Today our little Sugar Ray had tubes put in his ears. All went well and he is doing great! The whole experience, however, is still one that reminds me how foreign this foster parent thing is for me. Things are just different - DFCS had to sign consent forms for the surgery to even happen. The final decision-making is completely out of our hands. Just so different.
Both of my older children have had tubes before so the surgery itself wasn't that big of a deal. It was all the questions that they ask you about the child that struck a nerve with me.
Disclaimer: We don't usually go around announcing to strangers that Sugar Ray (who is also starting to be known as Baby Bruno because he looks like Bruno Mars!) is our foster son. We treat him like our son and usually people recognize him as such even though the physical traits look quite different from the rest of our family.
However, in this setting there is always this question, "Is there any family history of _______?" And every time we have to say, "I don't know." That response usually receives a little bewilderment and then some relief on the face of the person asking the question because they had already noticed his striking difference from us. Then, comes questions about how long we've had him and will we adopt. After the quick version of things, we usually get this sort of comment, "Well, he is lucky to have you. I hope you get to keep him. You guys really are such a blessing to him." These are great questions and understandable comments. But honestly these comments usually make me feel like a poser and a fraud because the truth is he is such a blessing to us!
I know that sounds so cliche - he blesses us far more than we bless him - but it's true. So, I thought I would make a list of all the ways that foster care blesses me.
1. It makes me feel more human than I've ever felt. What do I mean by that? Well, I don't mean that I feel more fragile, frail or fleshy in all the ways we think being human can be a bad thing. I mean that I feel more tender, vulnerable and authentic. I think that's just part of opening your heart to the unknown and the other. It's scary, yes, but it's such a sweet spot of surrender and raw emotion. I've always been a good person to cry with others, but I find now that things truly grieve my spirit more than ever. Example: we sat next to a family today where the woman was going in for a double mastectomy. I almost cried on the other side of the curtain. I never saw her face but I know her story because I've walked alongside so many others on her journey. It's.just.not.easy. Life isn't easy. Our journey isn't easy, but it's so human - full of brokenness and redemption and love. And that is so good and just as God intended it when He created us; we are to embrace our flesh and all that it means to be human.
2. It has stretched and grown my faith in the best way possible. I like to control things and I can't in this situation. That is good for my soul. I don't know the future and how everything will play out. And that is also good for my soul. It has taught me a deeper trust and that God will provide our daily bread to face each step along the way. This truth runs deeper than foster care into the rest of our lives but you have to learn it quick when that reality stares you in the face each day. When that truth occupies a room in your home.
3. It has reinforced my conviction that everyone's story comes with its own nuance and details. All of our lives are unique - they carry with them a lot of detail that most of the world never knows. It's tempting to think we have people figured out when we assume we know their story, but if we stop and listen we know there is more to them and more to each of us. Our boys' stories have a lot of nuance. I hate even using the term foster child with them because immediately they are put into a whole different category in people's minds. They are labeled. They are so much more than foster children and labels just like the rest of us. They are little boys whose lives are filled with much brokenness but little boys who are experiencing daily the beauty of God's grace and love offered by SO many who love them well and love them deeply. They carry the "label" beloved just as we all do.
4. It has expanded my circle and broadened my sense of community. I have become friends with so many people whom I would have never known had it not been for our connection as foster parents or with those who share our deep passion for the orphan. The bond is often instant because we share a common language and understanding of a whole different kind of world. I'm grateful for them and their ministry. I love seeing their families expand with new kiddos. I'm comforted knowing there are others tilling this same ground in the lives of little ones just like us.
These just scratch the surface of how life is better because of being a foster parent. Don't even get me started on how much my understanding of love has depended - I wrote a whole blog on that in the Fall!
So, next time we see each other and you say something along the lines of what a good thing we are doing and I shake my head and stumble over my words, please know it's because I feel like the luckiest woman in the world that God has chosen us for this particular ministry. And I often don't know how to express my thanks to Him for this most amazing gift.
And...it's usually because I feel like a poser and a fraud.