Monday, August 4, 2014

Looking for the wrong thing

Some nights, when I can't sleep, I scroll through the photo-listings and profiles of foster children on 

These are children waiting, searching, and hoping for a forever family. The kind of family that won't give them up again, make them move away again, or say goodbye again. 

I look at the pictures of these orphaned, outcast children and pray for them. I pray that they will be safe and loved. I put our family's parameters into the search engine (less than 9 years old, no more than 2 siblings) and consider each of the little faces on the list. Could we care for her, or him, or those two? Would they get along well with our other kids? Could we be a family?

Tonight, I realized that I am looking for the wrong thing.

When we completed our home study and foster parenting paperwork, we were asked what kind of child/ren we would like to be placed with us. We were asked about our expectations. Frankly, I didn't have many. "What do you think a foster child placed with you will look like?" I think I wrote down "big eyes, big smile, multiracial." We were willing to accept anyone younger than our oldest child.  Special needs would be considered on a case-by-case basis, depending on what we felt we were equipped to handle. We didn't talk much about specifics, Mike and I, because there weren't any. How can you prepare your heart and mind for a fictitious little person who may or may not be coming to live with you for an indefinite period of time?!

But in my heart, I did (and still do!) have expectations. I expect a child to "fit in" with the rest of the children we already have. Not necessarily by birth order, more like with their temperament or energy level. If I have one child who requires 150% of my patience, then I won't have any patience left to share with the rest. So when I read words in profiles like "would benefit from being the only child in the home", I have to rule them out. They would not be a good match for us.

Sometimes children have severe mental, physical, or emotional needs. While these children certainly deserve a family, we do not feel called to take on a severely handicapped child. Someone who would require 24-hour nursing care would also not be a good fit for our family.

Yet, my expectations go a little farther. All of my biological kids names end in the same letter. If we ended up falling in love with a child whose name was completely different, would they feel left out? Would they want to change their name? Would we? I know the name thing might sound trite, but it is something that I consider.

A few years ago, I had a dream about a child that we would adopt in the future.
In my dream, I got a glimpse of the child's face.
The name of the child sounded like "Isaiah."
 Ever sine then, I have been looking for an Isaiah.

Over the years, several Isaiahs (they all seem to have different spellings, different baggage, and different cultural or ethnic backgrounds) have come up on the website. After a few months or maybe a year, they will disappear from the database. Which is good for them - it means they are no longer available for adoption. They have found their Forever Family. And that is the ultimate goal for these children.

But, it also means that they are not available to be part of OUR family.
So every time one of them disappears, I feel a little bit sad inside, because it wasn't meant to be for us. Because we are still waiting... and so is a child out there.

So... Why am I looking for the wrong thing?

Well, this is what I realized tonight: I am not going to find the "Isaiah" of my dreams on a website. I can look at those photos all day and night, but it won't help me find the child who is meant to be ours. Do you know why? Because, as foster parents, Mike and I signed up to be available to children in our own state, in our county of residence. We are not going to find our future child halfway across the world, or even across the country. Others do, but we won't. The child for us will probably not be listed on one of those Heart Galleries or "Tuesday's Child" adoption awareness news clips they have out there. It will be less public, more slow-moving. Not nearly so dramatic, I don't think. We feel strongly that the little person(s) who will grow to call us Mom and Dad is (are) right here, in our local area. In our county. In our neck of the woods. In our backyard, so to speak.

I'm not saying that the right child for us is just going to show up at our house one day... but then again, who is to say that they won't?! We don't know. Those social services "people movers" could come knocking on our door any day now... or any night.

What I am really trying to say, what I have also realized tonight, again, is that I need to throw away my own selfish ambitions, my own goals, ideals, and expectations, and do whatever it is that God asks me to do. Whether that means learning more patience, or practicing still more patience, I need to do it. Cheerfully, obediently. With a loving heart.

This over-arcing theme of surrender has repeated itself to me many times over the past year.

I need to continue to pray, open-armed, empty-handed, heart wide open,
that He will lead me - and I will follow Him.

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