Every day since our children have arrived has taken more from us than we knew we had in us to give.
During this journey, so many people have told us, "I could never be a foster parent. I'd get too attached."
If you've thought that, you might be exactly the kind of parent a foster child needs - one who will love them like a parent. It was strange - from the moment we first laid eyes on our kids, Mr. P and I both loved them as if they had always been ours. And it's not a love that comes out of the ache to be a parent - though certainly, at times, we ached - but a God-given love for these specific children and the story He is writing in their lives.
We love our children fiercely. We advocate for them. We protect them. But we also hold them loosely, understanding that our children may never be fully ours. That some day we may have to give them back. Somehow, we've committed ourselves to a life hangs in the balance between love and heartache.
Mr. P and I knew before we met each other that we wanted to adopt - it was a specific calling He placed on both of our lives. But we never thought it would look this way. For many years, we thought of our family as we wanted it to be: we'd adopt two young boys, white, smart, inclined to geeky hobbies. And we would lead a simple, quiet life.
But God has never called us to a simple life. As it turns out, God wanted to grow our love for children much deeper through foster care. Instead of our dream family, we began to see our family as a ministry - not to fulfill our desires, but to fulfill His will. We began to understand that our family would be a sacrifice for Jesus and that it wouldn't be comfortable or predictable.
In the year and 10 months that we waited for their arrival, God connected us to so many other foster families and opened our hearts up to loving all sorts of children, no matter their race or age or level of ability. We began to dream specifically for children who have experienced trauma as we realized God has gifted us uniquely as a couple in this pursuit. This is what we were made for - what God has been writing through our stories all these years.
And finally, they are here, our little miracles sleeping just across the hall and they are honestly nothing like what we first imagined. Parenting these children is nothing like cuddling a sweet, rosy-cheeked newborn.
Every day since they have arrived has taken more from us than we knew we had in us to give.
Countless times each day, as our children have tantrums and lose control, we hold and swaddle and rock our children like infants until, hopefully, their bodies learn to regulate and feel the safety they should have felt long ago.
We stop the world around us to sit and process the same emotional wounds with them over and over as they play out in different scenarios until, hopefully, they understand that we hear them and will attend to them. We speak to them kindly and gently even when they project their hurt feelings on us and even when they don't want a new Mommy or Daddy or a new home.
We teach and enforce boundaries - we teach kindness and gentleness - we roleplay - over and over until, hopefully, they feel safe and respected and they know that we will respond to them in a predictable, relational way.
We pray with them and read Bible stories and try to find ways to communicate to our children in their terms that even though they have been through so much, there is a God who loves them.
Our hearts break as we learn more about their experiences and we hold them and love them and feel helpless to help and just pray that Jesus somehow heals their wounds.
We fight DSS and fill out paperwork and research the best treatment options for our kiddos. We pray that each teacher who interacts with our children will be filled with compassion and will understand how to best work with them instead of contributing to their feelings of being unsafe.
We work with their debilitating phobias and need for control and developmental delays and issues adjusting to this new life. We cuddle them until they fall asleep and pray that this time, they won't wake up terrified.
Every day since they have arrived has taken more from us than we knew we had in us to give. But it has also given us more joy than we knew possible.
The joy when our kid wants to call us Mommy or Daddy.
The joy when our kiddo learns something new after repeating it over and over.
The joy when our kiddo feels safe enough to make eye contact when we talk about feelings or boundaries.
The joy when that sweet, scared little kiddo clings to us and we know we are imprinting on them an image of the love of the Father.
Every day since they have arrived has taken more from us than we knew we had in us to give. But we are not special people who somehow find more to give. We are just people surrendered to Jesus' calling in our lives, desperately clinging to Him because we don't know how we will get through this, and yet, we find His mercies are new every morning and somehow He gives is the strength we need in each moment to get through it. We are people surrounded by a community who loves us and prays for us and we appreciate and need those prayers now more than ever.