This weekend was a special one. It was a weekend that left us counting the many blessings in our lives. So often we take for granted the very things others are praying for this holiday season…food in our bellies, clean sheets on our beds, warm homes, clean water and the security of home and family. This month we began, as part of our evening routine, making blessing leaves. Each night beginning Nov 1st with the letter “A” we each wrote down a blessing in our lives that begins with that letter. The following evening we moved to the next letter of the alphabet and we then taped the finished leaves up on our bedroom door. It had been a joy watching our children count their blessings and reflect on the many good things God has given them.
Earlier this week we received a call from our adoption agency asking us if we would be willing to do respite care for another family over the weekend. Respite care is a service our adoption agency offers to all of their foster/pre-adoptive families. For a family that is in need of a babysitter for a short amount of time they call on one of the other foster/adoptive families to step in and take the child for the week or weekend. Often it is used to give that family a much-needed break in hopes that if the family takes the weekend off to “recharge” their batteries they will then be able to continue on with the placement. When we received the call asking us if we would be willing to take on a 8-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy for the weekend we hadn’t ever considered doing respite care before. After discussing it as a family we all decided that it would be a fun thing to try and a wonderful way to bless another family in the process. After saying “yes” we then received more information on the kids. We found out that they were coming to us not knowing that next week parental rights of their biological parents were going to be terminated and that after next week they would cease to have contact with them. They also came to us having no idea that their foster family had just put in their 30 day notice and would be moved out of the house they call “home” days before Christmas. We entered the weekend in prayer. We prayed that everyone would be safe and comfortable while together, we prayed we would have wisdom in dealing with the issues that we were told these two children came with, but mostly we prayed that we would be a blessing and that their weekend here would be a respite not only for the foster family but for these two kids whose world was about to be turned upside down.
Friday morning we began to prepare for their visit. Molly was having the little girl sleep on her top bunk and Rusty was having the little boy sleep on his. They changed their sheets, picked out books to put beside the bed, and pulled out toys they thought the kids would enjoy. After getting ready we headed out on a field trip to the ice skating rink. The kids had fun skating with their friends for two hours before we had to meet up with the foster family at Burger King to pick up our visitors.
That night we picked up our visitors without incident. The foster mom had been concerned they would have a tough time going with us but they did great. They connected with the kids right away and when we arrived home they were eager to explore the house. Our weekend was spent playing at home on Saturday morning and going out in the afternoon. The kids loved the McDonald’s play house and all the animals. In the afternoon we went to the Olympic Fun Center where everyone enjoyed roller skating, rock climbing and laser tag. They stayed with us until Sunday night when we met the foster mom to drop them off. It was a wonderful weekend with some wonderful little visitors.
With Thanksgiving approaching this week I have found myself reflecting on all that I have to be thankful for and how many blessings I so often take for granted. One of those blessings that I became more aware of as we cared for these two little ones was the blessing of security. We so often take for granted the blessing of knowing that where we sleep tonight will be where we will sleep tomorrow, that the people we call family will still be our family next month, that the home we know and love will still be our home next year. That is a blessing that millions of children world-wide are denied. They live with the fear and uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring. They go to bed not knowing how long they will call this place home or these people family. I recently read a book entitled, Adopting the Hurt Child, which profoundly affected me. In it the author attempts to illustrate to the reader the feelings of a child in the foster system. Here is his analogy:
“Imagine you are sitting in your livingroom on a warm summer evening. Your spouse is dozing peacefully on the sofa, having consumed one too many beers at dinner. Your two children, who have spent all day bickering, are quietly playing with their favorite toys. You’re curled up with a good book, and your feeling is one of contentment. Perhaps this isn’t the perfect family, but they are yours, and you love them.
Suddenly there’s a knock at the door. You rise to open it. Standing there is a tall man you have never seen before. He gently takes you by the arm and ushers you into his car. Before you can comprehend what has happened, he’s driving you away from your home.
Soon you stop in front of a beautiful house with a broad, manicured lawn. The man leads you inside, where he introduces you to the people there. They are warm and pleasant, and they smile sweetly at you. The man tells you that this is your new family.
Your new spouse doesn’t have a problem with alcohol. Your new children never argue and are well-behaved. They show you your new room, point out all your new belongings, and tell you to make yourself at home. All while they are smiling.
You look over your shoulder at the tall man, who’s smiling too. He assures you that this new family will love you forever. And all they expect in return is for you to love them back.
You slowly look at your new surroundings. Your emotions are swirling out of control. You feel as though you are moving through a dream. This new family might be wonderful, they may be superior to your old family in every way- but they are not your family. You don’t even know them so how can you love them?”
I found this to be a powerful analogy. It gave me greater empathy for the fears, behaviors and struggles of all the innocents who have ended up in the system through no fault of their own. In made me realize the profound blessing of security…of home…of family. This Thanksgiving I am grateful for so many things. Forgive me Lord for the blessings I take for granted…those very things that so many others are praying for..