I’m standing in the Orlando International Airport with my 14 year old daughter, waiting for her to board a plane for Indianapolis. She’s heading home while I’m jumping another flight to Tulsa for my next speaking engagement. She clutches my hand tightly. Even at 14 years old she still holds my hand in public. It never stops warming my heart.
I step to the side as she steps toward the woman taking tickets. As the scanner beeps and the attendant welcomes her, she walks down the jet ramp and disappears a few seconds later. How in the world did she become so grown up, I wonder to myself. Tears fill the corner of my eyes as I turn to head toward my departure gate. After picking up a cup of coffee I find a spot by my departure gate. I’m suddenly overcome with emotion as I think about her boarding a different plane. Silly, I think. I’ll see her and the rest of my family tomorrow. But my heart can’t stop itself. “Gosh I love my kids,” I whisper.
I begin to think about the email I received. I can understand where it’s coming from. Just a paragraph or two before posing the question about our choice to do it again, this father of 3 poured his heart out. He and his wife have been pushed to the edge, and beyond, by their children. All 3 adopted from the foster care system. An 11 year old daughter with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder), a 14 year old son with RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) and a 3 year old son who’s suddenly showing signs of both disorders. “This is not what I signed up for,” he admits. Then he asks, “Would you do it again? If you could start over being a parent, would you do this entire thing over again? Would you foster? Adopt?”
It’s been an unbelievably difficult 14 years for us. Anything but perfect. The scars we wear on our heart, and all over our body is proof. If I had a dollar for every time we had the thought, “I didn’t sign up for this,” I’d be a multi-millionaire. That’s why I totally get where this father is coming from. I could feel every word he was typing.
I close my eyes and can see all of the dark moments in our family’s life as clearly as when they were happening. I see the police showing up on my doorstep one summer afternoon a few years ago looking for one of my kids. I see DCS showing up to investigate. I see my son being put into a police cruiser and driven to a psychiatric ward. I see my daughter coming home with a black eye and bruises all over her. I see us driving to pick up my son to move him to a different residential facility. I hear Kristin’s phone call to tell me they’re parked on the side of the road, standing outside of the car, because my child was flipping out and hitting.
Any normal person would read that and think to themselves…why would anyone in their right mind sign up for that? It’s seems as though we are gluttons for punishment. After all, most are looking to live the perfect American story right? This is not it. So, why?
I’ll tell you why…. the heart. That’s why. While most see the imperfections of our story, I see how perfectly imperfect it is. I see how perfectly God has woven everything together in a perfect tapestry of grace and love. In-spite of the darkness, there’s no way I could tell a more powerful, nor beautiful story. And I say that in the middle of some very dark circumstances. Even now.
It’s the heart that drives us to this crazy, unbelievable choice. And it would be the heart that drove us all over again.
The heart of it all.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about this journey it’s that it takes a very special heart. That’s why not every human being is called to be foster or adoptive parents. We possess a very strange set of eyes and heart.
The eyes of foster and adoptive parents see through the wreckage and brokenness of this world, to the very heart of humanity. We’re not phased by broken. We see the potential. We believe in redemption. We know that everything is repairable. There are no lost causes or hopeless cases. There’s only bigger stories.
Every time I look at my children, I see the future. Even when I’ve been driven to the edge and beyond. Our story is not hopeless, it’s beautiful. It’s perfectly imperfect and that’s just the way we like it.
So, my answer is simple. Yes! A trillion times over….yes! Sign me up. Show me where to board. I’m in. The depth of my heart is greater than the scars on my arms. You may shake your head and call me naive. After all of the bombs we’ve sustained in our family, our marriage, and our parenting, some may call it reckless. Some called it reckless when we decided to adopt and foster in the first place. I didn’t care then and I don’t care today.
The depth of my heart is greater than the scars on my arms.
While foster care and adoption has taken the life out of us, it’s also filled us with more life then we could ever imagine. For every time my heart’s been ripped out of my chest by desperate and dark moments, it’s wanted to beat out of my chest with love and compassion. As the faces of my beautiful children flash through my mind I am overwhelmed. I love them more than anything. In-spite of the rough rough road we’ve traveled.
So….yes! Show me where to jump and I’m off the edge.
Are you a foster or adoptive parent? Would you do it over again if you had the chance?