There comes a time in a foster parent's life when we know it's time to close our fostering license. Time passes. The noble reasons we began the journey are lived out and the reality of our choices are forever part of our life, our soul, our very being.
Along this journey children come into and move out of our home. Inner emotional strength takes more and more support and prayer to sustain. As years move along, eventually, one or both parents come to the realization that this chapter of life needs to end.
Brian told me, last year, that as soon as the children currently in our home were either reunited with their birth family or adopted by us, our fostering lifestyle will be over. I couldn't understand how he could be so very sure with his statement, though I had those inklings within myself more and more as this "go-round" with fostering twisted in the wind. Still, it's hard to end this thing that has been so fulfilling and challenging.
foster parent has taught me so much about myself and helped me to grow in ways I did not know possible. We have met people along the way that have become wonderful, close friends and interesting role models. God has allowed us to build a larger, more energetic, loving, forever-family. He has poured souls into our world that complete the picture of life for all involved; though the picture cannot ever be perfect. The hard truth is that this family was built from the ashes of families that could have been.
Over the past few months, however, I have finally come to grips with the fact that we are finished with this chapter of our lives. Jaibrian will be adopted sometime next month. It is hitting me that I actually get to be her mother. I actually get to watch this precious, loving, intelligent, beautiful girl grow into a strong woman. I am happy; so very blessed.
I was thinking about her today, as I came across a journal entry that I wrote during one of her visitations with her birth family. It was written in July of last year. As I read it I wept, remembering the very moment I jotted the entry into the notebook. I was sitting in a small room at the Department of Human Services with Jaibrian and her parents. They were enjoying their visitation hour, playing board games and fitting puzzles together. I believe this is the very moment I knew. Deep inside, I knew that I could not do this again.
Journal Entry from July, 2010: "I sit here with a young family that I met last year. Mother and Father are playing a game with their precious, five year old daughter. They're smiling and laughing. Through their smiles, I see the pain. Through their laughter, I hear the screams. They carry such a heavy load that I cannot lighten for them. I hardly have the strength to watch them bear the burden. I build barriers to guard my heart. My prayer is for peace from You. Only You can help them understand how to navigate life after this. Please help them now and forever.
I do not know what will happen; but You do. If they can do it, please let it be. If they cannot, please let her bond completely with the family you see in her future. Hold her in your arms now and forever, as you hold all of us, Lord Jesus. Your Arms are Strong. Only You can bear these burdens. Only You could carry the cross and hold the future. I give it all to You, because I am too weak to handle any of it."
Through this journey I have learned that God has a gentle way of allowing our fanciful dreams to be fulfilled, all the while molding in folds of reality to help ease our transition back to common, every day family life. We wait for the stopping point, yet don't quite know when it will come. I now know that the end comes when the once bright flame of hope and happiness is dimmed to smoldering embers that hold on ever so faintly. The end comes when we cannot bear to watch one more family suffer the slow, agonizing process of being ripped apart by their own hands.
That time has come for Brian and me. We pray that God will prepare strong, young hearts and minds to fill the spot that we leave vacant. The need is great. The journey is hard. The path is long. The little lives touched; those little souls that dangle in the wind...they are worth it. It is difficult to stop, all the while knowing that children come into care every day, but my mother's advice rings in my ears.
"Shelly, you cannot help them all but, with God's guidance, you've helped some. Now raise them."
With that, I give it to God in hope; even as I know that those who came into the system today...their little hearts cannot hold the weight alone. They fall. Someone must be there to catch them, mend them, love them. God, please let there be loving adults willing to make the sacrifices. Let there be strong adults that will hold the pain for the broken children. Let them hold it for as many as they can, for as long as they can bear, and then, dear Jesus, please give them the strength to let go. Amen.