"Mom. I've been looking at this trophy and thinking...do you think we could get a marker and write Pinchback over my old name?"
Before I could answer, Ty piped in, "Francisco. I don't think it's necessary to do that. This trophy is a reminder of who you used to be. You won it playing basketball as a [previous last name]. Just leave it."
I had to smile and sigh at the same time. Tyrus is more like me than I care to admit. Practicality has a tendency to block sympathy in both of us.
I dismissed Tyrus and told Francisco to bring his trophy closer. My heart filled as I wrote PINCHBACK in big block letters on his cheap-o plaque.
In a few weeks, he will have been with us for two years and the progress to family has been painstakingly slow.
Three of our kids have really big personalities and another is a constant need-machine due to...well...being a baby. Francisco prefers to fade into the background and that's pretty easy to do around, here, with so much commotion.
In the beginning of the school year, I was concerned that holding him in Kindergarten was giving him permission to regress. The first several weeks mirrored the last several. He couldn't name anyone in his class and was, purposely, choosing not to invest in relationships.
Everyone, including his teacher, kept encouraging us to just give him time.
Today, I was really struck by a theme.
God's love is always enough.
Every time it is whispered to my heart, fresh tears roll down my face.
Ben and I are purposeful in our love for Francisco and intentionally work at pulling him closer, but we've never been enough. We are exhausted most days and get more frustrated than we prefer. We miss opportunities all the time. We are every day people, striving for God's best, but in the failing moments find a measure of peace that our kids will have few memories of these days. We still have time to get it closer to right.
Despite the holes in our love, a miraculous transformation is in progress. Over the last three months, God has been wooing our tender-hearted, skittish boy and because his love IS enough, small pieces of Francisco's heart are not just peeking out, but remaining exposed.
Things that might make other parents smile, spark waterworks and praise in my heart.
The first change was at school. Francisco announced that he had a friend. A friend who also happens to be one of five. His confidence continued to build when the rest of the class realized he knew most of his sight words and letters. On Ben's birthday, he was proud to talk about our family's birthday traditions with his teacher, and told me that he thought about chocolate cake all day.
Right before break, he was sent 5 candy grams from classmates. My heart exploded.
He comes home from church and can re-tell the truths he learned.
He sticks up for himself when his brothers blame him for trouble.
When our knees touch on the couch, he doesn't move away.
His favorite memory of 2015 was his adoption day.
Watching my sweet boy blossom has been such a lesson in faith for me. I get frustrated by the progress and some days wish that I could manipulate the time line and slap "redeemed" over his wounds, so that we can move on...which is, exactly, why my love isn't enough. It's not perfect or all-knowing. It doesn't operate with all the facts or with selfless ambition.
What a relief to know that we don't have to have it together. God's love is everything. It's enough for me and it's enough for Francisco. His love is at work, when mine sleeps. His love whispers and pulls and moves Francisco at the right time, in the right moments, and earns genuine results.
And the best part is that God's love isn't exclusive. There is a young woman a couple hundred miles away, crying out for God's rescue. Her days are marked for her and the landscape only changes in her dreams where she can darken the light on the bars that hold her prisoner.
The more letters we exchange, the more conflicted I feel. The Jesus and mama in me tussle often over the direction that this is going. My defenses prickle; he nudges me past. I want to hold back; he asks for more.
I feel like I should be better at pride-swallowing, given the sequence of events that we've walked the last several years, but it still tastes bitter. I don't always want to give all of me. I don't always want to blaze an unknown trail.
But...then I get a nose-smashing, lip-touching kiss from my youngest six year old or see the magic dance behind his eyes when he tells a funny joke and I am, instantly, reminded that knowing him is worth sacrifice.
Whether I ever feel that for his mother or not doesn't matter. God's love is enough for her, too. And, right now, he is using me to show her what that means. Francisco's unfolding has been a timely backdrop.
Sometimes love requires time and God asks us to remain steadfast while we wait.