- Ducks fly away. Clip their wings before it's too late, or the Chicago river will become home to your very delicious (and now inaccessible) flying food supply.
- Very young children who insist that they are ready to sleep the entire night in underwear are probably lying. Put a pull-up on them or be prepared to wash your entire cupboard of bed sheets.
- When in doubt, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can stand in for any meal. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, etc. The kids will never complain about too much peanut butter and jelly. And you can check cooking off of your to do list until they are old enough to start washing the dishes.
- Birth control is unreliable. And laughing about it turns out to be much better than crying. I'm still laughing.
- More people in the African-American community thank me for being a foster parent than Caucasians. The majority of white people just think we're crazy. I can't really blame them though, since I think we're crazy too.
- My African-American daughters use more hair and skin products than I will ever need in my entire lifetime.
- A period of waiting is a beautiful thing. Enjoy where you are, when you are. The future will always be there, but the present is so very fleeting.
- Mini vans are awful for so many reasons, and I vowed for years that we would NEVER EVER EVER have one, but it turns out that when you have to fit five car seats and two adults in one vehicle, mini vans with a built in DVD player can actually be a blessing. And yes, I am so incredibly thankful for ours.
- True love is difficult. Learning to love children who are not your own, but who in many ways are your own for the time being, is not a fluffy lovey dovey Hallmark experience. It is hard. And it takes time. And I have to give myself grace and not feel guilty for loving my biological children more deeply than my foster kids who I have known for only two months. Love takes time. And bonding with a child doesn't happen overnight. Grace.
- Foster parents need counseling and therapy just as much (if not more) than foster children. Why do agencies not offer this as a free, optional service to their families?
- The second trimester of pregnancy is ten billion million thousand times better than the first one. I think even my toddlers can testify to this. I actually am starting to feel human again and can even stay up past eight o'clock at night!
- Life goes fast. I had more sandwiches, tea parties, and craft time at this table with my older sister than I could ever count. I never thought that I would grow up so fast and see my own two girls sitting in the very same hand painted chairs together. Only God could be this good. But wow, does life go by fast.
- Family here in the Chicago area to stay is so good. While I will miss the winter trips to warm sunny Mexico to visit family, I will not miss the distance, emptiness, and disconnect that comes from being so far from my family who is so dear to my heart. Having them in our lives again on a weekly basis brings so much joy to my life and to my girls. I am thankful. Because nothing beats this.
After showering you with all my random bullet points, let me tie it all in together neatly. I think the main thing that I have learned this year is simply how to be thankful. I read the book One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp early into 2013. I took the dare and started a thankful list, giving thanks daily in little things and bit things and not so pretty things. My life has changed in many ways since I first read those words. I have learned a lot, fallen over and over again, been given grace, and will continue learning as my life seasons keep changing shape and function. In our current season of adding so many new lives to our family, I have realized that not all gifts seem to be good at first, but that's just our own broken human perspective. Because ALL gifts are from the Father. And ALL of His gifts are good. All of them. Even the ones that arrive with morning sickness, or who show up on your porch vulnerable, scared, and crying. The ones that arrive as food to share or presents to bless. The gifts of growth through pain and heartache. Through seasons of doubt and of fully trusting. All of these are GOOD. And God is in each and every one of them.
I end 2013 not with regrets or resolutions (failed at those last year anyway), but with a heart full of thankfulness. I am thankful that we said YES to opening our home to two little girls who had none. I am thankful that every day is filled with laughter and tears and growing and falling and getting back up again. I am thankful that we have been so privileged to be able to live out the Gospel of Jesus each and every day as we learn to love our kids and walk in Light and live Truth as a family.
I am thankful for the hard days. And for the good ones.
I am thankful that Jesus loves the least of these. And I am thankful that they sleep in our beds and carry our names and faces.
May the shalom of Christ Jesus be upon us as we walk into a new year, full of Hope, Light, Love, and Joy.