We are only a little over a week in on our first placement, and the honeymoon is over. This. Junk. Is. Hard.
But, as I look at each hard moment and each challenge, I am trying to remind myself of the opportunity for grace. I said trying. I am far from always thinking rightly. So, if you don't mind me being completely candid, I will share some of these hard things that are also good things. (Warning: You will fully see my sinfulness in the next part of this post. Feel free to be appalled, but only if you will then reflect on the fact that Jesus is bigger than all my sin.)
1. They are sometimes hard to love. There is not this primal, hormonal instinct to love this child as there was the one I birthed. I know some foster parents say that they feel love for the child(ren) as soon as they step through the door. I believe them. But, this was not the case for me. Quite honestly, in the difficult moments of "parenting" a child that is not my own, the enemy will whisper, "You don't HAVE to do this." It's true. I don't. But, then I remember the fact that I don't have to do this means it is a greater opportunity for love. I get to CHOOSE to love this little person, even when they are not lovable, and there is no biological reason to. Even when they might be wisked away tomorrow leaving my heart broken. They are mine to love today. And I choose to love them by sacrificing and serving them. And isn't that a love that sounds a lot like the gospel?
2. Life is much more hectic. It doesn't feel like I am just twice as busy, but infinitely more busy. Laundry, dishes, and messes have multiplied immensely. Add to this keeping case workers updated and keeping logs on them. I miss downtime and being able to turn on some Curious George and go on autopilot when it was just Jude and me. But, this busyness has proven good for our house! I spend less time on Facebook and our TV is rarely on. I spend more time teaching and training.
3. It is hard on Jude. Three days into fostering, Jude was obviously having a hard time. Jude has always been a compliant fellow, but the meltdowns that ensued were outrageous. This has been good for us in several ways. I have AMPLE opportunities to talk about the gospel with him, and though he may not understand it, I am getting more comfortable with this way of training. Also, this has really caused me to confront the pride I have in having a "well behaved" child. When your child has a fit in public, it is incredibly humbling!
4. It is heartbreaking. When your foster child celebrates milestones, your heart just breaks for them and their parents. This little one will never get to celebrate that milestone with their mama and daddy. Their mama and daddy are missing out on some of the biggest joys of parenting. Foster children just go through so much and it sometimes seems like the "system" cares little for their well being. For example, after having Z for over a week we got an email saying that the name we were using was the wrong name. I completely lost it - broke down in tears. This poor baby was put into a home with complete strangers who don't even know their name! But, with this heartbreak comes the opportunity to pray earnestly. My heart is broken for the way that sin has ravaged this family. I reflect on the fact that the only way they can be free from sin is Christ - without whom, sin will continue to lead them to death. So, we pray for the Lord to save this family. And, I pray for my own heart. I pray that the Lord would guard my heart so that I would want nothing more for this child or this family than salvation.
As I read back over this list, I can't help but chuckle. Who knew the Lord would use a super-cute, blue-eyed little Z to show me so much? But, he did. And, we look forward to the challenges and joys that await us in our next placement.