Friday, December 5, 2014
Our agency is not in the country.
I rushed three blocks with baby girl in my arms, fighting the clock to make it on time. I rounded the corner and saw him through the large glass windows. He was pacing; my heart was racing. I heard my phone buzzing in my pocket. I just wanted to yell, I'M COMING!
There was no time for last minute jitters. As I waited to be buzzed in, I saw him staring at me through the door. I introduced myself. His response was polite, but his eyes were locked on Little Miss.
I knelt down to take her hat and mittens off. When I looked up his eyes were spilling with tears.
"It's so good to finally meet you..."
I thought he was talking to me until I saw his face light up when she started walking toward him.
I was invisible; the door closed.
As I walked toward the lobby, I ran into LJ's adoption worker. She hugged me tight and asked how I was holding up. All I could do was shake my head. My eyes flooded and no words came out.
The hour went by rather, quickly.
The supervisor called out that their visit was done, so I went in to say goodbye. Little Miss, ran to me and gave me a big squeeze around the neck. I stood back up and looked her dad in the eyes.
"Did you guys have a nice visit?"
"Yes. Thank you. Really. Thank you for taking such good care of my daughter. She's so beautiful and happy. You are doing a great job."
I was taken aback by his demeanor. The man I witnessed in court was arrogant and nasty; the man before me was humble and kind.
"She is a firecracker. Did that come out in your visit, today?"
"Yah...I noticed that. She gets that from me."
We talked for several more minutes. When I picked Little Miss up she waved goodbye and lit up the room with her blown kisses (traitor).
He touched my hand as we were leaving and, tenderly, thanked me for the third or fourth time, telling me how grateful he was for our family.
I smiled, genuinely, and squeezed back, "It's a privilege."
I managed to make it out of the city before the tears came. I choked them back so that I could call Ben. I wasn't angry that he showed up...I was angry over how much I cared.
Ben put the perfect words to my turmoil.
We should be experts at this by now. Someone is going to lose. Someone always loses. Before, this morning, I had every justification for why it shouldn't be us.
Then I met him.
And because God has given me His heart for His people, I cannot turn my back on Truth.
God loves this man more than I love his daughter and HE, alone, has given him a second chance at life. It would be anti-Christ for us to be anything but loving, encouraging, and supportive. What if Little Miss IS enough reason for him to stay clean and make life-altering changes? We cannot, with godly conscious, root for Dad to lose. Losing leads to further destruction of his life and others. We care, too much, to wish that for him.
It's our job to be pliable...sensitive to the Holy Spirit's whispering. Even if we take the loss in the end.
I sobbed on and off all day because loving this man is a sacrifice...and could end up costing my daughter. I know not who asked the question, but all day I kept hearing variations of "Will you do it?"
Without hesitation, my answer was always, "Yes."
Our hearts are shattered. We're not broken by defeat; we're broken over the call. Every time we start feeling comfortable, God moves the boundary line and asks for more. And it's always more than we want to give.
Today, I thought through the dozens of teenage times my nose was smashed to the alter asking God to ignite passion for people into my heart. Feeling such a burden, throughout the day, I got lippy and asked if it was too late to take it all back...but, He knows as well as I do, once you taste His goodness, there is no going back.
This case has so many layers; there's no way to know how it will end. Or the story God is unfolding. We could drive ourselves crazy (and have) considering all the possibilities.
All we can do is press DEEP into the Father and remember his great love for us.
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
I stood next to Ben at the kitchen sink with a lump in my throat. I could hardly stand next to him his heart's heaviness begged my knees to buckle. Even though his "clean-up duty" time gives me a much looked-to break, I offered to dry because...well, no words would do.
Our caseworker had called and the news wasn't good.
Little Missy's father (I hate even using the term) is out of jail and ready to be super dad to the daughter he has never met. I can't get into the details, but this will, likely, be a long battle. I take her to her first supervised visit on Friday.
Our heads say - this is a career criminal with numerous obstacles, no resources, multiple children and a new one on the way, soon - it will never happen. Our hearts wrestle the unwavering love and protection we feel for our daughter and the failures that exist within an imperfect system.
As our caseworker laid out what the next six months will, likely, hold, I took the information in stride and felt tremendous peace. When she finished, I told her that we would continue to take it one day at a time and trust God for baby girl.
"You are, seriously, the calmest person I have ever met," she said.
I reminded her how crazy the inside of our house is. I can't, possibly, concern myself with the craziness that exists OUTSIDE.
She laughed and we hung up.
My peace is genuine, buy my heart heaved for Ben. I dreaded telling him. We are not in the same spot and I knew how the update would affect him.
I don't know when God gave me complete assurance, but I remember our conversation well. It was at least several weeks ago and I walked away feeling deeply loved. Here's the thing. In my worst case scenario, I am forced to hand my daughter over to a man that I don't like, trust, or believe has any business raising children. I wouldn't argue that the tragedy of that event would devastate my heart and leave me sadder than I can even imagine. But. I trust God more than I trust my plan. He has never failed me. He won't fail Little Miss. I want Little Miss to be forever part of our family, but if things don't go my way, I will trust God to protect her and to give our family what we need to make it through.
Once I was able to process the worst case scenario and lay the mess of it at the altar, I was filled with irrational peace. No matter what happens, God will give me what I need. And I know he did not rescue sweet Miss to abandon her. He will give her what she needs too.
Fast forward to the kitchen sink.
My Ben is the most tender, loves-beyond-himself man I have ever met and his heart bleeds for the fatherless. He is one big sap ball when it comes to our little tribe. And I am crazy for him. Watching him process my words and vent his frustrations was almost more than I could stand. I wish I could, supernaturally, infuse him with the peace in my heart, but it doesn't work that way.
While I can't run this part of the course with him, I can stand by...and dry dishes.
And I can pray. I can pray for another miracle; this time for our baby girl. And pray that God softens our hearts toward this man that is about to become a part of our, weekly, routine.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
Our case worker had visited earlier in the night, adjusting my expectations of how court would go, today. The white man who couldn't possibly be Sweet Boy's father was a no-show for his DNA test, but another man had surfaced from the past, demanding additional DNA work and possible custody.
I knew that resolution wouldn't come, today, but I was able to sleep without heaviness. I can, honestly, say (probably for the first time in my life), I trust God. Fully. Even if that outcome ends, tragically, for our family, I know God will have purpose. I'm sure I've never reached this state of peace before, but I like it and refuse to let it go.
We sang a song in church, last week, that I haven't heard in years ("If You Say Go"). The chorus has been running on loop for me, this week:
If You say step out on the water
And they say it can't be done
We'll fix our eyes on You and we will come
His excitement was contagious and I cried the rest of the way home.
One victory down; one more to go.
Both belong to the Lord.
Thursday, November 6, 2014
I couldn't be more proud.
In the last nine months, I have seen this tenacity and commitment to persevere. A couple of weeks ago we taught the boys to ride their bikes without training wheels. Sweet Boy was the only one willing to try over and over and over, again, until he was riding with ease. As I ran alongside him, I heard his quiet chant "practice makes perfect - practice makes perfect - practice makes perfect..."
He's unassuming by nature, but his determination is unparalleled and seems to be fueled by a desperation to thrive. I thank God for his quiet, fighting spirit...he wouldn't have survived his circumstances without it.
I love all of my kids without debate, but I feel something special for Sweet Boy. His fight for normalcy has left deep wounds, but he never stops pushing through...and, all the while, he does it with a little song in his heart.
We turned DNA testing into a "date day with mom" and I soaked in the special one-on-one time that included making one very sprinkle-y birthday cake and learning how to kiss like a fish.
Our relationship has taken the most work, but that is, exactly, what makes it the most rewarding. I am so very grateful for the creativity in our story. I am thankful for the hardships and setbacks and emotional cliffs...because without them, I wouldn't be as kind, patient, or forgiving. And my heart wouldn't love without borders.
There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next.
Romans 5:3-5 (MSG)
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
We're nine months in and my angel boy, cautiously, walks the line that separates past and future, like it's death and life, wetting the present with a dark fog. It seems impossible to navigate, but I know better.
His weekly nightmares reveal his desperation to escape this trapped world. He's in a boat that's sinking; He's trying to swim, but he's drowning; He's swimming, but a shark eats him.
Every week he asks me or the therapist when he will finally be adopted. He's concerned that I might lose him in a crowd. And he shows an, increasing, distaste for his last name (given at birth).
He flops between surety and unease, effortlessly. One day, he'll draw a picture of our family of six in our house, with rainbows overhead, but then the next day he'll draw a picture of himself standing outside of a crowd. Sometimes the crowd is family; sometimes it's classmates.
Sometimes he draws strangers in his bed; sometimes he draws them in our family.
Some days he asks for squishy hugs and wants to snuggle under blankets. Other days he stands across the room, refusing to join the fun.
Every night he asks to be tucked, tightly, into bed.
Last night he snuck into OUR bed, without notice, and I woke up to his little body cradled in mine.
Today, he made my day when he reached out and asked if I would carry him around for awhile. I think he just needed to be close.
Our therapist reminds me, every week, that wholeness will take an indefinite amount of time. Sweet boy has survived trauma...and healing cannot be rushed.
Even though the days can be long - the steps forward small - I AM encouraged by his progress and closeness to our family. He knows that we are family. He laughs like us; prays like us; and even embraces our unpopular beliefs and traditions.
He knows that we're family...his question is whether or not we're the last.
Words hold little value. He had family twice before and we've been talking of adoption for months.
As suffocating as the sadness can be sometimes, we are standing firm in our faith. God has preserved Sweet Boy's spirit and he WILL push through.
Here is how you can stand with us in prayer.
DNA testing is on November 4th. I am praying that the punitive father (who cannot be the father based on race alone), does not show up for the test. This would allow us to move forward and terminate rights, on all "known and unknown" fathers at the next hearing in a few weeks. If the punitive father does show up for testing, pray that the attorneys will, miraculously, receive test results in time for our hearing. We've been told that it is impossible to get DNA results in less than 3 weeks.
I know that with God, ALL things are possible. We pray for his continued grace in this season, with extra measures of patience, wisdom, and love...for everyone involved.
Thursday, October 9, 2014
Adoption Part I: My Story Five Years Later
Adoption Part II: The phone call that started it all
Adoption Part III: Rock Bottom
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Life has gotten busy for both of us as we juggle full lives with many children, but when we do have the chance to connect it is always refreshing. Rebekah has recently turned her blog into more of a vlog, which has been really fun because Ty and I can watch together. Awhile back she posted a video about little known facts about herself. Ty thought it was so cool that she liked to garden because he likes to garden, too.
He ended up calling her the next day and it was heartwarming to listen in on his conversation. Just like a little man, he was relaxed on the couch with his leg propped up. I heard him tell Rebekah all about school and his baby sister and the fruit trees we planted. Even though we, usually, only get a yearly visit in, he loves Rebekah with all of his heart and I am so proud of that!
I wanted to share the message that Rebekah sent to us, this week.
When Rebekah talks about what she's going to do with her pumpkin seeds, Ty actually gasped out loud.
Take a listen.
How creative and fun is that? Ty was over the moon that Ms. Rebekah would share her seeds with him. I am so thankful for this woman who gave my heart life. It is a complete joy to watch their relationship grow.
What a good reminder that God stretches us for his purpose - and it's always good.
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
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.
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
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.
Thursday, September 4, 2014
Sunday, August 24, 2014
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
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.
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
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 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.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
It happened overnight, really. Something clicked. Two someones changed. I've always been the mom, but, I became MOM...or maybe just felt like mom? Either way, my baby was born to me, today.
Of course, it did not happen overnight. He's been in my house, in fact, for 150 nights, but today Sweet Boy called me "Mama". He meant it as deeply as I felt it.
It would sound so nice if I could have ended that sentence with "and we both cried". We didn't. In the circus that others might call "dinner time", he matter-of-factly asked for milk...but neither the "Mama" nor the "please" slipped my notice. Both words are new to his vocabulary...but, today, he wore them, comfortably, and I had time for a small smile on the way to the oven...and fridge - for milk.
I remember when we started preparing for a second adoption, long before we found LJ on MARE.org, we often wondered if and how we'd be able to love another child as much as we loved Ty. I thought about that, today, when looking at each of my kids, realizing my heart overflows for each of them from a well that could never run dry. Its depth is not measurable.
I felt like Sweet Boy's mom for the first, last week. The moment stands still for me. Sweet Boy is enrolled in a summer program (in part for Kindergarten preparedness, in part for the security that being in school brings him). When I picked him up, the teacher pulled me aside and gushed praise for my little man. She is impressed with his heart and attitude, constant willingness to help others, and innate gift to create. My heart swelled with pride at every word and I knew in an instant that I was his mother.
Since that moment, our hearts have collided over and over and over, again. Every meal Sweet Boy is the first to the kitchen and asks to help set the table and then sits to talk to me until we're ready to eat.
He had to get a few shots at his doctor appointment. last week, and although he faced the nurse with a brave face, in the last moment before the poke, he looked in my eyes and said in a squeaky voice, "Will you hold my hand?"
Nearly every morning in the last week, he snuggles close to watch cartoons, while I feed Little Miss. His little hand hugging my arm. One day (pictured above), he risked the inch toward me and grabbed the tips of my fingers. When I squeezed back he looked at me and smiled.
Two nights, this week, he ran to my bedside in fear of his dreams and I hugged him tight until his breathing slowed and his peace returned.
As his guard lessens its grips, our affection increases. My movements are bolder. I kiss without asking and run my fingers through his thick, curly hair. He loves that. Often, he'll sit with me as long as time will allow and let me, gently, massage his head and back.
He bear hugs my leg, frequently, asks to pray at the dinner table, seeks my lap for comfort, and, now, calls me "Mama"...
My heart is too constricted for eloquent words.
The Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes.
I am proud of all of my babies...but my heart has a special sweetness toward Sweet Boy. He remembers the most and faced the greatest opposition. He has had to fight for love - giving and accepting - and process loss in a way most of us never have.
I'm not sure what lies ahead, but victory is ours. My son is home.
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
If the third option actualizes, we could be in for the long haul. As he would be working on his parenting plan, we would have to bring Little Miss for weekly visits (up to three per week).
Sweet Boy's case will be on pause until Little Miss' has resolution, in the event that both siblings require adoption in the end; the state wants them to stay together.
I let all of this news ruin my day, when I received it last Wednesday...but I've since chosen to put it out of my mind. I can't control the process or the outcome; there's no sense in worrying about what could happen.
We believe the end result will be the same. Sweet Boy and Little Miss will become permanent members of our family. The unknown is how long we'll have to wait and how difficult the disruptions will be for our babies that already have fragile emotions.
Dealing with the flaws of the system is infuriating when you're the one living in the mud, doing your best to love these babies through the slow process of healing. More than anything, Sweet Boy needs assurance that he's not going anywhere. Forever needs definition. I hate that his case could be on hold for up to a year, on the outside chance that someone who has never interacted with his sister, decides he wants to be a father.
I am not against birth father rights, but in this case, Little Miss' dad is with her birth mom. He cannot claim ignorance of her existence and, in fact, has had multiple conversations with the case worker on what he needed to do to gain custody. It's not fair to either of my kids that the birth father is offered a chance to parent, nearly a year after his daughter's birth.
Apart from being forced into a relationship with a stranger, Little Miss will be oblivious to the process. Sweet Boy is the one who will suffer. It's frustrating.
All we can do is wait, patiently...and hopefully...for good news.
To be honest, our days are too busy to do much else!
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Breakthrough has been on my mind a lot, lately, so I looked up its meaning today: "any significant or sudden development that removes a barrier to progress."
According to this definition, I would not say we've seen breakthrough, yet, with Sweet Boy. We are making progress (slowly), but not to the point that we've removed any barriers.
I'll try to sum up our last month the best I can without making this pages long. I have continued to journal Sweet Boy's days. This has been an extremely helpful tool that led to many discoveries. Before I get to that. Some changes occurred in the last month that have made a significant difference.
All five of us are home for the summer, now. Being home has offered me the opportunity to really see Sweet Boy. My radar is always on. Praying, thinking, measuring his reactions.
A few things have become clear. Sweet Boy does not feel like a member of our family; he requires time away from his brothers to recharge; and anxiety is not only affecting him, physically, but it is keeping his heart guarded.
We made a few changes to help Sweet Boy feel more ease and we have a child therapist coming to the house in a couple of weeks to meet with him for the first time, in his environment.
Before this week, Sweet Boy had not had any diarrhea, gagging or throwing up episodes for weeks. This coupled with his small, but outward, forms of affection toward me, led me to believe that he was finally experiencing some peace.
A few weeks ago we sat on the couch together and I told him how proud I was to watch him scale the rock wall at the park (it took him all day to get up the nerve). He beamed with pride and then started crying. I rubbed his neck and asked him why that made him sad.
"I miss my mom and dad."
That statement socked me in the stomach. Not because he called someone else mom - there is no room for insecurity in my life - but because my darling boy has so much turmoil in his spirit that remains untouchable.
Each day that creeps by I feel more and more like his mom and I love him with a fierceness that is new. He is changing me. And I like the change. I like who he is helping me become.
We had Sweet Boy's foster family over, one day, this weekend. I have never seen Sweet Boy so excited. Interestingly, he referred to his foster mom as "Miss [name]" all day, but called his foster dad, "Dad". This made us wonder if Sweet Boy is starting to feel connected to me, but not Ben.
For the first time in three weeks, he threatened to throw-up, again, yesterday. We were coming home from an area that I was unfamiliar. I had told the boys to sit, quietly, and rest so that I could hear my GPS. I, vaguely, remember one of them saying, "Mom is so lost, she is never going to get us home." Insert Sweet Boy's gagging, crying, and warning of throw-up. I pulled over, quickly, looked him in the eyes and talked him through breathing exercises. For the first time, he didn't throw-up and I felt triumphant at our progress.
Today, I had a lot on my mind. Our termination trial is supposed to be on Thursday. I got word, yesterday, that a recent supreme court case is influencing termination trials, from here on out, and that we may not be able to move forward on Thursday. The judge called an emergency meeting with the attorneys, tomorrow, to discuss whether or not our case can be heard, this week.
I'm not anxious over the hiccup; I know that God will move in the direction of his plan (and I believe we are part of that plan), but it is frustrating to be put on hold. I was really looking forward to opening the adoption/forever family conversation with Sweet Boy.
All of these thoughts were rattling in my head on the way to a birthday party this afternoon. Ty and LJ were asleep when Sweet Boy said, "Mom, I have rocks in my tummy, again. I'm going to throw up."
It was probably more stupidity than bravery, but I was still rolling on last night's victory. I reminded Sweet Boy to take big deep breaths, "Honey, you're not going to throw-up...you're going to talk to me, instead...we'll work through it, together."
It worked. But....this was the conversation.
"Buddy, you're not throwing up because you're sick. You're throwing up because you're nervous. Let's talk about that. Do you know what nervous is?"
"It's like being afraid. You might get nervous about something that you're unsure of. Like if you don't know that we're going home, or maybe who is going to be at a party. I think things that you don't know make you nervous. What do you think?"
"I think I'm nervous."
"Okay, well, let's talk about it. Are you nervous about the trampoline party?"
I tipped my rearview mirror down for a better view of him, in time to see a shoulder shrug.
"You don't want to jump your brains out????"
"You don't have to honey. Mama is not going to jump. If the jumping makes you nervous, you can sit with me."
"Would you hold my hand?" Progress.
"Buddy, I will always hold your hand. You just have to tell Mom when you're feeling nervous...Do you know how very much I love you?
"...like a hundred?"
"Like a hundred buckets! I love you so much, honey. And I'm going to be your mom forever. Do you know that?"
"Because your Daddy and I want you to be a part of our family forever. We don't ever want you to have to move, again, or live with another family....Would you like that?"
I thought I might have misheard him so I asked, again, "Would you like to live with us forever."
I was stunned. "Why not, buddy?"
"You're not my mom. I don't love you. I want to go back and live with [foster familly]."
I faltered. I didn't know what to say. As if I wasn't having a conversation with a beyond-his-years four year old, I naively tried another approach. "Buddy, we'd be so sad if you left us. Wouldn't you miss your brothers?"
"I don't understand. I thought you liked it, here, honey. Why would you want to leave?"
"I already told you."
End of conversation.
I was told. And it was too much for my heart to hear.
I thought living with a boy that does not belong to me, was not birthed to me, and I only feel slight motherly leanings toward was an overwhelming challenge.
I was not prepared for the truth in this conversation.
Living with a boy that does not belong to me, was not birthed to me, that I only feel slight motherly leanings toward....that confirmed he does not love me nor want to be in my home feels impossible.
My heart is broken for him.
Ahhh! My Sweet Boy that I love more with every passing day is trapped inside his own turmoil without any authority to make his wishes come true. I have tears streaming down my face as I type this.
The only comfort I have is that my feelings are fleeting. I know what seems impossible today IS possible.
As we drove the rest of the way to the party, I felt the love of God surround me. Into my spirit, he quickened a knowing...that one day Sweet Boy and I will share a bond that cannot be compared.
Until then, I have to lay his life in the Knower's hands. It's all I can do.
Monday, June 16, 2014
My baby. My heart.
All of my prayers and dreams laid squealing on Rebekah's tummy, five years ago, today.
I love the bond that Tyrus and I share. We are so similar and like hearted.
Ty is curious and perceptive; tender and forgiving.
I had a work trip, last week, and before I left, I asked the boys if anyone wanted to take a walk with me to the mailbox. They all jumped up in response, but while the other two raced down the road, my tender heart said, "Mom...can I just hold your hand? I'm really going to miss you." Minutes later, we all said our goodbyes, and while everyone headed back to the house, my baby boy ran back and asked for one last hug. I held him tight and choked back tears.
He rubs my back and often asks if I'm okay. He's the first to help, first to show compassion, and the first to problem solve a solution.
God gave Tyrus the exact heart that was needed to be a part of this unconventional family. He openly accepts new siblings without question, argument, or insecurity. He shares his life, parents, and bedroom with joy and never complains.
Hardworking and level-headed, my sweet boy fills my heart with pride.
I smile and marvel at his spirit. The man I know he will become.
One day I was watching him, drinking in the moment, thinking about how sad I will be when he allows another girl to hold his heart. He asked me what I was thinking about and I shared my fear that he would grow-up and not need me anymore. Since that day, he offers reassurance, "Mama, I am going to marry Eva (my best friend's daughter), but I will call you every day" or "Mom, you don't ever have to be sad when I buy my own house, I will always come visit."
My Ty is a built in ego-boost. Everything is extraordinary to him. "Mom, this is the best dinner I've ever had"; "Mom, you are the best painter in the whole world"; "Mom, you are the bestest mom"; "Mom, this is the best day of my whole life." He walks out life with a full heart and positive attitude. It's more than a little contagious.
God used this boy to bring life to my barren heart and to birth a dream in my spirit for our family to come. My gratitude is of the greatest depth.
It's such a privilege to raise these little jewels of treasure. The days go fast, but I hold onto the moments the best I can.
Happy birthday to my lovie! It's going to be a great day full of simple surprises and favorite things!
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
But...that was during a time in his life when he had only walked through one disruption and the contrast of environments was so, vastly, different. He experienced peace for the first time, since birth, when he came into that home.
In his eyes, the move to our home is (I presume) unexplainable.
Last night, something happened at the dinner table that required Ben to discipline Sweet Boy. Immediately after, he started coughing and told us that he was going to "choke" his new word for throwing up. I told him that he was fine and that he needed to take two big deep breaths instead and showed him how to do it. He didn't throw up.
That night when I was laying in bed with him, I told him that after reading through his journal, daddy and I felt like his tummy aches were because of things that he is feeling in his heart or thinking about in his head. I used the word "anxiety" and explained what it meant. When I mentioned fear, he said, "I'm afraid of things, mom."
"Well, let's talk about that, honey. What are you afraid of?"
"Dragons. I am really afraid of dragons."
I bit back my laughter and talked him through it as if it were a logical fear.
What else, honey. What else are you afraid of?
"Well...I'm also really afraid of crocodiles."
Clearly our conversation was going nowhere, but I persevered, hoping we'd get to something more meaningful. We talked about the power of God and the job of the Holy Spirit. I told him that he never has to be afraid at night (most nights he lays awake for a long time) because his brothers are with him and we're not far away. I ended the conversation with another stab at his fears. "Honey, is there anything else that you're afraid of that you want to talk about?"
He was thoughtful for a really long time. So long, that I would have thought he had fallen asleep if I wasn't staring at his eye balls. He, finally, looked at me and with complete seriousness, said, "Mom, I am REALLY afraid of walking fast backwards."
I couldn't hold my laugh in that time and responded by saying, "Well, buddy, that is really easy to fix. Stop walking backwards!"
"No. No, mom. I'm not afraid to walk backwards SLOW. I'm really good at walking slow. I'm afraid of walking backwards fast."
We're not really getting any closer to solving his tummy troubles, but little rays of personality are starting to shine through the cracks in Sweet Boy's very tall-walled exterior.