Last week I found my 3 children, age 10 and under, my husband, and myself in a room with people actively detoxifying from drugs and alcohol. They were men and women dressed in prison uniforms, and no lie, they looked the part. As Kurt put it, “On paper, we are not looking like good parents.”
We were at our son’s birthmother’s graduation ceremony from Drug Court. Tan is also the mother of the 13-year-old we fostered for 8 months in 2016, until he was reunified with her. Drug Court is basically diversion from jail. Instead of serving time, you can choose to follow a determined set of steps to rehabilitate you back into society. It took my son’s birthmother 17 months. Thank you, Jesus, for Orange County, NC.
Surrounded by recovering addicts, people who had just been admitted into the rehab program, social workers, and loved ones, my precious baby’s precious birthmother stood up and gave witness to the life she’s lived for 40+ years. I, and most of you, will never ever hold a candle to what this woman has overcome. Upon graduating, she has now been offered a full-time position as a Peer Rehabilitation Counselor to help people who were just like her less than two years ago.
Tan’s overlying message in her graduation ceremony speech: I have a voice. If I stay silent, I will suffer by burying my pain and others will suffer by not being healed. So, no matter how painful at times, I will choose to obey and use my voice to help others…
I never could have predicted what happened next. My 8-year-old sassy daughter walked up to the stage and said, “I want to say something.” A room of at least 60 people, most of whom this entitled, spoiled, given-everything-in-the-world-except-a-pony, little princess never knew could exist, walked in front of a room of broken people, took the mic, and with tears streaming down her face said the following: “Tan has always been part of the family for all of us. She’s been through a lot. And she’s made it this far.” And then she ran over and gave Tan a huge hug.
Halley sees and has a voice. She lived with a foster brother for 8 months who made her life very difficult. But she obeyed the call of the sacrifice. And now, to that group of people, Halley showed that the foster families who have “taken” these people’s children away are rooting for them. The foster families speak honorably about the parents, we pray for them and are on their side. Hopefully, these broken people left that night knowing that their story could end happily as well, and their children’s foster families could be here in a year or two speaking about their triumph.
Kurt and I often wondered if our choice to foster was a mistake. We counted the cost and didn’t know if it landed in the red or black in our family’s balance sheet. That night, we received such an unqualified gift of God laying it out for us. It took nine months after closing the chapter, but we saw the results of our obedience, and how it never stopped with our family alone walking it out.
Our foster son/Ben’s biological half-brother spoke that night, as well. Afterwards, I told him he has a story, too. He was put in an exclusive position of being a foster child whose story ended happily after months of living in fear. “What’s that like?,” I said. “What can you tell kids who are going through what you did? What can you tell foster kids about hope, Anthony?”
One story – three experiences. Three different voices who are now uniquely qualified to share and help others because of their acts of obedience. Your obedience is never about you alone, is it? Even if you don’t get to see the big picture, your obedience is far-reaching. Even more, the Bible says obedience is an act of worship and an act of love to others.
1 John 5:2 says, “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands.”