Jenna Marie Masters is a Jesus follower, held together by prayer, coffee and paper plates. She has a BA in Photojournalism and a Masters/Seminary Degree in Christian Ministry with a cognate in Pastoral Counseling. She writes for CCEA Women’s blog and Marked by Love. She’s passionate about being defined by God’s love and being refined by studying his word. She runs her race alongside her hubby, Aaron and their 3 priceless kiddos. They’ve been pursing adoption for 4 years, and have learned to adopt God’s will in the waiting.
Being a foster family, my kids have lots of questions.
Most common: “Mama, what do you think will happen?”
My common answer: “I don’t know, baby.”
After saying this the gazillionth time, God pressed on my heart,
“YOU may not know the answer, but I’m already there with whatever they’ll need to get through it!”
I was approaching this all wrong, allowing my children to depend on MY knowledge for peace.
THREE things God has taught me to do with my kiddos when they’re unsure about the future:
1. Teach them to pray for God’s purposes.
Instead of asking the Lord to share his plans for the future, we can pray with them, “Lord, whatever YOU want to happen tomorrow, we pray your will to be done.” His ways are higher!
2. Teach them to prepare their hearts.
God’s will often is not what WE think is best. But we can’t see the whole story of our lives like Father God. We can remind our kiddos that God is always good. This helps prepare their hearts to accept whatever the future holds…because a loving God holds it.
3. Encourage them to seize the day!
We can dig into TODAY, giving thanks for what (and who!) we have. Someday, our foster daughter may go back to her biological family. But, right now, we get to watch her dance to Michael Jackson in her diaper! We don’t know what will happen tomorrow, but it shouldn’t stop us from dancing TODAY!
💗It means so much that you’re taking this journey with me.❤
I’D LOVE TO SEND YOU A FREE SEVEN-DAY DEVOTIONAL: CLICK HERE FOR DEVOTIONAL
It’s Foster Care Awareness Month. To be honest, I wouldn’t have known that if we weren’t a foster family. But I’m thinking, for those of us living in SoCal, it would be good for us to start paying more attention because Los Angeles has the highest number of foster children in the NATION!
Thirty-thousand kids are currently in the foster care system in LA. I had no idea before I started this journey. Our sweet foster daughter is from LA, and they called us because NO ONE WOULD TAKE HER – This is common. There are not enough foster families in LA, so the overflow calls get sent to Orange County and beyond.
On a side note, she just turned one and we couldn’t be more in love with her!
I’ve had a lot of people ask me what it’s like– if I’m worried how it will affect my kids, and how we’ll feel if she is reunified with her bio parents. I’ve found it’s common for people to misunderstand what foster is and assume we “get to keep her” now that she’s been placed with us. I shared many of the same misconceptions about the system before we started this journey, so I thought I’d share some thoughts on the subject.😊
I’m attempting to keep this non-emotional (not a typical blog post for me!), and as informational as possible. However, this is how I perceive the information based on my personal experience with foster care thus far. Also, when I approached my Facebook Foster/Adoption group with the questions of misconceptions, there was a much longer list than what I’ve included here. This blog is just scraping the surface of a deep and complicated subject. But I will say, for the sake of complete transparency: The system is incredibly broken.
Misconceptions about Children in Foster Care
Foster care means adoption.
I’ve had well-meaning, precious people say, “Congratulations” …not understanding that a kid who has been removed from their bio parents by DCFS, was taken because they were in danger of, or were being neglected or abused. However, the goal of the foster care system (judges, attorneys, social workers, therapists, investigators, rehab centers, parent educators, foster families) is to reunify these precious kiddos to their biological families. Adoption is the last resort and a result of their biological family not being well enough or safe enough to take them back home. For most of the foster families I know, if the adoption took place, it took two to three years to finalize. I have friends who’ve had children living with them for two years, and then they reunite with their biological family.
2. Parents who have their kids taken by DCFS really don’t want their kids.
In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. The court has given them a “case plan” designed (in theory) to provide them with the tools and healing to be the parents they want to be. I’ve heard many foster families say they wish they could take in the biological parents into their home, too. They need love and a family to support them. Unfortunately, with a large percentage of foster youth parents having been in the foster system themselves, that support is usually not set in place. And let’s be honest, no social worker, attorney, judge, or therapist can replace the healing power of a loving family, leading a child to a loving God.
3. Once you have a foster child in your home, you won’t have contact with the biological family besides court dates.
Biological parents are usually granted visitation with their children (even if they are in jail or rehab). We started with seeing our foster daughters’ mama four hours a week, then it was increased to nine hours a week. Some foster agencies will transport and monitor the visitation for the foster family. We, however, have been responsible for transporting and supervising the visitations for baby girls (until recently). The parents have court given time to work on their “case plan” and towards reunification–attending visitations and bonding with their children is typically part of that plan.
4. Foster families are emotionally stronger than other families.
The number one comment I receive is, “I don’t know how you do it, I would get too attached.” Guess what? I am super attached. I’m no different than you, no foster family is. We aren’t stronger than anyone. Surrendered, yes. Strong, no.
If you are a person who would get too attached to children in foster care, then guess what?! You’re the perfect candidate to be a foster parent. Attachment is what these kids need.
Things you may not know:
*Statistics from CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates)
It means so much that you’re taking this journey with me.❤ I’d love to send you a FREE SEVEN-DAY DEVOTIONAL: CLICK HERE FOR DEVOTIONAL
Some say there’s no God, no hope, no love, nothing we can do to bring change.
But, I’ve seen the images.
When I look into my brother and sisters eyes, the eyes of my children and foster daughter,
The eyes of my neighbor, no matter the color, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, or social status…
I see images.
The images of God.
And images have power.
Power to pray. Power to protest. Power to preach. Power to love. Power to plead.
I admit it’s a hard time to navigate. Liking a Facebook post won’t bring change. I am inadequate to speak any authority over the situation because I have SO very much to learn. But as I cried for my foster daughter’s future, her precious mama and father, I prayed God would show me what to do. Here’s what he pressed on my heart-
We have a God-given, Spirit-led power to raise an anti-racist generation.
Have the hard talk and holy talk in your home tonight, with your friends, your husband, your children.
Not just once. But over and over.
We are living, breathing images. Let’s bring change.
“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27 NIV
“In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ.” Galatians 3:28-29 MSG
Knowing you may not hold someone you love for much longer leaves the days feeling fresh and fragile. I remember sitting next to my Poppa when he was passing away. I listened carefully for the next breath, knowing any moment the next breath wouldn’t come. I wanted to be with him, inhale deeply next to him, sing to him, pray with him, hold his hand while it was still warm.
I find myself watching our foster daughter with similar thoughts breaking ashore–just allow one more day with her; Father God, give me more than one more breath.
With our baby girl, I can only plan for her needs six months at a time…because that’s how long it is between court dates and decisions. I turned down bigger sized clothing, walkers, and high chairs when she was first placed with us. Now, I’m turning down toddler beds and trikes. I don’t plan for her life past April, our next court date. I find myself thinking, “this may be the last time we (fill in the blank) with this sweet girl.”
I’m waking up. I want to be as diligent and intentional to soak in every life around me, not just my foster daughter’s. We’re not guaranteed one more breath with anyone. Many of us know this truth well. Life can change in a flutter.
This journey has taught me to stand in awe, awakening to each day as one more gift from God. The sunrises are stunning, snoring husbands are cute instead of irritating, stinky soccer socks cause me to pause and give thanks for healthy children, and every baby milestone feels magical. Seriously. Baby girl shoving puffs into her mouth (and all over the floor) makes everyone in this house party like it’s nineteen ninety-nine. It’s so stinkin’ cute.
We’re trying to dig into every day over here. And although we cannot plan out the future, God is teaching me three things we can do: Pray, Prepare & Play.
Pray for God’s purposes.
What if we don’t know God’s purpose or plan for our lives? Instead of trying to force the future into the box I’ve delegated for it—I can lay that all down and pray, “Lord, I ask that your perfect purposes for the future be accomplished in my life and the lives of my loved ones. Let nothing stand in your way.”
Prepare your heart.
God’s plan may not line up with my limited ideas of perfection. We can remember God’s good and always trustworthy. This helps us prepare our hearts to accept whatever the future holds. Since we’ve become a foster family, I often pray, “Lord, please prepare my heart (and the hearts of my children) for whatever lies ahead. Give us peace.”
Play with the people you love.
Grab the people you love and take pleasure in them. We may not have tomorrow, but we have today! I’m not sure why we don’t memorize this scripture in Sunday school, but maybe we should make it a thing (especially the part about bread and wine),
“Seize life! Eat bread with gusto, Drink wine with a robust heart. Oh yes—God takes pleasure in your pleasure! Dress festively every morning. Don’t skimp on colors and scarves. Relish life with the spouse you love Each and every day of your precarious life. Each day is God’s gift. It’s all you get in exchange For the hard work of staying alive. Make the most of each one! Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily! This is your last and only chance at it,,” (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 MSG)
I don’t know your purpose or plans for my children and loved ones, but I pray for it. I ask that you go ahead of them, paving the way for peace and provision. I pray you are parting seas they don’t see. I pray you are planting people of godly influence in their path before they get there. I pray for wisdom when they are pressed against the hard rock of life.
I pray for forgiving friends who point them to your love. I pray for protection over their hearts and bodies. I pray faith rises fiercely in their soul when doubt pushes down. I pray for eyes to see your blessings when they feel cheated. I pray they run to you, instead of away, when their hearts are broken. I pray they love bravely because that’s why you made them. I pray your voice reaches them when mine cannot and whispers, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” I pray they know love because they know you. Amen
It means so much that you’re taking this journey with me.❤ I’d love to send you a FREE SEVEN-DAY DEVOTIONAL: CLICK HERE FOR DEVOTIONAL
I turned to Aaron last night and said, “If she goes home in April, I don’t think I’ll survive it, baby.”
Taking my hand, he said, “We’ll get through it.”
The depths of human emotion are astounding. As soon as you reach the bottom of the well, your soul strikes a geyser, emotions rush to the surface, shattering the limitations of how you thought you could ever feel, or give.
The number one comment I’ve received after becoming a foster mom is, “I could never do that. I could never love a child and then give them back. It would be too hard.”
I know some of you’ve said those very words to me. You know the first person to say this to me?
About a gazillion times before you opened your mouth, so don’t sweat it. I’m pretty sure my head will pop off like a Barbie doll when/if she isn’t with us anymore. So…there’s that.
I try not to think of that.
Oh, yes, sweet friends. You’re right, it’s hard.
Loving a child like they’re yours, but they aren’t is like trying to settle untamed land. I’m unsure which attachments to let grow wild and where it’d be wise to put up some fences.
Is she supposed to call me, mommy? I’m not her mommy.
What do I say when someone says, “Congratulations”? She’s not adopted. In fact, she’s with us because of traumatic circumstances.
Knowing we’ll probably only have her for a season; the knowledge breaks and heals, gives and takes away. I don’t know how to feel, so I feel everything. It’s fascinating and difficult. Please, pray for me.
Some days lunge at me like a ginormous octopus. Emotional tentacles are yanking my gut, trying to reach a new understanding of what God’s love is really about. How can it spread in so many directions at the same time, with the same purpose? Is it even possible for me to love like him?
I promise I’m trying. I’m finding I don’t know how to successfully love my foster daughter, her birth mama, her birth daddy, her paternal grandma, the two social workers, three investigators, three lawyers, and the judge equally.
Somewhere down the line, I’ve come to believe that if I love one too much, it will interfere with my love for the other. What if I love too hard, will the wells eventually dry up? I don’t want to find myself cracked and parched, unable to love brave again.
The word tells us, “For God loved the world, that he gave his only son,”(John 3:16)
In other words:
He loved, so he did a very hard thing;
He loved, so he gave what was most precious to him;
He loved, so he endured.
He loved, so he hung, his lips cracked, his mouth parched.
The veil was torn. His body was buried. But it wasn’t the bottom of the well.
When the world thought Jesus hit rock bottom, a bigger rock rolled away, and the fierce love of God rose up.
I’m learning we can’t put boundaries and borders upon God’s love. We’re the ones slapping labels on His callings: Too Hard. Not Worth It. I. Just. Can’t.
Of course, we can’t! Love wouldn’t be holy if we could accomplish it on our own. Only through Jesus, “For in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)
After our last failed adoption, I was convinced a piece of me would never feel again. I was wrong. The death in that experience gave birth to a new depth in me I didn’t know existed. Under the surface of that suffering was an understanding that God’s designed us for more. More perseverance, more strength, more wisdom, more hope, more fight, more courage, and abundant love.
He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)
We’re made in the image of God. So our love story on earth should look a bit like his.
Because he loves, we’ll do hard things. And because he’s with us, we’ll get through it.
Ten little ( and adorable) reasons you haven’t heard much from me lately. We became foster parents to a precious baby girl seven weeks ago. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to love and support us as we learn to navigate this new adventure. We covet your prayers.
P.S. If you think these toes are cute…you would die if you saw the face that goes with them. Wish so badly I could post it on social media, but I’m not allowed. But trust me on this one…she’s off the charts adorable.
2. I’M SO EXCITED TO HAVE ARTICLES PUBLISHED IN THESE BEAUTIFUL MAGAZINES!
THE JOYFUL LIFE MAGAZINE
I’m teary-eyed thankful that The Joyful Life magazine has published a piece I wrote about friendship. The subject is so precious to me in this exhausting season of learning how to be a good foster mom, bio mom, wife, and friend. Women have come around me in life-giving ways over the past two months. Friends are sending me Bible verses and devotionals via text, bringing our family dinner, sending adorable baby clothes (from Baby Gap even!), dropping off diapers & formula on our doorstep…you guys- someone even gave me a BOB stroller. God is loving me fierce through these friendships. You know who you are. Xoxo
After coming home from visitation with our foster daughter’s mama, I opened the mail to find my first published article in Home Front Magazine. The title just tugged at my heart. Bio mamas, foster mamas, adoptive mamas, young mamas, geriatric mamas (apparently anyone over 35 camps out in this group)…we all need to give each other a break. We’re all hungry for grace. Let’s give it freely. It costs us nothing. It cost Jesus everything.
“The beauty of freely given grace is that is doesn’t put the recipient on trial before deciding if she is worthy. The cross has already determined that. Jesus gave his life to prove she is worthy. Who are we to question our Heavenly Father?”
I heard the click of his light and waited for the invitation. Silence. Why wasn’t my Eli calling for me?
Maybe he’s praying, or stretching, or reading with a book light? Was something wrong?!
I’ll tell you what’s wrong – my boy is growing up. And I’m not ready.
I crept out of bed and peeked into his room. He looked longer, his jaw a bit wider, with those man-boy feet (now bigger than mine) sticking out from his Star Wars blanket,
“Are you okay!? You didn’t call me to ‘Kentucky’ you in…”
He opened his eyes, cracking a smile. Had he lost all his baby teeth?
“Oh, my goodness! You’re freaking out, I just thought it was too late to call you.” He laughed. Apparently, my mama-meltdown was hilarious.
But something squeezed at my heart, “Never. It’s never too late. You can always call me!”
And just like that, I realized my longing to be understood was much like my Heavenly Father’s. How many times had he sung the same ancient truth over my life- It’s never too late, you can always call on me.
“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer you; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I” (Psalm 145:18 NIV).
Being a mother reminds me I’m made in the image of God. And although the love I feel for my kiddos is a teeny glimpse of His love for us…there’s nothing on earth more consuming and eternal, besides God himself. It’s that big. At times when I’m desperate for my son to hear my words, God confirms -He feels the same way about me. His Spirit pleads, “Why aren’t you calling on me, daughter?”
He’s listening at the door of my heart while I sit in the dark, cold and unsure. Always present, but desiring me to utter His name, to invite Him to turn on the light. But I make excuses- I’ve waited too long, my need is too great, or the most dangerous…my need is too small.
What areas of your life do you hold back from God’s loving comfort? In what space do you prefer Him not to come? Where have you cuddled under the lie, “My longing is too insignificant for Him to care”? Push these things aside; they’re smothering your access to child-like faith. All we need to do is, “cry for help, and He will say: Here am I.”
P.S. I reserve the right to tuck my “babies” into bed as long as they live under my roof. I’m fairly certain it’s in the Constitution somewhere…or a Dr. Suess book. Either way.
I’d love to travel the globe with my kids. I imagine we’d get lost down colorful alleys, pop into every restaurant oozing with the smell of butter and spice…but right now, we spend most our time at soccer practice, and in the school drop off lines. It’s our life stage and I adore it. But I long to instill a sense of passion for the world and all God’s created into my children. Teaching our children to pray for the world is a powerful act of love.
God’s entrusted us with the upbringing of eternal souls. If we desire these precious souls to be world-changers for Jesus, they’ll need a love for its people, because “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16). How do we do this?
This is one tradition that’s brought us a step closer to God’s heart; one small way to start loving on a global level. I pray it inspires you to have some meaningful fun this summer!
how to teach our children to pray for the world
Choose! Each week we take turns choosing a country on our world map. We have a map that you can scratch off the color of each country as you go, but I also love the idea of sticking a colorful pin in a cork map.
Pray! After we’ve chosen a country we open up our book, “Operation World: The definitive prayer guide to every nation” by Jason Mandryk. I can’t emphasize how I cherish this book. Here you’ll find all sorts of interesting nuggets about the country. My favorite – the most urgent prayer needs. This is what we focus on. Whatever those prayer needs are (poverty, persecution, government corruption, child exploitation, orphans, lack of natural resources, etc.), we include them in our family prayers over dinner. The book also includes a section of answered prayers for each country!
Give! After our eyes have been opened to the immediate needs of others, the heart is always moved to action. If one of your kiddos shows particular interest in the need of another nation, help them research an organization that they can support through their allowance. My kiddos have even set up lemonade stands in the past to raise money for water wells in Africa.
Cook! We chose recipes from our chosen culture and cook meals together. This can be a beautiful mess at times! Some of my major #kitchenfails include Russian borscht and Ethiopian injera (Yes Eli, I’m sure I followed the recipe. No, I don’t know why it doesn’t look like the picture!)
Learn! We go to the library. I let the kids run amuck and grab whatever books they can find about the country. It’s so fun to share with each other what we’ve learned after we read our books.
Have fun! We plan a fun movie night. If your kids are older, you can choose a documentary. The library has great choices for documentaries for littles too! You don’t have to get super serious about this. When my kids were babes we totally counted “Beauty and the Beast” as French culture (ya know, because of all the baguettes and bonjours in the opening scene). You’re making the effort, no one’s judging you!
Here’s the point: Taking time to learn and pray for others around the world, demonstrates to our kids that we should care; we should care about hearing people’s stories who are different than us. We should be intentional to understand the needs of the world outside America. Our children won’t learn to cultivate a love for all God’s people if we don’t model to them that it’s the heart of Jesus.
here are some resources to help teach your children to pray for the world:
Our bird mamma is back. Penelope- the one that’s decided our rotting patio cover is the perfect place to build her nest. I love this crazy, determined, cutie-pie bird.
The irony is not lost on me. I feel like I’m observing a bird version of myself. All the hopes of my heart to adopt over the past five years seem overshadowed by the decay that surrounds them. Five years of broken expectations. Four failed adoptions — one international, three domestic — chipping away at the strength of my spirit.
But here I sit, day after day, choosing to knit my nest together with God’s promises, while everything around me threatens to cave in.
what do you believe god’s promises are for you?
What is your nesting egg? The desire of your heart that you believe God planted? Have you asked God to remove it if it’s not his will? I have. Over and over. Yet it remains. And even when the lies of the enemy are crudely constructed, attempting to cover up the promise that God’s plans are to prosper me and not to harm me (Jeremiah 29:11a), His truth still is not obstructed. I can still feel it.
Besides, “hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:24b–25 ESV).
I may have to grope clumsily in the darkness for a season, but it’s there. Because God is eternal and God is hope.
What is eternal cannot be extinguished.
Did you know the biblical word for hope, tiqvah, literally translates to cord, hope, and expectation? It’s used in the story of Rahab. She’s instructed to tie a scarlet cord (tiqvah, hope) in her window to remain unharmed. (Joshua 2:18). Hope protects us. It’s a holy signal to the enemy that he can’t touch us. It’s the scarlet cord we unabashedly display over our doorframe that cries out, “I belong to King Jesus!”
Grasping it like a rope, I’ve tried to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23 ESV). I still struggle, asking God, Why are you making us wait so long for the desires of our heart?!
hold on tight to God’s promises. it’s worth it.
In all transparency, my hands have grown weary and calloused from clinging to the rope for so long. It hurts. My hopeful waiting has been seasoned with suffering. But isn’t this part of the blessing? Callouses give us the ability to endure situations that would naturally tear our hearts wide open. It takes time and endurance for callouses to form.
In high school, I cursed the callouses that formed while trying to learn to play the guitar. However, the first time my fingertips were tough enough to press on the strings to play a worship song, I was flooded with understanding. The momentary discomfort I’d endured made it possible for me to sing a new song of praise. I don’t know all the reasons we’re asked to wait. However, I do know there is a perfectly holy reason for every situation. We are called to hope (Ephesians 4:4), and that means we are called to wait. Not just to wait but also to look.
In fact, the Hebrew root of the word hope is ka-va, meaning to wait, to look for. Faith-filled hope is active. When I find myself wrestling with discouragement, I’m really wrestling with my passivity. Hope requires that we’re eager watchmen on the tower of our days, scanning the valley for signs of life.
Just like Penelope, who is oblivious to the rot around her because her eyes are on the tiny, yet wildly adored, promise beneath her. She waits. She watches. She constantly tends to the hope among the decay. Sweet Jesus, teach me to do this!
The idea of becoming foster parents was like realizing there was another egg in the nest we’d never noticed! It’s only through the sustaining grip of God’s love that we kept diligent watch over the ragged nest perched in our hearts. I praise God for the gift of hope. I thank Him for reminding me that hope is my protection, my courage, my confidence, my calling, and my strength! I raise my hands in praise, calloused as they are from clinging to hope, to the one that gives life to His promises.
“But those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 NIV)
God’s word is always the best source of encouragement! Click here for a beautiful printout of verses celebrating hope in Jesus:God’s Word-Marked by Love-Hope