Not a Moment Too Soon by Belinda Hogstrom
“Please, Lord, do something!”
I sat on my bed, praying. Nothing unusual about that, but the tears that streamed down my face and the fists that my fingers had formed in my lap told the rest of the story.
“I need a miracle, God. I just can’t bear the thought of losing my baby girls!”
I was used to turning to God in my desperation. And in the years that my husband and I had been fostering children, we had both learned to depend on God to see us through all the storms that our chosen vocation brought with it: From the excitement of welcoming new children into our home, to the insecurities associated with our lack of parenting experience. From holding our breath every time a child’s parents went to court, to the daily frantic pace of feeding, clothing, educating, and training the ever-changing members of our family. From the grief of losing one child, to the familiar excitement of the new arrival, we had learned that without prayer, we could not cope.
But this was different. And as I sat on the bed and prayed, I knew that I was not praying for the strength or patience or energy to get through the next challenge. I was powerless—completely powerless. My only hope was in God.
A year earlier my husband’s job had been transferred, and along with our adopted son, we relocated to another state on the other side of the country. It was at that point that we knew we needed to change things. As foster parents we had cared for twelve different children over the three previous years, but by the time we started unpacking after the move, we were physically and emotionally exhausted. It took us a few days to remember how to breathe and a few days more for our bodies to recall what it felt like to get a full night’s sleep.
As my husband started his new job, we began searching for a new home, somewhere permanent, with plenty of trees and land but close enough to the city for the commute. It took several weeks, but eventually we found it: a darling house, complete with painted shutters, a large front porch, and an enormous backyard that would be a perfect place for our young son to run and play as he grew older. The only problem was that it was just on the other side of the county line from where we had been looking. That meant my husband’s job and our new church were in one county, and we would be residing in, paying taxes to, using the library of, and being assigned to a school district in another county. No big deal, right? Little did we know how significant that decision would prove to be.
With the job and house taken care of and with life calmer, now that we were not currently foster parents, we did what pretty much everyone who gets off a roller coaster does after a while—we decided to get back on. We had barely finished unpacking our boxes when we felt compelled to get our foster care license in this new state.
Since every state has a completely independent foster care system, it meant starting all over again—new paperwork, fresh background checks, classes, and home studies. During our licensing interview with the social worker, we explained how—because of our son—we would need to be a little more discerning about what age child we took in.
“We’d like to have a child under the age of two; maybe a girl; perhaps even twins!” I said.
The social worker gave us one of those humorless smiles that said, “Yeah, right!” But even though she lacked a sense of humor, God did not. Not even a full week later, the phone rang, and that same social worker greeted me, saying, “Would you believe that we have just gotten a call from the hospital? They have twin baby girls who are unable to go home with their birth mother. Since you live in the same county where they were born, you would be perfect. Can you take them?”
“Yes!” I said. And after hanging up the phone, I started squealing, laughing, and shaking my head in disbelief. We just happened to be in the right county and just happened to have received our license days before. What clearer evidence was there that God was at work?
The twin girls had been born two months earlier, but because they were so premature (only twenty-eight weeks) and weighed only two pounds each, they had been immediately admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit. The unit’s medical staff had efficiently attended to their many needs, coaxing air into their tiny lungs, refusing to accept the failure of their underdeveloped organs, and battling the numerous complications that tend to attack tiny bodies. However, with the combination of the doctors’ skills, the babies’ strong wills, and the Lord’s protective hand, ounce by ounce they gradually grew until they became healthy enough to leave the hospital . . . just days after their new foster parents were ready for them! Of course it was love at first sight, and they were the most precious babies I had ever had the privilege of holding.
Those first few months were pretty much a sleep-deprived fog that I barely remember. But I do remember that as I sat on the couch, feeding one of the babies, rocking the other baby in her bouncy seat with my foot, and reading a story to my two-year-old, I smiled at the thought of God’s beautiful sense of humor. And in spite of the physical fatigue, I truly knew without a doubt that God had placed these babies in my care. We were back on that roller coaster once again, and there was no place we would rather be.
One cold night in December my husband and I had gotten home late from a Christmas party. The twins were only a few months old and still quite tiny. I carried them into the house and left them sitting in their car seats on the family room floor while I sat nearby, waiting for them to wake up for their next bottles. I will never know what caused me to glance over at the babies, but when I did, I knew instantly that something was terribly wrong. One of them had skin that was completely pale and lips that had turned the most unnatural color of purplish-blue I had ever seen. She was not breathing.
I snatched her up and was appalled to find her not reacting to my touch; she was as limp as a rag doll. Almost without conscious thought my hands and mouth automatically kicked into action, desperately trying to breathe life into the eerily still body in my arms. Like every new foster parent, I had attended classes in infant CPR—more than once, in my case. I was so grateful for the training, and I remain so today.
The next few moments seemed like hours before she started coughing; her skin regained its color, and the beautiful pink returned to her lips. Then we both began to cry.
The rest of the night was a blur. A frantic drive to the nearest hospital in record-breaking time. A sleepless night of forms and fluorescent lights and tired eyes as we admitted her to the pediatric floor. A seemingly endless wait for test results while trying not to fear the worst. Then, finally, she was stable enough for me to leave her side.
A few days later, while the first baby was safely recovering in the hospital, we experienced another unexpected dip, courtesy of our life’s roller coaster. My husband was working from home while I was out buying diapers. He was keeping an ear out for the baby, who was sleeping in her crib, but when he did not hear her after a while, he went to peek in on her. He saw the same blue lips, pale skin, and lifeless chest that I had seen on her sister the week before. And, like me, he put his own CPR skills into practice that day.
When she was breathing again, he called me, and we made a second urgent trip to the hospital in less than a week. But this time the recovery was not quite so simple and quick. Something was clearly wrong, and the doctors were thoroughly baffled. Fortunately and quickly enough the doctors pinned the breathing problems of both our girls on an infection, and after the antibiotics prescribed did their work, we were able to go home again. Within days, everything returned to normal.
If there is one plain truth that all foster mothers know, it is that when children are placed in their homes, there is a possibility that they will someday leave. But even though we all know this, that fact somehow gets pushed to the backs of our minds. It becomes something to worry about later. Much later.
That distant worry came crashing back into our present shortly after the twins celebrated their first birthday. My husband was hired by another company, and it meant that we would have to relocate to yet another state. It also meant saying good-bye to the twins . . . unless they became free for adoption, something I hoped was about to happen.
Because we were both sure it would not be long before we could adopt the girls, my husband began his new job, moved hundreds of miles away, and planned to come home on the weekends while I remained in our home with the children. But God didn’t get my memo. His idea of perfect timing was completely different from mine.
Months went by. There were complications with the birth parents, postponed court hearings, long and lonely weeks as a single parent to an active three-year old and twin one-year-olds, and too-short weekends with my husband. After six months of this madness, I found myself sitting on the edge of my bed, tears running down my cheeks, fists balled up in my lap. Prayer was my only hope.
“Please, Lord, do something! I need your help. My husband is living in a different state. My son needs his father. And I’m refusing to leave. Oh, Lord, you know that I can’t bear the thought of abandoning these girls. How could anyone else possibly love them as much as I do?”
With tears now streaming down my face and my fists now banging against my pillow, I sensed his tender voice whispering to me, I love them more. Trust me.
I could almost picture him pointing to my clenched fists and asking me to open them.
Could I do it? Could I let go? Could I really trust God with these precious girls? Reluctantly, but obediently, I opened my fists.
I informed the girls’ social worker that we were going to move out of state, contacted a Realtor about selling the house, and began the monumental task of packing our belongings. And all the while I prayed frantic prayers, begging God for a miracle. I knew he could do it. The only question was, did he want to?
Of course, our house sold, and I was unable to procrastinate any longer. I braced myself for the day I knew was approaching quickly, when I would have to say good-bye to my sweet little girls.
I was willing to obey, but that did not mean I had to like it. I was done with roller coasters. I had nothing left.
And then the unexpected happened. The girls’ birth parents, who had fought so long and so hard to get their children back, suddenly—and voluntarily—relinquished their parental rights. It meant that the girls were no longer foster children but instead were free for adoption. But time was short—too short, perhaps. Our house was closing in less than thirty days, and unless the paperwork could be done in time, I would still be saying good-bye forever. The case was moved quickly from the foster care department to the adoption department, a new social worker was assigned, and a whole new set of paperwork, references, and home studies was commissioned.
It was almost like sitting back and watching all of the details supernaturally fall into place. And in a breathtaking display of God’s timing, on the very same day that the adoption social worker conducted the final interview in our house, the moving van was in our driveway, loading our boxed-up lives.
God had indeed performed a miracle. In his sovereignty he could have chosen to remain silent, to provide another family for the girls, and to gradually heal my wounded heart. But how thankful am I that he did not! Instead, he chose a miraculous intervention, to reach down and open my hands, filling them with treasure beyond measure.
The roller coaster had indeed been heart-wrenching and terrifying, but it was thrilling and exhilarating too. And I would not trade that wild ride for anything.
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If you start looking for God's activity in your life; if you start looking for "God moments;" it'll change the way you think of them. You start understanding that God is active, He's involved and He cares.