Like a Resilient Plant | A Foster Care Reunification Analogy
As we prepared our hearts for the upcoming reunification of our oldest foster daughter tomorrow, we found it hard to put all of our feelings, and thoughts into words. But, as we reflected on our time with her over the past year and a half an analogy came to mind: she is like a resilient plant.
Sometimes plants need to be moved — maybe the soil is bad, the sun or shade percentages are off, or the neighboring plants make it difficult for the plant to grow or limit their potential. Simply put, the natural mixture sometimes just doesn’t work and the plant can’t thrive in that type of environment at that time. Whenever you make the decision to move a plant, there are a few things that you need to do in order to ensure it is healthy in the new location. First, you need to dig far enough around the plant to make sure it travels with it’s existing roots. Eliminating too many roots decreases the chances that the plant will survive — not to mention its likelihood to thrive. Second, you need to prepare the spot the plant is moving to — ensuring that the soil is well prepared for this new plant so it can provide the nutrients that are necessary for it to thrive, and clearing out all the other plants so they don’t hinder its future growth.
When she came into our home in September of 2019, she was like a plant that was being transplanted into our life. Like a plant, she brought in her roots, and we were there to provide the nutrients necessary to support her growth. Her roots are her family, her experiences, her likes and dislikes, and her passions. The nutrients she needed to thrive thankfully are different from the compost we use for the plants outdoors, but her nutrients are, first and foremost, faith, love, and grace of God. These pillars are also complemented by love, family, safety, and community. When she got transplanted into our home, bringing with her the roots from her past, she flourished in her new habitat. We know it has not been without growing pains, but it is undeniable how much she has grown over the time she has been with us.
And, just like plants, she may not always stay in the same space or soil. Like plants, sometimes, they simply need a change — a new place to flourish and spread their roots. Like the first transplant, the roots need to be dug up, and some surrounding soil should travel with the plant. However, with time, these roots will grow deeper and the hole needs to be dug wider, with slightly more care since the plant is now mature with deeper roots.
As we prepare to dig up her roots and transplant her back home, we are hopeful that the hole dug around her brings with it the nutrients that have nurtured her growth over the past year. And, while the distance between our lives will become greater as she leaves our home, we are hopeful she will carry with her the memories and the lessons that helped her grow into the brave young girl that she is today. We pray that the roots of faith and love nurtured by the church community continue to bring her strength, and perseverance. We hope that our family, home, and our shared experiences bring her fond memories that she can build upon, or tap into when she needs them the most.
Plants can be transplanted a number of times, and sometimes it takes a while to find the right spot for them to grow — the right soil, sun, and shade mixture is difficult to get just right the first time. Like plants, children, like her, require a loving habitat to thrive. She has been moved and uprooted more than once, but she is now blooming more and more each year that has passed. As she transitions, she is carrying with her deep roots that are surrounded by a rich soil.
She is like a resilient plant.
As she heads home tomorrow, we pray that she will remember what nutrients she tapped into that made her grow so much while she was here — her faith, her friends, and her family. There are different types of families on this Earth — the ones we are born into and the ones we create while here. We hope that she never forgets that she is forever a part of our family, no matter the distance between us, our changing life circumstances, or the amount of time that may pass. God chose our stories to intertwine for a reason, exactly when they did. His timing and His plans, while perhaps unknown to us, are always perfect. We are family.
As the weeks of her departure grew closer, “it just so happened” that our church taught on John 15 where it describes “The Vine and the Branches”’ as a metaphor of our God’s love. It explains how Jesus is the one true vine, and that no “branch can bear fruit by itself” and that it must “remain in the vine” in order to remain in the love of Jesus Christ (John 15). We pray that she remembers her vine — where she can find nourishment — is not from us or any earthly person or thing, but from Jesus. That she must remain connected to Him in order to thrive, flourish, and to keep His commands of loving each other as Jesus first loved us. In times of trouble — or when she finds herself stumbling in her faith journey — we hope that she turns to John 15 as a reminder to stay connected to the Word.
Like we did in November 2019 when we planted bulbs around the house that wouldn’t bloom until after the hard winter — we encourage her to be patient, strong, and steadfast (1 Corinthians 15:58). As she transitions home, we have told her to not to expect to bloom the moment she arrives, but that she should give her roots time to establish themselves in the new soil, and get acclimated to her new environment. That she gives them water, and nurtures their growth. When she does come out of the ground, she should find the sun, lean into it and let her beautiful petals and leaves soak in the new environment where she is now meant to thrive, grow, and live out the life that God has intended for her.