Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Over the Waterfall

I have spent the last year of my life tangled up in a myriad of emotions as our life changed by becoming a foster family. As I sought to find footing in this new territory I found my heart colliding with a sticky spider web of complicated feelings: commitment, fatigue, fear, vulnerability, frustration, tenderness, guilt, passion, protectiveness and love.

The most complex emotional terrain, by far, has been the effort to shepherd the hearts in my home--to simultaneously attempt to give our our little girls space to reclaim childhood and be free of the very adult drama that led them here, to protect my marriage from the effects of being disconnected and overextended and to allow my tweens to engage their hearts in the rebuilding of these girls' lives, while leaving lasting impressions on their own. It has been all encompassing. In the midst of all this other work, there hasn't been much time to reflect on my own heart. Lack of time and energy for the task has made my ability to compartmentalize a gift.

Instead of fretting, I have put my head down and tried to simply get it done--this work of loving with my life--keeping everyone alive, clothed, in school and emotionally stable until the next court date.

Like a woman longing to conceive, my emotions rose and fell based on dates on the calendar-except unlike my fertility journey, these dates were about 3 months apart and based on court hearings instead of pregnancy tests.

We've had five court dates in 13 months and the 'finish line' for our girls case gets moved farther out each time. Recently, I was informed of yet another change in the expected timeline (which I am learning is about as reliable as the NORAD Santa tracker in predicting the exact time the man in red will leave gifts under the tree.) While we've become accustomed to days becoming weeks, this new timeline stretched things at least 6 more months.

With this recent news a funny thing happened, the finish line finally got moved so far out of sight it was no longer my focus. I felt lighter because deep in my heart there was a peace that said, "Now you can stop thinking about the ending and just focus on today." (Can I get an Amen?)

This realization brought unexpected sweet relief, because it has allowed me to not feel like I am living out of a temporary emotional suitcase anymore--always on the ready with my "go bag." Taking my eyes off the end has freed me up to unpack some emotional baggage I wasn't fully aware I was carrying and just get comfortable here.

If the predicted timeline holds true, we will have had these girls 12 months and 19 months when it is time to depart. This is a significant chapter of their childhood and my family's life. Self protection is of no avail. It is going to hurt. But, I don't want to live in self-erected towers of preservation built out of deeply rooted fear any more--they are an exhausting, isolating illusion.

“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid.” -Frederick Buechner

I was talking to a friend yesterday about how much freedom I feel now that I can admit I am the person in the barrel absolutely heading over the waterfall. There is no exit ramp. I am going--so I might as well throw my head back and open my eyes wide. She replied: "You can go mad or go glad, but either way you are going." We laughed a little harder than we probably should have, because life has taught us both the bittersweet truth of that statement.

Right about this same time our 5 year old has started hugging me tightly at random times throughout the day and saying, "I love you soooo much and will miss you when I leave." She's not tearful, just truthful. I hug her back and say, "Me too, but you aren't leaving today so let's fill each other up with love and cuddles until you do." We hug and giggle because this surprisingly simple approach brings us both peace.

We can't control or predict the future, but we can live, love and laugh HERE in the NOW.

As if on cue, I read this devotion from Sarah Young's Jesus Calling last week, "Don't take yourself or your circumstances so seriously. Relax and know that I am God with you.When you desire my will above all else, life becomes much less threatening. Stop trying to monitor my responsibilities--things that are beyond your control. Find freedom by accepting the limits of your domain..."

It is a lesson that extends far beyond our foster care experience into many other aspects of life and relationship. This world is broken. We will get hurt. Go mad or go glad? The choice is yours.

"She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come..." Proverb 31:25


Kate Geisen said...

My niece lived with us for significant chunks of time while she was a preteen and teen and her dad was deployed to various places around the country and world. It strikes me that the court system operates the same way as the military...you don't know anything until it happens, so you eventually learn to just accept that fact and live in the right now.

Jacquie Reed said...

Keeping you in prayer for this ministry of nurturing young hearts. I pray that God fills you every day with what you need -

Cathy said...

I just typed your words “Now you can stop thinking about the ending and just focus on today" and taped it to my monitor. I so need to read this daily. Thanks again for writing your heart. I belive some days, you're writing for me.

The Burgess Family said...

I just typed this an taped it on my computer also. I do believe that God definitely intended for me to read these words. I feel like He directly spoke to me through you. May God bless you!