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Shoes

The moment a child walks into my house and takes off her tattered, usually too small shoes, I quietly slide my feet into them. Not literally, of course, but I try to put on their shoes and imagine for a moment what that kid is feeling. I look in her eyes, examine her face, and discern her body language. Does she look anxious? Afraid? Upset? Defeated? I take my cues from her like a director of a play; for a little while I’m on stage and together we are acting these parts. New kid. New mom. I smile at her, me on her level, and make some none threatening comment about her cute earrings or stuffed bunny. I introduce her to Max and he does a wonderful job of breaking the ice with his teethy doggie grin and cross eyes. I smile big and warm and welcoming and walk with her over the threshold into my house. Our house.

Rules can come later. Unpacking can wait till tonight. Right now, at our first moments together, we are establishing a base for what our relationship will look like for the next few weeks or months. I am showing her the value she has in the very way I welcome her in to my home. I show her the important rooms: her bathroom, her bedroom covered with butterflies and flower decals, and of course, I don’t forget the playroom. I’m upbeat, laid back, annoyingly happy and positive. I tell her to make herself at home. I call her sweetheart and honey and kiddo so she knows from the beginning I recognize how special she is and start with my little words and actions to show her she’s loved and valued and belongs. 

When she starts to get anxious or talk about past placements and trauma, I calm her with the simple reminder that her job at my house is to be a kid. That’s it. She gets to play and learn and focus on making good choices. My job is parent; to take care of her and make sure she’s safe. Every placement. Every time. This is how we start.

When I first got my license I thought these moments of placement beginnings would be the most awkward. I’m always a little shy around strangers and have my own bag of quirks that follow me around. These kids come from who knows where…with their own baggage…to me. But after 13 foster kids have stayed at least a weekend with me, I’ve got the routine down, and the first day move seems more a part of life than an awkward first meet.

I prayed and prayed verses over my house when I first bought it in 2008. I begged God to make it a safe haven, a place of restoration for all who enter in. So far he has done that. Every single kid that has walked through my black metal front door has almost instantaneously bonded with me. Ones what caseworkers had described as withdrawn and loner have run into my arms and cuddled on my lap before we ever even sat down to do paperwork. 

I believe with all my heart that first impressions matter. These kids, at the very least, have experienced very little love. Most of what they know is broken love. So when they walk in a house that has been blessed deeply with the PERFECT love of God, they feel something in their spirit that I believe they have been missing for most of their lives. I hate that every kid that has left me from respite cries or asks why they can’t just stay with me, but I also love it because in a big way it validates what I am doing.

We talked tonight at home group about the parable of the talents and what it was costing us to invest what God has entrusted us with. When I see the way a kid’s smile lights up when I enter a room, the first time she voluntarily hugs me and then gets bashful about it, the first time she includes my name in a heart for a sidewalk chalk masterpiece, I know my talents have not been wasted. From the moment she steps through my door to the moment she leaves, I hope and pray what I am pouring out; the talents that I’m investing, reap an abundant return.

Tomorrow we are going shoe shopping for Annalise. She will throw out the pairs that disgrace her and the ones that show to the world her past has been poor and tragic, and she will buy some new ones. Maybe sparkly and pink, some cute sandals, or a new pair of tennis shoes to make her feet proud. And as her shoes change form and her life begins to transform, I will continue to walk beside her, slipping my feet in and out of all those shoes, meeting her and loving on her right where she stands.

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I should’ve known better. Seriously. How many times have I said I was going to “take a break” only to fall back into fostering a couple weeks later. No sooner had I hit “publish” on my last post than I received another call for placement. Why do I even try to plan? I had pictured my summer: me laying out at the lake, laughing with friends, enjoying a simple life rotating around me for a change. Why do I even entertain those thoughts? Not only should I know myself better and my heart for the orphan, but have I not learned by now who Jesus is? Silly, silly me. But I’m so glad He always has better plans. Whenever I say “no” and He says “yes”, it turns out to be a marvelously beautiful story. Here’s the first chapter of the one He’s writing now.

Remember the little nine year old I wrote briefly about? Well, she moved from respite at my house last week, to respite at another house over Easter weekend, to her permanent new foster home on Monday. And by permanent I mean “lasting 24 hours”. I got a call Tuesday morning from my caseworker asking if I would consider having Annalise come stay with me again, even if just for a few days. Her “permanent” home threw in the towel after just one day. It was some nonsensical battle over shoes. As Grace and I talked about all this sweet girl had been through the past three weeks…the abuse, the moves, the upheaval…my heart got knotted up and like God throwing a boomerang, I knew it was not coincidence that she had come back to me. So I decided that I would NOT do respite for her this week, but I would welcome her gladly back into my house as my fourth placement.

Annalise is such a special girl. I talked to her assistant principle and counselor and teachers today and they were all delighted that she had been able to come back to their school. She could light up a room with her smile. Annalise has not had an easy life so it’s easy to understand why she responds with her rough exterior and punk attitude. But when you cut through that, when you love on her for even a few minutes, that melts away and she smiles the most genuine, beautiful smile I have ever seen. When Annalise came back to my house last night she ran up to the door, laughing and beaming, full of the deepest joy I had seen in a long time; more joy than I had seen on her face in the time I have known her. It was like the face of one who had been wandering and finally come home.

We are going to have many hurdles to jump over in the next few months. She is sassy and spunky and has a little ‘tude on her reminiscent of my teen years. But I had a fantastic talk with her last night over a Chick-fil-a sandwich and fries about respect and what it means to live together as God intended family to be. I remind her constantly that her job is to be a kid; my job is to parent. She seems to like that idea. She is smart and has such a heart for Jesus already. I was not expecting to foster again, but I’m so glad God called me to her.

We had three little other foster girls over tonight and while we were playing outside Annalise and I played a velcro ball toss game. I’d throw the pink and green ball to her, she’d catch it on her velcro mitt, and then throw it back to me. As I replay the evening in my head tonight I think about how clearly that defines our relationship. Annalise is the ball, I am one mitt, and God is the other. I “tossed” Annalise back to God, He held her tight in His grasp, and then when I least expected it, he “tossed” her back to me. And now we’re stuck. In the past 24 hours, somehow, she has managed to stick herself to the velcro of my heart. I’m not sure how long God will let me hold on to her, but while I do, I’m going to hug her, brush her thick crazy-curly hair, read her devotions as I tuck her into bed, and love her with everything I can.

It’s been a few weeks since The Kid moved on. I heard he’s with a family that has a mom and a dad. That makes me happy. I also know they moved him three times in the first two weeks he was moved from me. Three times. This is what I was afraid of. One placement lasted all of two days. He’s probably lost count by now of how many homes he’s lived in. I know I have. But as bitter sweet as any move is, I am thankful to have this time to recover, to rest, to pray about what may be next for me. In the week after The Kid left, I got calls for four more placements. A kid who has been so exposed to violence and crime that he talks about guns like we talk about the weather. A kid who has been sexually abused. A teenage girl looking for a place to belong. A sibling pair wanting to stay together. I said “no” to every one of them.

Last weekend I got a fifth call for a nine year old girl. She got in a fight with another kid in the home so they had to move her. I’m not talking about a verbal lashing between the two; I’m talking about she walked away with bruises covering her arms and legs and a huge gash on her forehead where she was hit with a metal rod. I said “yes” to take care of her until they could find a permanent placement. She showed up to my house with the clothes on her back and her backpack from school. She came with about half her medications because her foster mom would take her drugs and give them to her other children: free medication. She was angry and confused. I watched her for one week before they moved her to another “permanent” placement. I won’t ever know where she ends out.

As I watched her leave my house and headed into my elongated Easter weekend, I began to question God again about what His plan is for me. What’s my next step? I have fostered for over two years. I have had so many kids pass through my home and have exhausted the word “no” with ones I have turned away. I love fostering. But what if it’s not enough? I realized afresh as I listened to phone call after phone call of kids needing placements, kids just needing a bed to sleep on for the night; phone calls about other foster families that abuse their foster kids, foster parents who are sometimes worse than the family the kid got taken from, and I realized that the need is so much greater than what I can house in my three bedroom, two bath house.

So I’ve begun praying for more. I’m praying for what’s next and how I can have the greatest impact on the lives of countless kids waiting to get moved from a homeless shelter or group home and placed with a loving family. There’s got to be more that I can do. The need seems so overwhelming at times. I didn’t realize until I started putting faces and names to the numbers exactly how big the gap was between kids having a home and kids waiting. What if these two years have been all about exposure and awareness and experience so I can do more?

I live a very simple, quiet, semi-predictable life. But what if God has called me to more? What if I’m supposed to be a greater advocate for these kids who do not have a voice? There is no limit to what God can do when we willingly submit to Him. What is my “more”?

I have started toying with the idea of starting a non-profit to help provide support and encouragement for foster families, or try to get plugged in to speaking at churches, or maybe even writing my own book to bring awareness to the need and to help people see that they can get involved too. It all seems like way more than I am qualified for, but then again, I didn’t think I could be a single foster parent. But I was.

I will continue to seek God between the “what has been” and “what will be”. And in the in between I will rest and dream and pray and someday, perhaps soon, I’ll move on from the in between to the “what’s next”. I can’t wait to see what that will be.

One of my favorite things to do is to go to the public library and walk up and down the aisles pulling out as many children’s books as my arms can carry. I’m one of those stubborn moms who are determined to not need a bag to carry them out, so I always end out cramping an arm or a wrist in effort to be an independent, strong woman. It’s ridiculous, I know, but it’s what I do. This last trip to the library I grabbed a handful of books newly released and was eager to get home, tuck in the Kid, and read to him. We built a fort in the living room out of his play tent, two couches, a folding table, and as many blankets and quilts as we could find. We snuggled inside with our pillows and pjs and began to plow through the books we acquired that afternoon. One of the books I brought home with us was called “Because Your Mommy Loves You”, by Andrew Clements. I am hopelessly sentimental, so I chose this book as an opportunity to have another chat with Kid about how I love him. The book wasn’t what I expected, but exactly what I needed. It’s a story of a mom and her son who, appropriately since we were snuggled in a homemade tent, were venturing out on a camping trip.  It goes through each step of the trip: buying supplies, packing the car, hiking, crossing a river, setting up a tent… Each time a new task is presented the author says something like:

When the pack on your back feels like a giant rock, your mommy could say, That looks awfully heavy for you. Here, I’ll carry it! But she doesn’t. You both sit down a while and share some water and a handful of raisins. Then she helps you strap on your pack again, and up the trail you go.

I am the type of foster parent who so wants to protect her kids that I often end out enabling them and doing things for them instead of teaching them how to do it themselves. This whole book was simply illustrating how real love is often not taking the easy road and fixing every problem that a kid may face. Sometimes real love is jumping in the trenches with the kid and teaching him how to set up his own tent, find his own food, and put his sweater on by himself. I always feel conflicted because my love language is acts of service, so to me, standing back and not serving in the tangible, hands on, way, often feels like the opposite of love. But I am learning that love does not always mean doing. Sometimes when mommy loves you, she chooses the hard road to give you the best chance of life.

This week has been one that has offered me countless opportunities to choose what was best for the Kid and not necessarily what I wanted to do or what was easiest. As a foster parent, sometimes the most loving choice you can make for a child is in knowing when you have done all you can and to pass the torch to another family. This was a lesson I was hoping I never had to learn. My first two kids were adopted. My second two kids got reunited with their family. Good endings. I like it that way. But with this kid, everything is different.

I starting reading  a book tonight that talks about kids that come from trauma filled pasts and how, despite common philosophy and belief, kids that respond to life by lying or being defiant or abusing or being hyperactive, aren’t doing so out of anger and willful disobedience. Kids from traumatic pasts act out of their stress and fear. I’m only 17 pages in but I’m already wishing I had bought this book two months ago. Maybe things would’ve been different.

Things with my sweet five year old kid drifted from bad to worse these past few weeks. We would put him on respite for the weekends to offer me some reprieve, but his heightened behaviors simply became more impulsive and chaotic and scary. I’d be folding laundry and he’d slap my cheek, palm open, leaving a handprint on my left side. I’d be doing paperwork and turn around and he’d be standing behind me, knife in hand, threatening to stab my face. We’d be doing crafts and all of a sudden the scissors was in his hand, ready to be thrown at me. I had already removed my china cabinet, my pictures on the walls, my piano. I kept all bedroom doors locked and put sharp objects in a locked cabinet. But he would find new things to abuse me with. A whisk from the kitchen. The remote for the TV. His tennis shoes laying in the middle of the living room floor. And his impulsive behaviors, the way he’d climb on the washer or dryer or trip the breakers in the hall…it all just got too out of hand. And if it was just with me we could’ve assumed I was doing something to trigger these behaviors. But it wasn’t. It was at daycare and with our case workers and at DSS. It was with his Behavior Modification specialists, at the dentist, and with his peers. We tried everything we knew how to do. Even the professionals were at a loss.

So because Mommy loves the Kid, she had to let him go. It wasn’t safe for him here anymore and it wasn’t safe for me. I would’ve waited until one of us ended out in the hospital before I threw in the towel, but thankfully my LCS and director know me well enough to make the call for me. I got a call Tuesday morning telling me that they had decided to move the Kid from my home. Oh, how I sobbed. I’m not a quitter! I don’t give up on a kid! But they gently explained to me how we had done everything we could; how I stuck with him way longer than any other foster parent would’ve; how this is not my fault. And as they comforted me, and I fasted and prayed, God made it abundantly clear that it was time to let him go.

The ironic thing is that one of us did end out in the hospital. That afternoon when I went to pick up the Kid from daycare, he tail-spun into another one of his violent episodes and he could not be calmed. We had to call the EMS and waited for the police and ambulance to arrive. What it feels like to have a cop, hand on his gun, looking at you like you’re the biggest idiot in the world, not understanding why you can’t just control your kid, is an incredibly humbling experience. But Sweetheart’s stress and fear had so overloaded his senses that it was impossible for him to respond with clarity or logic. So we got in the ambulance and drove to the ER.

The whole experience was so tragically sad. I kept looking at those beautiful blue eyes, knowing in my heart of hearts that he is such a terrific kid, aching because there was nothing I could do to help him, even if I wanted to. Even if I wanted to make his pack lighter or carry some of that burden, I just absolutely could not. So I sat in room 11, talking to doctors and nurses, patient advocates and chaplains, waiting for my on-call case worker to arrive. I held the Kid some of the time, but most of the time he just pushed me away. I prayed and prayed for a miracle that day, but God said no. Not now.

And as time drifted away and my worker came, I gave the Kid one last hug goodbye. I held him tightly as he screamed and clung to my neck, begging me to let him stay. I whispered in his ear, “You are loved. You belong. It’s going to be okay.” and then I passed him on to the worker and let her drive him away. And just like that it was over.

The pain from Tuesday is still so very raw. My heart aches more than I can bare. I want tomorrow to come and for them to bring him back. I want to be able to see this whole thing to completion. I want to see the miracle. But because I love him so much, I recognize I have done all I can. So I trust Jesus to go with him wherever he ends out. Tomorrow I will finish packing up his things. I will wash the jeans he wore Monday playing in the creek and his favorite hoodie that he has worn every day. I will pull together his toys and books and crayons and wait for my case worker to come pick them up. I may get to see him some day again to say goodbye, but most likely I will not. And the lack of closure on this placement rips at my heart and makes me wonder if I’ve done enough. When he woke up Wednesday morning did he remember his Mommy loves him? Will he one day understand that love means sometimes letting go?

I don’t know how to NOT love every kid that passes through my home. So when they leave, whether it’s adoption or reunification or a new placement, I hope and pray that they know, at the end of how ever many months or weeks or days they were with me, that Mommy loves them. Because I do.

My house is quiet tonight. There is no noise except a few cars passing by and the whirl sound from the fan of my computer. The dog is asleep, the TV is off, and it is utterly quiet. A part of me loves the serenity of an evening alone, a chance to reconnect with God and find some solitude. But the other part of me aches because I am alone and I miss my blond headed boy so much.

When I received my foster care license two years ago I vowed to myself that I would never, and I mean NEVER, be a foster parent who sent a child back. I was committed. Ready for any sacrifice that had to be made. There was nothing I wouldn’t work through with a child because the last thing a child needs is another person telling them they aren’t good enough. If I’m honest, I think pride may have even played a part; I am so good at foster care that I will never have to give a child back. I can do this.

Or so I thought.

In foster care training they did a fairly good job of teaching us what it must be like for a child who has been abused or neglected. We talk about the way they respond and how their developing brains get wired incorrectly. They teach us management techniques and coping skills to work on with the child. Lots of great useful information. But what if the neglected child comes into your home, suffers from a line of drugs and incest and abandonment, and targets you as the one to get his frustration out on? What if the paradigm shifts from child abuse to parent abuse? What if you love him like crazy, but find that love is not enough?

This past week has been almost unbearable. Monday night I got sick with the flu or some other awful bug sent to torment me. I was so cold I couldn’t stop shaking, even wrapped up in blankets, clasping a heating pad. My head throbbed. My body ached in every muscle and joint. And my stomach? Well, let’s just say it decided to join in the madness. And at the same time my body decided to declare war against me, my little buddy decided to do the same.

That sweet boy would lay into me like a full grown man in a boxing ring. Fist clinched, he aimed to injure. Punch after punch, between muscles and tendons. He hit and kicked and spit mouth-fulls of anger all over me. He unsheathed his nails and scratched my arms, grabbed my flesh and pinched. He locked his teeth on my wrist and fought tooth-and-nail. He threw items at me, full force, aiming at my head. And when I would retreat to my room and lock the door, he would beat it with any item he could find big enough to cause harm. Sometimes he screams and cries while he beats, other times he laughs. Sometimes he just stands over me calling me a f***ing b**ch. This has been going on with relative frequency for the last several weeks, but this week he was unrelenting. And when I had no strength left to defend myself and he started making insanely unsafe choices (like trying to get out of a moving vehicle or riding his bike in the street while I was “tied up” being sick), I had no option but to call for help.

I called someone to come and get him. Five days this week I have been without him. Five days I have sought healing for myself and prayed miracle prayers for him. I love that kid more than I can express, but what if love is not enough? What if I can no longer give him the help he needs? What if my home is really not the best fit for him? How do I deal with that?

I don’t know how you know when enough is enough. I have heard the breaking point for other people: a teen sneaks out with her boyfriend, a kid injures the family dog, a child won’t stop backtalking the foster mom. But I told myself I would never be one of those. I don’t have a breaking point. I know the measures Jesus took to rescue me; can’t I do that for someone else?

Tonight Jesus spent some time putting balm on my wounds. He took me to the Psalms and I read out loud verse after verse of His faithfulness, His strength, the way He both destroys strongholds and helps us find our stronghold in Him. He talked about His shield of protection and the spacious places He brings us to. Rest and peace and a satisfied soul. I cried and clinched my Bible to my chest as I begged God to make these things a reality in this little boy’s life. He’s the sweetest, spunkiest, silliest boy I know. And I love him. But my love cannot sustain. Without a miraculous move from God, something’s gotta give.

My sweetheart comes back tomorrow. I don’t know how he will respond to being back home. My body is mostly healed from the flu, and the bruises the kid inflicted have gotten less tender. I pray he comes back softened, ready to receive the love I offer him. But when my love is not enough, I will continue to cling to the One who is Love. And I will trust Him with the outcome of this placement, because He is good, because He knows best, and because He is God. And that is more than enough.

I was sitting in IHOP after church today next to a feather-haired girl wearing a baseball cap, eating a “Create a Face” pancake. She wanted it to look like a monkey but there’s only so much you can do with batter as a canvas and bananas and strawberries as paint. I looked into her beautiful blue eyes and tried to find a glimpse of the little girl I met almost two years ago. Her eyes were more shallow now, but her freckles still kissed her face and her smile showed there was still life left in her. She seemed distant, like the last ten months had aged her more than just physically. She turned her hat to the side of her head and tried to act punk-like. I wasn’t buying it. My goal was to draw out the little girl that I knew was still in there. The girl full of spunk and creativity and sweetness. I knew it was still there because when she smiled I saw the girl who was before this season of her life took over. 

A big part of my heart aches. It aches in a good way because I got to hug and kiss her and whisper “I love you”s into her pierced ears. It was so good to hold her again. But it aches in a painful way too because I see the way she is hurting and I want so desperately to be able to make the pain go away. Her hair is gone except for a little patch on the back of her head, right above her neck line. She wears a hat all the time now, partially to keep her from pulling the rest out and partially so she won’t have to explain to the world why she is bald. I gently rubbed the stubble trying to grow back on her scalp and told her how beautiful she was. How much Jesus loves her. We had our usual “fight” over who loved the other most. I loved her to the moon and back. She smiled and said, “If I could measure from here to heaven with my love for God, one centimeter short would be where my love for you is found.” I think she won.

It’s strange being with a foster kid again after your role as a mother has been completed. She is with her new family now in a new city. She is a lot taller and has meat on her bones. The warts on her ring finger have vanished. She’s styling cute boots and sweaters and looks like a little lady. If I passed her in a crowded street I would barely recognize her.

She told me a story this afternoon about a one-eyed woman and her son who was ashamed of her disfiguration. The son shunned his mother, embarrassed by the seeming imperfection she refused to cover with a patch. He threw her out of his house when she came to visit her grandchildren and ultimately she died without ever being reconciled to her son. The son, feeling guilty for kicking her out, went to visit her only to find out she was already gone. She left him one note expressing her love to him. When the boy was very little he had fallen and poked out his eye. His mother loved him so much and, wishing that he not face disgrace, replaced his missing eye with one of her own. She took the shame that should’ve been his.

I had heard this story before but hearing it from the mouth of a nine-year-old forced to wear a hat because of what she had done to herself; it took on a whole new meaning. Every kid that comes into care is coming with some sort of brokenness. Some sort of “disfigurement”. My role as their mother (for how ever long that may be), is to carry the weight of that brokenness for them. My job is to protect them, as much as I can, from embarrassment and shame. My job is to replace that emptiness they carry with a little bit of the excess Jesus has given to me; to “pluck out my eye” so that they may see. I take part of myself and fill in the gap. That’s what foster parents do. The kids may spend their whole time here completely missing the point, but it doesn’t matter. I love them, so I will carry that shame for them.

And the reason I can do it is because Someone has already done that for me. Jesus has taken my sin and guilt and shame and carried it for me. He covered me with His righteousness and mercy so that I may stand approved.

This weekend getting to see my first two foster kids was absolutely incredible. My role has shifted from control to influence, but I cherish every moment I get to speak truth into their lives again. I will forever love my Sweet Pea. She may grow and change and continue to push away, but she was my first. She was the one I learned from and grew with and fought with. She was the one that taught me how lavished the love of Christ is. And no matter what happens or who she becomes, I know with certainty that we will always love each other, just a centimeter short of heaven.

Sometimes I look around my house and see the carpet stains and dirty tennis shoes and the two couches that sag so much in the middle it’s impossible to sit on the side cushions, and I wish things could be different. My handmade garage-turned-playroom some days seems like a poor substitute to the picture I have painted in my head of what I wanted my life to be like. Don’t get me wrong. I am incredibly happy with the life I have been given and feel blessed every time I pull into my driveway and remember this house is mine. But the reason I wish it could be different is because, not often, but lately, I just wish for more. I don’t wish for more material possessions so I can keep up with the Joneses, I just sometimes wish for more so I could give a better life to the kids that enter my home. I know they are looking for stability and love and not the latest game console or the coolest toys, but in the perfect world where my dreams come true the way I want them to, I am living in a two story, five bedroom house (built this year, of course), with granite counter tops and steel appliances, and a laundry room that is big enough to wash, dry, and fold in without having to lug baskets of clothes into my living room to take care of. And in my perfect dream, all four of those little bedrooms (master suite not included, of course), would be filled with foster kids that have turned into adoptive kids and are now a part of my permanent family. I’d have enough money stored away so I wouldn’t have to work anymore and I would devote all my time advocating for foster kids and volunteering at church. I would lead a Bible study for moms in my living room (with the vaulted ceilings and spacious accommodations), and all our kids would play together in the ginormous playroom that was built above the garage.

Every weekend that I get to spend at home, feeling like a stay-at-home mom, makes it all the harder to get up Monday morning and go to work. And weekends like this one, where my kiddo’s brothers are visiting and our day has been spent playing in the creek, eating dinner on the back porch, and falling asleep watching movies in the living room, I ache inside for this dream of mine to become a reality.

I don’t know why God has called me to be a single foster parent. It’s not something I dwell on often because I believe God is wholly good and He does not withhold good gifts from His children unless He has something better in mind. But sometimes, like this weekend when I get news that the boys may not be going back home after all, and I allow my mind to go places I shouldn’t let it, and I plan my life with them for the next fifteen years…it makes it impossibly hard to not wonder “why”. Why am I so close to entering into the season of life that I have always dreamed of, but still can’t seem to actually put my hand on it? It’s like God is dangling a carrot in front of my nose saying, “This is what it would be like to have a family.” But then he yanks the carrot away with a cord of reality.

I love tucking those sweet boys into bed. I love watching them play in the creek and get wet to their little bellies. I love seeing them wrestle and sword fight and jump out of the swings with no fear of getting hurt. I love teaching them how to ride a bike and chasing them around the playground in a game of tag. I love their chatter and the tiny way they snore when they sleep. They are beautiful boys. Active and inquisitive and silly. And I love them.

But they are not mine. And at the end of this weekend, my kiddo will stay here and his brothers will return to their foster families. In the next couple months (or years, as the system goes) they will return home or be adopted out. And unless I win the lottery (which I don’t even have a ticket for) or God works a miracle, they will soon be just a couple more faces to place on my wall and a couple more hearts that have stolen mine. Oh, it’s worth every bit of this heartache and longing. I believe that with all my heart. But someday, truly, I hope God will look at me and say, “Okay. This one. This one’s yours.”