“I feel like the wins are just so hard to come by,” I said to her, my voice breaking a bit on the grief that flooded through me with those words. She nodded, heart in her eyes. I didn’t have to explain this to her. She knows all too well.
I know why I do this-foster care, that is.
I have a foundation that is rock solid…mostly.
But when the goodbyes pile up, disappointment and disillusionment launch right into that vulnerable cavern and nest deep in my heart.
What is the point?
The system is impossibly broken.
No one will listen to us.
Ultimately people who have never met this child will make life-altering decisions for all of us. The child, their biological family, me, my husband and even my children.
It’s so unfair.
Does what I do make any difference?
We tried to protect her, but now our hands are tied. We make the hard call, and then we sit back in the impossibly sad reality of her story. We sit as helpless bystanders on the edge of our seats watching her fall, fall, fall. One by one the safeguards we’ve put in place fall away and she’s left terrifyingly vulnerable to her own devices and coping mechanisms. Our limited capacity has never felt more like a betrayal than now.
I’ve mothered him for two years, nurturing him through the chaos and confusion and achingly slow progress of healing and advocating for all of his needs, but now suddenly he is pulled from under my wings. Nobody asks me if this is best. Everyone knows it isn’t. Nobody says the words that keep me awake late at night…what if he will not be ok? When the time comes, it is me who has to deliver the heartbreaking truth and hold his small body as he sobs into my chest. I feel emptier and more broken than I ever thought possible. I must become the betrayer. Over and over and over again as he begs not to go, for me not to leave. I really wanted to be his Mommy. I thought that I was. Who am I now to this child?
It’s only been a few weeks, but it’s been weeks of holding, holding, holding. Rocking, singing, bathing and delighting in every perfect feature of his personhood. It was us who walked the hospital hallways cradling his tense little body tight. It was us who brought him into his first home and watched every little twitch and grimace he made as he slept in the safe warmth of our tiny nursery. His first Christmas, first smile, first full night of sleep, first tummy ache, first walk, first toy…the firsts could go on and on. The goodbye is quick and devastating and sharp enough to take my breath away. I stumble through blinding tears out the door without him. Forever.
All of these and more pile up and I relive the pain of each one every time we say goodbye. Can I keep doing this? Justice and truth feel so far from this realm. Am I the good guy or the bad guy in this story? Nothing feels clear.
“You are not the story, you are only a part of the story.”
The words resonate deep and I breathe in the calm and peace they bring.
“Your season of service and faithfulness and pouring out may be over, but He is not done yet. He will not leave her or forsake her. His promises are as true today as they have always been.”
With truth, comes hope.
Hope – that the model of unconditional love, grace and mutual respect she has witnessed in our home will guide her toward healthy relationships, safe environments and truth.
Hope – that the leaps and bounds of development he made while in our care will carry him on into a bright future of literacy, independence and ability to communicate with the world around him.
Hope – that the hours and hours of gentle touches and cradling and singing and praying over his sweet, tiny head will bear the fruits of attachment and nourishment and health.
Hope – that the advocating I have done will set him and his new family up for succcess, despite the odds.
Hope – that the gospel will have found it’s root deep within her heart and that His word will not return void, but will instead bear a harvest that is glorious in due season.
Hope – that the speech therapy and hours and hours of time spent side by side playing on the floor will give him a foundation of language that will enable him to communicate and to be seen and known for the beautiful boy that he is.
Hope – that this brief time in foster care will alleviate the stress in her birth family and that she will grow up in the care of her biological mom, unaware of the fleeting season she was ours.
Hope – that even in the saying of our no, our hardest no, that she would understand a love that is higher and deeper and wider than anything that she can imagine.
Hope – that the skills we have developed and the growth that He has procured in our hearts will flood forward and benefit the ones we have and the ones to come.
Hope – that the placing of his tiny life into the gentle arms of dear family members and friends, will carry him forward into a future where he will be loved and always wanted.
Hope – that the telling of their stories will bury the shame and give them confidence to embrace all that is theirs.
Hope – that our resting will bring strength and energy to bring into a new season before us.
Hope – that the hours and hours of training and rewiring our brains to think, act, speak and see differently will make us better, gentler, more skilled parents to the children in our home now and in the future.
Hope – that allowing the grief to swallow us at times will refine our hearts to love more purely and unselfishly and without thought of all that is to be sacrificed.
Hope – that exposure to these children and their families will bring our permanent members appreciation for what is theirs, compassion for those around them, life skills and character.
Hope – that in our greatest moments of weakness His strength will be magnified and made perfect.
#2 Corinthians 12:9
Hope – that He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it, if not in this time span of our lives then in the broader, grander, incomprehendable vastness of the story that is His and His alone.
“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.”