When I went to my bedroom two nights ago to sleep, I noticed something on my bed. It had a picture of me and Lizzi on it, with two pages of text written below it. It was a passage taken out of “Kisses from Katie” about the time that her foster daughter, Jane, had been taken from her (Katie) and given to her (Jane’s) biological family. Almost immediately after reading it, tears started falling.
For those that don’t know this yet, my precious foster daughter was put back with her biological family about a month and half ago. It’s been a very tough time for me, Lizzi, and her family.
I remember a year ago when I recounted my story of getting Lizzi and becoming her mom to some acquaintances and family members, and having them compare me to Katie Davis. I’d heard of her before, but I had never read her book. After just a few chapters, I realized I could never be Katie Davis. Her undying love and faith in Christ did not seem humanely possible. She had sacrificed everything for God, and was even grateful to do so.
Meanwhile, I was unwilling to give up my Netflix account.
However, whenever I would get to passages where she’d talk about her love for her children, I would feel an instant connection to her. Whenever she would talk about the struggles of working through scabies, lice, psychological problems and physical delays with her children, I could more than relate. Those passages made me want to sit down and have a cup of coffee with Miss Davis, our conversation mostly revolving around the phrase “I know, right?” Even though we weren’t in the same situation by any means, I felt as though we could relate.
That is, until she talked about Jane being taken from her and put back with her biological mom. As soon as I started reading that story, I nearly gave up on finishing the book. I knew I was in a similar situation with Lizzi, who’s family supposedly was attempting to regain custody of her, but I didn’t want to acknowledge it or dwell on it. I felt as If I were to read that story and read that Katie and Jane were fine after they split, that I wouldn’t have an excuse to try to keep Lizzi.
The following week, after I had chosen to go forward and finish the book despite my feelings, I had a visit from Lizzi’s aunt of whom I had never met before. Lizzi had been in my care for over a month without ever getting a phone call or visit from any family members. I had almost given up on them even existing until that day. The whole visit shook my world and broke my spirit, as Lizzi’s aunt confirmed to me that her sister, Lizzi’s other aunt, was going to claim custody of Lizzi. I didn’t trust her family, I didn’t believe in them. I began sheltering a grudge in my heart against them. However, I wasn’t willing to close the door on them, and agreed to still do as I was told, preparing Lizzi to go back to her biological family.
Two months passed with no visits, no phone calls. It was as if her family vanished off the face of the earth. Her aunt had told me she loved Lizzi, that her whole family loved her and wanted her, yet no one even bothered to call to see how she was despite having my number saved in the Aunt’s phone. Just as soon as I started preparing my mind to the option of possibly keeping Lizzi forever, good ol’ auntie scheduled another visit. Similar to our first meeting, she came an hour late, stayed around thirty minutes, and left without trying to schedule another appointment.
The following year went along the same lines, every few months this aunt would show up, stay a little while, take a few photos, express Lizzi’s cuteness, and leave. There were never any personal questions asked about Lizzi’s health or progress, and never any planning ahead. Every visit was scheduled the day before whether or not that worked with our schedule, and was almost always during Lizzi’s nap time or lunch time.
Lizzi’s grandma and mother came with the aunt once to visit around the half year mark of me having Lizzi. The aunt filing for custody over Lizzi never visited. There were never any calls to see how she was, or any questions about her progress or development during the visits. The social worker handling Lizzi’s case would make remarks about legally putting Lizzi as abandoned because of her family’s lack of commitment. I became confident in my role as Lizzi’s mother, and confident that she was to be a permanent member of my family.
Then came October of 2014, when I was told that Lizzi would be going back to her biological family in three weeks, with no transition.
Thankfully, after a ROOM employee spent hours in the INFHA (child services)’s office, the social workers agreed on trying to make some sort of transition happen. That’s when I met Delilah*, Lizzi’s biological mom. Even though her aunt was the one claiming custody, her mom was going to be the one taking care of her. We became immediate friends. She had overcome so many obstacles in her life, things that most of us would never have to deal with in our lives. Things having to do with Lizzi, things that should’ve made Delilah never want to be associated with her daughter. I was so impressed by Delilah’s ambition and strength. She wanted so much for her life, she was determined to further her education and make a name for herself.
After INFHA ended their “transition period” (AKA: have Lizzi meet her mom twice for about thirty minutes and you’re good to go), Delilah and her sister who had the legal custody over Lizzi, Jessy*, decided to continue a transition period with me. It was an incredible step towards the best interest of Lizzi, and I am still to this day proud of her family’s decision to keep the transitioning going for their child’s best interest.
Throughout the following transition time, I became convinced her family would let me keep Lizzi and I was convinced Delilah would choose therapy, a job, and university over a child she had never planned for. I was so sure our strong relationship would lead to an open adoption. I never wanted Lizzi’s family out of her life, I just wanted to expand our family to include her biological family as well. But that was not God’s plan.
More and more each visit I saw Delilah change. She became sad, and she became stressed. I don’t know if I was starting to see a more authentic Deliliah, or if she was truly changing. Her family pressured her to take Lizzi fully, to end the transition. Delilah and Jessy tried to keep and open relationship with me, but just as I had harbored a grudge against Lizzi’s family when I first met them, her family was reciprocating the same grudge against me. Our “one big, happy family” plans came crashing down as jealousy grew. Lizzi wanted me, and only me. She hated the transition, and didn’t want anything to do with the people taking her away from her home, friends, and family.
That has to be the most heartbreaking part of it all for me. Watching Lizzi suffer.
She did not ask to change names, nor households, nor mothers. She loved her life, her friends, her family. She had no choice whether she wanted to change to her biological family or not. Every time I left her, it wasn’t from my own desires. Because I didn’t have legal custody, I was forced to either leave Lizzi’s life completely, or stay in it and have her believe I was choosing to no longer have her as my daughter. It’s been so hard to accept that this is God’s will for her and I’m still in denial about it. I want her back here more than anything. Walking passed her old room breaks my heart every time.
Just like in Katie’s situation, the legal system was not fair to us and our children. Just like her situation, the biological family was not the best option our children, and our children and their biological families suffered because of it. However, I did not handle the situation with as much grace and dignity as Katie Davis did with her foster daughter. I trash-talked INFHA, I trash-talked Lizzi’s biological family, and I fought with God.
I kept reading and hearing that “God can move mountains,” yet he wouldn’t even move the little ant hill of letting me visit Lizzi without having to fight for days with her family. I would cry out to God, “DO SOMETHING! Don’t you heart my suffering? Can’t you hear my heart breaking, and Lizzi’s too? How can you let her be traumatized like this?”
The truth is I still can’t accept what’s happened fully, and I don’t know if my heart will ever be ready to accept it. I still don’t believe Lizzi’s biological family is the best option for her, or that Lizzi is the best option for her biological family. I still can’t understand why God would ever put either of us through this.
But, there is one thing I’ve learned to accept.
I’ve learned to accept that Lizzi is not mine, and never has been mine. I’ve also accepted Lizzi is not her biological family’s, and has never been their’s. She was, and has always been, and will always be, God’s.
Your children are not yours, just like your money isn’t yours, and your job isn’t yours. They are all God’s, and just as fast as God will give you those things, he can take them. I think children are so overlooked when it comes to us giving everything we have to God. We consider them ours, and only ours. We will give God our money, give him our time, give him everything we own, but not our children.
It’s pretty clear in the foster world that your foster children are God’s, but it’s not as clear in the adopted/biological world. However, the same truth reigns as true. Whether they are permanently your’s or temporarily your’s, they are not actually your’s but God’s.
So, when our children ask to go do service project in a dangerous area, we say no. When our kids decide they want to do missions in another country, we discourage it. When our children try to befriend someone we don’t approve of, we forbid it. We do so many things to keep our children away from God’s calling because it’s not our calling for their lives. We think we have the control over their lives, when we truly shouldn’t. We assume the position of the ultimate parent, and forget that God’s already got that filled.
But the thing is, no matter how hard we try to steer God’s potentiatlly harmful plan away from our children’s lives, he will still make that plan happen.With or without our help. He will call them, again and again and again. he will put them in dangerous situations, in emotionally damaging situations, and in heart breaking situations. He will rip your child from your arms and put them where they’re supposed to be, no matter how tight you hold on. Because they are his, not ours, and we cannot keep our children from their Father.
Since I have been able to accept that Lizzi is God’s, and not mine, I have been able to forgive her biological family and Honduras’ legal system (at least a little bit). I have felt peace, I have felt compassion. I am as ready as I will ever be to stop forcing my own agenda on her life, and rolling with what God tells me to do for her. That doesn’t mean I’ve given up on Lizzi – that’s anything but the truth. It just means I’ve accepted the responsibility of building up her family, instead of just her. It means I’m going to push myself to love her family as much as I love her, so that her situation doesn’t have to be potentially harmful. Because she is not mine, and God has not chosen for me to mother her, at least at this point in time.
Before Lizzi left, my boyfriend painted this mural onto one of the walls in her room. It’s interesting how much more I’ve been able to apply it to our lives since she’s left. Lizzi, you are God’s precious child, don’t ever forget that.
I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to write this, but to all you non-Katie Davis’ out there who just went through a tragedy, I hope I made you feel a little bit better about your anger and lack of faith. Because, let’s face it, we don’t even like giving kisses. We’re more of the fist bump kind of people.
* Names have been changed for protective purposes