“For a While” (on loving children who are not mine)

Wanna know what I hear every.single.time I’m out and about with the super seven?

“Are they ALL yours?”

(with heavy emphasis on the A-L-L).

Team BL

And for the sake of three who long to know where they belong, it matters how I answer.  I see the way they look at me every.single.time the question gets asked.

One day I wised up and just asked them.  “Hey guys.  I know you have a Mommy and a Daddy.  You are theirs.  But I also know that, for now, I’m really glad you are part of my team.  So, when people ask us ‘Are they yours?’ what do YOU want me to say?”

After only a little thought, my favorite red-headed-six-year-old answered,” Maybe you could just tell them we are yours for a while.”

So now, that’s our line.

“Yes they are, for a while.”

For a while
I’m reading to them, disciplining them, snuggling them at bedtime.

For a while
I’m staying up late when they are sick, tucking them back in after a scary dream, answering their question.

For a while
I’m packing their lunches, signing their folders, helping with their homework.

For a while
I’m asking questions.  Knowing who their friends are. Watching vigilantly for signs of their emotional health.

For a while
I’m helping them learn how to work together.  Teaching them to tie their shoes.  Pulling loose teeth.

For a while
I’m teaching them Bible verses, praying for them, taking them to Church, helping them form community.

For a while
I’m teaching them to believe in miracles.  To pray for their family.

For a while
I am.
And then one day
I won’t.

I’m raising three kids to thrive in “for a while”.  I’m reminding them they are part of this team, but they also have a Mommy and Daddy that love them.  I don’t know what their future holds, so for now all I can do is create a place for them to feel safe and confident even in the temporary and unknown.  Because I love them.  But they are only mine “for a while”.

TeamB FDOS

Whether you are a teacher, a foster parent, a family member, a school bus driver, a grandparent, a tutor, a youth pastor-  I’m bettin’ you’ve experienced the deep joy and deep pain that swirl together when you love children who are not yours.

You know the exhilaration of helping them learn something new.
You know the fear that your time is short.
You know the frustration of feeling like a day, out of only a few, was wasted.
You know the desire to make memories, to capture moments, to make it last.
You know the gut wrenching prayers that “for a while” will be enough.

Because when you choose to love kids who are not yours, that’s what you sign up for.

Pouring it all out with no guarantees of what comes next. For them. Or for you.

And you know what the first day of school reminds me?

When I send off four blondes to a day full of things I do not see, when I watch them walk into a world I know little about, when I put them in the care of adults I have not fully back-ground-checked (yes, it is tempting).  I realize.

I have four more.
Four that may be “mine” for longer
But who are still only mine for a while.

TeamL FDOS

For them, too, this is all temporary.

And one day I won’t.
I won’t be the one driving them to school.
I won’t ensure that the last words they hear are encouraging and TRUTH filled.
I won’t pack their lunches or remind them to wash their hands.
I won’t lay in bed with them talking about their day.

I’ll send them out into the world, having poured in everything I had to give.
With no guarantees of what comes next.
Wondering if “for a while” was enough.
DUDE! THE PRESSURE!

And maybe that is why I chose this verse to be our “school year” verse:

“The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who DELIGHTS in HIM!” 

– psalm 37:23 

Every morning when I hear seven say those words, I can remind MYSELF what my “for a while” mission is.  Not overthink it. Not over complicate it. Simply:

Help them. Show them. Encourage them.
To DELIGHT in Him.

He alone can fulfill my deepest desire for them.
He can do what my “for a while” could never do.
Because He promises to make their steps FIRM.

 
You know what their firm steps can do?
Firm steps can travel a lifetime of rocky and narrow roads.
They can traverse the temporary and unknown.
They can hike up mountains of disappointment.  And run through fields of surprise joy.
They can nimbly wade through peer pressure and mixed media messages and exposure to this crazy world.
They can tiptoe across the balance beam of tough decisions, and land on the other side with arms stretched high in victory.
Firm steps will help them stand tall BOTH on the summits AND in the trenches and shout “GOD IS GOOD. RIGHT HERE, HE IS GOOD.”
 

And, whether my “for a while” with them is one year or many more, I can’t think of a single greater thing I want for any of them. 

 

Because I love them.  But they are only mine “for a while”.

 
ABL

Updated: September 11, 2014 — 3:26 am

3 Comments

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  1. Oh Allison, way to get a mama of a senior doing the ugly cry in bed. Is my “for a while” ending so soon?! These kids are precious; you are precious. You are an inspiration my friend and you are changing lives by pouring TRUTH into those sweet kids. Keep up the good work!

  2. Girl. You know I get this. I was amening you the whole time I read. I’m so crazy proud, in awe of and excited for y’all. Cheering you on and praying for you. Wish you were here!!!

  3. Sarah Schleicher Princehorn

    You are so eloquent and do such a great job expressing the real nuts & bolts, the nitty-gritty, of God’s presence in you and your family’s lives. All seven children are blessed to call you theirs… For a while.

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