Over the past six years, we have said hello and goodbye to over forty different children while being foster parents or houseparents. We affectionately call our home ”The Nest.” The dictionary defines a nest as: “a retreat or refuge, a resting place, a home.” This is the picture-perfect idea of what we want our home to be for the children who cross the threshold. Sometimes those little birds stay for a few months while others may be with us a year or two. The dynamic in our nest is always changing. We have moments of peace where our children are all getting along, working towards their goals and enjoying their resting place. Then there are other moments of chaos and hard work where it seems we are not all on the same page, let alone in the same book!
There always comes a time during the journey when it’s time to say, “see you later.” Sometimes that happens with rejoicing; when families are being reunited. Those are great celebrations at Cookson Hills! We host a party in our home, we invite our Cookson Hills community and we rejoice with the child who has met his or her goals, found healing and is ready to move on to being the best version of themselves possible. There are other times when a child might not leave on the greatest terms, but you pray that you somehow planted seeds in their life and you have to keep moving on. It is always a dynamic shift within the home. There is an adjusting period where you have to figure out a new “normal.” I always get emotional when a little bird leaves our nest. After all, I am the mama bird and oh, how I love my chicks no matter the surrounding circumstances.
A few months ago one of our birds left the nest a little sooner than anticipated. I wrestled with his early departure for weeks. As a houseparent you always wonder if you did enough. Did you model enough? Pray enough? Teach them anything? The mind is flooded with questions, and sometimes, self-doubt. This time was no different. I had to dig into Jesus for truths to cancel out the doubt. I prayed about it as it came across my mind during the months following. In a sense, it really is like a season of grieving. After all, you have to keep on keeping on for the rest of the children in your home. Even though the children we care for aren’t our birth children we love them just the same. After forty plus children leave your home over the years you would think it gets easier with time, but for me, it doesn’t. I just have to remember the good times we had and hold tight to those memories to keep me going.
About two weeks ago, God gave me a reminder of His promises. That little bird who left a few months ago contacted me to tell me he had accepted Jesus, wanted to apologize for a few things, and was seeking forgiveness. He went on to tell my husband and I how meaningful his time at Cookson Hills was and how he now could see why we did the things we did. He thanked us for being a light for Jesus and loving him through his trials. That is exactly why we do what we do. We walk through the good and hard times with our little birds so that all along the way we can plant seeds and give them retreat, refuge and rest. When one flies the nest, we pray that we gave them wings to fly or at least planted enough seeds to keep feeding them down the road.