I distinctly recall the first time someone “blessed my heart.” You know the type: the staged whisper [southern accent optional], big smile and—this is key—behind your back. I was standing in the world’s longest post office line and had forgotten to go to the bathroom before I decided to run this brilliant errand. I had all three of my boys with me (cue warning sirens) and was shipping a huge box internationally for a friend, complete with 4,124 forms filled out in triplicate.
There I was, shifting from one foot to the other, and my boys just couldn’t. Pull. It. Together. They were squirrely and goofy and decided our local, fluorescent-flickering post office was the BEST place to play tag.
That’s when I heard it.
“Bless her heart.”
I fumed. I was frustrated with my kids. Frustrated at the lack of public restrooms in the post office. And frustrated that a woman who didn’t even know my story could “bless my heart” in such a way that felt about as far from a blessing as humanly possible.
What was not lost on me at that moment was the fact that we were in the final preparations to receive foster children into our home. We were planning on taking in a sibling group of two, which meant we were mere moments away from jumping from three to five kids. I wanted to turn around to this woman and scream “Guess what? There’s MORE coming!”
Years later and that story still sticks with me. Especially now since we are a family with five children (two by way of foster care) and I have had more than a few moments where I’m sure I’ve had my heart secretly blessed for any number of crazy reasons. But there have been so many other moments in the past few years where people have genuinely—and I mean, genuinely—blessed our hearts while we’ve been on this difficult foster care journey. When people have taken the time to know what will really help us, it is a heart blessing like no other.
Here are 5 ways you can genuinely bless the heart of your foster mom friends:
- Ask how you can pray specifically.
Instead of saying “I’m praying for you,” try “How can I pray for you?” I’ve asked people to pray that I delight in a particular child, for help with difficult toilet training and for me as I handle a visit with the biological mom. Then, follow up and tell them when and how you are specifically praying for them. Share a Bible verse you are claiming for them. In this mighty way, you can be holding up the arms of someone who is in the battle of her life.
- Open your eyes to tangible and logistical needs.
When we were beyond busy with adjusting to our new family members and my husband had shoulder surgery, we had friends who hired students to rake our leaves because they knew we did not have a nanosecond or the shoulder power to do it. Look around and see what might ease her burden. Would her favorite Starbucks help her smile on a tough day? Could she use an extra hand at bedtime when her husband is traveling? Stop and take a look at the day-to-day needs your friend might have. It may not be glamorous to help load the dish washer for a friend, but that will definitely bless her.
- Don’t accept “no” for an answer (within reason, of course).
Try asking when you can help, not if you can help. “I’m bringing you dinner this week. Is tonight or tomorrow better for you?” Or “I want to take the kids off your hands for an afternoon—what day works best for you this week?” It is so much easier to accept a blessing when the person on the other end of the phone has decided it is going to happen and the foster mom just has to figure out when it would be helpful.
- Don’t forget them.
After a while, things start to settle and life looks like it’s getting back to normal. But life doesn’t feel “normal” anymore when you are fostering. It helps to remember that it’s hard for your friend to reach out when it’s not socially acceptable to be “struggling” anymore. So check in. Call. Send a quick text. Follow up after that appointment or court date that she’s been dreading or after a day you know has been particularly tough. It means more than you know.
- Respect their story.
It’s sometimes easy to put a nice, shiny gloss over a situation with our friends who are struggling because, if we’re honest, we don’t really want to think about what they’re experiencing. Sometimes it’s too hard. But for those of us walking through it, we know fostering can be messy and difficult and hopeful and beautiful all at once. So if you’re able to dive in and listen and meet them where they are, it helps to be able to talk about tough, ugly stuff with someone who isn’t afraid to hear it. I couldn’t talk about our foster care story for the first few months without bursting into tears. But man, did it help to have someone nod in understanding and listen to some tough stuff.
All five of these ways—so simple yet so meaningful. I still find myself shaking my head in awe at the generosity of our friends and family when I look back over the last few years. It’s been a very difficult journey, but we have never, ever done it alone.
“Bless your heart,” they say.