Monday, April 1, 2013

Re•building joy - Thoughts that came to me on Easter.

It's been a ling time since I posted about re•building joy. Maybe as my grief becomes more and more manageable - it also becomes more normal and less noteworthy. I guess they call that "the new normal." I look at my grief now more as a scar than an open wound.

For so long, I walked around feeling like I was "the lady who had that horrible experience where her adoptive child had to be moved because the bio-mom threatened to kill her[my] kids" - it was so hard to enter any new relationship without mentioning what we had gone through. And in all honesty, I rather value the friends I have who already know the story as opposed to new people who may not know the depths of the despair we faced this past 2 years.
The ache I have for my baby who is gone is still here when I open the emotional door and look in that room, it still makes me cry and feel like I could vomit from the pain. He is two and a half now. We hear he is doing really well. Does my heart pound even as I type that? Yes. I've seen him a couple times since everything went down. It was clear he knew who we are - that we had him from 3weeks-17months. He followed J around crying -clinging to him and begging to be held the first time we saw him - just a few weeks after everything happened. I see pics of people's babies online and I remember that I was never allowed to post photos of him online, so in my online world, no one could see what our family looked like. But every time I have to dig through iPhoto for an old pic I have to scroll through multiple hundreds of pictures that have him in it. I've come to avoid iPhoto because it hurts so much to look back.
And yet, it does feel like a new season. I laugh more than I used to. I need more quiet and more control over my environment than before; I spend a lot of time alone and in silence. But that's okay. That's a part of me now, too. I feel like a tree that lost a limb in a storm. A huge limb. It threatened my stability to lose what I lost, but I've learned to stand. I've dug deeper roots. I have a scar and am not what I was before. I cannot offer the shade and protection to others that I offered before, but I still have some shade and a little bit of protection to spare.
I also have a story to tell. A sad story, to be sure. A scary story. A reason to be discouraged - if you want to look at it that way... But I also have another part of that same story to tell...
I can tell you about a family that survived death threats and losing one of our members. I can tell you about a marriage that is committed to looking each other eyeball to eyeball and never giving up on each other. I can tell you that LOVE is deeper and wider and stronger and more powerful than hate or fear. I can tell you that I still believe in a God who loves me, even if He let me get broken by pain.
People ask me all the time about the tattoo that circles my wrist. It says, "nothing can separate us". Some people think that's a sweet and romantic thing to have tattooed. Others know that there is a spiritual side to the words. When I don't feel like explaining the long version to people, I say "I just wanted a reminder that things can happen, but nothing can just come in and separate us from love." Then other people may recognize that there is a Bible Verse that says, "nothing can separate us from the love of God" - how beautiful is this passage?

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38, 39 NASB)

There's another part of my story, that includes the story of our first foster baby that we had in our home as we tried to adopt. We were sitting in church on a Sunday, so happy, so over the moon in love with the idea of our family as it was shaping up. Jay was holding "AJ" (the boys' names are all nicknames as I can't post their real names) as I drew in my sketchbook during church. A woman began to speak out the powerful verses in Romans 8 and I knew that I needed those words tattooed on my wrist. I wanted to always have to remember that no matter what the future held, nothing could keep AJ from God's love. Nothing could tear our family's love from each other. And nothing could ever take me away from the love of God. The next day, AJ was suddenly taken from our adoptive home and placed into his 6th temporary foster home in his 3month life - so that we would not be able to adopt him. I was crushed. Then there was "Ace" a few months later. This time the social worker was set on us adopting him, but every interaction I'd had with Ace's mom told me she deserved another chance - i didn't think she would hurt her baby ... It was so hard. He was a colicky baby and I didn't sleep more than 45 minute stretches for 2 months. When he moved to another home closer to his mom, I pretty much had a nervous breakdown.
We took a few months off of foster care and finally tried again and got our precious baby G. If you've read my blog for a while I think you know most of the story. We were told he was a "fast-track" to adoption- didn't imagine the 18 months of threats and harassment... The social workers bringing him down the back stairs fearing for our safety. I carried pepper spray with me constantly and became paranoid - covering the baby's stroller with his sunscreen everywhere I went because I was so afraid of being attacked.
I also was a regular mom through this. Picking up my kids at preschool and first grade, making dinner, juggling life with three kids, making art, blogging... Trying to keep my kids feeling like life wasn't bordering on insanity.

Then G was gone. We were the ones who had to make the call to have him moved to a home that was top secret to protect him and our children. Someone had slipped up and gave the bio mom our home address and she used it in her threats. So we got to deal with the feelings of failure as foster parents too, as we had to drop off our 3rd child at the home of some kind strangers, hoping and praying all three kids and ourselves might be safe if we made this horrible call.

And that is when I realized that I had nothing left of myself. I was an open wound. A mother with empty arms. I had my own two kids, but my baby was gone. The week he had started calling me "Mom" was also the week he left. I still have dreams that he comes back to me. So do the kids and Jay.

I began my journey to re•building joy. I began this past year unable to look forward even a few weeks. I'd cry if I even walked down the diaper aisle in the store. We trudged forward, stumbling. There weren't words to contain our pain. Our kids had even less words and it was a year of many many tears.
But we have inched forward. I've thrown every ounce of my anger, frustration and loss into places that I felt could contain them. My journal, my therapy sessions, my artwork, prayer. Slowly my burden has become lighter and I have walked on - it feels like so long since this journey started. And yet I still do feel fragile.

Jay and I watched a bit of "The Bible" on the History channel this week. We were struck by how violent history in general has been. How many people have watched violent deaths of loved ones - for whatever cause? How many people have been beaten or oppressed by dictators, enemies, abusers and bullies? How many people have images and fearful situations in their memories that made their hands shake for years?

I have had the luxury of time to heal.
I have been blessed to have a roof over my head and caring friends around me as I faced dark memories and doubts.

My story is not one of pity. My story is a testimony. A witness that I am not ruined, though I felt broken. I will always remember the fears and shame and disappointments, but they do not define me and I do not define myself by the dreams I had which did not come true. I desperately wanted to adopt. I was so happy in the short season where we had 4 kids in 2011 - our two, plus G and a 4 year old girl staying with us. I felt so full of purpose - exhausted in the best way.
But that season is over. And I cannot have what I wanted. There will never be a replacement for G.
But will I wear heaviness and sadness forever? If I do, I'm choosing the road of bitterness. No. I will not. I will put off my heavy coat of sadness and put on joy.
Why? (These are all questions I've asked myself a thousand times)

Because I have my faith that tells me that this life is not what it's all about. Not the house I live in, the art I make, whether or not my kids make me proud. This is all about something else. This is all about nothing being able to separate me from the love of God. Not anything. And if I truly believe that God loves me, then I am not going to live like my losses and failures define me. None of them. Because if God loves me, then I better live in the knowledge of that joy. Otherwise, then why bother saying He loves me at all?

And what about all the other people in this big world? What about their pain? (So much worse than my own) Is there a time for them to walk on? To receive love and put off their sadness and walk into joy? I believe so. I do. We have to walk through the darkness first, for sure. It's not pretty. But I believe if I can see and accept that even still - God might still love me - in spite of the fact that I have scars and I limp... Then that's enough reason to let my sadness have its rest.

Today I felt it. I felt the clock ticking - a little timer going off in my heart that said, "Liberty, it's time to pick up joy again. Empty out your pockets a little more, make some room for joy by letting go of some of the sadness."
And I'm not sure exactly how to do that except by trying to remain open to possibilities and hope. But I'm going to try.



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