Grief

I woke up with a start and reached for my phone.

3:22 am.

Flopping back on the pillow I rolled over and tried to get comfortable but my chest felt tight and my mind was fully alert.

Memories I wanted to forget flooded in and I winced, closing my eyes tight to black out the image of my baby on a hospital bed.  Gritty, unsettling details played on the screen of my mind.  Black and white words on a page, our surgeon’s face smiling kindly at me and my son’s still body.

My ears strained for sounds through the halls as I got up to get a drink.  I wanted to go to their doors and peek inside like I do sometimes, just to listen to their breathing and make sure everyone was ok, but I shook it off, feeling silly.

We’d been home from the hospital with our son for three weeks.  The crisis was past and the prognosis was great.

But my heart was staggering to hold the weight of reality.

What had just happened?

For over a month we had lived under the shock of our son’s sudden diagnoses, surgery and recovery.  We had gone from one crisis and milestone to the next, pushing forward toward healing.

We kept going because we had to.

There was no time to sit back and process.

No time to take in the what ifs.

There was too much to do to allow the fear to creep in.

But now, with quietness all around me and the comfort of my own bed beneath me I felt my heart race.

All the fears and the what ifs came crashing in around me.

I had almost lost my son.

How had life made a turn so quickly?

How had I lost the innocence I lived with before?

I wanted so badly to just keep going.  To pick up where we had left off and continue on as if it had never happened.

But I couldn’t.

Because had changed.

As much as I wanted to be able to go on and forget, I couldn’t shake the brokenness that I felt inside.

My friend’s kind eyes and gentle words came back to me.  She had been sitting there on my couch, staring straight at me on just the right day.

“And how are you?” She had asked, after I gave my usual glowing report of Karter’s latest accomplishments and the goals he was meeting.

The laundry I was folding knotted in my hands and I felt the tears rush in.  It was just one of those days…and she knew this story oh so well.

It had only been a few short years since I’d been at her bedside as she fought against the unexpected.

It’s ok to take some time to grieve.

Grieve?

It felt strange.

We were all fine!

We were so grateful and humbled at the goodness we had experienced.

I felt like all I could rightly feel was gratitude and joy.

I had my baby here at home with me, sleeping peacefully in his crib.

The future looked bright.

I thought of 7 year old Jack and his mom; of tiny little Aden, both of whom were still where we had last seen them, and wouldn’t be going home anytime soon.  Their scenarios were so much worse than our own.

How could I grieve when I had so much to be thankful for?

And yet…

I felt let down.

I felt scared and hurt.

I felt like I had lost something precious to me.

Sometimes I had to avert my eyes from my son’s somber gaze, or from his teary cries.

I felt like I was going to break if I let myself take in the possibility that he might be remembering too.

I didn’t want to go out and see anyone.  I didn’t know how long I could continue to hold it together and paste on a smile that was fitting for the ‘God is so good’ conversation.  It wasn’t that I didn’t believe it.  It was just that there was so much more depth than just a bandaid smile to that statement.

I avoided the videos on my phone of the days and weeks before all this happened.  I didn’t want to see the subtle changes.

The lack of speech, the cautious movements, the melancholy depth in his gaze.

Gradually, we could see him coming back to us…but I missed my little boy.

I missed the little boy who waved a hockey stick in his right arm with confidence and strength.

I missed the babbling chatter that he had just begun, pointing at the world around him with eager curiosity.

I missed the clear baby gaze that used to be so innocent and pure, looking at me with absolute trust.

I missed being enough; feeling brave and strong.

This one child, I had grown inside of me and tried so hard to protect the way I could never protect my daughters.

I was going to keep him safe.

He wasn’t going to know what it was like to feel scared, hurt and alone.

Yet here we were.

Slowly over the next weeks I tried to take it in and to take time to feel.

I still am.

To feel the pain, the fear, the loss.

To let myself adjust to the unexpected life has brought us.

I feel like my mind has room for very little these days, but I’m realizing that’s ok.

We have had little people in and out of our home again the past few weekends as relief foster care placements and I am so grateful to be able to offer love to them despite the inadequacy I feel.

It feels good to feel that heart-tug when their little hands reach for my neck.

It feels good to remind myself of who I am and to know that even when I am not enough, God promises to fill in the gaps.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”                                      2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Strong?

Delight?

It feels so foreign and yet I can see it shimmering through.  When I fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day, yet I close my eyes and see her sweet little face tucked into my daughter’s bed.  Safe for one more night.

I feel it in the little boy arms that sling around my neck as he somersaults over the couch back into my lap, shy in his request for some affection.

I feel I have so little to offer these little people God has set in my home for a few days, yet somehow it’s obvious they can feel His love, His acceptance, His grace shining through the chaos and busyness of so many little people in one house.

Karter continues to make progress, though it comes more slowly now.

His happiness and slowly returning confidence is like a healing balm to my soul.

I cannot get enough of his smile,

his laughter,

the little shrieks and sounds he’s just started making again.

We went camping last weekend and he absolutely loved it.

To watch him toddle around taking it all in was so fortifying to my limping heart.  Swimming, exploring, boating, stomping on bugs, eating beside the campfire and falling asleep exhausted at the end of the day curled up in his sleeping bag next to me.

I needed it too.

The fresh air, chilled lake water, smoky campfire flavour and dirty faces of the ones I love most around me were so far away from the fear and pain.

It felt good to take one more step forward, away from the darkness.

Bouncing over the lake with my girls as we tubed beneath the bright, hot sun I felt more free and happy than I have in months.  We laughed and shrieked over the waves, again and again and again.

Just now my eyes land on a piece of mail.

“Never Give Up Hope!”

Hope.

It can feel so elusive but it’s always right there within grasp when we believe in a God who is so much bigger than this broken, faded world.

If this is you right now,

limping along grasping for threads or feeling disillusioned with the world,

take these words as my prayer for you and hide them deep within your heart.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

-Romans 15:13

 

 

 

 

Why You Should Still Do it Even Though It’s Hard…

As a foster and adoptive family, we have heard so many different comments from people regarding our choice to reach out to these vulnerable little ones.

Some of them have been very encouraging and inspiring, and we are thankful to have a great support network of people who are behind us in this venture.

But along with that, I think we have heard every reason in the book why someone might NOT want to adopt or foster.  People seem to think they need to explain to me every reason why they can’t or won’t get involved.  I often stand there quietly, silently struggling for words as they unload on me.  Most of the comments seem to be guilt or fear driven.

“I would get too attached.”

This is the most common statement I hear in regards to foster care, specifically.  I know where this comes from, because I used to say it too.  While I always had myself convinced I could never foster because I would ‘love the child too much to give them back’ I now understand the arrogance and selfishness of that statement.

“Too loving to love” is the idea most people want to convey in this statement.  This is completely unbiblical.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.         (1 Cor. 13)

True love is not based on what may or may not happen.  True love is a choice: to commit, to sacrifice, to put someone else’s needs ahead of my own.  True love rejoices in good things…and healing broken families is certainly a part of that!

Yes, I know…things can go horribly wrong.  You will be working with a broken system and broken families…but that is no excuse!  As a believer in Christ you must believe that God can bring beauty from ashes and is fully in control over all of life’s circumstances.  We will not always understand, but we are commanded to trust and obey.

Many families have walked heartbreaking journeys beside children in their care, and many times things did not turn out as they hoped or planned, but as followers of Christ we need to believe that His purposes will not be thwarted.  We are working for the Potter who can redeem even the most shattered of vessels.

“I have my ‘own’ children to love and care for.”

While I understand our commitment to guide, protect and nurture the children God has placed in our care, I think our idea of what this looks like is often twisted.  There are many children who have been taken all over the world on the mission field, living in less than ideal conditions, being exposed to life threatening illnesses, residing near war zones and being exposed to all kinds of danger physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Is this a reason not to go?  Do the positives outweigh the negatives?

I will not pretend to think that every family can easily begin fostering or adopting additional children, but I want to challenge your perceptions and ideas on this.

What is it that you dream of for your children?  Do you dream of health, wealth and happiness…or do you dream of something more?

Do you dream of seeing your children evade the materialism and entitlement so prevalent in our culture today?  Do you dream of them becoming world changers?  Do you dream of them developing a deep compassion for the less fortunate, the marginalized, the oppressed?  Do you dream of them understanding that all we are given is to be used in service for Kingdom Building?

What is more important?  That their personal comforts and privileges are guarded and protected?  Or that they are given opportunities to build character qualities that will prepare them to be used in spreading the gospel?

Yes, you need to keep them safe.

Yes, you need to place them above your own ambitions.

Yes, you need to be prepared and have a plan.

But know this.

If you are called, you will also be equipped.  And it just might surprise you what fruits you see emerge in your children as you serve in this way together.

Oh, and one more thing.  Please don’t use that word…”own.”  It’s time to extend  your borders and start calling someone else your “own.”  Love is a choice.  Choose it.

I am not ‘cut out’ for that.  That takes a special kind of person.

I understand.

I understand what you mean when you say this.  But I can’t help but think it’s a pretty easy way to let yourself off the hook while millions of orphans around the world wait for a select few people to be ‘cut out’ for this job.

What is this job exactly?

This job is parenting.

This job is sharing generously your time and resources.

This job is being willing to love the least of these…with no expectations in return.

This job is caring.

What exactly about this job do you need to be ‘specially equipped’ for?

What about this job is so much harder than any career path or ministry you may pursue?

What about this job does not line up with exactly who Christ asks us to be, and the example He left us to follow?

It’s time to stop waiting to be ‘cut out’ for this job!

It’s time to pray and ask God to equip you for this task!

He can and he will.

Just ask!

“But I’ve heard that…”

Oh the stories!

Everyone has a horror story about adoption, foster care or the local child protection agency.

Are they true?

Some of them, yes.

But please…don’t make your decision based on somebody’s story.

Do the research.

Find out for yourself what you need to know from a reliable source.

Don’t believe everything you hear.

There are always two sides to a story, and the worst stories are only ever one sided.

I believe Satan is using this tactic powerfully to keep people from pursuing foster care or adoption.

I’ve been disappointed at the number of Believers that will gladly join the bandwagon of complaints, criticism and disgust.  This is not helpful.

We need to be wise.

We need to pray for discernment as we engage the world and it’s brokenness.

We need to be prepared to give an answer for what we believe and we need to be firmly rooted in Truth, so that bitter stories and angry rants will not sway us from what we know to be true.

All I ask is that you choose to believe and repeat only things that you know for certain are true and valid.

Horror stories passed on through friends and acquaintances do not fall into this category!

If the story does not honour all involved, including the birth family, adoptive family, children and professionals…please take a deep breath and keep silent.  Try to imagine what the opposite side of the story may be and realize that almost all situations in the foster and adoptive world carry grief, loss and trauma.  They are complicated, sad and easily misunderstood.

God never promised that His plan for our lives would be easy, comfortable or even make sense in our worldly vision.

In fact, He promised the opposite!

Our task here is to daily ‘take up our cross’ and follow him.

Our retirement will come in heaven.

As long as we are here, we are to be busy building his Kingdom, reflecting His character and taking the gospel to the broken.

AF