It was all worth it.

On May 26th, we got the call that our kiddos would be reunifying with their mother. We then had an hour and a half to pack up and say goodbye to two kiddos we’ve known & loved for just under a year. An hour and a half. By the end of that time, my skin was salty from both sweat and tears. Since the time we became foster parents we were repeatedly told: “Expect the unexpected.” But heck…I didn’t even know this could be on the list of unexpected. No one did. I guess that’s what makes it unexpected.
In the past week we’ve heard things like:

“This never happens.”

I’ve never seen this before.”

“It doesn’t usually happen this way.”

Expect the unexpected.

I’m not angry. I truly believe everyone did their very best in handling a very difficult situation. We are blessed to have the team we do. And honestly, if you would have seen the smile on our little guy’s face, you couldn’t have been angry. There was joy in seeing this family reunify. Joy & hope that coincided with our sadness.

I’m sad our family and friends didn’t have an opportunity to say a proper goodbye.

I’m sad our kiddos didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to their teachers and classmates.

I’m sad I didn’t linger a little longer in their rooms during bedtime the night before.

I could be angry. I could be justified in that anger. There’s a lot that happened that shouldn’t have happened. But instead of going down that steep, downhill road, I’m choosing to be grateful. I have a ton of peace about everything. God had been preparing us in ways that no person ever could and He continues to be so present, so close to us now. My gratitude overflows.

I’m grateful we loved them so fully.

I’m grateful we consistently showed love and spoke truth into their little lives so I didn’t have to try to squeeze it all in within the last hour and a half we had with them.

I’m grateful we had the opportunity to pray with them, pray over them, and pray for their family.

I’m grateful we gave everything we had to best support them and help them thrive in our time together. I can confidently say, they were worth every single tear I cried and prayer I pleaded to make it easier. Easier wasn’t the way. It rarely is. But love – in all the ways we showed it – was the way. It always is.

Two days after our abrupt goodbye, one of my dearest friends said to me: “Lindsey, 10 years ago…you wouldn’t be OK but today, I know you will be.”

If that doesn’t speak volumes into the transformation that has occurred in my life, I don’t know what would. You all have been so kind; describing me beyond what I deserve and being in awe of what we did and what we’re walking through now. I appreciate your words so much.

Foster care has given us a unique opportunity to answer the “why” question so frequently asked. And as we walk through what is typically the situation most feared, I’ve been able to reaffirm to myself our answer to those questions. Why would we willingly open our home to children who could potentially leave us? Why would we…almost seek out the possibility of grieving the children that come into our lives? Why? Why would you do this again?

Jesus.

You know…as I look back over my life, I see God. He put so many people in my life – from birth to present day – that He used and continues to use to display His love for me. He put people in my life that pointed me to Truth until I was ready to accept it for myself. I had people love me when I wasn’t able to love myself. And as many of you know firsthand – I was hard to love (& sometimes I still am). But it was in seeking God & Him letting me find Him, that my heart was changed. It was in the declaring with my mouth, believing in my heart that God raised Jesus from the dead that I was forever changed. I am not who I used to be.

Today, because of His love for me, for us, I want to be used by Him – to be one of those people put in the lives of others to display His love. To stand in the gap, in the limbo of their lives and be the one who loves when it is most difficult. It’s not fantasy. My statements are not clouded by naïveté. It has been in experiencing the really hard moments, the ones where I’m completely exhausted that I see God’s strength and grace move mountains.

“For God so loved the world, he gave…” (John 3:16)

Out of deep love for all of us, He gave Himself. And because of His love, I am compelled to give like He gave. So we’ve offered our lives, our comfort, our home for those He loves; so we can be a light in the darkness. That is our why. So when children come to us, we can reassure them in their doubts of being loved, seen, and known. We have the opportunity to pour love and grace into families that, we pray, could potentially experience the joy of redemption.

“May the love you gave be worth the loss you feel.”

Those were the words penned to us from a friend that will never leave my mind. They make me cry as I repeat them now. I can say without a doubt, every ounce of pain we feel – in the emptiness of rooms, the quiet house, in the missing of those little people coming up and giving leg hugs – the pain is worth the love we experienced in having them in our lives. We are better because we loved. We’ve been changed because we loved.

So I will confidently agree with the words of this sign that hangs over the bare bed in a very empty room –

IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL

Because of Christ who lives within me.

Be brave, my friends.
Walk in love.
Choose joy because
God loves you.

I’m home

I have spent my time recently visiting a town in the state of Washington and living in the drama of two young adults who unexpectedly fall in love. I’ve traveled to London and New York City and felt the highs and lows that falling & fighting for their relationship took them on. In seven days, I have read not one, not two but five novels. Five.

As to my nature, more is better

I know what you must be thinking…”ummm, how did you?”, “why did you?”, “where did you get the time?” All really valid questions and believe me, my answers are anything but stable.

Once I started reading, I needed to finish. I needed to know how it ended and I went back & forth with guilt for not being able to put it down. My compulsion to finish eventually won out and I stayed up reading until 3am on more than one occasion. I absorbed as many lines as I could while I cooked dinner, over lunch breaks, or while sitting in my car before picking the kids up. Every moment I could squeeze it in, I was reading. I needed to know how this story would turn out.

With a book, I can know the ending

Without realizing it, the lack of control over my own life was being played out through the fictional story I escaped to. I picked up a book and found the extreme satisfaction in being able to know the ending. So once I started reading I continued until I finished, five novels later. My therapist smirked at me as I said it all out loud, I can still see it now. “Is there something else in your life that you wish you could know the ending to?” Oh, how I wish I could know or control the outcome in my life. It’s a constant ping pong match in my mind. The back and forth of wishing for control and then talking myself off the concept in order to surrender to the God who is good and who loves me more than I can comprehend.

I have been so busy escaping into fictional stories that I have forgotten the Author of creation is writing mine

I have always loved reading ever since I was a child. I have loved the freedom books offer to jump into different eras, cultures, and imaginations. These past few weeks though, if I’m being honest, have had nothing to do with reading itself. Reading has just been the thing I’ve used fill a longing in me. I’ve been down this road before. Past experience shows that I could remove “reading” and put in many other outlets in attempt to soothe an unsettled mind and heart with no avail. The moment my enjoyment crosses the line into compulsion, I have to look at what’s going on underneath. What am I running from? What need am I not allowing God to meet in me? When things get hard, my default is to run. Run from what is difficult so I don’t have to feel the discomfort anymore. Running always seems easier, always seems “right” so I can disengage emotionally. “Feeling all the feels” still makes this girl completely uncomfortable.

Running from the hard leaves all the meaningful things in the rear view

I think Ann Voskamp said it best in her book, The Broken Way:

 “Suffering is an act of surrender, to bear under that which is not under our control. … Is this why we avoid suffering at all costs? Is this why we desperately try to avoid pain, because suffering is a surrender to the uncontrollable? Suffering asks us to bear under that which is ultimately not under our control, which proves to us we have no control. And maybe that’s too much for us in our autonomous, do-it-yourself culture to bear. Maybe more than we can’t stand physical suffering, we can’t stand not feeling in control.” (Chapter 13 – The Inconvenient Truth No One Tells You, page 171)

Which proves to us we have no control – Those words ring in my mind. I fight it and yet I’m not so sure why. Gosh, I imagine I look like a child fighting the comfort of their parents’ embrace. Can you see it? Have you ever experienced it? Just the other day I held our one year old during a fit in a store while she was flailing her arms and legs. I swear, my trying to be convinced that I have an ounce of control must look like that. Guys, I’m tired. All this fighting has motivated my flight into fiction. I have had this felt-safety in knowing how stories play out, being able to go over them in my mind without any surprises. The thing about it being “felt” safety though is exactly that: it is felt. And my feelings do not have the greatest track record in leading me into truth. Thankfully, I’ve returned from my travels just in time to celebrate the good news, the ultimate gift that entered our world.

In His perfect timing, God brought me home for Christmas

His grace loved me back into communion with Him. Always. God hasn’t ever stopped calling me to lay perfectionism at His feet, to lay aside the effort so I can stop long enough to look at what love really is. This act of surrendering has been demonstrated most fully by Jesus Christ, who chose to bear the brokenness of the children He and the Father loves. In our surrender to Him, troubled hearts and minds are settled. The One who has complete authority and control chose surrender for us. He chose suffering to show us what love is and what love does.

“Love runs through us through veins of suffering. I turn over my wrist to see that cross there again. This is the way. There is no other. Sometimes it’s so clear: we can only love in this world if we’re willing to suffer with the world. ‘God so suffered for the world that he gave up his only Son to suffering,’ wrote Nicholas Wolterstorff. Suffering is at the burning core of everything because love is. We need not feel alone in suffering because God is a suffering God who pulls close at our call. We can receive it if we want – there is always more God. In tears is intimacy, God understands because He stands with us.” (The Broken Way, page 170)

So this Christmas eve, I am grateful for our compassionate and gracious God who stands with us, who stands for us. I’ve run so many times, too many times and He still brings be back. He says over me, time and time again, that He’s not finished with me yet. He extends a hand of love and asks me to trust. I am grateful that He is bigger than every uncomfortable feeling, every lie, and every hard thing life throws your way and my way.

I don’t know where you are today but if you’re running or avoiding like I have been…1. I’m surprised we didn’t run into each other and 2. You’re going to be okay. How do I know? Well, I think we both need the reminder that we have this “Good News that will cause great joy for all people”. (Luke 2:10) It’s good news that God is with us, that we’re never alone. It’s good news that we are loved beyond our understanding. The “how” of this surrender that I’ve feared has been shown by Jesus. It always comes back to Jesus and when it does…hope abounds, joy overflows in spite of all that whirls around you.

The next fictional trip I go on, it won’t be in an effort to avoid…it’ll be to enjoy the stories and imaginations of those created by God. So for today, I won’t be running away. I won’t be trying to avoid. I’ll be here, praying to be present for those around me like I was meant to be all along.

 

I’m so happy to be home.