When love does not come easily

If I had a dollar for every time someone said the following words to me, we could probably pay off our house:

foster care love

"I could never do foster care because I'd get too attached."

I used to say that, too.

And then we did do foster care.  And I could think of a billion reasons not to do it anymore, but getting too attached was not one of them.

Can I be honest for a second?  It is really hard to love a kid who is not your own.  

There was something different about adopting our oldest, P, from birth.  I fell in love with that girl the moment I saw the top of her head in the delivery room and have loved her more every day since then.  When our foster daughter, K, walked into our home on January 6th, I immediately felt compassion toward her, but I did not feel love.  She has been with us for 107 days now, and on exactly 107 mornings, I have had to make a conscious decision to show love to her, even when I don't feel it.

People are quick to dish out advice, reminding me to love K the same way that I love my own children.  But here's the thing: She is not one of my own children.  I can treat her equally, sure, but I cannot force myself to feel a certain way.  When my own girls have meltdowns, refuse to obey, or scream in my face, I am most definitely annoyed and frustrated.  Sometimes, when K has done similar things, my blood has been absolutely boiling.  On the surface, my response is always the same, but inwardly, I have felt frustration with K to a far greater degree than I do with either C or P.  The inherent love that breeds patience isn't there with her.

For many weeks, I have been ashamed to admit this.  What is wrong with me that I am not attached and connected to her?  Am I cold-hearted?  This seems to come so easily for other people.  The problem lies in the last statement.  I cannot compare myself to the perception I have of other people who may or may not have ever been in a situation even remotely similar.

Foster care is one giant question mark.  Whether or not K will be with us in a week, a month, or a year is undecided, and we are just along for the ride.  Lately, though, it seems as if K may be moving on soon, and I've been a wreck.  The thought of her not living with us anymore has made me come to an important realization: I do love K!

Love is not a feeling.  It is absolutely, one hundred percent, a choice and a commitment that must be made over and over and over again. 

I don't get the warm fuzzies with my foster daughter like I do with my adopted and biological daughters.  But I do want the very best for her, and I'd give up almost anything to ensure that she has a happy, safe, good life with people who want those same things for her.

Loving my foster daughter has been anything but natural.  Love has not come easily, but perhaps the challenge of loving K has made my love for her more beautiful.  This love that has slowly developed over the last 107 days is deep and abiding, unchanged by her frustrating actions and by my feelings of irritation.  

We will likely only be a stop along K's path in life.  My hope is that K has experienced love in a very real way while she has been in our home, but even if she hasn't or doesn't remember ... I have. 

My own kids make me happy, and of course I love them.  (That's easy.)  But loving a child in foster care has made me understand Christ in a way that loving my own never could.  He gave his very life for infinitely frustrating people like me.  My own calling to love K pales in comparison.  So tomorrow, for the 108th time, I'll choose to wake up and commit to loving my foster daughter once again, even when love doesn't come easily.

Everyday Faithfulness

I turned 29 last week (for the first time).  Future birthdays will now be termed, "My Second 29th Birthday", "My Third 29th Birthday", etc., depending on my age.  

For years, I became mildly depressed when I considered turning 30.  It just seemed so ... old.  In my mind, people figured out their life in their twenties and then raised kids and worked like crazy and did "boring adult stuff" after that.  Though it seems silly now, I dreaded my 30th birthday because it signified that life as I knew it would be over and the slow march to a retirement facility would begin.

Piper and Mom Hold Hands

So, on my 25th birthday, I cried because 30 was, at last, closer than 20.  Then, I dried my tears and made my "30 Before 30 List", an agenda of all that I believed I needed to accomplish before my life would theoretically end on May 18, 2018.

I somehow managed to achieve a good chunk of the goals.  I had another kid, saw Blake Shelton in concert, visited three new states, grew an herb garden, got a tattoo, took a cake decorating class, baked an apple pie from scratch, started a college fund for my kids, read 25 new books, and bought a gun (I know how to shoot it, too, so watch out).  

A few of the items got scratched off the list.  I don't really care about getting my master's degree anymore, and I probably will never donate my hair to Locks for Love again.  At one point, I wanted to learn to drive a car with a stick shift, but if we're being honest, I'll probably never have a reason to know how to do that.  Goodbye, Items 1, 15, and 18.

The next category of ambitions are the ones that I could potentially accomplish within the next year before I turn 30.  These include camping for real (not "glamping" in a cabin), fly fishing, and skydiving.  

For the last few goals, I have resigned myself to the fact that they will likely not happen in the next 350ish days, and they might not happen in the next 10,000 days, either.  I won't be finished with school by the time I turn 30, and I may or may not ever write a book and/or qualify for the Boston Marathon.  These three ambitions were particularly tough to release.

***

One of my favorite podcasts is called "The Happy Hour," hosted by Jamie Ivey.  In this podcast, women are invited to chat with Jamie about "the big things in life, the little things in life, and everything in between."  These "girlfriends" usually discuss the big things, though- things like starting their own businesses, publishing books, and adopting babies.  I'm always simultaneously inspired and defeated as I listen to them.  When each podcast ends, I find myself thinking, "Wow, these ladies are amazing!  Also, I don't do anything cool with my life."

A couple of weeks ago, Jamie had a friend on her show who discussed the problem with "comparing the beginning of your journey with someone else's middle or end."  I do this ALL. THE. TIME.  {Please tell me I'm not the only one.}  There is no actual rule which states that I'm a failure if I haven't done certain things by a certain age.  Foolishly, I have created such rules for myself where no timeline even exists. 

Perhaps life is simply a constant flow of ordinary, everyday moments that eventually add up to something great.  

***

Nana and Piper

My grandmother is dying.  She has lived a long, generally healthy life and is deeply loved by four children, eight grandchildren, and a steadily growing number of great-grandchildren.  When I look back on her 85 years, I'm not sure that there is anything in them which the world might define as "success".  She wasn't a great athlete or novelist, and she and my papa weren't wealthy or famous.  

But, for decades, Nana chose to be faithful in the mundane, to follow the plan that God had for her in the small moments, and to serve her family.  Now, as she is dying, she is leaving behind a legacy of kindness and generosity for the world to memorialize.

This is what I want my life to be.

At the end of my days, I hope that people say of me, "She was a devoted wife, a loving mom, a gracious friend, and a hard worker."  I long to arrive at the gates of heaven and hear Jesus affirm, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

For a moment among specific circles, I might be remembered for qualifying for the Boston Marathon, for graduating at the top of my class, or for publishing a book- these things that people (including myself) often consider "big" and "important".  But ultimately, I pray that I am known as a woman who walked the road of everyday faithfulness, choosing joy in the thousands of little and equally important moments that fall between items on a bucket list.