Nurturing Biological Relationships
For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.
Our family has not had a “typical” fostering experience. When I think of being foster parents I often think of a revolving door with children coming in and going back out. It just happens that God’s plan for us has been different. We bring them in, and so far, no one has left. We have adopted them.
We began this ministry of fostering believing in the importance of nurturing a child’s biological relationships. As we continue to minister in this way, we feel more than ever that our call to love is not just for a child, but for that child’s particular family. You see, all of our foster-to-adopt kiddos are biological siblings. I believe God planted that desire in my heart, from the beginning, to bring siblings into our home. But I never dreamt it would look like this – the way it has happened. I thought He would bring them all at the same time, you know? There always seems to be such a great need for that. And yet, for us, they have come to us one-by-one, each from the hospital at birth.
“Lord, may he be a messenger of Your salvation to all nations… and to his birth family.” This is the prayer I prayed over our first foster child from the time he arrived in our home. At the time, I certainly didn’t believe we would be adopting him and most of his siblings! Though it wasn’t what I had in mind, it has been God’s way of answering our prayer. Even now as I walk this fostering journey, sometimes with a jaded heart, my prayer is that somehow God would bring salvation to his birth mom… to this entire family.
Soon after his adoption, we were privileged enough to meet his older biological sister. Nurturing this relationship has been the closest thing I can imagine to a “typical” fostering situation –if there really is such a thing. She is not in foster care, but she is often in and out of our home. She comes from a hard place. She is beautiful and tough and I’d like to think resilient. I guess she is to some degree, but there are always scars left by trauma.
From the beginning, we have tried to pursue a relationship with her. We have opened our home and our hearts. We have experienced so much joy in watching what God is doing in her. The ways she has grown and the things she has learned by observing and participating in a healthy family bring pure joy and hope to our hearts for her future.
We have also experienced pain as she is used as a pawn to hurt us, which we know is hurtful to her as well. As adults, it hurts, but the hurt is bearable. However, watching the sacrifice our children make to love another child as our own only to be left with questions when she disappears for months at a time… it’s heart-wrenching for them. We never know if she will return.
We have learned there is no right way to engage with biological families. It is a moment-by-moment talking with the Lord and listening to His whispers for what’s next. I could easily sit here and list the things that would seemingly make sense in nurturing these relationships. Boundaries, for example. Yes. Boundaries are important and probably worth mentioning. Mostly though, our experience is that there are simply no rules.
What does it look like for you to love people who may have very different values and beliefs about the world than you do? I think it’s different for everyone. Yet one thing is true for everyone, it requires love and wisdom beyond what you humanly have to give. It requires a heart that is open and listening to the Lord.
Listening. Listening. Listening.
God may ask you to step away for a time, or, He may blow well-crafted boundaries wide open at some point. He may ask you to risk more than what you think you have to give. He may fill you with joy that bubbles over in how your family has grown beyond your original borders! He will definitely see you through it all. You will grow. You will learn. You will love in ways you never imagined possible.
At this point in our journey, the Lord is showing me where I am tempted to misplace my hope. My hope is not in what child welfare does or doesn’t do regarding our case. It’s not in the birth family living up to my standards, and it’s not in our birth mom succeeding… or failing. My hope is in God alone.
What I can take to the bank is that He loves each of them–our foster children still in state custody, our bio children, our adopted children, the one who comes and goes, and their mother–more than I do! And, I remind myself, He loves me too. Knowing this, I can rest in His plans for all of us.
Kristen Bryant is married to her husband, Ty, and is mama bird to six loves. She is an adoptive and foster mom, passionate about walking by faith and following the Lord into whatever adventure He calls. In this season of life she’s enjoying God the simple – quiet mornings with Jesus and sweet family moments. She connects with God through creative outlets like writing, hand lettering, and creating beautiful spaces. She loves connecting with other families who are interested in foster care and adoption and sharing openly the good, the bad, and the miraculous.