All this month on the blog I am featuring the stories of individuals who have chosen to
step out of their comfort zone and make a difference in the world.
These are men and women who have felt a calling on their life to love others.
It isn't always simple or easy, pretty or perfect, but they are good.
Today I would like to introduce you to Alicia Freeman.
Here she is, in her own words...
This is our family love story.
I am a stay at home mom living on a run-down little hobby farm in Northern Ontario. I love books, music, small people and Jesus. My husband and I spent the last two months renovating our newly acquired seventies style farm house. I learned how to wield power tools, lay flooring and paint; all brand new skills for me. I am a cozy minimalist, meaning I hate clutter but need the warmth of some plush layers and sentimental pieces in my home. I have spent some time homeschooling over the past couple years and like to think of myself as a homeschool mom even though my daughter has returned to the classroom for the time being. I spend hours cooking, cleaning and caring for my family, and while this is rather mundane and tiring at times, there is no place I would rather be. I love being at home with my children and I feel incredibly blessed to be able to have the opportunity to be a stay at home mom. I blog about our lives at Adoption, Mommyhood and the Rest.
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to care for kids from hard places. I had some exposure to foster care and adoption as a child and teen, and these stories helped shape my desire to provide homes for kids who, for one reason or another, could not stay with their first families. I chased hard after this dream, and my husband and I became foster parents early in our marriage. This has shaped our family from the beginning, changing the way we do life in so many ways. I'm grateful we were led on this journey early and given so many opportunities to acquire parenting skills that are effective in loving children who have experienced trauma in their lives.
Today, I am a mother to five kids.
My two oldest girls, ages 12 and 10, came home to stay five years ago through foster care adoption. They have given me a crash course in motherhood and have been so gracious as I stumble through the unknown waters of parenting children with trauma histories and learning differences. Their resilience and courage in the face of great odds inspire and humble me. I am so proud of the beautiful souls they are today and the brave way they fight their battles. Our adoption was originally a closed adoption but we have recently made it an open adoption by initiating contact with the girls' biological mother. This has been a beautiful, rewarding and sometimes challenging step but absolutely worth every awkward moment.
Two years after my girls came home I gave birth to our first biological child. While the challenges can be great in blending a family formed through various channels, this child has been a bonding force in our home since day one. He was the one thing we all had in common to call “ours.” When he was diagnosed with a brain tumour at 18 months of age, our story took a turn we had never expected. His diagnoses, multiple emergency hospitalizations, surgeries and months of rehabilitation rocked our family to the core. While this season was challenging to say the least, through the trauma of these months I got to see just how strong and steady our foundation was. Our girls knew exactly where they belonged and they held fast to hope despite the grief, trauma triggers and insecurity. Together we limped through, and on the other side I was amazed to find that we were stronger, more gentle, more grateful than we had been before. Though life has thrown challenges, God is so good to us and has cared for us in the most tender of ways.
We have been involved in foster care on and off for 6 years now. We currently have two foster placements in our home. Being called to love in this way became more challenging for my husband and I after we had children in our home permanently. Early on in our foster parenting journey my husband and I would simply realign our priorities to match the needs of the children in our care, but now, we have three 'forever' children who need consistency, routines, traditions and predictability to help them feel safe and nurtured. It is intrusive and disruptive to bring a new child into our family, not knowing how long they will be there to love, trying to create space while still holding onto our identity as a family. We want to love fully while holding them loosely, always ready to love enough to let go if needed. While my children struggle at times to thrive in the constantly changing landscape of foster care, I also see that they are better because of it. They understand grief and loss in very personal ways, and their capacity to love is bigger because of it. They understand trauma and attachment better than many adults.
When people find out we are foster parents, they generally react by expressing their admiration for the 'amazing' people we must be, their fears and reasons for why they could never do that or their frustrations and opinions of the system we work within. All of these reactions make me uncomfortable, but I am learning to react in honest, authentic ways that both challenge and validate others' stories and ideas. For anyone who may be contemplating the risks of loving in uncomfortable or unconventional ways, I would encourage you to take the leap! We are created with unique strengths and passions and many times those strengths and passions are placed within us for a purpose. You cannot do everything, it is true. But you can certainly do something. That one thing may not change the whole world but for one person the world just may change because of your choice to choose love over comfort.