Sometimes I have no words to say. Do you ever have a story take you so by surprise that you cannot respond?
I hope you can bear with me as I share some stories that have left me speechless over this Christmas season. I am finding that in addition to caring for these children, these "orphans" that God has allowed me to love, that God has pressed into my spirit that I need to share their stories.
Hopefully not in a revealing way that may later embarrass them (which is why I am careful about not using names nor too many gender specific pronouns with these stories). Not in a revealing way to make you pity my specific children or family.
BUT revealing in a painful, naked way that exposes what many foster and adoptive families are attempting to help the children God has placed in their care heal and recover from.
Revealing the deep, ugly wounds on a child's heart that have created the defiant teenager, the disobedient child, the drug addicted adult, the child molester, the inmate.
Revealing the raw, ugly, messy truth of what children in your state, community, school, or neighborhood are living with. Right. now. Unrescued. Unloved. Unredeemed.
If you do not want to know; If you cannot stand the truth; You should stop reading. My heart is full of these moments, these stories, this pain. And I see it in news stories, in people in the grocery store. I cannot help but write about it. So if you want to know the mushy, lovey side of adoptive and foster parenting, you will need to find another blog. Or find me in another time of life.
Because while we have mushy moments, they are balanced with the revealing of pain. And I think what we are learning in this journey is way more connected to seeing that love, the feeling, comes through love, the action, slogging through the mud and muck of the hard pain. And frankly, I think that is the lesson I am meant to share with you.
There are days when it is all chaos and arguing and fighting and I am yelling and fussing and time out rules the day. There are days when it is tantrums and melt downs and tears and rocking and trying to fill gaps that are years old. Trying to guess is this from not being cared for, is this a disorder, is this an "adoption thing", a "foster kid thing", a "boy thing"....
There are days of pouring out of hearts and behaviors that would leave me cold in fear for my children's future if it were not for the peace of God and His promise that He will heal them. Fervent, heart wrenching prayer days.
Recently one of the boys asked the other, "Did your dad ever do anything bad and have to go to jail?"
"Yeah, my dad went to jail. He shot at the cops." They are so casual about it.
Our two sibling sets have remarkably similar stories. Similar family histories. They are beginning to find common ground in their history while remaining amazingly protective of their biological siblings.
Protective to a point of severe anxiety. Fight, fight, or freeze is constant for our children. Have you ever stumbled onto an intruder? A hostile dog? Something that was a real danger that sent your body into high alert. Our children go into that mode every time someone knocks at the door. If a meal is 15 minutes late. If the dog gets out of the back yard. If I raise my voice too much or move too quickly towards them. Can you imagine heart pounding panic 10 times a day? Every day? I don't always get it. Miss the signs. I didn't have the same.
The other day a child is refusing to move, cooperate, total melted puddle of screaming. I quickly move to take them to their room and end up holding them until they have regained control. During this a sibling comes multiple times to check that I'm not hurting them. Afterwards as we talk and I asked if they thought I was going to hurt them. Nod. Tears.
"My uncle punched her in the stomach once. He was my favorite uncle. He always brought me stuff. Later that day someone came up and shot him." I feel as if someone has sucked the air out of the room.
During this season, we are trying to help our children to see. See their own preciousness. But how do you see precious in yourself if the people who were supposed to protect and care for you never kept you fed, never protected you, tried to hurt you.
"What are the promises Jesus gave us about God?" The first one we talk about is how God loves us. How can they understand this when they have not experienced the love of a parent? The ones we've known for longer, although they have experienced our love, those early days, they've left scars that block their hearts. Keep them from truly knowing.
The second promise we have is that Jesus said God will take care of us. He loves us more than birds and animals and He feeds and cares for them, so He will care for and feed us. So we should never worry. But again, how do you communicate this to a child who was homeless? Who awoke in an alley with his parents gone? When their earliest memories were harsh and painful.
Worry. Fear. They are so much a part of our children's make up. I want so badly to help them break free of it. So I ask them to share something they worry about so we can pray for each other. Pray for God to help us with our worry.
"I worry that my old parents don't have a house. That they have no where to live."
"I worry that someone won't come when they said they will."
"I worry Santa won't come. He never came with my old mom and dad."
"I worry that I can't go back home."
"I worry because my old mom and dad are in jail."
"I worry that my old dad is hurting my old mom."
"I worry about getting enough to eat."
As they share, I hear some struggling to not cry. As we pray, some give in to the tears and weep. Tony and I both end up with lapfuls of crying children. "I remember someone hitting my brother. She used a pricker bush." A memory from a previous foster home.
"Why did my old mom say she hates me. Why did she have to have me?" She said it so matter of fact. No real emotion, just this puzzled, furrowed brown. I tried not to cry.
This same child looked at me today with a huge smile and said, "Mommy, I love you SOOO much!"
I responded with a hug, kisses, and tickles, "You are so precious! I love you SOOO much too!" To which she looked puzzled. Furrowed brow, smile gone.
Two nights ago she was sick with a stomach virus. After she was back asleep, my husband looked at me, "She didn't cry. Did you notice? I've never seen a child throw up and not cry before." No emotion. Because no one has ever met her need before so best turn off the feelings. Bury the sadness deep where it can't hurt. Yet it can. It does. It is toxic. It turns this pixie faced baby into an uncontrollable teenager or a drug abused young woman. How to get it out.
I read a story someone posted on Facebook. A mom and her boyfriend neglect, abuse, and horribly kill her 2 year old child. The comments ranged from "What a monster!" to "I hope they rot in hell and are killed in jail."
It makes me so sad. They cannot see past the current behaviors to the past woundedness. Was that woman told that her own mother hated her by the time she was 4 years old? Was that man beaten unconscious as a boy? What happened to my own children's birth parents that was so awful that it set them on their current path? Could someone have stepped into those lives and changed the course? Would that precious 2 year old still be alive today?
Praying I don't forget when my children have their next "behavior" moment. Eating from the garbage or stealing from their siblings. Talking back, arguing, yelling at me when they don't get their way. That I don't forget their pain. Their aching hearts. That I let God's hand guide my response, not my own quick temper or agenda.
Today as we are driving down the road it comes up again. "My mommy said she hates me. Why did she have to have me."
"That must make you feel sad!"
There's the furrowed brow again, as if trying to decide how to feel or what the word sad means. "Yeah. My daddy broke the window. She cut her foot."
"How did she get cut? From the broken window?"
"Yeah. He was trying to get in. He hurt her. He threw me in the toilet."
I can see the chaos, the violence in my mind's eye. I am struggling to maintain a calm face. Another child pipes up, "My daddy choked my mommy." She pauses and points to the other child, "Do you believe this mom?" Even with her life experiences, she's shocked at what she's just heard.
I nod. I ask a few questions. It becomes obvious that this child's existence is a miracle. That she could have been that news headline. That child who'd been killed by the angry, violent man.
I see a woman in the grocery story. She is obviously strung out. She is covered in sores. Dirty. Looking for who knows what. My initial thought is judgement. I see her child looking dirty, neglected. One of my own children points to her and says, "That looks just like my old mom." Heart sinking at my own judgement of her. She is likely the child of poverty, an alcoholic parent, maybe a homeless parent. And she is still the unrescued child.
They are all around us. Neglected or abused children trying to raise their own. Repeating cycles. In a broken, fallen world. They are in our state, our community, in our school, and on our street. And they need our voice. They need to be rescued and loved. Loved despite their behaviors. In spite of themselves.
Just like I need a savior to love me in spite of myself.
These children, they need us. They need the church to step up. But so do their parents. They do not need us to call them monsters and spew our hate or anger at them.
Because one day, my own son could be that person who could not conquer his past. My own daughter may succumb to the sadness she has buried so deep rather than healing.
I would ask that you pray. Pray with desperation for these lost and lonely. For this ugly, painful side of life that only God can heal.
Pray that God would guide you in how you can help in your community. Because while I appreciate all the times people tell me I'm wonderful for adopting foster children, I am only one mom. And they are many. So are the needs.
The need for birth parent mentors to help them get their lives straightened out. For someone to believe in them, in their value and preciousness for the first time in their lives.
For mentors at school for children growing up in poverty or single parent homes.
For support to help foster and adoptive families care for these children better.
For more foster families to love children that can often seem unlovable at times. Or rather they are unwilling to accept that they are worth loving. And God is asking us to show them that they are.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you ,do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?