Yesterday's sermon was about being thankful. Not so original at time of year. But the main message talked about being thankful for all of the little things, not just the big items that we plan and hope for. We all have so much to be thankful for, and much of it, we have and don't even think about how we got it.
Most of us all have similar general lists of things for which we are thankful: health, shelter, food, freedom, faith, and family. However, being a foster parent, the concept of being thankful for family has taken on a whole new meaning.
Virtually all parents are thankful for their children. Unfortunately, in foster care, we sometimes see, and maybe even meet, parents who don't really want their children or consider their children a burden or a nuisance. Some of these parents like to have their children, but are quite satisfied seeing them only for an hour or two a week just to lay claim.
Most parents are exceedingly grateful when their baby is born "normal". As a foster parent, we are grateful to have a child placed in our home, often not knowing what needs that baby/child has. As special needs or past traumas are discovered and dealt with, we say thank you for every little inchstone of progress.
Few parents think about being thankful for privilege of "continuing" to raise their child. Although some parents must deal with extreme circumstances of accident or disease that may claim the life or health of a child, most don't regularly consider the possibility of their child leaving. In foster care, we almost daily recognize the possibility that one of our children could leave our home with almost no notice or warning at all. Each day I am thankful to have a foster child one more day, one more week, or one more month before the next decision point that might take him/her away.
When a foster child is able to stay and be adopted as a permanent member of the family, that thankfulness continues. It is not just a blessing that this child has become part of my family and has a home forever. I am also thankful for the trials and tribulations that this child avoided by not leaving my home and having to readjust back to their birth family or start over in a new family.
I am also thankful when a child is successfully reunified with his/her birth family. Granted, sometimes all I can do is worry and pray that the child is safe and loved. But sometimes there really is a success story and I am thankful for the birth parent(s) and the child being able to make a home together. It is also a privilege to help these families as they move forward, and I am always thankful when I am allowed to maintain contact with foster children after they leave.
Finally, after becoming involved in foster care so many years ago, my capacity to be thankful for my own birth family has grown exponentially. Initially, I realized how thankful I was for things I never gave much thought to before: being raised in a two parent home with two loving parents who cared about me and my sisters daily, having parents involved in my schooling and extracurricular activities, being taken to church and raised to know God and Jesus, experiencing discipline that was appropriate and designed to help us become responsible adults, never being hungry or worrying about where we would sleep, and many more.
Over time, I also recognized how thankful I am for parents who are still an integral part of my life. I am so blessed that they are both still here, together, and involved in my life and my children's lives. In addition, I am exceedingly thankful for their ability and willingness to experience the ups and downs associated with foster care, both as foster grandparents and dealing with me as I go through the painful times. I know they don't always understand why I do what I do, but they support me 100% and continue to stand by me.
Being thankful for my family, both my children and my parents, sisters, and extended family, is so easy. My family is definitely not perfect and sometimes they drive me crazy, but there is so much to be thankful for! I wouldn't trade my family for anything, and I thank God for giving me the family that I have!