Sometimes in life you cross paths with someone who truly inspires you. Sandra Stanley is one of those people to me. Recently we had an iron sharpens iron conversation about foster care and caring for children whose whole lives have been turned upside down. I’m so inspired by Sandra and Andy’s journey as foster parents. In the midst of massively busy lives, they intentionally make room for children in need of a temporary home and family.
During our conversation she shared a profound understanding with me about the difficult process of saying goodbye to precious children who’ve been in your care. I loved it and I think you will too.
Without further ado, here’s Sandra…
“How can you endure giving kids back after they’ve lived with you?” It’s a good question. It’s often asked. And the answer is, “It’s really hard.”
At some point, all foster parents face the reality of packing up suitcases with accumulated clothes, toys, and mementos. They watch as caseworkers pull into the driveway. They look into the faces of children whom they’ve tucked into bed for a bunch of nights in a row . . . and they say goodbye.
The crazy thing is that they usually sign up to do it again. Why? Because they understand “the power of the parentheses.”
In almost every fostering scenario, there is a beginning and there is an end. There is the day the fearful kids arrive wondering who in the world these people are and why they can’t just go back home. There is a varying number of “in-between days.” And then there is the day the kids are packed up and either sent back home or to a place of permanency.
The arrival day is the first parenthetical mark. The departure day is the closing one. Those “in-between days” are what I want to tell you about—the days that make up the space between the parenthetical marks. Those are the days, whether hard or easy, that compel foster parents to sign up and do it all over again.
Within those marks are the opportunities to show children, maybe for the first time, what a two-parent home looks like. It might be their first opportunity to see what a family dinner looks like. It might be among the few times they’ve felt safe when tucked into bed at night. It’s possibly the only time they’ve actually been tucked in. Perhaps it’s the first time they’ve been taken to church.
Many times, inside those parenthetical marks, they first hear about a heavenly Father who will never, under any circumstances, leave them. And, usually, they’ve been left a lot. That’s why foster parents endure the pain and uncertainty of giving kids back.
So, regardless of the distance between the opening and closing parenthetical marks, what happens in the middle matters a ton. The peace offered there is life altering. The picture of what a future could look like casts vision for their future. The beginnings of a relationship with a heavenly Father who never wavers is a complete game changer.
THIS is the power of the parentheses. It’s why we do it again.
Sandra Stanley is married to her best friend Andy (senior pastor of North Point Ministries) in Atlanta, GA. Mom to Andrew, Garrett, and Allie. She’s also a foster mom who is learning, stretching and trying to figure out how to best love on little hearts that need healing. She blogs at sandrastanley.com about faith, family and fostering. You can also follow her on Twitter @sandrawstanley