You know how some people know what they want to be when they're in 2nd grade? How they start thinking about their career, planning their classes for college, etc.? That was never me. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I never knew. I always just said that I wanted to help people. This lack of direction has followed me until...well, it still follows me. I changed my major 5 times in college. I remember one specific teacher telling me that someone called her to warn her about me because I was a "switcher."
But one thing I have known: I have wanted to care for vulnerable children since 7th grade.
I mean, did I know what "vulnerable" meant in 7th grade? No. But God showed me His heart and revealed my passion to me when He sent us Ashley.
My parents met Ashley's family through my dad's work. My dad noticed that they were in need of some guidance and suggested that my mom meet up with her. I have a very vivid memory of meeting Ashley's mom and Ashley at an unfamiliar McDonald's for one of these meetings, where my mom would talk to Ashley's mom about life and Jesus, and my siblings and I would play with Ashley in the play place. I remember thinking that my mom and dad were the coolest for doing this. Looking back, I still think that they are the coolest for doing this, but on a deeper level. They were brave and courageous. They stepped out of their comfort zones to help a family that was in need. But more than that, they gave up convenience to befriend people that weren't like them. I think part of the reason why my heart is wired for foster care is because of the way my parents opened their hearts to people who were different than them. They looked for opportunities to bring light to dark places, and then they did it.
One day, we found out that Ashley was in need of a temporary home placement. I remember this exact conversation with my mom. We were in the computer room (back when we used to have those). She had just hung up our home phone (back when we used to have those).
Me: "Well, can we take her?" I asked, thinking almost assuredly that we would not be able to take in a 10-year-old-girl with our busy schedules, two working parents, and three kids.
But then she said:
Mom: "Maybe. I'm going to call dad."
The answer ended up being "yes." Though we weren't technically a foster family, my parents became guardians of Ashley.
Ashley was a fourth-grader, full of life and spunk and sass. She was small for her age, but she never backed down. She had a lot of difficult behaviors, she was kind of hard to get along with, and she was hurting.
I don't remember a lot of specifics about the time that Ashley was with us, but I do remember that it shaped me. I had grown up living in a middle-class neighborhood with a Christian family and went to a Christian school. Although I knew that there was brokenness in the world, I had never really experienced it until Ashley. My parents gave me the unique opportunity of experiencing and carrying someone else's burdens - in my own very home. Although I would've never been able to articulate it then, Ashley helped me in my understanding of the Gospel and how Jesus really did die to rescue the world and that He actually does care and that He truly is near the brokenhearted.
Ashley taught me that I wasn't the Rescuer; I was the Rescued. And if I had been Rescued, then I couldn't keep living my life on auto-pilot. Living a rescued life
Ashley captured my heart and she changed my life. But if it stopped there, then what was it worth? If we are A Rescued People but we have no life-change, are we really rescued?
So I will choose to fight, advocate, and stand up for every Ashley:
For every child that has faced heart-wrenching trauma.
who has internalized deep, hurtful untruths about themselves.
who has a mom or dad that needs help.
who needs safety, love, and care.
who just wants a shoulder to cry on and macaroni and cheese.
who needs a bed to sleep in and a table to sit at.
I stand for every Ashley.
You can find out more about the campaign #careforeverychild here.