"For You O Lord are a shield about me, You are the glory and lifter of my head. Psalm 3:3

"For You O Lord are a shield about me, You are the glory and lifter of my head. Psalm 3:3

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Saying Goodbye, Someday

I remember that afternoon.  I always will.  I could hear their laughter as they played outside while I leaned up against the wall and wept, hearing of change coming, coming fast whether I'm ready for it or not.  He just kept talking about policy, how it was out of his hands, how not to worry, how I will always be a part of his life.  You focus on standing up and listening, you try to think of questions while your phone buzzes about soccer schedules, teacher luncheons and field trips.  Just breathe in and out and listen.  But I can't breathe and I can't stand to listen to another word.  What are you saying, how can this be happening?  I was fine five minutes ago and now you've gone and shaken up everything in me.

That feeling, the same feeling I felt when I heard the word divorce, as my dad left and watching my mama scramble to buffer and protect.  Like the day I heard the word cancer and months later, that precious man of mine walked in the back door and told me my daddy was gone, a funeral is coming.  And when days later in that church cathedral she placed those images on a large screen set to music, my daddy with her kids, his new family.  And you sit there in that pew and you can hardly breathe.  Your tears flow hot and steamy and it hurts to swallow and somehow you think you're not going to survive that moment.  That floor beneath me will surely just swallow me whole because I can't sustain anymore, I just can't.

So when that state department car pulled up, I knew somehow a wave of unknown was coming.  Not the normal monthly meeting when our caseworker comes to our home, usually scheduled but unannounced this time.  For your time and your answers, a stack of paper work and questions, everything documented and recorded.  They inspect your home and check sleeping arrangements.  Policy to see a diaper change and an undressed baby's back, they're looking and checking for all signs of harm.  He begins to exit and then stops in the doorway to say this baby is leaving, not to worry, there will be a transition period.  I ask how long and he says days.  Days.  I don't know where he's going to or how this plays out other than the requirement is to let go.  Change, no, more than that, upheaval is on the horizon.  My mind fumbles to comprehend as to how five days is enough to transition a life.  Information and policy rattled off like making arrangements to pick up furniture or documents, no...we're talking about a life here.  We don't get the download of the process, the time they've spent making this decision.  We just get the end snapshot.  And he walks away and leaves in that white car, and those little ones keep coming and going from the house, asking for snacks, help with homework.  She has softball practice, where's her leotard, what's for dinner.  The tears come quick and steady.

So here we are in this moment that for decades kept me from even lightly thinking about being a foster parent.

Saying goodbye.  

How do you do it, how do you breathe and keep going?  How does a mama, a family, operate and comply with a mandate that opposes the way we were created to love?  How to you give Him your yes day after day only to reach the end and there's no prize, nothing seen or gained for me or my family, at least not on this earth...or so it seems.

Shifted focus comes, we take the backseat because it's not about us.  It's about his precious, little life.  It's about that phone call that changed everything in us forever.  It's about the way he was brought into a family for unconditional love and affection.  A first Christmas to gaze at the lights on the tree and hear carols by the fireplace wrapped securely and safe.  A community who rallied and contended, prayers and declarations into a future unseen by man but promised by the Maker who shielded and protected him in her womb.  A first Easter and many Sundays before where his little heart absorbed worship and heard glimpses of heaven where it's all for His glory.  It's not about us and the pieces we will have to pick up and put back together, because we will walk by his room and see that empty crib and pockets once filled with his coos will be silent because soon he will be gone.

It's not about the night torment when I wake up panicked, begging Chris in desperation to tell me where he is.  His reassurance that he's upstairs asleep, reminding me it's a dream.  It's not about the deepest fears that settled in that he will be forgotten, left behind, hurt, not fought for.

It's about him and what if the sacrifice wasn't there and our brokenness never yielded him the shelter and love he needed?  

He needed us that winter night to say yes when we didn't know his name or where he was.  He needed a family and a love so great it leaves those who extended it heartbroken and shattered, chasing every thought and rabbit trail to keep it captive.  This baby needed us to fight hard for him and demand excellence, to walk into court rooms and offices with boldness, for settling to never be on the table for discussion.

Then the pendulum shifts back so quickly, because in this truth, you look and see this crew of little eyes looking at you, asking why you're crying.  Wanting answers and explanations.  Concrete words they can comprehend but you yourself, nothing in you understands and is still deep in shock and sadness.

It comes back to a love, a love we ourselves don't deserve and can't earn.  A love from the One who is love and sacrificed so we could wake up in the mess of mud and squander, and desperately run back to the house where He waits, He will always wait.  We run up the road and on the porch the Good Father sees us coming and runs to us before we can speak and throws the robe around us, a feast awaits.  What He extends and what He's called us to, a deep love.

And the rescue that came this week, unexpected and impossible change that stopped and changed the course of this baby's life.  A love that challenged and fought hard the policies that blindly blankets these children.  Contending to the Lord for the only breakthrough and favor His faithfulness yields.  The kind of love that stands in a court room and speaks boldly, demanding change and not giving into the fear that we're way in over our heads.  And that paper says we don't have rights and I sign documents I don't agree with and feel the nausea when the truth isn't fully given.  I watch that man of mine, always brave and strong, I watch him fight hard for this baby and stand firm without wavering.

A change in direction this week.  You will let go, but not yet.
If we're in this to never let go, then we're in the wrong place.

From being told it would be days, to learning we will have a little bit more time.  Transition for all and the hope that when it's time to let go soon, and soon will be here before we know it, that this release will feel peaceful only because once again, the Advocate goes before us.

This baby needs fierce love.  A new love that extends a lavished adoration without abandon.  A relentless love that will one day soon feel empty and only the Father will fill it back up because a family is just a vessel and it runs through us hard, and with it taking pieces of us he needs.
Saying goodbye, what does that love even look like other than a pouring out of everything we have left and a release that we weren't created for walking out in our own strength?

And he's one of thousands, and there's more coming and more waiting.

Soon he will leave us and soon, the phone will ring again.  A little life will lie their desperate in a hospital crib unaware of the love and care needed to live.  The need of touch, warmth, embrace, response.  The fragility and brokenness in the waiting.

And we wait too, how long will this hurt when he leaves us?  My heart contends and will choose to believe all I know to be true.  I will not wait in fear, I will believe with everything in me that the Lord sees this precious life and will tuck him under the shelter, the wings of the Most High King.
I have to, I have to believe that Jehovah takes greater care more than I can understand.
I have to believe that every tear, every argument against the system, every time I sat in that lobby waiting for nothing.  Every moment of fear and struggle, sacrifice and unknown waters we waded into was worth it.  It was worth it.

One day coming, we will let go and He will put us back together and He'll carry us, because those girls are only a few steps behind us and they know the cost, the price of this new love, the investment of saying goodbye.  But not today and not this week.

We will soon say goodbye and then we will lay down our swords, we fought well since the day you were born and this week, we fought hard.  We called out the truth and challenged the sheer brokenness in the system.  We called you by name and we watched a community of friends and family rally around you and contend for the impossible.

We will soon say goodbye and will be the saddest yes we've ever offered up to the King who promises to bring the comfort and healing only He can do, that hope and refuge poured out in my own mess and rejection of His Son, because He loved us first and that love is the only thing worth clinging to.

Saying goodbye will come some day, soon, maybe weeks.  But for today, we love you and we will always love you.  And you are worth standing in a thousand court rooms and lobbies.
Little one you are and will always be the apple of His eye, not a court case number or a statistic.
You are loved, His Beloved, and our Brown Bear.

"May the Lord bless you and keep you,
May the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord lift up His countenance on you and give you peace."
Numbers 6:24-26

Thursday, April 16, 2015

New Love

I had a good laugh the other day and said to Chris something about remember when my blog used to be really cheerful with lots of pictures of cake and grimy babies playing in the sun?  What happened? Now I can't type without crying and when I sit down to write something really witty and happy, it's not that the dialogue isn't there.  It's not that we're not having fun or not baking piles of cookies and getting lost on campus playing when bed times are way long gone.  We are, not much has changed.  There's still kids throwing fits, messes to clean up, and life going on just like every other family.  But for whatever reason, I feel like there's a download going on, a foster care influx, and the info isn't for our family to sit on and hover over.  I feel like we're getting a new glimpse into a reality that's always been there, we just missed it before somehow.  Like all the years I sang the songs about wanting to know the Lord's heart and asking Him to give me His eyes, to break my heart for what breaks His, it was genuine and I'm confident I took ground.  It's just that now, that's the thing that comes out of my mouth and quickly from my heart when I sit down in this space. 
There's so much new territory to tread through and good gracious I would love a road map or a formula to tell me exactly how to go.  I'm learning the ropes on how operate quickly in discussions with CPS, how to keep my cool when meetings don't go as planned, patience in the health department lines each month to collect formula vouchers.  The methodical and rhythmic functions have become to-do lists that can go without emotion.

But what about the parts to this equation that can't be done without the heart?
What about the part where there's a new little human, a little baby suddenly in my home among my own children, with his own needs and desire to belong?  Where's the training manual for that?
How do you do it, how do you emotionally bring someone else's baby into your home and love them?  What does that kind of love even look like?

I go back to love, the fiery kind I felt 12 years ago.  The night I met my husband, I knew it was him my heart needed to love.  And when he proposed, I thought I might just pass out from excitement that he chose me and this would be it forever.  That kind of love.
A seed was planted that day and the months after when he waited for me at the end of the aisle and we said forever, no matter what.

Love continued on taking new form.  The first time I saw her face on the ultrasound screen, a mama's love crept in slowly and set up camp.  And the moment her little head was held up in over the blue curtain and I saw her lips, her dark hair, and her precious pink little face, well right then I just thought my heart was going to burst wide open.  With each little face that was viewed on screens and then held up over the sheet, my heart grew and expanded.  She looked like her daddy, she had his eyes on that first night we met.  Her lips looked like her sisters.  Her cheeks were a carbon copy of mine when I was a baby.  Bella looked like Emma and then Alice was a replica of Sophie.  Amazing how those features, beyond the DNA strands and multiplication of cells, the science of it all.  She was us.  And that realization throws gasoline on a heart growing in love and it fans the flame.  You know her, you learn to anticipate her wants and needs, you learn her temperament, sooner and sooner with each baby.  And I remember someone saying a baby stares at her mama's eyes because she wants to know her, I remember wondering if that was true.  Did we really need to gaze, didn't she already know and I knew her every inch?

How little did I know that one day I would find the answer.

You realize how much unassuming features like eyelashes and pouted lips affect your emotion the way you love and feel affection for your baby.  Then what comes second nature, the way you love your nieces and nephews, your friend's children.  They're extensions of the people and relationships you hold so dear.  An automatic leap on the game board, quick love and growing fondness because your value for this family member, this friend already established rank in your heart so naturally their children follow in suit.

So how do you love, even begin to recognize and understand love when all familiarity is stripped away?  All you know of love are a specific set of tracks, tracks you ran on before and eventually lead you to this place but now...now you need new tracks, for a new love.

Months ago when we walked into the hospital, I still didn't have a name or picture of this little one.  So many parents walked and will walk this road before me.  Adoption, foster care, guardianship.  You walk into a room and leave with a child, a baby, a sibling set.  The room is a local CPS office, a court house, an orphanage in another country.  I admire and have the utmost respect for these brave men and women who are willing to jump ship and head straight onto these new tracks of love.  Not the love that is planted and grown over 9 months, cultivated on ultrasound screens and first moments of life, the labor of love and stretching of a body to host and birth this life to be.  A love waiting in a hospital room alone, waiting to know his cry is heard and his life matters, that he's seen.

There he was waiting, needing us.  

I thought about this moment from the first day we agreed to start the paper work.  I wanted and so deeply desired quick love, instant love.  Would it be possible?  All the attachment literature I found gave tips and offered suggestions, but everything I read said time, it takes time.  That was the day I began praying for that moment, that day.  Begging the Lord for a love that would be unexplainable other than His goodness and perfect, timely provision.  I made my requests specific and clear, I wanted to see this baby, whoever they are.  I wanted to pull them in close and I wanted instant love.

New love.

This new love came and with it so much newness and change.  A love that is no longer attached to a sonogram or a dream, prayers for months and comparing this growing life to a fruit size and preparing to see a life, an extension of your own self.  It's a love that you want with everything in you to hold it loosely because we all know how the story ends that one day he leaves and he never comes back.  The type of love that renders you desperate and crawling back to the cross because it's there that He first loved us.  So you hold your breath for a few days, a few weeks and then you remember the day you exhaled and you let him in.  The day you looked in the mirror and told yourself there's no going back and there's no way of knowing what's coming but that this baby needs love and with everything in me, I'm all in and we're all in.

This love brings to the surface a sacrificial element I've never had to give away.  It will cost us everything because the seed was planted, the ground was worked and poured over, the crop yielded pulled from the ground and then it will be let go.  This love requires release, that he may never know or remember who we were.  He may never know the story of the day we brought him home, that his coming home outfit was passed on from a community ready to welcome him.  He may never know many diapers we changed or how he was swaddled in the night.  The kind of love that wonders, in the lull of the day, if he will ever know how much we loved and fought for him.

A love that requires you to step into someone else's war, the war unseen that leaves a path unrepairable and unrecognizable if the drought wins, if the thief in the night has his way.  It's declaring war on a battlefield, beyond a mess you didn't make and a discomfort and inconvenience you'd prefer to walk away from.  Drawing your sword and piercing into the darkness with light and exposing things I don't want to see and I don't want him to grow up in.  A love that never gives up when some days you just want to quit.

Back to the cross because He didn't quit on me either.

This new love is none like I've ever known.  It's an overflow and a swell so grand that it brings everything up along with it and when it spills over, it all comes to the surface.  All my fears, desperation to protect him, to know the uncertain.  The pain that will come when I can't breathe and his crib is empty, because all along isn't that the reason we said we couldn't and never would do this in the first place?

And then you look over and that little girl who was once a baby herself in your arms, she's holding that baby and he's staring right back at her.
And she whispers and she tells him how one day he's going to move mountains and how it's going to be okay.
She holds him close and she asks me how are we going to let him go.  And you fight back the tears that so easily come these days and you tell her we will some day but that for today, she's doing exactly what He's asked us to do.  You fill up that baby with truth and love so that every seed planted is soaked in the Lord's presence and that scheme brewing in the dark is driven out so far it doesn't come back.
Because with everything in me, in us, this baby is marked with hope and promise.  That every moment and that place where we give until we're empty and desperately crawl back so He can fill us up again, that seed is untouchable and will one day be called out to the surface and a harvest will come.

I don't know this kind of love, not before that phone rang and this tiny life came to live under my roof.  I don't know this new love that catches your thoughts when your mind shifts into neutral and you can't think without crying and when you go before the throne room in the early morning hours you weep because the words can't hardly come out.
I don't know this love but I'm learning it well, these new tracks, new seed, and new war.  And I look down and catch his brown eyes looking up at me and I remember, that quote from a decade ago, it came back into my mind.  The one about babies staring and gazing into their mama's eyes just so they can know her, breathe her in.  
We stare, this baby and me...and I'll say it goes both ways.  We stare and we learn each other, we gaze and he wonders while I anticipate what lies ahead.  He cackles and I wonder, I learn, I fail, and I try again.  He looks in deep and I learn when to draw my sword and when to scatter the seeds.
New journey of new unknown and most of all, new love.

"God is love.  He didn't need us.  But He wanted us.  And that is the most amazing thing." 
~Rick Warren

Friday, April 10, 2015

Bruce Wayne & Batman

Mamas wear many hats.  We can all draw up the lists and try to count how many parts we play in a given day, some more than others.  We are professional diaper changers and have black belts in one-armed cooking while hollering out how to spell "about".  We can be a many different things during any given part of any day.  One hat on while seamlessly the other hat vanishes.  From mediator, chauffeur, cook, tutor, counselor, to friend and wife.

It reminds me of the Batman series in the late 60's where Bruce Wayne would stroll the streets in a svelte suit with charm and class, then by night he fought crime and always beat the bad guys.  The laughable part was unlike the modern day Christian Bale who is almost unrecognizable as Batman, Adam West still looked like Bruce Wayne...even when he was Batman.  Somehow a tiny piece of black leather that only covered the frame of his eyes somehow fooled everyone he saw into believing he was in fact, the cape crusader.

I feel like I've added a hat to the pile.  Foster mama.  Some days I feel like it's a scam, like I have no control, or rights, or say and instead take on the bad guys and at the end of the day, it was just me and it wasn't that impressive.  Other days, I'd say I was feeling more impressive.  That I was ahead of the game, followed the thief to his lair and had all the high tech gadgets from Albert and I blew them away.

A collision of two identities, two worlds, two realities I would like to keep separate.  I like compartments, cubbies, organization.  I would rather somehow immerse myself, our family into the darkness only if I can secure the win.  And not have either one bleed into the other.  I've put a great deal of effort into this seemingly fantastic idea only to realize as of late, it's just not possible.  Not only is it not possible, its exhausting and tiring to keep the two apart.  World one, life as I knew it back before that late night phone call and learning he was alive and needed us.  And then life after that phone call.  Two realities both necessary and real.  One busy with school, soccer, dance, community, homework, exercise, marriage, raising babies.  And then there's the other busy with parent visits, therapies, health department meetings, court hearings and CPS home visits.

Two versions of any given emotion or situation, once one dimensional and now many dimensions and realms.
Disrespect, my kids can hand it out super fast, like butter.  Forgetful of manners or my hard work goes unnoticed over a meal or the sacrifice to double as a sherpa out to a soccer field, which I happily and joyfully do, but the thank you, any amount of gratitude, is lost.
Then there's the disrespect that comes when birth parents don't show up for appointments and visits, for weeks in a row, when you farm your kids out and drive to an appointment to pursue her and be for her, only to have her show up almost an hour late without a 'thank you' or a 'sorry I was late'.  There's nothing.

The difference here is the latter example then stretches beyond my discomfort or my offense.  It's not just my calendar, my kids, my life that is messed with.  It actually has and becomes nothing to do with me.  You watch these babies wait in yet another lobby.  You watch them look for mama and something tells you she's not coming but you wait too.  And you try to understand her heart, her world.  You've taken steps into it and it's messier and darker than you imagined.  You do your best to rationalize why she's late, why she's unsafe, why she uses.  But when he watches for her and the years  have taught him deep survival and danger.  Over and over the message being sent is devalue and unprotected love on a level I can't and never will wrap my mind around.  He sleeps soundly in his car seat while brother plays with trains on a filthy lobby floor, occasionally glancing out the window.  These children bounce from home to home, their baggage is too violent and too much to handle.  The only consistent thing they know is her, and she's hardly there anymore and she's not coming.

Today she never came.  Today it hit hard.  I scooped up that little one and although he doesn't know me well, I pulled him in close and told him he's loved, he's worth a mountain to climb.  Will they climb it for these children?  Today I lose hope because the path leading up to the mountain is empty and there's no one behind us either who's coming.

So what do you do here?  How do you return home to this life that yes you've created for yourself and you've made the choices to get you to this place but underneath all that, again is it has nothing to do with me.  How do you leave that lobby and turn your back on this child, scoop up his brother and bring him back into the fold of family and safety?

When I take off the mask and slip out of my immortal suit when I get home, I didn't win and neither did the bad guys.  Who are the bad guys?  In my mind it can't be, it can't possibly be these parents, the thousands of parents who leave children to watch and wait, when the reality of foster care leaves them in hospital rooms with broken bodies because even still they aren't and weren't protected.  It just can't be because if it is, if it's true, then I quit fighting for them and I quit believing for change and I lose hope.  I have to believe the enemy is at work here and what a monstrous masterpiece of destruction he is painting.  I have to choose to believe in the unseen and it's not because naivety has blinded eyes or the reality of the situation isn't made clear.  The only way out here can't come from a room of self engineered gadgets and schemes to be executed with smooth craftiness.

The only clear path is hope and belief in what He says is true, that He is a strong tower and all who run into it are safe.  How and what does this look like when it feels like darkness is taking ground and the aftermath doesn't end with credits rolling up and everything is magically okay?
We will come home, pick up kids from school and carry on with the weekend.  Soccer games, swim lessons, church, friends.  It will all carry on.  The two worlds continue to collide and honestly I wasn't ready for it.  Only a small thread of a black leather mask keeps me from bursting into tears watching him sleep and feeling the uncertainty of what is to come.  Being present and available to these precious lives once growing in my belly are now running, dreaming, and needing to know they're seen.

I want a beautifully articulate conclusion to this mess.  I want a plan, I want the road map to the bad guy's secret hideout so all victory can be won and the bad dream can go away.  I know it's not going to happen and I know the deepest desires of my heart may never happen.
So for today we will press on grateful for this life and that he gets to be in it for however long that is. Thankful to pull him out of the enemy's fingertips and contend for levels of breakthrough and growth, progress and change only the Lord can bring.

The name of the Lord is a strong tower, a fortress, and all the righteous will run into it and be safe.
Proverbs 18:10