My hiatus from blogging was not intentional, but is a result of the overwhelming professional, personal, and spiritual demands of the past few months. As I’m beginning to find clarity in my thoughts and removing toxins from my life, I’m finding myself desiring nothing more than to blog. I want to channel all of the stress, frustration, and angst in the most therapeutic way I know how: by writing.
So here it goes.
As many of you know, I have taken on two children over the past 3 months: a 4-year-old with severe autism, Pica, and lead poisoning, along with a 17-year-old with PTSD, RAD, and a history of rebellious behavior that has resulted in dozens of foster home placements throughout her life in “the system”. I loathe putting labels on children because their conditions should not define them, but in this case, I think it adds depth to my story and will aid in your understanding of recent events.
Progress seems to be made daily with my little guy in regard to determining his desires through nonverbal cues, potty training, and developing an appropriate diet. However, we certainly have plenty of challenging days. Raising a child with special needs is more difficult than I ever could’ve imagined. Structure, stability, and attention are things that all children need, but it is amplified to the utmost degree for a child with special needs. The effort it takes to properly care for him is exhausting, but I love every moment of it and am so thankful to have him in my life. He is my ray of sunshine on the darkest of days.
When I first took on my teen, it seemed as though we were a perfect fit. She quickly opened up to me about the trauma, heartache, and loss she had experienced throughout her life. I was inspired by her resilience and made it a priority to establish her trust.
All was well for the first few weeks. I brought her to half a dozen businesses to get applications (which led to her securing a job at McDonald’s), helped her learn how to drive. and supported her as she ended an unhealthy relationship. She attended pageant events with me and expressed an interest in becoming involved. She joined me as I spoke to groups about my role as a foster parent and brought participants to tears with her stories. Everything was great…until she started pushing me away. Once that began, it was one test after another.
First, she sneaked away in the middle of the night. Isn’t that a normal thing for a teenager to do? Sure. I sat down with her and we had a great conversation about how we would learn from the event. We laughed, cried, and hugged. She agreed to be honest with me from that point forward and I believed her.
That same night, I went up to her room to see if she would like some ice cream. While outside of her door, I overheard her talking. Thinking she was hiding a phone, I opened the door to try to catch her. Much to my surprise, there was a boy in there.
A boy in her room.
In my home.
But it gets better: apparently he was a runaway and had lived there for two days without my knowledge. Angry, concerned, and violated don’t even begin to express how I felt about that incident. Thankfully, God has granted me with the ability to have more patience, acceptance, and mercy during the past few months than I have ever had. If I forgive her for this, she surely wouldn’t test me again. Right?
Oh how naive I can be.
After many more trying times that included being missing for 24 hours, befriending a MUCH older man that she adamantly wants to move in with, and being suspended from school within the first few weeks of classes starting, you’d think I’d be ready to throw in the towel.
But I can’t.
Time and time again, God is redirecting my focus to the light that I know this young woman possesses and is making it impossible for me to let her go. I’ve given her multiple chances, I’ve forgiven her for her mistakes, and I’ve dedicated myself to helping make her the person I know she is capable of being. But what I’m finding is that all of this effort I invest with her, or anyone I love, comes at a cost to me.
My kindness is my weakness. My dedication is an obsession. And when I love, I love with all that I have. All is fine and well until that person I care so deeply about betrays me. The more they knock me down, the more strength I put into building them up. The more they try to dim my light, the more I try to ignite theirs. My attempt to be as selfless as possible is literally leaving me with less of myself. I’m broken and scorned for loving too much.
When it comes to a child that I commit to, this is a sacrifice I’m willing to make every time. They need me to help them recognize the life that they deserve. Even if they don’t accept my assistance immediately, I have faith that it will impact them when God decides they need it most. When that time comes, they will help relight the flame that they once drew on from me by proving that my love was not a wasted effort.
However, when an adult takes advantage of the unconditional love that I offer, I’ve realized that they need more help than I can give them. Instead of wasting my light on them, I’m turning them over to God. In the process, I will learn whatever lesson He intended to teach me through their presence in my life; I will appreciate that He has given me the strength to make it through the obstacles set before me; and I will be even more thankful for those friends, new and old, that thrive on brightening my flame.
My heart is still full of love. My faith is unwavering. My integrity is ever-present. God is good.