“…she’s my mom and I love her.” -my son, age 17
The day we met our little boy he’d already experienced more trauma, neglect and abuse than most grownups will in a lifetime. When he rounded the corner on our first meeting I fell in love instantly. His little twelve-year-old face was adorable and smiley. (You can read more about our first meeting in Two Prayers Answered.) Following the adoption his behavior, educational delays and peculiar idiosyncrasies were clear proof that damage from his previous life had taken its toll. My husband and I knew, or we thought we knew, adopting a preteen would be challenging. We went through comprehensive foster care training provided by our CPA firm, and felt well-informed. However, we were not equipped to handle the complete and total chaos that would lay in the wake of his destructive behaviors.
I don’t think there is any training available that could have prepared us for the frightening temper tantrums and assaulting behaviors he would display. There aren’t any books about coping with the PTSD we have experienced, as parents, having a broken little boy living in our home. There is no one, other than impersonal professionals, to talk to about our doubts, fears and confusion regarding our son and dealing with his extreme behaviors. There’s no support group available. No one can relate. Our experience with opening up to folks about our story is laden with judgmental, confused looks, and hushed whispers behind our backs.
If I have to hear one more time from well-meaning fence sitters, “he just needs love”, I might really snap. We show him unconditional love, support and have realistic aspirations for him. We are an unconditional family, forever. We are all in. However, after 5 years, he’s still hesitant.
He wasn’t prepared for a family. He wants a family. He needs a family. He desires to be part of a family. But, he has no idea what family is. His biological mom was shockingly gruesome at being a mother. She was neglectful in every way. Her boundaries were monstrously unhealthy, both intimately and emotionally, creating an unrealistic and dangerous relationship with her son. She also allowed heinous, inhuman and savage men to abuse her and her child. Our son lived in constant fear. His mom’s boyfriends would lock him in the bedroom for days on end without food and water. He was starving, but when footsteps were heard outside the door he would hide for fear of what would come through the door. It was better to be hungry than to be outside the locked bedroom with all the violence. Our son’s first therapist equated the abuse to one the first Saw movies. It was torture. It was manipulative, psychological warfare against a small child. It was endless, every day for several years. It was physical, mental, emotional carnage. My poor little boy endured unspeakable trauma–all before the age of 10.
After he was forcibly removed from his biological mother’s care he encountered foster home after foster home, then his grandmother (the one safe haven he knew) passed away. Contact with his siblings was intermittent due to being separated through the foster care system, firmly establishing a sense of insecurity within him. As a result of his mother warping reality, he was terrified of police officers and other authority figures meant to protect him. He didn’t trust anyone. No one, except his biological mother. Even after his adoption he asked for her. He wanted to know where she was. He showed concern for her. He would tell us “When I grow up and get a job I’m going to take care of her”. It was baffling to me that he could still care for her in this way after all she had done to him. I was jealous of her. After all, she doesn’t deserve his love. She has done so much harm and, yet he still loves her in a way he will never love me. It still hurts my heart to think about.
However, with all the bad she brought about she has one redemptive quality, and I thank God every day for it. The day her son told her was done waiting for her to “get him back” and he wanted to be adopted by us was one of the hardest days of her life, but she faced it well. She could see how happy he was in our family, and how well he was doing in our care. She wept. He wept. (He was so brave. It was one of the most courageous things I had ever seen. He was advocating for himself and it was powerful to witness.) She pulled me aside that day and asked me to be his mother…“be the mother I couldn’t”. It was a moving experience for me. Can you imagine? The truest kind of love–making the ultimate sacrifice so that your child could have a better life. She voluntarily terminated her parental rights in accordance with his wishes so we could proceed with the adoption. If I could say just one thing to her today it would be, “Thank you for trusting me.”
I would love to say that after nearly 6 years we are a ‘Happily Ever After’ family. That we have overcome all the obstacles, our son is well-adjusted and we’re a whole, healthy family. The truth is our son is wired like a powder keg, ready to blow at any moment. And when raging hormones invaded his growing body about 2 years ago all of that abuse and neglect finally surfaced to the point of where he became dangerous and unpredictable, and he was removed by the Department of Human Services. It has been a daunting and discouraging time for all of us.
Our son isn’t living in our home, but he is still our son. We fight for him daily. We do not settle for the status-quo. We do not accept the “it’s just this way” answer. I am a momma grizzly when it comes to protecting and providing for all of my children. We do not sit quietly waiting for anyone to do their job, trusting they know what to do and they’ll do it. We are on it. And we are on them to do it. We go above and beyond, because he is our son. Adopted or not, living in our home or not, he’s our kid. We chose him. And more importantly, he chose us. We do not take that meaningful detail for granted.
We remember… When he’s run off (again) and we’re waiting to hear if he’s found and safe… When we’re sitting in yet another meeting discussing any number of issues, ranging from menial tasks to emergency situations… When he refuses to see us… When he refuses to talk to us… When we’re dealing with the aftermath of havoc he’s created in the people we love dearly… Even then, we remember he chose us.
It’s not the fairy tale ending we dreamed of. Our current circumstances are the furthest thing from what we expected when we adopted. Our dreams were rapidly dismantled when the reality of our situation set in and he became unsafe.
As the adoptive mom, I struggle. A lot. I had an ‘American Dream’ fantasy about how our family would look, and it doesn’t. Not even close. And I struggle. I ugly cry when I allow all of the emotions to rush in, or I begin overthinking every decision we’ve made in the last six years. The shame, humiliation, disappointment, sadness and resentment culminate into something that looks like depression, but in reality it’s more like a hollowness right in the center of my chest. And if I allow it, it can consume me. Instead, I focus on the good; the bright spots in our life together. I have to.
The day my son said, “… she’s my mom and I love her”, about me/to me was a turning point in our relationship. It’s one of the bright spots I focus on. Although there was a bad reason for the meeting that led to him saying those words, they still meant more to me than he will ever know. For the most part I have been a source of advocacy, support, food, shelter, paperwork-filler-outer and electronics access, and nothing more. But, the day he said those words…I will remember that moment forever, and it will get me through the rough days ahead.
My husband and I get tired and frustration sets in. Sometimes we start to lose hope and begin to feel defeated. We journey to the brink of insanity and decide to keep moving forward, one day at a time. Our story isn’t the make-believe, feel-good saga told on the Hallmark channel. It’s hard. It’s dark. It’s real. And I guarantee there are more stories like ours out there; parents who encounter overwhelming obstacles in the wake of their adoption, afraid to ask for help or talk about it for fear of being judged relentlessly by people who cannot comprehend what they’re going through. You’re not alone.
Although our story makes most people uneasy, our story isn’t over. We’re still in the midst of the storm. There’s a victory coming, because we’re clinging to the promises of God (We have a desperate, death grip on it), and my husband and I have decided to lock arms and face this together. We’re all in and we’re not done yet, so stay tuned…
I’ve briefly shared about our journey with foster care and adoption in Two Prayers Answered, but our complete story has never been told. Someday. Maybe. Today I’ll be sharing some information…some food for thought…and also challenging you – are you ready?
Here’s a short history lesson about National Adoption Month:
In 1976 Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis announced an Adoption Week in his State to promote awareness of the need for adoptive families for children in foster care. In 1984 President Reagan proclaimed the first National Adoption Week. In 1995 President Clinton expanded Adoption Awareness Week to the entire month of November. Then in 1998 he directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop a plan to expand the use of the Internet as a tool to find homes for children waiting to be adopted from foster care. And lastly, President George W. Bush provided an explanation of National Adoption Month in Spanish in 2008.
Now that you’re caught up on how our nation began the adoption awareness movement, and before I share the mind-opening facts that will rock your world into changing your life forever, I want to clarify a few things…
- I’m not trying to offend anyone. I do not want my words to come across pushy or condemning, but I do have some strong opinions about foster care, adoption and the Christian initiative to end the orphan epidemic, and this is my place to share.
- Our family is not better than yours. We are not incredibly “Godly” because we are involved and passionate about caring for children in the Foster Care system and have adopted. Adoption is not for everyone! Some folks aren’t equipped, seasoned enough as responsible adults, or have the resources to care for another child in their home full-time – but everyone can do something. Christians have a responsibility to care for the orphans of our community, and we need to take this command seriously. With all of the “Christian Causes” spiraling out of control all over the internet nowadays, supporting a foster child and/or supporting a foster family is truly a Christ-like cause to get on board with.
- I am not sharing this post in an attempt to guilt you into becoming a foster parent. But, I do strongly feel we ALL can do something, especially if you claim to follow Christ – but sometimes people don’t know that something needs to be done. Consider this a “no turning back point”.
- I pray this will ignite a fire in some of you to seek God’s will for what He would like you to do to serve and care for our orphans.
With this in mind, please ponder over the following facts:
- 415,129 children are living without permanent families in foster care
- 107,918 children in foster care waiting to be adopted
- Approximately 26,286 children “age out” of the foster system annually without being adopted
- Average age of a child in the foster system: 9.3
- Average age of a child waiting to be adopted: 8 years old
- Average length of stay in the foster system: 23.9 months
- 60,898 children whose parental rights were terminated in 2014
- 50,644 children adopted from foster care in 2014
- Nearly 40% of American adults have contemplated adopting
- Number of caring adults it takes to make a life-long difference for one child in the foster system: 1
If those numbers don’t touch your heart and create a stir in your soul about the magnitude of the orphan epidemic plaguing our country – I am not sure what will. Each of those numbers represents the face of a baby, child, teen or young adult waiting for a family to care for them. My head spins when I think about it.
Caring for orphans doesn’t necessarily mean adopting them. There are so many ways to take care of orphans, such as fostering them, providing financial assistance or materials to orphanages or families who are fostering, mentoring or tutoring children in foster care, sending/donating Christmas presents, babysitting for a foster family, being a transporter or visit supervisor, or being licensed to provide short term or respite care, or being a CASA volunteer.
For many it can be a battle of a spouse who does not feel called to enter the foster system and open their home. My husband and I had to pray about this to determine if this was a path our family felt called to. My advice to anyone thinking about fostering or adopting is that you both have to be in agreement. I would never want to try to ‘make’ it happen without my husband being on board 100%. That would have been a recipe for disaster.
For some, it is fear of the unknown. You may not feel your home is big enough or you might not have enough in your budget to accommodate one more around your table. The first thing I would suggest is you pray earnestly, and then seeking out reliable information or resources to help you make informed and educated decision. It can take some digging to get good solid information and unfortunately I am only familiar with what the state of Colorado offers for fostering.
Here a few other interesting facts to ponder regarding adoption from the foster system.
- Adopting from foster care is affordable. Most child welfare agencies cover the costs of home studies and court fees, and provide post-adoption subsidies. Thousands of employers offer financial reimbursement and paid leave for employees who adopt, and Federal and/or state adoption tax credits are available to most families.
- Every child who’s parental rights have been terminated is adoptable. Many children in foster care have special needs. All of them deserve the chance to grow up in a safe, loving, permanent home. Support and other post-adoption resources are available.
- Adopting from foster care is permanent. Once a child is adopted out of foster care, the birth parents cannot attempt to claim them or fight in court for their return. A family formed through foster care adoption is forever.
I hope you’re open to how you may participate in caring for the orphans in your community. My heart aches for all orphans, but I am passionate about caring for the children within our own country who are just sitting, waiting for someone to care and give them a home. So…
Are you willing to make a difference in one child’s life?
Drinking coffee in our family is a bonding experience. There are heaps of positive (mushy, gushy) emotions attached to the smells, sounds and taste of freshly brewed coffee. All of my fondest memories of childhood are filled with the delectable, robust, savory, satisfying (I could go on) aroma of brewing coffee. I remember a family reunion in Denver when I was 5 or 6 years old, and all the adults are standing around the coffee pot or holding a cup of coffee. They were talking, laughing and reminiscing. Everyone was happy.
The most meaningful, deep conversations with my family have been over a fresh brewed cup of joe. Even when we’ve been thousands of miles apart there is still a sense of bonding happening over a cup of java. The pleasant smell and familiar taste always bring up those fond memories and sentiments.
When my brother was stationed with the Navy in Sicily we knew that having a cup of coffee in the morning somehow still meant we were close. He would share his Italian café experiences with us and it brought us together, again and again.
There were so many times in college when I would start feeling homesick. I would walk down to the coffee shop, shoulders slumped and feeling pretty awful. I would buy a cup of coffee and call my parents collect from the pay phone. I have vivid memories of sitting on the cold tile floor, talking to my mom and dad as I sipped my coffee. It never failed that I immediately felt better after speaking with my folks and having a cup of coffee “with” them.
Coffee has so many benefits for the body and brain. However, the main reason I drink coffee is the emotional attachment it has to my loved ones. Coffee is a way of life for us. I hope to pass on this love for coffee to my children. And not just a love for the beverage, but a deep love and appreciation for the bonding that happens when you’re spending time with your loved ones and enjoying a freshly brewed cup of coffee.
Everyone is entitled to have their own opinions and should be allowed to post them freely in their personal web-sphere-world. Although I may not agree with their stance on politics, religion, music, morals, human rights, etc; they are allowed to post whatever they want on their own Facebook page, blog, etc.
Note to self: It is NOT my job to be an Internet Troll and educate or rebuke them.
I should be free to post my opinions on my personal page, blog, etc. without fear of being relentlessly attacked for my biblical morals and values, by Christians and non-Christians alike.
- Notice. If we really want to encourage positive behavior, we have to start by noticing it. When you recognize positive behavior, it is more likely it will continue. What you focus on is what you get, so focus on what you want. So, it’s time to put down the phone and look up. Pay attention. We’re not able to notice behaviors unless we’re paying attention to see them.
- Give attention up close. Physical closeness shows that the approval is personal. Even something as simple as “thank you” in enhanced physical proximity will encourage the positive behavior to continue.
Try this experiment at home: Have your partner or friend sit across the room from you and say something nice. Then ask him/her to come up close and repeat those same words. You’ll be able to feel the difference. A good rule of thumb is to position yourself within three feet of your child as you speak to them. This may mean that you’ll have to track them down in the other room or out in the yard. But do it! It’s worth the extra effort.
- Make good eye contact. This is really basic, but it’s surprising how often we forget. Let your child know you’re talking to THEM specifically. Face your child directly, even turn your entire body toward them, if possible. This action tells your child that they are special and what you have to say is important to and just for them. Again, the phone must be put down in order to achieve this step.
- Smile! Our facial expressions often give the most important message. It’s important to reinforce what we are saying with an appropriate facial message – like a smile. Children watch body language and facial expressions for cues to mood and intention. It’s important to be intentional with facial expressions, so they know exactly what to expect.
- Compliment the behavior, not the child. Show approval for what your child has done. Children need to know why they are being acknowledged and what they have done to deserve this attention. For example, “I like the way you picked up the toys and put them in the basket,” rather than, “you are a good boy.” Important Note: This is very different from your child’s need to know that you unconditionally accept and love them for who they are regardless of their behavior.
- Be affectionate. Your child will feel acknowledged, appreciated and rewarded when you give them a friendly pat on the back, a hug or a kiss. Healthy human touch induces oxytocin, the “bonding hormone,” that’s renowned for reducing stress, lowering cortisol levels and increasing a sense of trust and security. It also strengthens the immune system and important for brain development.
- Repeat the message in a different way. Repeating the message in a different way helps keep the message fresh, new clear and genuine.
I want to say YES to everyone. I want to be available all the time. I feel guilty when I miss a phone call, or cannot respond to texts or emails right away. I want to be available 24/7 to provide everything you need or want. But, I can’t. It’s just not possible.
Stop trying to be everything for everyone. You’re human. You’re finite. You’re not capable of doing it all. Stop setting people up to be disappointed. If you make yourself available all the time they’ll come to expect you to be available all the time. Shocking, I know. And the ONE time you’re not available they’ll complain, get upset and be disappointed.
You have to set up solid boundaries and then communicate them, both verbally and in action. If you set good boundaries you are more likely to create healthy expectations. Poor boundaries, or in my case NO boundaries, will result in hurt feelings, jealousy and contempt.
I am completely guilty of saying YES to everyone. My boundaries are more like open doors to my life. So, as you read this please understand I am talking to myself. But, you’re more than welcome to take some insight from this and apply it to your own life, business or circumstance.
The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty years. I’ve often wondered why it took them forty years to get to the Promised Land. Was Moses lost? Were they too afraid? Were they just too comfortable living in the wilderness? Perhaps some part of them wanted to go back to Egypt.
At one point “All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” Number 14:2-4
I believe professionals refer to this as Stockholm Syndrome:
a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with the captors. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness. Stockholm syndrome can be seen as a form of traumatic bonding, which does not necessarily require a hostage scenario, but which describes “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.” One commonly used hypothesis to explain the effect of Stockholm syndrome is based on Freudian theory. It suggests that the bonding is the individual’s response to trauma in becoming a victim. Identifying with the aggressor is one way that the ego defends itself. When a victim believes the same values as the aggressor, they cease to be perceived as a threat.
After studying this passage of scripture I’ve come to the conclusion that they simply weren’t ready for The Promised Land. They had lived as captives for too long. They had been slaves for too long. They didn’t know how to be a civilized people without the rule of Pharaoh. Obeying and trusting God was new and difficult for them. They made a lot of mistakes. They learned a lot of lessons. They fought many battles. They fought each other. They simply weren’t ready for what God had planned. In the meantime, Moses and all of God’s people claimed victory after victory as they journeyed through the wilderness; defeating countless rulers, and defending their people and their way of life.
The Israelites wandered for FORTY years, because they lacked trust, faith and confidence in the Lord. And this resulted in their disobedience.
They survived. As a people, they survived. Unfortunately, Moses and everyone military age and older, at the time they left Egypt, died in the wilderness. Their punishment was that they would not be able to enter the Promised Land, because they were disobedient.
In the book of Joshua you’ll see that, finally, the time had come to enter the long-awaited Promised Land.
The ONLY thing standing between the Israelites and the Promised Land is the Jordan River. As the priests picked up the Ark of the Covenant and stepped into the waters of the Jordan, the water stopped flowing and the Israelites walked across on dry ground. It was reminiscent of Moses parting the Red Sea forty years earlier.
“So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.” Joshua 3:14
As the Israelites walked out of the river bed, there must have been a sense of awe as they stepped onto the land. They had waited so long, endured so much. A wave of emotion must have flooded over them as they realized the promise was finally coming true. All of the years of waiting and hoping were finally culminating in the fulfillment of God’s promise.
Near the town of Jericho, Joshua was confronted by the commander of the Lord’s army. Joshua fell on his face out of reverence, expressing his willingness to be completely obedient. The command was simple: “Take off your shoes for the place you are standing is holy ground” (Joshua 5:15). This was God’s territory.
They had made it to The Promised Land. But, the journey was not over.
There before the Israelites stood Jericho, surrounded by a great wall with the gates shut tight. As they contemplated the wall and what it would take to enter the city, Joshua received the battle plan from God. It was simple: march around the city for seven days and the walls will crumble. Joshua called the priests and explained that they were to march around the city. There’s no mention of him telling the warriors that the walls will simply crumble before them. They were simply obeying out of faith.
As day one dawned bright and sunny, the Israelites assembled. The priests took the horns and the Ark of the Covenant and began the trek around the city, with the warriors going in front of them and behind them. They were instructed not to talk, but I bet they were praying silently.
Day two came, and they repeated the process. Marching endlessly, praying silently. The people of Jericho were probably wondering what kind of battle plan they had. The Israelites were probably beginning to wonder the same.
Days three, four, and five. More of the same. Marching. Praying. Starting to question. Starting to doubt, Joshua and God. Beginning to feel foolish. Growing weary. Wondering how God would ever come through. How could THIS be Your plan? Hadn’t forty years in the wilderness been enough? And now you have us walking around the city of Jericho. This is nuts!
Day six brought more of the same. More marching. Exhaustion and frustration were probably beginning to set in. Prayers were growing old and stale. How many of us have been there? Praying for the same situation over and over, saying the same words over and over; wondering if God is even paying attention.
The heat was beating down on them. The sweat is beading off their skin. Their muscles are cramping and sore. How much more of this can we take? Even if there is a battle plan how are we going to fight? Just keep marching. Keep going. Push forward.
The people of Jericho were probably feeling confident by now. Really? THIS is your great plan? You defeated how many armies with this “walking war”? I’m guessing they were probably growing complacent inside the walls of their city. “These fools don’t have a battle plan! They think that they can frighten us by simply walking around our city! We are safe and secure within our fortress!”
And then came day seven. It started just like the previous six days. But the atmosphere was different. There was a sense of excitement in the air, an anticipation that something big was ahead. There was a restlessness among the troops. They began their trek around the city yet again, knowing that this day would require even more of them. They bounced between expectation and doubt, anticipation and fear, excitement and confusion. Everything was on the line as they waited for total and complete redemption from the years in the wilderness.
Finally, after seven trips around the city on the seventh day, the priests sounded the trumpets and all the people gave a loud shout. And just like that, the walls came crumbling down. The fortress was gone, and God allowed the people to take possession of the first city in the Promised Land. What a joyous day, a day of victory, a day of seeing God’s miraculous display of power!
The Israelites experienced full redemption on that day.
I feel as if I understand the mixed emotions the Israelites must have experienced in those days marching around Jericho. I have been in the wilderness for a number of years, wandering through the desert while seeing God provide for my every need. He has done a mighty work in my life while I’ve been in the wilderness. He has humbled me and tested me (Deuteronomy 8:2). He has taught me to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). And then he taught me to trust him with my whole heart (Proverbs 3:5).
The wilderness has been an amazing experience, an amazing opportunity to be completely dependent upon my Savior. But I know the Promised Land is near.
Several years ago my husband and I struggled to have a child. Infertility and failed adoptions took quite a toll on our marriage. We made it through. We locked arms and put Jesus first. We made a declaration that our marriage was a priority and that we would rely on God to help us through. Then, we became foster parents. Our world was turned upside down by the arrivals of little faces, needing so much love and compassion that we thought our hearts would burst from joy. Then, as time went on, our hearts were torn out of our chests as each of those little lives left our home, for one reason or another (reunited with parents, family members etc.) Our emotions raw from pain and disappointment, we received a call for a 12 year old boy. I didn’t want an older child. My heart was set on a baby. I wanted a baby! Long story short, we fell in love with our son. His first 12 years of life had been like one of the worst R rated films you’ve ever seen. You would not believe the abuse, neglect, sexual assaults; they filled his case file to overflowing. We knew he was a broken little boy, but God told us THIS was our son and we adopted him the following January.
If that wasn’t miraculous enough, I was pregnant with a beautiful baby girl. She is my sunshine, my heart walking outside my chest. I gave birth to my precious, perfect, full term baby the following August. There were many complications that followed her birth: placenta accreta, hemorrhaging, dying on the operating table, two emergency surgeries (D&C and partial hysterectomy), one of which resulted in never being able to carry another child. I was devastated. And I was blessed.
I had my two babies: a 12 year old son and an infant daughter. Both are an answer to prayer.
The last few years have been very difficult for our little family. I don’t know if you know this, but raising kids is hard work. Raising teenagers is HARD work. And raising a teenager adopted at a late age out of foster care is REALLY HARD work. Without going into detail, my life, our lives, have become difficult. Over a year ago we suddenly became aware that our son needed serious, professional help if he was going to remain in our home. Unfortunately, professionals have deemed his behaviors unsafe and he’s been living outside our home in a safe, therapeutic group home where he’s receiving professional help. Now, unless you’ve ever been in my shoes, you have no idea how difficult it has been to parent a17 year old teenager with cognitive disabilities and dangerous behaviors. So, please have mercy when you judge my family. I want to be as transparent as possible with you, so you know that I KNOW what it’s like to live in despair, discouragement, darkness… Always questioning every decision you make, trying to keep everyone happy, supported, provided for, and losing sight of yourself in the process. I’ve been on anti-depressants, been to a counselor, lost faith in myself and in God. I’ve wandered the wilderness. Wondering how THIS could be God’s plan for my life; doubting that He was listening to my cries for help, fearing that He had forgotten me. I have been there. I was there just a few months ago. But, not anymore.
A few months ago I found out that a dear friend of mine has terminal cancer. She’s 35 years old, like me. And dying. It was like a reality check for me. Why am I living like this? Why was I allowing the devil to have a foothold in my life? Why am I settling on the East Side of the Jordan when the Promised Land is right there?! It’s only across the river. Why am I allowing my despair to rule me? Why am I allowing myself to live on this side of the river when God has PROMISED me a land full of blessings on the other side. WHY?
Because, I had grown complacent in my walk. I liked the mess. I know the mess. It’s easier to live in the mess, than to allow God to clean me up, make me whole and follow Him to the other side. And even though I know God is calling me to the land of milk and honey, and I won’t have to settle for manna and water, I sat. I dug my heels in. I refused to go.
What was complacency quickly turned to rebellion. My heart was hardening to what God has for me to the point of where I couldn’t hear Him anymore. I could not discern His voice from my own thoughts. The reason I couldn’t tell if God was hearing me…the reason I felt like I was being ignored…like He had forgotten me…is because I had stopped listening to Him…seeking Him…turning to Him for my every need. Because my mouth was saying “God, help me.” But, my heart was saying, “I got this. I can do it on my own. I don’t trust Your plan. Your way is too hard. Even if I make it across the river, Jericho will still be standing in the way.”
I had grown complacent and rebellious. Several months ago…
Today, I feel God telling me that I have crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land. I am standing on holy ground! Some days I simply want to fall on my face in worship, knowing that I am about to take possession of all God has planned for me. And yet, there in front of me stands my Jericho, walls towering over me and the gates locked tight. My son, the redemption of my family, is my Jericho.
I have been marching around the city for six days (5 years), praying endlessly, begging God to bring the walls crashing down. I feel as if I am on day seven, as if the walls will soon crumble before me. I am restless. I alternate between expectation and doubt, anticipation and fear. Some days the journey seems never-ending. I wonder how much longer I must keep walking. And yet, I have my orders. Just keep walking.
My spirit is restless. Something big is coming! Full redemption is near!
Each day, I wake up, carrying the scripture before me, saturating my mind. I continue walking and praying, reminding God of his promises and his faithfulness. I do my best to focus my mind completely on Him so that he can keep me in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3).
Some days I walk in excitement and joy, hardly able to contain myself. The next, I’m overwhelmed with doubt and feelings of foolishness and fear. It’s a battle to keep the mind of Christ, to constantly live in that place where I trust him completely.
And yet, I know that’s where He wants me. I know that He wants me walking forward in faith, even when I can’t see the completed picture. I know He wants me to keep marching on this, the seventh and most critical day. The final day.
Very soon, I will make that seventh circle around the city. With a shout, I will begin praising God as the walls begin to crumble. I will take possession of this first city in my Promised Land, my son. I will reclaim my family.
Until then, I will keep walking.
What about you? Have you been camped in the wilderness, anxiously awaiting the promises God has made to you? Do you sense that redemption is near? Are you praying and waiting expectantly? Are you fluctuating between excitement and fear, anticipation and anxiety? Do you feel as if you have marched around the walls in prayer repeatedly, as if you can’t keep going? Not one more step.
God sees. He hears. He knows that the walls will come tumbling down shortly. He is calling you—calling you to take up his Word, step into the flooded waters of the Jordan, and march around those walls. He is calling you to continue in obedience, to trust him to fight the battle.
He is calling you to keep walking. The journey is so short. In comparison to the span of your life; it’s so short. Keep walking. Cross the river. Don’t settle on the east side. Too many people live in the mess. Don’t live in the mess. Do you have a habit, a hang-up, a hurt? Something that you’re holding onto that’s keeping you separated from God? Make the journey to the Promised Land. Live in the blessings God has for you. Come out of the shadows and live in the light.