Hands Wide Open

The following is a post I shared on my personal blog 16 months ago. Shortly after I poured these words out, reluctantly surrendering this girl we love so deeply to our good and gracious God, a series of miracles started to unfold. Over a year later and our girl is still with us. Forever. Officially adopted last November. Some of her now outgrown belongings still packed in a box, reminding me of those multiple times she nearly left our lives forever. There is not a moment with her that we take for granted, and our hearts are still raw and battered and stretched from the journey. The thing with foster care is that the stories don’t always end with an obvious trail of miracles leading to the outcome we hope for. Sometimes the miracles come later. Sometimes they don’t come on this side of heaven. Sometimes we wonder if God even hears our cries for these children. The unknowns are endless.

The one thing I am certain of, though, is that through it all He is still good. This is our story of how we know…

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“But what if you get too attached?”

“What if your kids get attached?”

“What if you get one of those complicated cases with no clear outcome?”

“What if you end up with your hearts broken?”

…Oh but what if we never had these days to get to know her and love her fiercely. What if we never said yes and never knew her sweet one-of-a-kind spirit. What if we never tested the limits of how far our hearts can be stretched. What if we didn’t get to be the ones to be her safe place for however long we have the privilege. And what if her story becomes one of redemption instead of rescue.

This child. This fearfully and wonderfully made little soul. She is worth more than the what ifs.

Just two days after posting those words on Instagram, I would be delivered the news that would challenge this truth to my core.

Earlier that week we had purchased tickets for the six of us to fly to California the week of Thanksgiving, excited to take this precious baby girl to meet all of our family and take her and our boys to Disneyland. I had already purchased her cute little Halloween costume and envisioned the fun Christmas we would be having with an extra little one toddling around. We had no idea when/if she would be leaving us, but all signs seemed to point toward her staying at least through the end of the year.

Then on Friday we were woken up from our daydream to the news that plans have changed, as they often do in foster care.

We were told that our little lady whom we’ve loved as our own for the past six months will most likely be moved to another family within the next 3-4 weeks.

In foster care, family and “fictive kin” are always given priority at just about every point in a child’s case. Fictive kin is a common term heard in foster care and it refers to just about anyone who knows/has known the biological family. They generally have to go through background checks and have a home study completed and, if those are approved, the court will almost always rule to have the child moved to their care, even if they’ve never met the child. The way the system currently works, licensed foster families (like us) are always at the bottom of the totem poll and essentially have no voice in the case. Our girl has an approved fictive kin home that is actively working to have her moved.

I’ve typed and erased what I’m about to say next at least 10 times…

I want to say that we are optimistic and supportive of this decision to move this little girl. They seem like a nice family and I’m sure they will love this sweet child well. I want to be stoic and say that I know this is all part of God’s plan and that “this is what we signed up for”. I want to say that I have peace in this decision and feel like it truly is in her best interest. I want to be grateful that this is happening now versus six months from now. I want to say with confidence that even though we love her like our own, we will be okay when she is gone. I want to say that this is the kind of story I would’ve written for her and I know it will be filled with love and grace.

But here’s the truth. Right now, right here, in this moment… when I think about this sweet child’s world being flipped upside down all over again and her being dropped into another new home with new people and seemingly abandoned by us… I can’t breath. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I can barely move. It feels too heavy. Overwhelming. Suffocating. The mama bear in me wants to wrap her in my arms and never let go. When I think about how devastating this will be to our family, our boys, I feel like falling to my knees to beg God for a miraculous turn of events. Please make this not be what her future holds. When we told our boys the news and saw the tears and pain in their eyes I couldn’t help but question our decision to become a foster family. We are supposed to protect these precious boys and their hearts, and here we are telling them they are about to lose a sibling, because that’s what we signed up for. Yes, we love this girl with all our hearts and she has changed our lives in the best possible way, but what were we thinking? Who in their right minds sign up for this? Were we naive and too impulsive to sign up for something that could cause such heartbreak to our family? Should foster care just be reserved for those who are strong enough, hardened enough to not become too attached? Did we just play Russian roulette with the security and happiness of our family, and lose? What have we done? Will we ever be able to fully recover from this?

I think/obsess/worry about the day she leaves. Often times in foster care the judge rules and CPS comes to pick up the child that day. No time to prepare or say goodbye, no time to wait for your big kids to get home from school so they can say their goodbyes. Just throw all of her stuff in boxes and try not to vomit as you watch her being taken away by a CPS worker, kicking and screaming and trying to cling to you for dear life. And then she’s just gone. I just can’t. And yet foster children face this reality every single day. This is how our system is set up. Laws, policies, procedures, budgets and court rulings reign, and good intentions and the child’s emotional well-being take a supporting role.

What on Earth is this?? Why would God allow such brokenness?

And then a lesson in grace from our 9 year old. “I’m just really glad we got to have her for this long. Maybe there’s another baby that is going to need a home for Christmas time and we’ll be able to take them now”. Deep breath, tears. Simple profound wisdom. He’s only 9 but he gets it.

This journey. This foster care craziness. It’s less about what our self-conceived ideas are of doing God’s work, and more about submitting ourselves to the work that He is already doing.

I get a grip. I remind myself that we didn’t gamble with our family’s well-being. This is not a game. There are no losers in this. We followed God’s lead and we loved like crazy and I have no doubt the growing pains will be worth the renovating that He’s doing in our hearts. Our boys will grow up to have compassion and empathy that cannot be taught from a book or classroom. And I remind myself of just how mighty and sovereign God is in this precious girl’s life. How soon I forget all of the supernatural redemption and miracles He’s performed in my own life. He can and will redeem this kind of heartbreak for her too. I think about how much we love this girl and then I’m reminded how our love can’t even hold a candle to the giant love of her Creator. She is in good hands, His hands. While the process makes no sense to me now, I’m standing only an inch away from the giant mural He has painted and I can’t even begin to comprehend the beauty that is in store when I’m able to step back and see the big picture. I need to trust. I need to be thankful for this time and the growth that will come from it. It is going to hurt, probably for a long time, with painful reminders tucked away in every nook and cranny of our home and hearts. But I know without a shadow of a doubt that if we were given the chance, to love this girl and leave with scars and wounded hearts, or to never know her and our hearts kept guarded and safe… we’d choose broken hearts every time. Because she’s worth it. And because redemption only comes where weakness and brokenness exist.

So now we ride the waves of the waiting game. There are the moments where I struggle to breath, tears streaming, fear and ‘what ifs’ gripping me by the throat. And then there are moments when I allow His peace to fill my heart and I feel strong enough to hold this sweet baby and her future with my hands wide open, ready for His will. And in all of the moments I notice how all of us are being a little more intentional, lingering in moments with her a little longer. I find myself trying to memorize everything about this beautiful little one and this time we have with her, however long it is. I rock her well past the point of her falling asleep and just breath her in a little longer. I marvel at every little hair on her head. I read her Brown Bear Brown Bear for the millionth time without a second thought of those dishes piled up in the sink. And I sit in awe as I watch my boys love her even bigger and bolder than they already did. We have started a bucket list of fun things we want to do with her before she goes. I’m trying to pull myself together enough to start organizing and packing up her things and write a letter to her next caregivers, letting them know about her preferences and schedule and all of her little quirks we’ve gotten to know since April. I’m hoping to muster the strength and composure to write her a letter, telling her all about her first steps, first words, first birthday, first trip to the beach, and let her know how much she is loved no matter where she is. She may grow up to never know us, but I pray she knows that she was, and is, always loved and wanted.

“Grace can’t be outsmarted, out-worried, or outrun. Throw back your arms and fall into it” ~Bob Goff

And so we fall.

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16 months after falling into His grace. Hands wide open to this story of redemption… He is good indeed.

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