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Ask me a question these days and chances are good my answer will be “I don’t know.”

Where will you live after you move?

I don’t know.

Will you buy a house or rent?

I don’t know.

Will you keep fostering?

I don’t know.

What will the kids do?

I don’t know.

Do you think your foster daughter will be okay?

I don’t know.

Why aren’t you stressed out?

I don’t know.

There are a lot of things I don’t know about how life will work over the next few months. Honestly, I’m not sure why I haven’t felt more stressed and anxious about that. I’ve felt so many other things about this move: happy, sad, excited, lonely, uncertain, melancholy, rushed, tired, joyful. But I haven’t felt much stress and I haven’t been much worried.

I wonder if all the things I don’t know have helped me focus on what I do know? Maybe. I don’t know much about the future, but I know these two things…

I know I want a smaller life. I want a teeny tiny house with a teeny tiny yard to care for. I want less stuff and less busy and less unnecessary, because I have other ways I want to live before my living is done.

Now, if you are someone who seeks the egg-gathering, gardening, canning, or whatever-ing kind of life, that’s great! I did that and I loved it for many years. The goats and the chickens and the butchering and all the gritty beauty of life and death that country living has offered our family has been wonderful.

I’m glad the kids grew up on our little farm and we’ve been blessed by so many country experiences. But I’ve learned to let go of things, even when they’ve been precious and lovely things, when the time is right. And for us, now, the time is right right right. It’s bittersweet, of course. There’s some loss and that means there is some grief. But there’s beauty and freedom and healing in a good goodbye said well at the right time.

I know I want a “funner” life. Okay, it’s not a word. Whatever. A funner life is what I want. I’m not saying I want a more leisurely life or more money or more holidays. I think (and I’m figuring this out as I go, you guys) it means I want to engage in better ways with the things that make me who I am, deep deep down in my soul. Or maybe in my gut. You know?

Simply, I hope to spend the next years of my life doing what I’ve always encouraged in my kids: to be true to who they were created to be and to live out of the confidence that who they are is enough.

Who I am is enough. That takes a certain amount of courage to say when you’ve spent most of your life trying to be good, be better, be more, be seen. But it’s truth. And I think it’s the key to having fun.

A smaller life and a funner life. It’s a start.

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I watch her roll the ball from her hands. She pushes it with all her tiny strength and it leisurely makes its way down the lane, slowly slowly slowly, and my eyes follow the journey.

I understand goodbyes. I understand watching as the vehicle drives away or the casket is lowered. I’ve blown kisses to their backs as they’ve turned and walked away from me. There’s no getting around goodbyes. No shortcut, really.

I find myself watching her now with memorizing eyes. She’s leaving soon and there’s a part of me that is jealous of all her time in other places or with other people. I scramble to hold the hours even as they slip from my hands.

Then my mom gets sick and I have to go, of course.

I’m gone for a week and my husband sends me texts with pictures of them all, and her. Pictures of normal family stuff and he sends updates of their days and I realize it’s good for them to have their time, too. Time without me as the defining cornerstone in their relationships.

She’s different when you aren’t here, he says. And I’m glad they’ve had their chance to hold and spend their own hours, without me.

I’m learning to share the goodbyes.

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I read Matthew all through Lent. Fifty-ish days of Matthew and a little N.T. Wright and some stuff on vulnerability and a fair bit about the Kingdom. Funny how the threads of all these different words have been weaving their ways into some kind of garment I’ve been wearing for a while. Like a loose, flowing summer dress, these words have been sitting on my shoulders and falling across my breasts and belly and floating around my legs as I walk through my days.

This is how I read words now. Wearing them instead of studying them.

I wore them through my mom’s heart attack and bypass surgery, through hard and happy family days, through challenging and exciting life-change days, and through heartbreaking and sweet foster parenting days. I’ve dressed myself morning after morning in their comfort and security and they fit perfectly. They make the hard days less hard. They make me feel beautiful.

The days rush me toward change – as my husband heads west for work and the house gets packed up and the children near the finish line of another year of math – and even as I feel the wind of all the rushing blow through my hair, I wrap the comfort of all the good-fitting words around me and I know I am well-dressed for the weather of this changing life.

If clothes make the woman, then these are the clothes I want to wear.

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It’s been looming, that corner up ahead that I’ve known I’ll have to turn. But seeing it in my inbox, the email confirming it, trips me up. Knowing something and KNOWING something are two different things.

So here we go, baby girl. A goodbye is coming. I’ve written and deleted a thousand words – painful, mommy-sad words dripping with emotion and hurt – but the truth is, those aren’t the words I want to release. These are, instead…

You know what? I like your mommy, and I am glad she is better. I’m glad she is clean and sober and trying to stay clean and sober. I know she loves you so much, and I know she wants to be the one to raise you and love you and watch you grow up. She should be the one. She’s your mom. I’m sad, but not because she gets to raise you. I’m sad because I have to let you go.

I can be happy for her (and you) and sad for myself, at the same time. This is the way it goes when you love people, you see. You never get to keep them all to yourself.

You have been a gift and a joy and our precious princess, and I can’t quite imagine yet what your leaving will do to my heart. Hearts get beat up a little in this life, that’s for sure.

I wouldn’t trade a minute, though. I’ll take a battered heart over an untouched heart any old day.

I’ll find better words later, maybe. But today, in the freshness of the knowing, I’ll just say this.

Gubba loves you.

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I have a little girl who lives with me. She’s three and she knows I’m not her mom. She calls me Gubba. I pick her up from daycare on Mondays and Wednesdays at 5:00, and we drive home. Every trip, we have the same conversation.

Home, Gubba?

Yes.

Your home?

Yes.

My home?

Yes.

I’m not sure what internal stuff she is processing as we repeat this ritual, but I know home is an important place.

I think its significant that after God created the world, the first thing he did was make a home. And not just any old home. A beautiful home, filled with love and possibility and friendship and Him. And, because every good story needs it, the tiniest potential for things to go wrong.

This is the thing about homes. As beautiful and comfortable and safe as we make them – and let’s make them as beautiful and as comfortable and as safe as we can – things go wrong. Always.

People fight or pets die or jobs are lost or children walk away. Just ask the prodigal son’s dad about children leaving nice homes. Stuff happens in homes, no matter the furnishings or the landscaping or even the love.

This is the other thing about homes, though. As much as things go wrong in them, homes are meant to be places of beauty. Sometimes, beauty is tears in the night or puppy poo on the living room floor or children sharing fears. Sometimes, beauty is hanging in there when it’s tough. Sometimes, the most beautiful thing is the hardest or the most challenging or the messiest.

Homes are meant to be beautiful and clean and safe. I wonder, though, if that means beauty over time, instead of beauty every time. I hope so.

My home isn’t perfect, not by a long shot. I can’t seem to keep up with the dusting and the furniture is ancient and the living room needs repainting and once in a while I lose my patience with the people I love and, to be honest, I’m not the best cook in the world. I can focus on any or all of those things, in the moment.

Over time, though, my hope is that people who spend time here will find some beauty in spite of it all.

If they do, it will be because of grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

He made a beautiful home, way back then, and He says he’s making us another one, so I think beautiful homes must be important.

There’s this little peanut who lives in my home, and I love her. She has a mom and a dad and a whole other scattered family, but because of stuff, she lives with me. She calls me Gubba.

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One day, maybe soon, they will take her away. She’ll go back to the mom, or maybe the dad – whomever gets his or her you-know-what together sooner.

Someone will come in a van and load up her barbies and her bike and her dress-up clothes. That someone will take her out of my arms and buckle her into a car seat and they will drive away… out of my yard and out of my life and I’ll wonder forever how she is doing and if she is happy and if her life is good.

Going in, I knew all this. The minute I got the phone call and said yes, I’ll take her, I knew there would most likely be a goodbye at the end of it. The first time I kissed her, I knew there would probably be a last kiss and a final hug and an end.

This is how it works in the system, usually. There are beginnings and there are endings, and the time between is all I’m given, and who knows how long it will be.

This baby girl, though? She snuck right into my heart from day one, and oh my.

Be careful, warned someone who loves me and who has held my broken heart in past days.

Be careful.

But how can you be careful with love? That’s what I said and that’s how I live and I don’t know any other way to do it. Even though I know there might be a mountain of hurt to climb, because one day, maybe soon, they will take her away.

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I’ve done this a thousand or more times, I’m sure. Dressed them up for snow play, undressed them for the potty, tugged mitts back up and under parka sleeves, tied scarves, tucked bangs under toques. It’s the repetition, putting on and taking off, the doing and undoing of caring for children that exhausts me.

I get darn tired of it, if I’m honest. I want competency and a quick exit.

With children, though, quick rarely happens. Instead I kneel, and maybe it’s a kind of prayer in its own way. To kneel on the puddle-y floor and tie another shoe or find another sock or kiss another little nose.

I have to slow myself to kneel, I’ve learned. Or rather, I’m still learning. I have to slow and bend, and I can do it sweet or I can do it swift, and the way I choose makes a difference.

They grow and learn and get faster, it’s true. But the kneeling, the practice of going slow and meeting needs and looking into eyes? That’s the kind of thing that changes me without me knowing it. I think (in the moment) that it’s about getting them out the door, but really it’s a lesson for me. To learn to do the thing that needs doing, or doing again, with love.

They teach me patience, if I’m willing to learn. They give me such gifts, if I’m willing to accept them.