Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Opportunity Cost

In economic theory, an opportunity cost is the cost of the second best option when there is a choice on how to use limited resources.

This is most obvious when we consider the limited resource that is our time. We have a limited amount of time that cannot be returned or repurposed once it is used up. There are no second hand shops to pick up used time and no way to magically grant yourself more time (in fact, the irony stands that most of our efforts to create more time in our lives, whether by exercise, changed eating habits, etc, are only nominally helpful in creating more time in our lives -- for there is actually time lost in accomplishing these tasks).

Now here is the grand question of opportunity cost that you need to ask yourself with every task.

What did I give up for this?

Because you did give something up. The choice to watch television, go for a walk, take a nap, hike a mountain, bike a trail, or write a book all came at the expense of something else. And our ability to multitask can only minimize that opportunity cost a small amount (and a lot of research suggests that humans are very poor multitaskers, as the final products of two tasks done at once are far worse than the same two products done in sequence). 

What did you give up for that hour of video gaming or television watching?

What could you have done instead of browsing social media?

What has gone undone because you are reading this post?

I'm not suggesting that television and social media are bad and I'm DEFINITELY NOT suggesting that reading this blog is bad. In fact, I think we should be assessing everything that takes our time, good or bad. 

Our hours our limited. The race is short. And I, for one, intend to do all I can for eternal gain, not for fleeting, temporal pleasure and self-glory. I will stumble along the way (wikipedia is my personal time sink). But I don't want to look back over my life and see an opportunity cost that far outweighed the choices I made with this one life.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

My Prayer for Baby S

Baby #3 arrived in our home last Tuesday.

He's sweet, a little sad, and, as the nurse described him, "a tank". He has not struggled with weight gain and is not underweight. He is for the most part a healthy, normal 8-week-old boy.

When Baby M left our home, we mourned him hard. When Baby Z left, we mourned him even more, knowing how physically fragile he was and not knowing how well he would be cared for. Each time, we told ourselves that we would not have done anything differently. We would not have chosen to love them less in order to lessen our pain on their leaving.

Sometimes I fear that we will lose that attitude. I was afraid that we would not love Baby S as much as we loved our other babes. With each baby's departure, I become more aware that each moment of bonding and loving them will make the pain more intense when they leave.

It brings me joy to find that there is no way not to love these little ones. That first time that they peek open their eyes just to make sure it's you before they snuggle in closer, you can't help but love them. When you notice they smile a little more for you than for someone else, you can't help but love them. When you learn painful pieces of their past and see how they've grown and thrived anyway, you can't help but love them. When you find yourself becoming the expert on how best to care for them and what makes them happiest, you know that you've started down the Mommy road and there's no going back.

Oh, the baby hands. God just makes these little ones so irresistibly cute. And do you see the adorable chunk on those cheeks?

My ability to bond and love foster sons has not yet changed. If it ever does, that will be the day we will have to reconsider foster care. Until that day, I'm going to love them despite the pain and sacrifice involved, because that's what my Jesus does for me, and I want to be just like him.

What is changing is my prayer for these babes. I get tired of what feels like constant hellos and goodbyes. I desire to pour into one child long term. But I also want to meet each of these kids where they are and be the person who can meet their needs while their futures are up in the air.

I had the awesome privilege for the first time with Baby S of meeting a birth mom. I have had a chance to see how much this baby is loved, and it is helping me to be able to pray more whole-heartedly for reunification and healing for Baby S's family. My prayer has been steadily evolving from "Lord, heal his family but really let me be his mommy, because I'll take good care of him," to "God, please, no matter where he goes, let him have a heart that loves you and people to teach him about you with their words and the way they love him."

I was snuggling Baby S while I was reading from my Bible yesterday, and I came across a beautiful verse at the end of Psalm 138 that I've adopted as my prayer for little Baby S:

"The Lord will work out his plans for my life--for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don't abandon me, for you made me."
Psalm 138:8 (NLT)

The ESV footnote paraphrases the verse this way: "As God has begun to care for me, so he will finish the job all my life long." No matter who is parenting my foster sons, God is faithful, and he will not leave them. I pray that he would walk with my babes, care for them, and love them forever, no matter where they go.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Picking Berries and Counting Costs

Last week, my family had the awesome privilege to "rent" a cottage for the blessedly low price of next to nothing. I cannot begin to express how much that meant to us, as we're on a pretty tight budget right now. Amazing.

We had the perfect week: Berry picking. Lighthouse tours. Kiddie rides at Olcott Beach Carousel Park. A trip to the beach. Swimming in the lake. Kayaking. Campfires. Barbecue. Way too many delicious snacks. Bubbles. Trains. And a hundred other things.

RIGHT before we left- and I mean bags are packed, hours from leaving, eating lunch out to celebrate my birthday - we got the call that we've been waiting for so (im)patiently. Would we take a 1-day-old brand-new baby boy?

We had to make a decision. We were willing to take the baby with us, but they said we couldn't bring him out of county, even just 40 minutes away from home. So they decided for us - no baby. They'd find a different home. "You deserve vacation too," they said. The call was only as a backup precaution (they were out checking on a relative who was interested in taking him), so we could have cancelled our vacation, only to get a call the next day that the baby wasn't coming into care. The baby was placed  with another backup family within minutes (we know; we called back to make sure they really truly couldn't make it work).

All this to say - our vacation came at a cost. It required a decision. And I think that was good for us.

We have gotten mixed feedback on our vacation-over-baby choice. I get it. We're so excited for foster care; wouldn't we drop everything for a (maybe coming into care, probably not, could leave within the next week even if we got him; or could stay forever) baby?

And we do drop everything when they come to our home. Our lives change drastically, in an instant. Routines are shifted, rules are changed, and roles have to be re-defined. It takes a lot of energy, strength, and commitment.

Ultimately, we cannot be a good foster family unless we are a good family. We need chances to enjoy time together. Ministry work requires a lot of Josh's time. We have made a choice that our family time needs to be intentional, committed time, and that we will take our "less" time and make it "more" by pouring our all into it. So far, I think our whole-hearted all-in family days have been better quality time than what we used to get, even if the quantity is a bit lacking in comparison. But, that being said, we were craving quantity. We needed vacation.

Of course, even if we weren't a ministry family, we can't put our lives on hold during the wait. We have learned this over and over again in various situations: waiting to be married, waiting to have our first baby, waiting to get a house (still in that one). God calls us to be invested in the now. We will absolutely be as flexible and invested as we can be regarding foster care, and we will reasonably limit the amount of time we are unavailable, but we will not wait to continue living until we have a foster baby. Big Brother A is here today, and he is worth pouring into and planning for and celebrating, regardless of whether he is actively a big brother or effectively an only child. And our marriage does not go on hold or become less important just because we only have one child.

We thoroughly enjoyed our vacation. It took a couple of days to stop thinking about the what-ifs. But ultimately, knowing that our vacation came with a cost made it all the more important to treasure every moment.

We came back refreshed, relaxed, and ready to take on the world again. Our son has a lot of great memories of family time to carry with him, and he got to connect with his Daddy in an amazing way. I do not regret our decision. I will cherish the memory of our beautiful week at the cottage as a little family of three.

And, of course, I'm hoping and praying that next time we get a foster care call, we can say "yes!"