As I continue along on this new adventure in Blogdom, I look forward to introducing you to my family, friends and the company that I keep. For today, I am feeling led to share with you the story of how my husband and I became parents. It is a story that I wouldn’t trade for anything. It is a story of how God is always good and always faithful; even when His timing is not our own. It is a story of how He makes Beauty from Ashes …
“to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.” Isaiah 61:3
Being a mom is one of the greatest experiences of my life but the process of becoming a mom was one of the most painful; starting with multiple fertility treatments once the harsh reality had hit that becoming parents was not the “given” we thought it would or should be. After more than a year of tests, painful procedures that ultimately failed, disappointment and heartache we began to consider other options. You see, through all of that, God wept with us. He allowed us to experience it – all of it – because He knew that out of the ashes of infertility He would pull up a stronger couple more focused on Him, better prepared for what lie ahead. And so the ashes of infertility became something beautiful.
We began to think about adoption. I was working as the Program Coordinator for a Tutoring and Mentoring Program for school aged children in foster care, not a coincidence – nothing ever is. We began to think about fostering. We began to pray about fostering. Could we? Should we? God are you calling us to this? Is this your will for us? It turns out the answer was yes. It took about six months to receive our license and our first placement. A sister and brother, the siblings of two of the little girls in my program – Sara was 4 and David was just 20 months. Just like that, we were parents – foster parents but parents just the same. We were told from the beginning that there was a 99.9% chance that Sara and David would be with us forever and that we would be able to adopt them. And so the ashes of childlessness became something beautiful.
Beautiful, yes. Easy, no. Neglect, abuse and trauma are not pretty nor is the aftermath. Attachment issues, loss and fear are not pretty. We were not prepared for the magnitude of ugly that our kids had experienced and it literally brought us to our knees. But when God says with Him all things are possible, I am here to tell you, He is not kidding. Also know, that there is no room for pride, arrogance, vanity, selfishness or judgement in God’s work and He will strip you of it so that you might be better prepared to walk with Him. How difficult that process is depends entirely upon us and our will to have our way; it was hardest for me but I had never felt God closer to me than He was during that time of refinement. The healing and growth that occurred in our home over the next year and a half was as much about Gary and I as it was about these two amazing children who had so much to teach us. And so the ashes of pride, anger and hurt became something beautiful.
This next part is still difficult for me to talk about (or write about for that matter). I can feel the unresolved hurt and anger well up in me as I struggle for the right words; as I do every time I tell this story. God and I are still working on this. I hope I can share this as He would want, with words that carry truth without bitterness.
About a year and a half after they had come to us Sara and David, along with their two older sisters were returned to their birth mother. The ideal is that foster parents provide a child with safety, stability and love in support of the system’s work to reunify them with their family. It is an honorable and wonderful thing to be a part of helping a family to heal and to be able to send a child home to a mom and or/dad who has gotten help and is ready to give them the home they need and deserve. The reality of the situation is our system is broken and overwhelmed. The process takes too long and burns through too many good people who are trying to do the right thing; foster parents and case workers alike. The bottom line for us was a crippling loss, a huge pile of ashes and a God that was still at work.
A few months after Sara and David had gone, the phone rang. Gary and I had done a little bit of respite care which proved to be excruciating and brought us to the final conclusion that we would never foster again because it was just too painful.
But God had something else in mind … “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11.
On the other end of that phone was God’s blessing. A blessing that would require our obedience and bare faith in answering His call to open our hearts to a new child, a five-week old methamphetamine exposed baby boy that we knew little else about. Once God moves in your heart, He moves big! It took only about 30 seconds of staring at each other (and a trip to Target to get an infant car seat and supplies) to know that our hearts could never say no to this little boy who “needed us” … as it turns out, it was actually us who needed him so very much. The true act of faith and obedience came in our willingness to trust God and to follow Him back to a place we swore we would never go again. And the ashes of grief and loss became something beautiful.
Fast forward a year and a half later, our sweet boy Nathan already a toddler with his adoption just weeks from being finalized, and the phone rings again.
Sara and David are coming back to us.
I can’t and won’t go into the details of what they went through, that is their story to tell when they are ready. What I will tell you is that the children that came home to us were mere shadows of the children who had left us. They were in terrible shape and were so traumatized that we were left devastated, overwhelmed and uncertain of where to even begin putting the pieces back together.
So we started in the only place we could, in the arms of the Father who loves us, had never left us and had just worked a miracle in our lives by putting our family back together. Beauty from Ashes.
The healing began and so did a multitude of diagnoses; RAD, ADHD, ODD, PTSD, DID … all big and scary, but NOTHING is bigger than God! And now here were are 3 and a half years later. All three children with finalized adoptions and birth certificates that say “last name Brewer”. With good days and bad days. More joy than pain. And an understanding that labels are just that, labels – they do not define who we are. Who we are is what God would label us, “Redeemed, Beloved, Mine”.
Our story is lengthy and complicated and painful and unbelievable but in the end it is a story of redemption and of the mountains that faith can move. It is a testimony of God’s great love, grace and mercy. No, the road has not been an easy one but God has been there every step of the way, increasing our faith and reliance on Him which truly has been one of the greatest blessings in all of this. I am not the person I was and I am humbled and overwhelmed that He chose us (the least likely – believe me) for this journey.
I have been so blessed to watch Him make Beauty from Ashes right before my eyes. It was what He had planned all along. He will use our story, my children’s story, for His glory, for the good of others and for the advancement of His kingdom. We are truly “a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” He will use our story, our testimony to His greatness, to make Beauty from Ashes in the lives of others.
Be encouraged. He is with you. He has never left you.
What a moving and beautiful story, Danielle. You brought me to tears. I’m sure it wasn’t easy to write, but thank you for sharing it!
Thanks Staci, It wasn’t easy to write but I needed to do it. Today I made pesto, so my next post won’t be so deep or require as many kleenex! Thanks for reading! 🙂
What a story. I just dropped my foster kids off at their mother’s after having them for nearly two years. I had to cry when you said yours came back to you later mere shadows of the children you had mothered. I try so hard not to worry that this will happen with mine. Yet God knows best. He does make beauty from ashes.
Thank you for your reply, I am so glad to connect with you. Please know that I am praying for you and your kids as well as their birth mother. I know the pain of this loss and your mama’s heart that just wants what is best for these precious little ones you shared your life with. God is in control and He will be there with them as He is with you. Please feel free to contact me anytime you need to talk or just need someone who understands what you are feeling right now. May God bless you and give you peace.
Thank you for your prayers and kind words. God is in control. Blessings!
The tears are flowing, what a journey of faith it has been. There were so many times that it seemed impossible but nothing is impossible with God. He has given us joy to overcome the grief and peace to replace our fears. Thanks for walking through this with me, your friendship is such a blessing!
Tracy, it has indeed been a journey of faith and you have been there with me every step of the way! I love you and am so thankful God gave me you for this walk – I could never have made it this far without you and He knew it. Love ya!!
I need to go get a Kleenex first…..beautiful Danielle. You are such a blessing and encouragement!
Thanks Patty! I’ll try to put a Kleenex warning on the next post of this nature. 🙂 I can’t wait to start our bible study together and re-connect and hear all about your adventures in parenting. 🙂
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19;14 I just started to follow your blog after you stopped by for a visit! I am looking forward to our ongoing dialogue!
Thank you, I am honored and also looking forward to continuing the conversation! 🙂
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Thank you, Danielle, for your story. I feel honored to be part of your journey. Marianna Bridge
Thank you Marianna, we are so fortunate to have you and Nicolette to help us on our journey. Your work is challenging but you make such a difference in the lives of hurting kids, everyday. I am so glad you visited Welcome Company.
Thank you for sharing your story. I have some understanding of what you’ve been through having witnessed the love and time that a dear friend has given to each of her foster kids and their kids in turn, quite a few having their own speciakl needs. When you have a family your life is not the same as it was before and you definitely grow in so many ways and beyond what you could ever have imagined. For you are responsible for giving them what they need to become the best that they can be, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Having kids that need that extra help pushes you to become the best that you can be too and to show your kids what a happy family is all about. Congratulations to you for yours is an inspiring life that is not going unwitnessed. Xx Paula
Thank you, Paula, for your kind words and encouragement. It has not been an easy road but it had been so blessed. Being mom to my three with their unique sets of needs and challenges has indeed pushed me beyond anything I would have ever imagined and I am so thankful as I would not trade a moment of it for anything. One of the greatest things I have learned is that even in the hard times there is still so much joy to be found. To Him be the glory. Thanks again for your thoughtful comment. I am so glad to have found your blog and look forward to talking again. Danielle
I am touched and blessed by your story and this blog! What an honor to know you….and steal your bran muffins.
Thank you so much Kristin! You are a blessing to me and so many other women who have had the opportunity to hear you speak and teach. Be assured, I will provide you with baked goods whenever you are in need my friend.
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Danielle, this is such a beautiful, faith-filled and inspiring post. It’s such a privilege to be able to read about your experience… thanks for sharing these moments of heartbreak and joy with us in such an honest way. Your kids are so blessed to be with you. I’m a social worker so I know about the horrors kids are exposed to first hand. It’s people like you who stop the cycle of violence, neglect and trauma in their tracks, instead providing these innocent chidren with the opportunity to have fun, to trust & to grow. You’re gorgeous inside and out – can’t wait to read more of your family adventures (and those recipes, mmmm!). xx
Thank you so much. I don’t think I can express how much your comment touched me except to tell you that I’m all teared up but smiling at the same time. Thank you for the work you do as a social worker, it is such an important but often thankless job – you are part of the healing too. I hope our story will show people that while the healing process is hard and A LOT of work, it is not impossible. These precious kids need and deserve a chance, no matter their age, and they can and do overcome. God absolutely redeems the broken and uses their stories and lives to change things in this world. I’m so glad you will be joining our journey and look forward to visiting with you again.
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