February is often a frigid month in Northwest Ohio, but regardless of the weather that late winter of 2017, a cold numbness settled in. Baby A had moved on to a new family.
Life paused for a while. That day, after my daughter handed her over to the case worker, we didn’t have our routine to keep us busy. Our focus was suddenly gone. We hung out at her house, ate lunch, watched a movie, but then what? It had only been a couple of weeks of the baby going to daycare, and I was still tuned to her schedule.
My teens were struggling to understand and accept the uncertainties of fostering. I had time now to try to help them process, but I’m sure my words sounded hollow. I didn’t know how I felt from one moment to the next.
There were lots of tears over the next few weeks.
And hard lessons about love.
I Corinthians 13:4 says in the middle of the verse “love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious”. In the version I quoted a couple weeks ago it was worded, “Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.”
That was really hard to feel right after this little one left our circle of influence. Altruistically I might have said that I wasn’t jealous of Big Brother and their new foster family. But in my heart I was angry at the inability to control any of the circumstances. I really had to focus on the good that was happening for our girl, the bonds that were being created with her newfound brother, the care she was enjoying from a family with kids to love on her.
I was reading in My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers the February 11 devotion about imagination. How if we neglect it we easily can feel exhausted and weak in our faith. It goes on to say that when instead we choose to use our thoughts to focus on Jesus, it will be our biggest asset when times of trial come. I felt a big “Yes!” in my heart. I had been thinking about Baby A, how the only way I got through that time was to imagine the good things she was hopefully experiencing apart from us.
A new grandma would be caring for her some of the time, and I pictured her as being about my age. Someone to feel the warmth of her snuggles, learning the ways she liked to be held. Unlike our family, her new one had young kids. When my daughter had met them before she had to turn the baby over they had seemed friendly and interested in Baby A, so I could imagine her being entertained by their activity and the attention she was receiving.
Her new foster mom had wanted to meet her, to introduce her other children to Baby A, to reassure my daughter that she was eager to take in these siblings and immerse them in her family, before she took them into her home. So I would imagine another young woman experiencing all the firsts involved with getting to know our girl.
And of course, Baby A and Big Brother were discovering in whatever way they were able the wonder of a flesh and blood sibling.
And I found hope. God taking these hard things in life and working through them and in them, working them for my good. Even this.
It was a time of swimming through feelings for all of us, holding our breath to see how long my daughter would be willing to let herself adjust before diving into her next placement.
I watched her pack away the baby things, ready for the next one, much sooner than I was ready to have them out of sight. Two months of a baby in her house had shown her things to take care of while there wasn’t a little one around, and we inherited her much used and much passed down couch and loveseat in the process.
My stuff went in baskets where I could see them still, the little things kept at our house for when Baby A was with us. There was a hedgehog one of my sons had gotten for her at Christmas, and it was just too hard to part with it, so he kept it to remember her by.
And in the busyness of the short two months she was with my daughter, we didn’t have many tangible mementos. I have some scattered notes, the remnants of all that record-keeping my daughter asked me to do. Schedules of what days I’d have her. Pictures on my phone I had never developed. A handprint that I still haven’t transferred to our family Christmas quilt.
So many memories with no physical proof. No pictures of my heart to put in a scrapbook. But I believe that the most important things in life are the things we can’t see, that we have to know without being able to prove.
Because those are the only things we take with us.
The end of the love chapter, I Corinthians 13, says that one day we will know as we are known, but until that day comes there are three things that remain.
Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.
And the best of the three is love.
Yes! Yes, it is.
Even when it hurts.