It’s been A MONTH, y’all. A month that has shaken up our world with the force of an epic earthquake—the good kind of earthquake, if there was such a thing. My heart and mind are overflowing with things I want my reader-friends to know, but I’m trying to give myself grace for the season because I know that when you’re living a story worth telling, you’ll hardly have time to write it. So forgive me if it takes awhile, but I’ll be writing our story in the fringe hours as we walk this unpaved journey through foster care.
If you read my last blog post, you’ll be happy to know that the Baby came! Baby Jesus, that is. My hubby and two little boys rallied together on Christmas morning for what will undoubtedly be one of my favorite memories. There is so much beauty in the stillness and modesty of a small family Christmas. The pomp and circumstance that comes with hosting family is replaced with precious simplicity (Translation: we never get out of pajamas). The stress and anxiety that occurs when traveling with littles is traded in for endearing moments and heightened engagement with the magical little eyes that are soaking in every ounce of the beloved holiday. It is pristine and dazzling and treasured, and I am eternally grateful for that experience.
But then, just three short days after we celebrated the most important Baby of all time, we got “the call” at 11:00 a.m. Wavering between enthusiasm and fear of disappointment (due to the previous fake-out calls), I answered the phone.
“Is this McKinley?” I heard on the other end of the line. “Yes, this is her,” my voice trembled. “Hi, this is Mary calling from the Department of Human Services. Do you remember that little boy I told you about a couple weeks back?”
The blood rushed to my heart and I could feel it beating beyond the confines of my chest. “Yes, of course I remember him” I muttered, half defiantly and half elated.
Mary replied, “We have decided to remove him from his current placement after all and are wondering if you would still be interested in taking him?”
There was a brief pause for me to take a breath, and then I began my uncontrollable word vomit into the phone. “Of course!! We’ve been thinking about him and praying for him! My boys will be so excited! Thank you so much for calling!” I continued on, blabbering my enthusiasm in a muddied puddle of words, until Mary graciously interrupted (Thank you, Mary).
“So, will you be around in about three hours for us to drop him off?”
“Three hours?” I questioned— partly shocked by the sense of urgency and partly humored by the fact that I can’t even make a fancy dinner reservation three hours ahead of time, but that is apparently enough warning to drop a child off at someone’s house for an extended stay.
“Yes, three hours,” Mary repeated.
Before I let my practical brain get the best of me, I interrupted, “Yep. Sounds great! We have no other plans!” That last part was a lie, but the hike we had planned seemed trivial in comparison to this momentous occasion.
So how does one prepare to welcome a foster child into their home? Well, I for one thought it was necessary to clean my house as though Princess Kate was coming for a play date with Prince George. And so, in a fit of panic (because I do nothing calmly) we dropped our boys off with some friends and began to speed clean LIKE A BOSS.
As I scrubbed toilets (that a one-year-old doesn’t use), and dusted bookshelves (that are out of a babies reach), and vacuumed floors that a baby could be crawling all over (see, it wasn’t all futile), I became overwhelmed with God’s faithfulness.
This same baby that broke my heart just a few weeks before was coming to us after all. His name was spoken repeatedly in our home and we prayed for him over dinner. I longed so badly to see him and know him and was overjoyed at the prospect before us.
Side Note: Long before this little guy arrived, we had many conversations with our boys about bringing foster children into our home. A few days after each conversation, I would ask Britton to explain to me what he understood about foster care, to which he would always respond, “A baby friend is going to come live with us, but we don’t know their name yet.” And so, for the purposes of this blog, I will call this little guy our Baby Friend or BF for short.
After the house was in tip-top shape, we put the boys down for their naps and waited (im)patiently. I felt like a child, peering out the window with great anticipation waiting for a long lost family member to arrive. I was anxious and elated and hopeful and PETRIFIED.
As the official state vehicle pulled into the driveway, I froze. Do I run out into the driveway with a prize-winning grin and arms wide open as if my grandparents pulled up? Do I walk out somberly as if someone is delivering bad news? How can I be excited when BF’s family is mourning his loss?
“Don’t be crazy”, I thought, “just open the door.” And so I did. I met the social worker at the car and let her take the lead – after all, it’s not her first rodeo. She unbuckled BF from his seat and handed him to me. His large brown eyes focused on me, his designated stranger. He was clothed in a tiny white, ribbed tank top and a diaper. His beautiful Hawaiian tan and chubby leg rolls were the yummiest I had ever seen (but since taking a bite out of a foster child is frowned upon, I restrained myself).
I carried him into his new home and the social worker brought in a couple bags of clothes and placed them on the floor.
Still feeling awkward, but wanting to appear inquisitive, I asked, “Is there anything I need to know?”
“Well, he has a minor diaper rash so if you can put some diaper cream on it, that would be great!” She said nonchalantly.
"Not quite the answer I was anticipating," I thought to myself., But diaper cream, got it.
“Do I need to sign a paper or anything?” I asked.
“Oh yes, hold on.” She fumbled through her bag and pulled out a folded piece of paper, “If you can just sign right here, you’ll be good to go!”
And with one simple signature, as though I was receiving a UPS package, there we stood with the cutest little stranger.
As I closed the door behind her, I took a deep breath and suddenly realized how ignorant I was. I knew a total of four things about this little fella: His name, his birthday, the reason he was removed from his home, and that he has a minor diaper rash. I can tell you more details about random children I’ve met at the playground!
There I stood, soaking up every inch of his little body hoping that maybe there were secret clues written somewhere on his skin, or hidden notes tucked away in one of his bags. I wondered what he likes to eat? When does he go down for a nap? Does he have siblings? Did he sleep in a crib? Does he take a bottle? Does he have a favorite toy? How has he been put to sleep for the last year of his life?
And then I remembered, it’s just our first date. Time will be the greatest teacher for us—imparting wisdom with every interaction, every parenting attempt, every minute spent in each other’s presence. It’s not the crash course I would have wanted, but such is the road on the journey through foster care.
Today I learned to simply open the door. Open the door to uncertainty. Open the door to infinite questions. Open the door to God's calling on our lives. Open the door to loving someone else's child. Open the door to that precious little stranger. We know very little about what's on the other side, but I know that when God calls us to a door of uncertainty or discomfort, He will carry us through the threshold if we can simply open the door.
I am a lover of people, a child of God, and a laugher at jokes. I write words, cry tears and smile at strangers.