Around 12:30pm on a sunny April day I was headed out our side door with a pair of gardening gloves, a bucket, and a shovel. It was the perfect spring day to dig up the small plot in the backyard that I had decided to turn into a vegetable garden. I tucked my cell phone in my back pocket and got about two steps down from the porch when it rang. I saw our social worker’s number popped up and thought, “Oh good, John’s fingerprints came back and now we’re all set.” I casually answered the phone expecting a little update on our paperwork to become foster parents. Instead I heard the words that turned our world upside down and inside out, “Hi Lauren, I know you only put one child at a time in your home study… but I just took twins out of a home and I wanted to see if you and John would be willing to consider them.”
Just like that our world changed. My mind was racing but I knew in my heart we would say yes. I was able to ask a couple questions and learn that the twins had just turned two years old and they were fraternal… and boys. Twin two year old boys! I asked her to please let me talk to my husband and I would call her back right away. But John wouldn’t answer his cell phone or his office phone. Desperate, I jumped in the car and drove to his office. He wasn’t there. I called his secretary and I called Chap… no one knew where he was. I just started driving around VMI’s post and finally I saw him walking along the sidewalk. He jumped in the car and we found a quiet place to park and talk this over. There wasn’t much to say. We both knew that we would say yes even though we were scared out of our minds. John mentioned that we should pray, but we didn’t know what to pray. We held hands and he got something out but I honestly don’t remember what. Then we called the social worker back and found out that we had two hours… the boys would be dropped off then.
At 4:30pm on a Tuesday afternoon a van pulled into our driveway and there they were. Two of the most precious boys I’d ever seen. We could see them still buckled into their car seats… scared, confused, filthy, tired, and skinny. My heart broke and I turned to see John holding back tears. The drop off lasted maybe 5 minutes and then the four of us were left to ourselves and I felt like a kid who’d been given two glass dolls to care for. I had no idea what to do. We decided that a bath was the first order of business because they were so dirty and smelly. We turned on the water and filled the tub with warm bubbles. As we undressed the boys I had to choke back my tears as bruise after bruise was uncovered. I held back a gasp as I saw the unnatural way their ribs poke through their skin. I was alarmed at the frantic fear in their eyes as they realized we wanted them to get in the tub. John became their hero that evening… slowly warming them up to the idea of a bath. That first bath was a struggle, but never again. It became their favorite part of the day after that first experience.
Once they were clean, with full tummies and lots of snuggles, we tucked them into our queen sized guest bed. I retreated to the living room and finally let out my tears. John joined me not long after. Those first few weeks were hard as we learned how to be parents to two very broken and hurting little boys. Through trial and error we learned to love each other and by the end of three weeks I felt like they’d always been my boys and they sure did treat me like I had always been their mom. The reminders were always there, though. Occasionally I would be snuggling one of them on the couch and he would look up at me and say, “where’s mommy?” I would smile, hold him a little closer, and say, “mommy loves you and she’ll be back.” I knew that would be true someday. On other occasions the other twin would stop what he was doing, look us dead in the eye and say, “no daddy. daddy hurt.” We didn’t know what to do then. We just held him and assured him that no one would hurt him here.
Three months later when a judge ruled that the boys would go back to the home they were taken from my heart broke. I laid on my bed and sobbed when the phone call came. A little over an hour later we packed the boys’ backpacks full of clothes and their favorite toys. We told them over and over how much we love them… that we would always love them. We prayed over them and asked the Lord to be with them throughout their lives. And then we had to stand up, put their packs on their tiny little backs, take their hands, and walk out the door to the social services van. I couldn’t hold back my tears as I buckled one of the boys into his seat and looked next to him to see John buckling our other boy in. I kissed him one last time and mustered up a smile. Then he looked me right in the eye and said, “it’s okay – Jesus with me when I go bye bye in car.” The door shut and we waved and cried until the van turned the corner. It was the last time we ever saw the boys.
I couldn’t take care of the boys any more. They were out of my arms and away from my love forever. But the sweet reminder remains in my heart forever — Jesus is with those boys… even when they go bye-bye in the car… even when I can’t see them and check on them… even when they’re in a horrible and dangerous home… he is still with them. Foster care was a hard job… a hard calling. But somehow God knew it was what we were supposed to do at the time. To be honest, it broke my heart… but it also pried it wide open. Foster care opened my eyes to hurting children and the wrong that goes on right around the corner. Foster care showed me just how deeply I am capable of loving. It showed me what a broken world we live in, but that we can have a part in loving others in that brokenness. Foster care opened up a whole world to me – a world where children don’t have parents and live in hunger, or fear, or nakedness. For that I am grateful.
They will always be my boys in my heart. I will love them forever and I pray for them all the time… even almost 5 years later. There are so many children just like the twins out there. Children who need love, comfort, food, clothes, and a safe place to sleep. They are so worthy of love. I don’t regret our experience in foster care for one minute. I miss my boys terribly, but I know that they knew love. I know that they knew Jesus, and I know that they have at least one mama praying for them throughout their lives.
Yes, foster care is hard… but hard doesn’t mean wrong. In fact it’s the most wonderful way I can think of to practice sacrificial love.
**because of privacy laws we cannot show the boys’ faces… thus the blue hearts**