Four Years Ago

Today, a busy four year old tells me what he learned in his class at church.

Jesus rescues!

He yells it again and again.

Today he “helps” me install new smoke detectors and put pizza in the oven.

Today he snuggles into my side as I read book after book.

It feels so ordinary.

But four years ago this week, I said one of the hardest goodbyes of my life.

It’s like a muscle memory, sneaking up on me.

And it still takes my breath and makes my eyes all leaky.

Four years ago, I asked myself what would calm my heart if this Little One were my baby.

I printed photos and wrote little notes.

I folded all the tiny baby things.

I watched my sister carry my daughter out of the house as she sobbed, begging for Little One to stay.

And I sat in the rocking chair and sang until my arms literally ached.

Four years ago, I hugged a social worker who told me I was one of the good ones.

And I tried not to cry when he thought maybe I should keep some of this stuff for the next baby.

No.  My heart instinctively knew.

That would hurt too bad.

Four years ago, I buckled one of my loves into his carseat, kissed his head and closed the door as he was carried into an unknown future.

People ask me sometimes if, in retrospect, I knew he would be back.

If I knew he would be here four years later sharing my home and my last name.

The honest answer is no.

Just as I hoped he might be my baby, I hoped too that I’d done things well if that was not to be.

Sometimes foster care feels like a zero-sum game.

Except with lives at stake.

My heart was rooting for his birthmama four years ago.

Even as I ugly cried in my living room and yelled at Jesus that I was so done with all of this.

I root for her still.

Life is hard enough without judgement.

There isn’t a tidy way to wrap up the story.

In adoption, happy endings are always tinged with loss.

I hated that day.

But it is part of my story.  The story of us.

And I love that story.

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Restless

I’ve been feeling itchy lately.

My heart is restless

Like I can’t quite settle into a routine and I want to change all the things.

Summer does this to me sometimes.

Unmoors me a little and gives me just enough time to imagine all the ways that another path might be better.  Easier. More fulfilling.

Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you

(Proverbs 4:25)

It’s these words that my heart snatches onto last week, a seed of thought sown, but not sprouted enough to spill out onto the page.

I think about Peter, stepping out of the boat to follow Jesus, his eyes looking straight ahead, his gaze fixed.  

I imagine him tuning out the distractions for just one second, his friends in the boat yelling for caution and him plugging his ears as he locks eyes with Jesus.

Undeterred, focused, he does the impossible if only for a few steps.

Once upon a time, twice upon a time actually, I’ve felt that kind of focus in my own life, an absolute crystal-clear conviction that I was right where I was supposed to be.  Both of those were hard seasons. Seasons of faith-stretching and exhaustion and impossible questions and confronting messiness.

One was a season in full-time ministry.

The other was a season in foster care (which, to be honest, is also pretty much full time ministry).

It was very clear when it was time to move on from both into more ordinary seasons.

I’m back there again.

Feeling all ordinary and a little bored.

And wondering a little what it means to keep my gaze fixed on Jesus as I make pancakes and run around after my kids at the playground.

I’m holding a Tiny One this morning, her arms wrapped around my neck as I sing

From my mother’s womb, You have chosen me, Love has called my name.

I’ve been born again, into your family.  Your love flows through my veins.

Suddenly I’m all choked up.  I sing these words not just for myself.

But for this Tiny One.  

And for my kiddos who have know too much, too soon.

Whose struggles I hide to protect their privacy.  And also to try to convince you that adoption is good.  That foster adoption is good. That transracial adoption is good.  That single-parent adoption is good.

And they are.

But they are also harder than I want to admit.

Even lots of years later.

But today this is what it means to fix my gaze, of that I am certain.

To let Love flow through my veins.  

To be quiet enough to let the Little Ones, my little ones, hear love calling their name.

To embrace my identity as beloved, as child.  And to speak that identity over the Little Ones. One thousand times, in one thousand ways.

Even while I’m making pancakes.