Four years ago this week, I was scheduled to run the Tulsa Route 66 Marathon. It would have been my sixth full marathon, and I had trained for it for months. If all went according to plan, I could beat my previous personal record and finish in 3 hours, 50 minutes.
On Monday of Race Week, I found myself at urgent care with a nasty case of strep throat. Undeterred from my race goals, I began taking antibiotics immediately and felt much better in a few days. I headed to Tulsa that weekend, exhausted from a long week of sickness, but ready to accomplish what I set out to do several months before.
Disaster hit at Mile 3 of the race. Mile 3! This never happened with so many miles to go. I felt as though I was floating and on the verge of vomiting and about to fall asleep all at the same time. I attributed these effects to the antibiotics I had been taking and willed my legs to run for several more miles.
As the race dragged on, I was becoming more and more miserable, and it became increasingly clear that finishing the full marathon was out of the question. Again, this never happened. I never quit races. My previous mode of operation had always been to keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter what. For whatever reason that day, though, I listened to my body (or maybe it was the Holy Spirit). When the road split, I tearfully made the choice to continue with the half marathoners, letting go of all of the goals I had prior to the start of the race. I hated myself for it at the time. Quitting was much harder than finishing would have been.
We are closing our home to foster care for awhile. After Little Man left, our worker asked us when we’d be ready to accept another placement. We told her that we wouldn’t.
I hate that I just typed that.
I had anticipated having many children in and out of our home over many years. Maybe we still will. Maybe in five years, we’ll be in a different season and ready to try this again. But I didn’t anticipate closing so soon. We still had a few more months to give before I start school full-time, and it feels like we quit. Quitting was much harder than finishing would have been.
Two days after I failed to complete the full Tulsa Marathon, I took a pregnancy test. For the first time in years, it was positive. In that moment, I knew exactly why God and my body had been telling me to stop racing, and I was overwhelmingly grateful that I had listened to both of them.
I’m not there yet with our decision to take a break from foster care.
Most days, I feel that we are making a huge mistake. I have a defeating sense that we didn’t do enough … that we gave up … that everyone everywhere is as disappointed with me as I am.
When I look at what we are doing (or not doing) from a logical stance, it makes complete sense. My own capacity and limitations have become very evident to me over the past year, and while I often wish that they were different than what they are, I know that full-time school and full-time fostering are not an option for me. I wouldn’t be able to do either well, and my family would suffer. Accepting another placement without knowing how long the child will stay seems careless, when I know that the time we can dedicate to fostering is limited and the system is painfully slow.
This is the correct, logical decision. However, emotions often speak louder to me than logic, and there have been some pretty noisy emotions lately telling me that I’m a failure.
A friend revealed to me last week that we have been fostering for almost a year. Somehow, I literally had not thought about that until she mentioned it. The last year has slipped through my fingers, and there have been moments when it feels as though my own life has been passing me by.
There are good reasons for our family to take a break - good reasons that aren’t purely logical.
Foster care requires far more than a willing heart. I’ve poured out my life for the two kids who we’ve had in our home this year, which has simultaneously been a joy and a sacrifice. Somewhere along the way, I lost a piece of myself. In caring for these children, I didn’t care for myself (spiritually, emotionally, or physically). As I’ve been accustomed to doing during marathon training, I ignored all signs that I was not doing well at all and kept putting one foot in front of the other. My foster kids had everything they needed, but my own kids lost their patient mom, and my husband lost his loving wife.
Everyone talks about how children are resilient, and they are. However, becoming a foster family is asking an extraordinary amount of two-and-four-year-old girls. They loved both of our foster children better than I did at times and never showed them anything but grace and kindness, which has been extremely humbling for me to watch. But they struggled in ways that they may never be able to voice, as their little worlds became increasingly unpredictable and their parents became increasingly unavailable.
I know what a great dad my husband is to our girls, and watching him being a dad to two children whose own fathers were mostly MIA brought me to tears multiple times throughout the year. He couldn’t have loved them any better than he did. Foster care took a toll on him, too, though, and having two completely spent people in a relationship strains it, no matter how strong it was to start. I almost lost my marriage once; I’m not about to lose it again.
Death has, unfortunately, been a consistent theme in the lives of several close to me throughout 2018, and attending three funerals in the last four months has caused me to reflect on my own mortality and the shortness of life. I’ve been thinking about the legacy I want to leave and wondering what people will stand and say at my funeral. I want my children and spouse, more than anyone else, to say that I cared for them well.
I don’t regret a day of our journey through foster care. God called us to this and gave us the grace to be obedient. Now he’s calling us to something else, and I must choose to be obedient again. I know I won’t regret a day of being fully present for my home team over the next few months.
It is easy to become discouraged when I see other foster families living out their calling so well. They make it look easy, and maybe it is for them. Maybe, too, I don’t see everything. Definitely, we are not them, and that is okay. Comparison is the thief of joy. It is also the thing that sometimes keeps me from following the Lord’s will for my life because I am overly concerned with how that doesn’t always look like His will for everyone else’s. I may never have a revelation as to why I listened to His voice this time which is on the scale of my pregnancy in 2014. But hopefully, when I stand at the gates of heaven, I will hear His voice louder than ever, proclaiming, “Well done, my good and faithful servant! You did all that I asked you to do.” When that day comes, I know I won’t wish that I had run the race He laid out for someone else.
When our first foster child entered our home, she had so much shame that she would hardly look us in the eyes. (I’m thankful to report that this was no longer the case by the time she left.) She seemed consistently afraid that we would be disappointed in or angry with her. I remember trying to talk to her one day early on in her stay, and she would not look up from her shoes. I lifted her head, cupped her face in my hands, looked straight into her big blue eyes, and said, “K, I love you no matter what!” In that moment, tears streamed down my own face as I realized that this is exactly what my Father does for me. He lifts my head out of my shame, and although I can’t see His face today, I know that there is no disappointment or anger in His eyes. He loves me because I am His daughter, and not because I did or didn’t do foster care for a certain amount of time. He says I’ve done enough, and that is enough for me. Well, at least I want it to be.