"It is a safe thing to trust Him to fulfill the desires which he creates." ~Amy Carmichael

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Yet This I Call to Mind

Words cannot even begin to convey the depth of the weariness which comes from managing mountains of emotions and constant behaviors day in and day out. I think about posting a Facebook status about how things are going, but I don't even know what to say. I consider calling a friend, longing for connection, but I do not have the emotional energy to explain all that has been going on. So I go another day, each day more weary than the last. Blogging has always has been my way of coping as a verbal processor when my energy is spent, so here it is.

June was the 17 month mark since bringing our girls home. This is a major milestone for them based on history and, as of late June, they have now lived with us longer than any other family since coming into care four and a half years ago. In fact, I suspect this has likely been the longest they have *ever* lived in a single house/location. I expected one child to react to this milestone. I was kind of taken off guard when they all did. You don't have to remember a date or track a period of time or consciously bring to mind an incident. The brain knows. The body remembers. I believed this to be true before, based on research. I know this to be true now, based on the lives within the four walls of my home.

One might expect this milestone to be cause for celebration and security. Except not. Instead, we have had some major regressions in behavior from all sides. This happens to some degree every time there is a significant anniversary...or birthday...or holiday...or...you get the idea. We make progress and then, BAM, overnight it is like we are almost back to square one. June contained this milestone, plus Father's Day, plus two birthdays. Needless to say, June was not fun.

July 1st rolled around in the exact same way that April 1st showed up after a similar month surrounding a major traumaversary in March. After a solid month of being lied to, manipulated, pushed away, and yelled at, I hit my limit. Thankfully, one of my three tends to settle down immediately after the trigger passes. The other two, however, they're still going strong. And I am weary.

I cannot even count how many times I have been lied to in the past month - or in the past 12 hours for that matter. Lying is one of my parenting triggers. I have multiple children who lie to me almost daily. I have one child who lies literally almost every single time she speaks to me. Not even exaggerating. The constant need to read past the words, interpret expressions, identify manipulations, stay one step ahead of elaborate attempts to control the home...exhausting does not begin to cover it.

I also have one child who is going through a process of difficult growth as she faces the triggers head on and works to regain control of her own mind and body, by way of actively giving over control to her Lord. In between struggling with her poor choices and her premature battles for independence, I get to see her amazing heart as she seeks to grow and heal and mature. "The old has gone, the new has come." Even in the midst of her battles, I have never seen the truth of this verse more clearly than in this child. She is beginning to truly know the vastness of God's love for her. That love is visibly changing her and it is so beautiful to watch. It is incredibly hard to be parenting her through these difficult, overwhelming phases, and yet I am often brought to tears when I glimpse the beauty within her heart. Plain and simple, she is not the same person she was before she welcomed Christ into her life. I pray for this same thing to someday be able to be said for another child.

There is yet beauty in this life. The days can be heavy. So very heavy. There are tears and struggles on a daily basis. There is also growth. Sometimes it is harder to see than others. At times it may even be impossible. In between the screaming and the throwing things and the careless running over of others...in between the hours and hours (and hours and hours) of talking and coaching and doling out consequences, the fighting my own inclinations in order to connect with those who would push me away, the watching children self-destruct, the protecting them from each other and from themselves...in between all of that there are the moments. There are always the moments. The moments in which I catch a glimpse of God working. Sometimes in a child's heart; often in my own.

My body is struggling. I am in physical pain due to needing to physically restrain a child nearly my own size today. My store of emotional energy is completely run dry. Mentally, I have been living in survival mode for so long, only taking on bite sized pieces of the must do priorities. Rarely can I so much as wrap my mind around cooking a real meal. Grocery shopping is done in a haze. I am depleted in every way. As I have been every day for some time. Hope is running thin. I would think I should completely dread each day - and sometimes I do. Sometimes it is too much to look into another day of all this.
"Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his mercies never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'"

The moments of grace. The moments where I get to see his mercy at work within our home and in our family. On our worst days they are there. These are the moments, often mere glimmers of hope, which allow me to lie down with nothing left tonight and get up tomorrow to do it all over again. And again and again and again as we all learn together what love really means. Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his mercies never fail.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

What We Need

This morning started out rough, immediately dealing with lies and behaviors. While grumpy and frustrated, God started nudging me to consider changing a consequence I had given this same child for significant behavior choices a different day; in my heart I knew the consequence, though not remotely overboard, would not be beneficial to her moving forward. Reading a heartfelt post from another adoptive parent this morning nudged me further.

So when she got home this afternoon, our conversation started with that. Me acknowledging my choice had not been the best thing this time and removing the consequence.  I reserve the right to be wrong sometimes and to tell my child when I am! We had some not so good stuff to address from earlier today as well. Because of how the conversation began, in the process of dealing with things it came out that something going on at school all week had been very (understandably) upsetting to her. Knowing this made all the difference in the world, as we were able to come up with solutions to help her. I was able to let her know it’s okay to not be okay with it. It’s okay to let us know. Tomorrow I will be picking her up early from the last day of summer school in order to protect her heart and mind, and today she knows that I am on her team. For real. 

None of this would have likely ever come out if I had not been willing to give her what she needs instead of what she deserves. We would have spent the rest of the week (maybe much longer) battling what looked like oppositional behaviors without having a clue what was driving it. God knew though. And, in his grace, he let us know as well by steering us to open a door we didn’t even know needed opening. Because that is what he does.

There generally are consequences for choices. Sometimes, however, bad behavior is the only voice a child knows to use when they need help. Sometimes letting a consequence go is worth it to give them a chance for another kind of voice. I am not good at this, but I am learning. After all, isn’t this what God does? He gives me what I need instead of what I deserve, in order to draw me to himself and to work for my good. That is the kind of parent I want to be.

Monday, December 25, 2017

First Christmas

A year ago yesterday I was up late getting ready for Christmas, to be celebrated on Christmas Eve. We were to have one hour with the kids who might become ours. Baking and wrapping and setting things out, a million emotions running through my heart and mind. Would this be our last quiet Christmas with two young children? Would we have several more children next year? What if we don’t? Was I hoping and wishing for what life might hold...or grieving for what might no longer be? Or both and all and everything in between. 

One hour, sandwiched between our traditional Christmas morning at home and celebrating with my family. An hour which ended with this sweet little girl who I knew in my heart to be mine having to be literally pried off of me, begging to stay with me. Walking away listening to the shrieks, leaving my children in a facility instead of being in our home, a part of our family - or any family - for Christmas. Everything out of my hands at that point, unable to even promise a next visit. It was easily one of the hardest days of my life. Filled with uncertainty and emotions and tears.

That was last year. Tonight I kissed my little girls goodnight. All of them. Tonight we set out seven place settings for breakfast and filled seven stockings. There are still plenty of emotions to go around, but the uncertainty is no more. Tomorrow we celebrate Christmas as a family of seven. And it feels just right. ❤️

Saturday, December 16, 2017

What it takes

Right now I have a pulled muscle (again), a bruised hand, aching knee, I’m sore all over, and I am on day five of a headache. I am weary of being kicked at and screamed at and yelled at and hit at. Of things being thrown constantly, kicked, torn apart and damaged. Of being told how I care only about myself - by the one for whom I chose to spend my past 12 months wrecked. Having hatred and rage and anger spewed directly at me. Only at me. Only because I am mom.

My days are spent in a fog. Either I am spending hours managing an irrational and escalating child...or recovering from the adrenaline surges of it all. I can’t just walk away from it and continue my day where I left off either. My brain simply can’t think straight and my energy is sapped. Possibly sustaining an injury or two. Always scrambling to think through how to respond next. Or how to avoid the need for me to respond because my calm responses are all used up.

I love everything about Christmas. This year I am wondering if we will make it to Christmas Day with our family intact. Nine days left. Nine days of a child trying to cut her losses and get her Christmas taken away already so she can quit dreading losing it, in spite of anything we say. Indefinite more days of a child trying desperately to break me. To prove that we were going to give up on her at some point anyway. 

It feels impossible to see her as she is through what she does. We haven’t settled down in four months. I am weary, my other children need me, and I cannot continue functioning like this. Yet there is no other solution. In the end, no matter what we do, it will always come down to me and this child. Either she breaks me or she does not. I do not have it in me to love her through this. I do not have it in me to hold on through the hurricanes. I do not have the patience or the fortitude or even the love to get us through. Only God can do in me what needs to be done to get her through. If I can stick it out just long enough, she will stop trying so hard to push me away; I’ve seen it in her and I know this to be true. If I can be the safe mother she’s never had, she might one day believe that a mother can be safe. If I can love her right through the storm of hate, she may finally, eventually recognize love for what it is instead of all the things it has masqueraded as in her life. I do not have that kind of love. It isn’t there. It does not exist in me. Yet it does exist in Christ. It is the love that gave us Christmas. The love that drove him to the cross - while we were yet sinners. The love that whispers grace to our hearts in the very moments of our darkest sins. That which ignites hope in the midst of hopelessness. The love that gave himself for the very ones who rejected, abandoned, mocked and killed. This is the kind of love he calls each of us to walk in. Not just me with my child, but you in your own life. And he does not ask of us what he does not promise to supply. It is not in me. It is not in you. It is all from him. 

I can stand on that truth, even while everything else falls away. His love IS strong enough to hold us together. I know this because it is his strong love that has held me to himself right through the rages of my own life. If his love can keep my wayward heart in his, then it can certainly teach my heart to love like his.

This is the very essence of both Christmas and adoption, is it not? To take the love given to us by a Savior who took us at our very worst and loved us to himself - to take that love and offer it to another in the very same way. He offered his very life for us, to the point of death. No exceptions, no limits, his love and unending grace stands open to any who will accept it. May we, by his great power, learn to love as he does in order that those who we love will see the love greater than ourselves.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Year Ago

A year ago I posted the song below on Facebook. I posted it in between nerve-wracking emails that were leaving me an absolute emotional wreck all day. 

Those emails led to an outing that evening. The evening one year ago today when we met three of our children for the first time. We drove away from that first visit utterly overwhelmed. The VOLUME and ENERGY level was overwhelming. The obviously high level of needs were overwhelming. The thought of the drastic changes we were contemplating for our family. The weight of the decision that had the potential to change everything. Forever. The sheer insanity of the idea. 

We met four strangers that night. Within a matter of weeks, three of those strangers were living in my home and calling me Mom. We could have walked away and said it was too much for us. Because it was. But we both knew. We couldn’t actually walk away. It was too late. We had seen their beautiful faces, heard their anxiously chattering voices, looked into their eyes as they studied us wondering if we might be kind - sure we couldn’t be trusted. That night God was asking of us the impossible. They were not the first children we had met. We had said no before when we were not the right home. That night, however, we knew that walking away would not be an option this time. No matter how crazy it seemed.  Because these children were our children.

Last week we went on a wedding anniversary trip for a few days without the kids. Since getting home I have done little beyond managing the self-sabotaging behavior of one of our children who struggled with us being gone and is trying her hardest to prove that she doesn’t really need me by pushing me away. It is exhausting. These past months, particularly since finalization, have been even harder than I dreamed. To be honest, I wondered what to even write about today’s anniversary. What does one say after literally hours of managing a grieving, conflicted child who masks fear as rage, spewing hatred at you, and trying desperately to break you? “One year today! To celebrate, I spent nearly the entire day battling a child. I’m so glad we are here!” Not exactly the feeling that comes to mind. 

Yet here we are. A year ago we had two beautiful children. Today we have five. Five little people (one not so little!) who, without hesitation, call me Mama...Mommy, Meemee, Ma, Madre, Moooooom. Who make me get well cards when I am sick and hug me every day and trust me enough to cry their tears. There is a light in their eyes that wasn’t there a year ago. We have watched confidence grow in beautiful ways. I have grown myself in leaps and bounds. They are making me become a better person - albeit slowly and as a result of shining bright spotlights on my weaknesses. We share a name; we share our home; we share our struggles. It might take 20 years for our one daughter to believe we won’t leave and we won’t abandon and we won’t throw her out...but like I told her today, at the end of those 20 years we will still be there. Possibly haggard and worn. Definitely stronger and more patient and with a far greater understanding of our Father’s grace.

A year ago I awkwardly, nervously met anxious strangers. Tonight I kissed my daughters goodnight.

Letting go of every single dream
I lay each one down at your feet
Every moment of my wondering
Never changes what you see
I’ve tried to win this war, I confess
My hands are weary, I need your rest
Mighty warrior, King of the fight
No matter what I face
You’re by my side

When you don’t move the mountains
I needed you to move
When you don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When you don’t give the answers
As I cry out to you
I will trust, I will trust
I will trust in you.

Truth is you know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead you have not seen
So in all things be my life and breath
I want what you want, Lord,
And nothing less

…I will trust, I will trust,
I will trust in you.”

Monday, June 12, 2017

Are you sure?

When asked by an acquaintance how things were going, I honestly answered that life is busy and overwhelming. Later in the conversation, I mentioned that the adoption should finalize sometime this Summer.

“Are you sure you want to do this?”
I laughed. “Well, it’s a little late for that now.”
“Not really. You could change your mind. I mean, foster kids are used to being moved anyway, right? At least that’s what I have read.”
“They don’t get used to it. Every time they are told they will live with someone forever and then are moved, it damages their brain’s ability to form relationships.”
“Yeah, but you know what I mean. They kind of get used to that.”
“No, there is not really any getting used to that. Yes, they expect it, but that’s the problem. Every time changes their brain more. The only thing that will correct how their brain responds and allows them to have relationships in the future is for someone to not pass them on. For someone to stay.”
“But are you sure you want to do that?” She prodded.
“We already made that decision when we brought them home. When we chose to bring them home as our children, that was us making a commitment to them. The same kind of commitment as saying “I do” at the altar for marriage. There is no decision now except to stick it out no matter what.”
“I just don’t understand it. I really don’t.”

No, I suppose she really doesn’t. Foster children are not theory or philosophy. They are not a news article or a book. They are children. Little people. People with hearts and minds and memories and hopes and fears and dreams. They have friends and family and loved ones – even if they can never see them again. They have names and faces. We have spent six months creating memories with our girls, spending our every day together. There is no such thing as saying, “Never mind. I want to go back to how things were.” There is no going back as if you did not just build relationships, such as they are, with three individuals.

The first time we met our children, we were overwhelmed, overstimulated and terrified of the idea of bringing these strangers into our home as our own. We knew it would change everything and our life would never be the same. And we knew in our hearts that it would be impossible for us to walk away. These were our children. They are our children.

Technically, yes, we still have a choice. The papers have not been signed; they do not yet bear our name. This life we have chosen is hard. It really is hard. There are many days when a large part of me wishes I could run away from the heartache and overwhelming exhaustion of it all. But there is no running away from your own children, your own heart. They walked into our lives and into our hearts and we were right: we are not the same. Everything has changed and I am honestly overwhelmed by it. And I would never go back.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

All These Things

But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

I feel responsible for so much these days. I feel the weight of responsibility to teach and train and clothe and feed and de-escalate and diagnose and connect and grieve with and piece together histories and hold and love and attach…and carry in every way the children who have been entrusted to me. And it is heavy. So heavy. The weight of it all is crushing when held on shoulders not created to bear it.

When I finally asked God what in the world I am supposed to do with all of it, this was his answer. Seek first his kingdom and all these things shall be added. All these things?

The dirty floors and the paperwork and the diagnoses waiting to happen? The piles of dishes and laundry and the vanishing food that I can’t keep up with? The research and therapy and handwriting that needs to be corrected? The tantrums and tears and the weeks when everyone is coming apart at the seams for days on end? The balancing sensory loads and energy outlets and reading practice? The heaviness of the diagnoses and evaluations as they come in? The weight of the case files and disclosures and decisions that will effect your child for years to come? The process of attachment and exhaustion and being desperately needed when you have absolutely nothing left to give? The grieving and anxiety and long nights and hard memories? The navigating minefields you don’t even know exist? All these things?

But rather seek the kingdom of God.

Adoption has broken me as I have tried to carry the weight of a load he never asked me to bear. He asked me to seek His kingdom and to love his children with the love that he gives through me. He asked me to trust him with their every need, as he loves them more than I ever will. He offers mercies, new every day. He promises all sufficient grace. All these things will be added.

Attaching to near strangers who take everything you have plus some (and then some more after that) is hard. Making big decisions on a regular basis is hard. Normally small daily decisions becoming big ones as you maneuver fragile emotions is hard. People around you not understanding that is hard. Handling meltdowns out of nowhere and disruptive tantrums and frequent tears (and more tears, and a few more tears) every. single. day is hard. Feeling pressure to respond perfectly to it all is hard. Undoing years of trauma, literally rewiring brain connections, and catching up on missed developmental areas is hard. Nothing about life being normal (neither your own normal or the standard normal) is hard. Going to great lengths to create felt safety, and scrutinizing the smallest changes and every event or outing through that filter is hard. This life is hard.

But seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you as well. All these things.
I don't want to continue to strive for the impossible. I do, however, want to live an impossible life within his hand, by his strength and filled with his grace. Not my own. This is what I desire more than anything else.

“And you will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart.”

 Jeremiah 29:13

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

‘Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.’”

Luke 12:22-31