“Isn’t It Hard When They Leave?”

Photo by Indigo Blackwood on Pexels.com

When people find out J and I are foster parents, one of the first things we hear is, “Isn’t it hard when they leave?”

The short answer: yes.

We’re not without feelings, and in saying farewell to another tiny recently we’ve shed boatloads of tears. But, still being a part of that little person’s story — worth it. We’d do it again. No regrets.

Love is never wasted, even if it is more like a hedgehog than a cozy teddy bear. Sometimes love is snuggles and warmth, and sometimes it’s like holding a pincushion that pricks you till you bleed. But still, it’s worth it.

The reality is all relationships come to an end. People leave us, or we leave them — either by choice, circumstance or death. We never know how long we have with anyone.

Fostering makes us aware how precarious (and precious) life is. And it teaches us to live in the moment instead of hedging our bets for the future. The story twists and turns and who knows where it will lead. So, it’s life taken one hour, one day at a time. Who knows what will happen today?

And that’s (usually) enough.

There is another trick I have: when a little comes to our home, I head to T J Maxx and buy a suitcase (near as I can tell — they have the best deals on suitcases anywhere). I place it somewhere I’ll see it regularly, but out of sight of the little.

It’s a reminder that this is temporary and to hold it all loosely. It grounds me in reality. Love hard, love well, but remember this little person is not yours.

We cannot control how long someone is with us, but we can choose how we will spend the time we do have. When we know goodbye is coming, instead of wasting precious time together by only sitting in dread of the coming farewell — we choose life. We go to the zoo or some other outing; we create a memory and take a photo — even if we’re the only ones who’ll remember.

And when we cannot keep them forever, we can send them off well. It’s the only thing we can control, and it’s our last remaining way to say, “you’re loved, and you are so, so precious to us.” It’s not so much for the people they’ll go to stay with us as it is for us. It’s all that we’re able to do.

I’m not an expert on farewell, but so far — the anticipation of farewell and that exact moment of hand-off are the very worst. The fear of the coming pain is so much worse than the reality we walk through after the fact.

There’s still sadness and grieving, but there’s also peace in the knowledge that we gave the best we could. And that’s enough. As long as it all meant something — it’s okay. No regrets.

And having done this before, here’s what I’ve learned. The heart always grows. It expands, and love sneaks in when we don’t expect. There’s no need to be stingy with love as though somehow we’ll run out or somehow there won’t be enough to go around next time.

The fear of pain isn’t a good enough reason to avoid love. How much joy and wonder would I miss if I said no to this journey for fear of goodbye? There’s some indescribable magic in quiet baby snuggles as they sleep on your chest full of trust or as their eyes light up with glee upon a glimpse of your face.

There’s pockets of awful too; the sleepless nights, the crying that seems endless in a particular moment, the blowout that happens right before that important appointment you’re already running late for, and that nagging sense that no matter how much of yourself you’ve given to this tiny person, that there’s still not enough of you to go around and meet their needs.

But still, the wonder-filled moments make it worth it. That and the reminders of where your story began together, and how well they’re doing at the moment of goodbye.

And really for me, it’s a gift when it hurts to say good-bye. It means that a miracle happened: my heart softened and opened up to this tiny stranger, and that’s a gift. Always. Even if the road ends in farewell.

A feast for the beloved betrayers

bread and juice for communionEvery year in the week leading up to Easter, I read the stories of Jesus’ crucifixion in the Gospels. After so many readings, I know how the story ends.

Even so, I find myself wishing for an interruption in the story. I’m like Peter in Matthew 16 who wants to deny that suffering will happen to Jesus. I want Pilate to stand up to the religious leaders. I mutter to myself about the folks eager to get Jesus crucified, and somehow I pray each time they find some hidden capacity for grace and love over fear.

Resurrection — yes, please! But this crucifixion part, I struggle to look full on in the face. Continue reading

Finding peace in enough


Crocus are the flowers that beckon me outside with me camera as winter shifts to spring.

Folks content with simple things intrigue me, particularly those content with enough instead of excess. This discipline remains uncomfortable for me like sitting on the floor and reaching to my outstretched toes — beyond my grasp, but I stretch and it burns. Continue reading

Love (not unquestioning obedience) is the goal


Words are like rocks. We can build with them, or we can break things with them.

As I’ve said before, stories matter. And the stories shaping our perspectives on obedience and submission matter, too. These stories impact the way we communicate, and the baggage others carry with these words matters, too.

Reading news and social media the last few months, submission and obedience are trigger words for me — regardless of the position supported. Whether it is government or religion, I flinch. They are power words.

Too often, the act of obedience and submission dominates the conversation, while ignoring critical questions like obedience to whom and for what end. Continue reading

Rediscovering the importance of story


When I challenged my home congregation to read Luke in the month of February, little did I know that challenge would leave me reading the whole book in the first three days of the month. I saturated myself in Jesus’ words the last couple of days.

I needed it.

The last couple of weeks, for me, feel like waking to some nightmarish alternate reality. Each day brings news reports that violate my core values.

I’m an INFP on the Myers-Briggs. The salient point about my personality: I delight in seeing the world through other people’s perspectives, and I hate conflict. Right up to the point where my core values are tripped, and then I am a rampaging tiger with roaring feelings and little logic.

I can handle disagreement and questions. I do not react well to shame, control or folks who bully or ridicule others, especially those who are marginalized or are weaker than them. I lose my mind. Poof. Out comes the tiger from normally placid me. Continue reading