In a blink of an eye, we made a decision to open our home once more to a child (this time two) in need.
In the course of a day, I was thoroughly wrecked. Pulverized into fine sand with a deep sense of loss and I will dare say- even regret.
The next couple days, I could feel myself being slowly and steadily collected, as if a magnet was being swept through the ground gathering each piece of me that I felt I had lost.
Once the pieces were collected I could sense myself being restored, rebuilt and reformed into who I was made to be, reminded that I had chosen to answer a call.
And within the week, I knew that I was enabled. Not by my own will, but by my own death and resurrection through Christ.
Tuesday June 16, 2020: The first half of our day was the same as it had been for the past four months: sleep in, have breakfast, have tea/coffee and do some work on the computer. Some time after noon I noticed I had a voice mail on my phone. It was our foster care agency… a couple hours later we were staring out the window. Watching through the open door, I did not see what was there. Instead, I imagined what I had seen over a year and a half ago- a female caseworker walking towards the house with a chubby little 11 month old baby girl.
But that was not what was there before my eyes. What was there was a 9 year old girl holding nothing but a plastic grocery bag with maybe 5 pieces of clothing and a male caseworker pulling out a car seat which held a 4 month old baby boy. Within seconds of them entering the house, what I felt truly caught me by surprise: A deep sense of loss for the little girl who had previously been with us. Along with a mourning for the relaxed life I had been living out the past four months… along with so many fears and anxieties and self doubts about my own ability to love and care for these children as they deserve. The wave of emotions attacked my insides and I had trouble eating the first two days and a splitting headache at night. Holding the baby (we’ll call him “K”) I only felt loss, a pain that pierced me so deep that I didn’t know what to do with myself. Speaking with the 9 year old (we will call her “C”) all I could do was wonder if I would be able to establish my role as caregiver but also as friend. For the first 36 hours I will dare say that all I could think was “These kids are not Melody” (our previous foster daughter).
Wednesday-Thursday June 17-18, 2020: On the second night, I was a wreck, crying my eyes out as I spoke to my husband all the things I had been holding inside me. He comforted me, told me that he too had been thinking about Melody and that he missed her. He understood me, he loved me but he also exhorted me, pointed me to Christ, reminded me that I had said yes to this call. He spoke life, reached into my soul, dug out what was already there but I had buried. I would not give up without even trying to walk this road ahead. I knew I wouldn’t, but I had to be reminded. I could not expect each child to be the same, each experience to be the same, each challenge to be the same. It will always be different, always extraordinary, always supernatural, always beautiful and always absolutely worth it. By now, most people in our circle of friends knew we had welcomed C and K into our home and many had started to pour in their support by both words of encouragement and physical gifts. I want to deeply thank everyone who did this as your support was not only reaffirming and uplifting to us as foster parents but it was strikingly impacting to C as well. When she saw so many gifts of clothes, toys, accessories and basic hygiene items for her and her brother, she smiled and said “wow, a lot of people care”. And we said “yes, a lot of people do care!” Each time a new package arrived at the door she watched expectantly as we opened it to see what was inside.
Friday June 19, 2020: 4pm, there is a knock on the door just as we were sitting down to eat. It’s the caseworker who brought some more of the kids items in more plastic grocery bags. He says Hi to everyone and I could tell by the look on C’s face that his presence was bringing up some mixed emotions in her. He tells her that her grandma packed a note in some new shoes she got her and she immediately gets up to find it. During this time the caseworker asks to speak to me in private.
When I get back into the living room I can see tears in C’s eyes as she holds the note her grandma wrote her. She shows me the three words written on it- “I love you”… Soon after the caseworker leaves- having lost all her appetite- she sat on the couch with tears streaming down her face. I sat next to her and ask her to let me give her a hug. Having previously asked her if she would like a hug during another hard moment, she had told me “no” so I was expecting her to turn down the offer again. But to my surprise, she embraced me for a long time. I used this moment to validate her feelings. To tell her that it was ok to be sad and to miss her family. When she asked questions, I did my best to give her the most honest answers I could in a way she could understand and with the information I knew. In an attempt to explain why she was here and not with her family I told her that sometimes adults make mistakes and that they need some time to get better and learn more.
I told her that her mom was learning how to be an even better mom for her and her brother and learning how to love her even more than she already does. I told her that this was a learning experience for everyone. Learning can be hard, life can be hard, but we are here to help her through this hard time. I told her that even though it may sound strange for her to hear us say we love her, given that we just met, we really do and we want her to feel loved, comfortable and welcomed here. I told her that I know I’m not her mom but that I hope that during her time here we could become friends. I suggested she have some alone time in her room and that she could write her mom and grandma a card. We went to her room and I gave her some supplies for her letter. Also, as shown in the picture, I had a big bag of Takis (her favorite chips) which I had bought for her as a surprise, this was the perfect opportunity to bring them out in an attempt to cheer her up…
Laying in bed while going through the events of the day, there was no doubt in my mind that there was supernatural intervention during our conversation. I know this because if it was just me, I wouldn’t have known what to say, I would have been bawling myself. Thinking back to just a few nights ago where I thought I was ready to give up, it was clear that today was not me talking. It was God. His restorative life acting through me, enabling me for the journey to come. Although I knew this was hard for C, it really started hitting me that this isn’t about me and my pain and difficulty, it’s about hers.
Saturday-Sunday, June 20-21, 2020: Upon the arrival of the kids, I knew that I would have to ask for help with C’s hair. Even though I was a little embarrassed to ask, a friend graciously agreed to come over and teach me how to care for it. This friend also has a daughter of her own who is 10 years old and was the perfect play mate for C. The girls were instant friends and it was sweet to see that C was truly comfortable here as she took on the initiative to show her around the house and even offered her a banana. This was the day I started thinking of all my experiences as a child and having friends over or going over friends houses and realizing how special it was. C was taken from her family and she constantly chatted about them and her cousins and all her friends and how she missed them all and wished she had a way to communicate with them. I saw how it made her so happy to have someone she could relate to in the home and how for a girl her age it was a top priority to have friends. I observed how when she was sad, or frustrated she would find comfort in her brother because he is the only one who ties her to the life she was taken from, the only thing she could truly call “hers”. I saw her fall asleep with her mom’s sun glasses on her head and with the note her grandma wrote her bobby pinned to her hair, and I could feel God’s strength filling me in order to be strong for her.
Monday, June 22, 2020: This was my husband’s birthday and all day was spent preparing his favorite meal and homemade cake. This was also the day that it was reaffirmed in our hearts why what we do is worth it. The night before, C came to tell me (from her own initiative) that she was going to make Gabe a birthday card. I told her that he would love that and let her get to work. A few minutes later she asked me what his favorite color is, so I told her blue and added that he likes things having to do with space. Once she was done she showed me what she came up with. At first glance it was a what you would call a pretty standard birthday card drawn by a kid. But the message inside encompassed all that foster care is all about through the eyes of a 9 year old child. I told her that Mr.Gabe would love it and that it would probably make him cry… She made us all cry
Tuesday, June 23, 2020: Friends.. By now, C has gotten more comfortable in our home and has a pretty good understanding of us as a family. Today was her first play date with the the little girl she met during the weekend and she had a blast. She was beginning to see our routines, as well as starting to test what she could do or not do in our home. By this time I felt myself fully recharged and ready to tackle anything that would come in the near future. I made a choice to love any child that came through our door and I could feel that truth growing inside me and filling me with the corresponding emotions. In one week, I was absolutely wrecked, completely collected, perfectly restored and powerfully enabled to walk the path laid out before me.
I choose to share these stories, these thoughts, and these sometimes painful emotions because they are real and if I hope to inspire anyone to answer the call of foster care, I think it’s important that they know what it can entail. Also, sharing can help those who are in the midsts of these struggles themselves to know that they’re not alone. There can be shame in so many thoughts and emotions that we experience, but we must remind ourselves of the Truth. That we can feel what we feel but it doesn’t mean things are true. We are not our emotions. Every morning of this week (and beyond) I would ask God to give me strength for the day, because I could not sit there and think of the future without feeling the anxiety building-“Dear Lord, give me strength for today”. Every night without fail I would read Psalm 23 at least twice. I had to. I learned to really rely on God for my strength because I literally had none. The last verse “surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Stuck to me in a way I had never thought of. I have a permanent home, one where I am safe, loved and completely integrated, kids in foster care don’t. It is our job to share our home, not just our physical home but our heavenly home. We must transmit the security, the love and the permanence of that heavenly home so these kids get to experience Christ’s sacrificial love, grace and mercy and will hopefully one day enter into the LORD’s dwelling forever as well.
There is an ancient Japanese tradition called Kintsugi which translated means something along the lines of “golden joinery”. It is a method used to repair broken pottery which accentuates the fractures instead of trying to hide them. Each piece is repaired using a special tree sap which is then coated with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. The idea is to celebrate the journey and unique story that each piece of pottery has lived through and how even though it no longer looks the same, it has come back even more beautiful and ready to continue its journey. God is an expert at doing this with our hearts.
In a spiritual sense, this is what I experienced this first week of fostering these kids, I was shattered and broken. But God collected me, He fixed me and gave me some extra touches which weren’t there before. He imprinted on my heart shining reminders of what He can do in my life, accentuated the scars so that I will never forget yet enabled me to continue on with His strength.