All I wanted was a baby. Just one. I was begging, pleading, crying, screaming, bargaining with God to give me what I wanted. I knew I was meant to be a mother. It had been my greatest desire for most of my life.
My dream was always to have a big family and for the past years I was watching that dream fade with every negative pregnancy test. I started to believe that I would never have one baby, much less the big family I had been hoping for. After several miscarriages and many failed fertility treatments I was completely broken down.
I was attending a women’s conference to pour out my heart in worship and hoping to hear from God about my greatest desire, and to no surprise at all God met me there, but not in the way I was hoping. As I sang and prayed, I could feel God telling me that He was going to meet my needs and fulfill my wishes, but not in the way I was imagining. I left the sanctuary. This was not acceptable to me. I didn’t understand, I was open to anything; adoption, stopping the fertility treatments and letting Him work; I just wanted an answer about what I was supposed to do, and His answer was to wait.
I left the conference that night wrestling with God and feeling less at peace than when I arrived. Over the coming months God continued to reveal his plan and purposes for our family and for the first time opened my eyes to the truth that this whole process was not about me. I had no idea at the time how my desire to have a baby and build a family could not be about me. Now I’m able to laugh at how little to do with me this journey became.
By April of 2015 God had shown us that growing our family through adoption from foster care was the path to take and we dove in. After 26 days we were licensed foster parents and soon as I walked into the NICU to pick up our first placement my world was wrecked, and my beliefs were shattered. The most common sentiment about foster care is that the system is “broken” and that is the greatest understatement I’ve yet to hear. I stepped out of my controlled life of comfort and privilege into a world of trauma, addiction, systematic oppression and insurmountable injustice.
In September of 2016 our hearts felt so complete when we adopted our first three kids. Then in August of 2017 we could not believe how deeply blessed we were to adopt two more. Our heart and home were full to the brim, so it was nothing but absolute shock when I was able to carry and give birth to our youngest child in July of 2018. It would be so easy to put a tidy bow on this Hallmark-worthy, beautiful story of how God built our family, but that was just the beginning.
Fostering nine children and learning their stories and their biological parents’ histories broke me. It was a new level of reality I could not un-see or un-know, and to be honest some days I wished I could. I believe that sin abounds when good people see the truth and do nothing, so I had no choice but to act on the information I had learned. I began speaking and advocating for foster kids as well as sharing what God had done in my life. I encouraged everyone I knew who had an interest to attend information meetings and even invited strangers into my home to pick my brain about all things foster care. It was during one of these meetings that Refuge Waco was born.
As a small group of mamas gathered for brunch around my kitchen table, I shared a fledgling idea about opening a home for young women who were aging out. I didn’t know how to make it happen, what it would look like, or even what a 501c3 was, but I had a vision. It was a goal for the future, after I raised my kids, but it caught fire and we knew that it couldn’t wait.
Two years later, Refuge Waco exists as a safe haven for at-risk youth. We provide mentorship for kids who have been in foster care and those facing extreme poverty or homelessness. Our team speaks and advocates on behalf of kids in care, their biological families, and their foster parents. We educate and train new foster parents and respite care providers in trauma-informed care and the unique challenges kids in foster care often face.
Our team is still comprised of all women—mamas who are invested deeply in the foster care community and the kids within it—who serve our Refuge Waco kids while collectively parenting the 16 children we have at home. The work is both heart-warming and heart-wrenching. There are days full of laughs and days we sit in silence, wrecked and overwhelmed by the trauma and pain our kids have endured and continue to walk through.
More than ever I know this to be true: it was never about me. I never doubted that our family and future were in the hands of a God, but what He provided was tenfold what I was requesting. My dream of a baby, a family, and a life of meaning look nothing like I imagined five years ago. My children are my greatest joy and this calling has captured my heart in a way that keeps me moving forward with vision and purpose.
As I venture further into the glorious mess that is my everyday life—parenting six kids under the age of six, directing a non-profit, and advocating for the youth of the system—I can look back with gratitude that God brought me through this painful journey and allowed my heart to be broken for His people. What I thought was the source of my deepest pain and insecurity was actually an invitation to seek out my calling and find overwhelming grace and peace. It’s not glamorous, but it is real, and mine and so so good.
To connect with Kendall, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org