And the saga continues… start at the beginning of Vanessa’s story by reading my first three posts.
Vanessa’s Story: Part Four—Grandma’s Comin’ to Town
After four months of pushing Vanessa’s case along, we finally got the “ok” from CPS to have Vanessa come to Phoenix and meet her grandbaby. Our caseworker from CPS did not understand our willingness to have a stranger in our home for a week, but she loved the idea of having baby Vanessa meet her grandma, Vanessa Sr.
In the meeting leading up to get approval for Vanessa Sr. to come to Phoenix and stay in our home, our caseworker questioned our motivation for foster care. What an incredible opportunity! Before I knew it, I found myself sharing my testimony and the gospel of Jesus Christ with this over-worked, exhausted social worker.
When a foster family is open to family reunification, but still loves the child with them dearly, they exemplify a kind of love that is almost impossible for the world to understand. How can I love this precious baby with my whole heart as though she were my own and at the same time, advocate for her to be with grandma? The answer: because I have a Father, God Almighty, who has given up everything to restore me into his family. He gave up perfect oneness and unity with his own son so that Christ could become human and greatly suffer for my sake.
It was the gospel that motivated me through the muddy waters of foster care. I don’t mean that I decided to go down this path simply because I was “obeying” a “command.” The gospel did not call me to “suck it up” and endure “just because.” No, the gospel filled in my own life story with a story much bigger then myself. When you belong to Christ, there is no amount of pain that cannot be endured, because it is always endured next to your Elder Brother, Jesus who suffered much greater. Many times a day I was tempted to guard my heart and try to distance myself from Vanessa…knowing the pain of losing her was inevitable. But I would replay those tempting feelings in light of what Christ has done on my behalf, in light of what it cost my Heavenly Father to bring me into his family. That was enough to continue to press on…
We called Vanessa and told her the good news: we had finally been given permission to have her in our home for a visit. We booked her plane tickets for a few weeks later, Mother’s Day weekend and then we anxiously awaited her flight’s arrival.
At this point, I thought it would be a good idea to have my kids also begin speaking on the phone with her to help prepare them for the soon-coming transition. Mya loved having an excuse to talk on the phone and soon all the kids were looking forward to meeting “Grandma Vanessa.” Vermon and I did not know what to expect…would it feel like a long7 days or would it go by quickly? I lost several nights sleep leading up to her arrival playing out all the possible scenarios, but the Lord kept bringing me back to Hebrews 13: 1-3:
“Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
I would think about this passage and pray that the Lord would grow my love for Vanessa Sr. She was beginning to feel like a “sister”, yet without meeting face to face, still felt like a “stranger”. So I prayed for the gift of hospitality and that I would see this entire situation through her lens of suffering. Certainly her suffering path of waiting to be with her little one was infinitely harder then the suffering I would face with losing Vanessa. I knew this intellectually, but did not feel the weight of it fully. So I prayed for God’s heart and prayed the ending of Hebrews 13 again and again, that this amazing blood of the eternal covenant would equip me for everything good for doing his will:
“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
So, the days leading up to having a sister-and-stranger in my home were an emotional roller coaster and physically exhausting. But finally, the day came and the kids and I loaded up the car and went to pick Vanessa Sr. up from the airport.
When we got back to my house and Vanessa Sr. was able to pick up baby Vanessa and hold her for the first time all my fear and anxious feelings instantly melted. Baby Vanessa pulled Grandma Vanessa’s glasses right off her face, locked eyes with her future-forever-mama, and gave her the biggest smile. By the end of the first night, I was back from having 4 children to having only 3. Grandma took over and loved on that precious little girl for the rest of the evening.
Within a few days, I felt like Vanessa and I had known each other our entire lives. The story of how this woman came to know and serve Jesus overwhelmed me with praise (hope to write that story for her someday too!). It felt weird to even call her Vanessa, since she was older then my own mother and full of such gracious love and wisdom for me. My children had also feared the day they would lose Vanessa, but as the week went on they each fell in-love with Grandma Vanessa and started calling her “Grandma.” It was beginning to seem more and more evident that the Lord was going to weave Vanessa Sr. and Baby Vanessa into our own extended family long after our foster relationship ended.
Up next: Moving Grandma Vanessa to Arizona!!