That Time Our Friends Gave Us Their Car…

When we began our life as foster parents 4 years ago, our most reliable vehicle was a 1999 Toyota Camry with 185,000 miles on it. I bought it in college and it was a great car. It was perfect shade of green and my beloved double jogging stroller just fit in the trunk.

We knew having three small children across the back of a sedan wasn’t going to be super convenient (anyone who has installed 3 carseats across a back seat can vouch for this!) but it felt like a flimsy reason not to add to our family through foster care when we were otherwise willing.

So we took the plunge.  It took us about 6 months to get licensed, and 10 days after we received our foster parent certification in the mail, the phone rang with our first placement.  LLM joined our crew and made us a family of 5.

Also around this time our dear friends were in the process of adopting internationally. Their mini van was pretty much maxed out with their current kids, and when it failed inspection, they offered it to us.  For free.

That’s right. They gave us their car.

These are not rich friends. In fact, they were (and still are) in the throws of fundraising to bring their little one home. But they are generous friends. They saw our need and knew they had a way to meet it.

My dad generously did the repairs necessary for the van to pass inspection and kept it on the road at very minimal cost to us for 4 years.

Grace upon grace.

Two weeks ago, we traded-in that old blue van with 258,000 miles on it for a shiny new one.

And I wept.

Despite the sagging headliner, the sporadically-functioning air conditioning, the fact that the exhaust pipe fell off in recent weeks, and a multitude of other issues that made it clear it was time for an upgrade, I grieved letting that car go.

Everyday for 4 years, I drove a promise–the promise God made to provide for our needs. The promise our friends and family made at our wedding to love and support us.  Boy, have they ever.  

There were many things I worried about before LLM came: How would fostering affect my other boys? How would they do sharing a room when a foster child came? Was there enough of me to go around? 

And one by one I got to see my worries fade away in the light of God’s provision.

One time after a sermon included the story of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, I commented to my mother-in-law that it seems as if God waits until we are in the water up to our ankles before He parts the sea.  She laughed and said, “Oh honey. You’ve got to be in up to your knees at least!”

So we wade in, up to our knees, our waists, our shoulders…

Sometimes He parts the waters.  Sometimes He gives you a minivan.

If you’d like to get to know our generous friends a little more, you can read about their family and their journey to adoption at: http://www.thegregoires.blogspot.com

,

Advertisements

There Will Be Blood

Little Lion Man had a doozy of a tantrum this afternoon.  We had been doing slightly better in recent weeks. But it was late in the day and someone crossed him and he ROARED in that sibling’s face with so much anger and hatred, I couldn’t let it go…We let lots of things go…Choosing battles is a hobby of mine. And I chose this one. 

So I asked him, guided him, to a quiet corner to talk and he raced away…running to his room and hiding.  Refusing to make amends or even look at me. At this point, I should have known, I had already lost.

Instead I dug in, unfurling his tight grip on the sleeping bag he was burrowing in.  I sat him, flailing, on my lap and tried to talk to him, and a full-on tantrum ensued.

As is our habit when LLM is out-of-control, I hold him. While this may sound lovely, it is actually quite a nasty business. If I don’t hold him, he will bite and kick and scratch and throw things and hurt me and himself, so I have to hold him.  But it sucks. 

While I am holding him, hugging his arms from hitting, I feel the tell-tale drip on my hand…a nosebleed.  Not uncommon and given the amount of raging he was doing, I was not surprised. He’d had a nosebleed earlier in the day and it was not uncommon for them to occur in clusters. So I grabbed the closest blanket on his floor and wiped us up, then resumed holding him while he raged. But the nosebleed continued, and he continued raging, til we sat there, sweaty and sticky from his blood. 

Finally he calmed. We talked and cuddled and he was once again the darling boy I know.

I handed him off to my husband so I could clean up.  And as I glanced at myself in the bathroom mirror before I stepped into the shower, smeared with my child’s blood, I couldn’t help but think, “At least I look on the outside how I feel on the inside.” 

And as I washed the sick smell of blood off my skin, I thought about what we need.

I thought about how what he and I need is to bond like a baby does to his mother. We need to establish trust through the monotony of caregiving. We need baby-wearing, and heeded-night wakings and cuddly feedings. We need all that we missed. I grieve all that we missed. We can never get it back and we pay for the lack each and every day. 

I thought about how people tell me it was “always God’s plan” for LLM to be in my family.  I can’t accept this. I can’t trust a god to whom can be credited a plan such as the one my dear boy’s life has followed. 

No. 

God had a plan…and we ruined it.

Sin ruined it. 

God’s plan was for us to be with Him in the Garden. God’s plan was for my sweet boy to be someone else’s sweet boy-namely, his birth mother’s. But sin stole that from her. Not just her sin-a millennia of sin before she even had a chance.

And you know what pays for sin?!

You know how it’s all set right? You know why I can wake up tomorrow, when I know I will get spit on and yelled at and emptied by a little boy for whom I feel like I am dying inside to love? 

Blood

Thick, sticky, Blood.

But not LLM’s. And not mine. 

But by the blood of another boy, taken from his home, ripped from his mother and sacrificed on a cross for his enemies. 

By his stripes, we are healed. Because of his wounds, we can be redeemed and set right for eternity. 

I don’t pretend to understand God.  He is big and wild and mysterious.  He and I disagree on a number of things…

But I know He is good.

And I know He is powerful. And I know He is at work on setting all things right.  I believe that He created adoption to be part of that plan.  

So although I don’t fully understand His plans-His original plans or His redemptive plans, though I am covered with blood some days, and feel hopeless many others…I am not without hope.  

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-12

Cozy Spot

April 30, 2015    Since we bought our fixer-upper house, I have loved making it ours and finding ways to make it pretty. The dining room is my favorite: it has the floor I painstakingly hand-painted. It has the bench my husband built, and a beautiful wreath one of my dearest friends made. I love this room and it is MINE. Sure, we eat in it, but I covet and protect this room as one of the few pretty places in our house the children have not taken over.

Until yesterday.

Little Lion Man has tantrums. Big, nasty, mean, biting/hitting/scratching/spitting tantrums 3-10 times a day. He’s had these tantrums since he was about 18 months old. And up until now I have mostly tried to hold him during these times. But he’s getting bigger and stronger and he has hurt me a few times. We needed a better solution. 

Enter the Dog Bed. Yesterday at Home Goods I saw a lady with what appeared to be a big, beautiful, soft and fluffy floor pillow in her cart. It was an adorable print and it really caught my eye. I immediately knew LLM would love one. He adores soft things and it was just the right size for him to curl up on.

Turns out, it wasn’t a floor pillow; it was a dog bed.

And it gave me an idea.

I decided I would make a special little corner of the house for LLM. It would be on the main floor so he could stay near me, but it could be a place he could go to calm down in lieu of me having to hold him when he is having a tantrum. He typically runs away from me when we have a conflict. Why not give him a place to run to? So I searched out the dog bed aisle and put one in my cart.

On the drive home I ran through the places it could go on our main floor. No extra space in the kitchen. No place in the family room, plus I didn’t want it near the TV. The playroom was no good because I needed a way to keep Baby Girl away from his special spot. That left the dining room. My dining room. It is close enough to the kitchen that he can see and hear me and easily come to me when he has calmed down and is ready to talk. And I can easily baby gate the dining room off to give him some space from BG. 

So the dining room it was. While LLM and BG napped, I made what we refer to as the Cozy Spot. I put the dog bed in a corner between our buffet and the wall so it has a “closed in” feel. I added a soft, hooded, blanket (my boy loves hoods) and his vibrating neck pillow. Then I got a little basket and added a roller ball of soothing essential oils he can apply himself. Also in the basket: a favorite stuffed toy, some small sensory toys, and baggies of dried mango. Food is this kid’s love language so I figured some food he could control would be a good idea. I stuck a few books between the pillow and the wall. Then I hung a some pictures of our family and of his birth family. When he is upset, I want him to be able to see pictures of himself happy and safe with all the people who love him. 

When he got up from nap, I showed him his corner. I explained it is a place he can go when he feels mad or sad. I explained that it is only his, and the other kids can’t go in it. I showed him the basket with his snacks and others things. We pretended he was mad and he practiced running to it. He really loves it. He particularly loves having snacks he can control. That’s new for us…and as I suspected, the first day he ate about 1/2lb of dried mango and wasn’t hungry at dinner. But I’m hoping the novelty will wear off and if he knows it’s there and he can have it if he wants, he won’t feel the need to eat it all in one sitting.

So there’s a dog bed in my dining room and we don’t have a dog.

This tiny boy, with smiling blues eyes and dimples…he is doing me in. His depth of need is an ocean. Most days I feel like I have about a watering can to give him.

And yet…

The God who filled the oceans with His word has placed LLM with me. That same God promises he will not leave me or forsake me.  He promises that when He starts a good work, He finishes it. He promises to bind up our wounds and heal our broken hearts. He has set the lonely in my family, and I praise Him for that.

Loving kids from hard places is no joke. They will take over your house and your precious dining room. They will need every space in your heart and take from you until there is nothing left to give. You can reserve nothing from them. They will need it all.

Give it to them. You will be refilled. Your God is an infinite well and His grace and mercies are deeper and wider and higher than the pit of pain your child is trying to crawl out of. So empty yourself. Wait for God to fill you up again. He will. 

And remember, it’s just a stupid dining room 😉

Running on Tired Legs

My sister-in-law runs ultra marathons.  An “ultra” marathon is a race longer than 26.2 miles.  As an inconsistent 5k-runner myself, running this distance is pretty much unfathomable to me.  

My sister-in-law told me a critical part of training for this type of race is learning to run on tired legs.  So in order to prepare for her races, she will run a training marathon or half-marathon on a Saturday, and then wake up and run another on Sunday. You have to run a race that you started tired.

Feels like motherhood to me lately.

For nearly four years I’ve been loving a little boy who is hurting. He came to us through foster care at 13 months old and became forever ours through adoption this past fall. Along the way, we have witnessed the depth and breath our our precious son’s pain. If he wasn’t traumatized from the experiences that brought him to us, surely the nearly 40 months of foster care wreaked its own havoc. We are so thankful that chapter is over. Almost every day I still look at this beautiful boy and can’t believe he’s mine.

But if I’m honest, I’d say, I thought we’d be better by now. 

Turns out after adoption, there’s another whole race to run.  This blog is to tell that story.