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ten years ago

Ten years ago, I opened this space with the intent of making it a record of the time we spent in the world of foster care. I called it Expecting Hope. People named their blogs cutesy things in those days, and I wanted to play on the traditional ‘expecting a baby’ theme. And I was sincerely hopeful at that point. Heartbreakingly hopeful.

We had worked through hours of training, home visits, and paperwork. We had learned what we thought we needed to know. We had “prepared” our two children, our family, our friends. We were expectant. We were passionate about this step. We were full of determination and irrepressible faith that love wins. We were naïve.

Ten years ago, on this exact day, we got an afternoon call from the county.

·Would you be willing to take a sibling group? There’s two children, 4 and 2, in need of a home right now, and there’s a baby in the hospital that might get to go home next week. We’ll call the baby ‘optional’.

·We aren’t even licensed yet.

·You will be in 20 minutes.

With pounding hearts and sweaty hands, we drove to the doctor’s office and picked up two terrified little kids. We signed the placement papers in the middle of that waiting room, with what felt like all of our little city looking on, and then we placed these two kids in car seats in our back seat to drive home. That was it. They weren’t ours, they didn’t come with instructions, and we were released with a vague reminder that someone would contact us within 7 days to visit them.

Ten years ago, I was about to turn 30, I was planning a big party, and as a firm believer in birthday week, this placement seemed like the perfect way to kick off the next decade of my life. Three days later, after going from two to four children overnight, after long sleepless nights, after a phone call to the county telling them that that “optional” youngest sibling was an option we had to say no to, after every night sitting on the green linoleum in my tiny bathroom and sobbing, I decided that instead of my hopeful savior-dreams of what this would all be like, that this was maybe the worst birthday of my life.

We had no idea what we were doing. We knew approximately 0% of what being a foster parent was like and what we should do and what trauma does to a child and how our parenting needed to change. I wish we had been better prepared. I wish that I had had more than my instincts to help those children heal. I wish I had been ten years older and ten years wiser ten years ago.

This year, I’m going to turn 40 in 3 days. I’m still a firm believer in birthday week, and I have never looked forward to a birthday as much as this one. We’ve gone anywhere from two to seven children and every number in between in the past decade, and for now, we seem to have settled at five. I sit in a different bathroom and cry some nights, but it’s not every night anymore; those tears are harder to come by these days. I’ve given up on any white savior dreams I had, and hope looks different than it used to.

This year, when we got a call a few weeks ago from the county asking us if we’d take a sibling group, instead of saying yes, I had to tell our worker that we had just sent in our renewal letter with a different checked box than the previous years: “We do not wish to renew our foster care or adoptive license”. And so, as of today, our home is officially ‘closed’ in the eyes of the county.

This year, I still have this corner of the internet, and I haven’t written here in two years for a myriad of reasons that simultaneously crept up on me and caught me by surprise. It’s not called Expecting Hope anymore; sappy names and most of the blogs that went with them have almost entirely disappeared from culture. This world is different than it was ten years ago, and so am I. I don’t know if I’m expecting anything these days. Most of the time I don’t know what I believe about very much at all. All that naïve hopefulness has been pummeled until all the shiny edges have worn clean off. I might still have faith that love wins in the end, but now I know that in many very real ways, it’s not enough.

Even so there’s something brewing in my soul.

It looks vastly different than it did ten years ago.

It’s softer and gentler, yet stronger and more realistic.

It’s darker than anything I’ve ever known before, but I’ve learned to be at home in the dark, and the light that breaks through is that much brighter for its lack.

It’s more spacious than I ever imagined possible, but the underpinnings still are held firm by justice and truth.

Some might call this all dangerous, but to be honest, I’ve found safety to be a pretty shaky foundation.

I move forward, compelled by love. I virtually have no other way to operate.

I don’t know where I’m headed right now, yet my spirit still knows it’s on the move, and my whole body hums with the rhythm.

I’m 40 years old this year, and hope is still my song.

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