19 Aug Generosity & Foster Care
January 1st of 2010 was a good day. It was going to be “our year.” The previous two years had been difficult for a host of reasons, but the most emotionally wrenching parts were a desire to have a second child and the grieving of a miscarriage.
2009 brought us a healthy baby boy, but the first half of the pregnancy brought us a lot of scares. By the end of ’09 we had a contract on our starter home, and we were set to move into “the home that we could grow into.” The Christmas holidays had been great, our 2 year-old was at a really fun age, we had a smiley baby boy, and my husband was set to finish his doctoral degree (a task that had been 8 years in the making).
Then, on January 2, everything came to a screeching halt when we were sitting at lunch and our daughter had a seizure. We didn’t realize what it was at the time, but it happened several times over the course of that day and the next; a quick visit to the pediatrician the following day confirmed that those “weird things” she was doing were actually seizures. We spent the next week learning everything we could about epilepsy in preparation for her EEG, which we were certain would confirm that diagnosis.
We never made it to that EEG. Instead we ended up on an ambulance in the middle of the night rushing to a pediatric ER. Even there, we were certain that they would hurry up, let us have the EEG, and then we would have it all under control. Instead, a CT showed a large mass on her brain. We didn’t go home; we went upstairs to the ICU, a place we became very familiar with over the next few weeks.
The weeks that followed were a blur. She was diagnosed twelve days before we were set to close on our house. I had a 2 year-old with a massive tumor on her brain who was in ICU on heavy doses of steroids, and a baby at home that had been exclusively nursing up to that point. In one day I went from feeling like it was “our year,” to feeling like things were spiraling out of control and I had no clue where to focus my time or energy or emotions.
In one day I went from feeling like it was “our year,”
to feeling like things were spiraling out of control and
I had no clue where to focus my time or energy or emotions.
My daughter is healthy now. She had a successful surgery to remove most of that brain tumor. We ended up closing on that house we loved, and we live there today. The baby boy is not a baby anymore; he turns 6 next month. We survived that whirlwind of a month. Our daughter was cared for, our baby was cared for, and we were able to close on a house even though we weren’t even at the closing!
And the only reason we were able to do those things was because of a community of people that rallied around us and said, “We want to help.” We had people come into our house, pack it up, load it onto a truck, move it into another house, work out childcare arrangements for the baby, bring the baby to me at the hospital so I could feed him, be willing to serve as power-of-attorney so that we could stay with our daughter instead of signing papers at a closing, and feed us during all of that chaos.
The generosity and hospitality of the people around us significantly changed us. We literally became different people after that. We went from kind of private, hold-things-close-to-our-chest kind of people, to generous, open, and willing people. It was a change that needed to happen, and it was the beginning of a seed that was planted that made us start questioning how we could give back. Being blessed so abundantly and having people give when we were in such desperate need, allowed us to experience the love of God in ways we never had before.
The generosity and hospitality of the people
around us significantly changed us
So we started asking, “What does it look like for us to love sacrificially? How can we be generous? How can we be hospitable?” We realized that our new home with more square footage and more bedrooms was only ours because other people made it possible. In our own strength, we would have had to call the whole thing off. But with help, we were able to have a smooth transition from home one to home two. We told God that we wanted to use that new house in a way that honored him.
Over time, we realized that a very tangible way to do that would be to allow our extra bedroom to serve as more than a junk room or a place to hold the laundry that needed to be folded. It could be a safe place for a child.
For our family, the first seeds planted that
led us into foster care didn’t come from a real burden for orphans.
For our family, the first seeds planted that led us into foster care didn’t come from a real burden for orphans. We weren’t especially holy, and we definitely weren’t very generous. Our first thoughts about fostering came from a conviction to be generous because so many had been generous to us. We were challenged in our selfishness and asked God to show us ways we could change that.
Not everyone is called to engage their community through orphan care. But I do think that if we stopped and looked at how much had been given to us, we would realize that we do actually have a lot more to give. How has God blessed you in the past? How has the body of Christ been generous? Does the reality of that motivate you to do the same?
-Natalie Patterson, foster mom