We’re starting 2022 by going back to 2019 — to one of the darkest and confusing parts of this journey — in order to move forward with renewed purpose and passion. At the time, I didn’t realize these words would chart the path forward for the blog and whatever might lie beyond.
This post originally published in 2019. I’ve recomposed it to reflect where I’m at today and how those original words will drive The AFC Dad content forward. Read the original Honesty, Jesus and Beer.
When it’s an illness, there’s a plan. When it’s a death, there’s a path. But, when it’s mental health it’s like entering a fog – a very thick fog. You take one step forward and four steps sideways. Then you walk up a wall vertically, do the hokey pokey and end up right where you started. Something like that, anyways.
At the time I first typed those words, we had been foster parents for seven years and adoptive parents for six. We weren’t prepared for what would unfold on April 30, 2019, the turning upside down of our world and the start of an unexpected mental health journey.
From that time until now, there’s been 23,520 hours since a mental health emergency changed our family. That’s 980 days, 1.4 million minutes or 2 years, 8 months and 5 days plus one excruciating worldwide pandemic since we knew a normal life.
You would think that is enough time to adjust to whatever this new normal is. True, it’s allowed us to adjust to the uncertainty of things. We’re on a fluid journey that has taken us to the world of multiple hospitalizations, the process of becoming therapeutic foster parents and now parenting from afar with long-term residential care.
The journey has also taken us through the sadness of ending of a pre-adoptive journey and the highs of immense joy for receiving guardianship of our youngest. We’ve starting learning how to to hold out our hand and walk with others through super tough situations by putting experiences to work.
There’s a restlessness that’s occurred, deep in my soul with the approach of this new year. My counselor sparked it a few weeks ago by suggesting that all of this lived experience is meant for something more and that perhaps, God will use it for a ministry purpose. It was as if he stuck a stick in my soul and started churning the waters. Perhaps there’s a change that’s needed in what i’m writing and saying?
After years of trying to figure out what to say to people and what not to say, this resonated. There’s so much I want to say, but don’t for fear of violating a cultural expectation, which is that we don’t say the hard things out loud. There’s the fear of turning people away from our family (more so than have already walked away) by being too honest. Worries about my kids privacy.
But, if everyone doesn’t talk about it, how do we normalize the fact that adoption and foster care are tough roads that are incredibly difficult to walk alone. How do we make clear that an adoption decree doesn’t solve everything. Removal from family is trauma, even for the littlest of children and adoption is certainly traumatic. Without speaking, how do we normalize supporting those who jump in the trenches and take on the work of helping children heal with these issues.
The answer is we talk about it. We do so respectfully, yet boldly. Admittedly, 2021 was a dry year at the AFC Dad. I was tapped out the first 3/4ths of the year and when I started, it was more a vent for all the pent up emotions to come out. So much family experience and so much sadness.
When I say tapped out I don’t mean physically, though there’s that. Not mentally, because, yes, it’s taxing, but our community has wrapped us tighter than we could have imagined. I mean tired as in frustrated with the stigmas, misconceptions and, here in the South, cultural traditions that scream “hide your crazy.”
So, as all of these things have been rolling around in my heart and my mind for weeks up on weeks, I landed here, at this post from 2019, which said the same thing then, that I’m wrestling with now.
The thoughts congealed into three words: Honesty, Jesus and Beer. These three things will be the pillars of the year to come.
Honesty: Because literally no one talks about the mental health components of the foster care/adoption journey. Everything that we’ve been through has to count for something, even if it’s just to ensure other parents don’t feel alone in this muck. To best serve kids experiencing adoption and foster care, we must describe the things that don’t fit nicely in the recruitment brochure.
Jesus: Because the Creator of my children didn’t make a mistake. They’re not broken. Not damaged. Because, even if I don’t understand what they’re going through or what they’re experiencing, God is just and righteous. Everything in our journey ties back to this fundamental truth.
Beer: A euphemism for life being real. These experiences are hard. The system is broken. Self-care is important. Beer tastes good. Just as in our Christian faith, we take hardline positions on things of lesser importance (like alcohol) and ignore the essentials, I’ve realized on this journey people will hold fast to tropes, dogmas and stereotypes while ignoring the bigger picture.
Moving forward, we’re taking a turn into the real, the hard, the unspoken, the highs and the lows. We’re praying about big things over here, will you join us? Somewhere along the way, there will be a place for taking words off the screen and into some form of action and advocacy. I can’t wait to see how we get there.
Buckle up. Thanks for joining us on the ride and please share your thoughts and comments.