The call came late, so I listened to the message the next morning. Three sisters, ages 9, 14, and 15, were currently staying in a group home. Finding a foster home willing to take an older sibling group was proving difficult. “This is it,” I thought. Then the “what ifs” came.
words + photographs Regina Lyons
What if I’m not good enough?
What if they don’t like me or my husband, Derek?
What if, what if, what if?
I took a shower half-hoping enough time would lapse that someone else would take them. At least I could say I tried.
I cried. A lot.
I was battling my insecurities and fears, questioning everything I thought I knew about my so-called dream, a dream birthed out of my own childhood experiences.
As a kid, I grew up in a volatile home environment that led to a troubled adolescence. My dad suffered many years with an undiagnosed mental illness; my mom retreated into herself and her depression, so I silently endured the mental, emotional, and physical abuse — alone — for years.
This all changed the night before my freshman high school prom, when I finally called the cops on my dad after he chased me through the house and choked me out on the kitchen floor. That evening, I met Mr. Jimmy, the responding officer who became the first of three trusted adult mentors in my life.
I was 15.
They saw potential in me, even though I didn’t see it in myself.
At 16, when my mom brought my dad back into the home, I moved out into my first apartment. It was during this very dark time I met my other two shining lights: a school nurse and an artist. They saw potential in me, even though I didn’t see it in myself.
Mr. Jimmy and my high school nurse kept me out of youth detention centers and reminded me I was better than the things I was doing. The artist invited me to a Bible study that ultimately led me to meet God, who changed everything.
I eventually found healing, freedom, forgiveness, love and life because of these three caring adults, others who followed, and most importantly Jesus.
So here I am now. I’m an adult with so much to give, not because of my negative experiences, but because of those who gave to me and showed me a different path than the one I was on.
I know what it’s like to feel alone. I know what it’s like when the ones who are supposed to protect you harm you. But I also know how much a difference one caring adult can make in a young person’s life, which brings me back to my dream.
My dream since the age of 18 was to be that one caring adult in a child’s life. My dream was to be a foster parent.
But saying you have a dream and actually stepping into it are two very different realities.
I wanted to return the kindness of a cop, an artist and a school nurse. They saw me for who I really was – not the broken, angry teenager I had become. They understood I was the victim of my circumstances, not a bad kid. They took a chance on me, loved me and offered me safety and security, something I had never known. I have always wanted to provide that to kids, especially older kids, who felt unwanted, unloved.
But saying you have a dream and actually stepping into it are two very different realities. My husband and I had enjoyed 10 blissful, adventure-filled years of marriage, and along for the ride was my familiar friend Comfort. It had crept in and taken up residence, which did not feel comfortable to me.
So, that morning’s call on behalf of three extraordinary sisters felt like staring off the high dive not knowing what was below.
As I pondered all the what ifs, all my fears, and all the reasons not to take that step into making my dream a reality, the biggest what if hit me: What if I don’t take the plunge? What if I play it safe and regret it for the rest of my life, never knowing what could have been?
That one sobering “what if ” gave me the motivation to kick Comfort to the curb and say YES to the opportunity in front of me.
I made the call.
Since then, everything has changed. I quit my job to focus more time on our three girls. Sadly, people who I knew would be there for us aren’t, but others I didn’t expect have stepped up to become pillars of support to Derek, me and our girls.
I’ve cried many more tears, felt completely inadequate and have been stretched to my breaking point. Some days I feel like I’m barely treading water. Others, I feel like I’m drowning. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I know what I would have missed if I had let fear and comfort paralyze me.
I would have missed the greatest adventure of my life, the family we have created, laughter, love and life lessons. I would have missed three beautiful daughters I can’t imagine my life without. The rewards of stepping outside my comfort zone and into my dream far outweigh the cost.
The rewards of stepping outside my comfort zone and into my dream far outweigh the cost.
I wear my new wrinkles and gray hairs as a badge of honor; my tiredness and battles with depression and anxiety as battle scars. I fight for those girls because they are worth it and no one else has, and I will continue to fight for them because it’s no longer my dream: It’s my calling, my purpose in life. God has allowed Derek and me the opportunity of being part of lives of three wonderful young ladies. What a tremendously joyful and rewarding privilege it is. RL