A little over four years ago I stepped into the world of foster care. After attending an informational meeting I was left with a choice. I could turn away assuming someone else will take care of it or I can embrace the small whisper in my heart, (that I call God) prompting me to step towards it. That voice reminded me that I CAN do something about it, even as a 27 year old, naive, single, barista. In that moment when I said yes, I underestimated the life altering reality that choice was. That choice put me on a path that wrecked me and rebuilt me in the most chaotic, crazy-beautiful, stunning kind of way.
I have experienced the exhilarating joy of gain and the paralyzing reality of loss. The ups and downs of time and verdicts. The complex reality of adoption, which is not a happy ever after, clean and tied up with a bow but an act of redemption, messy and tangled with hope. In the midst of the loveliness of adoption is the harsh reality of the bitter. To walk life with bio parents and children who know the weight of the choices made, the lives forever changed by the verdicts delivered. The things we can not tidy up or make sense of, the hurt and trauma that ripples through our stories and our home.
The flip side is the overwhelming, suffocating reality of loss. The forgotten loss, as foster parents “we know what we are getting ourselves into,” that fact is not truth nor is it a free pass for us to not feel the ache of loss. Becoming a foster parent is knowingly opening your heart up for open heart surgery, the kind without anesthesia. You will feel the deepest pain possible in the all the corners and it lingers. You step into a world that is hurting, you love deeply dimpled faces, with dark eyes. You kiss, rock, talk, play and celebrate little souls that are hurting and in a moment, one verdict changes it all, you pack their things and say your goodbyes, grieving the loss that in some ways feels worse than death.
Loving them is the hardest thing we will do in a day. Losing them is one of the hardest things we will feel in our life. I have had the painful honor of learning the gift of love and the pain of losing that love. Those experiences help keep me grounded, the honor of experiencing a love so deep that I don’t ever quite feel “normal” again after losing it, I am beginning to see is the definition of a life well-lived.
To be a foster parent is to count the cost, to see the risk, but to say yes. To experience the kind of love that is an all in kind of love, where the risk is high and the impossible reality dwells of holding them in an open hand ready to let them go in a moment. To know what beauty exists in the ashes of loss, when the clouds are heavy and the darkness is great, to still find hope that the sun will rise again. Being a foster parent is to change the world and yourself.