This summer, I was blessed to be part of an amazing Writing Project “Summer Institute”. (Shameless plug: I HIGHLY encourage all of my teacher-friends – regardless of your subject area – to check for a similar opportunity near you. I guarantee you will not regret it.) During SI, I completed a research project where some of my research talked about “growth mindset”. I also had the chance to visit with a colleague there who had studied this idea in greater depth. Now, this concept is also the theme of the year at work, and I am being continually challenged to think differently. I don’t recall hearing the term before SI, so let me elaborate a bit in case it’s new to you too. Growth mindset focuses on the power of “YET”. What’s that mean? Well, when I attempt something and don’t succeed, I’m not stuck with failure, but simply recognize that I haven’t met my goal….yet. When I’m working with students on a concept that challenges them, I can give them the freedom to see that struggling to learn something doesn’t mean they’ll never master it. It just means they haven’t mastered it…yet. For some, this feels like common-sense. For others, it is a needed breath of fresh air to revive the life that perfectionism has tried to smother out. Growth mindset is just what the name implies: a state of mind conducive to seeking growth in every way. Growth mindset says that I will not pursue perfection, but improvement in all that I do, and I’ll give others the grace to do the same. Now, if you’re like me and battle the lie of perfectionism daily, this is not an easy switch to flip. There are some areas of my life where my brain is still wired to believe that anything short of perfect is failure, but then…there’s the stuff that REALLY matters and this is where our family is learning, together, to embrace a growth mindset – to believe in the power of yet: foster care and adoption.
When the Lord led us into foster care in 2014, we only had a hint of what might lay in store for us. We knew we’d be stretched. We knew we’d be challenged. We knew we would not be perfect, but kids who need a safe and loving place to land don’t need perfection. They need love, and that we had (1John 4:19). One small yes after another, we journeyed into the Great-Unknown, completely unaware that we would never come back. Just ask anyone who has experienced the plight of orphans in any way. Those who have visited overseas orphanages and looked into the eyes of needy children will tell you they will never be the same. Those who have opened their homes to hurting families or to children in need through foster-care or other similar avenues will tell you they’ve been changed beyond recognition.
It’s like the growth that happens to our children. When I wasn’t looking, someone slipped human miracle-grow into my oldest sons’ water, and now they are men. They cannot go back. No amount of begging or pleading from me will turn them into little guys that I can pick up. In fact, it’s far more realistic for them to carry me at this point than the other way around. They have grown and it’s a beautiful thing. Sometimes we reminisce about the old days and for just a moment, I might wish we could go back, but the reality is, they are bigger and better than before and this is God’s design…growth.
The maturing of our children is very similar to the growth we have experienced as a family through foster-care and adoption. Not only did we grow in number, adding two to our family and adding many extended family members, but we’ve also grown and changed in how we view the world. We aren’t perfect, but we also aren’t looking to be “complete”. We know that He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it, but guess what?! As long as we are breathing, He is not finished with us. He will be faithful to complete His work, but He decides when it’s finished: not us. There may have been a time when we said our family was complete. I’m not sure if we ever said it, but I am doubtful that we’ll ever say it again. It’s not that we’re crazy. It’s just that we’ve grown and been stretched beyond what we were before. There is no going back.
When the state said that we were “full” after we adopted our first foster-care placement, we cringed. How can we be “full” when we’ve just begun the journey? How can we be “full” when we’re willing participants and the need is still great? The next decision was whether to close our license or keep it open. Technically, our options for talking in additional children were limited at best…maybe unlikely or impossible. We could not un-see what we had seen. We could not imagine walking away from the training we had received and saying Mission Complete. By practical standards, we were at a roadblock, or maybe a closed door, but we know the God who led us here, and He is able.
This doesn’t mean that we know what comes next. We don’t: story of our lives. What we do know is that there is no better place to have a growth mindset than with our family. We know the Lord has placed us here and that we love because He first loved us. We agree with our friend Carla’s belief that there’s always room for one more at the table.
How ‘bout you?
Have you thought about what you can do to make a difference?
Maybe you have seen the need but just haven’t stepped forward….yet.