foster care, Orphanprevention, parenting resources

Bittersweet Goodbyes

“Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28

Foster care, adoption, biological parenting are very different, yet very much the same. Any and every form of parenting is hard work. Parenting is sacrificial. Parenting is temporary. Period.

I have previously mentioned the “shock” of parenthood we felt the first couple of days with our foster children. I have many friends with new born babies and teenagers who experience the very same “shock” in almost every new season of life. Every season of life has difficulties and joys whether it is a season of childhood, singleness, career, marriage, parenthood, etc.

In the blink of an eye, seasons come and seasons go [time tends to speed up the older you become, or so it seems]. Some seasons of life appear all too short, while other seasons feel as though to last f-o-r-e-v-e-r. In reality, regardless of the number of days allotted to a specific season of life, all seasons are just that: seasons. Every season has a beginning and an ending accompanied by a beautiful and/or challenging in between period. In light of our unfathomable eternity, seasons come and go before we even understand all that was lost or gained in that given time.

The beautiful bitter sweetness of seasons is that these periods of time are ever-changing. Understanding this truth makes living in the current season that much sweeter, as well as, making the exiting of the season sometimes quite painful. As we grow and change in this brief lifetime, seasons will come and go along with the people and experiences of each moment. Although a season will not last forever, the experiences and transformations to which a season impacted our lives will resonant throughout eternity.

Foster care is a more “evident” temporary lifestyle, because the goal of foster care is the reunification of the family unit. Restoration is truly our hearts’ desire. This does not mean that the ending of a season with our foster children is painless. There is grief that comes when parting with a child you have grown to love and cherish as your own. I do not want to belittle this “bittersweet pain” in any way. Jesus is with us at this very moment. We choose joy because we are not “losing” these children. We choose to view reunification as a means of celebration. God is in the business of restoration and we want to help others pursue this in any way possible. Not every situation will be joyful. There are definitely situations of reunification that foster parents must cling to the power of God’s sovereign goodness even in the bleakest of situations. Every reunification situation will be unique.

In our current situation, our foster children are being reunited with wonderful family members who we pray will continue to care and love them as we have. We are celebrating that the Lord has allowed us the opportunity to “stand in the gap” for these precious children. We are celebrating all that He has accomplished in our hearts during our time together as a family. We are celebrating that although we may no longer hold these sweet kids in our care, we now have the ability to become nurturing influencers in another child’s life. We are celebrating that our current foster children have gained a safe environment with loving family members. As we process this change in season, we are reminded of the reality that there are so many children in need of Gospel-love. We want to open our arms even wider to receive whomever the Lord intends to give us on this journey.

However, I do want to say to our friends and family please understand that comments such as “well, this is good practice for your own kids one day,” or “I could never do that because I would be too attached to the children,” do not ease our pain in any way. Firstly, these were our children. We are real parents, just like you! We feel all of the same joys and struggles that you feel as a parent. This is not a trial run. This is the real deal just in a very brief season of life. Secondly, I want to encourage you to never limit God’s plans for your life with walls of fear, safety, and comfort. We are attached. Yes, it’s very painful to part with these children we love dearly. I understand that not everyone is called to become foster parents, but to our friends and family, I can testify to you that there is nothing special about us that makes us able to handle this pain more easily than anyone else. God’s grace is sufficient for all. In every circumstance, we can trust that He will provide the grace needed to endure and even embrace His will for our lives.

In this moment of pain and joy, I am clinging to the verse, “Jesus came not to be served but to serve.” We want to exhibit this characteristic of Jesus’s humility as much as possible in this circumstance. Like all parents, we were given an opportunity to selflessly love and nurture two sweet little babies in a traumatic time of need. Just like all parents, we were not guaranteed a certain number of days with our children. The Lord gave us time as a gift to steward with the help of His Spirit in our lives. Just like all parents, we loved sacrificially with little to no thankful understanding from our children. Just like all parents, there were challenges and joys. Just like all parents, our time of parenting was temporary.

With the reality of this truth, I ask myself and I would ask you the same questions, “How are we investing the time we have been given with our children (spouse, co-workers, friends, and neighbors)?” “If we made a pie chart of our time, what would fill up the most space? Business and activities, social media and ESPN, or family devotionals?” “How much of our time is spent for the Gospel pointing others to Jesus and making disciples?” Through our experience with this sudden change in season, I want to gently but boldly encourage you to invest your time wisely.

“Time is precious. We are fragile. Life is short. Eternity is long. Every minute counts. Oh, to be a faithful steward of the breath God has given me.” – John Piper, Life as a Vapor

“Show me, LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreath; the span of my years is as nothing before You. Everyone is but a breath even those who seem secure.” Psalm 39:4-5

“What is your life? You are a midst that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesian 5:15

“Conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth; knowing that you were not redeemed [or ransomed] with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with the precious blood, as a Lamb
unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” 1 Peter 1:17-19

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