Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Lost Years Matter

Today I got one of the dreaded phone calls. Principal's office.

The boys are in an amazing Christian school. The principal was kind and affirming and creative in her approach to finding solutions. But, my day still ended with talking to the principal about my four year old son.

It was all I could do to hold it together through our conversation and the drive home.

It wasn't today's event. It was all the events leading up to, today.

LJ is loving and generous and funny (so funny). He is not the same little boy that came home with us almost two years ago, but there is still a part of him that is broken and although it's a small part, we haven't been successful at mending it.

I started talking to a child therapist and that has helped me, tremendously. I hadn't realize the ball of emotions I had stuffed deep until I started to talk about it. I discovered that despite my confident personality, I feel completely inadequate when it comes to loving LJ through his turmoil.

We've waited this long to seek out professional help because it has taken time to figure out what emotions and tendencies should be linked to age vs personality vs damaging events that took place in foster care. One of the things I did with the therapist was to walk through LJ's foster care file. One of the discoveries was that we were not LJ's sixth home...we were number seven. I know it's just plus one....but when you're talking in terms of two year old development, seven homes is an incredible number.

As the therapist asked me questions, I was able to start connecting dots.

The lost years matter.

In tearful admittance, I told the therapist, "I just want my son to be whole. I want everyone to see him the way that God sees him. The way Ben and I see him."

He stopped me and told me that I should adjust my expectation to "...as whole as he can be."

I am willing to pursue professional help and am looking forward to our first session with LJ in the new year, because our tool box is empty. We have tried everything we know to try and it's not working. I believe that God will work through therapy to help equip Ben and I, while giving us an outside prospective on what insecurities and crisis points exist in LJ's mind.

That being said, I am not willing to adjust my expectation. My son will be whole. The Bible says that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind. God heard LJ's cry, plucked him out of darkness, and plopped him in the middle of a family that fosters the presence of God. The gifts and talents that were sewn into the fabric of LJ will come to life and his passion for people and praise will be actualized.

I am thankful, tonight, for my mother in law who reminded me of all of this, tonight. It can be very defeating to take six steps forward and two back.

I wanted to be angry. And found myself trying to cast blame to LJ's mom; his foster parents; the state. But as quickly as the anger came, the Spirit of God filled me fresh. What's the point? There's no going back. There's no undoing the hurts and losses that LJ has lived through. All we can do is move forward.

I still can't stop crying and my heart is heavy for my son. But, I am thankful for these helpless moments in life because without them I would forget my weakness. I would forget to cry out to God and seek his hand in earnest. And really, can it work any other way?

On our ride to meet daddy for his birthday dinner, LJ asked me, "Mom, why did Jesus have to die for us?"

I talked through many points connecting the truths he and Ty already know regarding the fall of man and our mortality, but my last statement caught in my throat before I said it.

"Honey, without Jesus, we would never understand the extent of God's love for us."

I pray that the Holy Spirit will circle those words around my own spirit tonight as I sleep.

I know God's love is powerful enough to see us through.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Baby's First Christmas

I miss this place. Big time. I am not abandoning my blog and I expect to be back here in the new year. I, simply, over-committed. I took on an extra teaching load, this fall, right before the move, and it nearly sent me over the edge...but our semester is almost done, I only have miscellaneous boxes left to unpack, and we're all ready for Christmas!

Before I dive into the conversation on my heart. Here is an update on the state of our family! The boys are doing great in school and continue to be best buds. We gave them the choice of having separate bedrooms in the new house and they wouldn't hear of it! In the last few months, their ability to imagine and play pretend has magnified and it has been fun to listen to their interpretations of the world.

We updated our foster license when we moved in, so we're all ready to go. In one of Ty's cutest moments ever, he asked if he could put a baby sister on his Amazon Wish List. I told him that it didn't work that way, but that he could continue to petition our heavenly Father. While Ty prays for a baby sister, LJ tries to bargain for five more brothers. Yup, that's right. Five.

We don't pretend to have a "plan", but if God's taking requests on how we continue to grow our family, Ben and I would really like to bring home a set of sisters, next year. Trusting God with our future is easy [now] and laughing at the days to come seeps out with little effort. I'm thankful for that.

Now for my heart.

Last year was our first Christmas with LJ. I don't know if it was the excitement of being a family of four, our Christmas travel schedule, the house hunt, or the boys' limited knowledge on the holiday, but I was never struck with loss like I was, this year.

We took our time decking the halls and trimming the trees. Ty insisted on lighting his bedroom window with a tree three times his height. Admittedly, it didn't take much convincing. I, gently, unpacked Ben's box of special ornaments. His mom's handwriting still scripts the outside. My box was next. Sandwiched between our treasures was a smaller wrapping of sweet ornaments for Ty. There were at least seven renditions of baby's first Christmas, with two years worth of made-for-mommy ornaments. We were taking in each bulb and remembering along the way...until I realized that there wasn't a box for my second born. Sure, he had the same handmade lovelies that Ty had, thanks to their thoughtful preschool teachers, but there were no ornaments.

I made a big deal of LJ's handiwork and lifted him tall to reach the high branches. I gave him the "extra special" task of putting daddy's ornaments on the tree and he didn't notice otherwise...but I did.

Of course, the easy solution includes a box as big as he is, full of ornaments, under the tree, this year, but that doesn't blot away the sadness in my heart.

I KNOW we have many more years of memories to come....but these memories, the ones I'm missing, matter, too. It's easy to forget that he once wasn't ours. He jokes like his daddy, worships like his mama, and pretty much does everything that his big brother does out of complete adoration. But then I open the Christmas box of memories and remember the years we were all robbed of.

Ty was six months old during his first Christmas. We were in Ben's parent's family room when Ty lifted his chubby fingers to his perfect "O" shaped mouth and discovered he could make noise by tapping back and forth, for the first time. By the next year he was walking and learning to climb up his new slide. The year after, we shared our holiday with Shamu and all things sea-like.

It hurts my heart that memories for LJ are lost in the abyss, or worse, the worst are trapped inside him - a haunting reminder of his past. (I have been meeting with a therapist and crying out to God over those; more on that later).

I don't allow myself to wallow in the missings too long...because the beginnings are just as bright and beautiful. Our favorite beginning, right now, is to reminisce our first meeting at the agency. LJ tells the story as well as Ben and I. He tries to add embellishments along the way that sometimes include flying dragons and talking hamburgers, but we keep the tale pure. It's no less miraculous.

I thank God through the sadness. If it weren't for loss, we wouldn't know redemption. If it weren't for pain, we wouldn't know peace. And if it weren't for these boys, I wouldn't know love abounding joy.