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Archive for February, 2015

Sometimes I have to laugh or roll my eyes or sigh at myself and how very wrong I have been. How often do I claim something as truth only to find out I was so completely off base? When I said a teary goodbye to Annalise several months ago and began a new journey of love, I honestly thought that my season of foster care was over. I told people that God had released me from that responsibility, that I was free to recover and heal and move forward in a new adventure. I wept over the fact that I would never get true closure from my time with Annalise, that there would always be an open wound attached to my spirit. A wound from her and from the other kids that had passed through the doors of my house and my heart. I was okay with that. I had come to accept the fact that we don’t always get a happy ending. Not every story finishes with a sunset or a romantic kiss or an upbeat song. Sometimes stories end tragically. There’s no comedic relief to tie you over. You finish reading it and are left feeling like something is missing, something was left unsaid, and you feel the weight of the end. This was how I read the final chapter of my time with Annalise. It didn’t end like I wanted it to, but it was over. The book was closed. I worked through the pain of our goodbye and put the book back on the shelf.

I was wrong. Perhaps the chapter was finished, but the book was not. A couple weeks before I left for Colorado, I got an early morning phone call from a number I didn’t know. I don’t typically answer anything that doesn’t pop up with a name from my stored contact list, but something in my spirit told me to answer this one. It was Saturday, my sleep-in day, way too early to be awake. But I answered the call.

“Hello? Ms. Shelly? This is Annalise!”

Those words woke me up faster than any fire alarm could have. I sat up, fully awake, all systems engaged. Adrenaline pumped through my body. Annalise? I had not heard from her, or about her, in over five months. The last time I saw her I couldn’t even bear to look at her face; her eyes were so distraught and empty and hurt. She sat on a hospital bed begging me not to leave her. I didn’t even know she knew my number. Perhaps she kept it from the little note I sent to her when I returned her North Face coat to her caseworker. It was an afterthought, but I wrote a sweet note telling her I loved her and signed it with my name and number. No matter the avenue she obtained it or memorized it or happened upon it, Annalise was calling me.

This is grace. This is what is so sweet about walking with Jesus, about trusting Him, about putting all the details and unfinished stories into His hands. He can take those torn up pages, the tragedy, and He can keep writing a book. God has this amazing way of adding pages to a book we’ve already closed, already finished writing. I talked to Annalise for about 20 minutes; we chatted about her school and family and boys she has crushes on. We laughed and giggled and reconnected. Not once did she mention our parting. Not for a moment did she even hint at anger or hurt from being left at the hospital, from having to be moved. We talked as if there had never been a broken moment to our relationship, like it was healed.

Over the next couple weeks we texted some, and then the week before I moved God gave me another incredible gift. My mom and sister were in town and we were able to take an hour trip out of town and meet Annalise and her grandmother. We met in a small Subway on the corner of a busy street and spent two wonderful hours together. We swapped stories from the last few months, showed pictures of snow and mountains and artwork, laughed until our bellies hurt, and slowly watched the sun slip away behind us. While we showed pictures of my mom’s latest paintings and I explained to Annalise’s grandma how my sister got all the artistic talent from my mother and I got none, I could see a change in Annalise’s expression, like she was pondering my words, mulling them over.

“Ms. Shelly. You may not be an artist, but I know what your talent is.”

Here I thought she would insert some antidote about my writing abilities, my wit or humor, my ability to keep plants alive.

“Your talent is you are a very good mother. You were a great mother to me; the best foster mom I ever had. That’s your talent, Ms. Shelly. You are a mother.”

As we ended our night together, knowing full well this may be the last time I see that sweet girl, but also very aware that God’s plans keep surprising me, I was able to walk away with a heart full of gratitude. A heart that was mending. A story that I thought had ended as a tragedy actually hadn’t ended at all. In fact, even while I was not with her, her character and mine were still being woven together in a beautiful plot. There are several of my kids that have moved on from my home and I will realistically, probably never hear from or see them again. But Annalise isn’t one of them. Getting to say a happy goodbye to her before I moved was one of the greatest gifts God could’ve give me. It set me up for a season of healing, of restoration, of joy.

I know now never to claim something as true when I have no idea what God is doing behind the scenes. He may very well make this story into a trilogy or a series or even some day, a full blown motion picture. But whatever He is up to, I can rest assured in knowing that He is up to something, and it is good and rich and beautiful.

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