We only had a 2 hour window to pack everything, prepare them emotionally, and say our goodbyes. It was an extremely hard day to say the least. I was trying my best and failing miserably at keeping my emotions under control. I thought I had done a better job guarding my heart and reminding myself that this day was always a possibility. But now that I'm on the other side of it, I know that it's impossible to protect yourself from heartache in foster care. But also that that's not a bad thing. We loved these girls like they were our own and that is the only kind of love they deserve. It means setting yourself up for getting your heart broken, but isn't that true in any relationship where love is involved? There is pain, but there is also beauty in the pain.
After Rick left court on Thursday afternoon, he had a feeling the judge was going to rule the way he did on Friday morning when it resumed. I'm thankful for that little bit of warning. I stayed up long after they were all tucked in bed putting together a scrapbook for them in case they did have to go. My biggest fear was that they would feel abandoned by us and I wanted them to know how much they are loved and how much we treasured our time with them. I read it to them several times as we were waiting for their ride and just kept reminding them how much we love them and how thankful we were to be their mommy and daddy while they needed us. They were immediately very upset when we told them they were going to live with their relative. I told them that we wished they could live with us forever, but that their relative loves them very much too and really misses them. And we kept reassuring them that they were going to have so much fun now that they get to be with their brother and sister again. Hearing that they were being reunited with their siblings gave them a lot of comfort so we shifted the focus to that.
I realized that they were going to have a scrapbook of our memories together and I wasn't, so I took pictures of it so I can make another one for us. Too much to pixelate, but here are the first and last pages.
It's still hard to look through the pictures, but I'm amazed by what God has done and shown us in the weeks since this day. Gentle reminders that even though we aren't in control and things didn't play out the way we would have chosen, He's got a bigger plan for the girls and for our family. He turned raw feelings of brokenness and heartache into renewed hope. I went from feeling physically sick about the situation to having such a peace about things -- which has been such a gift from the Lord because it is not my personality AT ALL. I'm so thankful for answered prayers for comfort and wisdom.
We still miss the girls tremendously. The first couple of weeks were rough for me and it took some time to readjust to our old normal. And even now that we have, we still think and talk about them every day. But I no longer feel anxious. I no longer feel heartbroken. I no longer feel angry or hurt. I feel thankful. Thankful for having them in our family, even if it was only for 3 months. Thankful for this transforming experience. Thankful for a sovereign God. It's a weird place to be. If it were up to us, we would jump at the opportunity to still have them here with us. But I'm now able to talk about and laugh at the memories we have with them without feeling that crushing heartache. God had us in each others' lives for the exact time He planned, and once I realized that maybe my expectations were based on what I wanted instead of what God wanted, I was able to work through my disappointment and grief much more easily. A realigned perspective can work wonders on a hurting heart.
Harrison & Harper are champs. The affect on the kids was our biggest concern going in, even though God reassured us many times before we went through the licensing process. I can honestly say that we had absolutely no need to be concerned. In fact, quite the opposite. This experience has grown their little hearts far more than anything we could have taught them. They both have much more compassion. Before every meal, they each say the sweetest little prayers that the girls also have a meal to eat and that they are safe and happy. They ask more questions about people in need and how we can help. Harrison even came to us and said, "for my birthday party, I want people to donate the presents to foster kids since I already have a lot of toys and foster kids don't have any. And toys make everybody happy so they need some to cheer them up." I feel like this experience very likely blessed our family more than it blessed the twins, even though they were the ones technically in need.
We've been reflecting a lot on our journey lately. Rick and I (and the kids, too) have had many discussions about our experience and where our hearts are and where we want to go from here. When the girls left we knew we needed to take a little time to process things and breathe a little. To grieve and heal. To just be; and in the "freedom" of our less demanding schedule and responsibilities, we've been enjoying the heck out of our two little blessings, recharging, and most importantly, keeping open ears and open hearts to listen for God's direction.
A dear friend bought me a journal last year. I am one of those people who loves the idea of journaling and have had several of them since I was a child. But I'm also one of those people who only writes one entry before losing it, forgetting, or just getting too lazy to follow through. But I'm thankful that I filled the pages up on this one. There were SO many ways God made it clear to us that he wanted us to begin the fostering process that I knew I wanted to document them. Here is what I wrote on the inside cover:
I'm using this notebook to journal our journey through the fostering/adoption process, beginning with how God answered prayers through scripture and confirmed to us time and time again that this is what He wants us to do. I hope that it will serve as encouragement and a reminder that we are right where He wants us, even when the journey gets tough.
And what a source of encouragement it has been. I read through it in tears on days that I felt extremely in over my head. And I read through it in tears on the days my heart felt shattered when our girls left.
I started writing in it when we initially began considering foster care just so I would have a place to formulate my thoughts and prayers. And every week God still provides me with pages and pages of new encouragement and insight to jot down. It has been such a raw and vulnerable year, but I have never felt closer to God or felt like I was truly hearing from Him like this. And I've never been this eager or excited that I'm NOT the one in control. There is something so beautiful and freeing and humbling to submit your will and follow Him. Scary and so hard at times, but also so worth it.