learning to be brave

I want to be brave. I just don’t want to be brave sometime in the future. But I want to be brave right now in this moment and with every aspect of my life.

Maybe that statement is odd to you. After all, I am foster mom. Bravery is a part of my nature and blood. Except that it’s not.

When we started fostering, I believed I was brave. And it’s possible in that moment – the moment I said yes and accepted the placements we’ve had – I was brave. Except that bravery centered around my abilities and my strengths. The second things got difficult, and I questioned if I was even cut out for foster care, all of that bravery disappeared.

It’s a conversation Justin and I have had several times. He’s noticed this trend in my life and our relationship. I become sure about one thing and then convince him to join in. Then, when things get hard for me, I am immediately ready to throw in the towel and give up. He, on the other hand, is just then realizing that we are where we are supposed to.

I guess it’s a good thing we haven’t always been on the same page. I cannot begin to imagine what life might look like if we had just given up and given in to the feelings of failure.
Recently, I’ve been praying for bravery. I’ve been resting in Jesus and his bravery because I know my bravery (just like everything else that is mine) will fail daily. I also have joined a new movement – a community of women learning how to live bravely – called #fireworkpeople. And they also help me to want to be brave.

Even with praying for bravery, I’ve been hiding a lot. Thoughts pop into my head, and I commence writing an entire post all in my head. Within minutes of putting fingers to the keyboard, the post all but disappears and immense fear takes over. I can’t write this. I can’t share my heart. I could never express foster care the way it deserves to be discussed and described. And what about confidentiality?

Some of the fears are warranted. I want to be extremely careful with confidentiality. I never want to place myself, the littles, or my husband in a place where I have said too much or been too explicit about any one aspect of our lives.

Some of the fears are ridiculous. They are simply a way to remain hidden and to keep others out of the loop in somewhat grasping foster care and how to work through fears with foster care.

I’ve been open about the fact that foster care was much more difficult than I expected. I’ve shared some of the milestones – like making it 100 days with three toddlers in our home. We have another milestone coming up. 365 days of parenting three toddlers.

Many people ask how we are going to celebrate. And that word celebrate absolutely destroys my heart. Because I can’t celebrate the past 365 days.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m grateful for the past 365 days. They have been the most fulfilling, difficult, beautiful, and messy days of my life. As difficult as the transition to motherhood has been for me, it has shaped me into a person I am much more proud to be.

That’s not to say that I don’t still struggle. I do. I struggle with immense guilt. I struggle with thoughts of never being enough. I struggle with the balance of work, school, marriage, kids, and not losing myself in the process. Every day brings some type of struggle. But almost every day brings some beauty with it. I say almost every day because, let’s be honest, sometimes it feels impossible to find anything good and all you do is count down to when the next day will start.

One of my struggles right now is how much loss there is with foster care. Foster care itself begins with loss – the loss of the child’s family, the loss of safety before the child comes into custody, the loss of stability, the loss of knowing what to expect (even if it’s harmful and scary). I simply can’t celebrate that much loss.
There’s another woman out there who is also a mother to the littles in the home. The relationship I have with her is a difficult one. It’s not about if we talk or how much we talk. The difficulty resides inside my head as I grieve her lack of presence in the little’s life. I also grieve that she isn’t able to experience the beautiful moments – like a one-on-one date with one of the boys and ended with us holding hands while watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

A part of me still wants them to be able to go home. Because I know how difficult it will be for them to never again be a part of a biological family. And then a part of me is utterly terrified of the day they might leave.

The littles don’t belong to me. No child belongs to their parents, but especially within the context of foster care when I am sometimes nothing more than a place holder.

So as we approach 365 days of fostering and parenting three toddlers I am aware of the pain in my heart that may never recover if I do have to say goodbye. I am also aware of the fear I have with possibly not knowing what will happen to the littles should they leave my home and my house.  But I can’t remain in my fear. If I did, I would not be able to move forward, and if I remained in my fear, it would hurt the littles.

Foster care is not the child’s fault. No child wants to go through the trauma of abuse and/or neglect and then also the trauma of removal from the home and then movement through a volatile system. And yet the children pay the utmost price. A price that increases when adults and foster parents hide in their fear of what it would be like if they had to say goodbye to littles after caring for them for any length of time.

I don’t think I can say goodbye. But I know I may have too. That’s where Jesus’ bravery comes into play. He is so much stronger and able than I am. And if goodbye is what is said, then He will see me through, my husband through, our families through, the littles through, and the littles biological family through.

I type that all out, and again it seems like I am brave. That I’m almost superhuman. And yet my lip quivers and tears flood my eyes. Because I don’t really want to walk out this life of uncertainty and potential farewells. I also don’t really want to be so closely aligned to hurts and heartbreaks. Yet here I am.
I can’t hide from foster care. I tried for a few months. I remained distant. Instead of opening my heart as wide as it could, I let my care by minimal and hid behind graduate school and work. Something happened, and all of a sudden love burst and I couldn’t pretend to not really care about the littles. The moment that happened I felt every single thing.

Holidays are hard. Because I love these littles but my heart breaks for the families they aren’t able to celebrate with. I do what I can and involve the littles in whatever ways I can. This involvement, I feel, honors the littles and their history.

I think that’s how I see the 365 day mark. It’s not a moment to ignore. It’s a moment to honor because the littles deserve to know they are cared for and important. And by honoring them, I don’t celebrate the loss. Instead I acknowledge it and do my best to ensure that the littles know they are more than just this loss. Yes, they are in foster care. But they are also silly, stubborn, adorable, strong willed, and intelligent. That deserves honor as well.

I guess that’s what being brave is right now. The kind of brave I can only be with Jesus. The kind of brave that puts my heart on the line and welcomes inevitable heartbreak for the betterment of three toddlers.


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