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!"