We don’t want to lose them, but more than that, we don’t want THEM to lose

Original post – Jan 2016

“We plead with Him to protect ‘our’ kids…We know He can change this if He wills…”

It’s been thirteen months since we wrote that. Thirteen months of waiting, loving, treasuring, crying, laughing, waiting, praying, pleading, watching, loving, waiting…We WANTED  to continue holding these precious “littles,” and we knew the Lord could make that happen, but we didn’t know if He would.  We still don’t have His final answer, but we know he has given us 444 days.  Prior to this, the longest roller coaster we had been on lasted about a minute and a half. This is, by far, the most difficult roller coaster we have ridden. The ups and downs are indescribable, and our stomachs have plummeted so many times we’ve lost count. But it’s not over.

We were told to be prepared for their departure “next month,” but “next month” was as fleeting as the horizon. We moved toward it. We expected to reach it. Yet, it moved. Again and again, it moved, but God didn’t. He held us TIGHTLY and there’s no doubt He set us back on our feet time and time again when our strength gave out. These days have been difficult and overwhelmingly beautiful. They’ve been exhausting and invigorating. They’ve been heart-wrenching and purposeful.

In the course of this experience, we’ve lived out some of the scenarios that once existed only in our imaginations and conversations of what we thought foster care might be like. We dreamed of building positive relationships with biological parents, sharing the love of Christ with them, and either a) helping them through their difficulties to be reunited with their kids, or b) giving them the assurance of our love and appreciation for them even if they were to reach the point of losing their parental rights.

In these months, we have not only given our hearts to these beautiful children, we’ve also grown to love the family from which they have come. We’ve experienced unexpected appreciation and support from their biological parents and extended family, for our role in their lives.  We’ve built positive relationships with each of them and have committed ourselves to pray for them every day.

Sometimes foster-care is viewed with an us versus them mentality. Even the most well-intentioned onlookers will be (either secretly or not-so-secretly) rooting for the foster parents to win, or biological family will stand against foster parents viewing them as the enemy. It makes me think of the old Kenny Chesney song, “You Win, I Win, We Lose.” The song details the struggle of a man and a woman who each want to be “right,” and in their quest to win, they really lose all that matters most. If foster-parenting becomes a battle ground where either party seeks to win against the other, the sad reality is that the children are the ones who lose. The kids are the ones who pay the price. We do not know what lies ahead, but when the smoke clears, we pray we’ll be found standing hand in hand with the parents who birthed our children, committed to loving them through it all.

Counting the Cost

Tears poured down my cheeks today as I re-read these words from December 2014. Even looking back with “hindsight,” I am overwhelmed by the heavy responsibility of foster-parenting and I can feel the weight all over again. I cannot help but think of our friends who are in the thick of these unknowns right now. Maybe you find yourself there too. I pray these words will encourage you…

December 2014

We had a few days to try to prepare our home and our hearts for their arrival, knowing they would “rock” our world in every way.  After all, if a baby changes everything, TWO babies REALLY change things, and they have. They have changed us permanently. Now that they are a part of our family and we completely love and adore them (that took less than 24 hours, by the way), we have a few weeks to prepare our home and our hearts for their departure. As I expected, that preparation is futile. There is nothing I can do, think, or say to make myself “ready” to let them go. I cannot be ready. I am not ready. I love them, and if it was my choice…if it was OUR choice, we would never let them go. But….

That tiny little conjunction is the favorite of a friend of ours because in scripture, it is often used to say “But God…”

It’s like I said before – a baby changes everything…and One did. ONE changed this world, and my heart, and the hearts of my family, and we have been permanently altered as a result. He gave His life for ours, and He taught us how to love, and we do this because HE first loved us, and because He said, “Whatever you do for the least of these, you have done it for Me.” And in this, we find the answer, the strength, the why. We CANNOT do this, but God… He has called us to it, and He will supply the grace to endure it.

This is not the first time His will has not been the same as ours, and it will not be the last. Even Christ said, “Not my will, but YOURS be done,” to His Father, and that was not easy. THIS is not easy, but “easy” and “right” are not the same thing, and if I constantly determined what is “good and right” based on the benefit to ME personally, I may never do what is good and right.

So, today I will make birthday cake for a precious 2 year old so she can celebrate with her father and grandmother tomorrow. I’ll make TWO cakes – so we can celebrate with her too. She may never know we did it, but WE will know. Today, I will work hard to keep an infant on his newly established schedule and routine so he can sleep at night and function more successfully with his reflux and tummy troubles. I will snuggle him and kiss his cheeks and change his diapers and his clothes again and again. I will drop her off at daycare not wanting to leave her, and I will pick her up with great anticipation as SOON as I possibly can because I know she will squeal with delight or lift her arms in the air and run to me with joy. I will treasure the newly discovered sentence, “Pease hold me, Momma” that accompanies her lifted hands, over and over and over throughout the day. I will hug her, and dance with her, and sing with her, and discipline her, and pray with her, and make silly faces, and read books, and…and…I will watch her play with her brothers, and I will treasure the way they hold her, care for her, encourage her, teach her, play with her. I will watch her light up when “Daddy” comes home because, though it took her a little bit to warm up, she now KNOWS that He is a gentle giant who adores her. She adores him too. And he will lift her baby brother lovingly into his arms to soak in his smiles and sweetness because THIS is a man of true strength and sensitivity – a man who loves ALL of his children, and me, with his whole heart, and it is a beautiful thing.

And that’s it…It’s a beautiful thing – this mess we call our lives – this work the Lord is doing. He is the One who brings beauty from ashes, and so we wait. We wait on the Lord to renew our strength because we cannot do it ourselves, and we are weak. We beg Him to be a Father to the fatherless, as we already know He is, and we plead with Him to protect “our” kids (who are really HIS anyway, just like the ones He gave us biologically). We know He can change this if He wills. We would welcome it if that was His design, but we also know that sometimes, what He changes is us and not our circumstances.

We began this journey with open hands having NO idea what might be placed in them. We have tried to hold these precious children with the same open hands, knowing that we must let go when the time comes. Yet, somehow, even if our hands are open, our hearts have tangled themselves all around the sweet “thangs,” and though THEY may never remember, we always will. So…”Is it worth it?” people wonder. Is it worth it to be temporary parents? Is it worth it to have our hearts and our children’s hearts broken? Following Christ wherever He leads us is ALWAYS worth it…even if it hurts.  It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. Easy and right are not the same thing, but when we look into these sweet faces, and we hear their precious giggles, and we hold them tightly in our arms, we know. Though THEY will not remember, we know this is right, and so we carry on – by God’s grace, and for His glory.