I was certain I'd be too emotionally unstable to handle loving a child relentlessly and then saying goodbye.
And you know what? I totally am.
I'm way too emotionally unstable for this. But if I could emotionally handle it, something would be wrong with me.
I think it's easy to forget that: foster care--100 percent of the time--begins because of a tragedy.
It is never pretty, never tied up with a bow, never predictable. It's messy.
But the mantra that runs through my mind on the good days and on the bad days is this: if not us, then who? Someone needs to step up, and I'd rather be hurting and crying and sleepless than a child be hurting and crying and sleepless without any safe place to feel loved.
Foster care has taught me that children are resilient and strong, and that people make bad choices but that doesn't make them bad people.
We care deeply about our foster son's biological parents. They've messed up, but I've messed up, too. My mistakes and my wrongdoings just look a little different than their's do. I'm so quick to judge and place people in a labeled box--and then to shelve that box and not look at it again.
But I remember our first meeting with his parents--I drove the entire way there with knots in my stomach, and so I just prayed. I prayed that God would fill me up with a love for these people that was beyond all expectation and a love that was other-worldly, because I knew that, of myself, I wouldn't love them. And ever since that moment, my heart is shattered for these people. It makes me want to love their son better and harder and deeper, because I want the best for all parties involved in this mess of a case. Humanity is screwed up, but redemption is possible, and we won't quit praying for our little guy's parents until redemption happens.
I want the world to know that our foster son is a 3-year-old little boy who loves superheroes, trains, and macaroni and cheese. That he laughs with more spirit than anyone I know. That he sings Christmas songs in the middle of April, that he hopes to be a "Morgan" (my husband's name) one day, that he loves running around naked. I want the world to know that his situation may be completely abnormal, but our little guy is so completely normal.
I think that it's easy to shy away from foster kids to protect ourselves and protect our children from potential heartbreak, but that's the very worst thing to do. It's so important to treat these kids like normal kids, because if they're treated like they have leprosy OR treated with pity, the reality of their situation will seep into their innocent hearts. Let us big kids do the worrying and the stressing and the hard stuff. Let them be little.
If you are not involved in the orphan crisis in our world, you need to get involved immediately. There are more than 400,000 children in the foster care system, and that number doesn't seem to be shrinking. Will it be a challenge? Without a doubt. Will your life look different? Absolutely. Will it hurt? Every single day. You will hurt for a hurting child. But those 400,000 kids aren't going anywhere unless people step up and step in to this role. And, if you don't feel called or comfortable with having a foster child in your home, rally around foster parents you know. Bring them food. Buy them coffee. Offer to watch their kids while they take a shower. Ask them how they're doing, and don't settle if they say "good". Pray for them, and pray for their foster children, and pray for their foster children's biological parents. Be present because they desperately need your support.
Think about a child you love--it may be your own child, a niece, nephew, friend's child, student, whatever. Get that child's face in your mind. Now imagine that child stripped of all they know--their parents are gone, their home is gone, their things are gone, their classmates are gone, everything is gone. You would want to help them, wouldn't you? Foster kids may come from awful situations, but they're just kids. They're sons and daughters and sisters and brothers. They're your kids' soccer teammates and schoolmates. They just need love. If you've got love to give, jump into this adventure. I have no doubt you'll grow and learn and cry and laugh and be filled with joy, and you'll never, ever be the same.
(photos by @hollycpaulette)