It was 10am on a weekday. Jamey had the day off and was with Sam at the library checking out books and looking up articles for the upcoming start of Challenge B. Sadie and Miriam had been begging for harder chores that I'd pay them a little something for since big brother Sam has recently been doing some odd jobs for a neighbor.
Sadie was down below me in the front flower beds- pulling up the remaining roots of bushes that Jamey and Sam had extracted this summer. Her task was to rid these beds of weeds and roots and level them out so grass could take over. I am SO not into flower beds these days.
Miriam was inside reorganizing our DVD and game cabinet that had been ravaged over the summer- no small task for a seven-year-old as game pieces and DVDs needed help finding their homes.
Where was I? The baby and I were snuggled into my new porch hammock/chair*, swinging gently. The air was still cool, the porch still in the morning shade. Sunflowers and hydrangeas swayed and bent in the breeze as a flock (no kidding- I've never seen so many) of barn swallows swooped and darted in the yard and field in front of me. The baby, usually climbing all over me- attempting to eat my face and finger my earrings- was calm and tender as he played with my arm and was mesmerized by the swallows, too.
Out of the blue, a feeling of peace and genuine thankfulness overtook me and brought me to tears.
I haven't been experiencing many of these moments lately and I didn't realize how starved I had become for them. Fostering this time around has put me in intimate touch with another world- a world of mental health issues, poverty, chaos, and violence. It's hard to shake off and fully live in my own safe and quiet life.
A month or so ago I was trying to describe this feeling to a new friend (who also fosters infants). I told her it felt as if I was sitting on the seat of a dunk tank. Sitting up on top, I live in my world. It's a quiet life. I think of myself as a fairly sheltered Mennonite girl- I garden, can, attend church and homeschool my kids. I have supportive and loving family, friends and neighbors. My husband is my best friend and we enjoy our (fairly) quiet life.
But then---Bam! A ball hits the target (I take the baby to a family visit, get a call from his social worker or check his birth parents' facebook pages- I highly recommend you not do this) and I'm plunged into this other world. And it's scary there. ( I try to imagine living there- what if my reality was a birth parent’s reality? Not knowing when and if I’d bring my child home with me. Not knowing if I’d make rent or have enough gas to get to work or whether my partner will stick around or if I’ll end up in jail again.)
I'm hauled out, dripping wet, and try to re-engage in my life. But I'm shivering and shaken up and it takes hours and sometimes days to recover before I'm dunked back under. This. This is why these moments of peace and bliss aren't bubbling up for me as often. I'm pulled down and hauled up. Dunked under one second and then scrambling to dry off the next. Attempting to engage both worlds for the sake of this baby. Trying to get my footing in my world and brace myself for the next entry into the other.
I was starting to worry that fostering was callousing me to the point that I wouldn't be able to see God's handiwork as readily before me as in the past, that I wouldn't as often feel His calming touch and caring presence that reassures me that He loves me and is for me. I've been too busy trying to suppress a panic attack- which creates stellar knots in your neck and shoulders, by to the way.
That instance of peace- when all was right with my world- was all the sweeter because it was isolated. It was as if God knew I needed it but wanted it to be special...treasured. I know there will be more and I look forward to each one with longing. For an instant, it was just me and God and the dunk tank was nowhere to be seen.
*Side note: I highly recommend considering purchasing one of these hammock chairs (or something similar). Not only do babies love to gently swing but a chair like this has forced me to sit, enjoy the outdoors and SLOW DOWN. Our front porch has become the new place to be because of it- mom is relaxed and not distracted. I can be more present for everyone. Plus, it's sturdy enough that the girls like to take turns sitting with me in it, too. Who would have thought a silly chair could do all that?