‘One mom wrote me after relapsing, again. She was feeling such shame, afraid I would think differently of her.’

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“The coffee I drink is never hot. Bless the auto brew setting for making coffee magically appear at 6:05 each morning. I come downstairs with a baby or two in tow, grab a mug and pour. I have a habit of letting it sit, preferring a temperature somewhere between molten lava and warm bath water. The mug usually sits untouched for about 1 hour, as I chase toddlers, change diapers, brush hair, make breakfast, start laundry. At some point I walk by it again and remember my liquid sunshine is waiting for me. I take a sip, my coffee is never hot or really even warm.

These last 30+ years on earth have taught me that life is seasonal. Our existence is a blip in the realm of history and forever. We have but a moment, one chance to live well. This is the mindset I keep in view in this season. Cold coffee, minimal showers, interrupted sleep, social potty breaks, endless questions and boogers are my current realities. Moments I would not change for the world.

Melissa Pennington Photography

It feels like yesterday I was a newly licensed single foster parent, wondering who was going to fill my bedrooms. I merely blinked, and 4 and half years later my rooms are full and my days are a blurred production of diapers, chaos, homework, meltdowns and snuggles. I fight blinking these days because time doesn’t stop, or even slow down, no matter how much I wish. I have been Mama to 12 over the last 4 and half years, some for a season and others forever.

Adoption number 5 is well on its way – the plan wasn’t always adoption. Each day that goes by it seems I am settling in, deeper to this role of Mama. I have a range of ages and different level bonds in my house right now. Babies who have been with me months and some years, some I have been there for all the firsts, others who I am still putting the pieces together. Our family origin is twisty and tangled. A story of commitment, choice and tragedy.

Melissa Pennington Photography

As foster parents, we are place holders, sometimes we turn into forever fixtures, while others we are there for a season. Collecting, soaking and breathing in hope and healing. With foster care the timeline is unknown. We are given estimations of how long, which are often way off.

The longer I am here in this bittersweet reality, standing in the gap for and with birth parents, the more I see the devastating reality that addiction is. One of our mom’s wrote me after relapsing, again. She was feeling such shame about her choices, she was afraid I would think differently of her. Sensing her shame, my heart was filled with compassion for her. These moms (and dads) miss so many sweet moments I get to collect. They miss the first steps, words and daily snuggles. The price they pay for their choices is overwhelming when you think about it.

Melissa Pennington Photography

In this season, I am longing for time to slow. I want to savor all of them in and the moments we share. There will be a day when my coffee is no longer cold. For now, I will keep searching the house to find my mug and drink it’s cold contents.

May my days be full, may my to-do list go undone, may my soul find peace in the beautiful chaos of it all. May I soak us in and collect the treasures of these little souls. Our story is still unfolding, we are growing in love and healing as we go.”

Melissa Pennington Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Julianna Klepfer, a 30 something, single, foster/adoptive mama. She lives with her crew of seven, ages 11, 9, 7, 4, 3, 18 months and 6 months, their two dogs and 6 chickens in the hills of Iowa. You can follow along with her ever changing family at My Joyful Broken Heart.

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