First up, read my words carefully…I said foster…not “our family is finished!” HA!

We have learned a lot in the last 18 months of REAL, HANDS ON EXPERIENCE. Recently, the biggest thing we have learned, is foster only can be a blessing, as well as a curse. Our first, foster only daughter (brown-eyed blessing), we knew all along and so did she, that eventually she would return to some family member. Fostering a child, who everyone mutually knows will leave, is MUCH different from a child who longs to be adopted, and both she and you know, you wont adopt her.

The spot between a rock and hard place is where we have lived the last nearly 6 months. To have a child who was told constantly by families that they would adopt her, only to get rid of her, meant countless rejections. She LONGS to be wanted. She longs to have an identity and a place in your home. No matter how stinkin’ hard you try. No matter how many times you tell her, everyone is looking for her a home, she doesn’t understand why YOU are not her home. She doesn’t understand why YOU, don’t want her. She doesn’t understand why you wont adopt her.

When she doesn’t understand, you pay for it. Like hell.

This poor child was broken and longed to be whole. Our two-week respite turned longer because she needed stability, she needed to not be screwed over once more, she needed to see normal (hahaha, us normal?).  She needed to be taught that school was important, she needed to be taught that there are people in this world, who would put on their boxing gloves and go the mat for her.

We did. EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. We spent countless hours at the school, countless hours at home, trying to make up for a four-year crappy education gap in her life. We spent countless hours pouring love into her. We spent countless hours trying to sort thru the sordid lies she tells, because lying has been her survival mechanism for 9 years. We made sure that she felt just as special and fabulous as the others. None of that was ever good enough, because at the end of the day SHE KNEW we would not adopt her. SHE KNEW, she was not in a forever home. She watched us adopt baby bug, then she watched us get peanut. Seriously, can you imagine what all went thru her head? She had been rejected countless times before, and even while she lived in our house, we were rejecting her by not adopting her.  OH MY HEART!

She pushed back even harder. “We didn’t love her.” “We treated the others better than her.” That’s the “easy” and “nice” stuff…

If a child has never looked you in the eyes and asked you “why wont you adopt me?” consider yourself blessed and lucky. NOTHING can prepare you for the hurt in a childs eyes. No matter how positive you try to spin the answer, the truth is there, and she isn’t stupid.

Her rejection brought backlash, and it was ugly…Since she felt rejected we heard she didn’t like us because we didn’t take her out to eat every day. She didn’t like us because she had a bedtime. She didn’t like us because she couldn’t eat fire hot cheetos for breakfast. She didn’t like us because we didn’t take her to amusement parks. She didn’t like us…she didn’t like us…she didn’t like us….

Soon our little family train began going downhill and off track…then progressivly gained speed.

It began with family drama and a broken 9-year-old little girl. In March my fil told my husband a relationship with him wasn’t worth the effort, after 10 months of not talking to my husband, my fil boastfully told my husband that his mom was so mad at us that she gave our children’s Christmas presents to someone else, due to her anger towards my husband and I…then, they ignored our daughters birthday, again because of anger pointed towards us. Our oldest daughter went to bed sobbing and heartbroken.  She has failed to understand why her grandparents don’t love her for many years, and it was the straw that broke the camels back in her world. She has sacrificed her bedroom, her mother, her father, her sister, brothers, so much, and she has lost a lot.  To her, she has never wanted anything more than for grandparents who love and care for her, and she was devastated that they don’t love or care enough about her.  She just broke. She was crushed beyond fixing (in our fleshly eyes). It started a very ugly downward spiral in her, her heart, her attitude, her self-esteem.

Watching our daughter ache, began a spiral in us, as parents.

At my lowest point I cried  myself to sleep, not understanding why in the hell “family” can hurt our children and not care, I didn’t understand how we had taken a child for two weeks, and how it turned months, it seemed everything was coming to a head at once. At his lowest point, my husband looked beaten down and exhausted, exhausted from 10 years of battling family, exhausted from watching his daughter ache, and exhausted with everything, and wasn’t sure how to ‘fix’ anything. At our oldest sons lowest point, my four-year old prayed one night “God please help ____ to go away.” (this mother sobbed).  In the midst of the storm Peanut was hospitalized for 8 days, leaving hubby and I to rotate hospital duty and home duty. It seemed everything, everywhere was out of control.

Our focus, was way out of whack and we went into survival mode. Survival mode is not healthy. We tried to pull ourselves up, and we just could not. Luckily, we have friends who saw it and knew it…they would come stand in our kitchen praying over us, rebuking the devil, and offering respite, friends would text hilarious things to make you laugh for at least two minutes.  It was in those times we realized how grateful we were for the people God put in our lives to fill in the gaps.

Mark my words, NOTHING CAN PREPARE YOU FOR THIS JOURNEY, EXCEPT FOR WALKING IT IN THE FLESH. Oh sure, you can read books, and know that you need to discipline them different from biological children. You can learn that you need to draw them closer to you, rather than seclude them. All of those are very valid things, and without those things floating around in our heads, our situation would have been a lot worse.

Then one day, God just stopped the sea. He calmed the waters and began a work in each of our hearts like we could never have imagined. The category 5 hurricane, almost instantly became a tropical depression. A sweet friend adopted Willow for several days to give her a break, she came home feeling like royalty and her whole attitude was different. Someone else invited hubby, peanut and I to an evening night out, where we were blessed with friends who kept the other five. It was our first date since last summer. Hunter and Emory had heart changes too. Even our foster daughters attitude changed, oh sure she failed to mention a massive project due in five days, but we got it done with little sassiness and backtalk. Our attitudes changed as well. When we started backsliding, God stepped down and reminded us that she was HIS.

God reminded us that the family drama as always been there, they aren’t going to change or make an effort, and we can’t change that, we have to offer more grace, and we have to teach our daughter grace…but that is a hard lesson when you are 9. The enemy totally took that situation and allowed it to stew and fester in our hearts as parents, he used it as a distraction to the Lord and our families calling. A painful lesson, but a good one.

God used the last few weeks to remind us of his calling to our family. He used it to refresh us and renew our hearts. He reminded us of the grace we need to give ourselves, each other, and the children he puts in our home.

We were grateful for the calm because in the last few weeks before she moved on to another home, it was God breathed. It was not 100% peachy, but it was God breathed. There was no war, there were few tears, there were no ugly hearts, it was just family.

So while we know our family is not complete, we know that we can never do respite or foster only ever again.

So today as you pray, pray for the families who are called to foster only. Their battles, while they may not be seen on the outside are there. They are fighting for precious children’s lives. They are fighting to make sure those children no one else wants know they are loved. They need our love, encouragement and support. They need you to hold them accountable spiritually, but when they are too exhausted to pray, pray for them. They need you to bring them a meal and leave it on their front door. They need you to love them.

To those of you who stood in the gap for our family as we were in the trenches, thank you will never be enough. We hope and long to repay you back. We know you received many heavenly rewards. THANK YOU.