I got a gym membership right before my birthday this year because I was desperately in need of some time to work out and let out some frustration. I started listening to this podcast, Honestly Adoption as they did a series about kids who have faced significant trauma during the holidays, and they talked about how Halloween through New Years is pretty hard for kids who are in the foster care system and who have been adopted. I think I knew this in the back of my head, but I wasn't really intentionally doing anything about it.
If I am not careful, my extroverted self will commit to doing something every night of the week. I love parties, games, small groups, Bible studies, etc. But (surprise!) this is not what is best for my kids. They need slow, steady, and careful, not fast, crazy, and overstimulated. The last couple of weeks have been especially packed with parties and "fun" things because of Christmas coming up, but throw an adoption into the mix and things kind of blow up a little bit.
Things especially blew up on Thursday in a way that totally rocked me. I am not sure what exactly it was, but I know that my people-pleasing self and raising teenagers/tweenagers doesn't always mix well. When there is conflict, I want to resolve right away, but other people (including my children) need time to recover and reconnect. But my soul was weary and when I woke up on Friday and things were not better AND I had to go to school on the Friday the 13th before midterms, I about lost it.
No, let's just be real. I DID lose it.
You know how it's decently normal to cry in the shower? For some reason, I decided to defy normal and act like everything was totally fine in the shower but then bawl my eyes out while I was drying my hair. I didn't feel mentally prepared to take on the day, especially with unresolved conflict weighing on me.
Then, as I was pouring half-and-half into my already-made coffee (thanks to my amazing husband), I fell into his sweater with sobs. Apparently the hair dryer cry wasn't sufficient.
I said goodbye to TJ and KK and got into the car, waiting for Kendrick. And then, I uncontrollably lost it again. The tears streamed down until one of my kids came out to the car to give me a hug and tell me it was okay. That gave me enough relief to get through my day.
I write this because I want you to know that whether you're single, a retiree, a stay-at-home mom or dad, a foster or adoptive parent: you are not alone in your cries. In fact, I'm glad we're crying. Here's why:
As foster and adoptive parents (and really, any parents), we are carrying a heavy load. (Although we have to remember that our children's load is even heavier than our own, that does not negate that the roads we walk are also difficult.) We are dealing with things at home that other people do not see. When we signed up for this, we signed up to bring light to a dark place. We signed up to fight trauma and its effects on our kids. But the trauma our children have faced is significant, and the light that we bring when we decide we're going to "change the world" doesn't immediately rid our children of the darkness they have faced.
(But we do hold to the promise that darkness CANNOT extinguish the light in John 1:5).
When I was in college, our president, Dr. Brown, inspired us to change the world for Christ. He always talked about going into the world, into whatever we were going to do, and changing that corner of it for the sake of the Kingdom of God. And I always got so excited to do that. As ministers of the Gospel, we get to bring light to dark places! How exciting!
But what I failed to realize was that entering into darkness doesn't automatically make it light. Jesus endured deep and painful suffering before experiencing Glory. And so, in turn, we also must experience deep and painful suffering before experiencing Glory. And when we choose to enter into foster care and/or adoption, we are actively choosing to experience a piece of our children's hardship for the sake of Jesus but also the sake of our children. We have the privilege of not only believing in Him, but also of suffering for His name. We have the privilege of entering into our children's suffering to carry some of it for them, and then in turn Jesus carries it for us. What a joy and a privilege.
I used to be so confused about how suffering could be a privilege. But it is through suffering that Christ shines the brightest. If I can show my love to my kids on the hardest of days, on the days that I cry three times before even backing out of the driveway, that is going to prove the unconditional-ness of my love way more than watching a movie with them or making them their favorite meal. Those things are important too, but those things are easy. Loving with tear-soaked cheeks and a broken heart is hard. And that is where they see Christ.
And so, maybe changing the world looks like crying three times before work, but then forgiving and loving and showing up again.
Maybe changing the world looks like giving a gift to the birth mom who acts like she hates you when you show up to the visit.
Maybe changing the world looks like sitting outside of the bedroom while your child cries to let them know that you're there and love them.
Or altering your Christmas plans and giving up the idea of what your life "should be" and leaning into what it truly is.
Or ditching your Christmas party to hang out with your family.
Or sending a thank-you card to the social worker who doesn't seem to be doing her job.
Whether you're bringing light to a dark place through foster care, adoption, social work, CASA, a relationship with someone who is depressed, or bringing cookies to a nursing home, you're changing the world.
...And I'm just giving you permission to cry while you're doing it. Let's cry together. For the sake of the Kingdom and for the sake of our kids.
(P.S. I am also a huge advocate of counseling and therapy if you are a foster or adoptive parent. Crying and sadness is a big part of this journey, but you should not do the journey alone. Find a counselor and a support group to help you along the way!)
(P.S.S. I am okay :) I just want you to know the real, everyday journey that is foster care and adoption. I want to be honest and true and real because authenticity is the bomb and I believe we find Jesus there.)