I was sitting at my desk yesterday, and I thought, “Fostering hasn’t been as scary as what everyone seems to make it out to be.” We’ve had some challenges for sure, but overall, it is going better than what I could have even hoped for.
I want to pause and say that I know some cases are absolutely tougher than others, and I don’t want to speak to anyone else’s experience. But today I want to tell you a little bit about mine.
I’m certainly not an expert yet. But my girls and I have made it through the transition and adjustment period—at least it feels like we have.
For the first 3 days, I felt like their camp counselor…showing them where their bath towels were and getting them snacks.
For the first 3 weeks, I felt like their big sister…catching up and talking fashion, acne, music, and which guy they think is hot in the movie we’re watching. The girls told me to google “eyebrow goals” because I had never heard of that. The girls were sweet to me when they’d tell me that my hair is so soft, but they were definitely not impressed by how I have placed fashion as a very low priority in my life. Lol My sister Rachel literally started crying-laughing when they expressed to her their horror about my jeans and shoes, and my friend Erin told them, “I know. I had to give up on Mary’s fashion years ago.” And I just couldn’t stop laughing either. My girls cannot understand how I hate shopping, but if I could wear the same 5 outfits for the rest of my life, I would die a happy woman.
For the first month, I felt worn out most of the time. I went to my dentist appointment two weeks early and then remembered to pay my electric bill two days late, but whatever, we were fine. Then after the first month, it felt like my body and my mind adjusted to my new schedule and my new demands. The Lord is renewing my strength, just as He promised to me that He would.
And now after 6 weeks, it certainly feels more like mothering to me, and we’re all good with that. We’ve hit a few milestones, and we’re learning together. Last week the three of us were waiting for an elevator, and a lady walked over, carrying her newborn baby. My younger foster daughter pointed to the baby and half-jokingly said, “Aww, Mary, you should have a baby.”
I laughed and winked at her, “You two are my babies right now.” The girls laughed with me, and I said, “But thankfully, you guys sleep through the night, and I don’t have to change any diapers.” They laughed again, and my older foster daughter threw her arms around me because she loves giving spontaneous hugs.
Love Always Leads to More Love
It took me awhile to fall asleep last night. I laid awake in bed, thinking about all that my girls have been through and all that they have to overcome—so yes, it gets to me. Yes, I have to take moments and just stop and pray about it, or my heart will break all over the place. But I am so proud of my girls, and I have so much hope for them.
Every single day, my heart is like “Awwww” and “AHHHHH!!!” but I am continually amazed that God answers my prayers and that (as my friend Christa Hesselink writes) “love always leads to more love.”
I guess I thought that I might lose myself completely in all this, but I’m still me. I guess I feared that I would be so overwhelmed that I would barely be able to keep my head above water, just bobbing up and down, gasping for air, trying not to drown. But it’s not like that at all. I’m still taking the time to rest. I’m still reading and writing because that feeds my soul. I’m still me.
Yes, love always leads to more love. I love my girls, and they love me. And today, I just want you to know that fostering can bring so much love into your life. I’ve heard enough stories and interacted with enough people thus far that I can tell you that the children in our state can’t afford for us to shrink back in fear. We need to be advocates for them; we need to take the time to get to know them and to love and be loved by them.
There are lots of ways to be an advocate for children…
I would so love to hear your stories of how you have reached out to love children. #WeWontShrinkBack
P.S. I read this with my girls last night, and they "approve of this message." :)
After almost 33 years of being the senior pastor at our church, my dad is now transitioning to his next church plant. My parents are moving on to this new ministry, and here I am, staying on without them. I’m extremely happy to stay at my church and carry on my parents’ legacy here. But it’s hard to let go.
For months, I had known that Sunday, Feb. 14 was the day that would be my dad’s last Sunday as senior pastor at our church. That Sunday would be the day that Dad officially passed off the baton of leadership to Pastor Kris.
For my whole life (28 years!), my dad was my pastor, and this was our church. Then for the last 7 years, my dad was my boss as we served together on staff at our church.
You might think that because for the majority of my time on staff, since I both lived and worked with Dad (and often carpooled to work since neither of us had reliable cars) that I would get tired of being with him. But that was never the case. I can say with all sincerity and fullness of heart that for me, my dad has been a good dad, a good pastor, and a good boss.
So yes, it’s hard to let go.
But the Lord has given me a lot of peace over the last several weeks to be happy and excited for my parents’ new ministry. I remind myself that Dad is still my dad, and I still live only a mile away from my parents, so that’s not changing.
And God knew about the timing of all this. He graciously gave me other things in my life to be excited about right now—my book’s upcoming release and my teenage girls who are now living with me. So my mind hasn’t had much idle time to sit around and whine, “Woe is me, my dad is moving to another church.” (Even though there was one night before Christmas that I sat by my Christmas tree and cried about it for a half hour. But that was pretty pitiful, so I’m glad I haven’t been repeating that.)
Sitting in the Service
As I went into the service on Sunday, I knew I was going to cry, but I was hoping I’d be at least somewhat dignified about it—you know, maybe just wiping off a tear here and there. But about halfway through the service, I was like, “Who cares? I’m letting this out even though people will see me.” I thought of the 1963 song lyric “It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.” In my mind, I changed it to “It’s my dad, and I’ll cry if I want to.”
But as I listened in the service, and I let myself give in to tears, I realized that even though I was feeling a million emotions (sadness, love, the heartbreak of letting go), the most overwhelming emotion I felt was THANKFULNESS. I felt so thankful for my parents’ faithfulness to serve God at this church for the last 33 years. I felt so thankful that I had been able to grow up in this church and be nurtured by it. I felt so thankful that this is my church family, and I’m so spoiled by everyone’s love and support. I felt so thankful that this is my job, where I get to influence children every single week and teach them God’s Word.
In my daily routine, it’s easy to get swamped by the imperfections of my church. No church is perfect, and, of course, nonstop I hear and discuss different opinions about how we should do things. But in that milestone moment on Sunday, I wasn’t thinking about the imperfections of our church; I was only admiring the beauty of it. Isn’t it true that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful? I thought about my parents’ legacy, the history of our church, and even my role in the future mission of our church, and I felt so thankful that I have been and get to continue to be a part of it. Even through my blurry eyes full of tears, it was so clear to me that God is good, and I am blessed.
So I chuckled to myself, “Sometimes you just gotta stop and cry because you have good parents, a good church, and a good job.” Not many people can say that, so go ahead—Be emotional and let it out.
I sat in my seat after the service was over, and I didn’t want to move. For a second, I felt guilty for not going to check on the children’s classes. But then I thought, No, today, don’t worry just yet about being a leader; just be a daughter.
Eventually, I got up, checked my face in the mirror and wiped the dried mascara marks off my cheekbone, went out to eat with my whole family to celebrate, then came home and took a long nap. Later that evening my parents and my brother came over to my house to help me hang some things on my walls. All is well in the world again.
It’s a new chapter for my family, and #WeWontShrinkBack.
 Smith, Myquillyn.
Mary works at Brookville Road Community Church, where she leads children's ministry and women's ministry. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.