I haven't intended to write less lately, I am just so mentally and emotionally tired at the end of a day I want to veg out rather than reflect. When I do sit down with the intention of writing, my thoughts and feelings swirl into a tangled mess that I lack the energy or clarity to sort. I know I will look back on this season and regret not leaving more sign posts.
Writing about our family's experience with foster care is tricky for me. I want to fairly represent the experience, the beauty and the brokenness, the challenges and the blessings. But this is real life and it is so complicated, multilayered and constantly changing that I struggle with words that explain without cheapening or overgeneralizing.
Tomorrow marks the 5 month anniversary of our current foster placement. In light of that milestone, I thought I'd attempt to break it down to the top five lessons this experience has taught us at this point:
1- This is a 'brutiful' ministry (Glennon Melton's phrase for parts of life that are equal parts brutal and beautiful) Loving children as my own that I did not have any influence over for the foundational first years of their life feels a bit like walking into someone else's kitchen on Thanksgiving day. The original cook started a meal. There are ingredients and half prepared dishes all over--and I have to try and piece together what they were doing, where they left off and keep cooking--aware that I can be tagged out at some unknown point along the way.
A mistake people make is assuming that bio families of foster kids were all bad. My girls have a lot of tender memories of their family of origin. They absolutely do not view my husband and me as heroic rescuers. We are merely substitutes for the real deal that they remember and miss.
A week ago I heard one of the girls crying "Mommy, Mommy, Mommmmm-eeeee." She was in the middle of a bad dream. I went to her bedside and wrapped her sobbing upper body in my arms. I rocked her for several minutes. Her hair still wet from the shower pressed against my chest, she calmed down, still periodically saying 'Mommy' softly between sniffles. It occurred to me that I did not know whether she was calling for me or her bio Mom. I got the very strong feeling that she didn't really know either anymore.
2- We really are not 'so great' for doing this. I physically cringe when well-intentioned folks use superlatives to describe our role in these girls lives. I know the truth. We are stumbling and fumbling our way through foster parenting. I beg God to make all five of us full of grace as we handle these sometimes angry, frustrated, frightened children--but I would not describe our performance as 'graceful.' I apologize a lot...not just for the life circumstances these children find themselves in, but for how poorly my flesh often responds.
I feel a lot like the Velveteen Rabbit these days--not particularly shiny & fluffy, but very loved and real.
I am broken. They are broken. The best we can do is limp together to the cross.
3- Stepping out in faith and getting in over your head is the surest way to really get intimate with God. My life has been pretty comfy. I have managed to feel mostly competent and generally in control, until now. I cannot sing a hymn in church without tears these days, because the lyrics touch a raw place in my soul.
Faith, hope, healing, trust, need, love, grace, forgiveness...they are not just words...they are the cry of my tender, tired heart. I am grateful for this glimpse of the Gospel and of God's tender mercies. Every member of my family knows Him in a deeper way as a result of the stretching, overwhelm and sanctification of this season.
4- Preserving my own family's personality and identity has been harder than I thought. I naively assumed other kids thrown in the mix would jump in and after a few modifications we would all be fine. The reality is that these kids bring their life experiences, personalities, preferences, quirks and unique identities.
There is much bickering and competition that requires rotations, routines and systems. It saps my energy and is tricky for my eleven year olds to navigate because it has effected some of their previous freedom.
The Scotts aren't nearly as spontaneous, adventurous and silly as we were last Spring--and while these girls are undoubtedly leaving their mark on our hearts, lives and evolving family identity I miss some of who we were. I am simultaneously reminded that 'preserving' has more to do with fear and scarcity and little to do with the abundant, pouring out associated with the Gospel.
I know God is writing our story--and am trusting Him for how our identities will evolve.
5- As challenging as this life adjustment has been for our family, it is unquestionably harder on our foster kids. It makes so much sense to read that statement, but I confess it is hard to remember in practice some days.
We signed up for this. They didn't. While it is certainly not our intention or plan, the reality is that we can pull a ripcord and exit this with two weeks notice--meanwhile, our young charges are swept up in this unfamiliar, no promises life until the system says they aren't.
It is hard enough for me to wrap my middle aged brain around--I cannot fathom how 7 & 8 year olds attempt to process this as their reality.
I post a lot of sweet moments on Instagram. Despite how this posts sounds, there are many. I write to offer a balanced account.
Ryland & I have no regrets about answering this call. God commands us to love our neighbors, care for the needy and to advocate for those who cannot do so for themselves. He doesn't say it will be easy, but promises He will be with us. I am experiencing this truth in a whole new way.
We can preach to our children about compassion, self control, patience, kindness, gentleness and self sacrifice--moving it into our home is another story entirely. This is nitty gritty life on life. There are tough realizations about our selfishness and precious joys as we watch these girls learn and grow.
Words cannot quantify the snapshot moments:
Hearing these girls pray "Jesus, you are my favorite person ever."
Watching our kids teach them things like cartwheels, throwing a football, doing a dive, baking cookies
The sweetness of how they adore my husband..and how it is clearly changing their definition of Father
Celebrating new accomplishments
Listening to my children's prayers for them and heartfelt concern for their future
I am grateful for this opportunity.
Perhaps the most enduring lesson of all for me is that hard and good can be fully present simultaneously. This season is definitely challenging, but also rich in deep heart lessons. And so we press on...