"She may have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome." The words hung in the air. "It would be worth getting a diagnosis one way or the other just so we know how best to teach her."
Early on we'd suspected that possibility but decided to let her have some time to adjust. Now the therapist had brought it up. It was the one diagnosis that we'd said we didn't think we could parent. And yet here she was. We'd said from the beginning, whatever God gives us to parent, we will parent them. Period. But this, Oh God, why?
A pit formed in my stomach for the next 48 hours or so. It was one of those, I can't eat and the world seems to be coming at me from far away sort of times.
Then I received an email from a friend asking if I was OK because I'd seemed a little off the day before:
"Just wanted to let you know I prayed for you.
'In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [be empowered through your union with Him]; draw your strength from Him [that strength which His boundless might provides].' Ephesians 6:10 amp
'So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me?' Ps 27:1; 118:6 Hebrews 13:6"
As I read her email, I felt myself say, "OK God, this is what you've given me. I said I'd step into the battle, so here I am. I'll need your strength to to fight this fight though. I'll need your shield of protection. I will not be afraid. Or at least I'll try to have courage through my fears."
I'm sure I said it through gritted teeth but once I'd said it, all sorts of peace and calm!
I spoke to a friend tonight about how we watch our kids rail against things that are so "unfair". As we talked, we were both reminded of times recently that we'd had the same reaction with God about something in our lives. Like a child with FAS.
Once again I am reminded though, that I am not the God of my children. I can encourage, hold, disciple, and love. All of which first comes to me from God before I can give it out to them.
The past few days have brought a lot of hard things. It's funny because the first weeks with this new "batch" of kids (sounds like we're baking cookies here!) was so hard. No, not hard. Challenging. There were melt-downs, moments (whole days) of chaos, no sleep for weeks, prayer, logistics of teaching them how to act in a store or walk across a parking lot, and more prayer.
At some point about a month in, we seemed to turn a corner and routine seemed to settle in. We began to be able to read the kids. They began to feel comfortable. Or as comfortable as one can feel when calling complete strangers mommy and daddy.
Now we're in what I think is the really hard time. And really beautiful time. It's when God begins to knit our hearts together. It's intense and it's painful and I wouldn't trade it for the world.
Have you ever had a great friend? I mean one who you'd go to the ends of the earth for each other? And you probably did. I think many of us have buddies, acquaintances, and good friends. But it's in those really hard times when friendships are FORGED. Going through fire together changes, solidifies.
This week I have listened as one child asked another, "Have you ever seen your daddy do something bad and go to jail?"
I watched siblings listen as one child sobbed in my lap and described being homeless, sleeping in a trash can, waking up in an alley with no around. At the age of 2.
I had a child order me not to run a red light "so the police don't come get you. They got my mama once. She had to go to jail. I rode in the police car to my house. My daddy was there. He blamed my mama."
I ached as a child described to me watching a favorite uncle punch a sibling. Then being alone and seeing that uncle get shot.
I listened as Tony talked with a child who said, "When my mommy and daddy stop fighting we can go home." She could not, is not ready to, hear the truth. That same child cried tonight, missing her mama and missing what that mama could not have given her even if she had the chance.
It seems I've held endless children who could not articulate the depths of sadness that is at times suffocating their little hearts. The sobbing of a wounded child comes from a place inside that often they attempt to build walls around. Each time I hear a hard thing to hear, I realize I've removed a brick in the wall. That hole in that wall is precious to me and brings a sort of intense, fierce joy.
They go hand in hand, the hard and the joy. The ugly and the beautiful.
This is the time of fire in our lives. Not being on fire, but a time of forming, changing, and solidifying. It is hard. And it is long. After 3 1/2 years, we are still in this time with our first "batch" of 3. It's long, this battle. More of a war. Maybe every moment, when something is shared, is a small battle. Just the fact that the battle was fought is a victory then.
And on the other side of every moment of sadness is an opportunity to hold a mourning child who was not held and comforted as a baby. Wrapped up in every expression of fear about the past is an opportunity for a new sibling to connect over shared wounds. Every tear that is wiped away is a chance for redemption of a life. And after every comforting comes a moment, however brief, of trust.
Trust. If you have never cared for a wounded child, you have no idea how precious that moment is. Every disciplining brings renewed fear. Every action is questioned through the lens of past hurts. Trust. It was broken long before these children could speak. Long before they knew us.
Yet is is our bridge to repair.
If you are a mama or papa to a hurting child, I am praying for you tonight.
Praying that God will fill you with His strength; That you will remember that He is your Helper; And that you will turn to Him when you struggle.
I am praying for the joy that follows the pain to be yours and that God will knock down the bricks your child may chose to use to keep the sadness at bay.
I am praying for healing for your child, no matter what or how big the wound.
Most of all, I am praying that we both remember that we stepped willingly onto the battlefield and that no sacrifice we give to these, our children, will ever be as big as the one God made for us, His children.