Healing in Shared Suffering

Healing in Shared Suffering

My father-in-law found out he was adopted when he was 26, newly married, and weeks away from welcoming the birth of his first child, my husband. They were never going to tell him, but the secret accidentally came out one day in the middle of a family dispute. Since then, it has been a long road of trauma full of a million unanswered questions that have battered and left him bruised with a perpetual aching of abandonment. Not knowing why this happened or where he belongs or even who to trust, it was difficult for him to move forward.

But he had no choice.

By then, he was a grown man and about to become a father to not just one but to three sons. There was no time, really, to heal those deep inner wounds. So rather, the hurt was simply pushed to the side, numbed up, and suppressed.

That is, until he came face to face with a new little boy in our home. My father-in-law was, at first, very opposed to the idea of us having foster kids or adopted kids or any of the like. He was sure we could not treat or love them the same as our own children, just as he has always felt was the case for himself growing up.

I remember his exact words and how he challenged us:

“You’re not going to love him the same! When they all get sick, who are you going to pick up? Who are you going to love?? You already have your own kids!”

My heart broke as I felt the devastating pain of his past come rising up for the first time in years. Still, it wasn’t long before he gave us his blessing to follow our calling to care for these children. He quickly retorted almost as if countering his own opposition, “If we don’t do it, who will?? We’re Christians, right?? We gotta do it.”

I love my father-in-law.

Then when Rell (our very first placement) came a few days after our paperwork went through, my father-in-law was undone. He looked at this poor little boy as if looking at himself and immediately broke into tears, reliving his own pain. I remember the first night we sat down to dinner, he had to excuse himself and then remained in his room for several hours thinking about God knows what.

From then on, it has been a rollercoaster ride. I could tell there were days it was difficult for my father-in-law to love this boy. There were days he only wanted to care for his own grandchildren and no one else. There were days he didn’t want to have him here, not wanting to deal with his own baggage that kept being triggered, let alone the boy’s baggage that was constantly on display in his disruptive behavior.

This behavior that comes with kids with traumatic backgrounds has tried us all, me especially. It was easy to sympathize with him in the beginning and give him all the patience in the world, but after a while, I became tired.

I became tired of allowing what should be 30 second minor ordeals turn into 30 minute counseling sessions. I became tired of seeing his destructive rage over the smallest little incidents that any normal child should be able to easily brush off. I became tired of having to talk him off the ledge of deep remorse 50 times a day. I became tired of noncompliance, tired of petty fits, tired of his pain, tired of extending grace…

Many nights, I had to crawl into my prayer closet and beg on my knees for more love and grace for this boy. God knows he desperately needs it, and the last thing I wanted was to add to his brokenness. Yet in my very human nature, I found it painfully difficult at times to will myself to connect and to understand on a deeper level just what he was going through.

But thank God for my father-in-law. Because he understands.

Without having to exchange a single word, they have an understanding of each other that no one else in our family has. They have a common history of suffering that, although it is certainly tragic, it is also strangely beautiful when shared and understood. It also makes for the perfect formula for healing.

This past week, our family went on a week long beach trip. It was the first time Rell would play in the ocean and he was super excited. Unfortunately, the very first time he stepped foot into the water, a huge wave crashed over him and he came up gasping for air, only to swallow huge gulps of salty ocean water. He was, once again, traumatized, as he tasted the cup of salty water handed to him in this life.

After that, any time I or anyone else tried to convince him to come back into the water, he screamed and shook in fear. Eventually, we all tired of asking him and just let him play in the sand while everyone else enjoyed splashing through the waves.

I could see, however, the longing in his eyes to join us and play. If it weren’t for his great fear, he would rip through the waves himself and be right there with the rest of us. But there was no helping him. He wouldn’t let us.

Then my father-in-law came. He joined us for the last few days of our time on the beach, and wouldn’t you know it that my father-in-law knew just what it took to bring Rell back into the water. He knew the great patience he needed, the exact words to say, the perfect amount of support and encouragement to provide, and even just the right way to hold his hand. Before I even knew what happened, I looked up to see Rell jumping and splashing in the water with a huge smile on his face and letting out uncontrollable laughter.

I was amazed. It was absolutely beautiful.

What we saw take place there–the victory, the bursting and revival of life–was a result of their special relationship, not only because of the shared suffering they both experienced, but more than that, because of the healing they are both individually discovering as well.

Over the days, weeks, and months that have passed with Rell in our home, there has been a miraculous transformation in my father-in-law. Through all the ups and downs, above all, this has been a time for him to be restored from the hurt of carrying that orphan spirit.

At the very same time, it has given him the opportunity to extend that steady grace to this boy who is now going through the very same thing. What better person can do this than one who has had to go through these things before? More than the rest of us, my father-in-law has the ability to empathize, to understand, to feel, and to be there right in the middle of this boy’s valley of pain and to help walk him out. 

All the more, I see yet another reason why our good God sent His Son to be with us on this earth. Jesus made himself nothing and subject to all the pain we could ever experience so that He may hand-in-hand be with us in our struggles, our fears, our disappointments, our pain, and then, walk us victoriously into newness of life. His suffering was for us, and through it, we can find strength and life through any circumstance we find ourselves in or whatever waves come crashing our way. Just like Rell and my father-in-law, we can take comfort in knowing our God knows exactly what we go through and will never tire of extending His deepest, most heart-felt, transformative, and healing grace. 

He knows, He’s been there before, and He will be our help.  

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Hebrews 4:15-16

 

Advertisements

What Doesn’t Kill Him

What Doesn’t Kill Him

When a fetus is in the womb, it is safely held in a sea of water and protected from bacteria and other pathogens. However, the very second that water breaks and the infant begins to make its way out into the world, it must travel down a passage that is covered completely with microbiomes–various bacteria specifically prepared in the mother for that child to go through. Every baby’s microbiome is different and perfectly unique and tailored to that child. This bacteria completely covers the baby, gets into the eyes, ears, and nose, and is even swallowed.

Normally, this should hurt the newborn. After all, bacteria leads to disease and other harmful side-effects, even death. However, just as soon as the baby passes through this mucky birth canal, it is immediately placed warmly on the mother’s chest and offered its first meal at the breast.

The baby sucks and sucks by instinct, and if it doesn’t get it at first, he is still steadily taught, directed, and encouraged to feed at the breast because no alternative is better. Not even close. Then once the baby latches, liquid gold soon comes flowing into the baby’s body. At this time, baby is first introduced to this perfect milk that is full of immunities, complex sugars, and everything good to cover and complement the mess it just went through. It is the perfect match for that perfect bacteria that has been designed for the baby’s body, and together, they work to build up the baby’s system and its ability to fight off disease for the rest of its life.

The key is, however, that both are always needed–this life giving breast milk and the pathogenic bacteria. With either one missing, the baby will not properly be able to build up the strength it needs to live.

It amazes me that even from the moment of birth, this is the reality we are faced with–we experience and even need both the good and the bad.

Deep breath.

This week we were asked to petition for guardianship over Rell. There was a sudden turn of events, and his parents were deemed incapable of providing for any of their children. So, his three siblings (who had just been reunified at home) were immediately taken by the state. CPS and the police came knocking on their door, and just like that, they were swept away from their chance at staying together.

“Fortunately” for Rell, he was still with us (just a few weeks shy of being reunited with his family himself), and there was a plea on his behalf to be left out of the system and to be allowed to remain in our home. “Fortunately,” they agreed, but only under the condition that we would file legal guardianship over him. “Fortunately” for Rell.

Guardianship. What does that mean? Basically it is the gray area right outside of adoption. We have rights and the freedom to make decisions for him and assume full responsibility over him, but we are not considered his parents. We treat him like family, but he is not really family.

I agreed right away because I love this boy, and I would do anything to keep him safe, but the title didn’t sit so well with me. I wished he could either FULLY be with us through adoption or FULLY be with his biological family. What is this sloppy in between that he has to live with?

Already there have been so many moments that have left him feeling utterly isolated in this situation, and I feel him wanting so badly to belong somewhere.

Sometimes he asks me, “Is mommy going to come get me?” Other times, it’s, “I want to live with my daddy foreva.” Still other times, he looks at me and says with a hopeful smile, “Umma, is you my mommy … foreva?”

He wants a FOREVER family, and who can blame him?

But nothing is certain in his world. I can’t promise him that he’ll be going home to his family because we don’t know if that’ll happen. We can’t tell him that he’ll be with us forever because we don’t know if that’ll be happening either. 

The more I thought about guardianship, the more I hated it for that reason. How is this in any way good for him? All of this, this messy dysfunction he was birthed into, feels way more hurtful than any child should ever have to go through and swallow.

But the other side of guardianship is this: we do get to have him for a time. We get to have him for today, tomorrow, and possibly for a month or even the next 14 years until he becomes an adult.

And for whatever amount of time we get to have him, we get to offer him something good–we can love him, care for him, but most importantly, teach him how to lean into God’s bosom and drink from the cup of His hands. There, he can taste the sweet love of Christ and be strengthened even in this difficult place. 

When he is scared, when he falls down, or when he has a nightmare as he often does, we don’t only comfort him ourselves. Rather, we IMMEDIATELY put him onto the heart of God because although we may not always be there for him, we know that God will. That is the one pure, good, and sure “forever” that we can offer and promise him.

In the middle of the night when he’s in tears and afraid, “Sing praise, Relly. Worship. Let’s sing loud and sing hard. Praise God and the fear will leave you. You’ve got to sing.”

When he’s struggling to ride a bike and he has fallen down for the 20th time, “Get back up Relly and ask God to make your legs strong. Ask God for strength to pump your legs. Pump harder! You got this! God is your strength! Say it! God is my strength! You can do it!”

With tears, I shout, declare, and even demand this 4 year-old boy learn these truths now because this is his milk after the muck. And there is no better alternative. 

Then just maybe, this unique combination of the terrible, messy hardship in his life along with the perfect love of God will create for him a life that is strengthened and able to sustain him. Maybe what doesn’t kill him really will make him stronger. And we don’t want to see him just make it… we want to see him soar, and sometimes we even see him soaring now. 

So although it is hard at times and we struggle to see the good in all this when we can’t understand, we trust that God knows what this little boy can handle, and we hope that this seemingly dark place is still all for his good.

For that reason, we can always rejoice and say, thank you, Lord. Even in this, we rejoice. 

If we are to really live, if we are to grow, and if we are to thrive, once we all inevitably experience each of our unique microbiomes of hardship, chaos, and pain that have been laid out for our lives, we must also IMMEDIATELY lean into the Father and drink of His sweet goodness. While our suffering in some form or another will always be there, so also will be the Lord and His goodness. He is so good. And in the end, God knows and wills and works to perfectly make it all turn out for our good.


“Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her;
rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her.
For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance.”
For this is what the Lord says:
“I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream;
you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees.
As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you;
and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

Isaiah 66:10-13

Letting People Come and Go

Letting People Come and Go

I find that change takes a big toll on me whether I know it or not, especially with goodbyes. Even when I mentally know it is a for-the-better kind of goodbye, internally, I can get all out of sorts. Such has been the case as we have been transitioning little Rell out of our home. In a few weeks, he will be reunited with his family, and while I KNOW that him going back to his family is best, even as I sit here and write about it, I can feel little alarms going off inside that are crying out to hold on as tight as I can—the war between my mind and heart is real and rumbles constantly regarding his soon departure.

I didn’t know it would be so hard for me to let go. I also didn’t know it would be so hard for my kids to let go as well. 

I started telling my oldest son a couple weeks ago that Rell would be going back to his home. At first, he didn’t say much and only asked a few questions.

“Will we see him again? Is he leaving forever?”

 “Well, I hope we can still see him from time to time. But yes, he will be living with his family forever.” Then after a long pause and with the most convincing smile I could manage, “Isn’t that great?!” 

Seeing my unexpected enthusiasm, he searched my eyes to look for the traces of sadness and hurt he suspected were there. How did he know? Maybe it’s because he is the child who grew in my womb just inches away from my beating heart, and he knows it too well. Whether beating or bleeding, he knows it, and in this moment, it was bleeding.

 Nonetheless, because I was determined to only be happy about this situation, he let it go and accepted my pretense while forcing a smile of his own. He said he was happy because he could play with all his toys again and have his bed back. “Hooray,” he said under his breath. 

But then a week went by, and it didn’t take long for me to see there was a war going on inside of my son as well. At first, I noticed little things like a little more bickering between the two. Soon bickering turned to insult which turned to what felt like a fierce cold war. And it was entirely one-sided coming from my son’s end. What was going on? For months, I saw no such hostility from any of my children toward Rell, but now it was all coming out full force.

Then I realized—my son is trying to disconnect. He knows his “brother” is leaving, and it’s hard for him too. 

Because each of us in our own unique ways has been going through this same process and acting in ways we don’t mean to act. While on the outside, we all wildly celebrate the victory for Rell’s family, we also grieve the loss of a child we have come to accept as part of our own and don’t know what to do with ourselves. Will he even remember us?? And all the while, our hearts have been alerted to defend themselves at all costs and to detach from this one we’ve all come to deeply love. 

I, for one, found myself feeling jealous, insecure, sad, unsure, and scared. Sure, I praised God for the good news, but I was also jealous of his family who would get to enjoy seeing the rest of his life, insecure that he’d forget all about us, sad that I may not have done my best for him, unsure what life would be like when he’s gone, and scared I would never be able to open myself up to another child again. What’s worse was that all of this quickly translated into irritability, impatience, and an overall grouchiness that I could not shake off. I wished I could return the boy without a second thought, like a robot, but that was obviously not possible—I was so human it hurt. 

I, too, was disconnecting. 

But once I realized what was happening and that poor Rell was getting the brunt of my selfish defenses, I stopped myself. One day after seeing how cold I had been, I held him close and told him, “I’m so sorry. I’m not mad at you… I promise. But I’m going to miss you a lot.” He didn’t know why I was apologizing, but being the compassionate boy he is, he gently responded, “I miss you too momma…love you,” and hugged me tight before running off to play. 
He has no idea, really, what is going on inside me, but without knowing it, he is also teaching me a great deal about saying goodbye.   

For the last five+ months, Rell has taken in another whole family into his heart and has traveled back and forth between us and his biological family every few weeks. In the times he has been at our home, he has FULLY been with us and has given us his all, loving us and allowing us to love him in return. He calls us umma and appa (mom and dad in Korean) and knows he has a place in our arms anytime he wants. Yet at the same time, it was always evident how much he still loved his family back at home whom he said goodbye to for the week. By the way he always talked about them,  we knew for certain they were always in his heart even when with us.

What was surprising, however, was that whenever he went back to his family for a weekend visit, he would cheerfully say goodbye to us and go back to his family, only to do the same thing to there. He would love being with them so much, but we were also always told that he talked about us constantly with such endearment. They said they could tell he loved us so much, just like family. 

The fact was, whether here or there, his heart had grown big enough to hold us all.

And that is what I learned we could do as well.

Now that the time is nearing for Rell to go home permanently, I have desperately been trying to wrap my mind around this concept of goodbye. Except now, I no longer mourn a loss, but I take great comfort in this supernatural God-given ability I have witnessed in Rell for our hearts to expand and forever carry the people who come into our lives, no matter where they may go. I can cheerfully say goodbye, just as he always has, and bless him or anyone else on their journey onward, knowing we will not be left with a void but with a special place in our hearts permanently filled with the memories and blessings that were brought through their very real presence in our lives. And there are so many. 

So with gladness, I have learned to say goodbye. Goodbye to this little boy, goodbye to many who have left us before, and goodbye to the many who will come hereafter. It has been our greatest joy to have had Rell and so many other amazing people come and go in our lives, and I can now say that it was all well worth it and that I also hope it never stops. Our family will open our hearts wide and welcome in anyone as family every time—sometimes for a day and sometimes for a month but always for a lifetime.

I bless you and your family Rell. I will never forget you, and I thank you for all the memories and lessons you have taught me. Umma loves you so much and there will always be a place for you in our hearts and in our home. Please be well. Kisses and hugs.

I Let Myself Go

I Let Myself Go

Sometimes… I forget to brush my teeth in the morning. I wear baggy tees and sweats more than I do anything else. If I’m lucky, I can slap on a pair of jeans and my kids wonder if I’m going somewhere special. Showers are a luxury and so is brushing my hair. In fact, my hairbrush is now used more for the brushing of synthetic hairs on dolls rather than my own. At least it is being put to use.

So, yes, I guess you can say I’ve let myself go, and while I used to once dread the possibility of such a thing, it is a decision I now choose to make and accept everyday–to let go.

This unraveling of my former self and surrendering of control has been driven by the unseen yet overwhelming force of little ones being present in my life and began when I first became a mother. Over the years, I have surrendered a clean house, an up-to-date wardrobe, peaceful mealtimes, nights of uninterrupted sleep, and even close relationships, at least the way I once knew them. All this and more I have let go of since this “force” has come and swept through my life like some kind of natural disaster that keeps pummeling through over and over again in all of its glorious chaos.

It is definitely painful and disorderly at times, but unlike a true natural disaster which only causes devastation, this force that comes with motherhood brings life.

A wild and unkempt state of affairs is the new normal and something I now embrace because it is simply the residue of the little lives (lives that I love) that are simply living and being and making their way into this world. The force that comes along with such magnificent life and beauty cannot be helped.

Now everyday I stand in front of a mirror while staring at my somewhat disheveled reflection that is always blurred behind some kind of smear or smudge or tiny fingerprint, and I smile. I smile because I have accepted all that I see before me and I also smile because I remember so vividly that warm July day when this force first took over my life and first challenged me to let go. 

It was a little less than six years ago in a small hospital delivery room, just hours before my first child was born. There, I experienced for the first time an unspeakable force I never could have even imagined. It was the start of labor.

Once labor began, I could feel these waves of intense pangs that rhythmically came and went inside me. As each one passed, they gradually grew bigger and bigger, longer and stronger. They swept over my entire body every few minutes like huge waves crashing over and inside me and then ebbed away only to come back again and again.

One wave of contraction was so powerful that I was literally knocked off my feet but thankfully caught by the bed beside me. Then on the force went.

On and on for hours I endured this untamable force of life trying to make its way into the world and all I could do was hold on for dear life. For even then as just a little fetus, the force this child came with felt greater than any known natural phenomenon. Hurricanes, tsunamis, typhoons, and the like–they all paled in comparison to what rumbled within me. Right then and there, I knew I was in for a ride and my life would never be the same again.

And with every wave that continued to come in those gruelling 36 hours, my instinct was to grab onto anything I could–a pillow, a hand, my body, my life, anything to save me from the debilitating force that took over me. Yet every time I clenched my fists, my eyes, and my jaws to brace myself for each new wave, the pain only increased and I would hear a whisper beside me that reminded me, “let go…”

These words came from the kindest, most gentle human being on the face of the planet who also happened to be my doula, my birth assistant, my angel. This woman stood beside me and my husband every step of the way and whenever I started to fight that great force, she gently reminded me to let go and to let life take its course.

Over time, I heeded her directions and came to a point of true surrender, and that is when things got moving and it all became easier, more bearable, and dare I say even enjoyable. Rather than kicking and screaming through waves crashing over me, I found myself being able to float and ride over even the greatest of waves as I let them come and then gently let them go. When I finally reached the climactic end of this great force, I closed my eyes with one final push and then opened my eyes to see the most beautiful form of life before me. It was life in its purest form.

Now 6 years later, that force is still with me today.

It is the force of 4 pairs of hands pulling at my shirt in 4 different directions, it is the force of 4 little bodies fighting to make space on my lap at once, and it is the force of 4 lungs all screaming or singing or laughing at the same time into my bleeding ear drums both day and night.

And whenever the force of motherhood smacks me down off my feet like it first did in that delivery room and I feel like I’m drowning rather than floating through the process of raising these children, I command myself to open my eyes once again and to gaze at life.

I look into their eyes and at their still small form, and I marvel as much as I can because one of these days I know I will look up one final time and the force will be gone. All of them will be grown and beaming in the fullness of life with everything I have taught them and it will be time for them to go. Then I will have no choice but to let go. They will ebb away and all I will be able to do is HOPE that they ebb back to me from time to time some day.

That moment should feel like light years away since they are all just a few years old now, but it has been on my mind because in  a few months, I will already have to let one go.

The little boy who stormed into our lives this past March and who we have had the joy of hosting will be leaving us. We received news this week that after battling what felt like insurmountable challenges, legalities, setbacks, and obstacles, grace prevailed and the judge made the verdict to give custody back to his biological parent. A second chance has been given and this family will be reunified. It is the very news we have been hoping and praying for and now that it has finally come to pass, the only thing left to do is to prepare ourselves to let go.

There is no doubt a sting of pain that comes with the idea of missing this boy’s presence, cuddles, and laughs as well as becoming a mere blip in his memory. We’ve even attached since day one, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say a part of me wants to hold on.

But even greater still is my desire for his life to flourish and be where he is meant to be. So I will let go and do so with great fondness of the rich time we had together and with great honor of having mothered him through one of the most intense, difficult, and crazy waves of his life. Hand in hand we rode over it together, and now we just pray that this time will end with the birth of a fuller and greater life for this boy’s entire family.

With that, I let go and bask in the joy of mothering the rest of my children and others along the way in order to release them all into the fullness of life. There is no greater joy.

And to all the other mothers who have been experiencing the force and learning to let go everyday, Happy Early Mother’s Day!

No Borders

No Borders

It has been amazing to watch my children welcome another child into their lives. Just like the rest of us, they have known about the possibility of this new addition for the last few years and have waited for this friend/brother/sister to come join them in their room. It didn’t even matter that one of my kids would be bumped to a mattress on the floor. In fact, my oldest gladly volunteered to give up his bed before we even thought to ask. Then when we finally received news a little boy was coming to stay with us, the kids were ecstatic and prayed with us every night over the empty bed beside theirs, wondering what he would be like.

Then he came. And it was as if he was family all along.

I’m not sure what I expected of my children who are all under the age of five, but whatever it was, they completely exceeded all of my expectations. I have not only been absolutely shocked by how they have loved this kid from day one, but on a regular basis, I am inspired, humbled, and in awe. Most of all, I am amazed at how there are no borders around their heart. While the rest of us spent days and weeks wondering to what extent we should touch him, how we should speak to him, and even what we should refer to him as, they calculated no such thing.

They dove right in, embraced him as a brother, and welcomed him to be part of the family. It did not matter to them where he came from, what he looked like, or how he might respond. They just loved him. It took the boy a little longer (but not by much) to have the same sentiments, but starting last week, he began to proudly tell my children that they were his “sistuh” and “bruddah” as well. Of course, my daughter beamed from cheek to cheek and my son who plays the big brother role nodded with approval.

I was so proud of them, all of them, because it is one thing to ask an adult to love, but to ask another child to love so bravely? I wasn’t so sure they could do it… and I could not have been more wrong.

Maybe it’s a kid thing. Because I see the same thing in this little boy. He comes to me like I am, and have been, his mom all along. Sometimes I think he was sent to love on me more than to be loved by me because I often feel like his love is so much sweeter than mine. He cups my face gently in his little hands and looks into my eyes like he’s known me his whole life. He runs up from behind me to throw his arms around my neck for surprise hugs and he never fails to reach his hands to place them into mine wherever we go.

And the other morning, I was in my bathroom, and having washed up and gotten dressed and ready for the day, I came out looking a little fresher than usual as a stay-at-home-mom. When I opened the door, I found him on my bed staring up at our wedding photos on the wall. When he saw that I had come out, he looked up at me with this gentle smile and whispered, “You’re perfect.”

Did this three-year-old boy really just say that I was perfect? He doesn’t even know me!

Shocked, I ran right up to him, picked him up, and asked him what he said. When he repeated those words once more, I hugged him as tight as I could and spun him around in circles. Then one by one, the rest of my children crawled out of the blankets in my bed where they had been hiding and began jumping wildly on top of one another in squeals and laughter.

Just watching them, I felt winded by the sheer magnitude and tenderness of their affections for one another. How they have opened up their hearts like this in such a short time, how he has learned to trust and love in return, how he has disarmed his fears as well as our own–it is all truly beyond me.

I am so thankful that we get to have this sweet time together. He has become family. Truth be told, he is even starting to look like the rest of us. Even though he is half black, half white and we are Korean, some have mistaken him and my daughter to be twins. I thought they were crazy at first, but now I don’t blame them. He is starting to look a little Asian to me as well. But no matter what he looks like or what we look like as well, no matter the fact that we aren’t blood or even family by law, it is so refreshing and liberating to have no divides standing between us because we have torn them all down with this love he taught us that knows no borders.

It is most definitely something to be learned. I am learning it more and more everyday, and in this way, I am learning yet another face of God who embraces all and loves so freely, inviting us all to be part of His family. I want to be that free. Free to love and free to be loved in return. This is what we all need. It is and has been healing for all of us.

And I pray these kids never stop being so free.

 

Thy Will Be Done

Thy Will Be Done

Thy Will Be Done

These are words that have been all too familiar through my life groomed as a Christian. Yet these days, I find they are no longer mere mechanical words, but a genuine plea that I often find myself uttering to God straight from the pit of my soul.

When there’s no way out, Thy will be done. When there are no answers, Thy will be done. When I cannot see what is to come ahead and have no choice but to only live by faith, Thy will be done. 

And what exactly is God’s will?

Is it that my many sins be cast away? Is it that I relinquish control over my past, present, and future life? Is it to let go of my quickness to anger, to snap, and to let my hasty tongue go loose? Or is it to trust in God fully when nothing goes according to what I desired or what I had planned. Yes, all this and more, is this not the will of the Lord that these things I have held onto so desperately should completely DIE within me?

It is then no wonder that as I fearfully whisper these four words under my breath at every turn and difficult juncture of my life, that it has caused nothing short of  wrenching pain because DEATH is indeed what is transpiring.

I am dying. 

Dying to my will and learning to let it go. In this way, I die more everyday, and this is the great will of the Lord that I have learned to yearn for when I say the words, thy will be done:

Thy will be done and my will be dead.

It may seem a bit grim and difficult to believe that God desires the death of me–to inflict pain on one He loves and strip me of my life–and while it may pain Him to do so, it is the same will that Jesus asked for in the garden on the way to His gruesome death on the cross where He died according to the will of the Father. God’s will for us may also appear to be gruesome or painful and dark at the time, but only in passing because beauty is just up ahead.

So what is my will that must die today.

While I have plenty of different obsessions, sins, worries, and agendas that come to mind, the one thing that stands out the most is the lives of my children.

Over the years, so much of my will has been the driving force of my parenting decisions. Even in the daily grind, I find myself trying to exert control over their little lives and what I want for them in every single little way. I toil in my training and raising them up. I anxiously mull over the difficulties and obstacles they will most likely face in the years to come. Most of all, I desperately hope they will hold on to their faith. While some of this may sound like “good parenting,” a good amount of it is my earthly, short-sighted will that stands with its back against the true will of God.

And in these past few weeks, I have cried out for safety and protection and everything good for this new addition to our household. I want so badly the very best for him, but because I don’t know what that really is, I have again come to that place of surrender and asking God’s will and not my own. I do it with trembling because more pain may be involved. There are no clear outcomes of what will take place in this boy’s life in these next few months and his future is even more uncertain than the lives of any of my own biological children whom I have, too, worried about incessantly.

Even in this week alone, I have heard stories and news of instability and destruction still raging through this boy’s family sphere which has left him facing potentially dramatic and traumatizing life altering events which he has no idea about while staying sheltered in our home. As for me, there is nothing I can do, but care for him in the now and hope God pours into the seeds we have sown into his eternity. With absolutely no control over the situation, all I can do is bow down at the feet of the cross where Jesus died and echo the same words He spoke before–Not mine, but Thy will be done … in this boy’s life.

Because Jesus did it, I can do it too. I can die to myself in all things and trust in God.

Today is Good Friday and it is indeed and truly GOOD because we know the story does not end with death, but it ends with LIFE. It ends with victory and it ends with triumph. That is what I wait and hope for…the good that is yet to come and God’s perfect and good will in each of these children’s lives until… it is finished.

Thy will be done, Lord.

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.