From the Network : Getting Started
Hey y'all! I’m Kendra. My best friend Tanner and I have been married for 11 years. We have fostered-to-adopt our 4 children; Levi, Miya, Audie and Shepherd. I am a follower of Jesus, pastor’s wife, mama, foster and adoption advocate, designer, collector, coffee drinker and pumpkin lover who loves travel and adventure.
Tanner is the Lead Pastor of Redeemer Odessa (coming soon). He is a coffee snob, vinyl record enthusiast and a lover of people. He loves the lord, his family, and is very passionate about foster care in the state of Texas.
WHY WE FOSTER
2011 was the first time I had officially met a child who was in foster care. His foster parents were our very dear friends who had just been licensed through the state of Texas and he was their first placement. They had said yes, and stepped into the world of foster care to love on the vulnerable. The Lord used that relationship and the experience of walking through life alongside them to propel us toward our very own yes. We’ve since seen the same scenario play out time and time again because so many of our friends, or even acquaintances, have followed us and stepped into foster care. You see, when you meet people who are doing it, and you meet the kids who are living it, it gives you a tangible and realistic example of “foster care” and suddenly you feel empowered and compelled to do the same. I would also say that God used our time serving the youth at our church in Arlington to really open our eyes and dramatically shift how we viewed the world. Some of those students, and their siblings, were navigating difficult circumstances and it blew my mind. My husband and I had not experienced or been exposed to anything like we did in Arlington, so seeing what some of these children were living with or without was heart breaking. It changed us forever. After moving to Odessa in 2012, we began to pursue an international adoption while also trying to grow our family through the more traditional way. After an extended period of time, with little progress in either area, we felt like God was asking us to take a step of obedience and become foster parents. We knew God was leading, we knew there was a need,and we knew we could love even though we were scared of what we might lose in the process.
We began filling out paperwork and completing trainings in late 2013 and by April of 2014 we were officially licensed. On May 15, 2014 we got the call and welcomed our first placement, a 2 day old baby girl. I will never forget that day, because that is the day we met our daughter. Over the last six years we have fostered 6 children, 4 of which, we have adopted. Each of their stories are as unique as they are and each case played out so differently. I will hold off sharing the specifics of those cases in order to protect their stories but I will share some of what God has taught me along the way.
WHAT WE FEARED
Of course when we began our journey of fostering I had fears. My biggest fear was the possibility of losing a child I loved. I didn't know how I would ever let them go and I knew that when faced with that reality I would not have a say in the matter. That is hard. It makes you feel incredibly vulnerable and scared because in most circumstances we have choices but foster care, foster care is purely being willing to step into the gap, not for yourself but purely for the sake of another. It is such a beautiful representation of the gospel. Jesus stepped into the gap and took the penalty of our sin in order to save us.
Tanner and I were right to fear loss at the beginning, but God graciously revealed our sin in the process of fostering. We were faced with the fact that we are not any better than these mothers and fathers who face losing their children forever. So we lost this superior perception of ourselves and learned to adequately see that we are all just sinful people in need of a Savior. It leveled the playing field. It gave us a greater sense of compassion for our children’s biological parents. It forced us to lay down bitterness and begin praying for them by name. It caused us to invite them to church and attempt a relationship with them regardless of how messy and uncomfortable it was. It revealed our depravity which only made us realize the true sovereignty of God and that fostering was not about us at all but all about the God we serve.
WHAT WE HOPED
We hoped that our obedience would lead others to follow our example. We realized early in our fostering journey that God uses relationships to challenge and change people. Our dear friends who began to foster were what propelled us to foster and in turn we propelled countless couples who have done the same. It’s beautiful and our prayer, as we have just closed our home to fostering, is that we can continue to have honest conversations, answer questions and equip other families as they enter into their own yes.
We also hoped to become a Mom and Dad to whatever children God brought into our lives whether it was temporary or forever. Just look at what God did! He gave us 4 amazing children who bring us such joy. He intricately pieced us together and in turn grew our family beyond just the 6 of us to include some of children’s siblings and their adoptive parents. It’s confusing and complex but we are filled with gratitude that we are able to maintain those connections.
WHAT I LEARNED
SO MUCH. I have learned and grown so much over the last six years.
I learned I could say goodbye. At the end of 2014 we put 2 little boys in a car to be reunited with their father. While it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, I’m thankful because it opened the door for the 3 children we would welcome later. After some grieving, and after time passed, we were able to celebrate that those boys had the chance to be with their dad. We began to understand what God had planned for those kids and we did our part to love and care for them until their father was ready.
I learned to be uncomfortable. There are many scenarios, from court hearings to interactions with biological parents, that make you feel uncomfortable. Man did I learn comfort is an idol for me! It’s difficult to accurately describe how many times we were told one thing and another would happen, how many times one of our children were caught in the red tape of the system, and how many times we were white knuckling, crying out to God, that justice would be known in the lives of our children. BUT it once again placed us at the feet of Jesus, forcing us to trust Him with their lives and ours. Something I learned to preach to myself over and over again is that His past faithfulness demands my present trust. God was present in our circumstances and He was working for our good and His glory in each and every moment.
I learned to be bold. I think the general consensus for foster parents is that they have no say but we learned to speak up when we disagreed with what the Department was doing. We intimately knew the children that were placed with us and so we used our voice to speak up and advocate for their best interests.
There is so much more that I could say but I’ll leave you with this, being a foster parent has wrecked me in the best way possible. We don't close the doors of our home with regret or remorse but with gratefulness for all that God accomplished in our hearts and our home over the last six years. We would also love to chat with anyone who has questions or concerns about getting involved in foster care. There are many ways to get involved in foster care beyond being foster parents so don't be afraid to ask me!
Connect with Kendra on Instagram @kendra_house
Connect with Redeemer Odessa on Instagram @redeemerodessa or on Facebook