For today, the inevitable lies ahead and I'm tempted to forget the altars I've built to turn around and remember His goodness and instead read into the vault of seemingly unanswered prayers and devastation. The place the enemy loves to pull the hopeful into so that eventually you don't climb out and you quit contending and asking for the impossible. That vulnerable place in need of rebuilding and desperate to glisten with hope, that Lord I asked you for life and found myself watching death, believed you for protection and the mess of destruction was more than I could bare. Trusting and knowing He works all things for good for those called according to His purpose and yet when you find yourself on the edge of that cliff about to jump, doubt diligently attempts to creep in and the battle resumes. Not of flesh and blood but the spiritual realms of darkness and forces of the enemy. I find myself here and now, remembering being here months ago on this new path. How soon it came and my heart not expecting to be here for many more months on this foster care journey.
I'll just say it and pose the question, the thing I'm asked the most besides "Are you going to keep him?" and that is the query, more so the statement "How do you let them go? I just couldn't let them go." We're a year into this battle and my response is the same and I would be lying if I didn't admit I ask myself the same question. I have been here before, we have been here before only this time I know the pain and grief coming. The answer hasn't changed and I don't expect it to.
Me either. I can't let them go either. It's as hard and sad as you think it is. Only more.
But let's go ahead and complicate things because foster care is so far from simple, just as any good thing worth fighting for is. You're blind sighted, ill-equipped, weak, tired, and immature on this battle field yet the darkness comes, the arrows don't cease and holding up that shield of faith is exhausting. The inevitable approaches, we signed the dotted line to say we are willing to get really good at letting go, we're actually in this to let go. I don't want to get good at it. And your name on that paperwork signs you up for the commitment to heart ache, the unknown, and this harsh reality of a dark world. All delivered without warning or protocol.
Walking in the grocery store, working through my list and the phone rings. We heard time lines earlier in the process, he will be with you for awhile. Paper work for adoption so a forever family can come for him while he waits with us, well that takes time so we do our part of the stacks of documents meant to be filled out by his mama only she's long gone and not coming back for him, she just can't. So you pour another cup of coffee and you put his precious life on paper, on a file in hopes the diagnosis and the medical reports don't scare anyone off. And somewhere between us being told that it's a long process and with this baby it's not even guaranteed he will be wanted, until that mid store glance at my list, the phone rings. A family member coming forward to adopt him, get him ready, he's leaving soon.
And those words are about as gut wrenching and foreign as I imagined they would be. You see, you're the one in the NICU, signing papers and bringing him home into your world. You're the one who pushes through the fears of how deep I go in love is how deep it will hurt when he leaves. Loving him will fill him up and loving him will empty you and cost you everything. Hours of phone calls, emails, visits and correspondence and all along you're determined to bring this in close, so that the ones invested deep remember this is a human life here, not a docket number or a statistic.
Your mind runs parallel with the realities at hand and your heart struggles to keep up and lead in truth. Because His truth is truly the only anchor in this. We can only love because He first loved us.
So take that love and run with it, have the hard conversations, tread into unknown waters and push down how scared you are because that whispering fear, the enemy's unending lies are waiting for my weakness. And when the system again shows you how it's broken and overwhelmed, you have the choice of where to land on the spectrum. I can do the bare minimum and just change his diapers, feed him, and swaddle for bed time. I can truly wash my hands and draw up the list of why and how this complicates and shakes up my every convenience and after a few sleeps forget about it and move on. I can fall somewhere in the middle, catch myself holding him at arms length and yet wanting to let him deeper into my soul. And then I can sell out. I can understand the truth that in order to fill him full of everything he needs that means the emptying of me, of us. A high cost. A bounty on my time, energy, sleep, emotion, and nothing is unscathed. If I'm honest and think for every foster parent, with each child, it's different and you find yourself somewhere on that spectrum throughout the process. And I think it's okay, I think you give what you can and you know your limitations because the further deep you get, someone and something pays the price.
Which brings me back to the letting go, someone asked me what it feels like to let go. What does it truly feel like when no one is watching, there's no glam or glory, when you do all the work only to have no rights, no legal leg to stand on, only to let them go? I would say it begins with the day you decide where you're going to start on the spectrum. Once you get past the decision that you're not going to guard your heart with the thought that this is only temporary, once you decide you're all in...well that's the moment you've chosen a deep, foreign ache like no other. And that ache will show itself in various and unexpected ways. There's no prep or professional delivery for the hard conversations. You're walking into a dinner banquet only to stand in a parking lot fighting back tears on the phone because these babies are moved like luggage and when you swing to the other end of the spectrum and fight like you would fight for your own kids, there's no settling and you grit your teeth to find a compromise. Then you dry your eyes and compose yourself and walk back into your reality.
Then one day you get a date, the day he will leave and although you hope you will see him again, something deep inside says this could be it. Mind races and so quickly you can come up with a long list of your worst fears and worse case scenarios. The statistics roll through your head like clock work, the evening news doesn't help, and you hush the alarms sounding off that keep you up at night. Your mind doesn't want to settle down and your heart grasps for solid ground.
Oh how the enemy can feed the lies faster than I can ingest them. The whispers that it's his territory and I'm playing a game I'll never win. That no part of this can yield hope or life because his darkness blankets all over this reality and nothing can save this sinking ship. Hopelessness, depression, discouragement, and fear rule the day.
That's what we buy into when we lose our gaze of the One who uses him as a footstool.
Letting go means a desperate yes to the Lord to come comfort and bring peace beyond our understanding. A chance to learn, to know quickly when I'm leaning on my own thoughts and strength it brings me closer to the lies awaiting to swallow me whole, and this baby too. Clinging to the Lord's word and declaring His promises as this baby's hope and future. It's sitting your kids down over cookies and telling them as simply as you can that he is leaving, that their love is enough, that soon they won't be sad anymore. It's a desperate running start to stay enough ahead of them because they follow your lead and look to you for how to handle it. So mama you had better be filling your cup every morning in the dark early hours. You had better contend for your flesh to decrease and immeasurable increase of God's presence because it's the only thing that sees you through this release that's coming soon.
And then from downstairs I hear your coos, you're awake and you are ready for a bottle, ready for a love so deep and strong, and a goodbye coming in the weeks ahead. So I'll rock you in the rocker my mama cuddled me in and I'll tell you my love for you, our love for you. You need to hear it, you are worth it all.
Dear Little One, because that day will come when I've packed you up and kissed you a thousand times. And my heart and mind flashback to the day I walked into that NICU and sobbed just looking at your little body, the way I couldn't see the print on the hospital discharge summary of the delivery room through my tears. How desperate we were to just get you home and into a family. How the daily appointments overwhelmed because you needed so much care and help. I bathed you and breathed you in long and deep, your soft curls and sweet eyes. In a few weeks I'll buckle you in and tuck the blanket around your little legs one last time. I'll watch you in the mirror at every stop light and cry out to the Lord to go before you, He just has to go before you. I'll drive you to her house and watch her face light up to see you, she loves you and she's waited for you, for this day. Steaming hot tears will continuously flow and I'll try to put words together, closing remarks, last minute details to stall the moment and try to fill the empty space in the moment, the empty space quickly growing in my heart. I'll tell her to call me whenever she needs me, I'll be here in a second. I'll lay down my life for this precious one, for you my Little One. Then it's time, time for you to start your life with her and time for me to leave. I'll fumble my keys into the ignition and pull away, I'll watch you in the rear view mirror as long as I can and weep. I'll weep over you because you are the most valuable in the kingdom and you are a son of the most high King. I'll grieve letting you go because it goes against everything in a human heart to bring in deep only to release into the unknown.
Oh my Little One, tonight I will climb into my bed and your crib will be empty and so is my heart, our hearts. Tomorrow His mercies will be new and He will restore and heal our hearts. Eventually I'll quit thinking I hear you, I'll wash and put your clothes away, I'll try not to cry when I stumble to answer how many kids I have, I have 5 no...4 kids.
And my little one, from the minute we brought you home you would hear your daddy's voice and you would slowly move your head towards the sound, the low tones of him talking to the girls, talking to you, talking to me. In the night I hear Him reveal promise to me over you, dear little one. It's how you were made and how you will always be, a listener, a hearer of the Shepherd's voice.
You will be a lover of His presence, a worshipper and a carry of His goodness and hope.
You will always yearn and lean into hear His voice, your Father's voice.
You will always wait and move into His good plans for your life.
You will always be loved and you will never be forgotten.
Little one, this is the hard part. Letting you go, please know it was never easy for us but we love you and trust He loves you more. That He will tuck you in under His wings and be your tower you can run into. We love you precious one and we always will.
When we're ready and soon we will be ready, we will remember faintly this deep pain and we will say yes again because yet again, a little life will lay and wait. This new struggle on letting go, we trust you over and over that when it's unthinkable and we have nothing left, You carry us further and exceed where we thought we could go. Jesus how You give us courage to love deeply, soak chicken in buttermilk, have hope when it's hopeless, wait in expectancy, and let go.
So tonight we will count down the hours and wait for you to come back home after your visit with her. Soon she will be your mama but not yet, not today. Today and every day coming you will be loved and adored not just by us and our world but by your heavenly Father who sees you and knows you. Letting you go is coming and we know it but tonight you are ours, you always will be ours.