Links in the Chain- How the ChainBreaker Can Also Be the ChainMaker

It’s been 3 weeks now since we gave up two of our foster sons to another family, and it’s time to finally write about it. It’s been a particularly hard blog to get my head around because there’s just so much I want to say- and I haven’t really been able to figure out how to say it. There’s so much we learned about fostering in general, but there’s even more I learned from a spiritual perspective. Even just now sitting here, I think there’s too much to write all in one blog- so….. welcome to part 1. Ha! (Enjoying my real-time writing decisions yet?)

Anyhoo, yes. Let’s dive into how 2019 started for us and what God has taught our family (and me especially) through this crazy-fostering-thing we’re called to. But to start, I need to give you some background so bear with me for just a bit.

Six days before Christmas I got a call from DFS asking us to take two brothers, a 7-year old with Down Syndrome (yes!) and his little brother who was 5. I felt a little leap in my spirit that usually doesn’t happen when we get calls. I immediately called Gabe at work and told him “I want these boys.” Much to my surprise and his credit- he told me we could pray about it. Now, for those who don’t know, timing is everything when you get a new placement. Often these poor children are literally sitting in the office of the case worker who is desperately trying to find them a family as soon as possible. So minutes are precious… hours are long, days are almost unheard of.

We had just hours to decide.

Imagine trying to weigh taking in two new children (to add to our other 4), one with Down Syndrome (to add to our other two with special needs)- not knowing their story, not knowing their behavior, their needs, how long we’ll have them (the average time spent in foster homes in MO is around 18 months), how it’ll affect not only short term but long-term plans, etc. etc. etc. It’s no small thing to decide upon… prayer is literally all you can do sometimes.

After an afternoon of talking extensively and praying, we decided (with much trepidation and convinced we were crazy) to take them. I called the worker only to find out they had just been placed with another family. Okay God- that settled that.

Fast forward 3 weeks.

My phone rang- another placement call I thought. It was. But not just any- it was for these two boys again. Apparently it wasn’t working out with the family they were placed with. I called Gabe again to see what he wanted to do. God love that man! He immediately noted that God had put them in our path a second time- basically how could we say no? Hours passed… we prayed again…. we talked again… we questioned our sanity again… and ultimately we said yes…. again.

Taking these kiddos was going to drastically change our life. Schedules, meals, outings, vacations, school pick-up and drop-off… almost every facet was going to be altered in some way. After all it’s no small thing to have six kids that young- with that many medical and developmental needs. But, clearly God had asked us to take them- so there was no going back now. Our hearts and minds were set and even among the crazy-factor we felt totally at peace with the decision.

Until five weeks later on a Saturday morning when I found myself sick, frustrated, bleary-eyed from lack of sleep, bawling on the floor of my bathroom- crying out to God, quietly and rather ashamedly asking Him to release us from the boys. This was the opposite of peace. I couldn’t do it anymore- no, we as a couple couldn’t handle it, our family-unit couldn’t maintain the current status quo. God I just can’t anymore, I tried, I failed, forgive me but please release us I found myself quietly sobbing to Him.

Please know that these boys were (are!) precious. They were not bad boys. But they were hard. They had been neglected so badly that many normal rules of behavior and conduct were completely foreign to them. Their medical needs had been met marginally at best. The boy with Down Syndrome was non-verbal, a wanderer, and didn’t sleep. They had never spent longer than a few months in any one school due to being moved around so they were hopelessly behind academically. And, truth be told, as previously noted, six kids is a lot. In this case, it was too many. Not one was getting the time and attention they needed or deserved. Both Gabe and I were walking zombies from lack of sleep and trying to keep up with the <very> special needs of our three designer-gened kiddos. It was just too much. Despite our church, the school (their teachers were amazing!!), our family and friends- it was just beyond what we could handle.

And I HATED the feeling of failure… and being yet another family to pass them along.

Yes, that Saturday my heart broke. Panicking for some wisdom, I flipped through my phone for someone, anyone who could offer me not only a sympathetic ear but some sage advice. Keep them despite the situation? Let them go and step out of God’s will? Something felt off, wrong, no peace could be found and that was alarming. So. Many. Questions.

I scrolled past family, I scrolled past best friends, I scrolled past regular friends… and landed on a lady who I’ve actually never met in person, but who has become a good online friend and fellow writer. Out of nowhere I texted her to see if we could chat. She immediately responded, I called, and long story short- through her words God released us from these precious boys. It turned out, she and her husband had fostered from a long time (who knew?? GOD knew…) and they had been in a very similar situation (whaat?!?) Her words of wisdom and experience washed over me like a cool balm to my agitated nerves. I indeed felt released. I felt God had stirred my soul, perhaps even cause my illness in order to bring us to a point of surrender. Chances are, we would have missed Him in the mess of following Him so we needed an intervention. We had put our heads so far down to walk this path that I think we forgot to keep seeking Him.

The rest of that afternoon God put countless people in our path through ‘random’ phone calls and texts that both assured and encouraged us that we weren’t stepping out of His will for us and that His plan was still being accomplished.

At this point I need to digress to a parallel story for a second. Rewind to only three days after we originally took the boys in. Gabe and I went to a marriage retreat and had to put the boys into respite. We had a hard time finding someone on such short notice to take them, especially with the special needs child. Finally their case-worker found a family, we dropped them off and three days later picked them back up. As I was loading them into the car, a seemingly passing conversation would turn into a vital link in this crazy chain. The lady told me that her daughter, who is a teacher is a nearby school district, had come to visit her during this respite and was pleasantly surprised to run into the two boys, both of whom she knew from school last semester. The daughter told her mom she was so relieved to hear they were in foster care and she couldn’t wait to tell the other teachers that they were safe- apparently the entire school had been super worried about them (knowing their living situation) and after they just didn’t come back to school one-day… well….. the questions and worries abounded. Especially for the older one’s special ed teacher, (we’ll call him Mr. Smith) who was particularly fond of the boy. The lady told me that Mr. Smith wanted to let us know that if the boys were ever to come up for adoption and we couldn’t or wouldn’t take them, that he and his wife would be interested.

Okay, so back to the main plot- fast forward now to the Saturday of woe (let’s call it D-day at the Douglas’s) around six that evening I get a random text from an unknown number. This is Jane Smith, my husband Mr. Smith used to be _____’s special ed teacher. We heard you may need to find another placement for them. Do you think we could have them? Who do we need to call?

Mic drop… or phone drop in this case.

This family, who we later found out had wanted these boys for years, who had been praying about adopting them, who knew their backstory and their needs, who God had been perfectly situating to take them in- called US to ask if they could take them. I’m telling you you can’t make this stuff up. It’s GodStuff! He was making links, laying the framework for this pairing, for months if not years.

Released from that duty, with the futures of these dear boys firmly and supernaturally taken care of, you’d think all’s well that ends well. Except I took the break in events to take a deep breath and get…. frustrated…

What was the point? Why, after five weeks of complete and utter life disruption, would You take them away now? I don’t get it God. Did we mishear you to begin with? Were we never supposed to take them at all? Why such a short time? Did we do something wrong? What was the POINT of it all? Questions and frustrations swirled. I was grateful, but (like all good {ex}flight-nurses…) I needed to debrief and figure out what went wrong.

It turns out… nothing did. it all went right.

Because what I learned, what God allowed me to see as He graciously pulled back the curtain just a bit on His plans, is that He doesn’t just break chains without providing new chains of protection.

What I learned is that as God was breaking the chains of their little lives of abuse, drugs, living in tents, hunger, thirst, and chronic neglect- He was also remaking chains of protection, love, safety, and security.

I learned that with each link broken from the old life, He was linking a new chain for their new life. The last day they saw their mom, nobody knowing whether it would be their last visit or not to see her… was also the same time that God was preparing their new, forever family to take them in. The last time they got to see their ‘new’ teachers in our school district (again, nobody knowing it would be their last parting) would make a link to go home to be with their new dad (who, incidentally, was the older boy’s special ed teacher!… because GodStuff).

What I’ve learned is that the God of closed doors and opened windows is also the God of ChainBreaking and ChainMaking. He never takes without replacing with something better.

The links to their old lives obliterated made way for the links to their new lives forged.

What I learned is that we, in that seemingly short time, were a link or two in their new chain. We were there for several of the breaking of the links in their old chains; we provided hugs and cuddles and explanations and prayers for bewildered and hurting little hearts. We were the link that got them to their forever family. Our family and friends who loved them, provided meals for us, watched them, asked about them, prayed for them each helped build new links in their new life. His teachers, their school, our neighbors, their case workers, our church- everyone who took an extra minute to acknowledge them, love them, pour into them, care about their welfare- in short, everyone who stepped out to be Jesus’ hands- forged a link in their new chain. (And to all of you special people who may be reading this… thank you… from the bottom of our hearts and on behalf of two very special boys- what you did, no matter how large or small- made a difference.)

So…. there it is. And just like that, though our part was small and just the very beginning of a new chain, our links were important. Just as everyone’s is.

Dear ones, my dear, dear friends. We are all links in God’s great chains. He’s breaking chains and making chains with US. We ARE the links. From the earthly temporal straight up to the heavenly eternal, God’s doing His thing bridging the vast chasm from death to life. Take note today of who’s life you are a vital God link in. Find the people you’re supposed to be linking towards God. Find the people Christ is using to help break their old and making their new. Be the chainbreaker and chainmaker in the Father’s hands.

Be obedient. Be brave.

Be their link.

Read Part 2 of this blog here (coming out next week!)