That Magical Day in February 2020.
Everybody’s journey through foster care or adoption is different. To me, it’s like a birth story: so precious, so emotional, so unique, where you listen and hang on to every word, rejoicing at the highs, holding your breath at the lows, and laughing at the funny moments in between.
Our story to get to that moment is no different, and I count it the greatest privilege to be able to have shared so much of our journey with you. At the very “least,” I thank you for your prayers and encouragement along the way. At the very most, I pray it inspires you to tackle a big scary thing in your life that could change the world.
In case I did not convey enough of the practical side of our journey as I shared on social media, it was hard. And I am not a wussy. It was so hard that we almost gave up. And Walls do not give up. (Neither do Nobles or Knights by my maiden heritage, so to have the triple threat come at this thing, we thought we were golden.)
It was the hardest thing we have ever done, from the paperwork and appointments and meetings and follow ups.
More than all that, to bring a stranger in to your home to live with your family… and not just any stranger, but a child. And not just any child, but a hurting, grieving, wounded child that has been taken from all they know and brought to a place they did not ask for to stay with complete strangers for an Unknown amount of time for an Unknown future they have no power to change.
To unpack that Grief in your home and be powerless to get it out… the only way through is by getting down so low until you reach and connect with that child until you earn their trust and love and care, and slowly, slowly, slowly, teach them how to unpack it for themselves…as part of the healing process.
Truly, they are the brave ones.
And so are we.
And that is probably what makes Adoption Day all the more precious.
We had a Village.
Now that I have been through the darkest part of the journey I can start to look back and “re-see” my Village. They were there. In the darkest moments we had to walk through, and the loneliest hours, the nightmares, the sleepwalking, the weight of the rage, and the heaviness of the Unknown, I truly felt alone.
My family could not have been more supportive, more encouraging, or more loving to these two new human beings we had invited in.
My church family could not have been more patient, more tolerant, or more inviting to these strangers we had just brought in to try to do life with for an Unknown amount of time.
There were text messages, hand-written notes, and screenshots of encouraging words.
There were letters and flowers and hugs and offers of help.
I hope I don’t sound ungrateful or scary when I say that there were days that none of that was enough.
In my lowest moment of them all, I found myself sobbing so hard I could not form words as I sat on the phone with my parents one morning. We were facing a breaking point of fear, where Forever looked more like a nightmare if we kept going, but the heartache of giving up brought me to my knees in gut-wrenching sickness. Little Buddy was in a Crises Anger Management Program for the second time in a month, kicked out of one school then suspended from the second one, and we were still standing in the gap for him, heading to court to sit through an appeal from his mother that was keeping us looped in the system, drowning in a holding tank for a YEAR past the Virginia mandate.
My parents had come for a visit during this time, just trying to bring a little cheer and love and hopefully help.
My heart was breaking from the pretending, and the morning they had to leave, Little Buddy was so awful and I was so heartsick, I could not join them for our traditional goodbye Bo-Berry biscuits at Bojangles.
I tear up when I think about this day even now.
I called them once I knew they were on the road after they kissed my kids goodbye, and what I had thought would be a brave explanation of what was happening on my end turned in to a sobfest I have never been through before.
They listened. They sympathized. They loved. I probably tore their hearts out worse than my own at that point, but I.HAD.NOTHING.LEFT.
I needed them in that moment more than I had in twenty five years.
Mom finally breathed enough common sense in to me to rationalize that no decision needed to be made in that moment. It was true: none of our caseworkers or counselors were telling us that we had a deadline we had to answer to. It was just our grief and fear and pain, raging louder than promise on the other side.
That pause was the breath we needed to catch in order to do the next right thing.
We had some hard conversations and heavy subjects addressing every one of our needs and positions in our family. We could not BUY peace, but we DID have the power to structure our life in such a way that we could BRING peace in to our home.
We had to try.
One tentative foot forward after another, we started addressing the hurts and pains of EVERY family member.
We let each child choose one happy thing to look forward to over the next quarter, marked it on the calendar and made it happen.
We asked our teens how they felt and set them up with fun friends, extra privileges and opportunities to thrive in windows outside our home for a moment. (Side note: it is AMAZING what a late night fast food run will do to the climate in your home once you go through it with your teens…)
We started getting Little Buddy every resource we had ever heard available, and measuring carefully what he needed versus the rest of the family. We called and emailed and cried to our counselors and case workers, and they tirelessly worked us through each question and change.
We put our marriage back up on the priority list that it needed to be. We committed to consistent date nights, practiced forgiveness for the hurts of the past failures and short comings, and agreed to start over from this point forward, honestly addressing the direction of our family and how it was going to go.
Walking that month out was the most difficult part of our journey I can say.
We were still SO scared and still SO unsure, but we just kepy trying to do the next right thing.
God met us in that place.
He was there in the court room the day that mom signed her rights away for her children.
He was there in the thirty day waiting period that was legally held for her in case she changed her mind again and wanted to appeal again.
He was there the day those thirty days were over and I exhaled a breath that I didn’t even realize I had been holding.
It was also the two year anniversary to the day that Little Buddy moved in with us.
Only God can set you up like that.
I hope I can make it permanently clear through our foster care journey that we understood that our job was to REUNITE these children with their biological family. We knew that going in and choosing foster care, and God knows how hard we tried for that to happen.
We grieved with that family as we watched it come apart.
We grieved as we watched those children hang in the balance of permanency, normalcy and Forever.
We grieved at the fact that our own original biological family would never be the same. We knew we chose this path, we knew God brought these children to us, but the family we started with would never be there again, ever. And we had to grieve the loss of that as well.
And coming out of that month that I just described to you earlier, that grief weighed like nothing I felt before.
That grief had become home to me. And that is NOT like me.
In the moments that I felt like surely, we must be wussy foster parents and I need more tips and tricks to get me through, I would ask our case workers if it was true, were we wussies or was this a really tough case?
They assured me, then and now, this case was 100% difficult and complex, and Little Buddy was considered a 10 out 10 on the challenging scale.
So please don’t let me scare you in to thinking that your life will look like this if you are ever moved to say “Yes” to foster care or adoption.
But if you do happen to find yourself in that place, please know you are not alone.
It wasn’t until I got the call from the attorney about the date for the adoption that I came face to face with my choice: was I going to let grief define me and this journey we had been on, or was I going to take a deep breath, stand back up and CHOOSE joy at what was ahead of us?
I had felt so guilty at calling any of this journey victorious or joyful because I was so close to the grief and loss and trauma of it all. I SAW that mama lose her babies. I WATCHED those kids grieve as the original plan that God had designed for that family painfully came apart forever.
It felt traitorous to call this next step a joyful occaision. I have never been more conflicted in my life.
To be clear, we KNEW that these children would not be safe if they went home. We KNEW it was the right decision from both Social Services and the Court of Law. We KNEW they were safe with us, stable with us, and even happy with us. It was their squeals and nervous tries of their new adoptive names that they were choosing that wakened me out of the conflicting grief in those tough moments.
Until that phone call came.
All the pieces of what I had been living up until that moment came to that choice: I could either STAY in that grief over the loss and rob my kids of a life-changing event that needed to be (and deserved to be) celebrated, or I could choose JOY and turn my face to look at what was happening right in front of me: in the midst of darkness and grief and pain, a new life was being created. In the middle of the greatest loss a child could endure was the hope of new beginnings, if I would just let go of the past enough to see it.
Two beautiful, smart, funny and charming blonde-haired children needed a home and a family to call their own Forever. I had worked SO HARD for YEARS to earn their love, trust and devotion. And now I finally had it.
THAT was what we were going to celebrate.
As the attorney gave me the Court Date to show up, I knew it was time to make the final leap:
It was time to choose to celebrate and time to choose joy.
If any one knows me, they know my spirit animal is the party animal. (Totally joking.)
Really though, throwing a party is my initial response to nearly every happy event I come across.
Tim once accused my of wanting to throw a party for the dog’s birthday if I could.
I really don’t see what is so bad about that?
I mean, life is already pretty tough if you’re doing it right, so why not acknowledge and create more moments for cake and friends??????
So when I started the mass text train informing close friends of Adoption Day, I was met with so many “Can we come?!” responses I started to question what we were doing.
Here was my Village, showing up for me and my family, and I had just lost sight of how much they had cared along the way, how much they had invested along the way.
They couldn’t take my pain away from me, but they sat with me through it, and now I could see again… they had been there the whole time.
If you didn’t catch the back-and-forth of the calls with the attorney and judge and family and friends and teachers and caseworkers, you can read that post here.
Suffice it to say, we created a bit of a shenanigans to get permission for all our Village to show up that day.
It was incredible.
Teachers went out of their way to find subs and bring classmates, caseworkers moved meetings and schedules around to be present, family sat available and waiting for a FaceTime call six states away, and friends gave up their day off to drive downtown to a big scary courthouse just to see it through.
Our attorney thanked us for our bravery and perseverance, sharing his own experience watching the broken system turn over broken things to a broken world. He shared that in the middle of the worst times, foster parents just started stepping up in the last five years and committing to see these kids through to adoption, and how much hope it has brought him in the heartache he had been witnessing.
He said he had read over our kids’ case file many times as he prepared the final order for the adoption. He said he grieved with us but thanked us, sayng how he could see we stuck it out with these kids in the most difficult of circumstances. He commended us for seeing it through, sharing about what a difference it made to him to be able to witness this day.
It was seventeen pages long, he just happened to mention.
Of course, Lord.
The judge and the bailiff and the transcriber all laughed and loved and teared up right along with us as we signed papers and shared our story with them.
They thanked us for making it such a happy day for them.
Being in that court room was a sobering reminder of all the heartache that had gone on before us, at times even in that same room.
The hallway where our group was waiting was the same exact place our babies’ foster mom hugged me sobbing, thanking me and begging me to please take care of her babies, just over a year before.
None of that was lost on me, but the weight of that grief could no longer be magnetized to me.
We had chosen to come to celebrate the beginning of a new life together with these children. We were celebrating that out of the ashes was beauty, that we were trading our sorrow and pain for hope and promise.
And every child deserves to have a fresh start and a new beginning when they have had to say goodbye to loss.
That’s what we did on Adoption Day.
After photos and hugs and tears and photos, we all headed home for takeout pizza and half gallon tubs of ice cream.
There was peace and joy and giggles and rehearsing and love.
If you had told me four months before that what it all would have looked like, I really would not have believed you, could not have believed you.
But as Tim and I sat in bed that night, soaking up the silence of the house, sharing our own insights of the day, he finished his video of his version of Adoption Day…
and I could believe it after that.
Thank you all for being a part of our journey.
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