2018 was a big year for me. I’ve had this message stirring in my heart for almost two years now. I think it is finally time to share.
***Disclaimer this blog post is directed toward anyone who calls himself or herself a Christian. If you don’t believe in Jesus you are more than welcome here, but I don’t want you to think that this topic is directed toward you!
2018 was the year that I officially became a mom to five beautiful children. I also finished my masters and started working as a mental health nurse practitioner. Our whole family experienced a lot of transitions. We are no longer foster parents, as 5 children is the maximum that the state will let you have. I will tell you up front if you have any interest in being a foster parent you will definitely experience a lot of ups and downs. I don’t think I’ve ever really shared publicly what I went through emotionally during our time as foster parents.
Just to provide a little background, if you choose to foster you can decide between being a foster parent or primarily fostering to adopt. There are tons of children who need a forever home so when we initially started, my husband and I thought we would want to adopt through the foster system. However, God had other plans. Before we even finished our training, we got a call from a friend about two young boys who weren’t eligible for adoption yet… But could potentially be in the future. We had the opportunity to meet these young boys, and they immediately stole our hearts. We decided that even though there was a possibility that we would have to send the boys back to their home, it was worth the risk. 9 months later we were given the opportunity to take in 8 year old twins. I was four months pregnant at the time, working, and trying to finish my masters. It was not the ideal season at all, but from the moment I got that call I knew we were supposed to welcome those children into our home.
It’s a funny thing when you tell people that you are a foster parent. The most common reaction I get is, “Wow, you are so incredible!” And then the most common follow up response is, “God has not called us to that.” At first I was really thrown off and didn’t know how to respond. At no point in any of those conversations did I ask the person I was sharing with if they wanted to be a foster parent. In fact most often it wouldn’t have even crossed my mind. I honestly just wanted to share the cool things I was experiencing with my kids. So why was this such a common reaction for so many people in my life?
James 4:17 “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”
I think this is a trigger for a lot of Christians because when you see someone being obedient, you immediately feel the need to defend your behavior. I think this is natural. Whenever, I see someone who is digging wells in Africa, I immediately think, “Wow, I should be doing that!”
I say this from a place of love because I remember that feeling. I remember sitting in my big, empty house and feeling despair because I knew that God had more for us, but I didn’t know where to start.
If you are a Christian, I believe that we are called to love radically and live our lives serving others and God. This type of love is costly and will not allow you to sit back and be a bystander in your own life. If you love like God wants you to, then you will have times where you are uncomfortable. You will have times where you are challenged. In fact God even tells us that we will suffer. That is why Christianity is a choice. God does not force this upon us. We are given the opportunity to choose him. The grace he gives us is free but the relationship is meant to help us grow and learn. As a parent when your children are young you do absolutely everything for them. However, if your child is 30 and still living at home with no job when they are capable of being on their own, then you have failed them as a parent.
So if you truly believe that God has not called you to be a foster parent. That’s fine with me. I’m not God; you don’t have to explain your actions to me. However, I’ve noticed that the people who are quick to respond in that manner are often those who feel convicted by God’s call and don’t want to follow through. I remember sharing this with one of my friends, and she responded in anger, “Not everyone is called to foster care.” I sincerely disagree with this sentiment. Sure not everyone will be in a place where you can take a child into your home, but you most certainly don’t need a special calling from God to love on the helpless.
Look at it this way. Is God going to be angry with you for feeding the homeless? Is God going to be angry with you for visiting the elderly in a nursing home? Is God going to be angry with you for picking one weekend a month to babysit for a family with foster kids? I’m not God, but I can promise you that he will not be angry. In fact I truly believe that this is the whole point of the gospel. Our mission is not to have big churches and fancy buildings. Our mission is to love people. If we fail to love, I believe we should not claim to be a Christian.
I will never forget the day that my pastor told me that I needed a special calling from God to spend time with kids with special needs. We were running a special needs ministry at our church and were in a position that we needed to find a replacement. I kept waiting and trying to have meetings, but time and time again I was told, “No, that requires additional training. The person who does this needs to be lead by God.” I was shocked as so many of the leaders I loved and respected looked me in the eye and used God as an excuse to not love on people.
I think the part of my story that so many people miss is that when you don’t “Follow God’s calling” you are the one who misses out! Did you know the other day Derek and I were talking to the kids about ways we could love on people and all our children said in unison, “Mom, we should get more kids!” My children get it! I don’t share this from a place of pride. I share from a place of frustration. When you refuse to be radical in your faith, YOU MISS OUT! God has so much good for us to do in the world and when we sit in our comfortable houses and let fear make decisions for us. WE MISS OUT!
If I didn’t do what God said, I wouldn’t have my children. I can’t tell you what my kids mean to me. They are the coolest little humans on this planet. So if you are on the fence about stepping out and taking action, I say do it! I feel like God has used this journey as a foster parent to grow my faith and teach me how to trust him. I feel like he’s been speaking to me, “Shelby, now you are finally in a place where we can do some exciting things. It’s time to radically love on some people in ways you’ve never done before.”
I hope you will get started with me! If you are interested in being a foster parent reach out, I’d love to connect with you! If you are interested in doing ministry talk to your pastor or volunteer at a nursing home. There are so many people who need to be loved and accepted! Let’s make 2019 our best year yet!