Lately I’m learning that the stories you set out to write oftentimes aren’t the ones you actually end up writing. But that’s a good thing. Allow me to explain.
When I was a senior in high school, my sociology teacher gave our class an assignment to imagine our life in 10 years. “What do you see yourself doing? What will your life look like? What are your dreams for the next decade?” he asked.
This was no problem for me. I already knew. I was 18 at the time, so add 10, that would make me 28. After successfully completing college and marrying my high school sweetheart (whom I had been dating for 9 months at the time), I would be immersed in full time motherhood – after all, little Scott, Hannah, and _______ (I was unsure if our third child was going to be a boy or a girl, but I had my list of names prepared either way) would require all of my time and attention. By the time I was 28, they would have reached the tender ages of 4, 2, and, if everyone paid close attention to my plan, little one # 3 would be only months away from birth.
At the time, I couldn’t imagine anything better. Raised in a quaint suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, I had yet to experience the outside world (even the quaint suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio where I went to college).
My story would have been an easy one, of course. No one, when asked to envision their future dares to dream of hardship, let alone calamity of any kind. With my steady boyfriend (later to be husband) by my side, I was confident we could handle whatever life threw at us. We would certainly live the “American dream,” or at least my 18 year old understanding of it: happy family, lovely home, no complications.
Yes, the waters I foresaw were calm, like the Narragansett Bay at daybreak. Glassy, smooth, reflecting perfection, or at least pretty darn close.
Almost 18 years have passed since I was given that sociology assignment. I did end up marrying my high school boyfriend, but we have two children instead of three. Little Hannah was never meant to be, but we were graciously given two wonderful boys (neither of whom are named Scott). We have moved several times, we have endured family members becoming very sick, family members and friends’ deaths, school bullies, ER visits, and many more trials. But, for the most part, I must admit…the waters have been fairly smooth.
In a few short months, we are writing the next part of our story, creating a new chapter for our family. This chapter will be different, scary, the waters uncharted. If I’m being totally honest, it is one that has robbed me of sleep for more than a night or two.
Our next chapter is foster care, as many of you may already know. And though we are still many months away from having a child placed in our home, our story already consists of more struggle than I had previously imagined.
My oldest son drew a picture, you see – a picture of what he fears might become of our family in September, or whenever it is that we receive that first life-changing phone call. In his drawing, my son depicted me and his little brother in one corner, holding a new baby and smiling. He drew himself in the farthest corner from us, wearing a prominent frown. His father was on the opposite side of the page with “zzzzzz” in a sound bubble above his head. Don’t you just love comic relief?
My son had written his own story, and it was riddled with uncertainty and fear. In many ways, it’s like he has read the story I’ve been writing in my mind and heart, without even realizing it, and interpreted it in his drawing.
Yet again, my story vastly differs from the one I set out to write. I wanted to write calm confidence, glassy waters, and perfect composure – at least for my children. Instead, I’m writing exactly what my son had drawn. What if our family is traumatized by this? What if we’re biting off more than we can chew? What if my children don’t understand this and what if they resent us for it later? Or what if they already do?
Holding our collective breaths, we wait. We anticipate what we cannot know, and we’re trying as best we can to process it together. We know that our family will change, each member individually, and all of us as a unit. Our eyes will be opened to new experiences, emotions, and possibly endings.
It is impossible to know what lies ahead. Adoption? Reunification? Something else entirely? But day by day, as we inch closer to that first phone call, we grow closer as a family, knowing that we are about to write the next chapter…together.
About a week after my son processed his fears on paper, we found ourselves in a canoe on the lake abutting our home. My husband steered in the stern, I paddled steadily with him in the bow, and our boys were seated between us, exclaiming over the turtles, osprey, and swans all around us. Savoring the moment of us rowing together, and the boys enraptured with creation, I suddenly blurted out:
“Boys, do you know we’re a team?”
“Yes,” they both replied. This was something we had spoken of before.
“Do you know that Mom and Dad are a team? You two are a team? And all together we’re a team? And no matter what happens in our lives, or in our family, we can get through it if we work together, just like we are right now?”
“Yes!” they exclaimed. “And God’s the coach!” my youngest unabashedly exclaimed.
Smiling back at my husband, I nodded. “That’s right. There’s nothing we can’t handle as a family; there’s nothing we can’t handle with God’s help.”
I’m savoring this precious moment in my heart. I’m savoring the moments that have passed between then and now. Especially the moment when my oldest empathically demanded we get new family photos taken once the baby arrives to make sure they feel part of our family.
I’m so thankful for the team I’m writing this story with. I’m so thankful it’s incredibly different than the one I dreamed of at 18. I’m thankful that stories don’t often end they way they begin, but just like a story that began in Eden and ended on Easter, I now anticipate our story having a glorious ending, come what may.
Thank you for allowing me to process and share my heart here, friends. I’m forever thankful for you, too.