Saturday, July 11, 2015

It is Well

This week we celebrate the two month mark of fostering our little girls. I still do not have a neat, tidy answer for how it is going--and am beginning to accept I may never have one. I am truly in love with these girls, but tired mentally, physically & emotionally--but probably not much more than any other Mom of five in the Summer :-)

When the shine wears off and the hospitality phase begins to fade, real family life is what remains.
This means structure. 
Boring rainy afternoons.
Inside jokes. 
Nagging about things like unmade beds, shoes strewn about & table manners.
Squabbles over who sits where in the car and which child gets to use the ipad/bring in the mail/sit next to me at the table.
Disciplinary eyeball to eyeball talks in the aisles of the grocery store.

The house is noisier & messier. There are more kids to hug, increased laundry and more sibling rivalry. My family room floor now has errant Barbie shoes and little flip flops mixed in with the wii remotes and Beyblades.

Really normal family stuff.

Taken before our date night a couple of weeks accurate representation of our new level of crazy :)

After a bumpy couple of weeks of reintegrating my big kids after their time away at camp, we are finding a new rhythm. Now there is bonding...the kind that extends beyond a long term house guest and into something deeper.

One calls us Mom & Dad. The other one does so sporadically but with increased regularity. When it happens in public places, I try to avoid the faces of adults who know us. Some tear up. Some wince. Some look shocked. Others just roll with it as if it were one of my bio kids. Depending on the moment, my heart matches each of those facial expressions.

Thinking about the end of this chapter together is the scariest part of being a foster parent. When will they leave? Where will they go? How much is that going to hurt?

Fear over this chapter is the reason so many people give for not fostering. I get it. I am not a heartless machine. I am not impervious to this fear. I just believe the risk of heartbreak for our family is worth providing for the needs of these children. People invite pets into their lives knowing they will bid them goodbye. The love and bonding and shared life in between carries the certainty of heartbreak, but they decide it is worth it.
Bonding is not to be feared-- for kids from broken, difficult and tumultuous, backgrounds, healthy relationships are, in fact, the point.

I am writing all this because in the last 24 hours, I have started to feel some overwhelm over the reality that these children who I feed, clothe, pray for, rock, hold & kiss goodnight, will ultimately leave. I am beginning to get flashes and pangs that foreshadow the emptiness they will leave behind in our home...and I am fighting to push it away.

The end date and circumstances remain unclear. And as a person who begins with the end in mind so often in life, I have learned I simply cannot operate this way with fostering. I must simply live and love TODAY--what do these little heart need NOW-- and let God worry about the rest. 

This means wrapping them up in my arms and showering them in kisses because they are little girls who long to be loved and accepted. It also means as I become more confident they understand the house 'rules,' I must consistently enforce them. I am not just "fostering," I am mother-ing. 

The initial phase of loving, welcoming, bonding and letting things go was more fun...but I am aware that if these girls are going to break the cycle that led them here they need Jesus and a lesson in consequences. So there is a lot more time on my knees at their eye level--reinforcing rules, explaining expectations, and emphasizing both my love for them and my desire to keep them safe. 

This phase of parenting was difficult when my bio kids were younger predominantly because of the pride & fear I had tied up in the outcomes. Of course I wanted to keep K,P & R safe--but I also wanted to be a "good mother." Mindful that (God willing) we are given almost 2 decades with them before they graduate and move on to more independent living I could pace myself.

With the girls I know I won't be the one to complete this process with them. I don't have the privilege of years to build and grow. We pick up pieces of the first 7-8 years of their lives, start from there, invest without knowing how long we have, whether we will ever see any fruit and/or to whom we will pass the baton of stewarding and loving these hearts. It may be weeks or months...but we just don't know. (Serious character work for a person like me!)

As a result, there are a lot of things I must let go in order to emphasize the most important things--life skills that will serve them well wherever they wind up...respectfulness, honesty, safety, education, nutrition. Giggles, adventures, bedtime routines and normal childhood activities sprinkled on top. 

There is no checklist or magic wand. It is just day-by-day seeking wisdom, patience and love from God to pass back into all five of the little hearts in this home...and seeking to stay united in mission with the big one to whom I said "I do."

I am trying to keep my heart marching to this simple beat:

None of us know what tomorrow brings. We must simply do what God has put before us today.

My new favorite song to sing at church is from Bethel Music and has this refrain:

"Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can't see
And this mountain that's in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea
Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well
So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name
It is well with my soul."

May it be so...


Whitney Woolley said...

I'm in tears as I have sat here and read all your posts on foster care. I am also a mommy of three kids with a heart for children. The Lord has placed a burden on my heart for foster children. You addressed one of my biggest fears.... There will come a day when I have to let the kids go home. It feels so overwhelming and heart wrenching. It's the main thing that has held me back. I have to remind myself that I have to let one go to help the next one. I have attended one foster care meeting and my husband and I are praying over the next step. God Bless you for all you are doing. You are an inspiration to me!

HPTeach said...

I'm back to reading your blog after almost 4 years! My how your kids have grown! Love seeing that your family has begun fostering. My husband and I (and our three little boys) just completed 4 years as house parents at a children's home. After having 50+ kiddos come into our home and move on, we know that God had us there for a reason. We are now therapeutic foster parents and waiting on our first child. Enjoy each and every child--they are so blessed to have you all in their lives!