visits, chaos, and breathing easy

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The past three and half weeks have found us struggling through new reactions to visits from Little Man, an obnoxious 90 lb. teenager of a puppy dog who thinks it is the best game in the world to race out of our door and run away from us through the whole neighborhood, and another child who is in a funk, unable to be motivated through either consequence or reward. It's been exhausting, literally, since we're not really sleeping at night for three days following Little Man's visits with his family. 

In our state, families are legally required to be given four hours of visitation a week once their children have been removed from their care. Usually this is done in two 2-hour visits each week. Sometimes, it's done in one big chunk, four hours once a week, but typically when kids are littler, they try to split them up so it's easier on everyone. 

When you live 25 minutes from the visitation center, two hour visits become a real pain. It takes me 10 minutes minimum to get six children, two in car seats and incapable of loading themselves, in the van and ready to go. It takes around 10 minutes on a typical visit to unload and get Little Man into the visitation center, sometimes much longer if we're waiting on his mom to get there. By the time I figure in loading and travel time, it is a ridiculous waste of time and gas to drive all the way back home during the visit. All of this means that we spend from around 5:30-8:30 every Wednesday and Thursday in the van. There's only so much grocery shopping I can do during those hours, and since it's dark this time of year, we can't even get out and stretch our legs at a park. It's wearing on all of us.

I will say that I do prefer this back to back schedule, however. What a typical visit schedule has looked like for us in the past includes the day of the visit plus two days of reaction from the child due to the visit, maybe one normal day, and then we're back to a visit day. So basically six days of the week are tumultuous and difficult. This way, we have two visits days, still around two reaction days, and three days of normalcy. It's far superior, I think. 

It seems quite likely this case will be stretching on for quite awhile yet. DJFS has custody of Little Man until October of 2016. When I think about doing this for most of the next year (and maybe longer), it makes me feel something akin to despair. Two days of our week, pretty much gone indefinitely. I wonder why we agreed to do this. How anyone in their right mind thinks this is a good idea. I see people's reactions when I tell them what the schedule looks like, and I know they wonder why and probably think it's dumb that we would subject our family to this kind of a schedule. It's not just visits, it's also home visits and team meetings and extra doctor appointments, all fit in with the rest of our five children's school and extracurriculars. There is not one night during the week where we do not have extra stuff to do. I get it. It's crazy. Our idea of normal family life has definitely changed. We now aim for two meals together at the table a week - and often are not succeeding at that - instead of the five to six that we were eating together before. We spend as much time in the van as we do together in our living room. 

There's not much I can say to make this seem normal. There's not a ton of defense I can give that this rigorous of a schedule is good for our children. All I know is that we believe this is what we're supposed to be doing. We believe Little Man's health and safety is worth all of this. We believe that love is worth the fight. 

I haven't been that successful at breathing easy in the middle of this chaos of late. I've been blaming it on the schedule. I've been blaming it on the kids. I've been blaming it on the system. Truthfully, though, it's my fault. My focus isn't where it belongs. There's only one way to breathe easy, and it's His breath in my lungs. When I continue to try to do this all out of my own strength and mental capacity, I will most assuredly fail. So this week, moving forward, I'm breathing in grace, breathing out praise.

All of it for Love.

photo credit: command central via photopin (license)


Sunday, January 10, 2016

My unexpected hiatus from blogging now over, I find myself with eight billion things to say and write and not enough time to do so. This year sapped the vitality out of my creative life to say the least. This past year found us in one of the darkest years we've had in a really long time, yet still my year was full of joy. In spite of those joys, it's a year I'd rather not repeat again.

I always choose a word for the year, and honestly, sometimes it's a stretch. I work so hard to land on something, and then I spend a lot of the year being dissatisfied with the word that I've picked.

This year was not like that at all. There was no struggle. No soul searching. I was in the shower, and a word just dropped into my head. A word that I never in a million years would have come up with if I'd had to work at it on my own. 


Really? After the amount of pain and grief that my schedule has caused me this year? After the stress and difficulty due to adding to our responsibilities? After bringing yet one more child into our home? More??

Yet, as soon as it entered my head, I knew this was it. This is the year that I no longer settle. Last year was hard, and if I had to think of a word to describe it, it would be this: adequate. What a word, right? Not exactly how I want to be describing my life. Adequate. This year, I don't want that to be the word that comes to mind when I attempt to describe my past year. Adequate is the worst. More is the future.

I don't want to settle for a pretty close relationship with God. I don't want to expect normal things from my spiritual life. I don't want to pray for miracles while still not truly believing that they'll happen.

I don't want to settle for a good enough marriage. I love my marriage, but why in the world would I just decide that it's good enough? Why wouldn't I want more from it? This year, I'm not settling for the comfortable relationship that we've had.

I don't want to settle for being a good enough mom. For being mostly ok. I have so much more within me to give to my children. I want more for them. I want more for me.

I am not settling for just enough. Or good enough. I want more. There IS more.

Along with the word, Scripture was right there at my ready. Guiding me into the calling for my life this year. 

"Now to Him who is able to do far more (MORE!!) abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, throughout all generations, forever and ever, Amen."Ephesians 3:20-21

As one of my favorite teachers, Beth Guckenberger, likes to say, "God writes the very best stories." The stories I want to write seem fine, until I see what God has in store. He has more for me. He has more for my family. He has more for my marriage. He has more for my church. There is so much more than I can ever think or imagine or ask for. I want to access that this year, and the great thing about this particular scripture is that it tells me exactly how: according to the power at work within us. That same power that raised Jesus from the dead is already within me. It's not that I'll be able to do more or get more or have more all on my own, but it's because Christ lives in me. He's already given me everything I need which makes it all that more ridiculous that I've settled for just adequate.

MORE is the promise I'm claiming for this year. I am unbelievably excited for what it holds. The stories have already begun to unfold, in my life, in my husband's life, in our marriage, in our church. I cannot wait to see what God has for us. I cannot wait to bear witness to the resurrection stories, to the glory. It's all for Him. 

Remember not the former things nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.Isaiah 43:18-19

I don't have to live in the adequacy of this past year. Neither do you. God is doing a new thing. It is already springing forth, if we can just SEE it. He is making beauty from ashes, joy from mourning - living water in the desert and wastelands of our life. There's more for you too this year, dear friends. Seek it out with me? Be hopeful. All of God's promises are yes in Christ Jesus, and it is Jesus Himself that is the Amen. 

Yes and Amen.
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