Open Letter to My Community
January 1, 2013
I am blessed!
There is no other word to describe how I feel as I enter a New Year. I’ve wanted to be a mother since I was very young. Over the years, there was college, nursing, travel, friends, family, Holden Village, Tekoa, volunteering, nieces and nephews, as well as many opportunities to help care for children, both personally and professionally. Finally, when I got to be about 30, I was able to become a mother through fostering and guardianship. I was happy, busy, stunned, worried, hopeful…all the things a new mother is supposed to be. I learned A LOT those first few years about parenting a child who’s been through too many hard things in her young life, and I was (and still am) very grateful to those who walked the journey with me – my parents and family, my Faith community, the social work and foster care community. Since I was a single parent, I was satisfied with my successful foray into parenting, so I was somewhat surprised, but not displeased when a second daughter came into my life. I used many of the skills that I’d gained over the years to work on healing and grace with another wounded little one and watched her start to blossom. With slightly more consternation several years later, I added a third daughter (it was to be an emergency foster care placement for the holidays), as well as a grandson, into my heart and home. Without batting an eye (though I’m sure there were a few raised eyebrows behind my back at what “I was getting myself into”), my family and my community continued to support me, love my children and reach out to help when needed. There were welcome showers again, new clothing, babysitters, prayers, love and hugs. But that relatively gentle growth into the family that we had become was only basic training for what this past year has brought us.
With absolutely no prompting from me, last year at this time, I was approached with a question about whether I’d be willing to consider adopting a sibling group – of 4 brothers. I laughed when the first social worker asked that of me. A few weeks later when a second social worker (completely independently from the first person) asked me the same question, I paused for a second, and asked a couple of questions, but again declined. The third person who came and asked me to take a look at these 4 brothers stopped me in my tracks…I’ll explain in a minute…and I very shakily told her that I’d rather not, but that she could put me way at the bottom of the list of possible homes. You see, I have, for many years, firmly believed that the Spirit is constantly in motion in this world. I believe that every one of us receives invitations, prompts, nudges, a breath of an idea, from God’s Spirit and that we have many opportunities to act as God’s hands and God’s voice in this world. I believe that God does not move people around to serve God’s purpose, but that people move themselves around to act with love and compassion and wisdom and grace when they respond to God’s Spirit. I believe that sometimes we can respond to a whisper in our heart or the suggestion or opportunity to work love in this world, and sometimes we get a figurative smack on the head to make us pay attention. So….by the time the third social worker asked me about these same 4 brothers, I was worried (I live by faith, but I like to think I have a certain amount of common sense) that the first and second social workers were whispers in my heart and the third one was a smack on the head. ………When the first social worker came back around a second time, my heart realized that I needed to pay attention.
Without any logic to back me up, no words of common sense that made any sense, and a large amount of fear nibbling on the edges of my mind, I took a leap of Faith, holding the Spirit’s hand, and said, “Yes.” Nothing in that single word conforms to anything our world deems as normal or sensible or maybe even feasible. But a leap of faith is just that….a jump into the unknown with a trust that God will be there for the journey. I try to live WITH faith and BY faith. When I said yes, I put the entire matter into God’s hands and jumped into the unknown with both feet.
As it turns out, I think God had a little twist…the 4 brothers ended up being separated (to my continuing grief) and I have only one of the sweet little boys with me, but I suspect that the Spirit took that turn and, while my heart was still open and ready, offered up another sibling group for our family. That one, too, was an emergency placement – 7 months ago.
Now, I am offering all of you an open letter of gratitude, of hugs, of hope, and of warning. I listened to God’s voice in my heart and I am blessed and blessed and blessed…sometimes to the point of tears. And I’m not just talking about these 7 sweet souls in my care (and the 2 extra ones in Olympia….my first daughter and her daughter). I’m talking about every one of you who is active in our lives and every one of you who cheers me on, prays for our family, and offers hands and resources to help. I am NOT a single parent in any sense of the word. While I may be the one to help a youngster sort out bad grades, or a nightmare, or a hospital stay, I also have the proverbial ‘village’ who teaches my daughter to drive and gets teary-eyed with me when “our girl” passes her driver’s test. I have those who help in sorting out the living space here, an anonymous gorgeous new table so we can all eat meals together (I’m not sure the donor got teary-eye, but I got a bit weepy the first night we all had pot-roast and family conversation around the table), a whole community who stepped up to make Christmas special for kids who still grieve the loss of their birth families, a bevy of skateboards, scooters and bikes, beautiful clothes for the kids, and a whole box full of duct tape for the boy who loves to build (that’s only a brief list). My kids have special buddies from within our community who take them to the zoo, and a movie and the mountains and the beach and bike riding….etc. I continue to receive anonymous grocery gift cards and friends who cook extra casseroles and shop at Costco for us once in a while. My own extended family fully incorporated 4 “new” grandchildren into holiday celebrations. My Faith Lutheran family cries with me when my daughter raises her beautiful voice in song and they share a tolerant chuckle when a VERY active, disruptive little boy joins me at the lectern when I serve as worship assistant. And even on my hardest, most emotional days, I feel the wave of prayer that holds this family afloat on God’s love.
I took a leap of FAITH – pure and simple, no logic or common sense attached, and God said, “YES!”
With this letter, as we enter a new year, I am offering all of you my gratitude, hugs, hope, and warning. Thank you for listening to God’s Spirit in your hearts that has led you to act on behalf of these beautiful children. If you want a great hug, come find me and any one of these kids (ok…maybe one of them isn’t very keen on hugs. J) and we will hug the stuffing out of you! We live in a world that can be very scary, very painful, very sad, and very violent at times. My kids know this with their very being. But when we listen, really listen, it is easy to find the hope that is God’s beauty and love and joy and community. But be forewarned, when we listen and move into the places in this world that the Spirit has called us, life can get a bit more complicated…or at the very least, quite busy!
On that note, I wish my beloved community a Happy and Spirited New Year!