slow bloomer

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

I was honored to read this story at Created for Care (an adoptive mama retreat) this past weekend at an event where around 12 of us shared stories of our journeys through adoption. There were lots of different perspectives offered, and tomorrow I’ll share some of the stories we heard from the rest of the participants. For today, here’s mine…

grape hyacinths in snowWe started foster parenting mostly because we wanted to grow our family. We enjoyed our training, and boy, did we think we knew a lot. We had two kids already, and, honestly, we thought we were pretty ok in the parenting department. We felt called to this path, we had righteousness and Jesus and, oh, so much love on our side. We settled down to prepare for a wait for just the right needy child to enter our home. It never occurred to me that we were the needy ones.

The spring day when we got the call, it was a shock.  I did, even in my excitement, think to mention an important fact to the worker, “Umm. But we’re not licensed yet.” And with our first true glimpse into the “laws” governing this system we were entering, she says, “You will be in twenty minutes.”

We were so excited and anxious and terrified and downright na├»ve. We dropped off our kids at the grandparents and drove to the waiting room of the local medical clinic. That’s where we met those children for the first time and picked them up. I still can’t even believe that’s how they transferred those children to us - in the middle of a waiting room completely packed with sick kids and tired families, in full view of all those curious eyes.

Regrettably, I was too nervous and excited at that moment to truly see those two hurt little kids. It didn’t even cross my mind what children who had been taken from their mama by a police officer from the scene of an accident and then escorted to a medical facility where they were examined before sitting in the waiting room for two strangers –STRANGERS - to pick them up must be feeling. Why didn’t that trauma occur to me?

The first night, we went to Target to buy socks and underwear for these two little bodies who literally came with only the dirty clothes on their backs. My husband set down the two-year-old, and within a second, he was gone. Sprinting. My husband ran to the front doors so he couldn’t get out, and I ran as fast as I could the other direction, finally catching up to him across the store. His sister said, “When he does that at home, mommy whoops his butt.” And in that moment while the adrenaline rush was fading, there was no judgment on my part towards that mama – ‘I bet you do, sister. Solidarity.’ In my mind, he was running from safety to utter stranger danger, and there was barely a passing thought for his perspective…that he was running away from the danger. WE were the strangers.

There were countless more moments like those over the next three months. Moments where I was too inexperienced, too scared, too busy to notice all of the ways they were telling me of their pain. In my defense, I hadn’t yet read The Connected Child. I hadn’t gotten to sit through trainings with Jayne Schooler. I was broken and prideful and simply uneducated. I would do so many things differently now. I would slow down. I would listen to their actions, realizing that they couldn’t use their words. I would help them heal in ways that I was incapable of doing then. Now, I know what it means when I see kids act out because of fear and insecurity and anger and confusion or when a kid requires not a single moment of discipline during three whole months of parenting. I would know better how to respond when 10 weeks in, the littlest came down the stairs, looked at me full in the face, and said, “Are you my mama now?” I would do better.

On that dreaded last day they were with us, I got dressed while the oldest watched me from my bed. I put in some beaded hoop earrings. “I love your earrings. They’re so pretty.” she said. “You wore those earrings the day we came to live with you.” I didn’t even remember, but that’s the thing that burned into her little memory. She proceeded to tell me every single thing I was wearing that day, picking the items out from the closet as she went.

I have flashes of memory, images from that day imprinted forever. But so did she. I can’t help but wonder what pieces of that terrible day and the ones that followed are still there in her head. Does she remember more than my beaded earrings and my outfit? Does she remember that I kneeled beside the window with her that evening while she wished upon a star? Does she remember the subsequent nights when I taught her to pray? Does she remember that I sat beside her bottom bunk for hours that first night until she fell asleep, holding her little hand, because that was the only part of her she wanted me to touch? Does she remember that even though I didn’t know how to help her heal that I loved her intensely? Does she remember Jesus?

We loaded them up into the backseat again. We drove them to their aunt’s house where they were going to live with their dad. He and their aunt left us with them in the backyard. I am forever grateful for their thoughtfulness, their gracious gift of that moment of privacy. We said our goodbyes through stifled tears, knowing that they didn’t really understand that this was forever. We got back into the car and drove home, clinging then, as we still are now, to the promise of our tender God – “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

You know what I know now, six years and seven foster placements later? I’m not the rescuer. I’m not the healer. Love isn’t enough. I’m just as broken as those little children that enter my home. I’ve spent a lot of time praying those seeds I planted will grow even if I’m not there to tend them, but what I know more than anything is that I’m the one who is being changed. I’m the one with too much pride, with weak knees and a faltering heart that God wants to bud and flourish. I can look back at this story and grieve the opportunities I missed (and I do. oh, how I do), but in the midst, I can be thankful for how far He’s brought me. I might be a slow bloomer, friends, but He who promised is faithful.

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