mother's day musings

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mother's Day comes at a price for me these days. I, the lover of all things celebratory and all holidays big and small, have come to dread the coming of this particular one. There is no day more poignant to me as I parent three children who are separated from the mothers that brought them into this world. The kids don't seem to notice the struggle yet. That angst will likely come later. After church, this past Mother's Day, I listened to my son talk to his mom on speakerphone. She asked him about his plans for the day, and he tells her that after Grandma's house for lunch, he's going to come home and get out the Mother's Day presents he made for his mama. Me. That mama.

I don't know what went through her head at that moment, but it was like a knife to my heart. I'm sitting in the front seat of the minivan thinking, 'oh, I wish he wouldn't have said that. How do I get him out of this particular section of conversation?" It's painful. It's painful for her. It's painful for me.

I've been finding such joy in my children lately in spite of the end-of-the-year crazies which have now set in, but every moment I take pleasure in just who they are comes at with a little pang. My joy is at the expense of another's pain. There's no way around that truth. Inevitability and safety concerns and all of that aside, our family came to be because another family was broken. So our family is broken too. The older I get, the more I find myself more willing to sit in the tension of messiness like that. It's ok if we're broken. I don't have to fix it. I don't have to fix it for myself, and as much as I want to, I can't fix it for my children either. They might have to learn this lesson younger than I'd prefer, but learn it they must.

Later that week, I logged on to facebook to find a message that I was sent on Mother's Day from one of my children's moms. Sent after that painfully awkward phone conversation. It was one of those Hallmark-y memes with the sappy words and pictures of roses along with a personal wish for a Happy Mother's Day. Followed by a thank you. Thank you for being such a good mom to my kids. This from the woman who gave birth to our children. The one who doesn't get to spend these holidays with them anymore. That's pain I can't imagine, and yet she thanks me, their everyday mama. There is no mother's day wish that I have ever received that meant more to me than this one this year. To be validated by the woman who loved and parented my kids first? To have her think that I'm doing a good job? We're partners of sorts, she and I. Untraditional, sure, and right now it looks more like a relay than a side-by-side partnership, but our mamas' hearts are knit together for we love the same children with everything we have. I want her to like me. I want her to think I'm doing a good job. I long for her approval. I want to honor her with how I care for our children. I want to build a strong foundation for redemption. Redemption is coming. I believe it will be so. These dry bones of broken families will come alive, by the very breath of God. He has spoken, and He will do it. (Ezekiel 37)

This might be a resurrection song long delayed, but it is one I plan yet to sing.

photo credit: Noelridge Tamron_033 via photopin (license)

how far love can go

Monday, May 11, 2015

Saturday was my birthday. I went to breakfast with my dad. I spent the day at the ballpark watching my sons play baseball. I went to dinner with my sisters, ate on the patio, and thoroughly enjoyed my lobster cakes, espresso creme brulee, and that lovely white wine that I've already forgotten the name of. Then I came home, sat on the couch beside my thirteen year old son, and helped him process through the news that we had received the night before: one of his teammates, a favorite friend in fact, had been diagnosed with cancer. Not how I would ever choose to end a day of celebration.

My reassurances from the previous months about the likelihood of this friend actually having something serious are now proven false. Our hopeful predictions about the outcome of his coming treatment and recovery seem a little shallow right now. I realized anew that I am so ill-equipped for this parenting thing. I want to tell Ben all of the right happy answers, but we know life isn't like that. I want to give him concrete reasons and explanations, but the truth is, I don't know why. It's not fair. Probabilities aside, I can't promise he'll be fine.

Yesterday, there were tears and prayers and more tears. Today, there's anger. I get that. I wish it were different. Everything in me wants to take away the hard, even though I know that's not best for anyone. But it's my child. I still want to erase the hurt. I want to tell him Jesus makes everything all right.

Instead, what I can do is sit beside him while he cries.

I can give him grace when he's angry.

I can pray with him to the Healer even while I let him research the medical possibilities to his heart's content.

I can listen and be ever grateful that he still wants to process through things with his mama.

I can be with. And I can hope and pray that he learns how to do it from my example because his friend is going to need the same kind of thing. I get to teach Ben that reaching out to hurting people isn't some sort of project, it's friendship. It's compassion. It's following Jesus even into the hard places. It's love.

loving the lonely

Friday, May 1, 2015

Sometimes you get a glimpse of the future that will never be. You know what I mean? The glimpse that shows you what the future would have been like if...

Learning to love the newest pseudo-family member during the past six months where he lived most of the time with my parents gave us just that. So much like our Brenden, we were instantly drawn to him. Watching him try to navigate his new adulthood without the tools that he actually needed to so was difficult. Kids age out of the foster system every day in this country, and while this young man still was eligible to receive some benefits from the county until 21, it is eye-opening to see what truly can happen in the lives of those for whom the system has failed. And I truly believe is a failure to have a kid reach adulthood with no place to call home.

Imagine growing into adulthood with no family. None. Your birth family is out of the picture, and you've had too many foster placements to have a home to truly call your own. No one ever said, "you're mine. For life." The loneliness of that just breaks me. No one should have to do life alone.

Imagine growing into adulthood where no one has given you the skills to succeed. No one helped you fill out your first FAFSA, your college applications. No one encouraged you to investigate a trade should college not be a good fit. No one taught you how to hold down a job, how to interact with a boss, or even how to talk with coworkers. No one ever said, "hey. Are you coming home this weekend? Bring your laundry." According to the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, this happens to approximately 24,000 kids every year. Most studies will tell you that kids who age out of the system are more likely to end up without college degrees, unemployed, homeless, or in prison. And this year, I met and loved one kid for whom that is likely to be his future.

He moved into my parents home with nothing but the clothes on his back, and he left, for a variety of reasons, basically the same way. My husband drove him to the place where he was staying that night with all his earthly belongings in the car. It's hard for me to even write about, thinking about this young man we learned to love, but also, I'm still remembering our own son's entrance into our home. We were his sixth move that year. SIX. In one year. He came with a garbage bag of clothes and a toy tool bench. For the first several months he lived with us, when we would tell him the caseworker was coming for her monthly home visit, he would go to get his shoes. Had to be ready to go, you know, because she comes to move him from home to home. Imagine that for your entire childhood. How could you ever function as a capable, healthy adult if this was how you grew up?

So this week I'm grieving. I'm grieving for this young man we now love. I'm praying for his safe return back to my parent's house. I'm praying for his safety, for his future. I know his story isn't done, but I'm praying that our part in his story gets to continue. I miss him. But I also grieve for the more than 20,000 other kids facing the same reality this year. I'm grieving for them while they are lonely tonight, while they are wondering where their next meal will come from or where they will sleep tomorrow. I'm grieving for them while they are in prison. And above all, I'm grieving for the little boys and girls that they once were - the ones who stuff their belongings in garbage bags. The ones who grab their shoes when the caseworker comes. The ones who never have an everyday mommy and daddy that stick around for good.

Those kids? They are my kids. I just get to stop the cycle with the three that are sleeping in my upstairs right now. I get to tuck them in every night, assuring them that I love them. I get to take them to see old caseworkers, to visits with their first families, to therapy appointments, and all with the assurance that I will take them, I will stay with them, and I will bring them home again. Their future is with an everyday family that will be there for them no matter what, no matter when, no matter.

May is National Foster Care Month. Sometimes I feel like I'm beating a dead horse with my constant calls to action, but maybe this is the year that you sign up to stop the cycle for one kid. Just one. That's all it takes. 

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