February 25, 2015

He is the One

“Hellooooooo?”  I raced through the door and called out to my roommate, so anxious to share my news that I could barely contain my excitement.  I had just experienced the most magical night of my entire life, and I could not wait to tell her about it.  Sure, it had only been six weeks since this wonderful man had come into my life, but time and logic are irrelevant when you are in love.  When he had asked me to marry him earlier that night, I did not hesitate before answering.  I knew, I just knew that he was the man of my dreams.  He was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.  I threw myself across my roommate’s bed and declared dramatically, “He is the one!”

At our wedding reception a few months later, when the best man gave his speech, he looked me straight in the eye and half-jokingly warned, “I hope you are ready for an adventure.”  He had no way of knowing, of course, could never have predicted what an adventure it would turn out to be!  And through it all, through the times when my heart felt like it would explode with joy, and through the times when my whole world was rocked to its core and I did not know how life could possibly continue, he is the one who has been with me every step of the way.


He is the one who took time away from building his career in order to build our unconventional family.  Together we attended hours and hours of foster care training classes, completed huge piles of paperwork, answered intrusive question after question, drove downtown to get fingerprinted, scheduled meetings with social workers, opened up our home to be inspected by strangers.  We were a team, he and I – a team that was somewhat na├»ve and ill-prepared for what the future would hold – but a team nonetheless, standing side by side, hand in hand, preparing for this uncommon and unique way of life.

Whenever our foster agency has asked us to take a new foster placement, he is, of course, the first one I call.  I tell him everything I have learned about this potential new member of our family, which usually includes a terribly sad story that sinks into my tender heart.  How could we possibly say no?  My heart races and I start thinking of how I will rearrange my schedule or the beds or the places at the table to make room for one more.

Then he is the one who asks the hard questions . . . how will this impact our other children?  Do we have the energy and the resources to give this child everything he or she needs?  Are we equipped to handle the behavioral problems that were somehow glossed over during my conversation with the social worker?  I may be the one with passion and enthusiasm, but he is the one with reason and wisdom.

And then when we do say yes and this new child joins our family and turns our whole life upside down and I am feeling the burdensome responsibilities weighing heavily on my shoulders and I’m so exhausted that I can’t see straight and every day I pray Please, please, please let me quit . . . he is the one who encourages me to press on.  To remain faithful.  To finish well. In my emotion and weariness, in my discouragement and fatigue, he is the one who upholds me with his strength.

Some of the problems of the children who have been in our home – especially the older ones - have been especially rough.  The extreme behaviors are so complex and prevalent that we get sucked into the vortex and cannot seem to find our way out.  We start to question ourselves.  We begin to doubt our sanity.  We end up having heated discussions late into the night, dissecting conversations and actions from earlier in the day.  (Riveting, I assure you.)  He thinks I was too lenient and merciful; I think he was too harsh and unforgiving.  Of course, the next time these same issues arise (and they do arise again and again), we will have completely switched roles.

I am all-too aware of my failures.  And I struggle with guilt over how I should have handled things differently.  And yet, inexplicably, those thoughts and feelings doesn’t always transfer to him.  Instead of empathizing with his shortcomings, I become angry.  Resentful of his inability to fix the problems and make them go away.  Honestly, where there are weaknesses in our marriage, parenting a foster child (or any child, for that matter) with extreme behavioral problems will always magnify them.  If there is a loose thread in our marriage, the stress of these difficult seasons somehow manages to methodically unravel that thread until it becomes a gaping hole, threatening to destroy us. 

We need to remind ourselves again and again that we are simply two sinners, two weak, imperfect people doing the best we can.  Learning to lean on Jesus.  Remembering that our failures do not mean that God’s plan has failed. 

We need to remind ourselves that we are not the enemy here.  Instead of attacking each other, we need to remember that we are a team, he and I – a team that is somewhat flawed and scarred, perhaps – but a team nonetheless, standing side by side, hand in hand, facing the challenges before us.

Through the heartaches and the joys, through the disappointments and the achievements, he is the one who understands.

When the irritable drug-addicted baby finally sleeps through the night for the first time, he is the one who recognizes that it is cause for great joy.

When the failure-to-thrive child is finally healthy enough to get the trach out or get the g-tube removed, he is the one who knows what a monumental milestone that is!

While other parents may be proud of their honor-roll students or may be thrilled about their child’s admission to a prestigious college, he is the one who points out the smaller, but no less significant accomplishments of the kids in our home:  the kid who struggles with living skills remembers to brush his teeth; the ADD kid finishes a homework assignment; the withdrawn kid with no self-confidence discovers a hidden talent.  He is the one who encourages me to search for the glimmers of hope, and to celebrate when we find them.

When a beloved child leaves  - whether unexpectedly or planned, whether I agree with the move or not, whether it’s after a month or after 2 years of living with us - he is the one who lets me cry.  For as long as it takes.  He is the one who understands that you can’t tell someone else how to grieve.  That time and logic are irrelevant when you are in love.

The best man at our wedding was right:  Our life together has definitely been an adventure.  It has been a journey full of twists and turns.  Lovely vistas and dark canyons.  Broken dreams and new, infinitely more beautiful ones.  No matter how crazy and unpredictable and messy this journey gets, he is the one who walks through the door at the end of the day.  He always comes home. 

I am so thankful to have someone to share this journey with.  To share my memories with.  I am so thankful that he is the one.

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