When we were decorating the tree this week, my breath caught when I pulled this out of the box. E came to us on December 6 of last year. The next day, I ran out to get some essentials, and I came home with clothes and formula and diapers and this ornament. Everything was so fresh and unknown—we didn’t know if she would be with us for a week or a year, but I wanted to be prepared for Christmas morning. Among the hand-decorated bulbs and preschool pictures of the boys would be at least one bauble that belonged to this sweet little girl.
Today, a year has come and gone, and that sweet baby is a running, babbling force of nature. Our Christmas tree has a play yard around it—otherwise, that ornament would be toast by now. Her sister, who came two months later and will be spending her first Christmas with us, is at a perfect age for this season. She dances when I turn on Christmas music. She gasps when she sees the lights on houses through the car window. I would be a mom of as many two-year-olds as you could bring me if it meant experiencing this season through their eyes over and over.
One of the greatest blessings that has come from fostering is seeing random generosity. My friend, Amanda, sent blankets for the girls with Jeremiah 29:11 on them—she grew up with foster siblings, so she understands the tough balance of trusting that God has a plan for these girls’ lives.
A few months after we started fostering, we got a note in the mail with a $100 bill inside. It was postmarked St. Louis, but I still have no idea who sent it.
I have lived out loud on Instagram and found kindred spirits in other foster parents, which is a source of strength on days when I feel insane. This summer, I received a message from a stranger that stopped me in my tracks. We had just attended our first court case, and I was feeling particularly low. My faith in the system and in humanity in general was shaken. With her permission, I’m reposting the message from a stranger whose poetry is one of my favorite parts of Instagram now. She reminded me why we’re doing this.
Perhaps the most humbling moment so far came when I received a message Thanksgiving morning from Togo. Very long story short for another time—Scott and I are helping several true orphans in Togo start businesses and/or go to college. This is something we have done for a few years and plan to do until a good number of the Togolese kids who call me mom are able to spread their wings. One of the kids sent me a message telling me that he and his brother had just spent three days fasting and praying for our family. Let me tell you that I am not exaggerating when I say that I had had more conversations with God that week with my fists clenched than I’ve had in the rest of my lifetime. This young man, whose life has been full of pain, told me to remember that God is able and in control. He believes that wholeheartedly, and his faith is carrying me in the darkness.
Shortly after the school year started, Ben came home saying he’d been moved into a new math group. He and a small cohort of friends are working at a faster pace than the rest of his class. As far as third grade street cred goes, this is serious stuff. At the end of the quarter, I noticed he was talking more about how math made him feel anxious. He wanted me to check his grades, which is something we just don’t really do around here.
He told me this advanced math was a lot harder and that he was worried he wasn’t going to get an A. After reiterating that his dad and I don’t care what his report card says as long as he’s trying his best, he still seemed upset. I asked him, “If it’s so hard, do you want to go back to regular math?”
His eyes flashed up at me for a second with shock and then disappeared into a smile. He answered, “Of course not.”
And that’s it. This is really, really hard. The intensity and variety of emotions I feel on any given day—well, it’s a lot. But would we go back to easy math? Of course not.
Last spring, Will was preparing for some kind of ceremony after he crossed over to Boy Scouts. He had to pick four elements of the scout law that describe him. He picked loyal, reverent, obedient, and brave. When he explained why each of those words described him, he ended by saying, “I think I’m brave because even when I’m nervous or not sure about something, I just…do it anyway.”
The traditional gift for a first anniversary is paper—and we have signed a lot of them. I hope one day the girls come across the things I’ve written on literal and virtual paper for and about them and know how much they were loved from the very beginning. The modern gift for a first anniversary is a clock, and the time we’ve had with F & E has been fast and furious but feels like a forever kind of love.
ONE YEAR DOWN.