in the battle

Thursday, April 28, 2011

We are in the middle of a huge battle for our family. Things are not going well in the system on behalf of the children in our home. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the best place for Mr. B and Baby R is in our home. The professionals involved, including Mr. B's therapist, the supervising psychiatrist in his case, and the Children's Services psychiatrist all agree. However, the adoption matching team is in severe disagreement with these assessments. Or, at the very least, they have very serious questions and will not make a decision. So what is the problem? We are confused and hurt and angry and very fearful of what the future might hold for Mr. B and Baby R. We don't know what to do.

I feel like when we get hope in this case, it becomes a little about me. I start planning for the future. I start dreaming about our family as they grow. However, when Mr. B and Baby R are threatened, it becomes all about them. I can't reconcile the fact that God may allow something bad to happen to these children. again. Haven't they had enough?

Today, my prayer is, "God, enough." They have had enough. They deserve better than this. Last night Mr. B prayed, "Jesus, thank you that I never have to go back to [a previous abusive home]. Please can Papa and Mama and Ben and Maggie and Jepperson (Jefferson) be me and [Baby R's] family forever? Amen." I feel slightly guilty because I'm sitting here, telling him that Jesus stays with little children, that Jesus loves little children, that Jesus listens to little children. Will He? Will He prove Himself real to this almost four-year-old little boy? I believe what is happening right now is shaping Mr. B's faith for life. Will this be yet one more thing he has to overcome?

Once again, God! Enough! Please!

We have a meeting next Wednesday to discuss whether or not visitation will continue and what is in all of these children's best interest. It will not be a decision meeting, just a discussion meeting. But it is very important. Very, very important. Then, we've been told that another matching meeting will not occur for another two and half months. We hope that's not true. Except that it does give us two and half more months. I will take whatever time they give me. I would not trade two and a half more months of uncertainty for five more days of knowing they're leaving. Whatever they'll give us, we'll be doing the best we can. We'll be praying for a miracle. Praying for answers. Praying for victory. (In the spiritual sense, not a 'personal' victory)

We will fight for what's best for these children if necessary, in any way we can. It's somewhat against my Mennonite-ness or perhaps just my nature in general to think about fighting, but one of my very best and closest and oldest (not in age, but in friendship years) friends this week reminded me that if there was ever an occasion for us to find Biblical backup for fighting, this was it.
Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. Isaiah 1:17
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. Deuteronomy 10:18
Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Psalm 82:3-4
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

Today, I am clinging to an Old Testament story of a battle. One that I feel God is giving me for this particular situation. I don't yet know if this story means that we won't need to fight at all, but I do know that we're not being called to 'fight' right now. Right now, we're to take up our positions and stand firm. I don't think that means do nothing. To take up your positions would indicate action. We're going to defend. Stand up for what's right and just. Advocate on behalf of our children. If God chooses to take us further into this battle, then we'll have to seek His will at that point. Right now, we choose to put our eyes on Him.
"For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you....This is what the Lord says to you: 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.'" 2 Chronicles 20:13, 15-17

it's still Friday

Monday, April 25, 2011

First a free gift:
Maggie's rendition of the Easter story as overheard at lunch today -
"When they put him in the tomb, he got all wrapped up in that sparkly stuff. Then they rolled the stone so that no one could steal the body. Like an Easter egg. Then they opened and he came popping out. It was awesome. Jesus comes out happy. He's like the bunny. Bunnies are always happy. He doesn't come out all like, "I'm alive! I'm alive!" He comes out and then people have to go find him."
I'm personally impressed with her ability to integrate our bunnies and candy traditions into the Resurrection story.

Tony Campolo is a definite favorite of mine, and my parents introduced him to us at a very young age. As a result, I can nearly recite his It's Friday but Sunday's Coming sermon. It definitely doesn't originate with him, but he is the first person that I ever heard preach it. I've heard it a lot. You may have as well, but it does frame my Easter weekend in a new way this year. Mostly because yesterday did not feel like Resurrection Sunday to me. We've had a hard week. We have no answers. We've lost some hope. It still feels like Friday. Every day is a Friday for us right now...but I still count the gifts because I know that Sunday's coming. It might not have come yesterday. I don't know when it'll feel like Resurrection Sunday again in this house. But it's coming.

So I count...
Sunday's comin.

164. opportunities to trust
165.rain-soaked lawns
166. ducklings all in a row
167. freshly mowed grass
168. fire-charred hot dogs
169.smoldering embers
170. a husband who mops floors
171. the purity of the tears of lament
172. the soul-crushing agony of the wait. My whole life feels like a Friday...but Sunday's comin'.
173. fullness of heart at seeing my children with long-distance grandparents
174. the creamy spiciness of a truly excellent chili relleno
175. the best Easter basket hiding spot
176. a full, welcoming Easter table
177. redemptive 'welcome homes'
178. healing time with the littlest boy

pray pray pray

Thursday, April 21, 2011

This is the song I've been singing for the past two days. I need it. I need the grace.

I will pray, pray, pray until I see Your smiling face. I will pray, pray, pray to the One I love.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Today reminds me of our first placement where there was court scheduled every week that would tell us whether or not Mr. R and Miss R would go home. We would wait and wait and wait, and then we would find out nothing. It was always on Friday, so we would never even be able to check on stuff until the next work week. I have such a knot in my chest today. There is supposed to be a meeting to decide some aspects of the future of this case. Namely, whether or not the siblings will be placed back together and whether or not the visitations would continue. This meeting was supposed to occur last week, but no decision was made. So it's to a different committee this week. We hope. We pray that something is decided. I wouldn't be as worried if we hadn't had a not-so-good introduction to the adoption case worker yesterday at the visit. It was uncomfortable, to say the least. I'm hoping this lady was having a bad day. I'm praying her opinions will not weigh more heavily than the evidence and opinions already submitted. I pray for answers.

I feel panicky and terrified, and I'm not quite sure what to do with it. I'm trying to trust. I'm trying to hope. Today, trust and hope feel far from me. I have no words to pray. I've just been reciting verses and singing songs and composing my own mantra - not of hope, not of trust, but of choice. That's all I have today. Just the choice.

God, even if we find out no news today, I still choose You.
If we find out bad news today, I still choose You.
If the road You have for us to walk is going to get much more painful, I still choose You.
If You allow unimaginable pain for Mr. B and Baby R, as well as Ben and Maggie, it'll be hard. I'll hate it. I might be really, really angry with You. But I still choose You.
I choose You.

I would have lost heart,
unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

Psalm 27: 13-14

springtime is a double-edged sword

Monday, April 18, 2011

I am having the worst allergy day that I've had since fall today. It's supposed to rain later, and I'm hoping that settles stuff back down so that I can breathe. It didn't help that I was so exhausted after a busy Palm Sunday/worship team/baby shower weekend. Hopefully tomorrow will be better, even if it is visitation day.

Counting the gifts in the midst of my sneezes and sniffles...

149. 13 years of marriage
150. a miraculous psychiatric evaluation
151. relaxation techniques
152. pretty-in-pink tulips
153. the glorious unfolding of a pearly white flower
154. buttons
155. babies
156. the anticipation of meeting someone unknown, yet known so intimately
157. sisters and friends
158. absolute assurance that God is big enough to handle any questions I have
159. children with palm branch "Hosannas"
160. a God who saves
161. colorful beauty of taco salad
162. sweet overnight relief of allergy medicine

one year ago today...

Friday, April 15, 2011

...we got a call for two little children. We didn't know their names. We didn't know what they looked like. We knew their ages, that they were being moved from a relative placement, that their parents were not involved. We said yes because we felt like it was the right decision. We said yes because we were desperately waiting and praying for a placement.

We didn't know the level of the trauma they had experienced. We didn't know that we were Mr. B's sixth move in a year. We didn't know that they would never see their mother again. We didn't know the pain and anxiety that could be built up in one small child. We surely didn't know how this little boy was yearning for a mama.

Baby R spent the first day crying. Inconsolably. The caseworker says, "She did this the last time we moved her too." I finally got her to sleep in the baby swing for awhile.

Mr. B gave me a hug the minute he got out of the car in the driveway. The caseworker thought this was a good sign. I thought he was a sweet little boy. Little did I realize the warning sign that was. We definitely didn't know the impact that a traumatized, attachment-challenged child would have on our entire family.

I asked Ben what he remembered about when they came, and he said that he remembered that Mr. B was playing baseball in the backyard with W when he got home from school. Baby R was swinging in her baby swing outside, watching them. Maggie remembered that Mr. B had a pinwheel that he had brought with him. There is no escaping the joy and love on Ben and Maggie's faces when they talk about this day.

None of us knew that the year ahead would be simultaneously the best and worst of our lives. I didn't know that I would be the person I am today because of these two precious children. I didn't know that our marriage would be stronger because of this particular placement. I didn't know the strength and depth of character that our children would exhibit with these children.

What I did know within a couple days of them being here was that they were meant to be in our family. I didn't know for how long; I still don't know that answer. But Mr. B and Baby R, through a series of horrific, nearly unbelievable circumstances, were brought to our family on April 15, 2010 because they were supposed to come here.

Did they need us? Most definitely.
Did we need them? In ways we never imagined.

Happy 1 year anniversary to our little family.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Today I stopped to get donuts on our way to the doctor's office with Mr. B. I wasn't exactly sure why because donuts should theoretically be a treat, and these ones were kind of pricey anyway. I spent a little bit feeling guilty about spending the money on donuts with no discernible reason why...then I realized that it was because I'm scared.

Because I'm terrified that I won't have the rest of Mr. B's life to get him donuts for a special treat.

Because I want him to have donuts (which happen to be his favorite treat) every day for as many days as I have him.

Because he deserves answers, and I'm still so very scared that when we get the answers, they will be full of even more pain.

Because if that happens, I want him to remember that at one point in his short little life, he had a Mama who loved him enough to get him donuts just because.

rude reminders

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I know I'm a day late this week for my Monday post. It's just been that kind of week. I just didn't have much in me to write down gifts this past week. I did get one done:

146. birthday celebrations

Given the situation in our home this morning, I probably shouldn't be taking the time to sit and blog, but I had to get some stuff down before I change my mind. Plus, it gives all of us a breather from one another. I'll go back a little lighter, a little fresher to deal with my day.

Before Tuesday, it had been six weeks since we had a sibling visit. I had just plain forgotten what the fall-out was like. After the visit, things were weird that night, but a different kind of reaction than we're accustomed to. The next day, though, it really began again in earnest. I have to be honest that a lot of the pain of this past week is our own doing. We flirted with the idea of being a 'normal' family this past week. I ran errands during the day, with the kids. We went out alone, we went to a friend's house as a family, we went to an extremely small family birthday party. All of that resulted in a very rude reminder that normal living is not for us. We can't do those kinds of things anymore. We have to be very intentional and particular about what our family time looks like, what things we can agree to. It's about protecting our children. That's what we failed at the past week. This week will be better. We will be purposeful and proactive. Next week will probably be worse again. I think we have some very, very painful decisions to make regarding Easter weekend.

Book Love: Recent and Current Reads

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I'm reading quite a few books right now. All at the same time. Just finished a couple, and I'm determined to finish the ones that I'm currently reading before starting another. I prefer to read one fiction and one non-fiction book at a time, but I've turned into that strange person who I never understood before now - you know the one who reads fourteen books at a time. Now I am that person. How did I get here? Not important. The important thing is that I want to read at least 50 books this year. (which is quite a few more than last year but is still well below my regular reading standards. I estimate my regular reading average to be right around 150 books a year. I'm ready to get back to that. Maybe someday...when I no longer have four small children) I think I'm well on my way, though.

I do not know how I missed the book when it was new. I'm sorry that I did, since no one is really talking about it anymore. It is so powerful and well-written. I consider myself a feminist, but I recommend it for anyone, even if you don't lean feminist, who is interested in women's rights, social justice, and changing the world we live in.

2) Spiritual Parenting - Michelle Anthony
This is a re-read. I read it super quickly the first time because I had gotten it from the library and recognized a few pages in that I needed to own it. I needed to sit with it, digest it, implement it in ways that I could not accomplish in just three weeks. This book is excellent and a fresh voice on parenting our children spiritually. It's not the typical evangelical parenting how-to, frankly, which makes me feel pretty happy. I found quite a bit of challenge in this book, but even more important to me at this stage in my life, quite a bit of validation. The things that I so worry about 'ruining' my kids are validated in this book as making them stronger, making them more like Jesus, growing them to be the men and women God designed for them to be.

3) The Confession: A Novel- John Grisham
I love John Grisham. This one just got me fired up anew over the justice system. (like I need a reason) Especially the justice system in Texas. I'm not a fan. I'm really ready for the death penalty to be abolished nation-wide. Innocent men are on death row. Innocent men are being put to death. It's embarrassing, frankly. Time to part ways with capital punishment.

This one is on my 'bedside table' so to speak. It's actually on top of the shelf of my tall desk where I keep my other daily reading stuff. I'm just reading one segment a day. Elisabeth Elliot speaks quiet and rest into my soul in a way that few others have or will again, I'm sure. I desperately miss her daily radio broadcast, Gateway to Joy. I grew up listening to her with my mama, and continued while I was married until she stopped broadcasting them in 2001. I can still hear her voice saying, "You are loved with an everlasting love and underneath are the everlasting arms." She is truly one of my heroes of faith.

5) Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals - Shane Claiborne, Jonathon Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enumu Okoro
Another that I use daily. Usually twice daily, and when I'm really on top of things, three times a day. Building the liturgy into my life has put margin and breath into spaces where I previously felt none. My children sense it as much as I. They often ask to 'read the prayers'. They participate more often than I ever expected. It's really a beautiful thing.

Growing up in a non-liturgical church, this was not part of something that I truly understood, but it has found a deep place in my soul. The longer I read and pray through the book, the more I see the ways that my parents built our own daily liturgy into our lives. We did pray at set times. We often used the same words. We prayed individually and communally, and my mama rarely sent us out of the house in the morning without a prayer of blessing over us. Thank you, Mama, for building this appreciation into me in ways that I didn't understand then, but in ways that I so need right now. I'm honored to be continuing this tradition with my own children.

Oh I know. I almost just left this off my reading list. To be fair, I had this on pre-order before the Internet hit the fan. I really had it ordered solely because my Love Wins bumper sticker has been on the back of my van for more than five years now. Now it looks like even more of a statement I guess. Thanks Rob Bell.

Pretty much everything I think about this book is contained within this review. It was convenient for Alan Stucky to write that up for me. As an avid reader and lover of C.S. Lewis, there was really nothing in this book I hadn't heard before. As a follower of Christ, there is nothing in this book that doesn't fall firmly within the bounds of orthodox Christianity. And it's very, very Anabaptist. There's a reason Mars Hill has a Mennonite pastor. *Shout out to Shane Hipps.

One last note: I read this book more as a curiosity than anything, and I felt like it was kind of not worth the hour it will take you to read it (no offense to Rob, it's a fine book - it's just that he's not saying anything new) until I hit one particular part: My dad is quite fond of saying that Jesus is the only way to heaven, but there are many ways to Jesus. I was amused to see Rob Bell say the same thing in this particular book. He's probably been talking to my dad...

Up next on the reading queue: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

gift (heaped) upon gift

Monday, April 4, 2011

Concert season has begun. There are no words to describe how amazing The Civil Wars were this past Thursday. I'm still thinking about it. It was by far my favorite gift this past week. If I could have counted it eight hundred times, that's how many times I would've written it down.

This Monday, I am listing the gifts as always...

140. new technology
141. family adventures
142. overnights at Grandma's house
143. incredibly beautiful music experienced live
144. a baseball coach who will teach my boy more than just baseball
145. a little boy who wants to be just like his Papa
146. baby hugs and pats in comfort for her mama's tears
147. the freshness of an early spring thunderstorm 

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