Tuesday, July 31, 2018

An abundance of sacrifice

I knew going in that being a foster parent would require sacrifice. When you take in a child, you're making room for them in your home and your life. You give up time and attention and sleep. You give up clean floors. You adjust your daily schedule to accommodate their naps or therapy appointments. You rearrange your birthday dinner around their bio family visits.

I knew all that.

And the heart sacrifice. Oh boy. You give up a certain amount of peace and stability and certainty and sanity the moment you open your door to a foster child. You start sacrificing tears and prayers almost the moment you lay eyes on them and begin to love them instantly. And I knew it was coming when we signed up. I couldn't imagine how hard it would be, but I knew it was coming.

What I didn't know was how much sacrifice would be required from those around me. Foster care was a decision Andy and I made--a lifestyle we chose--but it has impacted our friends and family members as well.

Certainly our kids have had to sacrifice, that wasn't surprising. And they've been super troopers about it. But so many others have been super troopers as well, and I'm so thankful. I have been blown away by how much others have been willing to sacrifice.

There's my mom and mom-in-law who have whole-heartedly given their grandma love to any "extras" we've had. They've willingly accommodated our extras on family vacations and during special Grandma times. They've bought Christmas and birthday gifts without hesitation and gone above and beyond to not only help us with our extras but also help the bio families.

There's the lovely ladies at church who have sacrificed to provide childcare for our current extra so Andy and I could keep co-teaching our Sunday School class. There are all the wonderful friends who have taken our extra during times we needed to do something as a family and couldn't include him. There's the people who have dropped off clothes or diapers for kids who have shown up unexpectedly with none of their own. All these people have given of themselves even though they never asked for any of this. We brought it on them, brought it into their lives, when we made the choice to foster. And they've been nothing but gracious.

I've never seen such an abundance of sacrifice. We are blessed and grateful for the people around us who love us so much that there's enough to cover an extra (or two) as well. Thank you to everyone who has sacrificed along with us. We notice it. We appreciate it. We love you all.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Choose your own adventure

As a child of the 80's and 90's, I read my fair share of "choose your own adventure" books. You know, the ones where you start reading a story and then throughout the book you have the chance to choose what happens next. I thought they were fun books as a kid. You just never knew where you might end up.


Now, as an adult, I know that in real life you don't make a choice part way through a story. Instead, the moment you make a choice is when the story begins. And sometimes you know exactly what the difficult, painful, complicated ending will be.

But you choose it anyway.

Though we've only been licensed for two years, Andy and I chose the twisting path of being foster parents ten years ago. In the fall of 2008, we attended a training class, filled out a bunch of paperwork, thought we were ready to move ahead...and then found out I was pregnant with Simon. This big news resulted in a long, winding detour, but after the birth of our second son and the completion of an international adoption (a whole different story), we were back to where we'd started. In a foster care training class.

I admit that the first time we took the class we were idealistic. Our parenting experience consisted of two beta fish who lived for about a month, two cats from the shelter, and one very amiable 2-year-old boy who never disobeyed and who potty-trained in mere days simply to please me. Plus, we were in our 20's. What did we know?

But we made the choice and eventually circled back to it. The second time our idealism was gone. Obliterated by the unmet expectations of adulthood, family conflicts, death and loss, experiences with trauma-informed behaviors, and over a decade of marriage. This time we knew what it meant when the social worker said, "It's going to be hard." We knew what it meant to feel lost and hopeless. Knew how deep the word hard could be.

We chose it anyway.

There are times I wish I could escape the pain. The hard. Times I almost wish I could go back to the beginning of the story and choose a different adventure. But if I did--if I flipped back to the first page and skipped all those chapters of heart-wrenching foster-care agony in favor of an easier ending--then I'd have to skip all the good parts, too. And I'd always wonder what I'd missed. I'd always wonder who would've helped the kids who came to our house if it wasn't us? Would they have been good people? Kind? Would they have loved them like we did?

So we keep reading, keep turning pages, knowing what lies ahead. Knowing it's going to hurt. And we trust in God, the Author of all Stories, to give us the strength to keep going. One adventure at a time.