A word with many connotations.
And all of them seem appropriate to this time in our lives.
It is a word that has been on the forefront of my mind for several months, now. And... this is a blog post I have been writing in my head for just as long.
When we first began to look into the foster system, back in January 2010, it was mostly a reactionary thing. I was scared to death, because our adoption home study had just been denied and with all the legal proceedings about to begin, we weren't sure when we'd be able to pick up again. So, I forged forward into foster care as a possible alternate, dragging Mr TCIE along with me for what we would discover was another bumpy ride.
Fast forward to June 2012. We had literally just come through an intense healing process (which continues now) at the end of May, and felt like we were ready to pursue foster care again, this time for the right reasons.
Our plan was to adopt a sibling group (or a single child, whatever was decided by the state to be the best match for the child/ren) who had already had the parental rights terminated, i.e. "legally free" children. We prayed about it, discerned, and felt that everything we had been through up to this point in our marriage had been preparing us to make this step.
We aren't wearing rose-colored glasses. We fully understand (well, as fully as we can before actually living it) that this undertaking will be one of the most difficult things we will ever do... but also, because of that... quite possibly the most rewarding thing we will ever do in our lives.
When we were told, again, that we couldn't pursue this yet, I'm not going to lie. It stung. Badly. But just like everything else that has happened, we were given the time to reflect on this... and maybe, just maybe, see it as an opportunity.
I just couldn't help but think that our marriage, put through the fiery tests that it has been, is seasoning us for something. That "something" could be foster care adoption. The word seasoning really seems the most appropriate, and I just kept focusing on it all summer. Like a cast iron pan needs to be seasoned before it can properly cook a meal, so too do we need seasoning before we can tackle this challenge. Seasoning is not a simple or quick process. It takes time. But this time is absolutely necessary to the longevity and integrity of the pan. It wasn't until I actually googled "how to season a pan" that I really understood just how crucial it is:
How To Season Cast Iron Pans and Cast Iron Skillets:
Definition of Seasoning: To season a cast iron pan means to create a slick and glassy coating by baking on multiple thin coats of oil. This will protect the cast iron pan from getting rusted and makes for a non-stick cooking surface.
You season a cast iron pan by rubbing it with a relatively thin coat of neutral food-grade oil (I stress a light coat of oil). Rub the oil off with paper towels or a cotton cloth. The pan will look like there is no oil left on the surface, but there is as the oil is just very thin (the pan will look dry, not glistening with oil).
Use vegetable oils (canola, sunflower, etc.), shortening (like Crisco shortening) or lard for seasoning your cast iron pans. I recently experimented and found out that food-grade coconut oil/butter also works great. Check out Smoking Points of Oils - Types of Cooking Oils.
Place the cast iron pan, upside down, in the oven, with a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom to catch any drips. Heat the pan for 30 minutes in a 450 to 500 degree F. oven. Once done, turn off the oven, and let the pan cool to room temperature in the oven. Repeating this process several times is recommended as it will help create a stronger "seasoning" bond. I usually do this process 3 to 4 times. NOTE: Seasoning cast iron pans does generate smoke similar to cooking in a dirty oven.
The oil fills the cavities and becomes entrenched in them, as well as rounding off the peaks. By seasoning a new pan, the cooking surface develops a nonstick quality because the formerly jagged and pitted surface becomes smooth. Also, because the pores are permeated with oil, water cannot seep in and create rust that would give food an off-flavor. Your ironware will be slightly discolored at this stage, but a couple of frying jobs will help complete the cure, and turn the iron into the rich, black color that is the sign of a well-seasoned, well-used skillet or pot.
Never put cold liquids into a very hot cast iron pan or oven. They will crack on the spot!
Be careful when cooking with your cast iron pans on an electric range, because the burners create hot spots that can warp cast iron or even cause it to crack. Be sure to preheat the iron very slowly when using an electric range and keep the settings to medium or even medium-low.
Unless you use your cast iron pans daily, they should be washed briefly with a little soapy water and then rinsed and thoroughly dried in order to rid them of excess surface oil. If you do not do this, the surplus oil will become rancid within a couple of days.
Remember - Every time you cook in your cast iron frying pan, you are actually seasoning it again by filling in the microscopic pores and valleys that are part of the cast iron surface. The more you cook, the smoother the surface becomes!
And so, there you have it. Rubbed with oil, turned upside down at 500degrees, allowed to cool, then crank up the heat again (3-4 times!!)... it is quite the process, and full of not so "comfortable" steps. And yet, without doing it exactly as directed, whatever food is placed in the pan could produce rusty-metallic flavors, heat unevenly, stick to the pan, and for all intents and purposes, be ruined.
That is why this period of "seasoning" in our lives is so important, especially if we are able to foster adopt. Any children that may be placed in our care are already broken, in so many ways. They will need a home that is so expertly seasoned, NOTHING will ever stick, and with the right mix of love and patience... they have the potential to thrive.
It would seem that we still have some seasoning to do, at least until 2014. Which leads me to those other connotations of the word...
We do seem to be entering a new phase at this juncture, where from the outside all appears status quo, but from within there are subtle changes happening. I can't fully describe how it feels... but it does remind me of the changing of the seasons. As the seasons change, you barely notice... until suddenly, you are in the middle of a brand new one and wonder how you even got there. This is how our life and marriage feels to me right now. I cannot detect the changes day to day, but I marvel at how far we've come. I believe this "seasoning" is also a crucial part of our faith journey and our cross. And it's both exciting and frightening to think about where we will be in that next impending season.
The third connotation which relates to this time of our lives is also in reference to cooking. "Seasoning" one's food means to add spices and herbs in just the right amounts and just the right combinations to make the end product delicious. Although, as anyone can tell you, over- or under-seasoned food can really ruin your enjoyment of the whole meal. "Those fries were waaaay too salty!" or "Wow, I couldn't taste anything but garlic in that pasta!" are examples of what stays in someone's mind after a meal that has not been properly seasoned. It's enough to ruin any other dish they had during the meal, if just ONE was not seasoned well.
And so, too, in our lives right now. It would seem that our marriage and our family needs more seasoning and more taste-tests to reach its potential. After each new spice is added, we think we're ready... but just like seasoning a pan, or the changing in the earth's seasons, this cannot be rushed or completed out of order. Adding onion to the oil before adding the meat, for example, is going to yield such a deeper onion flavor than sprinkling onion powder on the already plated meat.
In all of these aspects, I feel like God is working in our lives, preparing us for the destination, which "may" be foster adoption.
I hesitate to say that this was His plan all along. Because, I don't believe God plans suffering (for us, but more importantly, for the children who ultimately wind up in the foster system). No. But I do wholeheartedly believe that God can make all things new, and turn suffering into beauty. And if He would allow us to serve Him in that way (parenting these children of neglect and abuse), then we will gladly step up to the "plate" once He feels we are properly seasoned.
But as we wait, and as the seasons of our lives change, we also need to experience a change in our prayers. No longer can we pray for children to come to us through avenue a, b, or c. Our prayers need to be completely selfless. In fact, I hope and pray we are never given the opportunity to adopt through the foster system! Because that would mean we are hoping that the children's birth family causes them harm and loses their parental rights. We cannot pray for that, and instead, we need to pray for an end to abuse and neglect, hoping to never become foster parents to children who have suffered.
But should the need for foster adoption still be there in 2014, I pray that God will season us as close to perfection as possible... so we will be ready.