“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
I love that God made us relational. We can learn so much if we just sit and listen to others tell of God’s faithfulness in their own lives. That’s what Friday Conversations are all about. We want to make much of Jesus and how He works in the ordinary lives of His obedient followers.
Today we are talking with Laura Mitchell. I learned of Laura’s story because she is so highly regarded by our mutual friends. After talking with her a bit and hearing her heart, I learned why so many of my godly friends respect her and her admire her relationship with the Lord. She is one of those people that just makes you want to be more like Jesus, and it’s beautiful.
For those of us who have ever wondered if we could really do that outrageous dream God has placed on our hearts, or if we have ever wondered if God would really come through if we stepped out in faith, this interview will encourage you greatly. It all starts with a heart willing to take action for Jesus, now.
Hi Laura! Thank you for taking the time to share with us here at The Front Porch! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Sure, I’m Laura and I’m madly in love with Jesus and above all else want to honor Him with my life. I was blessed to be raised in a Christian home, and I accepted Christ as my personal Savior at the age of 6. He’s changed my life in so many ways and taught me that He does truly work things together for good. I’m single, 35 years old, work full-time, but the best title I have is “mommy”.
Let’s talk about that “mommy” title! You’re following the Lord in a very practical, beautiful and unconventional way by fostering and adopting children. How did the Lord begin to place this desire on your heart?
I’ve always had a love for children. I grew up in a large family, I’m the oldest of six, and my parents owned a childcare center so I grew up knowing nothing but loving on and caring for kids. However, for most of my life I had no idea about the needs of vulnerable children around the world. God opened my eyes to orphan care as my prayer became stronger for Him to break my heart for what breaks His. In February 2011, I was a part of a mission trip to Ethiopia, specifically to minister to orphans. That trip was a turning point in my life. The sights, smells, the people, the emotions and the friendships that were formed completely changed my life. I literally did not look at anything the same again. God was clearly saying to me that I was called to do something! Proverbs 24:12 kept coming to me [If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?], and I could no longer say that I didn’t know as my eyes had been opened to the need. In the weeks after that trip, I began praying and asking God what story He wanted to write with my life, and I wanted my life to be lived radically for Him. I felt Him calling me to something so much bigger than myself, and He was simply looking for my “yes”. What He was calling me to was foster care.
Often we have desires or callings in our lives that we put into a “someday” category in our brains. What compelled you to jump into this full force and take action in the now?
God changed my heart in so many ways after my eyes were opened to the need on the overseas trip to Ethiopia. When I returned home is what God showed me that there were kids right in my city that need a safe place to call home and that above all else need to be loved the way Jesus loves. It might be temporary, and it might be long-term, but God is about those details and appoints that time. For me, I saw the need, and realized that I had the space in my home and the love to share that with a child(ren) who desperately need it. The “yes” was pretty quick after that.
For many of us, that huge step of faith in following Christ into new territory comes with questions that paralyze us from moving forward. We ask, “Where do I begin?” “How will I be able to afford this?” and “Where will I find the time?” What did you learn about how the Lord answers these questions?
I truly believe that God funds what He favors and He always, always, always equips us to what He calls us to. I can’t do any of this on my own, but He can do miraculous things when we say yes to His call.
He has stretched me in so many ways, and some days I do question if this really is my life. But 31 kids in my home for various amounts of time over the last 4.5 years, and 4 adoptions later I see Him writing the most beautiful story! He is always enough, and He is always there in the good and in the hard.
What has the Lord been teaching you in doing this as a single woman?
Well, as a teenager and young adult this is certainly not how I saw my life. Like most young girls I saw myself going to college, getting married and having children…but, obviously my plan was not God’s plan! When I first began considering foster care and adoption as a single person of course so many questions went through my head and all the reasons why I couldn’t or shouldn’t came up. It was a struggle thinking through my time, my finances, what it meant for my future, etc. I also struggled with the idea of my children not having a father, and could I really be enough for them or should I wait and do this when and if I got married. As I thought through and prayed through these things I felt like God telling me again and again that He is enough. He would provide and that He would remain faithful to me and my children. I also felt called to do something in the here and now, and I knew that was from Him, and I felt like all of my questions were just excuses. I finally said, that if a child needed to be safe and loved, then I needed to step up and provide that love, safety and stability. I needed to stop with the excuses and just trust God. Sure enough, He has met each and every need and blessed me way more than I deserve!
I don’t know if I will ever get married, being 35 with 4 adopted kids & still actively fostering others is a lot of “baggage” for many. But I’m certain that this is where God wants me and what He created me to do — to love and care for His children. If He has a mate for me, then the 4 kids that are now my sons and daughters and the additional kids I foster won’t be seen as ‘“baggage” or hard or too much or many, but it will be perfect because that is His plan. I don’t doubt His plans! He has written a much more beautiful story for my family than what my plan ever was. My children do sometimes ask if they will ever have a dad, and they do pray that God will bring them a daddy, but they also know that their Heavenly Father is the best Dad and they are mostly thankful for Him and that He brought them to me.
As a single person, can the day-to-day struggle be real? Sure! Just the logistics of caring for so many kids and working is a lot to juggle. Grocery shopping by myself is a huge luxury! Again, though, as crazy as it looks from the outside (and it is some days), it just gives me the opportunity to brag on God and show what He can do with our “yes”.
What has been the most difficult thing in this journey of fostering and adoption?
The most difficult part of the journey is dying to self every day. The kids who come into my home have had very traumatic backgrounds. There are some hard days! They are in foster care for no fault of their own, but they’ve been exposed to some hard stuff, and often there are behaviors because of that. Our world is broken, and foster care has opened my eyes to so much brokenness around me. It has stretched me and allowed me to step in and stand in the gap in ways I never dreamed I could. It is an honor, and it’s beautiful, but it is also very hard. I truly do get to see beauty from ashes daily as children heal.
What has been the most beautiful thing in this journey so far?
Oh, there is so much beauty!! Watching a child heal, trust and overcome is beauty that is hard to describe. Love does win! The most beautiful thing about the journey is watching how God has weaved my family together. Our family tree is not typical at all. My home is full of little people who probably would have never met yet they call each other “sissy” and “bubby” and call me “mommy”.
God writes the most incredible story, and as I’ve loved these kids, I’ve gotten to see His heart like never before. One of the most beautiful moments and one of my big ‘light bulb’ moments was the day my daughter was freed for adoption. We were at trial to terminate her birth parents’ rights. As I listened to the testimony presented by the department of children’s services, I was broken. I kept thinking, “This is not how God intended things. Parents are supposed to take care of their children.” After hearing the testimony, the judge shared some thoughts and then looked at me, signed a paper, looked back at me and simply said, “She’s free.” That is when I really lost it. His comment meant she was freed for adoption. But what also got me in that moment is that this is exactly what Jesus did for me. Adoption is a picture of The Gospel! My daughter controlled nothing about that day. She didn’t choose the trauma she faced the first 4 years of her life, and she didn’t choose me to adopt her — just as I did nothing to deserve the gift of salvation.
The beautiful daily moments are so many little things! It’s a child that hugs you for the first time, a child who finally says that you can turn off the lights at night, a child who stays on green at school for the first time, a child that doesn’t hoard food any longer, a child who asks to pray at night after previously refusing, a child who thanks you for really simple things like a bed to sleep in, clean clothes, food, etc. There really is so much beauty in this journey.
What advice would you have for someone who wants to begin fostering children?
Be flexible, be willing, and just love big! Know that spiritual warfare is real, and know that you are entering into some dark places. Love does win, though, and there truly is beauty in ashes. Know that little wins with traumatized children are big wins, and you get the front row seat of watching God completely transform their littles lives.
The need is so big! Currently there are over 8,000 children in the foster system in Tennessee alone and over 400,000 nationwide. Pray about it and ask God to lead you. Again, He will be the One to equip you for the journey.
How can we pray for you and support you as you follow the Lord in caring for these children?
Pray for strength, for wisdom, for patience for me. Pray for feelings of security, peace, and healing for my children. Please also pray for their salvation. In this journey, I see my home as my mission field, and I want to point my children to Jesus!
*Have some encouragement for Laura or something that stood out to you in the interview? Leave a comment below!