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Some people wear their heart on their sleeve. Mine lies underneath it somewhere and finds its way to my finger tips as I write. Even though the words don’t always reflect it, this heart is out there.¬†Be gentle?

Today, I think its time for a little more raw and real as I share from a place of grief and love. There are many stories to share, some day, and if we sat together we could spend days chatting and story swapping. My heart would be there with you.

But for now, just this.¬†Except you might want a cup of coffee or tea anyway. Bear with me friends…

Adoption. Orphans.¬†It’s National Adoption Month. Sigh holding back the sobs as my eyes well up with tears

Let me back up.

Growing up I never thought I’d be a mom. I just didn’t think I’d live long enough. I don’t know why, but maybe those school-year rejections led me to believe I’d never be married, and thus never have children. The thought didn’t move me one way or the other. It just was.

Then I became a single mom my first year of college.

Then I became single mom to two¬†with two different dads. One¬†of these men¬†I loved and dreamed of building a life with. The other thought “no” meant something different from it does. Just so we’re clear. No means no.

Then I met a man who had a child. He became my best friend, my partner, and God’s way of refining me. We married and I became a step-mom.

Then we miscarried at 13 weeks, then an ectopic pregnancy that almost killed me, then two more pregnancies. All within three years.

Then we took in a teen boy and made him a part of the family.

Then we moved and we fostered 13 children in 14 months.

Y’all. WHAT?!?! ¬†Are you tired yet? I sure am.

Today,¬†we raise our youngest two kiddos. That’s it.¬†Just those two.¬†I just never…

I never expected, much less planned for, the motherhood God gave me.

I never expected, much less planned for, the amount of love I could feel for so many children.

I definitely never expected, much less planned for, the grief I’d feel when children left our care. When we didn’t adopt. ¬†

Quite frankly, while the longing to adopt lay in my heart for many years, when we fostered I was fully ready to be a front line for these kids. Help them, care for them, pray for them and then let them go on in life. Whether they went back home, or found a new adoptive home, I was prepared to say good-bye. Or, I thought I was.

Unexpected Love Breaks

Until I had to.

The first time was hard. Three siblings were moving on to a relative they didn’t know. The oldest was sad. He wanted to stay. He wanted to keep calling me mom. To this day I get Lego magazines with his first name and our last name.

My nanny and I put the youngest two in their car seats and they trusted us. They smiled.

They were at the CPS office which they’d come to know as a safe place. They smiled.

The CPS worker helped load up their belongings and as they drove away. They waved and they smiled.

They didn’t expect to be going somewhere new. ¬†

I didn’t expect my ¬†heart to be ripped into two.

I sobbed. I cared so deeply for them, but at the same time I was relieved.¬†Our summer together, with twelve children, undid me. Quite frankly, the first few weeks of lice, language barriers, significant behavior issues, unpacking, learning foster care, making appointments, lack of internet & cell signals all just before school ended, that¬†pretty much undid me.¬†Did I mention I’m in introvert?

Equal parts sad & glad, my heart became a whirlwind of emotions. That whirlwind only grew and to this day it is even stronger.

We said goodbye to thirteen foster children and the teen boy who moved with us. We said good-bye to my now 17-year-old son a few months later as he chose to set out on his own.

Some of our foster children longed for us to adopt them and it crushes me that we couldn’t. Another¬†young boy teared up when he had to move on and I can’t bear the thought. How much I want to bring him into my home.¬†Despite my longing, doing so is out of my control.

It’s been a year and a half since the sibling group of five left. They were with us for fifteen months. Caring for them and loving them through some intense issues was by far one of the hardest parenting experiences I’ve known. It was also one of the most meaningful and life changing. Yet, I¬†never…

I never expected, much less planned for, grief that would fill my heart for months {years} to come.

Find Hope as You Deal with Grief

So I wrestle. I wrestle with knowing that I was blessed to foster many and my heart was hurt in the process. I wrestle with sharing my pain because I don’t want to turn people away from considering foster care and adoption. I wrestle because it was hard and amazing all at the same time.

My heart wonders how to reconcile pain from loss & relief from the stress mixed with deep love, compassion & joy.

My heart needs truth. His truths that bring comfort and soothing.

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@theJoleneU”]The truth is, God is good no matter what.[/tweetthis]

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@theJoleneU”]The truth is, God is good no matter what.[/tweetthis]

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@theJoleneU”]The truth is, God calls us to care for the widows and orphans.[/tweetthis]

Everywhere.

God loves His son too. He allowed pain, rejection, and loss for our greater good and His greatest glory. He had to let go and he can sympathize with my hurts.

He suffered in love so that we might live.

He is mighty enough to equip us for His missions.¬†I doubted this, but I don’t anymore. He equipped & sustained us during this time in amazing ways.

God has been faithful and the deeper I’ve had to go into my heart to search Him out, the more my faith has grown. I don’t share about living by faith because I have it all figured out. I share because I couldn’t make it without.

I share because experiences in my life have repeatedly brought me to a place of desperately needing Him. I share because the more I do, the more I remind myself that what God has for me is often different than what I expect or plan for. In the end, whether it brings pain or not, it always brings me closer to Him.

And friends, all the unexpected in this world is worth the closeness, love & redemption the Father offers.

As much as my heart hurts to watch adoption story after adoption story,¬†because mine didn’t end with the same result, I find joy as I watch my friends expand their homes¬†by welcoming in children as their own.

As unexpected as it was to want to adopt and to have to let go, I honestly wouldn’t trade what we did for the world. Loving these precious children and seeing what God did through our time and in all of our lives was so, so worth it.

Our unexpected is always His expected. Lean in to the One who sees and knows.

He is worth it.

To all my precious kiddos, I love you and continue to pray for you (C,O,G,K,J,G,A,M,J,J,K,L,L). 

{If you are interested in learning more about orphan care in America I highly recommend Jason Johnson’s Blog & All In Orphan Care curriculum for church’s and groups.}

with love, Jolene

¬†Shared with Lisha Epperson #GiveMeGrace, Barbie Swihart’s Weekend Brew,¬†

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