Friday, October 22, 2010

October Family Fun

Every year we go to Berry Patch Farms and have a great time.  Here Joel is enjoying a huge pumpkin.
Caleb is looking so grown up to me lately.
Showing off our gourds

Last weekend we went on our first family camping trip.  My aunt, Colleen, and cousin, Jonathan, came with us.  It was SO much fun.  The boys were CRAZY about it and have been talking about it ever since.  I foresee a lot of camping in our future.  Here are the Jedi setting up our tents.
They were positively giddy about sleeping in the tent.  Caleb woke up in the morning and declared, "That was the best night of sleep ever!"  Joel, on the other hand, was so excited he woke up repeatedly through the night whispering away about when we could get up and talking about Cars movie cars.
Joel eating his campfire cooked hotdog.

In the morning we hiked around the waterfall.  Joel was our trail leader for part of the time, and he loved it.
At the Amicalola waterfall.  It was beautiful there.
The whole camping gang
At the start of the Appalachian Trail

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Hope of Reunion

Last week, the boys and I were glued to my computer, watching CNN's live webcast of the Chilean miners' rescue after 69 days a half mile underground.  We watched all day long, and they would both come running when they heard the sirens signaling the approach to the surface of the Fenix rescue capsule.  They asked a lot of questions, and every time someone emerged from the capsule, I was unable to answer them for crying.  Each reunion made me weepy without fail.

Caleb and Joel both asked me why I was crying, and it took me awhile to be able to figure out what exactly sparked my tears.  I knew I was moved by the picture of hope realized, love expressed, and joy overflowing, but I also knew there was more to it than that.  I marveled at the amazing and miraculous salvation of these 33 men, of coming forth to new life and second chances.  I was awed by death defeated and hope victorious -- something we didn't get to experience with Samuel.  But most of all, I kept putting myself in the family members' shoes.  For 17 days, they believed their loved ones were dead; they did not think they would get to embrace them again in this life.  And then for the following 59 days they feared the worst -- that the rescue team would not get there in time.  But all their fears were abated when their husband or brother or father or son stepped out of that capsule and into their arms.  They were reunited.

It's that picture of reunion that moves me to tears when I think about it.  Someday I, too, will be reunited with my son.  I have no idea how long I will have to wait, but I know it will be my lifetime.  I have no idea what Samuel will be like -- will he be a baby still?  Will he be grown up?  Will he even have a body?  I don't know.  But I do know I will see him again someday.  And we will be together again at long last.  And for the first time, I will get to hold my healthy Samuel in my arms -- maybe as a man taller than me, maybe as an infant cradled in the nook of my arm.

Whatever the reunion looks like, it will be more beautiful than I can imagine, and I can imagine some pretty incredible things.  It will be a reunion without all the fears of this life and the brokenness of this world -- without worry about how my son will handle all that he's endured or how imperfect of a mother I've been.  It will be a reunion covered in God's perfect grace and full of His undying hope, joy, peace, and truth.

Someday, I, too, will be reunited with someone I love and had lost.  And this moves me more than I can say.  It stirs my soul to know our separation is only for a while; it will come to an end.  And then we'll spend eternity together in God's presence.  I will look back on life on earth without Samuel and see it for the blink of an eye that it really is, and I won't be filled with longing anymore.  I will simply be fulfilled.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fostering for our Family?

Several months ago our church started a partnership with a faith-based organization called Faith Bridge Foster Care.  They aim to solve the foster problem in the United States by utilizing the church to train up foster parents and raise up a community of people to support and help the foster parents, as well as in many cases support and help the children's biological parents.  In the US, there are half a million foster kids and exponentially more people who would call themselves Christians.  But there is a shortage of foster families to house and love and care for these children.  In our county alone, there are only 17 foster families, but there are over 60 kids in the system.  Faith Bridge aims to equip our churches to serve, love, and cherish these precious kids while their parents try to get to a place to be able to provide that love and care themselves. 

Bryan has had the privilege and joy of being part of the North Point team that is working with Faith Bridge, and over the last few months, he has come home excited and moved after every one of the meetings.  He would share with me about the initiative with Faith Bridge, and I would see more energy and enthusiasm in him than I have in quite some time.  At one point he told me that the team hopes to have 30 families equipped through North Point and 8 kids in beds by Christmas.  When he said that, I couldn't help but ask, "Do you think that should be us?  When I hear you talk about fostering, I can't help but wonder if that should be us."

I can remember hearing about foster care when I was in high school and thinking it was a really cool thing.  My sophomore year of college, I lead a Bible study of freshmen girls, and one of the girls, Kira, grew up in a family who fostered.  When she talked about it, I remember thinking, "I'm going to do that some day."  And ever since then, I've assumed we would do it...someday.  Bryan and I have talked about it a few times over our almost ten years of marriage, but we assumed it was in the future -- when our kids were older, maybe even out of the house.  And from the beginning, I have always imagined fostering babies.  I am a baby person through and through.  I love kids of all ages, but sometimes that love has to grow, but with babies, it's just there -- immediately and completely.

Ever since that day I asked, "Should it be us?", Bryan and I have talked frequently about fostering.  We've discussed it from a myriad of angles.  When Bryan asks what I see in our future, my answer always involves kids.  I love kids; I love being a mom; I can't imagine any future that doesn't involve children in some way.  And when Bryan looks forward, he sees us somehow helping what he calls "the least of these."  He has had a passion for the marginalized in society for as long as he can remember.  It seems that fostering may be the perfect merging of our two passions.  We both get really excited when we talk about it -- Bryan about helping and serving a group of people who are passed over and wounded, and me about a baby I can love on and care for for some amount of time until his or her own family can provide those things. 

But we've also wondered about the risks for our family -- specifically what will it be like to have another baby we don't get to keep.  Our grief is deep and still very real, and loving another baby and then someday saying goodbye -- probably forever -- is pretty terrifying, especially if the baby is returning to a less than ideal environment.  And we wonder what it would do to Caleb and Joel to have a baby come and go again.  Would they ever be able to believe a baby was going to stay if the Lord grants us another child?  Will we be scarring them in some unforeseeable way?  I've talked to Caleb about fostering numerous times, and he says, "It makes a lot of sense, Momma.  Perfect sense."  And this past weekend he prayed, "Lord, please help Mommy and Daddy know if they should be foster parents, and please help them to decide yes."  He has such a giving heart, and I love that about him.  It makes me well up when I think about his generous heart and truly kind nature.  Out of the blue he has asked me on several occasions, "Are you going to foster, Momma?  Are we going to do it?"

One thing Bryan and I have felt confident of is that if we're going to be foster parents, we must buy into the system.  We must accept a child with the goal of reuniting that baby with his or her parents or extended family.  We could not take a child into our home with the hope of it turning into adoption.  I just don't think that would be wise for our still tender hearts.  I am all for adoption, and I'm very open to it in our future, but I think we would have to pursue it separately from fostering.  We would have to follow a more traditional route.  If we do foster, and a child we care for becomes adoptable, then we would certainly have to talk and pray about that, but we cannot go into this hoping in the back of our minds that we'll end up with a child who is forever ours.  I really think we'd be setting ourselves up for heartbreak and devastation.  We would have to accept a child for the interm -- offering our hearts for the short time he or she would be with us.

We've also talked round and round about fostering older children, but we keep coming back to the same place.  We know we can provide what a baby needs -- holding, feeding, cuddling, soothing, but we aren't at all sure we have the emotional or physical margin to invest in an older child who knows they've been wounded, neglected, and broken.  And with Caleb and Joel at such impressionable ages, we just don't feel like it would be wise to have a child who is older than they are. 

After much discussion and prayer, we decided to go ahead and take the next step forward toward fostering and to keep taking steps until we hit a road block -- and perhaps we never will.  We may get pregnant again, which would be a road block, but who's to say the Lord will grant us another baby, and surely we could care for a baby during pregnancy.  So, this past weekend we attended the Friday and Saturday training at our church for foster parents.  Ahead of us yet is background checks, fingerprinting, physicals for the whole family, 44 pages of paperwork, TB tests (which is hilarious since Bryan has a ridiculously funny story about passing out slowly after a TB test, his hands sliding down the glass divider between the receptionist desk and the waiting room in the doctor's office -- and ultimately ending up passed out across the doorway heading back to the exam rooms), 15 more hours of training, and an extensive home study.  It will likely take us months to be approved, and who knows what will happen in that time.  But for now we will continue to move forward until something stops us.

Though it's a scary unknown in some ways -- loving another child who won't get to stay with us, holding a baby in one night longer than I was able to hold Samuel in his whole life, opening our home to a world of inconvenience, and facing the reality of heartbreak these foster children experience -- we are confident that fostering is a good thing.   Loving "the least of these" is God-honoring, and God never promised us that following Him would be easy or painless or even gratifying.  In fact, He tells us the opposite: serving Him leads to persecution, suffering, and sacrifice.  But we can do it joyfully, and we rejoice at the thought of fostering babies.  So forward we will continue to step, and who knows, perhaps we'll have a baby in a crib in a few more months.   It's exciting to think about what God might do.  Perhaps God will foster growth and healing in our family as we offer those very things to a baby in need.