Brave in Foster Care by Emily

Hi, sweet friends! I’m Emily and I own a little handlettered shop called Joyful Papery, which was born from doodles in my journal to the Lord. I create pretty pieces deeply rooted in God’s goodness. I’m so excited to be joining you today alongside my friend, Kailey. 

Kailey and I became fast friends thanks to the internet + our Lord and realized quickly that we both have hearts that beat fast for encouraging women to be brave through infertility, miscarriage, and adoption. Your story may be different from the one God’s writing for me, but I pray that you would be encouraged through my words here today.




God is writing our story, and He chose to write foster care into that story. I say that because it wasn’t something we looked at and said “Oh! That looks like so much fun and we should totally sign up for that!” It wasn’t a decision we made in our premarital counseling and it wasn’t something I had dreamt all my life to take part in.

Because, if I had it my way? I’d have a crew of little Benjamins running around my feet (guys, my husband is handsome and I want my kids to look just like him!). But if I had it my way, I might not have ever had the privilege to love those little faces… and that would be unfortunate.

Foster care is hard and beautiful and heartbreaking and redemptive all in the same scary breath. They tell you in the classes before certification that nothing you do in the classes will prepare you for what you’re about to walk into (Am I making you want to go sign the papers?)… And they’re totally right.

After we finished our classes, but before we were officially “certified”, we decided it was time to speak to our church about this story God was writing for us. We spoke to our loving church family during a Sunday morning message and they showed incredible grace to us as we said the words “infertility” and “foster care” out loud for a few of the first times in our marriage. We asked them to love the children we would bring into our home and into our church just as if they had been born to us. We kindly requested for them not to use the F-word (foster) in front of them, by referring to them as our “foster kid” or anything that would communicate that they were different from their friends and neighbors. We wholeheartedly believe that they are just children, not foster children. And they didn’t deserve to walk around with any more baggage than their little lives had already handed them. Our church family was sincere in their standing applause, not towards Ben and I or our words spoken, but in unity with us, and that our church family would be change-agents in these children’s lives.

A couple weeks later through sad but somehow beautiful circumstances, we were approached and asked if we would pray about caring for not one, not two, but three beautiful children. The details, though they can’t be discussed, were God-ordained, perfectly laid out for us all to witness a glimpse of the beautiful mosaic He was creating. Bits of pain and hurt were turning into a larger redemption story for His Name’s glory.

We said yes, and in two days, we were a family of five. Not all are blessed with seamless transitions, but thanks to consistent family support and unbelievable church family, these children felt at home in our four-walls quickly.

We were privileged to care for and love these three children for just over a year. I wish I could tell y’all every beautiful detail, but I can’t. That’s one of the hardest things about foster care, is that much of what we (foster parents) walk through can’t be discussed publicly. But we can tell you all that God orchestrated the arrival, raising, and departing of our children just as if it was His plan all along. But I don’t believe it was…

Foster care is unnatural. Just as God did not desire for sin to be alive within us, He did not create family to be torn from each other. He did not intend for mothers to be separated from their own flesh. Foster care is tragic and traumatic.

BUT (don’t you love a good “but” stuck in a sad sentence telling you “the story gets better!”?) because of God’s grace, He doesn’t ever let the story end in tragedy. God has a Master’s Degree in transfiguring hurt into glory. It’s unbelievable really. In our 13 month care, we saw a multitude of lives changed, including our own.

This is the really beautiful thing about foster care – though there is so many faults in the system, foster care was designed for redemption. Foster care is a breeding ground for second chances, forgiveness, and growth.

Ben and I went into the foster care program knowing it was God’s will, that this was yet another opportunity to show our Lord’s grace and love to the lives of those we serve – the children, the parent’s, and the social workers. We believed with all our heart that God had chosen to close the door on biological children for us at the time in order to be used as vessels to show grace to others through foster care.

I don’t want you to read all these words about “grace” and “love” and “redemption” and assume it’s all rainbows and butterflies. There were lives in the pits, deep dark pits. There were wounds made and scars left behind. In foster care, there are hurts, aches, and pain laid open for all to see. But when you look pain in the face and choose to push through, believing there is goodness on the other side, that’s what brave is.

Brave is believing with all your heart in something, and trusting God enough to let your feet start walking, your lips say ‘yes’, or your fingers to push ‘publish’. Whatever it might be for you, brave is you trusting God enough to do it.

And just like we see throughout the Bible, we can see that bravery is contagious. Hear me on this, sweet friend – our story is one of two broken people, offered the free gift of love and grace, and choosing to be brave in saying ‘yes’ to pour out that free gift to a bunch of other broken people. That’s what foster care was for us. God wrote a story of pain through infertility, but He gave us a gift through it, too. We were able to share the gift with our church, with the families involved, and with the social workers that worked with us. And God does something wonderful when His children turn to him, humbled and broken, with hands stretched out to Him… He turns our ‘yes’ into a countless stream of subsequent ‘yes’s’.

Be brave enough to utter that beautiful word to Him, and God will be faithful with your ‘yes’ – you can count on that.


  1. He never lets the story end in tragedy – isn’t that the truth!!!

  2. ashleysanderson08 says:

    I am so glad I have found your blog! Emily and I connected last year and she sent us a beautiful print “The Lord is Faithful” to hang in our daughter’s nursery after our IVF cycle was successful. I am so glad to see her post here! And to become a new follower of your blog! 🙂

    The Mrs. & Co.

    • Kailey Birkeland says:

      So glad you dropped by and yes, Emily is super precious. I look forward to connecting with you!

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