Day after day, week after week, month after month we cared for Leyla and told her that she was wanted and that she was loved. We asked God daily to give us the love that we knew she deserved as the quiet and sleepy newborn was soon replaced by a handful of an infant. And we had many visitors to our little house: social workers, case managers, guardian ad litems, interns, behavior assessors, occupational therapists. The older girls began to wonder when they would get a special visitor, but soon gave up and just started treating Leyla’s visitors as folks who were most certainly eager to see or hear a performance from her sisters.* Daisy and Dani especially loved the occupational therapist because she brought toys with her.**
In November when Leyla was eight months old, her social worker brought up the word “adoption” during a health and safety visit. There was no pressure, but it appeared to all those involved that Leyla’s case would be headed in that direction, and they wanted to know if we were an adoptive resource. If Leyla’s biological parents weren’t able to regain custody, the first choice for a permanent placement would be a biological relative, but the state had been unable to locate anyone who was interested. So third in line is the foster family. That would be us.
Of course the social worker hadn’t given us any deadline, and was clear there was no pressure, but this was the first time Darin and I had even contemplated this question. We just hadn’t let ourselves go there emotionally yet. So we called for a sitter and took ourselves out to dinner to discuss what we should do.
No decision was reached that night.
And for weeks, no decision could be made.
It seems we just didn’t know what would be best for Leyla, what would be best for our family, what God was wanting us to do. I knew God might be asking us to do the hard thing, but I couldn’t figure out if the harder thing would be saying goodbye or committing. I knew that the journey had begun with a desire to adopt, but that we became foster parents to foster…so were we supposed to adopt? Or keep fostering? (With the current laws in Washington, the size of our home and family meant we had room for only one other child, so if we adopted we would have to close our foster home.)
And in the middle of the debate, my dear, sweet, logical husband began mapping out a pro-con list. And I yelled at him, “Leyla is a person! Not a pro-con list.” And we retreated to our corners. And we returned to each other, knowing we both really wanted the same thing: the best thing. The thing God wanted.
But what was that?
For weeks I begged God for clarity. And one day I read a blog post and in it found these words:
We want clarity — and God gives a call. We want a road map — and God gives a relationship. We want answers — and God gives His hand.
And as a response I stopped asking God for direction, and started asking for his hand.
You see, deep down in my heart of hearts I knew Darin was right: that God had laid on our family the burden and blessing of fostering, and that it was too early to give that up. But I had too many worries to choose that path. What would people think? What would people say? How would we say goodbye? How would Daisy and Dani react? And the biggest: where would she go? If we chose not to adopt our sweet baby girl, we would not get to choose who would. The state would determine the next family on the list and we would have no say in it.
Did I trust the faithful God I had known my whole life and witnessed every time I opened His Word? When I have no reason not to trust, why is it still so hard to let go?
Early one morning as I dropped the kids off at their Bible study classes, a well-seasoned foster mama asked me about Leyla. How was her case going? Were we going to adopt? This was not the first time I had encountered such questions, and so I took a breath and steeled myself for the questioning judgment that I had often encountered as I answered, “it looks like she is headed towards adoption, but we’re not sure yet if we’re going to adopt.”
And then that sweet woman looked at me with compassion and love and not a hint of the judgment I was prepared for. “I understand,” she said. And those two words changed everything.
“Good foster parents are ‘catch and release’ parents,” she told me. Which reminded me of years before when I was the one asking a foster parent if she was going to adopt, and hearing her tell me, “God has just called us to ‘stand in the gap’.” Catch and release. Stand in the gap. Those words echoed in my head.
And then this: “When you are supposed to adopt…you’ll just know,” followed by her story of being done adopting, until a little girl walked into their home and her husband looked at her and they just knew.
If Darin and I weren’t sure…then maybe that was it. We would know. And we didn’t. We didn’t know.
And as I texted this conversation to Darin that morning, I found my heart was finally in line with where his had been from the beginning. We weren’t Leyla’s adoptive family. But who was?
So once again my prayers shifted.
*I remember one day when Leyla's GAL called to let me know she'd be bringing an intern with her to our upcoming visit. I told her that was fine with me, but she should tell the intern to expect some kind of participation-is-demanded show from the three-year-old tyrant in the house. And sure enough, when they showed up it didn't take Dani too long to don her tutu, place a step stool in the middle of the room to use as a stage, and demand we clap and stand up at the appropriate times as she danced and sang. I just smiled an "I told you" smile at our guests, while clapping and standing of course.
**The first time the OT came to play with Leyla she was dangling a toy out in front of her to encourage Leyla to reach for it. Tired of watching Leyla’s frustration, Dani marched over, plucked that toy from the OT’s hand, and passed it to her baby sister. Helpful, not so much. But super duper sweet.