There is a lone sunflower plant in our compost bin. It was planted in a pot and placed just outside our back door, but with all of the random pots and containers with plants and trees sitting around crowding the grill and smoker, Jason just picked up the sunflower pot and set it in the compost pile to get it away from everything else. And there it stands. Alone.
About the time the bud began to open to the light, we were placed with two foster children: a five year-old boy and a three month-old baby girl. We’ll call them Jack and Jill. Our family had been waiting for this moment to welcome the children into our home. Our kids were excited, Jason and I were giddy.
But excitement wears off quickly when life becomes difficult. In the welcoming of foster children we were not welcoming a fairy tale of acceptance and easy-going attachment. We were opening ourselves up to all of the pain and brokenness that these children carried with them.
Fear. Rage. Defiance. Medical Issues. Sensory Issues. Hygiene Issues. Day in and day out these things began to wear on all of us.
What is even more revealing is what fostering continues to show us about ourselves. We were putting ourselves in a position where these stormy days uncovered the lack of love in our own hearts. In mine and Jason’s. And in my children’s.
On the third night that Jack and Jill were with us Jason was working his regular shift at the station, so it was up to me to put everyone to bed by myself.
“Are you going to protect me?” Jack asked me.
He had asked me this same question four times already and every time I had promised that I would.
“Will you tell God that I’m scared?” he said.
I would start to pray and then he would interrupt again with another thing to add.
“Will you tell God that I miss my mama?”
“Dear God, Jack misses his mama.”
And then he began to cry for her.
“Oh Father wrap your arms around Jack right now.”
Between sobs Jack added, “Will you tell God to wrap his arms around me for this many days?” And he held up ten fingers.
And of course I prayed. With a broken heart. But the bedtime routine went on for a long time. And I had four other children to put to sleep and they all needed me. And they couldn’t understand why Jack didn’t just go to sleep. And I was getting weary.
So I backed out of his room again promising for the fifth time that I would leave the door open and the bathroom light on and yes, in the morning I would give him something to eat. I tried to say goodnight to my boys, but Jack kept getting out of bed or screaming in fear that I hardly spent any time in my sons’ room for having to take Jack back to his bed so many times. By the time I made it to Addie’s room, Jack had miraculously fallen asleep on his bed, but I could tell that my daughter was troubled.
“Mommy, I’ve never felt like this before,” she began, she looked as if she were about to cry and I thought she was going to say something entirely different than what she said to me. “I want to just run into Jesus’ arms and let him hug me.”
Her words hit me deep and I breathed them in. Yes. Me too. I pulled her close and wept into her hair.
A week later the kids watched the backyard flood with water as the sky rained down. Jack was the one to notice the sunflower, as he had taken quite a liking to the bright yellow flower in the middle of the brown.
“Look! The flower is dancing!” he called out and all the kids pressed their faces in the glass to see the wild dance of the sunflower in the storm. My heart sank as I had grown attached to the flower myself. This storm would surely kill it.
But the next day the flower held its golden head high towards the heavens. It looked bigger than ever. The storm had not killed it.
It’s been four weeks since Jack and Jill have come to live with us for a time. It feels like it has been one storm after another. Some days I think that I can’t go on. I am exhausted from sleep deprivation and constant trials. My children struggle to accept this new life and I am burdened for them. It feels like war every day. A fight to love. For all of us.
Just about every time I get in the car and turn the radio on I hear that David Crowder song in which Jesus continues to sing over me , “I am holding onto you, I am holding onto you. In the middle of the storm, I’m holding on. I AM.”
He’s got me. He’s got my children. He’s got my foster children. And this storm is not going to kill us.