. I knew this journey would be like walking on water -- I would be scared and at times feel like I was sinking. But, I also knew if I cried out to Him, He would reach out His hand to me and lift me up just like He did with Peter. On that day, I expected the God of the universe and my Creator to use the same power He used to raise His Son from the dead and save us from our sins through our belief and faith in His Son, along with the gift of the Holy Spirit, to make Himself known to me and command me to come.
While I prayed, waited, and listened for God to lead and guide me, I came across the story of Hannah one night in 1 Samuel. My heart was deeply moved as I read about Hannah’s troubled heart and how she poured out her soul before the Lord about her desire for a child. God spoke to me through the Holy Spirit when the priest Eli said to Hannah, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made know to Him.” God said to me, “Come.” I experienced the peace I needed to move forward and to share my heart’s desire for adoption with my husband. That began his journey and together we somehow ended up exactly where we never imagined.
It took us a whole year to find ourselves in foster care classes, instead of adopting a girl internationally, which was my original plan. On this journey I’ve learned that you can try to make things happen your way through manipulation or you can surrender and let God be your guide. I confess, I did all of the above. Because my desire to follow God and be united with my husband always won over my flesh, we ended up doing exactly what I never wanted to do: foster care. It builds my faith that God got us there and we willingly moved toward foster care. Nothing is impossible with God.
When I thought of fostering, I knew I wasn’t cut out for it. It took special people to do that. I could’ve pointed out friends and family I knew who were far more qualified to foster than me. God used 1 Samuel 16 to encourage me, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature…for the Lord sees not as man sees. Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks on the heart.” I also saw how, when David was facing Goliath in chapter 17, he first of all was willing. Willing to do what others were not. Sitting in those foster care classes, I realized that God could use us in a special way. We were a team with a home that loved Jesus and wanted to honor God in all we do. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we had peace, love, hope, faith, and so much more to get through this. Why did I ever doubt God's ability to provide for us in all things? Instead of focusing on my own strength, I realized I had to look to His strength. God is glorified when we know we can’t do it on our own. It’s a beautiful place to be -- weak in ourselves but strong in our faith. Like me, David had just a few stones to offer. But I knew God could use my weakness to make a big difference, if I gave Him the chance.
We struggled and made it through the first year and a half of caring for two little ones in diapers along with the ups and downs of the foster care system. We were stretched emotionally, physically, and spiritually at times. Foster care is such a strange place to be. So many unknowns, and yet all you need to focus on is loving a child today and giving them a safe place in your home and family. One of the hardest things was sharing the child with the birth parents and showing them love and grace, too. There were many days I struggled with the fact that I couldn’t give the children some of the things I did for my own. My heart and mind were a battleground where I had to surrender all my ideals and focus on love. Loving the kids was the only thing I could control.
Just when I thought I couldn’t keep my heart on this rollercoaster much longer, we went to court and the mother was found fit to parent again. We finally had a sense of direction instead of feeling like a ship lost at sea. There was peace in knowing God was in control and we finally had a finish line. It may not have been the one we were excited to cross but, with the God’s help, we would. We began the process of letting go in our hearts and minds for the next 6 months. I had reminded myself that I am an adult who has Jesus! How can I think my heart is breaking more than the children in foster care who come from trauma and don’t know the power of Jesus in their lives yet? God had given them to us to share who He is, in hopes that they will know, believe, and understand they are loved by Him, their Healer and Redeemer! I reminded myself that my biological children are in a safe and secure family that has the means to handle this storm with God’s grace. As we came to this part of our journey, we felt ourselves walking up the mountain as Abraham did with Isaac -- knowing we had a sacrifice to make and that God would somehow provide. As we listened to Pastor Ritch preach on this story in Genesis 22, tears streamed down our faces while our hearts broke on the summit we were embarking on. This story was one of ultimate trust and we had two choices: fall flat on our faces and give in to despair and fear or fall on our knees and surrender and trust that God would provide.
We serve an amazing and personal God who walks with us through the journey we are all on. On Mother’s Day a couple months after we gave our foster kids back, Pastor Ritch did a sermon on 1 Samuel 1 and, with tears streaming down my face again, I realized I had never paid attention to the whole story -- to the part when Hannah actually gave back the child she prayed for to the Lord. She waited until he was weaned and then took him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. She says in verses 27-28, “For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to Him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.” I’m thankful I didn’t know the ending He had planned for me when I first read that chapter years before. I’m thankful for the peace and hope He gave me then and the strength to walk through it along the way. I’m thankful that I could trust Him with the outcome no matter how scary or devastating I thought it would be. I’m also thankful for the journey and life of Peter, Hannah, David, and Abraham who trusted God before me. God has those people and their stories there for a purpose and I know they bring such peace and hope to us who hear their stories.
I can honestly say, after finishing that race a year ago with my family and weeping together many times, we have seen God provide and do even more than we could’ve imagined. What I once would’ve prevented my family from experiencing has turned into the most beautiful gift I could give them; the lesson of God’s love that is meant to be shared. The lesson that love is a beautiful sacrifice. It is gift that can be given and multiplied beyond compare. Love is what holds us together in the beautiful and hard places we walk through. Love overcomes. Love heals. God is love.
Do you have something stirring in your heart that needs to be taken to the Lord? Are you sitting in the boat afraid to ask the Lord if He has more for you out on the water? Are you limiting the power of God in your life by focusing on what others have to offer instead of what few stones you have? Are you afraid to walk up the mountain to the place where God will provide and trust God with the outcome? Are you focusing on what you can or can’t do instead of what God can do through you? Begin with approaching the throne of grace with confidence. Ask Him to search you, lead you, and guide you. Are you willing to do more out of the boat and on the water? Will you be one of the few who get to experience that? Just ask Him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come,” and then wait for Him to call you.