I remember the first few weeks that my foster daughters were with me. It was January—lots of snow and lots of little shopping trips to get the things they needed for school and for their new bedrooms. We were in the car together a lot, singing along to the radio. We didn’t know much about each other’s lives yet, so we often ran out of things to say. But we knew the same lyrics to the same songs on the radio. I liked that the music was something familiar to them, and I liked that it united us somehow.
The song “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” by Meghan Trainor played often on the radio during that month. We’d sing along—“I’m gonna love you like I’m gonna lose you”—and I’d glance at the girls out of the corner of my eye, wondering how much time I’d have with them. The caseworker had said 3-6 months. So how do I do this? How do I love them the way they deserve? My heart is already invested. What do they need from me? Can I really love and let go?
It kept snowing that month, and that song kept coming on: a constant reminder that I wasn’t in control of our circumstances, a constant questioning of what it means to love someone even if you can’t keep her.
Snowflakes on my windshield, cars passing by. We sang along...
I'm gonna hold you like I'm saying goodbye
Wherever we're standing, I won't take you for granted
'Cause we'll never know when, when we'll run out of time
So I'm gonna love you like I'm gonna lose you.
I glanced over at my girls as they sat buckled in my car, looking out the window at their new town. I made that vow in my heart…I’m gonna love you like I’m gonna lose you.
May the Lord Keep You
Last summer I was looking for some wall art to put in my dining room. I decided to order a wooden sign off Etsy with the bible verse Numbers 6:24-26 on it. I wanted the words “The Lord bless you and keep you” to be seen everyday in my home.
Those words were important to me. I had heard someone read that verse a few weeks earlier, and I started crying. I’ve heard that verse, “The Lord bless you and keep you” a thousand times before. But that day I thought about the foster children that I hoped to bring into my home over the next several years, and it comforted me to know that even though I couldn’t keep them, I could trust that the Lord would keep them.
I can’t say that I’m usually a worrier. But this month, I’ve been praying, “God, what can I do about the knots in my stomach?”
On the one hand, things are going so well with my foster daughters. Their case manager, their mom, and the other adults who have worked with them through DCS have told me that they are surprised and so happy to see how well the girls are doing now. And I love to share what I believe God is doing in each of our lives.
But both girls will be starting high school this fall…and so on the other hand, I’m scared out of my mind what their high school years (and beyond) will bring. To some extent, I can control what’s happening with them while they live in my home. But once they go back to their biological family, they will be completely out of my hands. And we don’t even know exactly when or how that will happen. This is a long-term placement, but still, it is temporary.
So I was taking deep breaths in the car this morning, trying to remind myself that they are in God’s hands. Lord, they are Yours, they are Yours, they are Yours. God loved them before I loved them. He knew everything about them before I ever met them.
I tried to remind myself of all the research I did before I actually became a foster parent—to celebrate the small successes (which I do) and to keep in mind that it’s nearly impossible to change an older child’s worldview…. But listen, this isn’t research anymore. These are my daughters, and this is my heart and my body and my mind on the front lines. I see the statistics. I see all the problems of this generation. And who knows if I’m actually doing anything right with them? Everything just flies at me so fast.
I don’t want anything bad to ever happen to them again. I want them to make good decisions. I want them to be successful and stable in relationships, work, family, etc. MY HEART NEEDS TO KNOW THAT THEY’RE GOING TO BE OKAY NOW AND ALWAYS!!!!!!!
Deep breaths in the car. This is the kind of mom that I’ve signed up to be. I have to love them like I’m going to lose them. I have to parent them with open hands, reminding myself everyday that I have to entrust them to God’s hands.
Her Faith Let Her Fingers Let Go
I think back to last October when I was sitting with the preschoolers at church. My friend Jennifer was teaching the bible lesson on how Moses’ mother had faith to hide him from Pharaoh’s soldiers. Pharaoh had commanded that all baby boys be killed, but Moses’ mom protected him. She was going to love him even if meant that one day soon she would lose him. When her baby got too old (and probably too noisy) to keep him hidden, she had to come up with a plan. She was desperate. She waterproofed a basket as best as she could. She kissed her baby; maybe she whispered to him, “May the Lord bless you and keep you.” Then she placed him in the basket and released him to float down the Nile River.
She was hoping that Moses would float to Pharaoh’s palace and that someone would rescue him. But of course, she didn’t know what would happen; her heart did not know how this would turn out. But somehow her faith let her fingers let go of that basket. Her hands—the same hands that had bathed him, tickled his belly, caressed his face—her hands had let go and now they were empty. Moses was now completely, desperately in God’s hands.
Is it any wonder that Moses’ mom is listed in Hebrews 11 as one of those who has admirable faith? She couldn’t keep him, but she trusted that God would keep him.
And the amazing thing is…her plan worked. Moses was found and taken care of by Pharaoh’s daughter. Moses’ mom was even hired to nurse him until he was weaned.
As I sat there listening to Jennifer teach the preschoolers, God used the lesson to make me consider some new things about Moses’ mom. Later that day, I texted Jennifer, “I think God is telling me that as I foster children, I’ll need to completely release them into God’s hands, just as Moses’ mom did when she put him in the basket and placed him in the Nile. But just as God had a good plan for Moses and even blessed his mom with the opportunity to care for him until he was weaned, so also will God take care of all the details for me.” God is calling me to be that kind of mom.
They Are Yours
At my church, I’ve taught the Baby Dedication Class for around 6 years. I get to be a part of the process for couples to stand in front of our church and commit to raising their child to come to know God. I’m there praying with the parents as we ask God to bless their child.
Now I’m identifying with how those parents feel. Recently I prayed, God, I need You to know that I’ve given these girls into Your hands.
I’ve often heard the saying “God doesn’t have grandchildren.” This reminds me that I am God’s child, and my child is also God’s child. I’m not parenting God’s grandchild. God is still directly this child’s Father—not slightly less involved as a grandfather.
So I feel like God is saying to me, “Yes, Mary, we’re on the same page…You’re right; they’re in my hands.”
The thing about fostering is that you never know how long you will have that child in your home. And the thing about parenting is that (even though you might want to) you can’t control everything. But the thing about God is that He loves my child and knows my child even more than I do.
So I email the caseworker what I’m worried about.
I ask friends to pray for us.
And I pray with each of my daughters before they fall asleep, always concluding the prayer with “May the Lord bless you and keep you.”
Deep breaths. They are Yours, they are Yours, they are Yours.
Mary is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.
Mary is the Associate Director at Hope Center Indy.. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.