At 15, a part of me died, the part that was inherently selfish and conceited. In that empty space grew a form of myself who was constantly looking out for the wellbeing of others, forgoing my desires for the needs of the children we welcomed into our home. When I was 15, my parents became foster parents.
This was a very strange decision on their part, seeing as they were two years from turning 40 and their two biological children were already teenagers. But God works in strange ways. Thus began our family’s journey into the depths of the foster care system and the hidden world of social work.
For a very long time, it was hard to decide whether or not I was going to be directly involved in the lives of these children. At some point though, the heart of God and the love of Christ took over. Every moment I spent with these children was a blessing, a burst of purples and lime greens and pinks, radiating with joy, excitement, and perhaps most importantly, hope and safety on their part.
It was a blessing in disguise, and those moments were some of my happiest. Most nights ended with me helping the children we had taken into our home to learn how to spell, or how to write a complete sentence. One night in particular, our oldest child came into my room and asked me about something her classmate had said.
“Emily, this kid in my class said today that he doesn’t believe God works miracles.” I set my anatomy textbook aside and invited her to sit beside me, “What do you mean? What were the exact words he said?” He said that he believes in God, and that God created the world. “Well, what do you think about it?” I don’t think he’s right, because if God didn’t still do really cool work, me and my sister wouldn’t be here with you, Kate, Aunt Jennifer and Uncle John.”
But at the end of every child’s stay, it never got easier to say goodbye. In fact, I believe it got harder. Every child seemed to assimilate into our family faster. Their backgrounds almost forced them to, because for the first time in a very long time these children felt loved and completely safe.
I looked into the eyes of twenty-three children in the past five years and I have felt my heart break twenty-three times. But thankfully, not every story has a heart wrenching ending, and not every child leaves. Three years in, I stood in a courtroom before a judge, crying once again, at the end of a chapter in a child’s life. Three years later, he was not just another foster child.
He was my brother — a tried and true Meadows — forever and for always.