Last week I found myself driving to collect twin seven-year-old boys. I was excited about to see them but also apprehensive. Because this family has done a number on my heart.
Three years ago the boys stayed with us for over a week. During that time their mother gave birth to a baby boy who died within days. God clearly orchestrated bringing two grieving mothers together and we talked every night as she navigated her loss.
I wrote about the experience here: The Beauty Found in Being Held
This family lived far away and I never thought I would see them again.
But here we were … me about to host the boys and mom about to give birth to her next child. I was in awe that God had brought us together once more.
I could barely contain my joy at being reunited with the boys and meeting mom in person for the first time. But with that joy came the pain of remembering.
The inescapable reality is that loving this family dredges up grief for the son I lost. This I expected. But what I never saw coming was re-living the big emotions involved in the birth of the baby who came next.
Fear. Anticipation. Trauma. Joy. Heartache. Longing. And hope. It all came flooding back.
I knew before I saw her that the boys’ mom would be anxious about this birth. And I wanted to look into her eyes and reassure her that everything would be ok. I wanted her to know she could face this and that she didn’t have to worry about her boys because they were going to have a great week.
When I arrived, I plopped down beside her and hugged her tight. We prayed and I offered her as much encouragement as time allowed with two excited little boys bouncing in their seats and tugging at us to get moving.
Sometimes the best way to love a mother is to love her children. So I said good-bye and made it my mission to love these boys with everything I had.
They were easy to love.
I couldn’t believe how much these two remembered about our farm. They were barely four years old when we first hosted them but as we drove they rattled off memory after memory from their visit.
They recalled their respective Halloween costumes and listed the names of all of our chickens. They recounted the rides behind our lawn tractor and gravely informed me that they knew not to walk behind a horse or they’d get kicked. They even remembered how Mr. Dave harvested corn in the field next to our house – which I feel a little guilty about because that wasn’t actually Mr. Dave out there that day. My husband couldn’t drive a combine to save his life – but they were jumping up and down with excitement watching Mr. Dave harvest corn and I couldn’t bring myself to correct them. So the lie lives on.
I was in stitches listening to their endless chatter.
One of them let me know that his brother is terrified of clowns and dummy dolls. I reassured him that we have neither. The other chimed in that he hopes my kids are peaceful because he doesn’t like noise. They told me how they love math and science at school, playing video games and the playground at the shelter.
The boys seamlessly entered our household, dropping their stuff and scampering off across the yard to play with my kids. They pet the all the animals and rode all the bikes and played on the swing set, giggling and shrieking like little boys should.
They were oblivious to Miss Tammie watching them from the window, my heart beating in a tsunami of emotions.
And the didn’t see the tears that fell.
I wept for my son. I wept for her son. I wept the way my kids welcome others into our home. I wept for two little boys navigating a world stacked against them. I wept for their mother facing unimaginable odds. I wept at the body of Christ praying over this placement.
And I wept at the beauty of the mess and how grateful I was that God had allowed me to be part of their story once more.
There was no mistaking that God was inviting me to go deeper into His love. He gently led me back to a time of incredible pain and loss – straight into the embrace of the Holy Spirit. And through this He not only allowed me to experience a deeper level of healing that I didn’t even realize I needed, He also imparted to me a deeper capacity to love and be loved.
He reminded me that he is God. He is my comfort and strength. And He is the One who rescues.
I’m not going to lie, this was a challenging placement in every way. We were hit with strep throat, poopy pants, stomach flu, a freak snowstorm resulting in six pent up kids, mud, noise, toys, dishes and unimaginable amounts of laundry. I grew weary and acutely aware of my own weakness. I had to lean deep into the Lord because I was at the end of my rope – emotionally and physically.
But God was near.
He sent help in the form of dear friends who dropped off food and offered endless encouragement. He tended my heart and poured grace into our home. He brought my husband home from work to roll up his sleeves and help. And God even showed us the humor in the situation and deepened my admiration for my husband. At midnight while I was bathing a child and my husband was cleaning up yet another incident, we caught each other’s eyes and just started laughing.
God also revealed how he was at work in these boys. They have been raised by a mama who loves Jesus and it shows in their tender spirits and heartfelt prayers. Aside from being two of the kindest, most polite and insightful kids we have ever met, they hungered to learn more about God.
We had countless sweet moments reading Bible stories, praying, and talking about what it means that we are all family in God’s eyes. We read a lot about Joseph. How his life was hard yet he trusted God and forgave his brothers. And we talked about how God never left him. Ever.
They soaked it in.
I felt God’s presence and saw His glory shine over and over again as he comforted my heart and gave me strength for each day. And as the week came to a close, He was with me as I wiped tears from the boys’ faces and braced my heart for another hard good-bye.
Hosting children really pulls a bait n switch on your heart. Because you sign up thinking you are going to do something nice for a family and God winds up doing incredible things in your spirit.
I think a lot of people hesitate to host kids because they are afraid of becoming emotionally involved. And I’ll admit that you can and will be hurt doing this work.
But when you let your heart go there … to a space where there will be pain and loss and heartache and you are brought face to face with the brokenness of the world … you discover a deeper well of compassion, love, and faith that you ever knew existed. You see your own smallness in His greatness.
You open yourself up to seeing God at work in the smallest, most hidden spaces of the world and within your heart. You develop a deeper capacity to love and be loved by God.
And it makes it all more than worth it.
I hear the Savior say,
“Thy strength indeed is small,
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”