For The Beacon
Perry Como once sung: “There’s no place like home for the holidays, ‘cause no matter how far away you roam; If you want to be happy in a million ways: For the holidays you can’t beat home sweet home!”
I wonder where your imagination leads you when you consider those lyrics?
I can recall the years I lived in Baton Rouge, Atlanta, and Columbus, Ohio, when coming back to Ashland was always special around the holiday season. Not only because of dates on the calendar, but because of the special times where the family-no matter the geographic or emotional miles that separated us—was willing to look past the silliness and do our best to absorb the genuine love we have for each other.
From the childhood memories of car rides around Central Park, even if I was sitting in the back of a station wagon that could only see where we’ve been, not where we were going, to the placing of Oreo cookies by the fireplace (which, in all honesty, as a father, may be one of my favorite concepts of a tradition.) I suppose no matter how personal, it’s also so very universal that the memories we hold dear as a child have a way of molding us into who we are as adults, especially as parents.
These days, there are holiday traditions that I value above everything, because of what I experienced as a child.
My wife and I have tried our best to be intentional when it comes to raising our son. We want to value people over programs, relationships over religions, and promote a fearless authenticity in his life to not only address his feelings but share them, because whatever is mentionable is manageable. And we have been absolutely blessed; our 7-year-old, Carson, has a shockingly gentle heart (he got that from his mother) and has somehow, so far, avoided all of my shortcomings.
Two and a half years ago, we decided that we’d become foster parents. It wasn’t because we couldn’t have other children, it was because we learned of the huge need. There are over 10,000 children in Kentucky who are in the foster care system that are longing for a place to call home. We aligned with The Ramey Home Foster Care program. Our first opportunity was with a 4-year-old girl and her 18-month-old brother. Like a roller-coaster, we learned of the ups and downs of trauma and how it impacted hearts, even small hearts.
Over time, both children were able to be placed within homes of relatives, and we continue to pray that they are both growing in healthy ways and becoming the amazingly special people they were born to be. Fostering isn’t easy. Your heart might get hurt. But you might be able, if even for a short period, be able to provide the “home” that a child has needed. And that is a heart-filling reward that this world can not take away.
In early 2018, we learned about a little boy who was born on Christmas Eve of 2017; born weeks premature, addicted to heroin, and had even made a name for himself as the screaming baby that the nurses would struggle consoling. Perhaps that sounds like a sad story to you.. To us that sounded like an opportunity.
In this world you can be an accuser or an advocate…
We brought the little boy to our home in early April of 2018 as a foster son. It wasn’t easy. But it was exactly what was ordained. I could tell you about the pain of court visits and how even after a year and a half, we were still in “the system.” How we moved to and from multiple state case workers because the system is so messy due to overloaded case loads and little pay— that only the strongest survive. As much as we wanted to adopt this little joy, we were also cheering for his biological parents to recover and reprioritize.
I don’t know how we would have made it through the system’s sharp turns, and the emotional ups and downs without the community that surrounded us of other foster parents, the Ramey-Estep employees, and our family and friends.
What I can tell you now, is that 605 days after bringing him home, on Friday December 6, we stood in front of a judge and legally adopted Dylan Braddock Holbrook. (Middle and last name were changed… look up “Cinderella Man” for the middle name inspiration.)
He is finally home for the holidays. But for me, every sunrise is a new day of joy; every day is Christmas.
So, let me ask again, where does your imagination take you?
Do you have extra space? (in your heart? in your house? in your schedule?)Maybe you do not have the capacity to be a full time foster parent, but perhaps you could provide respite care, maybe a weekend a month, to help other foster families. Or maybe you could provide a support system for other families; something as simple as a plate of cookies, a package of popcorn and a movie download, or even the time to help with laundry…
“Family” is such a unique word…. We get to choose the people we let closest to us, no matter where their bloodline started. I would love to encourage you to pray…to seek…to discuss with your family.
May your holiday traditions continue to mold and shape the many lives around you!