I am a Child of God

Today Raine turns 7. She arrived on my doorstep shortly after her 3rd birthday. It seems a lifetime ago

Athena & Raine ready to celebrate

Athena & Raine ready to celebrate

and only yesterday. The report received by the private fostering agency I work for said she had an acquired brain injury from falling out of a bassinet at 6mths.

For years I’d been carrying a crib with me. Everywhere I moved to, I lugged the unopened box. It was a gift from a friend who believed me when I said, “One day soon I’m going to adopt two children – whether I’m married or not.” In the sea of people I knew, this one friend reached out and gave me a gift which cost her dearly. She wasn’t exactly prosperous, struggling with three young children of her own.

When I got the call about Raine, I set up the crib. Having just turned 3, with a brain injury, she might need it. There was also a bed in the room prepared for her. I didn’t know what she’d need.

The social worker and her co-op student, released Raine from her carseat then set about unloading the boxes of clothing and toys sent from the previous foster home. Alone, Raine made her way up to my front door. I introduced myself. She moved past me, talking a mile a minute. Venturing through the house, she landed at the dinning room table that was set with tea and cookies.

Her last name had been exotic. The case manager with my agency told me to expect a Hispanic child. Instead a chubby girl with fair skin, blond hair, and blue eyes asked me a million questions while gobbling up cookies. Raine was bright and articulate. She was not what I’d expected.

“Maybe her sister will come and you’ll get to adopt them both,” my case worker said when the social

cupcakes I made for Raine's 7th birthday

cupcakes I made for Raine’s 7th birthday

worker was gone.

“Maybe,” I agreed. But that didn’t seem remotely possible.

When shown her room, Raine pointed to the crib and said, “This is for my sister. When is she coming here?”

Due to some complications at the previous foster home, a separation was thought best for the young girls. Three months later, their social worker defied her supervisor and the medical adviser deciding to bring 1yr old Athena to my home. The crib was hers, though at that point I didn’t know this was the fulfillment.

I didn’t know these were the children I would adopt. But I invested everything I had in them. Sometimes I didn’t have much to give. Some days I still don’t. This year, as Raine’s birthday drew near, she and I were both reflecting on the time before we knew each other. My daughter hasn’t always been mine. For 3yrs she lived with people I don’t know experiencing a life I know very little about. I’ve worked hard to lay claim to her. Yet there’s a portion of time when Raine wasn’t mine.

Since coming to me, Raine has been adding up the passing time. She’s longed to reach 4yrs “because then I’ll be with you longer than I was without you.” As we near that point, there’s a reflection on that life before. Hundreds of what ifs race through my mind. Maybe it’s because I’m a novelist at heart, I always want to rewrite the past. What if my daughters hadn’t needed to become mine? Wouldn’t that be so much better?

Raine and I both awoke somewhat subdued today. It was a time to celebrate. We tried but mostly failed. Then a friend sent a message with a song attached.

I clicked on the youtube video. Raine stood quietly beside me, watching and listening while I cried. The past is what it is. I can’t rewrite the reality that the family who created Raine is no longer present in her life. Given the circumstances, it’s right that she’s not with them. It’s right for her to be here with me. But that doesn’t erase the pain for her, for her birth parents and siblings, for me. I missed three years of Raine’s life. But I’m exceedingly grateful for what we have shared and will continue to share.

I love watching her change from a slave of fear into a child of God. The transformation continues to amaze me. In the midst of difficulty, Raine’s heart has come alive. She’s learned to love her sister. She’s learned to trust me. Fear is loosing it’s grip. Raine is growing in the realization of who she is. I’m celebrating that today. I’m celebrating the beautiful daughter the Lord brought into my life.

Raine on her 7th birthday

Raine on her 7th birthday

A Significant Life

signifiant other

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. Like most holidays, in my opinion, it’s highly commercialized. Perhaps unintentionally, the message received by most singles is, “I am not enough”.

That’s not a thought I entertain in the everyday, so it wasn’t part of Valentine’s Day. I bought my daughters new shirts as I usually do.

028The message on Athena’s top is dear to my heart. Love Wins! In so many ways that is the testimony of our family. We invited another single mom over for lunch. She asked to bring a friend – a single mom as well. My girls and I turned the lunch into a little party. I ordered cupcakes from a lady at church. I bought flowers. We decorated.

In years gone by, I’ve busied myself with lavishing love on others. Many times I made greeting cards and wrote heartfelt words to dear friends who were without significant others on Valentine’s Day. That made me feel better about being alone.

This year much too late, I remembered not everyone is comfortable being on their own – especially at Valentine’s. But I was out of time to do anything about that.

3 cupcakes with 3 hearts for our little family of 3

3 cupcakes with 3 hearts for our little family of 3

Since becoming a mom, that longing has slowly subsided. Someone would be lovely. But I’m not going to spend my time waiting. I have a life to life – a life of significance. That significance is not marked by having a ring on my finger or someone to fall asleep with.

This year, when I least expected it, I reaped the generosity I’d previously sown. Two friends stopped by unexpectedly with gifts. One brought chocolate and flowers – the very kind I’d bought to give to my lunch guests. The other made cinnamon buns and brought chocolates. The cinnamon buns – possibly her first attempt – weren’t spectacular, by her own admission. But that made me love them all the more. It was a mark of our friendship that she’d chosen to include me in the less than exceptional moments. I love being in community. For me that means being real. That my friend made the effort to bake me something and chose to share the imperfection of her creation speaks volumes to me. Those are the kind of relationships I want – sincere, honest, and an example of family at it’s best. I also got a lovely card and chocolates from one of my party guests.

from Athena

from Athena

Athena made me a flower arrangement at school. Raine, who is with me every waking moment, realized too late she had nothing for me. But in the midst of a few teary moments as emotions overtook her on Saturday, Raine told me repeatedly how much she loves me. “And love is all that matters,” she reminded me of the words I’ve often spoken.

My love is full of love. Being single, I am not living without. The truth is I am living a significant life full of love.

flowers from a friend

flowers from a friend – grown with love by another friend

Taking Care

I tend to over explain things – adding details most people don’t care about. My kids, of course, are not most people. They’re endlessly inquisitive and want to know every single detail. They ask who the babies are that pop up on my facebook news feed. Most are from an Asian orphanage I follow. The organization seems to be making an amazing difference in the lives of children with special needs and medical issues.

The adorable children have prompted many conversations at my house. And now they’re inspiring Raine and Athena’s playtime. Athena gathers all the dolls pretending they’re orphans. Recently a foster child visiting for the weekend was playing dolls as well. She pretended to call Athena, asking, “Can you take care of my baby while I go to a meeting today?”

“Sure, if you bring her to the orphanage,” Athena answered. “This is where I am – taking care of the orphans.”

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

James 1:27

Raine, on the other hand, bounces around the house telling me of all the ways we can raise money to help fund adoptions for the kids in orphanages. “Everyone needs a mom,” she tells me. “Kids that don’t have one – we must get them one! It’s best to be out of the orphanage.”

I don’t think they fully comprehend that they were once orphans themselves. It’s not a label that’s used for children in Canada. And, thankfully, children here don’t end up in orphanages. But being foster children who were adopted, I think my girls understand on some level the reality of these children.

Raine has written a number on a scrap of paper – something like 1400. It’s how many kids she wants to see adopted. Every time the orphanage I follow on fb posts about a child leaving to be with their forever family, Raine puts a check mark on her paper. Maybe one day there will be enough to cancel out the number she’s written. That’s what she’s working towards. “All kids who need to be adopted, getting adopted that’s what I want,” she tells me with a passion that can’t be quenched while Athena carefully wraps the orphan dolls in blankets telling them not to cry because soon they’ll have a mom.

Today and Everyday I Am Thankful

today-i-am-thankful

Today is thanksgiving. There are many things I’m thankful for. My daughters, of course, and our amazing life. This year I’m struck by the family and friends surrounding us. In deciding to pursue foster care and adoption as a way of life, I counted the cost. I knew full well the sacrifice involved. Gladly, I lay down my own desires and pursuits in favour of parenting children I did not birth. Sometimes gracefully, sometimes not, I deal with problems I did not create – like prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol. I do this because I’m compelled to fulfill the great commission in this manner.

This is not the ministry most of my friends and family have chosen. Still, by association with me, they are drawn in. It’s messy, challenging, and frustrating most of the time. It’s Christmas dinners served in my pj’s because my teenage foster child forgot to take her medication and I didn’t realize until we’d spent a horrific morning trying to get the turkey ready. It’s holes in my walls and knifed wallpaper (something my then 4yr old managed with a butter knife). It’s a child who takes her cough to the extreme, overpowering any conversations around the Thanksgiving dinner table. It’s buying gifts for children you’ve never met and may never see again. It’s me being tired and depleted all the time. It’s me forgetting to confirm whether or not I need you to babysit. It’s things like this that my family and friends are drawn into.

I’ve chosen this wonderfully unusual life. They haven’t. But I am eternally grateful that they have chosen to love me and all that I’m trying to do. I love that I have friends who choose to donate their time to my business. I have family who respond by saving, “It’s wonderful to have a full table,” when I say my friend’s three foster children will be joining us for Thanksgiving. I have friends who drop by with banana bread or a dozen buns when I suddenly find myself with two extra little ones. I have friends who invite us back after Raine has a complete meltdown – hitting her sister and informing all of us that I’m not her mother so she doesn’t have to listen to me. I have friends who come by in the evenings when kids are asleep because I really can’t get out.

When I chose this life, I didn’t consider what it would cost the people in my life. Thankfully they have been willing to pay the price for me to pursue the calling on my life. I am grateful for the support and encouragement they offer. I am grateful for their willingness to accommodate my unusual life. I am grateful that they consider it to be as wonderful as I do. Thank you.