Fear and Confusion

Fear and Confusion

It has now been 3 weeks since we brought home our first Safe Families placement, this little wide eyed boy with a cute husky voice and a set of massive hands and feet that seem much too big for his little 3-year-old frame. As each day has passed, we have learned many things about him and feel we have gotten to know him pretty well. I can predict most of his behavior and know how to respond to his many cues. It has been so sweet having him and I love and treat him like one of my own.

But there have also been difficult, heart wrenching days. Days he cries and cries and cries because he misses his family. Then he looks at us, a bunch of Korean folk who one day took him away, and although he knows now that we are not all that bad, he can’t understand why he has to be with us and not his real family. And who are we really?

Sometimes he calls me mommy and happily plays with me. He often runs to jump into my lap, grabs my face to stamp a kiss, and naturally holds my hand wherever we go. Yet other times, he has intense bouts of sadness and sits looking out the window as he cries out for his real mommy. The familiar security of a mother he’s been with since being in her womb cannot be so easily replaced. Sometimes he plays with my kids and laughs so hard that they are all snorting like little piglets while other times, he wants nothing to do with them and declares his allegiance to his “real” sisters and brother. We have days of screaming “happylujah!” (his version of hallelujah) while playing our pretend guitars and we have days of weeping with him in the corner of the room. He does not know what to make of all of this or how he is supposed to relate to us.  

Then there is my own inner struggle and a part of me can relate in a very small way to the confusion that he is feeling. Sometimes I look at him and he feels like my son. I enjoy his attachment to me and I feel attached to him too. I hold him in my arms and sing to him, bandage his wounds with kisses on top of bandaids, and caress his hair as I read him his favorite books. But I have to remind myself constantly that he is not my son. We are all just temporarily being a family to him and I am temporarily playing the role of his mother. My job is to love him unconditionally and FULLY like I would love my own children because that is what he needs and what he deserves–someone who will tenderly love him like a mother because his real mother can’t be with him at this time.

But to invest and to love him like this also means that I have opened myself up to fall victim to those deep and intimate mother-child bonds that have already naturally formed between my heart and his, and I know now that when this time ends with him, my heart will shatter as he leaves and is taken away to where he is meant to be. It is a painfully bittersweet thought that I try to avoid bringing to mind as much as possible. To be honest, it is frightening, and because I know I will have such a hard time, I desperately want to know how I can hold back while still giving him my all. That, however, seems to be impossible.

So in this way, I, too, have very conflicting feelings. Yet I know my struggle is nowhere close to his. He is the brave one and the one experiencing the greatest confusion and chaos in his little mind which can’t even comprehend what is happening around him. He is the one being thrown back and forth and bearing the brunt of a difficult situation that is a result of no fault of his own. He is the one managing to allow us strangers into his world and giving us a chance to laugh and to play with and to love him. And for that reason, I can love him. I can put aside the fear of my pending hurt as I see his greater pain and his greater need for ALLLLL the love we can offer him at this time. He needs all of it.

The other night, he returned to our house after a weekend visit with his dad and cried for hours. He could not understand why he was with us again and constantly cried out for his father. All night until he eventually cried himself to sleep, all he could say was, “I want daddy… daddy… daddy… daddy….”

Listening to him as I held him, what I really heard through those deeps sobs was, “Daddy, why am I still here? Why isn’t this over yet and why aren’t you coming for me? Daddy, do something to end all of this.” After each attempt to cheer him up utterly failed, we just held him and let him cry. Then when he was finally asleep, my husband and I returned to our rooms and fell to our knees crying as well and begged Abba to do something.

We cried out for God the Father to come, not only for this boy, but for this broken world, and I, too, begged the question of why He wasn’t coming back yet. This world looked so bleak and in the moment, now seemed like a pretty good time to put an end to everything. But of course, God is working and God is also waiting. He is waiting for more and more hearts to turn back to Him and then at the right time, God will defeat the enemy who has been wreaking havoc in this world in so many lives and so many families, and God will gather all His children back to Him. That is the final end to which I wait and pray for. At the same time, I also plead now for the restoration, the resurrection, the wholeness that this little boy needs in his family and that he will be able to be reunited with them once again, once and for all. Lord, we know you can do this. You are sovereign and You are good. Do this, Lord!

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No Room for Groceries

No Room for Groceries

I remember walking through the aisles of the grocery store when Micah, my first child, was just a little infant. I struggled to bounce him in the carrier to keep him from fussing and could hardly manage to get through half my grocery list before we were both breaking down. Then every once in awhile, I would pass another mom with 4 or more kids and my eyes would automatically glaze over. I could not imagine ever being in those shoes, shoes that were tattered and frayed at every corner and stained with mud from playing in the backyard yet still the same pair she mindlessly slipped on everyday because there just was no time to pick another pair, much less buy a new one.

Yet today, I was that mom. With my trusted gray and white sneakers which have also gone through its own war, I mustered up the courage to take all 4 kids to the store for the first time. When we pulled in, I snagged the nearest two seater kid cart (thanking God for the person who invented it), and very strategically slid two in behind the play wheels, put one in the main part of the cart, and instructed the older one carefully to walk beside me. My plan was genius. That is, until I looked down and realized… there was no room for the groceries.

Before I had even entered the store, my cart was already full of these little human beings who I took a moment to look at in disbelief….where did they come from and how did I get here? Yes, my cart was completely full of them, my minivan was full of their carseats, my home was full of their toys, and their rooms were filled with mattresses and clothes and stuffed animals and books.

Slightly overwhelmed, I think I could have panicked because there was so much I needed to get. But instead, I took a deep breath and commanded myself to give thanks because there was SO MUCH MORE to be thankful for and not only the children, but the means I have been given to care for each and every one of them.

Especially since our latest addition, I have absolutely MARVELED at the support we have been given since we have taken in this little boy. Although we have the honor of being the ones hosting this child and being in the trenches with him, I am realizing more and more how we are just one small part of the puzzle and how there are SO MANY PEOPLE who are just as vital in caring for this boy and seeing him through. I cannot stress this enough. WE COULD NOT DO THIS ALONE.

And to clear up any confusion, this is not foster care. It is called Safe Families which is a national movement of Christians and churches all around the country who are stepping forward and answering the call to care for at risk children in our community BEFORE they are placed into foster care. Similar to foster care, these children are placed into a host home while their parents are working on getting back on their feet, but the difference is, there is a NETWORK of people all playing different roles to love the child AND their family with the love of Christ. Our family, specifically, is playing the role of temporarily hosting children, but others who are not have come around us in so many different ways playing their own various role.

For example, when the honeymoon period ended for us with our new little guy and the reality of not being with his biological family set in, he acted out in extreme ways. Rightfully so, he was scared and began to go into survival mode, lashing out at all of us aggressively with claws, fangs, and more. It was a trying period and so easily, we became feeble and tired. Then on top of the behavior which we hardly knew how to handle, we had to get clothes for him, prepare food for the entire family, figure out rides, get him situated into a daycare, and pretty much felt like anything we used to do normally had to take the back seat. The question of “could we really do this” set in with dark clouds.

Then our network within Safe Families reached out to us. All of them pretty much strangers whom we hardly knew, I wasn’t sure how much help they could really be, and at the same time, I feared asking for too much help. But I didn’t even have to ask. Very quickly, along with our church and our friends, these “strangers” came around us and began to offer us supports in every way, just like family would. In the same way we invited this boy into our family, they invited us into their family network, and it has been such a beautiful picture of the body of Christ loving each other selflessly.

Now, our home is full of not only the food and clothing and other items they have given us, but with their prayers, their love, and their unconditional encouragement. What’s more is that since we have been given such lavish support and the ability to focus solely on loving this boy, he has been FLOURISHING. Our house has not only regained order, but it has been thriving and has been even fuller with joy than before this all started.

I am humbled to be part of such an amazing movement and sincerely thank all those who are involved. If ANYONE has a heart for these families and children who are at risk of being separated and becoming orphans, there is a role for everyone in Safe Families, and the best part is, Christ is glorified.

Please contact me if you would like to get involved. It’s not just a ministry or a movement…this is real people with real lives who need a real chance. One is sleeping peacefully down the hall from me this very moment and I seriously feel like I am hosting angels in my home, if not Christ Himself. I am overwhelmed.

 

 

Our First 100 Days

Our First 100 Days

It has been 24 hours since we brought home an enormous bundle of joy, packaged inside of this little 3 year old boy–our first placement. I’ve heard many stories of foster children and adopted children before, but they varied so much that we really did not know what to expect. At the very least, I tried to brace myself for a difficult transition by reading books on trauma, making phone calls to my support network, and praying desperately on my knees for patience and love. After all, no matter how much love we were ready to give him, the reality was that he was being torn apart from the only family that he knew and being thrown into a complete stranger’s home. And I was right–it did not start off easy.

Walking out of the social services office, the caseworker followed us to our car, doing her best to not let the flailing, screaming, kicking body fall out of her arms and onto the concrete below. He was crying bloody murder as if we were kidnapping him, and it sure did look that way. Once we got him in the car, it took both my husband and I to use all our strength to hold him down and strap him into the car seat. We both broke a sweat and tears began to break through the huffing and puffing as I wondered to myself, what in the world are we doing.

A few rows away in that parking lot was his mother, equally distraught, and they both screamed after one another, trembling with rage and confusion, as we finally drove away. I was sitting in the back seat next to him while he screamed the entire hour ride home and my husband and I just glanced at each other with helpless eyes through the rear view mirror.

But then it was done. As we pulled into our neighborhood, his crying suddenly ceased as we joked over his confession that he pee’d in his pull-up. We laughed and wiped away our tears and since then have become the best of friends. He has fit right in with our rowdy family of 5 (7 including the grandparents) and has stolen each of our hearts, even Grandpa Kim who this morning could not even look at him with dry eyes.

Everyone had woken up before him and was already eating pancakes when he was still fast asleep on his super hero bed that we prepared for him. I sat there beside him waiting for him to wake up because I did not want him to open his eyes and be afraid. Soon, my daughter Kindle came in and sat on my lap looking with me at this new person in our home. I asked, “isn’t he amazing?” to which she replied, “he’s beautiful.”

And as I sat there looking at him, I felt my heart torn apart. On one hand, I could feel my heart had miraculously already expanded to love this new little guy in my life as if he were one of my own, but on the other hand, I felt the pain of his past and the pain of his unknown future. This placement was meant to only be for 100 days and while I never thought this would happen, I began to fear the moment I will have to let him go.

100 days. That is his mother’s deadline to get her life in order and then a decision will be made. The “ideal” situation would be that she will be doing great and he and his brother and sisters will be able to go home. But will she be able to give him the best? Will she be able to love, protect, and teach him the way that he needs her to? Will she speak life into him, pray for him, and comfort him when he needs her to? All my motherly instincts kicked in and I wasn’t sure if I could let him go.

But of course, I will have no choice. If all goes according to plan, he will return to her in 100 days. So I began to surrender his life back to the Lord…that it wouldn’t be my will or my love in his life, but that GOD will be with him wherever he goes. I had to lay his life down at the cross.

Then, it didn’t take long for me to realize that the best for him really is to be with his mom. The mom God gave him. The mom, who like me, is broken and makes mistakes. The mom who I can so easily judge to be inferior for the bad decisions and shortcomings in her life. The mom whom when he woke up, this little boy immediately called out for.

He really needs his mom, I realized, and I have made up my mind to pray for her. To pray that she will be restored, healed, and made whole in these next 100 days. To pray that she will meet Christ in a new way and find her identity and the strength and love to care for the beautiful children she has been entrusted with. Yes, I will pray for her and hope in God for what He can do in her life, and in the meantime, I will also love this precious life in our house and hope that he walks away with a little more than what he came here with because he has already given us so much. He has changed our lives forever and I am so thankful for this time.

Thank you God for how you bring families together and how you keep families together as well. Above all, I trust you Lord.