"Remember that time you dropped a baby?"
It's true, I did. I was playing with an eight-month-old and thought she was at the 'walking/ standing/ being independent’ stage. Turns out she wasn't, and fell flat on her face. I’m nearly sure that this is vital information, knowing if they can walk or not, and although we can all laugh about it now, at the time my face hit top temperature in record speed.
So how on earth could I be a mother figure to children - not only that, but to very broken children?
Sometimes the things we think we can't do shackle our feet from moving and doing anything. The list of endless duties and qualities I didn’t have played in my mind like a drive-in cinema screen, it was all I could I see. ‘I am not maternal’ was the phrase that I built my cosy shelter with.
But God draws us out of our familiar ways of moving, as we lower the volume on our doubts and tune our ear to His Truth.
When God has called you to something, have you ever thought... what if I try and mess up? What if there is someone else who could do a better job? What if I just can’t do it? What if it hurts?
(I'm just going to go ahead and assume that I'm not the only one thinking like this!)
All these questions immersed in doubt, fear and inadequacy are like a tight ball of string waiting to be unravelled. As it turns out, we're in good company – Peter, David and Moses to name a few. But with the slight shift to focusing not on what we can do but on what God can do, we can begin to uncoil the string.
“The real difficulty is overcoming how we think about ourselves” – Maya Angelou.
These webs of confusion and doubt only cast shadows on the need. Above my fears and beyond me there is something bigger; there is a child in care longing to be held.
I had to keep it simple. Here is a need that grieves my heart, so what am I going to do about it? Love responds. Fiercely God loves and fiercely God rescues.
So must we.
With all my doubts still closely at hand, at the age of 27 I made the phone call to become a respite and emergency foster carer. As a single carer working full time and actively involved in my church, it was all I could offer.
Since then there have been a variety of fun characters enter my home, each a different age and staying for different lengths of time. Four years on, I am with a permanent respite child whose picture will always be on my wall and her place in my home will be there forever. She has taught me more than she will ever know.
I thought I'd leave fostering to the couples and families of the world who had 'Outstanding Parenting Skills'. You know, the ones with four children all bolting off at the park, but they know exactly what to say to have them all back in an instant. All without breaking a sweat. They'd be great foster carers – the best.
But I somehow had to leave these thoughts behind and muster the faith to take God at His word and realise that He's got this.
He would give me the courage needed to care for the most broken soul. The strength to give a child one of the most special types of love there is - that of a mother. It's boldness, it's tenderness, it's wild protection regardless of cost, as a lioness would be for her cubs. It's a powerful thing of beauty and something that every child in care is worthy of.
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give” – Winston Churchill
To be a mother figure in fostering is a role I step into carefully. It's a delicately balanced part I play in a much bigger picture. With respite and emergency, it comes in intense periodical doses.
Unsure of the part of their story I’m going to step into – the high of doing well in exams, the low of missing birth parents, or sometimes a mixing pot of both. With all those emotions intertwined, do you know what we do?
We dance. (Metaphorically and at times literally).
The aim is to tune my ear to the sound that comes through my door, knowing when to move, trying to work in sync, and hopefully have fun whilst it lasts. The soundtrack of the dance may change from time to time, but whatever comes through the door, I must listen to the beat.
Throughout my time as a foster carer, I pledge to dance this dance many times. To create a safe space for every season of the soul to be welcomed. What a wonderful privilege to plant hope in this way.