“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 thessalonians 5:18
“ [regarded] as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” 2 corinthians 6:10
"therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." 1 corinthians 15:58
earlier this week, a judge ruled that our four foster children should be reunified with their birth mom. three days ago, we drove them to her place, and dropped them off for the last time ever.
it is difficult to describe the mix of emotions that i have felt as a result. sadness for the kids and what their future holds. the pain of four broken relationships. thankfulness for everything God did through our time with them. peace with His plan. longing to see them grow up. joy in the blessing that they were to us.
i have been reflecting a lot on their time with us, what God did in us, what God did in them. i miss them. but i am very thankful, and i can honestly say that i have a heart full of joy in the midst of it all.
i am thankful for the laughter they brought to our home. i remember reading some kind of statistic about adults laughing on average like 7 times a day, while children laugh on average something like 100 times per day. i really noticed this about our kids... they laughed about everything! sometimes hearing their laughter made me suspicious, because it often meant that they were doing something mischievous, but God really used their laughter to show me how serious and hard my heart is, and gave me a desire to just laugh more. He used it to help me take my eyes off the never ending list of tasks i needed to accomplish in order to stop and just enjoy a minute or two with them.
i rejoice because of how God taught me about His character through their time with us. one way i learned about his character was through reading about and meditating on His fatherhood. it was always such a contrast to my parenthood... He is full of patience and his every action toward His children is motivated by love. even my most loving actions (which are rare) are stained and marred by sin. when the kids were disobedient, my mind instantly went to what punishments they "deserved" for their rebellion and what privileges they did not "deserve". God continuously reminded me of His grace towards me, and how he constantly fills my cup to overflowing with blessings that I don't deserve.
God also really took deeper into my heart the reality of His sovereignty, that all things are under his control. my trust in God has gone much deeper through this, even when many aspects of our first foster care experience did not go the way that we were hoping. God chose for these kids to be in our home. he chose that first we would have two, and then four. he chose that things would be hard at times and good at other times. and he chose that this week they would go home with their birth mom. period. i have no bitterness, just a deep trust in him (by his grace). moreover, i rejoice that my God rules the universe. "our God is in the heavens, he does whatever he pleases" (psalm 115:3)
i rejoice that he has humbled me through this. God showed me a deeper level of my sin than i have ever experienced before through our kids. having previously worked with children with austism, i thought that i had a lot of patience. boy. was. i. wrong. (but God reminded me that He has perfect patience, and that true patience can only be brought about in me through his spirit). he showed me my severe lack of love and empathy (while reminding me of His perfect love and his desire to fill me with his love by his spirit). he showed me my pride, that i would think that i could keep up with four young children all on my own (but in the midst of it, he graciously provided what i needed to get through each day). he showed me my complete inability to "do everything without grumbling" (philippians 2:14), and lack of joy (but constantly reminded me that only He is the true source of joy).
i am thankful that we got to share the gospel with them on a regular basis. moreover, i am thankful for all the opportunities (and we will continue to do so) to come to Him in prayer and ask for their salvation. i rejoice that they got to hear gospel truths that they may never have gotten to hear otherwise. even now that they are back with their mom, they have bible story books and CD's of gospel centered songs (that we sent them home with) that we pray will continue to point them towards Christ. it breaks my heart to think that i may never see any of them here on earth again but i spend more time praying that i will spend eternity with them.
i am thankful for getting to play the important role of teaching and training them. teaching and training is haaaaarrrrddd work. but so satisfying when you see the results. i am thankful that we were able to spend almost a year of the most important developmental time in all four of their lives with them. we were the ones who taught the oldest two how to get dressed. we were the ones who taught the youngest boy how to take off his shoes. we were the ones who taught the oldest two all of their colors, the oldest brother most of his letters and the middle brother to count to five. many of these things we taught them they should have been taught long before they came to us, and they still might not know had they never come to us.
i am thankful for everything that i learned that will make me a better parent in the future. one of the biggest things i saw through our time with them was my sin and my need for grace. on more than one occasion i had to apologize to the kids for my sin (such as being impatient) and i thank God that he helped me to do so. however, i also really saw how a parent's sin can transfer onto their kids and it has really lead me to pray more for sanctification... i don't want our kids to follow in my sinful ways!
i also learned that it is important to bring up God and the gospel at every moment possible (especially since their time with us was so brief). every moment is an opportunity for them to learn about God's character. when they would notice a bird or a tree, i would point out that God made that bird or tree. when they had difficulty sharing toys, i would bring up the reason that we share... because God first chose to share with us. when they were excited about a new toy or new shoes, we would pray and thank God for providing it.
i am thankful for how our time with them has gotten me more excited to have a large family in the future. even though things were very chaotic at times, i was able to see innumerable benefits to having a large family. i loved seeing how close of friends all the kids were. it helped that they constantly had others to play with! (it baffles my mind when so many parents of a single child say they don't have time for another one... i feel like i don't have time to be the sole entertainer for one!) it was also cool to see how things we taught one child quickly transferred onto the others. for example, within a month of the oldest learning his colors, the next oldest brother also knew all of his colors.
these are just a few of the things i have thought about this week, and why i am thankful and joyful in the midst of my sorrow. i am also hopeful... i hope to get to spend eternity with them in God's presence. but that will remain just a hope for the time being.