This week has been hard.
Maybe it was because the first half of the week was filled with cold and rain. The cold got into my bones and the dampness seemed to suck all the remaining warmth out. I wake up the morning still tired. And food seems to have lost it's flavor.
About every three months or so this happens. And every time it does, it feels just as hard as the first time.
She lashes out. Becomes a whirlwind of quiet destruction. Books and toys and mattresses and dressers and walls are bashed and broken beyond repair. Her heart twists tight and turns to a block of stone. Unyielding. Holding its ground.
She won't meet my eyes.
Can't let go. Must stay in control. Must survive.
It always comes on suddenly. Without warning. Without an obvious trigger to point back to and have understanding.
I react poorly.
I am overwhelmed. Arms full of children, four others who need me every minute of the waking day. How to I put four little lives on pause in order to sit with the fifth for as long as she needs? It feels impossible. And in the frustration of knowing that I can't do it perfectly, I lash out. And react and overreact. And overreact again. It isn't me anymore trying to help a scared little girl through life. It's a tired, overwhelmed angry person who just walked into a wall and is angry that the wall won't budge because I have other things to do and I don't have time for this.
I lose perspective. She loses all control. We battle. Long and loud. It lasts hours and then days and I cry into the phone and in my mom's arms and in my bed at night. Eric gives me counsel and I pay out money for practical training because really I wasn't born into this world knowing how to do this. Having a license to be a foster parent doesn't mean that we intuitively know how to parent children with trauma. I know nothing about this. It's been a year and a half and we are still floundering.
This is hard.
You think that you can just love them enough. That you can love them out of the behaviors. That if you provide just what they need then they will be ok.
It's not true.
You can love them with love that they have never experienced before in their entire lives. You can nurture them and guide them, but their past is a part of their story. And while who you start out as doesn't determine your future, it does play a part in shaping it.
A child who has been through trauma doesn't just get over it and move on.
It's more complicated than that. Their story is a part of them. Even all those parts that make you want to scream at the injustice and squirm in discomfort. It's still their story.
Today is Friday. The end of a long week with a lot of struggles. Ironically, it's the eve of my older sister's wedding day as well. I am tired, and taking a pause. Realizing that I need more training and need to do something about it. Need to figure me out in order to truly help her.
I'm reflecting too. Remembering that God loves us even when we are the most unloveable. That He adopts us as His even after we spend hours yelling at Him and blaming Him for everything wrong with our lives. He doesn't love us because of our behavior, good or bad. He loves us because we are HIS.
I understand this more with my biological children. The children that I grew in my body and birthed into this world and nourished with my milk. I love them because they are MINE. They were made from me, a physical manifestation of love made flesh.
It feels different with my foster daughters. They were never mine. They belong to someone else. And yet they arrived on my porch that one cold night and I instantly became their new Mom. Their second mom. I have no legal rights over them. We share no genetics. And when they ask if they are living with me for always I don't have the answer, but hope that what I say turns out to be true. It is true that their case is heading in the adoption direction, but it isn't there yet. And it is also true that should their case get there, we will be adopting them. But all of that remains unknown, because the court is slow and because birth parents matter. They rightfully get every chance the court can give to get up on their feet and do what is right. And so I hope for the children. That whatever happens, it will be in the best interest of the kids. And I pray that it will be.
So I love my foster daughters. I call them my own. But it is a growing love. It isn't that instant effortless, unconditional Mama love that comes upon you the moment you birth your infant and see his face for the first time. It is slower growing. It takes time and work and a lot of energy and whole lot of prayer. It takes connecting and bonding and failing and getting back up again and again and again. It takes asking permission to hug and asking forgiveness in humility and teaching how to look someone in the eyes and use gentle words. It is a love that is learning how to be unconditional. It's learning how to forgive when she yells that I'm a stupid, ugly Mama for two hours straight. It's learning how to deeply understand when she says she doesn't want me, but wants her other mom, even with all the problems and suffering that went with it. It's a love that is learning to love her because of HER, and because she is precious. Not a love based on her behaviors.
I want to love her like Jesus loves her.
And I am so desperately thankful that I don't have to try and do that alone. Because Jesus IS love. And He already IS all of it's attributes for me. I just have to let Him love her through me.
And while this is the hardest thing that I have ever done, I would never regret taking in these two girls and loving them into our family. Because God has taken us in deeper with Him than I ever imagined we could go. All because He asked us something crazy, and we said Yes.
If this has given you doubts about ever being a foster parent, don't let it. Because God knows what He's doing. And the best thing you can ever do, is say YES to Him. Even when He asks the crazy.