"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 home...as though we were obviously all on the same page...as 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, spitting...it 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 why...it 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 floor...an 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.
- 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."
"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."