“Foster Care. Those two words have been officially a part of my life for almost 5 months, but the truth is, they have been a part of my life.
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve felt that I was called for plans far bigger than myself. It was an indescribable feeling as a young teenager. I never truly knew what to do with those feelings. On one hand, I felt different from my peers around me, which you can only imagine brought a lot of insecurity on a young girl. I was torn between my church friends and my school friends, torn in between who I was supposed to be in this thing we call life.
On top of that, I was diagnosed with a learning disability when I was 8 years old. High school is when the insecurity really hit, when the shame crept in. I remember so clearly telling my friends that I was going to P.E. class at the end of the day, when in reality I was going to my Learning Strategies class. This class was meant to give me extra time to do my work and have all my tests read over to me. All good things that are supposed to help a student who’s struggling with school thrive. So why, why must shame creep in?
The bell rang. The class was over. Like always, I stuck my head out the door to look both ways and made sure no one saw me walk out of that class. I thought the coast was clear. I was walking to meet my friends at the front of the school. I heard a guy say my name. ‘Oh no,’ I said in my head. The boys proceed with, ‘Are you really in that class? Wow, you are such an idiot.’ I felt exposed. I felt caught. I felt frozen. I don’t think I’ve ever run so fast in my life. I ran to the bathroom and fell to my knees in the stall and just belted out crying. I was 16 years old.
At that moment, I didn’t feel like different was good. I didn’t feel that I was called for plans far bigger than myself. I felt broken. I felt angry. Angry that my struggles turned to shame. I asked WHY. Why don’t things come easier for me? Why do I have to work ten times harder in school than my friends? God had told me as a young girl I was different, and I began to resent that difference. I began to believe that different wasn’t beautiful. All that built up insecurity brought another struggle in my life as a high schooler and college student. Alcohol.
It all started at the end of my junior year in High School. House parties, sneaking out the house, getting so drunk I wouldn’t remember anything the next day. I don’t think I really understood why I did what I did. Why I kept drinking with my friends when the weekend before I got so drunk that I would end up in places I didn’t remember being in the first place. To be honest, it’s really hard for me to think back at those times, it’s really hard for me to admit that part of my life. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect since then. I asked myself, ‘How did I get there?’ ‘How did I become this person?’
Drunkenness became my crutch. It became my way out, my way from the insecurity of feeling like I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t smart enough, I wasn’t beautiful enough. With alcohol, you have a common ground with people. As sad as it sounds, you aren’t identified as the 16-year-old girl on her knees in the bathroom stall asking WHY. You are identified as a drunk with the rest of them, you feel as if you belong somewhere. With that belonging brings a whole ton of emptiness, a whole ton of regret.
One morning I woke up in a panic. I felt as If I couldn’t breathe. I had flashes in my mind of all that I had been through. The good, the bad. The beautiful, the ugly. All I wanted to do was release the bad and ugly and hold onto the good and beautiful. A friend told me, ‘Our mistakes and decisions don’t define us. It’s what we decided to do with them. Do we decide to keep on repeating them, or do we decide to learn from them and use our journey to help others?’ I choose to help others. I choose to redirect my anger. I choose to see beauty in the way I was created. I choose to see how the faults I used to see in myself have become my greatest strengths.
So, what does any of this have to do with Foster Care? What does the 16-year-old Lauren have anything to do with the 27-year-old Foster Mom? I will tell you both people are night and day, but my day wouldn’t be filled with sunshine without the darkness of my night. All that I have been through, all that I have struggled with has brought me here. Right here, in this moment as I’m writing this, I can honestly say I wouldn’t take back any of it, any of the struggles, any of the tears, the drunken nights.
I think constantly feeling different, ashamed, alone, forgotten, and scared prepared me for the moment I stepped into Foster Care and is going to continually prepare me for each placement that steps foot in my home. I can’t relate to what it’s like to have two parents who don’t care for me the way that I deserve. I can’t relate to abuse. I can’t relate to being moved to 5 different foster homes in a 4-month time frame. I can’t relate to being homeless and sleeping in a car. I can’t relate to not being fed for days because my mom uses all her money for drugs. It breaks my heart that I can’t save all of these innocent children from the trauma they’ve encountered, from all the trauma they are going to have to deal with their whole life.
What I can do is wrap my arms around them, hold them and tell them they may be different, they may feel shame, they may feel alone, forgotten and scared, but their story doesn’t end here. God uses our brokenness and are differences to change lives, to be way makers. They get to experience God in ways that some people will never get to. The day I realized that I needed God to live out those thoughts I felt nudge on my heart as a young girl, was the day everything changed for me. My life was no longer a mirror of my mistakes, but a story of redemption. The most beautiful life comes with a whole lot of mess.
Mess. That’s how some described it when they heard that I was going to be a single foster mom. There’s always going to be people in your life who don’t see the beauty of your mess. Not the type of mess that brings the most beautiful memories, but the type of mess where they don’t understand the WHY behind it. They see a whole lot of, ‘What the heck is this single girl doing?’ ‘Why would she want to be a single mom at the age of 26 years old?’ Or, ‘That’s just crazy!’ To be honest, I can’t even fight them on that is just a crazy statement. I’ve thought those words a few times myself.
Despite all the people who were not for me starting this journey, the nudging happened again. ‘Lauren, I have plans for you far greater than yourself.’ I won’t lie, it was hard hearing the harsh opinions from people I truly loved and cared for. I wanted to respect their opinion, but I also knew they couldn’t understand what I felt because they weren’t the ones being nudged at in their heart since they were 16. I knew at 23 that Foster Care took a role in that nudging.
So, there I was at 25-years-old in a relationship with a man I didn’t see a forever with, a man I was never truly in love with, a man that never truly understood me. I remember telling him when we first started dating that I wanted to foster. When he told me how amazing it was, I don’t think he thought I would be in a foster class 6 months later. When I graduated from my class, we got in a huge blow out fight. Words were exchanged. I was called selfish. ‘HOW IN THE WORLD IS HE GOING TO CALL ME SELFISH WHEN I WANT TO DO A SELFLESS THING LIKE FOSTER CARE!!!?’ I was fuming. I was so angry.
I made a decision I knew I needed to make for a long time. I knew I had no business being in a relationship with that person in the first place, and the truth was I was selfish. Selfish that I stayed in something for so long, knowing that he didn’t fit into the future I was called to. Selfish that I continued a relationship I was never happy in the first place, which then caused a lot of hurt. But the thing is, I don’t take it back, I don’t take any of it back. It brought me here.
So, there I was 26, single, and licensed for a foster placement. I waited several months before deciding to be on an on-call list. Once I was officially on the on-call list, I waited anxiously for a placement. I got calls and none of them would end up working out. I started to feel discouraged. One of my cousins was expecting a baby boy. I received the call that my beautiful cousin was in labor and going to have her little boy. I rushed to the hospital, so excited! I couldn’t wait to meet him. That night I met sweet, not-so-little 9-pound, Walker. This brought over an unexplainable joy for my cousin and all our family!
That night I was driving home. I parked in my driveway, I just started crying… ‘Lord, when is this going to happen for me.’ I wondered if all the preparation and desire to love and care for a child was even going to happen. That night I cried myself to sleep, woke up the next day, and went on with my day. That next evening, I prayed. Prayed that in the right time, the right placement would come into my home and that I would feel peace in that. I truly felt peace in that moment. 10 minutes later, I get a call for 1-YEAR-OLD TWIN boys.
Without sharing too much information, I ended up saying no to that call. ‘I mean I didn’t really have a choice, right Lauren?’ I only had one crib, one car seat, I’m only licensed for one child. I’M SINGLE, REMEMBER? And I have a full-time job. I thought of every reason why my no was justified. I lay there on the couch and turned on the television to distract myself from second-guessing everything. The feeling didn’t go away. As I lay there, I had another foster mom call me and say, ‘I feel like these boys are yours.’ ‘I do too,’ I thought to myself. 20 minutes later, I decided to call back to see if they found a placement for the boys. They were going to have to separate the twins. At that moment I heard the clearest, ‘YES, these boys are yours Lauren.’
After that YES, God provided an extra car seat, he provided an extra crib, he provided clothes, toys, diapers, etc. He said YES to every reason I first said NO. He turned my weakness into strength! MAN, that 16-year-old girl that was ashamed of her weakness came full circle. Now God is using that for his strength, for the beautiful mess of a life he has gifted me with. That night at 2:30 p.m. God didn’t bring me just one little boy, but he brought me two.
The thing is, our skin doesn’t match. They don’t have my eyes or mouth, and our faces aren’t the same shape. I don’t know what it’s like to catch a glimpse of myself as a child, what I see is far more beautiful than that. I see the hand of God in my life. I see the hand of God in my loved one’s lives who didn’t see the beauty in the mess.
Months later, my mom shared with me a letter she wrote about B&B, my foster boys. She and my dad were uncertain about me fostering as a single woman. They didn’t fully support it, they didn’t find the beauty in the mess…until they did.
To see the boys grow and flourish under Lauren’s care has been a joy to be a part of. I have to be honest; I didn’t always feel that way. I had my neat little plans laid out for Lauren, and fostering twin boys while single was not a part of that plan. My plans were for her to meet a young man she would fall in love with, get married, have children, and foster and adopt, as that is the desire of her heart. But God! He has a plan that is superior to my plans. And thank goodness for that. These boys are a blessing and I love them with all my heart. More than anything, I pray that God will continue to guide them, protect them and they will know they are loved beyond measure. We don’t know what the future holds, or how many days we have with B&B, but we do know WHO holds the future, and we know who holds B&B! I love you B&B. Love, CC.
I would tell 16-Year- Old Lauren to never doubt her heart. She was wrong to doubt the nudging…because 27-year-old Lauren will live by that nudging for the years to come. It has brought me the most beautiful messes!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Lauren Brooke of Jacksonville, Florida. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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