Hope and Heartache

So, I think May was Foster Care Awareness Month. And, true to form as my life as a parent, I am behind. I thought I would write a post anyway. 

We have been foster parents for almost two years now, and have had the opportunity to parent eight kids — some for five days, some for 16 months. As we’ve gone along, it's been so cool to see people — some we knew already, some we met through this experience — take the plunge into foster care and get to be the voice of “you can do this” that so many others have been for us. It’s encouraging to see others step into a potentially heartbreaking (but beautiful) scenario out of love for these kids they haven’t even met yet, and the normalization of being foster parents (though our perspective may be skewed, admittedly). It’s been a blessing to see churches step up and support foster families, foster children and biological families, including our own.

Foster care is messy; there’s no doubt about that. It’s all one big gray area. There’s no right or wrong way to feel or to handle any of these atypical situations. The word “family” becomes nebulous and encompasses a wide range of people, all of whom have a vested interest in these little lives in which you’re investing day in and day out. Feelings become blurred. It’s no longer “happy” vs. “sad,” but both/and: happy, sad, scared, empathetic, angry, confused, hopeful. Fun fact: did you know those can all occur at once and usually they just all express themselves as tears and/or eating your feelings? (We suggest burritos or brownies.)

I haven’t been writing much online lately because so much of what we’ve been experiencing at this point doesn’t feel like our story to tell. We’ve been thinking a lot more about our girls’ future and their right to tell their own story, and their family members’ right to keep their own story theirs — not necessarily because it’s good or bad, but I’ve been convicted lately about how precious our girls’ stories are and that they should be protected fiercely until they’re ready to share them themselves. 

Without specifics, I haven’t known what to write. But I will say the past few months have been a blend of hope and heartache (a term a friend used to describe our situation perfectly).

I think sometimes people forget that adoption (and foster care) doesn’t happen without tragedy. I read that once, and it feels so real now. It’s not a one-and-done ‘rescue.’ And though all adoptions have a sense of tragedy and loss attached, with foster care, we are literally watching it unfold in front of us, which is tough, especially while you’re seeing hope unfold simultaneously.

What brings us so much joy brings other people so much pain at the same time. What becomes a glimmer of hope for us feels like a dagger in the heart to someone else. And those people also deserve compassion, too, because on top of simply being human, often the reason they’re in this situation themselves is because of their own past traumas.

Love shows up in different ways from different people who all want the best for these girls, whatever they feel that may be. And we are all broken. So, so broken. It makes life messy.

I think it’s okay — even necessary — to experience both. I think that’s probably what the Gospel is in some way. Messy, broken humans just clinging to hope from a God who loves us despite our continual rejection of him and screwing-up of things, simply because we are His. Heartache in this world. Hope for the next. Grace upon grace. 

I’d love to hear from y’all about what your experience (if any) has been with foster care thus far — whether hearing about it, being in it, interacting with families who are in it, and your thoughts on this paradox of hope and heartache. Or even how you’ve experienced that messiness in your own life.

If you’re thinking about foster care, let us know. We’d love to be a resource for you, even if you decide it’s not for you. There are a ton of ways you can help children in foster care!