As I thanked her for all she had done for our family and affirmed her role in God's healing of Cisco's heart, she teared up and said, "What you guys are doing here is really something." I tried to wave her comment away, but she stopped me, "No. Really. Most of the homes I visit don't look like this [she gestured toward the lively baseball game] and most of the kids I see don't have outcomes as positive as Cisco's."
She was a complete godsend to our family. Watching her leave was an emotional rite of passage.
I took this picture, last year February, the first week Cisco and Missy came to live with us.
I've probably looked at it a dozen times since that day, but the uncertainty balled up in those sweet fists and the self-doubt weighing on Cisco's shoulders brings me to tears every time.
What a distinction to see him sitting next to two confident, assured brothers.
With a lot of love and even more tears, he overcame every obstacle he faced, this year. I am wowed by his quiet, fighting spirit.
We met with his teacher, last week, and made the difficult decision to have him repeat kindergarten. I am certain every parent wrestles with such discussions, but the closeness in age between the boys, made it extra tough (Ty is 2 months/1 week older than LJ and LJ is 2 months/2 weeks older than Cisco).
The amount of progress that Cisco made this year is remarkable and could have justified pushing him through to first grade. But here's the truth. While Ty and LJ soaked in the learning opportunities of their first year of preschool, Cisco was found in a condemned motel room, half-starved.
When Ty and LJ raced to the door on their first day of their second year of preschool, Cisco stood in the doorway of his second home and met his foster family for the first time.
Three months into kindergarten, Ty and LJ knew the names of every student in our small community school, while Cisco stood behind his brothers, too nervous to speak through his new stutter and too wounded to risk investing in friends that he might have to say goodbye to...for the third time.
It wasn't just the newness of school that overwhelmed his bright mind, it was the newness of every area of his life. New school, new home, new siblings, new parents, and (of course) new sets of rules all around. It's really no wonder his body was taken by anxiety.
Our little guy had to work, tirelessly, this year to achieve what most of the students in his class take for granted every day. He didn't just fight for academics. He fought for friendships, normalcy, trust, and routine. And because he ended kindergarten a squeak above "average", he would start first grade running faster than the others, continuing his fight to close the gap.
We didn't want that for him.
We want Cisco to rest in the guarantee of a tomorrow that looks just like today.
Last summer was such a kaleidoscope of change and emotion, I'm really looking forward to this summer. There is a great level of peace that comes with knowing your children, inside and out. I am thankful that we've finally reached that place.
When I tuck Cisco in at night and receive genuine hugs and right-on-the-lips kisses, I know his heart is whole.
Over the weekend, I was washing bedding and suggested that each boy take inventory of their stuffed animal collection (each one rivaling that of a zoo) to determine if it was time for a few goodbyes. I told them to make a little pile by the door of animals that they would like the agency to give to other boys and girls coming into foster care.
Ty and LJ produced zero stuffies between the two of them, yet my Cisco came with an armful of lovies and said, "Mom, I brought all of these animals from my middle home, but I don't need them anymore. Let's give them to another kid that has to have a middle home."
Punch to the heart.
That's my boy. He has the sweetest spirit I've ever met.
I was reading in I Corinthians, recently, and this line really struck a chord with me (3:13): "...the Day will bring it to light." That has never stood out to me before, but I like this new-to-me name of God.
With love, he wakens his people and brings light to the darkness, cleans out the cobwebs, and fills hearts with song.
It's one thing to experience it myself, but entirely another to watch the revolution in others. Watching this boy's life sing is one of the greatest rewards on earth.