Grace Begets Grace


Foster care has a major learning curve.

I got the mom thing. Fourth kid? I can diaper, feed, rescue a pacifier seconds before it hits the ground in my sleep. She has lifted into our family pretty seamlessly. I hardly blinked tonight as she dropped a lovely gift into the bathtub before bedtime (is that too much info? Keeping it real up in here).

But dealing with a birth mom? You can take your licensing classes. But just like a parenting class isn’t really going to teach you how to parent until you have that kid in your arms, they didn’t prepare me for the emotions I feel towards her. 

I started out so well. We got our baby right before Christmas and her second visit I made a beautiful canvas with the baby’s footprints on it with her name. I wrapped it lovingly and addressed it to mom from her baby. I wanted her to know we were in this together. I might have smugly even patted myself on the back at how awesome I was being (again, keeping it real? Humility isn’t always a strong suit).

Those feelings didn’t take long to change.

They say you can catch more flies with honey and I knew the constant anger I was feeling wasn’t really helping anyone. My pastor always says bitterness is the poison you drink hoping it will kill the other person. I was the only one suffering from my bitterness here.

So I tried to change my attitude towards her.  Which isn’t near as hard when you don’t have to deal with someone in person. But God has a lovely sense of humor. I met up with birth mom at a doctor’s appointment and had a 40 minute wait. Not in the giant waiting room. But in the teeny tiny exam room. Good times.

I posted about how awkward it was on Facebook and someone said something to the affect of “Why should it be awkward? Don’t you have a lot to talk about?”

In a perfect world, yes. But foster care is as far from a perfect world as it gets. It is difficult to show grace to a person whose broken history you know and has resulted in a sweet child being taken away. And it is difficult for a woman to have a strong sense of appreciation for the person who is getting to see every milestone her daughter achieves while she reads about them in a notebook.

I used to get so defensive when I would get the notebook back after a visit and birth mom would criticize something I had done in parenting. Irrational things too like her carseat being too tight. I would write back defensively proving I was the better mom in paragraphs. I would stew about her words for days thinking dark thoughts in my head.

Then one day I realized that I have nothing to prove. I am not a bad mom. I am, in fact, a pretty darn good mom. But this mom? She has everything to prove. And everything to lose. And she needs to somewhere somehow have some control. The notebook is all the control she has.

So (slightly begrudgingly) I started responding in grace. I started telling lighthearted stories. More smiley faces. More “have a great visit”. Less this is what our schedule is and how you should follow it.

And amazing thing happened. Her tone changed too. More smiley faces back. More “have a great weekend.” And today? Today we had a break through. Today she asked me my advice on something. I sat and stared and smiled.

We aren’t done with this journey. And I still have a lot to learn. But I do know this. Grace feels a lot better to give and to get. Yet again. Love wins.


  1. I saw something on Pinterest tonight to the effect of “We need to excuse the inexcusable in others because He forgives the inexcusable in us.”

    You’re doing the right thing. That is what you should pat yourself on the back for.
    Tara Ziegmont recently posted…How to Make Rice Krispie NestsMy Profile

  2. Beautiful, Jill.

    You are a darn good mom. And now it sounds like you get to mother the mama in a small way, too. God put you here to influence a family!

    Love you and praying for you!
    ohAmanda recently posted…To Walk or StayMy Profile

  3. I love following this journey of yours.
    Jo-Lynne {Musings of a Housewife} recently posted…Citrus & Herb Whole Roasted ChickenMy Profile

  4. Nicole says:

    I’m so glad to hear things are improving! I feel like I’m defending our birth mom a lot – knowing more about their family makes me understand the choices she made. Not that they weren’t right and not that she shouldn’t have known better, but I can still see why she made the choices she did and and I hope her current situation is enough to break their family’s cycle. But, she’s always been pretty nice to me, even though I know she probably is jealous. I’m glad to hear your efforts to improve your relationship are working!

  5. Jennifer says:

    This is great. I’ve had to open my hands to heaven a lot this past week and give pain to God and remember that he wants to take it from me. You ARE a great mom and an amazing person to open your heart to love this hurting mom. To God be the glory.

  6. Wow Jill,
    Great post. You are on an amazing journey. Thanks for this post!

  7. Thanks for your honesty! I love hearing [honest] experiences from other foster parents! We’re on this journey as well; met our boys last weekend and they are moving in this us this weekend.
    Liz @ Let’s [Foster] Love recently posted…How I Really Feel…My Profile

  8. This is so good Jill. I have so enjoyed reading about your journey through fostering.
    Sarah @ Loved Like the Church recently posted…My Daughter Wants to Be a PaleontologistMy Profile

  9. From what I understand, I think fostering must be the most difficult journey a parent can take. I am so glad God has given you a heart for it. I will be praying for you, mom, and baby S. Love you!

  10. I am so proud of you. I am learning, too and I want to be there to support you in giving grace because sometimes I am just adding fuel to the fire. Forgive me.

  11. Quit writing stuff that’s so RIGHT! Makes it harder for me to be a jerk. xoxo
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  12. Love this, Jill!
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  13. Amazing. You are just amazing. Beautiful heart.
    Sarah recently posted…$0.44 Maybelline Eyeshadow at Target {probably about that at Meijer that allow competitor coupons too}My Profile

  14. You are an AMAZING mom (and wife)! Proud of you.

  15. A friend emailed me the link to this. Having no idea what it was I opened it and started reading. Its like reading my own story. I am also a foster mom. And we have another foster child now but our last foster Child we had from when she was 2 days old to 2 months old. And your experience with birth mom is almost exactly the experience I had. I would get so angry when she would recommend I sing to the baby and tell me she wanted me to get new bottles ext. It was annoying to say the least. But God opened my eyes and his spirit flowed through me and I was able to let it go.
    When it was decided that the baby was going back (before I thought it was ok) I wrote Mom a letter wishing her all the luck I could offer telling her I was not only thinking of her but the baby and would for the rest of my life. I told her that I knew she could do it (all the things she needed to get in control) And I passed the letter off and soon after the baby. I knew no matter what happened I felt like I had done more then alright and learned a lot about myself too.
    No amount of classes or even talking to other foster moms can train us for the challenges ahead. Every foster experience is as different as the kids.
    Thank you so much for sharing The situation we are in now is very different from our prior ones and possibly more heart challenging but being reminded that there is another Mom out there somewhere possibly going through the same thing as me has given me so much comfort.
    Thank you thank you thank you.

  16. “bitterness is the poison you drink hoping it will kill the other person”

    THAT is something I’ll hold onto, as well as the essence of this post. Beautiful, Jill…I see you growing up and in and out and it’s a lovely thing to observe. This little baby and the dynamics of ALL the relationships are transformative.
    Robin Dance recently posted…BIG birthdays call for BIG celebrationsMy Profile

    • Thank you for sharing this post. It is awesome to see it spreading to other foster parents. And yes to that quote being brilliant. Our pastor has some amazing nuggets that have stuck with me through the years.

  17. This is radical grace and remarkable worship lived out. The growing of us and our relationship with Him never stops. Thank God!
    Amy Hunt recently posted…alwaysMy Profile

  18. Love it! We just had 2 foster children in our home making our count 4 as well. While kids are not easy they were nothing compared to the other expectations/relationships involved. thanks for your honestly. These are my exact feelings!
    amanda recently posted…Easter weekendMy Profile

  19. alicia says:

    Jill-i recently started following your blog and found this post by following a crazy trail of breadcrumbs from your post this morning. But that’s just like God…to give you something today that was written a year ago just because you need it now.

    I’m reading this from the surgery waiting room where our foster son is having tube placed in his ears. We have 3 adopted sons and 2 foster sons. I’ll be honest….I want to keep them too! But lately, I’ve had a chance to get to know the birth mom through a similar waiting room experience (mine was at court.) I totally identify with not condoning her decisions but being able to see why she’s made them. She simply didn’t have the support or resources she needed. But for the grace of God, my story could be similar.

    It’s a tough spot to be in. I want to give her grace. And support. And to allow her into her children’s lives. (How it must hurt to know another woman is raising your kids!) But…I don’t want to like her, or help her, or to see her get her kids back. And then I feel ugly for being selfish, but I so want to keep them!

    Anyway, just wanted you to know your post still resonates with your readers! And now knowing how your story is playing out, I’ll send some prayers your way!

    • you must have really started digging lol. Thank you for your kind words. We are almost done fostering our baby and I think after this I might look into mentoring some of the moms. Since so many of these moms are “repeat offenders” it seems as though that would be an effective way of stopping all these kids from getting in the system in the first place. But it is sooooo hard not to judge. Learning :)

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