What Does Love Require of Me?


June is National Reunification Month, and it is no coincidence that we are reunifying our sweet baby love with family this month. In the past 6 years, we have said “yes” to 12 children, and 11 of them have reunified with their parents or have moved into kinship care with family. When I think of the beginning of our family’s journey to where we are now, I can pinpoint the various moments when we chose to lay our desires, expectations and dreams at Jesus’ feet…when we chose to “get out of the way”, so to speak, so families could be made whole and children could remain with their families of origin.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Loving a child with everything in you…with your entire soul, body & mind and then watching them literally walk out of your life, majority of which we never see or hear from again, is incredibly heartbreaking. 12 goodbyes means that my heart is fractured in ways that will never be made whole this side of heaven. 12 goodbyes means there are moments that trigger memories from seasons of our life that bring a wave of immense joy and immense grief at the exact same time. And…yet…

Jesus laid down his life for mine. Jesus cried out to his Father, begging for another way. Jesus lavishly loved and gave and sacrificed knowing there was nothing that could be returned…knowing his heart, mind, body, and soul would also not receive the wholeness and redemption this side of heaven. When I think of championing reunification, it means I ask myself “What does loving this person at this moment mean? How can I bring a small glimpse of heaven down to them in this interaction? How can I use the love that is poured out onto me and lavish them with that love? How can I align my heart with the Father’s heart for families to be reconciled?”

I heard a question a few years ago that has become the foundation of our fostering journey: “What does love require of me today?” Not just the easy kind of love….not the kind where you only show up for the people who can reciprocate that love…but the Jesus, lay-down-your-life, expect-nothing-in-return, kind of love.

What does love require?

It means waving and smiling to bio dad from my car every visit for 18 months because I was not allowed to have contact with him. Loving him meant making sure he did not feel like the enemy…that even though he would never be able to hear my voice, he would know that he was seen.

What does love require?

It means making newborn footprints into a Christmas tree card framed side-by-side with a photo of baby smiling. It means wrapping that framed gift, tying it with a bow and a note of genuine affection and encouragement for a momma navigating the darkest season of her life.

What does love require?

It means hugging a mother during a Family Meeting as she sobs uncontrollably at the thought of losing her babies. It means holding her face in your hands and looking into her eyes and to tell her to keep fighting…that you will be there for as much of her journey as possible, and that her babies are safe in your care while she works tirelessly to find wholeness and healing so she could bring them home.

What does love require?

It means looking into the eyes of the little girl you’ve known all her life…that you love so deeply that you don’t even know where she ends and you begin….and come to the realization that loving her means you will need to say your hardest goodbye so she can live the rest of her life in the next city over with her siblings. It means actually fighting for that move to happen because, although it’ll break your heart, you know being with her siblings in kinship care is the best place for her.

What does love require?

It means putting on the necklace mom gave to her baby every visit so her beliefs and hopes are seen and respected. It means dressing that toddler for this week’s visit with the outfit mom gave you at last week’s visit. It means advocating for more visits because it is in the best interest of the child and parent to bond. It means texting mom after court and rejoicing with her after a long awaited ruling. It means praying for the mom or dad you will never have the chance to meet, but are loving their child for this season. It means smiling, showing up, adjusting your schedule, expecting the unexpected, looking someone in the eye…Love requires seeing the person in front of you for who they really are, not the choices they have made or the trauma they have endured, or the judgements that have been made of them. Every person I have met in this system over the past 6 years needs someone to see them and have deep compassion.

Choosing to step into this broken world of foster care means we are choosing to champion reunification…it means we are faithfully following the Father as he leads us on a messy, complicated, heartbreaking path toward what we hope and pray is healing and wholeness. It means that we step into every encounter and ask ourselves “what does love require of me in this moment?” 

Christina B.