Friday, September 19, 2014

Dark Days Give Way to Light

No, we're not dead. We're not even in a deep depression or other terrible crisis over here. Life has just overflowing...and I have needed time to put thoughts together in order to communicate the unparalleled grace and wisdom of our God. I pray that after this long hiatus you will be encouraged by the faithfulness of God. Now, strap on your seat belts and get ready for an unbelievable tale :)

Last September, I failed to tell you a very important piece of news...

We found out in September that we were expecting a little one in May - an incredible answer to prayer and the beginning of a wild journey. Those months from September - December were the hardest I've ever endured. The emotions, the exhaustion, the turmoil. I also began having major back pain during this time. The Lord was breaking me and The Lord was sustaining me.

On December 17, 2013 my parents came in town, and we celebrated Christmas with the boys. We went downtown and rode the new Ferris wheel. We went out to eat, and we came home and opened presents. All of this was dotted with angry tantrums from K-man that had become so commonplace. On December 18, 2013, my husband and I woke up with food poisoning. Both of us. I was scheduled for my gender reveal ultrasound - an hour away - they swore they couldn't change it, so off I went, alone and miserable, to what was supposed to be the sweetest day. I found out I was having a girl, came home, fell asleep, and didn't tell my husband or anyone the news until we woke up around 4pm. It was a rough day - not quite what I had pictured. On December 19, my mother came to stay with us, and we spent our final day with our boys. My husband and I mustered up enough strength to take them to Build-A-Bear and spend a ridiculous amount of money on 2 stuffed animals - a real sacrifice that was met with a lot of ungrateful begging for more and a few close calls for angry tantrums (sigh) These were such dark days - just trying to be real. My husband and I recorded our voices to go inside the stuffed animals. "K-man/B-boy, this is Mrs. E and this is Mr. R, and we want you to know that we will always love you and that God is with you wherever you go."

On December 20, 2014, we packed the rest of their stuff while B-boy played unknowingly - laughing, singing, squeezing his bear's hand to hear our voices and his name, and breaking my heart into a million tiny pieces. We loaded up the car and drove away, and I think all three of us adults lost it as we drove away from the house. We stopped by K-man's school (it was his last day before Christmas break) to deliver cupcakes to his class and eat lunch in the cafeteria. He knew what was happening. We had been very clear with him. As we gathered his things, hugged his teacher and the administrators, and walked towards the door, he looked at me with excited eyes and said, "Mrs. E! We had an assembly today, and we wrote down our wishes, because all of our wishes can come true! I wished that I could stay at your house forever!" And then the waterworks started as I turned my head. Why must we tell lies to children? We hurt so many of them when we pretend that this life is about them and about their dreams. Never have I had a harder conversation than when I had to look into the eyes of a hopeful 5-year-old and tell him that our wishes don't have any power but that our prayers do and that our wishes are not what are ultimately best for us but that God's wise and perfect plans are.

We drove in tears and silence to our foster agency's office - trying to be strong and honest at the same time - mostly taking turns turning our heads and crying. When we arrived, we discovered that the case manager was running a good 3 hours behind.  Not sure I've ever been angrier in all of my life. My grace was worn slap out, honestly. I wanted to stay with my boys until the bitter end, but our agency recommended that we say our goodbyes, give them some time at the office to decompress with the staff, and then get in the car and head to their cousin's house. We went into the conference room, where the agency facilitated a sharing time of our favorite memories, the things we would miss about one another, the things we loved about one another, and other tear-jerkers. It was a total sob-fest, except for K-man and B-boy. B-boy was still clueless about how much his life was about to change. My heart hurt, because there's no good way to explain to a 2-year-old that you adore him but can't be with him anymore. K-man was guarded. When we asked questions, he cracked jokes. When we told him what we would miss about him through our tears, he wouldn't make eye contact. I was thankful for the opportunity to speak love over his precious soul, but I could see how frightened he was and how little he was willing to trust anyone in that moment. We gave hugs and left, and I grieved hard for a long time.

The Lord is abundantly kind and gracious and gave my husband and I some really sweet time together over the next several months. We grieved and put the pieces back together as we adjusted to a much quieter and much more boring, honestly, life without those two. My entire identity changed. I didn't know what to do with myself, but the Lord placed so many sweet graces in my path, filling my time with worthwhile endeavors that filled the gap so sweetly.

Over the course of those next several months, we went through alternating periods of being able to talk with our boys on the phone to receiving short e-mail updates to no communication at all. Every moment on the phone was healing for me. Every opportunity to reassure them and tell them I loved them was a moment I didn't expect to have, so I overflowed with gratitude to God.

In February, the boys' mom "T" was scheduled to appear in court for sentencing. With my newly freed up schedule, I decided to attend with my two friends who have visited T faithfully. It was a long day at court, but we were so glad we were there. T's mother wasn't even there. We were her only support, and she was very grateful. She was sentenced for a total of 5.5 more years, and she's now been moved to prison to serve the rest of her sentence. Most noteworthy that day was T's display of humility and self-control. I've rarely known T to be able to hold back anger, and this judge said a lot of very hard things to her - things she needed to hear. I kept waiting for her to explode, but she remained calm and respectful - a miraculous gift from The Lord. "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." T's heart was different that day than I've seen it before. I continue to pray that the Lord will redeem her broken life to the praise and glory of His name.

Through a miraculous turn of events that ONLY our mighty God could orchestrate, The boys' cousin agreed to bring the boys to see us on Easter weekend. There was such a complex mix of emotions that day, but it was overall very sweet and encouraging.

A friendship began to blossom between us and their cousin, but we never dreamed it would sink roots so deep. Towards the end of the school year, their cousin agreed for my husband and a pastor from our church to take the oldest two brothers to a live-in ranch for kids from troubled homes to visit and check it out. Their cousin and I continued to speak weekly - telling each other that we loved each other and expressing our gratitude.

That's where things stood when May 12, 2014 came and this little one stole our hearts the very moment she was born!

With the boys' grandmother out of the picture mid-June (another story altogether), the cousin agreed to let the boys come and spend 10 days with us in July. The three youngest came and spent the most precious week with us. We ran all over the city. We relaxed lots of our rules. We laughed. We hugged. We said a million "I love you"s, and we had many sweet conversations about our Lord who is mighty and good. B-boy is potty trained, still hilarious, a bit strong-willed, and just the biggest bright spot in every day I spend with him. K-man is reading, still a pill at times, but really showing a lot of maturity and security with his cousin's leadership. D, their brother, is a HUGE help. He is a delight in many ways and thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the family for a week. They all adore their new "sister" and argue about which brother looks most like her...haha! And she adores them, too :)

How great is our God?!?!?!?! The train wreck I watched unfolding over the last year was never supposed to end like this. ONLY God could have accomplished this, and for that we are in awe, and we are grateful. Regardless of the outcome, we give all praise and glory to the one true God who is the wise Author of all things, but when He blesses us so, we fall flat on our faces in humble gratitude. Far, far more than we deserve.

I pray and am hopeful that this is the beginning of a much longer story with our boys - a story filled with football games, birthday parties, awards ceremonies, high school graduations, college graduations, job applications, weddings, and more! I pray I will see each of them come to know and trust in Christ and lead their peers and their families well. Please join me as often as you think of them in praying these words.

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 
from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 
that according to the riches of his glory 
he may grant you to be strengthened with power 
through his Spirit in your inner being, 
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—
that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 
may have strength to comprehend with all the saints 
what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 
and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, 
that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think,
according to the power at work within us, 
to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus 
throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen"
Ephesians 3:14-21