Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Why It's Worth It

Some days it's hard to say why it's all worth it, but today was a day when I feel like God just showed off a little bit. He is so faithful to encourage me. I felt the need to sit down tonight and write it out.

The day started around 4:30am with a wet bed. K-man is wetting the bed again fairly regularly..go figure. After a little more sleep, we were up and at em for K-man's eye appointment. All was well, really, all morning. 

On our way to the appointment, we drove down a long interstate with a train track down the middle. I heard K-man murmur a prayer in the backseat, asking God to send a train. Sounds silly, but this might be the first time I have ever heard the child pray on his own accord without prompting, and it's something I've been praying over specifically for a year or more. Part of me wanted to go into a lecture on prayer...haha...but then I thought better of it and let the Lord do what the Lord wanted to do. Lo and behold, a train came. "Mommy!" K-man said, "Do you know why that train came? Because I prayed and asked God." I responded, "Isn't God kind and generous? He didn't have to do that, but he chose to send that train as a gift. What should we say to God?" And Keshaun thanked God for the train :)

When we got there, we waited in the waiting room for about 20 minutes or problem! Went in to see the first nurse and get eye drops...he didn't love that, but he did just fine. Waited in the waiting room again for about 30 minutes...piece of cake! Then, we went in to see the doctor. K-man did great for the whole appointment, but when the doctor said he needed to take out K-man's prosthetic eye, K-man was surprisingly upset. It's not all that uncommon for the eye to come out. It was strange he was so weepy over it, but he got through it just fine and wiped his tears. Then, he came over to me still a little weepy and asked to play with the iPad that he knew had died about 15 minutes before. "I'm so sorry, baby. The iPad's dead, remember? When I get home, I'll charge it up, and maybe you can play it this afternoon." And then it happened..."I WANT THE IPAD!!!" And he was gone...full tantrum mode - tried to open the door and run, hit me several times, spit in my face, took off shoes and threw them, turned over chairs. It was a sight to behold...just me, K-man, the doctor, and the nurse. 

My first thought was, "Are you kidding me? Now?? Here??" But I just did what I do at home. I took him in my arms, hugged him really tight, and tried to calm him down. Over and over for half an hour, I said, "I love you...I need you to calm down...If you calm down, I'll let you go and we can go home." Wasn't working...I tried something else..."K-man, are you mad about having to move in with your cousin?" Didn't work...just kept screaming about how he didn't love me, was going to tell my husband and my mom on me, and was going to call the police to come take me to jail. "K-man, you are SO MAD...I know you are...I'm kinda mad, too! Can you say it? 'I AM SO MAD!!'" "No," he screamed. I tried about 4 times to let go of him, but every time he flew off the handle again. Eventually, I had to pick the child up, pick up everything that was strewn about, and carry him out of the office, down the elevator, across the crosswalk to building #2, down the long corridor, up the elevator, through the parking garage, and put him in the car. There were a few moments I didn't know if I would make it...haha...he's a lot heavier than he was 2 years ago! We had a bit of a stand-off in the car seat, but eventually, we were on the road...driving home...whew!

Adrenaline was pumping...emotions were high...our local Christian radio wasn't cutting it for me. I reached for my iPod and turned my favorite playlist to shuffle. Some of the lyrics we heard on the way home...(tried to cut the list down, but these lyrics were all just too good!)

"How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom"


"There's a peace I've come to know 
Though my heart and flesh may fail 
There's an anchor for my soul 
I can say 'It is well'

Jesus has overcome 
And the grave is overwhelmed 
The victory is won 
He is risen from the dead 

And I will rise when He calls my name 
No more sorrow, no more pain 
I will rise on eagles' wings 
Before my God fall on my knees 
And rise 
I will rise 

There's a day that's drawing near 
When this darkness breaks to light 
And the shadows disappear 
And my faith shall be my eyes"


"I come, God, I come
I return to the Lord
The one who's broken
The one who's torn me apart
You struck down to bind me up
You say You do it all in love
That I might know You in Your suffering

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who's all I need

My heart and flesh may fail
The earth below give way
But with my eyes, with my eyes I'll see the Lord
Lifted high on that day
Behold, the Lamb that was slain
And I'll know every tear was worth it all

Though tonight I'm crying out
Let this cup pass from me now
You're still all that I need
You're enough for me
You're enough for me"


"In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev'ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow'r of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow'r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand."


"Grace reigns to pardon crimson sins,
To melt the hardest hearts;
And from the work it once begins
It never once departs.

The world and Satan strive in vain
Against the chosen few;
Secured by grace's conquering reign,
They all shall conquer too.

Twas grace that called our souls at first;
By grace thus far we've come;
And grace will help us through the worst,
And lead us safely home."


Somewhere in the middle of the drive, feeling so full after meditating on these words, we came down that same road with the train track. Wouldn't you know, a train came rolling down that track. I muted the music and said, "Look, K-man, a train! Look how generous God is and how much he loves us. He blesses us even when we sin." ...and I started the music again, but periodically, I heard sniffles in the back seat. I didn't acknowledge them...just kept looking forward and singing my heart out.

When we got to K-man's school, he was a teary, snotty mess in the back seat. 
"What's wrong?" I asked. 
"My head hurts," he said, "and my feet hurt."
"Do they? I am so sorry, baby. It's probably from that big fit you threw at the doctor's office. Tell me, buddy...who did you hurt when you threw that fit?"
"Me," he said.
"That's right, buddy. Did you hurt Mommy when you threw that fit? Did you hurt God when you threw that fit? Did you hurt the people you were mad at when you threw that fit?"
"No," he said through tears.
"K-man, when we let our anger control us, we always hurt ourselves more than we hurt anybody else. What could we do with our anger instead?" I asked.
"Tell mommy," he said.
"Yeah, that would be a great idea. Do you know what mommy does when she gets angry? I pray, baby, and I ask God to take care of all of the things I'm angry about. I ask him to help me trust Him. I ask him to calm my fears, and I ask him to take my anger far away from me. Do you think God would hear K-man if he prayed that kind of prayer?"
K-man nodded.
"And did you know that mommy sometimes makes foolish choices with her anger? Sometimes mommy says ugly things when she's angry or does things she wishes she hadn't done. Do you think God forgives mommy?"
"Yes," he said.
"Do you think God has enough forgiveness to forgive K-man when he does foolish things out of anger?"
"Yes," he said.
"He sure does. Do you think mommy has enough forgiveness to forgive K-man?"
"Yes," he said.
"That's right. K-man, I want you to think of the worst thing you could ever do...the very, very worst. Do you think God has enough forgiveness for even that??"
He nodded.
"That's right, buddy, there is nothing so bad that you can't be forgiven if you apologize to God, trust Jesus, and turn from your sin.
...and after a few more words, he apologized and went to class...had a good day the rest of the day.

Tonight, after we read from the Bible, I asked the boys what we should pray about. B-boy wanted to thank God for horsies and cows and firetrucks, so we did. K-man wanted to pray that God would keep us safe from robbers. He wanted to thank God for his doctor, and he wanted to say he was sorry for throwing a tantrum. I had him say the last part, himself, and out of his mouth came, "God, I'm so sorry for throwing a tantrum and thank you that you forgive me. Amen."

That, my friends, makes it worth every single hard moment. God is at work, and I'm thankful he encouraged me by showing me tiny glimpses in the midst of chaos today. Please keep praying.

Saturday, November 9, 2013


Well, today marks what is potentially the last Saturday we will ever spend with our family of 4. From here on, the boys will be spending weekends with their cousin. We had hopes of what this day would be like...all fun and hugs and good times and sweet memories and "I love you's" and laughter and silliness. We had Mexican Stack-Ups for dinner last night and then piled on the couch to watch a movie. It was a late night to bed for the kiddos, but it was a fun time. This morning, I found myself (shockingly) awake around 6:45am as K-man (not shockingly) was getting up, too...earlier than the rest of us, as usual. Usually, he goes and plays downstairs until the rest of us lazy bums join him, but since I was up, I thought to myself...maybe this is a gift from the Lord. Instead of lying in the bed like a slug, I got out of bed, went downstairs, curled up on the couch with a blanket and watched The Justice League for an hour with K-man...a real treat for him, but he oddly chose to sit on the chair across from me rather than snuggling up with me. "He's 5," I thought, "I guess they all grow up eventually." But deep inside, I wondered if this was just another sign of his heart struggle right now...scared to death, insecure, and pulling away from us - me, in particular.

That is what has been going on in our house lately, and I have to admit, it's been hard and ugly and painful and a matter of much prayer. As a 5-year-old, K-man is struggling with grief that I will probably never truly know, and he has no capacity to process it all. It just has to come out, and it comes out in defiance, disobedience, whines, and disrespect. As parents, my husband and I are constantly struggling to tease out which behaviors and attitudes are typical 5-year-old behaviors and attitudes vs. traumatized child behaviors and attitudes. Generally, my philosophy is to discipline the same, regardless...with compassion and patience, but with consistency, but K-man's fuse has become so short these days that if I so much as say a correcting remark, he goes off the deep end. The child who came to us biting and screaming and hitting at 3 1/2 years old is leaving us biting, screaming, hitting, spitting, overturning furniture, and yelling physical threats at 5 1/2 years old. This is hard. It's really hard. We saw growth, and now we're seeing decay. We saw affection, and now we're getting the cold shoulder. We saw selflessness, and now we're seeing pride on display like we've never seen before.

So, today started sweetly. Once everyone woke up, we had a "big breakfast" as we call it...just eggs and waffles, really. My sweet husband put on his Pandora Christmas station. I guess if our family Christmas is going to be cut short, we might as well start early! Breakfast was fun. Then, we went to the store to buy some birthday gifts...still felt a little like Christmas. All was well, really, until this afternoon. From about 4pm on, we saw the attitude creeping in for K-man. We corrected verbally, but showed grace so as not to push him across that line. He responded, but you could see that his heart was still so hard. We went to a birthday party tonight...showed more grace...and then it happened. He pushed the envelope past the point where grace could abound. We had to correct with a consequence, and then he hit me and ran away and said all sorts of arrogant, rude, disrespectful things. My heart just ached! These days, I find it so difficult not to give in to anger towards everyone causing this to happen in this child's heart...and to be honest, selfishly, causing this to happen in my home! Life was sweet and settled and fun...and now even the one day we were determined to end well ended poorly.

And so, the Lord has been at work changing my perspective...causing me to be thankful for the opportunity to live out the gospel in such a clear, tangible way. The other day, as I sat with my arm and face wet with spit, I realized that I would never trade the gospel-rich opportunity I had just had in sincerely and repeatedly saying "I love you" to this precious boy while being spit on and hearing "I don't love you!!" yelled right back. Oh, how much more deeply He loves us than we know.

I'm in the business of being real on rose-colored shying away from the hard reality. It is so hard to watch this train wreck coming and feel helpless to do anything about it, but we're thankful, even today, for the opportunities the Lord is giving us to clearly live out the gospel in front of this child. I pray that one day, the Lord may use even K-man's memory of spitting in our faces and hearing us say "I love you" to draw him to Himself. 

"He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed."
Isaiah 53:3-5

Friday, November 1, 2013

His Ways Are Not Our Ways

On Tuesday of this week, we received a phone call from our case manager that went something like this:

"Hi Mrs. _________! How are you? [all very upbeat and cheerful] Well, the cousin's home study has been approved, so we're shifting the visitation schedule a little bit. Starting this Friday, the boys will begin visiting in the cousin's home for 2 hours each week. Then, in November, we'll start doing overnight visits. Hopefully, they'll get to spend Thanksgiving with her, and we hope to place them in her home permanently before Christmas. Now, you had asked permission to travel the weekend of November 15th, right? Yeah, well the boys will be with their cousin that weekend, so they won't be able to travel with you. Does that all sound good?"

I was, quite literally, speechless. I just kept choking back tears and saying, "ok..." and of course immediately after, I called my husband and cried a thousand tears.

I only share this detail with you so that I prepare those of you walking this path for the way these huge milestones happen. I had a certain idea in my head...this was not it. My idea involved a face-to-face conversation, a concerned and compassionate case manager, a certain level of reassurance. This was none of that. It was upbeat and lackadaisical, as though she was asking me to run by the grocery store and pick up some bananas on the way though we were obviously all on the same though the lives of 2 boys hadn't just received a major jolt.

But there it was, and there we were...anticipating a Termination of Parental Rights hearing this Friday (3 days after this phone call)...a TPR hearing we'd been waiting on since April. And now this...what was happening??

We took K-man to play therapy that afternoon, where he drew a picture of our family and wrote a list. At the top of the page, it said "K-man wants", and here was his list:

1. To stay
2. To stay
3. To stay
4. To stay

To give you more of an idea of how this is affecting K-man, our previous "Super Friend" winner at school threw a tantrum all the way to church and in the church parking lot last Sunday that was a sight to behold - hitting, kicking, biting, was a real throwback to our early days. It's all too much for him to comprehend. He's terrified. He can't sit and talk about it, because he has no capacity for that right now. He just gets tied up in knots on the inside and then explodes in disrespect (usually toward me), hostility toward his brother, or all-out rage like we saw Sunday. He doesn't know just bubbles up. Needless to say, we've had our work cut out for us over here - trying to walk the tightrope - praying for wisdom every second to know when to show grace and when to discipline, and the battle has mostly been fought on my knees, trusting God to do the work in his heart that I can never do. I've seen much fruit from time to time after specific, Bible-centered prayers, consistently prayed over the struggles in his heart.

We went to court today, but we did not have a TPR hearing. Without violating confidentiality, I'll just say we made a huge leap closer to a permanent guardianship placement for the boys with the cousin. There will likely be one more hearing before that is accomplished. We're praying that they remain in DFACS custody for at least a few months after guardianship is granted so that they will continue to check up on our boys from time to time.

The boys' mother, T, was there, and I was pleasantly surprised when my two dear friends, who have faithfully visited T and prayed for and with her every week in jail since last year, were there as well. They sat on her side of the court room, praying over her and loving her in a way I just cannot do as things stand right now. The cousin was there also with the boys' grandmother.

The boys' attorney advocated on behalf of our boys that they would have a longer transition period than their older brothers, if needed. We were thankful, but we were also saddened and angered by our DFACS case manager who stood up (with her back to us...never making eye contact or speaking to us) and was content to lie for the sake of her case. We had no cold hard evidence to dispute her at that very moment, so we had to sit idly by, jaws on the all-too-familiar helpless feeling. Our agency worker encouraged us that even if she had told the truth it would have made no difference. We get that, but the stirring in our souls as we sat and listened to someone speaking lies, intentionally trying to mask how difficult this might be for our boys, was dark and disturbing, and reminded us of the battleground we live in.

Perhaps the most significant moment of the day was at the end of the trial. All of a sudden, after a solid 2 and a half hours in the courtroom, the boys' mother stood up unannounced and erupted into an emotional/angry outburst as she refused to sit down. She said repeatedly, "Take me back to jail", clearly escalating into a rage. It was nothing new for any of us to see, but there was really no telling what was stirring inside her to warrant such anger and emotion. My friends prayed for her. Several of us got teary. We all had to exit the courtroom, wondering what had just happened. In the hallway, I had the opportunity to connect with the cousin briefly, and it was an oddly encouraging interaction. She feverishly jotted down my phone number, exchanged a teary hug with me, and assured me that I would be a part of the boys' life. Emotions were high, and the time was short, but I do thank God for that hug and for the opportunity to look her in the eye, shed a tear, and offer my support to her in whatever way I'm able.

Please pray:

  • that we will have the opportunity to weave our lives together with this cousin in a loving and helpful way. This is the lot we've been given. Pray we are all able to embrace that.
  • that the visits that are scheduled in the cousin's home would be accurate depictions of what life will be like, and pray for wisdom for this cousin as she puts one step in front of another. Pray that she feels the freedom to admit if it is all too much for her.
  • that I would seize every opportunity to share the truth of the gospel with their cousin, and that if she doesn't already know the Lord, that she would repent and believe and receive everlasting joy, peace, and freedom from sin.
  • that their mother, T, would continue to seek the Lord faithfully, and that He would draw near to her with Truth and with Peace
  • specifically, if released from jail soon, that T would agree to move into a residential restoration program rooted in the gospel
  • that K-man would trust God, and that God would draw K-man to himself. Specifically, we're praying each and every verse of Psalm 34 over this boy.
  • that B-boy would embrace his cousin and attach to her quickly
  • that the Lord would continue to encourage us in the gospel and in His supremacy and sovereignty over all things as we live these next couple of difficult months
"Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, 
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
Hebrews 12:3

"Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, 
the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, 
the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 
YET I will rejoice in the Lord; 
I will take JOY in the God of my salvation. 
God, the Lord, is my STRENGTH; 
he makes my feet like the deer’s; 
he makes me tread on my high places."
Habakkuk 3:17-19