Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mess

I prayed all morning over a letter I had written to Sweet Boy and Little Miss' birth mother, trying to figure out whether or not my intentions were genuine. Would my letter offer her peace...or was it, merely, a way to soothe my conscious? I wrestled with the question and did  my best to stuff my nerves.

I am ready for this part of our journey to be behind us. The other day Ben took the boys out for lunch and as Sweet Boy came back into the house he knelt down beside his sister and said, "Sissy. It's always so good to come home." He went on with his day, but his words stopped my heart. Sweet Boy knows he's home. Adoption will be the final key to opening a future of security.

I walked into the courtroom and listened to the attorneys lay out the morning. 1, 2, 3 to termination. Barring any further courthouse fires it seemed straight forward.

It wasn't.

My compassion tank emptied the minute birth mom and dad were escorted in. Matching jumpsuits. Shackled.

I was angry. So angry. Angry that in the past month she was willing to jeopardize her future.

It all unraveled from there.

She voluntarily signed over her rights in hopes to keep the baby boy she is pregnant with, now, but dropped a bomb on the way to her seat. Sweet Boy's "father" was in the room to petition the court for custody. Even though a different father had been removed from the record for abandonment, a month earlier. The young kid stepped forward and was as Caucasian as Caucasian comes. The judge drilled him on his story, timing, and intent.

He let the kid know that he was too late...but given his "recent discovery" of his alleged son, he was willing to give him a chance. The judge pushed our next court hearing out two months and ordered a DNA test for a kid who could never be Sweet Boy's father based on race alone.

No one fought for us.

When it was all said and done, one of the attorneys sneered and asked me if I happened to have a picture of Sweet Boy on me. I had several sitting inside the letter I never delivered to birth mom. I pulled one out and they all laughed at the ridiculousness of the claim. The boy's appointed attorney said, "Well that makes my job easier!"

I wanted to vomit. It's just a game. Time doesn't matter. Little hearts don't matter. It's all about winning. And they know they'll win....eventually.

There were several moments that I wanted to jump up and shout, but was forced to take it all in as a "nobody" in the crowd. No one asked my thoughts or cared enough to hear about how a goodbye visit would affect my Sweet Boy.

I let myself be angry all afternoon, but then nearly sobbed when I picked Sweet Boy up from school. We packed in the car and as he belted, he said, "Hey, mom, what are you thinking for dinner?" For him, today was just like any other day.

How on earth am I going to prepare him for a goodbye with a mother he is not attached to that is distraught from grief, followed up by a DNA test with a "father" he has never met, that looks nothing like him?

I am so burdened by the thought of putting him through any further confusion. I know that God will protect his heart...as he already has, this far. I'm just trying to sort it all out in my heart.

This mess isn't just a problem for my kids. It's a problem for all kids. 




Sunday, September 14, 2014

Little Miss is One!


Little Miss,
You were quite unexpected. Quite. But, in only 7 months, you've won our hearts and love in the deepest way. You are growing before our eyes and it is such a privilege to encourage you along the way. I have never doubted God's hand on your life, but I believe your naming - prosperous in war- was divine. You are a fighter. A survivor. Your fierce independence makes us laugh, but sets you apart from the others. Your tenacity will serve you, well, as you pursue every dream.

I was such a content Mama with all boys before you showed-up, but your presence in our family filled an area of my heart that I didn't know sat dormant. You will, likely, want to fish and camp and catch lizards with your brothers, but I hope that our life is marked with meaningful relationship.

Recently, we met with a case worker and as we sat on the floor to watch you play, you walked over and plopped right in my lap, as if to say, "This is where I belong." You stayed there until the meeting was over, resting your chubby hand on my thigh. It was near the beginning when I first felt like mom, but that moment revealed our connection from your perspective.

You are a firecracker. Your own person. May your life be extraordinary; your story as God wrote it.

Chase after God with every fiber and never let your flame dim.

You are my treasure.

Muma

Thursday, September 4, 2014

God Bubbles.

The boys started kindergarten, this week. Gasp.











They are awesome. Raising three boys the same age is so much fun.

On the way to school, we were praying and I just started sobbing. I waved my hands and said, “Okay, boys. We’re done. God loves you. We love him. You’re going to have a great day!”

“Mom….Are you crying?”

Sniffle; head nod.

“Why?!?!”

“Because. My babies are growing up –“ Sob.

They burst into giggles. “We’re not BABIES! Mom….!”

All three of them went right to their desks without a second glance back to me. When I picked them up, I got a chorus of “KINDERGARTEN is AWESOME!” 

I spent the whole day worrying about Sweet Boy.

Ty is in the same class, but I knew it probably wouldn’t matter. Sweet Boy is still so quiet; fragile. He doesn’t bother connecting with anyone outside our family.

I wrote his teacher a thoughtful note prior to school starting. I just shared enough to help her understand our family and Sweet Boy’s needs.

After I picked the boys up from their first day, Sweet Boy started heaving and, frantically, calling out to me that he was going to throw up. Thankfully, we mastered breathing/talk through techniques a few months ago and I was able to calm him within a few minutes. It broke my heart to see him so anxious, but I am thankful that he has been episode free for about 8 weeks.

He couldn’t tell me anything about the day and didn’t remember any of the kids in his class. He did remember his teacher’s name, but we had been practicing it for several days.

Early in the week, his teacher let me know that he was stuttering quite a bit. Another sign of distress. He desires to play/be alone all of the time.

I was feeling pretty discouraged and helpless when his therapist arrived, tonight. We have continued to do weekly therapy in our home and, although, I haven’t seen drastic changes, Sweet Boy really enjoys meeting with her.

I started our session by filling her in about the week and then left the two of them alone to play and talk. Toward the end of their session, his therapist asked for me to join them. She prompted Sweet Boy and then he, proudly, demonstrated his homework assignment for the week. She had taught him how to introduce himself….why didn’t I think of that?

He looked at me straight in the eye and stuck out his right arm. “Hi. I am [Sweet Boy]. What is your name?” He paused a minute before giggling.

I couldn’t believe the confidence behind his glance and marveled at the miracle worker in front of me. He went on to tell me that his job was to be brave enough to introduce himself to two friends, this week, and that he was going to keep practicing on our family.

He skipped out of the room and his therapist and I finished up. She took out his drawing from, today, and I was in awe. He had drawn the entire classroom. He knew the number of boys and the number of girls. Where the activity centers and lockers were. And was able to articulate his entire day.

They talked about what an observer he is and he admitted that he liked to watch people. There were some cute little bubbles at the top of his drawing and when asked about their significance, Sweet Boy said, “That’s God’s love in my heart.”

I didn’t cry when she showed me his precious drawing, but tears are streaming down my face, now. 

What an amazing little boy. So strong…despite his insecurities.

His therapist used his words as a platform. “You know, [Sweet Boy], God wants you to make friends. That would make him happy. He gave you all that love in your heart to help you be brave.

He told me, tonight, that he plans on being brave, tomorrow. He practiced shaking my hand and each of his brothers'. 

He is such a gift to our family. And so is his therapist.



Sunday, August 24, 2014

Happy Birthday LJ!

We are marching through the parade of birthdays and, this weekend, was LJ's turn to turn FIVE!



I love this kid so much, I hardly remember life without him. He is so FULL of life. He can't go anywhere without jumping, skipping, dancing, or headbanging. He has a continual song in his heart and belts it out when he sees fit. He is the only five year old I know that can do a dozen push-ups AND pull-ups. He wears his heart on the outside and is the most tender  boy in our family. He is fiercely loyal and conservative in his relationships. He keeps Ben and I very close and is not afraid to tell us when he needs to be held. Whether we're on the couch relaxing or on a bench eating ice cream, he yearns for closeness and affection. While this concerns us with the ladies in the future, we love his full-hearted devotion, now.

He is one of the few people in my life that makes me laugh out loud. He says the craziest, funniest stuff, and has a thumb/finger point that never gets old. I admire his spirit and ability to pull out words like "Shazam" and "Booyah". I could never insert such animated terminology into conversation without sounding like a complete fraud. LJ is genuine in everything he does.

He loves his daddy more than anyone I know. Although he doesn't verbalize it, it's as if he remembers all the homes and years without one and holds on to his with surety. I love his love. Pure and genuine. He is quick to forgive, first to forget, and has an extremely generous heart.

He adapts easily and is laid back in nature. He teaches me to live in the moment and challenges me to give more. He is one-of-a-kind. I am so thankful that God chose us for him.



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Love never fails.

I turned 33 yesterday.

Hands down - the best part of being 30ish is complete confidence in who God has made me and little concern for what others think.

I sat in the court room, today, with my bestie, watching attorneys come and go. As a case was heard before ours, Sweet Boy and Little Miss' birth mom walked over and asked if she could talk to me in the hall. Several minutes before, I had handed her a pack of pictures.

She wanted to hear about her kids. I retold many of the same stories I told last month, but lovingly gave her every detail she asked for. She sobbed as we looked through the pictures, together, and I gave her background on each one.

She thanked me for being so nice to her and started sharing her testimony...She had Sweet Boy at 15 and was ill equipped to be a mother, left him in her dad's care...didn't realize she was pregnant with Little Miss until she went to the hospital with stomach pains...she thought she was getting a second chance at motherhood, but then one thing led to another and she found herself sitting in a courtroom, without a friend in the world and her husband behind bars [I squeezed her hand and held it through the rest]..."It's not right. It's not right that you get to do all of these fun things with my kids and I only get to flip through pictures! I should be taking [Sweet Boy] to the fair! I should be taking [Little Miss] swimming for the first time. How did this happen? How did I get here? How is it that my son doesn't ask about me? I am his MOTHER!!!"

Her body heaved and I held her while she sobbed.

"I have to pull myself together. Everyone in that room is mean to me. They tear me apart and point out all the things I'm not....I have to stop crying."

"[Name], the only thing you have to stop doing is acting the way you think everyone wants you to act. You have every right to cry. This is a very difficult situation that you're walking through. Who cares what anyone in there thinks? It's okay to be vulnerable. We're talking about your kids."

"I-I-I might lose them, today." Sobbing.

"I know....I can't even imagine how hard this must be....I mean that. I'm a mother. I cannot imagine... I don't know if you're a person of faith, but I am. And the God I serve is a REDEEMER. It might be too late for your kids, today....but it's not too late for you - it's not too late for the baby in your womb. It's not too late with God. It's never too late for him. He loves you more than anyone ever could. He created you...and I love you, too. You're not alone...I'm here...and I'll hold your hand."

Tears streaked her face and pain twisted her features.

I didn't think twice. I wrapped her in my arms and asked her if it would be okay for me to pray.

She nodded.

God met us in a big way...sitting there in the quiet corner of the courtroom hallway.

I will probably never know if that moment meant anything to her, but it meant something to me. I saw this young woman the way God sees her and my heart was full of compassion and mercy and love.

When we were done praying she asked me if I would adopt her kids if she lost them. She was really concerned that they would go back into the foster care system. I told her about our family....and how much we honor birth families. I told her that I love her kids as if they were my own and promised that they would always know of her love and their beginning.

I think she shed as many thank yous as she did tears.

I'm pretty sure it was the most humbling moment of my life.

God gave me the strength to set aside my own agenda and to love the way I would want to be loved if the roles were reversed. See...true love can never have an agenda because it cannot be self-seeking. It can't feel threatened because it always protects. It can't give-up because it always perseveres...

It never gives up based on circumstance and it, certainly, never gives up on people.

Love never fails.

I have never been more thankful for this promise. Love has never failed me and it didn't fail my new friend, today.

Her attorney came for us and, abruptly, our time was done. As court was called into session, she looked back at me twice. I smiled, willing comfort her way, both times.

We didn't dive too deep before the judge called the attorneys back to his chambers. After a long time of waiting, the prosecutor told me that even though Little Miss' birth father was in contempt of court for not signing the affidavit of parentage on time, the judge was willing to accept it. It seems that in light of the Sanders supreme court case, he is being extra cautious to make sure this father has no reason to appeal later. As frustrating as that is, I am appreciative.

The attorneys and judge agreed that we could move forward and terminate both mom and dad's rights on Sweet Boy (witnesses would be called - the whole shebang), but that we could not move forward on Little Miss.

I was prepared for that outcome and considered it our second best scenario.

I braced myself for the emotion that I was about to experience, the judge's clerk entered the courtroom, and........ the fire alarm went off.

That's right. We were, literally, minutes away from termination when we all had to evacuate the building. Apparently the fire was contained, but there was water damage and all the cases were dismissed for the day, not to be rescheduled until (we think) October.

Are you kidding me?!?!?

In case the details have been lost in translation, our "open and shut case" that was supposed to close in April - then June - then July - then August is now being put off until October? It's so frustrating.

I did, however, have to smile in my prayers to God, tonight. HE KNEW. He knew that we would never agree to all of "this" had we known. He knew he had to present it to us in a neat little package, as we were only willing to be stretched so much past the stretching we'd already experienced over the last 6 years. And here we are.

I am, oddly, thankful.

Don't get me wrong, I AM frustrated and wanted this all to be tied up in April, June, July, and, most recently, today. BUT. Look at what God has done in my heart through these many months! In the process of God massaging my heart for two more babies not born to me, he altered my worldview and taught me to love mercy.

If it wasn't for his lesson in mercy, the mother of my children would never have been found sobbing in my arms, this morning...

...and that moment changed my life.

I will never forget it.

I am going to bed with complete peace. Peace that God is not only in control, but molding me for his purpose.



Thursday, July 31, 2014

Warriors

In the days trailing from the court room, my heart has been covered in mercy.

Interestingly enough, I've been in conversation with God, the last few months, on what "lesson" the adoption of our new littles will demonstrate for our family. Tyrus is our symbolic cornerstone for God's faithfulness. LJ represents his remarkable redemption. Up until the last few days, I had yet to pinpoint what banner Sweet Boy and Little Miss' story would hold high for our family.

For me, today, it screams mercy.

Despite my frustration over the drawn out court proceedings, my heart is so merciful toward Sweet Boy and Little Miss' birth mom. I think about her often and cry over her defeat. I can't help but think I could be her. If she had been born to my mother, she would be different. Had I been born to her mother, I would be different.

I watched her that day, finger the photos I had given her moments before. Her tears were haunting, devoid of hope. Every time Little Miss cries, now, I see her mother.

I don't mean to make an inequitable comparison, but I've been living in a bit of culture shock, as if returning from a third-world mission trip.

Not only have I been merciful in my thoughts toward the family members I met in court that day, my heart drips with mercy for Sweet Boy. I was always loving and compassionate toward him, but it's different, now. I only experienced seconds of his lifestyle, but it was enough to haunt me for days. There is no earthly explanation to how he survived his first three years.

I told his therapist, this week, that Sweet Boy's contagious giggle and bright eyes are a mystery to me. His circumstances should have left him cowering in a corner, hiding within himself. He's not just resilient. He is a miracle.

The challenges we're helping him work through fade in comparison to the light of the future God has for him.

I am in complete awe of what God is doing in these awesome boys.


I was compelled a few weeks ago to increase the depth of our training. I am, after all, raising three warriors. Up until this point, we've mostly been leading by example when it comes to our faith. We, of course, enhance our lessons with active church involvement and open conversations, but as the boys get ready to enter our public school system, I was feeling an urgency to be more intentional.

I found wonderful resources at our local Christian bookstore and committed to spending time discovering God,with the boys, before bed. We are reading through an adventure-themed new testament, spending a few minutes in an age-appropriate devotional, and then taking time to pray.

We take the new testament in very short excerpts, as it takes a lot of time to explain what is happening and why. Tonight, I wondered if we'll really make it through...but I'm glad we're reading the Bible, as-is, opposed to the shortened pictured Bible stories we've read to this point. I'm excited to teach them how to study and pray. Their hearts are so pure and accepting.

Sweet Boy spent so many months on the outside of our family circle, observing our interactions, but the barriers are collapsing, quickly, now. He calls Ben "daddy" and jokes, easily. He, regularly, seeks my lap for comfort and kisses me goodnight on his own accord. He never verbalized an understanding of faith, but readily jumps in, now, when we talk about God's goodness and pray for friends.

Tonight, during our prayer time, I was so moved by the sweetness of his prayer:
Dear Jesus, Thank you for this day...for the wonderful windows for us to look outside...for all the trees...and animals...for this house...help us be responsible [tonight's devotion]. Amen.
I give God all the glory for protecting this precious boy's heart amidst the chaos of his life. He still has some insecurities and relationship-barriers to overcome, but he is doing so well.

Today, when we were walking out of church for VBS, Ty stayed back to hold the door for several moms coming through. When he caught up with me, he asked, "Mom, are we good, godly boys?"

My answer was YES!

They are strong and mighty; the enemy is already far beneath their feet.







Thursday, July 24, 2014

I win.

My emotions were in an intense game of ping-pong, today. I was told that today's termination trial of parental rights would be a "slam dunk", an "in-and-out" case. I knew better and walked in feeling nervous. I just wanted to get the day over with, so that our family [specifically, Sweet Boy] can move on.

I was first to the courtroom. Soon followed by my new babies' birth mom. She didn't recognize me, but I reached out, right away, extending friendship. When I explained my role, she immediately started crying, asking every question that a mother away from her babies would ask. With tears pouring down her face she begged for reassurance, "Does he ask about me all the time?"

She searched my eyes for the answer she wanted to hear, but I couldn't give it to her. I couldn't lie. I offered gentle kindness, but was truthful in my responses. Well, mostly truthful.

She's so young. With such vulnerability, she asked me if I knew why we were there, today. I know she was told...but she was blinded by either delusion or narcotics, I'm not sure which. I didn't answer her, directly.

A few minutes later I met her family. The family that took care of Sweet Boy for his first 3 years of life. I wanted to dig a hole into the floor and sob. Imagine the most worn down homeless man you've ever seen - his tiredness for life; broken eyes; alcohol stench. And then imagine him raising your son. I had to compartmentalize to get through the morning.

We had to sit through another termination trial before ours. Birth mom sat in front of me, hanging on every word. At the point of give-up, she turned around and mustered a quiet, "Will you please let them know how much I loved them...?" I wanted to grab her tight and cry with her. Instead, I hugged her shoulder and said, "Yes. I promise I will."

Next it was our turn.

Birth dad was brought in from holding. I didn't know his name or anything about him, but the eery escort in with chains clinking and trailed echo, were unnerving. It was the first time I've ever witnessed tangible oppression. His eyes were wild and fierce as he scanned the room. I thought of my sweet girl's kisses and marveled at God's protection on her little life. She is oblivious to her beginnings.

All rise. Routine introductions. Attorneys approach the bench. Attorneys leave to consult in the judge's chambers. Everyone returns.

Trial can't continue. There was quite a bit of debate, but the issue boils down to an affidavit of parentage and the recent Sanders Supreme Court case ruling.

As I tried to understand all that was being argued, I, quickly, gathered that we had to push back the trial another month. If it was, purely, a process issue, I could have moved on through my day, simply battling minor frustration.

The problem is that birth dad has, now, been ordered to sign the affidavit of parentage. If he doesn't sign it he'll be in contempt of court. Not only did he verbalize his right and desire to sign, but also his plan to request services and custody.

Birth mom came alive in the hub-bub and interpreted the delay as a subsequent "last chance," requesting reinstated visitation (thankfully, to be denied).

It all felt like a lasting punch to the gut. I teetered between shouting in my seat and running for the Mexican border. The thought of dragging Sweet Boy through any more visitation or periods of waiting is sickening. He's come so far.

The morning droned on. Each revealed detail making my settled heart plummet. At one point, birth dad laser-focused me and intensely mouthed "Thank You" three times. It didn't quite compute and I was thankful when the officer stepped between us to break the fierceness of his stare. It wasn't until later that someone pointed out my misinterpreted "Thank yous" were, in fact "F### Yous". That made a lot more sense.

I waffled all day between complete retribution and unrequited compassion for birth mom. I was angry and frustrated and infuriated by the setback (that could waste up to a year's worth of time), but I couldn't deny the love in my heart for the young girl across the courtroom that was not given the same chances in life that I was.

I can't help my love for her.

No one in the courtroom was fighting for her. Believing in her. Or even being kind to her for that matter. In conversation with me, that morning, someone overheard her pregnancy reveal and used it to our advantage. While I am grateful for the intense commitment to our kids and their case, I was appalled at this advocate's reassurance to me, "Don't look so nervous. I'm gonna get those babies from her. And then I'm coming for the third one. I told her as much."

I wanted to run and cry from the courthouse, never to return. I don't belong. On either side. I feel too much. And, frankly, I'm not cut out for the political mess and arrogance.

Now, that I've had some time to process the experience and pull inward, I was able to un-earth my confidence in the Lord. It's all going to be okay....because He's in charge. I can't worry about what I can't control.

There are a few big question marks on how this case will twist and turn. If birth dad signs the affidavit (I think he will), and agency services are offered (even if he's in prison), there's no telling how long this could drag out.

In my heart, I know they're God's kids and believe he is entrusting them to our care...for a lifetime. What happened today, doesn't change my day-to-day. Little Miss will be up at 6am (yuck), the boys will eat their body weight in food, and we'll collapse in bed at the end of it, thankful we survived.

I had this thought on the way home. While heaviness, indeed, drapes our case...we've already won.

I win because I am a better mom for parenting Sweet Boy and Little Miss. I win because I get to hug and love on them every day. I win because I see life bubbling through Little Miss, even though the enemy tried to destroy it. I win because Sweet Boy stepped over the rubble of his guarded heart and entrusted me to hold his hand. I win as I watch Sweet Boy comprehend God's goodness and faithfulness to our family. I win because my kids are learning to love with open, thoughtful hearts. I win because my life is way beyond ordinary. I win because I am pursuing my passion.

I win because God is on my side.