February 23, 2013
Preparing the Soil
Long before I met you, many years before you were born, the soil of my heart was being prepared to love you. There was no specific, definable emotion, and there was no one upon whom to shower my affections. But the Lord had so lavished His love upon me, that it sort of overflowed my heart. It began as a general feeling of charity, an unsettling desire to share my heart, my home, and my blessings.
Externally, the preparations were quite practical, keeping my hands busy and my thoughts happily occupied. I completed the training classes and the licensing process to become a foster parent, purchased a crib and car seat and stroller, stocked up on children’s clothes in various sizes. I quit my full-time job In order to become a full-time mother. All the while, I wondered whom the Lord would bring into my home. Of all the children in all the world who needed a family, which one would join mine?
Unbeknownst to me, the garden of my life required a lot of hidden preparation as well, pruning and weeding and nurturing work that only the Lord could accomplish. Ever so gently He removed the thorns of selfishness that would have prevented me from loving you whole-heartedly. Slowly and patiently He enriched the soil of my heart with faith and wisdom, essential nutrients that He knew I would need in order to be your mother.
Selecting the Seed
I hear your name. The social worker tells me your story. With minimal information and even less time to ponder the implications, I must make a potentially life-changing decision: Am I willing to invest in your life, to commit to caring for you and nurturing you to help you grow? At this very moment, you are a stranger, a child whose face I cannot envision, whose early experiences in life I know nothing about. Will I be able to find a place for you in my heart?
Love is a choice, and I choose you. I tell the social worker that yes indeed, I will welcome you into my life for as long as you need to stay. Whatever joys or frustrations or successes or difficulties may accompany you, I choose to love you as my child, as a beloved, accepted member of my family.
I wish I could say that it is “Love at first sight,” but that is not entirely honest. This isn’t a fireworks-exploding, heart-skipping experience. Of course you are as handsome as you can possibly be, and your smile simply lights up the room. Mostly, I feel compassion for you, so very sad that you have already experienced much more separation and loss than any baby should have to endure. Regardless of my first impressions or immediate emotions, I choose to love you, to shower you with kisses and hugs and tickles, and to make sure that you are tucked snugly into bed each night, knowing that you are safe.
Tending the Plant
We are getting to know one another, you and I. I am trying to figure out your unique personality and needs, while you are adjusting to a new environment and routine. It’s understandable that we both would be irritable and out of sorts. It’s going to take a while for us to adjust to this significant change in our lives.
Our days are filled with visits to doctors, who refer us to highly skilled specialists, who send us for medical and developmental evaluations, which show that you need various forms of therapy. Your social worker and guardian-ad-litem and services coordinator all want to make home visits. And we make time to see your parents each week, to do what we can to maintain your relationship with them. Our schedule is full and overflowing, preventing me from doing what I really want to do: wrap you in a warm blanket, cuddle with you in the big chair in the living room, and memorize every inch of your sweet face.
And I can’t even explain how exhausting it can be to have a child who doesn’t sleep through the night. Not that you can’t sleep, but because you are so tiny and malnourished, I wake you up every few hours to make sure you are getting enough to eat. To try and squeeze just a few more precious ounces of formula into your reluctant mouth.
It can be a little disheartening, I must admit, to give and serve and sacrifice, with very little in return. You don’t yet recognize me as your Mama. You look at me the exact same way that you look at everyone else you meet: with furrowed eyebrows and a worried expression, as if to say, Who are you? What are you going to do to me? During your one year of life you have lived with your birth family, had several admissions to the hospital, and have been placed in three different foster homes. So I can imagine how the instability and uncertainty would cause you to be reluctant to trust, make you hesitant to bond. My challenge, even though it is not reciprocated, is to continue loving you. To continue nurturing the tender young plant that is you.
Seeing the Buds
I’m not sure which happened first: you falling in love with me or me falling in love with you. You begin to smile expectantly at me when I walk near, and I feel the first buds of emotion peeking through my heart. More and more frequently you raise your arms up as an invitation to be held, and I am just as eager to snuggle you against my neck. When someone else happens to be holding you, your eyes search the room for me, as if needing reassurance that I am not going to leave you. And I don’t ever want to leave you! The love I have for you becomes stronger and more tangible each day, like a living, growing thing that can no longer be contained.
Of course it was inevitable. The more time and energy I expend on your behalf, the more confidence you have that I will care for you. The more you believe and depend on me, the more protective and steadfast are my feelings towards you. It’s an ever-increasing circle of love and trust and attachment.
Enjoying the Blossoms
Has it been a lot of work and responsibility to care for you? Sure it has. Things worth having are never achieved easily. And you, my sweet child, are worth having. The Bible says, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” How true this is! Like cultivating a garden, I started out by choosing to make you my “treasure” – to care for you and nurture you, to lose sleep for you, to rearrange my schedule and make you a priority in my life. Consequently, it didn’t take long at all for my “heart” to follow. What started out as a commitment and a choice has now become great beauty and blessing! What began as a chore has become a true joy, and I can’t imagine life without you in it! Love has bloomed.