Loving a Foster Mama
The first thing I noticed about my wife was how she looked. I was over by the bar, putting out the vibe…and there she was, stunning in her cut-off denim shorts, bobbing to the house music. Helpless, I moved in.
Just over two decades later and my wife is definitely not the same person I married. In fact, my wife is a veritable mess, with puke stains on yesterday’s pajama pants, tired eyes from a restless night, and the craziest hair you’d ever imagine. She’s persistently 20 minutes late and can absolutely never find her car keys. You see, my wife became what I never would have conceived. Twenty years later and I find myself married to and loving a foster mama.
Loving a foster mama is hard
Because she invests her life in others, because the Lord often pours her out as a drink offering, she sometimes has nothing left to give. This is probably true of all mothers, but is definitely true of the foster mother.
The primary effect of this is that I’m not always the focus of attention (gasp!). My wife loves me and loves me well and as perfect as she is to me, she is a sinner saved by grace. Her struggle manifests itself not in a harsh word or an unkind attitude. Her struggle is one of priorities and because she pours herself into loving other people’s children as much as she loves our own, any kind of priority imbalance naturally generates an attention deficit somewhere. There is only one of her and the needful kid usually trumps the truculent husband.
It’s personal for her, fostering these children. She is the advocate and through her love, her advocacy, the Lord has performed miracle after miracle. The vitality of my sons testifies. But she wrestles with God, harmonizing sovereignty and sin in light of the affliction of children. “Why does He allow the helpless to suffer at the hand of those they should be able to trust the most?” she wonders, while serving as the hands of God herself, hands of healing and tenderness.
Nights are the worst, when the fury of the afflicted child pierces the still night. Her unwavering hands and steadfast embrace inevitably calm the storm, though it may take hours, all night even. Yet she is there, unrelenting and undaunted. I’ve watched in simultaneous amazement and weariness as she’ll kiss one of our son’s little faces over and over, cooing in his ear, gently rubbing his back…as he rages non-stop against the injustice of what he can never know.
She embraced her vulnerability. The call to mother is a powerful force. The broken heart of any mother who has lost a child attests to the strength of this bond. The foster mother has willingly opened herself up, sacrificing her own heart on the altar of restoration. The foster mother loves with the expectation that one day she will give this child away, back to a biological parent, perhaps into a situation they know to be lesser.
My own wife has become, in many ways, even more of an advocate for the biological mother. As she stands in the gap for them when they cannot mother, she encourages and equips. She reaches out to them, even when a part of her desperately wants them to fail. Even after we’ve adopted, she insists that we take our boys to visit their biological mothers, often over the objections of our closest family and friends.
“Why would you take him to see her?” they ask incredulously.
“This may be the only good in her life right now.”
Fostering has hurt, hurt deeply, but that is a price she is willing to pay. She goes without, sacrificing her own welfare, her own well-being on behalf of the orphan and I’m talking about basic needs like food and sleep.
Because of these things, she needs me. She desperately needs me to be the strong husband and man that God has called me to be. She needs me to love her as Christ loved the Church, to wash her in the water of the word. (Ephesians 5:25-26) She needs me to place no demands on her, to find my fulfillment in Christ, to deny sin and self. My sinful weakness has no place in this call. Loving a foster mama demands faith and I could never do it well apart from Christ. Her tenacity confronts me with a question.
Can I show the grace I proclaim to have received myself and that she so desperately needs?
She challenges me. I sometimes joke, sort of, that I don’t even like kids. Because I write about these topics, because I preach about them, I often get the press. Frequently, much is made of me. Yet, she is the engine that drives our family’s commitment to the orphan. Had it not been for her gentle encouragement, we’d likely have stopped after our first son and I would never have known the others.
“Do you believe what you preach?” is all she ever need ask. Nothing perhaps has stretched out my faith more than fostering and adoption and her relentless pursuit of the least of these has challenged me to be a man of my word, something I’d gladly have allowed myself to slide on years ago. The love of my six sons is my prize for rising to the challenge of loving a foster mama.
Do I actually believe my own convictions?
Loving a foster mama is worth it
Many mothers wilt in their spirit before the mythical “Proverbs 31 Woman” wondering how they could ever live up to such a standard. My wife struggles in this regard, often focusing on her perceived shortcomings.
My wife is the strongest person I know. Period. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. (v.17) She is tireless in her advocacy. Her lamp does not go out at night. (v.18b) She sacrifices herself for the sake of others. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. (v.20) Because of her steadfast lovingkindness, my sons have life more abundantly. The fruit of her hands is tangible, visible. Her works praise her in the gates. (v.31)
Most of all, she is adored and cherished by her daughters—they recognize in her the greatest example of motherhood—and by her sons, who will scarcely ever comprehend the depth of her love for them. Her children rise up and call her blessed, her children and her husband, too. (v.28) Me. I declare of her, to her, about her, “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” (v.28)
Apart from loving the Lord Jesus, loving this foster mama is the greatest thing I’ve ever done.
My wife still stuns. We attended my last military formal a few weeks ago and she was absolutely ravishing, as always. I am a blessed man to sport such arm candy. Yet, as beautiful as she looked, I’ve become so much fonder of my wife in her daily duty uniform: athletic shorts (she still rocks ‘em), hair up in a thing (I think there’s a pencil in there somewhere), and one of my t-shirts…puke stain and all. This is my wife in living color, a reflection of the warrior within, what my friend would call a “fire-breather”. This is what I love the most. You see, I’m not married to a supermodel. I’m married to a foster mama and she is the most amazing person I know.
Perhaps you are a man blessed as I am, married to a foster mama yourself.
Author - Founder
Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).
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