Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Things I Didn't Want to Learn

I have learned so much over the past four and a half months as a foster parent that thinking about all of it makes my head spin. Most everything that I have learned I read about years ago in college. Not a single undergraduate education major escapes college without a child development class or two! 

Most of what you learn in college about "the real world" doesn't really sink in though 'till you've experienced it in the real world. For most of us, the real world is safe, commonplace, and at times rather dull.  What my family learned these past four months was at times dangerous; we no longer feel common and it was definitely not dull!  If you need to add a little excitement to the routine of your life, consider taking in foster kids. 

In college I learned about the developmental stages of childhood. This past summer we learned that when a child is neglected or not properly cared for and loved, these stages get all messed up.  

In college I read about two things called Reactive Attachment and hoarding.  The past 4 months I saw both taking place.  In college [As well as up until the day before the kids came] I assumed that a family's love could easily overcome these behaviors.  I was wrong. Overcome, maybe.  Easily, not.  Time, LOTS!

Four months ago I learned that "rest" and the whole idea of needing rest and resting have to be taught.  I never dreamed I would meet a child with no idea how to rest.  Ever.

Four months ago I met children who used [and sometimes still use] food for emotional blackmail.  Whether binging or refusing to eat, children who have not been nurtured and sometimes not fed use food as an emotional weapon.  These same children can be overwhelmed by portion sizes. Large or small, the ammount of food on their plates can be traumatizing.

Four months ago I started to witness my own children at their servants' hearts' best as well as driven to their most fed up worst. Seeing them stretched and used was painful as well as prideful. They are, after all, still kids themselves.  Watching them suffer was painful but knowing that they were growing and maturing eased the pain a little.

Four months ago I learned that it is possible to love children that aren't mine.  2 weeks ago I learned how to let one of them go.

Four months ago I was optimistic that I had enough love [and discipline and cleverness and equal stubbornness] to begin to heal children who didn't fit a typical developmental mold.  2 weeks ago I learned that bandages aren't enough sometimes.  I learned that some wounds are beyond my love at this point.  I learned that I am just a bandage but the wounds I was trying to heal were not just surface scratches.  

Four months ago my pride was in tact.  2 weeks ago my pride was smashed in one hour.  2 weeks ago I wasn't enough.

2 weeks ago I had to surrender to the fact that I am not enough and I never will be.  I am not supposed to be.

2 weeks ago I had to admit that my family was not enough.

2 weeks ago I learned what it really means to surrender.  Throw up the white flag.  

2 weeks ago I felt failure.  I felt defeated.  I felt bruised.  

2 weeks ago I learned what it means to have nothing to hold on to except hope.  Hope that God has a bigger plan than what was unfolding before me.  Hope that what I was listening to wasn't the end of something but rather the beginning. I now cling to that bigger plan.

Without the hope found in God's bigger plan for my life and hers, I would feel like a failure still.

In the arms of a loving God, I am reassured that I didn't fail.  I did what God asked.  

In the still quiet times of reflection over the past 2 weeks, I have learned that circumstances not working out according to my plan do not equal failure.  They have allowed me an opportunity like never before to trust a really big God.

Over the past month I had prayed unceasingly for God to reveal his next step.  I prayed in anguish that "something's gotta give." I was at my wits end. I prayed and God answered. He didn't answer by calming the storm but by holding me though the tempest and waves that I thought I was drowning in. He reminded me that the water's never part 'till your feet get wet. I thought I was drowning but now look back and see Him holding my head just above the crashing waves. He reminded me that He often shows off the biggest when we totally surrender.

We had to surrender 2 weeks ago but not to failure; to hope. Hope that after what felt like 70 years of captivity, God's plan for a little girl's hope and future are secure in His hands.  Hope that the part we had to play in her life made a difference.  Hope that the seeds we planted will be watered and tended by someone else.  

Being asked to be "the first link in a chain" rather than the more noticible last link is just as honorable.  We can't see into tomorrow but we have learned to trust God's plan for it.

Another realization that we have come to is that we will likely be asked to go on this adventure [aka 13th floor] again.  We have learned much.  Maybe next time we will be able to use some bit of wisdom we learned over the past 4 months to some other child's benefit and healing.  

Maybe some of the things we learned, that we really didn't want to learn, will help us in the future.  

Maybe we will be crushed again.

Maybe we will feel more successful.

But maybe not.

Maybe we will just be obedient.  And that's enough.

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