Not Broken: Entering a New Family Chapter

“I tell people that I’m not broken, I just have a disability,” explained our barista at Bitty & Beau’s in Wilmington, as she was ringing up our order. The cafe is known worldwide for hiring people with intellectual disabilities, like those our children have.

It was a bright spot in our spur-of-the moment getaway, which was otherwise was filled with heavy decisions and painful conversations. Those decisions mean our family is different now, even if for a little while. We are in a new chapter.

This post is unusually long, please stick it out.

Coffee in hand, we turned onto I-40 West and headed back to the fog that has shrouded our lives for the last 10 weeks. We didn’t intend to be in the Port City at all, but our licensing agency insisted we take a break. Our church really insisted we take a break. Some friends quickly divvied up our kids and other friends cashed in points for our hotel room. We really had no choice.

Less than 36 hours from the first mention, we arrived at the Residence Inn. Exhausted, hurting and filled with racing thoughts, we made our way to dinner and the healing salve of salt air as we dined on the Intracoastal Waterway as day turned to night.

We were so grateful to have that oasis in the midst of this desert. We know families walking through much harder trials such as the loss of a house to fire or a child battling cancer. I think this pales in comparison, though this part of our foster/adoption journey has been more difficult than anything we’ve ever experienced.

I texted my best friend the other day: With medical issues, there is a path. With a death, there is a process. With these issues, it’s guessing mixed with trial and error. This season is just a relentless series of what-ifs and maybes wrapped in emotion and surrounded by well-intentioned opinions.

This season is just a relentless series of what-ifs and maybes wrapped in emotion and surrounded by well-intentioned opinions.

The AFC Dad

So you’re wondering what’s up. Trauma, the beast of a curse that affects children from hard places. Trauma mixed with medical complexities mixed with life changes. I’ll pause here and make one thing very clear: Our children own their stories and we respect their privacy.

I am choosing to share from our perspective to encourage others walking a similar path that they are not alone and to provide an explanation for why our family is now different without having to answer the same questions again and again.

Many foster and adoptive children experience trauma. It can awaken unseen illnesses and roar to life in ugly manifestations years and years after the traumatic event. It affects the sweetest of souls and the most vulnerable among us. It can lay dormant for months and take over with the most fragile triggers.

For some children, stability comes after a simple course of therapy or the reality of living in a safe, loving environment. For others, the horrors of pre-foster care life will haunt them for years, interact with other medical issues and cause turmoil inside the body and mind. As a result, the child will have a very steep journey to health.

Ten weeks. Two children. Three calls for crisis assistance. Three hospital admissions. Two intensive in-home therapy teams. One unrelated canine medical emergency (so she doesn’t feel left out). One pastor at the hospital til 2 a.m. and a whole bunch of church staff at our home at all hours on multiple days. And, the worlds longest running meal train, which has kept our kids from eating fast food for months, amen and hallelujah.

Ya’ll, this season has been intense. Where are we now? Thankfully out of the heat of the crisis… we think. We’re finding a new normal. One child has returned home and is doing well, with lots of appointments and support. One of our children is receiving treatment away from home, perhaps for months, with the goal of returning when healing is in the right place.

Some of you may wonder how we could send a child away. As my wife told our small group ladies, “We’ve had to step back and make choices that have broken my heart, but we didn’t have a choice. We knew he couldn’t come home and we couldn’t be the ones to help him anymore. It’s beyond our ability.”

Wilmington was a pit stop, a resting spot to cry, to question, to pray, to reconnect before the hardest part of this journey: acknowledging that our home wasn’t the best place for healing- a bitterly harsh and inconvenient truth to accept. Mercifully, it was a decision that his social worker and our licensing agency also reached, separately and simultaneously during that same weekend. Funny how that works, right?

After sun on the beach, two evenings eating outside, 12 straight hours of sleep and just time to focus on our marriage, we entered the coffee shop to fuel up for the journey back to reality. It was as if God led us there to give a final boost of grace and encouragement before facing the hard choices at home.

Knowing the Bitty & Beau’s story, I expected it to be a moving, heartwarming experience, but I didn’t expect to be impacted so deeply by their hashtag: #notbroken.

Two simple words that almost broke me. As we drove home, with me in my new #notbroken hat, I reflected on that phrase.

Our children are not broken, they have medical complexities.

Our child living away from us is #notbroken, he has survived hard places.

Our family, is not broken, we are being handcrafted by the Father into a unique reflection of him.

Our parenting style is not broken, we are just navigating unfamiliar waters.

Our lives are not broken, they just don’t follow the path we imagined.

Our faith is not broken, it’s growing every single day.

And most importantly, our God, who has his eye on the sparrow, is certainly not broken.

The love and compassion we’ve received over these past 10 weeks could fill volumes. More on that later. For now, thanks for your discretion as the five of us at home find a new normal. You made it to the end. Thank you.

11 thoughts on “Not Broken: Entering a New Family Chapter

  1. Parents who love unconditionally are my heros!
    Parenting does not come with a manual. Parenting through the rough waters of mental illness is even more complex, requires new levels of compassion and faith, requires you to step back and release your expectations so that God can work in ways you cannot see. That’s hard to do when you love your children so much. Thank you for sharing your journey. I didn’t know how. I pray others read and make the journey with you, learn the valuable lesson that parents need the support of a faith community, and truly accept that neither they nor their children are broken. Your are just on the unique journey God has set for your lives. A new season is coming your way. #notbroken

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Andy and Chrissy, Thank You.Your transparency in the real-life battle is refreshing, challenging and humbling. You and all your dear children are much loved and prayed for… my heart and prayers are with you and if you need anything tangibly or otherwise that I can offer, let me know how your hands need lifting right now. May the Good Shepherd restore your souls and give you exactly what you need (in abundance!) for this particular season. Praying Romans 12;12……


  3. Thank you for sharing such vulnerable things. I’m a counselor working specifically with foster children and their families so I understand the extremely difficult choices you have had to make to hospitalize a child, though my role is even less emotionally connected than you and your wife to your children. Your post was very encouraging to me!


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