Going for the double entendre here – as facebook is filled today with hearts and pink and words on love.
A couple of weeks ago we took our kids to the Great Wolf Lodge during winter break. Our school has always had a winter break during the first week of February, a coveted time to vacation in spots that are otherwise crowded with children during normal school breaks. Initially we decided to put little girl and baby boy in “respite” care (remember, that’s when you let your foster children stay with someone else who has met all of the arduous licensing requirements necessary to take them). I dropped them off on Friday afternoon to a sweet family that we know and trust. Friday night our house was a buzz with about 30 guests for Bible study, and hoping to keep the trip a surprise, we pulled off the evening without our older kids realizing that baby boy and little girl weren’t with us (they “went to bed early”). After our four bio kids were in bed, Erik and I stealthily packed and loaded the car. Saturday morning Erik and I woke up, enjoying that first-day-of-vacation giddiness. But something was missing. “Do you think we should take little girl with us?” I asked him coyly. He confidently smiled and replied, “yes, I’ve been thinking that all morning”. So, feeling a little schizophrenic, I promptly texted our sweet respite care friends and said, “do you mind if we change the plan and come pick up little girl on our way out today, we just can’t stand to leave her?” A good sign that our hearts are embracing her as part of our family. As we envisioned her smiling and playing in the waterpark, we just couldn’t bear to leave her behind. (In contrast, we felt quite confident baby boy, although we would miss him,would have a better time staying behind – he’s just not old enough).
We had a great time at the Great Wolf Lodge. We took little girl swimming for the first time since we have had her. We have tons of photos and videos documenting our time together, and I know those will be treasured. Particularly if someday I get to share with her how she became part of our family. I will treasure sharing with her those vacation pictures with her in them. But here’s the story I want to share. One morning I woke up and took my loud, boisterous Nate and little girl out into the hotel with me to get coffee. While walking around the lobby, I noticed that the Pink song “Just Give Me A Reason” was playing through the hallways. Now, I’m not really familiar with Pink songs, well with most of pop-culture for that matter, but this one I know. You see during our foster training our instructor played this song for us. She loved the lyrics and applied them to fostering. So here I am, coffee now in hand, walking through the expansive lodge. Ahead of me are Nate and little girl. They are running down the long hallways together squealing and laughing. Periodically Nate would halt, hold out his hand and exclaim, “wait, ‘little girl’”. She would stop and smile at him with anticipation. He would then announce, “on your mark, get set,go” and they would be back at it again racing the lengths of the lodge. While sipping my coffee, watching them completely engaged with one another, her eyes sparkling at him, his laughter echoing the lobby, the chorus line lyrics “we’re not broken, we’re just bent and we can learn to love again” were resonating in the background. Taken back to a mere 9 months ago, when we were wide-eyed newbies sitting in training class, the moment was almost too much for me to bear. I was biting my lip, pinching my fingers, whispering in my head “hold it together Viv”, trying to keep myself from becoming a bawling, blubbering mess in the middle of the Great Wolf Lodge. In my mind were days of our training, days of uncertainty of what lie ahead, days of wondering what we were getting in to, and days when our excitement was tempered by the realistic fear of the unknown. As I looked back on those days I couldn’t help but wonder “what if”. What if we hadn’t done this, what if we had thought it was too much work, what if we had decided it was just too risky, what if we had chickened-out? Now I was in the moment, staring at this beautiful little girl who is so much a part of our family that she laughs and plays with no inhibition, that her mannerisms are becoming “Carlin” in nature, that we can’t bear to not take her on vacation with us. In that moment I wished I could just disappear into the walls and weep and weep, out of shear amazement and gratitude for what the Lord has done. I felt so incredibly grateful. So grateful that God has led us to this point and has given us little girl and baby boy. So grateful that He didn’t let our fears or apprehensions allow us to miss out on this or miss out on them.
This Valentine’s Day I am seeing lots of reminders of Mark 12:30-31 “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” Loving your neighbor as yourself means not just loving when it’s easy or comes naturally, but also when it is hard and requires sacrifice. Man, that’s a hard commandment, and certainly one I only partially achieve intermittently at best (yes, I need a Savior!). But I will say this, we are loving little girl and baby boy. And more so than any other time I can think of in life, it has been hard to love them. Not hard because of who they are – they are adorable, sweet children who anyone would be endeared to. But hard because it’s so much work, and there is so much risk involved – so much risk in giving of our hearts, knowing that we don’t have the green light yet that they are ours forever. But boy, has it been worth it. Allowing God to use us, even in our imperfect love, to show them love, allowing Him to be the strength we depend on to carry on day by day, seeing the joy in little girl’s eyes as she becomes an integral part of our family, seeing baby boy grow and develop and overcome his prematurity and failure to thrive – wow, I have trouble explaining in words what all of that feels like. And so my sentiments are those that I felt that vacation morning while listening to the words of Pink. These children weren’t broken, just bent. And God has given us the privilege of taking a role in healing them with our love. There is nothing I can do but weep.