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Risk everything

I can’t get a picture of a chubby blonde girl out of my head. She’s standing up straight against a wooden cupboard, her blue eyes doing most of the smiling, her pony tail bursting from the top of her head like the best kind of pom-pom. If you’d ask her in that moment her age, she’d grin proudly and form her stubby fingers into a peace sign. Her name is Noely Belle. And 10 days ago, she was killed in a car accident.

At her funeral Saturday, her mother, one of Aaron and my favorite people, spoke in hushed tones about an idea that kept washing up in her thoughts like a persistent ocean tide: The risk of loving. She and her husband were experiencing such loss, such heartache, she said, because they had gained so much in knowing their little girl for two amazing years.

Would it have been easier to have never known and loved her?

A comment from the author Ann Voskamp comes to mind. “Who knew that if you don’t risk anything, you’re actually risking everything?”

I have no idea what it’s like to experience a loss this great. But I do know that feeling of counting the cost of loving. Throughout every step toward foster care, we’ve counted the cost. What if we get hurt? What if we’re bad at this whole thing. When I weighed whether to dedicate hours of phone conversations to an old man who went by the name Sierra Phantom, I hesitated. All that time and energy could be for naught. Humans, we’re such wussies. Selfish, short-sighted wussies. Do we ever think about the amazing possibilities to which that initial little scary step might lead?

I mentioned this fear, specifically related to foster care, to a friend over a glass of wine on the patio a few months ago. And her response hit me so hard I jotted it down in my journal and memorized it. “Parenting, no matter what form, comes with sorrow. In this fallen world, loving and caring for another is risky. It’s making yourself vulnerable to pain, but it’s also opening yourself up to rewarding love. On this side of heaven, that may be the best we can do.”

That picture of Noely hangs on our refrigerator now. I strategically placed it at eye level, on the left side of the fridge, right at the spot where my eyes will see it every time I get water and food, sustenance to fuel me in this so-often painful life on this side of heaven. But also to remember to call and visit and love my friends, the family Noely left momentarily behind. To take a risk.

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