Profiles of Courage, Part 2 : Jo’s Story {Foster Parenting}

Yesterday, I featured the first part of my cousin Jo’s story, as the first in what I hope will be a monthly feature: Profiles of Courage.  Jo and her family embarked on a foster-care journey 3 years ago, and have learned much along the way about being emptied and filled.  If you did not read Part 1 of her story, you can find it here.

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Ten minutes. That was the amount of time I was given to decide if I was ready to change my life. My whole family’s life.

The call came around noon. “We have an Inuit toddler who needs a home. Will you be ready for her in an hour?” This was it. I called my husband and couldn’t reach him at first. I paced up and down the kitchen in prayer. When he finally called, he said only this; “Yes. Let’s say yes. This is why we’re doing this.”

    An hour later she arrived. Sleepy and disheveled, she watched us carefully, clinging to her sippy cup. Our two dogs were an asset as their wet greeting eased her out of her confusion and into giggles. And then she was in my arms, swinging with me on our old wooden swing. Minute by minute swaying her way deep, deep into our hearts.

A year and a half. That is the amount of time we had to braid her long black hair and practice our tongues at the strange new words that were home to her. A year and a half to watch her grow steady on her feet and move steadily into her place as baby of the family. A year and a half of that husky laugh, that smile, those dimples. Of memorizing the shape of her and the way she fit into our arms. A year and a half of marveling at her ability to embrace every new day, place, and person as though they were an anticipated delight. A year and a half is the amount of time we had to begin to lose sight of losing her.

Until we did. You see, our little girl had a terrific mother. In this system, we have been told, most grow weary and choose vice over motherhood. But there are others who fight, kick, claw their way back to health and to their children. This little girl had a mother like that. It didn’t take long for us to see it, and it made us want to join her fight. The battle of the broken should never be a spectator sport.

It isn’t enough to show an empty-armed mother that you love her child; the one you get to hold in your arms at night instead of her. That heartbroken mother will take in the picture of you in your nice house, with your shiny family. And she will only feel more broken if she watches from a distance as her child is loved by people deemed more stable, more secure, more safe. We knew there had to be a gathering-in. We wanted to honor her for every one of the 18 months that shaped this child before she made it to our door. We asked her to teach us all the things we didn’t know about her daughter. And she did.

As we opened up wide our life, our home and our church to her, this mom opened herself up wide in response. She helped us grow more familiar with her language: “Akuluk means I love you.” It was with her that we first tasted whale meat– an experience I hope never to repeat, mind you. . . One day, she gifted me with a beautiful hair clip made from seal pelt. She told me that her Aunt had made it to thank me for taking such good care of her little niece.

As she gave, she also allowed herself to receive. She became a familiar face at our church, even though it must have initially been very uncomfortable for her. We invited her to join us for afternoons at my parents’ home where she and my Mom would discuss the finer points of mystery novels. She joined us for many celebrations throughout the time we cared for her daughter, and she did so without reservation. I will never forget the day we gave her a ride home, and as she climbed out of the van she leaned in to kiss our daughter. “I love you,” she said. And I knew she meant it.

A lifetime. That is the amount of time we will remain awed by the gift of having lived this. We are soberly aware that this story is a rare gem in the circles of social care. But it is our gem. A little while ago, our girl came to spend the weekend with us. I watched her run around the house, rediscovering the landscape of her toddler-hood, and I could barely breathe. I looked up to find my husband looking back at me. “This hurts” I mouthed silently across the room. He nodded. Yes, it hurts. But it only took a minute for pain to be covered over by awe at the stunningly vast parameters of love. Look what love does! It gives. It takes. It shares. It loses. And it tenaciously roots and grows through it all.

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Jo writes from time to time on her blog, where she also shares her keen eye for beauty and creativity.  You can find her site here, and one of the most incredible crafts she made here {hand-made memory game}.  Thank you for sharing in her experience, and for being such an encouraging audience.  I appreciate you all!

 

 

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11 thoughts on “Profiles of Courage, Part 2 : Jo’s Story {Foster Parenting}

  1. Beautiful! Foster care must be so challenging and yet, to provide a safe, happy home environment for these children that so desperately are in need, it is a blessing!

  2. Je le savais que tu étais spéciale ma belle amie!!! Tu es vraiment superbe, une chance que des gens comme toi existent…..

  3. Thank you for this story! Adoption stories are a dime a dozen on Christian blogs (though I still love reading them!) but foster care stories are very hard to come by (especially positive ones).

    My husband and I are foster parents and have had 6 children in our home (thus far). Our 5th little one had a similar story to the one you shared in these two posts. I could really feel the joy and pain in your story, as we have experienced this same joy and pain. Thank you for sharing your story.
    Sarah Hope recently posted…10 Minute Workouts for Moms: Strength [Fit Mamas Series, Part 5]My Profile

    • Hi Sarah, thanks for reading today! How neat, that you and your husband are also fostering. Good for you! I am glad you enjoyed Jo’s story and saw glimpses of her experience in your own.

  4. Such beauty in the ashes of brokenness…I read and wept. I hope all the infants we’ve fostered (…and they all went home back to their mothers! God is faithful!) will look back and see how God provided and took care of them as well as helped their families fight through the muck to renew their relationship.

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