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

Advertisements

From the Belly, From the Heart

From the Belly, From the Heart

Birth videos have become popular in my household since I’ve become a doula and childbirth instructor. I show them in my classes as an educational tool and am always looking for new ones for my students. I often get sucked into watching birth after birth because I find them all so amazing. Therefore, my kids have also gotten accustomed to seeing them as well. My daughter especially LOVES watching babies being born, and whenever it is her day to pick what to watch on TV, her answer is always, “the baby and mommy one!” She would choose a baby’s birth over Dora any day.

Ever since I decided to let her have a peek at her first birth film, I believe she saw it then, and still sees it now, the same way as I do–it is the most beautiful thing on earth.

I’m glad birth doesn’t scare her like it commonly does for so many women and people in general. Call her naive, but I hope she never fears what could be the most amazing moment of her life–the day she gives birth to a child of her own. She’s funny and often says, “Umma, I can’t waittttttt. I’m waiting for a REALLY long time. It’s taking TOO long. I really want to be a mommy, and I want to be in YOUR class!”

This is life as a doula’s daughter.

Anyways, last week all the kids woke up from their naps, and it was their 30 minute screen time. It was also Kindle’s turn to pick, so of course, baby movie it was. The three boys were there as well, so we all sat cuddling on our couch watching a family birth their first child.

I think part of the reason my kids like watching these films so much is because they know I’ve gone through the same process with each of them. They ask me questions about their individual births and are fascinated that they were once in my belly as well. This particular afternoon, Kindle turned to me and said, “Mommy, I was in your belly too in the beginning! And so was Micah and Moses. But not Rell. He was not in your belly.”

Silence.

Rell looked back at me and thought quietly about what Kindle had just said. He looked sad. Because, well, it was true. Rell did not come from my belly. In fact, he’s not even adopted, so it has been a bit of a sensitive topic using certain terminology such as “family” and “brother” and “sister.” It’s tricky because we want to be clear and truthful that he has a family of his own trying to get him back home, but we also don’t want him to feel like an outsider in our home. We want him to feel like family, and since he’s been with us for months now, it often feels that way to all of us. But I also know there are times he doesn’t feel like he completely belongs.

This was one of those times, and I hated that.

Instantly, all those months of connecting and forming secure attachments and trust between us seemed to crack and divide with that one mountain of a statement. Just like that, I could tell he felt worlds apart.

I couldn’t stand for that, though, because in my book, he was part of the family and had a place in our home just as much as anyone else. I had to say something to bring him back, so quickly, I said the first thing that came to mind.

“That’s true. Rell was not in my belly. God only put Micah, Kindle, and Moses in my belly… but God did put Rell in my heart, and Rell was in my heart for years before he came to our home.”

Silence again.

I hoped they wouldn’t ask for the biology behind what I had just said, so before they could shoot out all the questions that were probably going through their little smarty pants brains, I grabbed them all for a big family hug, just long enough to catch the smile on Rell’s face, and ended the conversation with, “Snacks anyone?!”

Quite frankly, however, this is something that has been on my mind for a while now. As much as I hate to admit this, as a parent who plans to adopt one day, one of the number one things that crosses my mind is about how much a non-biological child can really feel part of the family and how much that family can really love them like their own. I know others must wonder about this as well.

Do we really love him like our own? Can we even do that?

What I’ve finally come to understand is that the answer is yes. Yes, we can love another child JUST like our own; we can give them this love that is fierce, protective, kind, patient, enduring, hopeful, trusting, and unfailing, all because I have come to accept one thing–and that is that this love I give is also completely full of flaws and mistakes.

Strangely, it is this last point that gives me the most comfort and confidence in loving another child just like my own. 

It is because I know that in loving even my own children from my womb, I have made countless mistakes. In moments of stress or fatigue or frustration, I have succumbed to the the lies of the enemy and/or the weight of my sin and have had shameful moments of unthinkable and regretful thoughts like wishing I was childless. I have had to battle with forgiving myself as a failed mother over and over again for disappointing my children. Above all, I have had to get back up and continue on in my weakness, but more importantly, in HIS perfect love and strength, time and time again. This is the only kind of love I carry, and it is one for all.

Therefore, I don’t have to preoccupy myself with the question of whether or not I can love another child with the same kind of love I give to my children. With either child, I will have times that I feel like I cannot do it and that my love is not enough, but I will never let those momentary struggles prevent me from the surpassing riches of being their mother; and they will all get the same unrefined kind of love I offer that is perfected only in Christ.

His love is perfect and greater and beyond any borders of race, biology, grievances, shortcomings, and/or mistakes. Christ has loved us all deeply the same and calls us to do so to one another as well, whether it is my bio kid, adopted kid, or the kid next door.

It is all through Him. We get to love all our children the same, and it starts not in our wombs and not even really in our hearts, but we have all been born out of the love of God. His family reigns above all.

Thank you God for leading us on this journey that you call us to be on and for providing for us in every way that we lack. We are honored to see the miracle of perfect love in our home be made manifest through Your love as we welcome in those who are far and those who are near. 

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.”
Ephesians 2:13-22

 

Shattered at Home

Shattered at Home

Sometimes, I can be nice, compassionate, patient, and kind. I’d like to think that these are the words that describe me best, but really, this is just what most people see on the outside.

It’s easy to be nice when people are watching, but how about at home?

Sure, I can be nice at home, too. We have plenty of good times. I’ve even been caring for another kid, so how bad could I be. But home is also where my flesh–my temper, my bouts of rage, my impatience, and selfishness–all the ugly stuff comes out as well. At the flip of a switch, I can snap. My words of love and grace can turn to knives, and I can be downright mean and hostile. Just push my buttons the right way and you’ll see.

Maybe it’s because I’m most comfortable at home. Or maybe it’s because I’m around ones who I know will love me no matter how terrible I act. Or maybe, it’s because one of Satan’s greatest desire is to destroy the home–the very place we are to build a family that reflects the greater family of God–and he is attacking us whenever he can, especially in our weakness.

Last week, my son and our Safe Families son were kicking around a ball in the kitchen. I have told them repeatedly before that all the balls should stay in the basement or outside. Before I could even give them a warning, however, one of them kicked the ball a little too high and it went crashing into a mason jar sitting on the counter.

I winced at the sound of the shattering glass on our tile floor. And I was done.

They weren’t trying to disobey me. Really, they were just having fun. But of course, this also happened to be my last straw. 

Prior to this moment of “fun,” 3 out of the 4 kids had been sick for over a week, the baby was screaming in pain from an ear and eye infection combo, everyone was grumpy and constantly bickering or crying at the top of their lungs, someone had pooped on the floor, and another peed in bed. I was also sick myself. To make matters worse, the one car we shared was in the shop and while it was over 90 degrees outside, our AC was not working. Now, I had to clean a kitchen full of tiny shards of glass that had slid all over the floor into every nook and cranny… with a crying baby on my hip.   

I wanted to crawl up into a ball on my bed in fetal position or just walk out of the house and not look back, but those unfortunately were not real options.

So instead, I lost it. I went full force in my flesh. First, I directed it all to my oldest because he should understand, he should be more responsible, and he should be able to take the heat.

So in the meanest, loudest, and scariest voice I could manage to find, I tore him up with my rebuke. I could immediately see the remorse and fear in his eyes, but my fury could not so easily be appeased. So I kept going. And as out of control and reckless I was with each loveless word that came flying out of my mouth, I knew in the back of my mind that great damage was being done. Much more than the cup he had shattered onto the ground, I was shattering his spirit, wrangling it, and leaving it for dead. Then with nothing but anger in my eyes, I stared at the rest of them as they whimpered and tried to hide behind the one who had been attacked. Not an ounce of mercy seemed to survive the rampage. I could not disarm myself, and I think I even felt a shade of that dark color called hate. Whatever it was, it was not love and who knew that could be possible with your children. 

Not wanting to deal with any of it anymore, I demanded them all go downstairs while I huffed through an hour of picking up all the broken pieces. As I did, I trembled through my frustration because it all felt too much. It felt impossible to pick up every piece of broken glass and it felt impossible to live this life right. I thought of how hard this was and how I’m a terrible mom and how my children and especially this child who is not even my own should not be in this kind of home. I wished I didn’t have to deal with his behavior anymore, and in fact, I wished he would just be gone and return to his home, now, if that were possible. Then I thought, wow, I’m nothing but a fake and this is not what I signed up for. I actually thought I could do this? No, I can’t do this anymore.  I felt so defeated and done.

 I agreed with all the lies.

And I wondered what life would be like if I did really walk out. I wouldn’t have to care for anyone but myself. I could do whatever I wanted, go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. But then what?

But then I would’ve missed out on this.

After I finished cleaning up and gathered myself, I quietly walked to where all the little ones were now quietly playing. They looked nervous and weren’t sure what to expect from me, so without hesitation, I scooped them up just barely able to get my arms around all four kids. I felt so ashamed and humbled to have to confess that I was wrong to my children, but I knew I had to. I reminded myself, my job is not to be some perfect authority figure to them, but it is to love them and to show them we can’t… but that Jesus can.

Once I apologized, they also teared up in relief and leaned in to be held closer. They even wiped away my tears and whispered softly that they were sorry too. Even the newest addition, who I was now sure hated me and would never look at me the same again, whispered, “I love you, mommy.” Thank you, Jesus, I thought. Then together, we confessed our need for Jesus once more as a family and there was peace.

“This” is the joy that comes in the morning. “This” is the light of dawn after the night. “This” is resurrection, reconciliation, and restoration that comes when we are at the end of ourselves and finally dead to ourselves as well. “This” is Jesus being made strong in our weakness and doing for us what we can’t do on our own. And “this” is the house full of laughter, giggles, and cuddles I woke up to today. The little boy even kissed me on the nose and said, “you’re cute mommy.” 

And I told myself, I wouldn’t miss this for the world.

If I turn away from what is difficult and broken rather than turn into the hope of Jesus, I would miss out on ALL of THIS… the FULLNESS of life that only comes when you persevere while witnessing Jesus’ saving work in our lives and in our families.

God knows I can’t do this on my own. Sometimes He just has to make that a little more clearer through shattered glass. So I surrendered once more, and I was so glad that I did because I got to experience all “this” and more.

Of course this is just another snippet of the journey. There are battles everyday to come against the devil and my flesh. So I pray for God to uphold our families, our marriages, friendships, and any other relationships He has established along the way. Together, we can taste heaven. Don’t listen to the lies. Don’t agree with the enemy. Don’t for a second believe that your situation is not worth it.

Because I know that Satan hates what is happening in our home right now and he tries to shatter it. He hates that our household is one with Christ and he hates that we have dared to even invite another family into our literal house as well as our spiritual house of God. And although Satan’s attacks may be great and my flesh my fail, we press on and we press into the goodness of God. Then even more than Satan’s displeasure and the damage he can cause, I feel the exceeding pleasure of the Lord who loves us even in our weakness and also knows how to pick up shattered pieces and make us whole again.

Let us grow in love, even in our homes….especially in our homes.

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh… the acts of the flesh are obvious: …hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions…. but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  Galatians 5:13-23

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.

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!