Wherein Parenting Takes An Unorthodox Turn

It was a Wednesday and I stopped and dropped in the middle of putting clean sheets on my bed because the weight of my mundane world crashed in a heap upon my shoulders and the tonnage of it propelled a forward bend, palms pressed open against the mattress, back arched like a bow and the heaviness of my head hanging careless between my shoulder blades. I told my Father that I was certain that He had made a mistake and that surely having three boys AND homeschooling them . . . plus this, that and the other thing was too much weight for any one person to stand up under and more specifically: TOO much for an introvert who craves solitude and stillness and quiet more then all the known things on God’s green earth.

Then I remembered that God only gives us what we could NEVER handle.

On.

Our.

Own.

With the brackish water breaking from my eyelids and spilling on the bed I’m bent over, I says to my God: “I ain’t got what it takes and my back is broken here. I need wisdom because I have no idea how to be a mom right now”

To be more specific with you, we’ve been aching and desperate to comprehend what to do with our oldest son who is transitioning from boyhood into young-manhood and seems to all of a sudden have pre-adolescent hormones raging through his developing body. Somebody told me one time long, long, ago that this would happen some day—the hormones and whatnot—and I’m going to tell you right now that there are some abstracts I wish would just stay the freakin’ heck away from reality. Because these boy hormones?

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SOMEBODY, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY, SAVE ME!!!!!!!!!

I digress.

Our boy, Gabe, has been monumentally struggling with disproportionate anger. And this anger can rise up inside him from just one big snot-sniffle coming from the nostril of a brother sitting next to him on the couch. And no amount of reasoning and deep breathing is enough sometimes to pull him out of his sudden hysteric space. Later, when the cool down finally comes, he makes his way so repentant-like to all the family members he violated and begs for forgiveness, with tears and sorrow and all the rest of it. He prays everyday that God would help him not to react to his sometimes frequently pesky little brothers or to any other thing that might get an immediate rise out of him.

Gabriel and I were having a post-fraternal-war conversation on the couch the other day and with cry-streaks all over his cheeks he says to me: “Mama, I’d rather be able to change then have a million dollars. I don’t understand why God isn’t helping me”. Let me go ahead and confess to you that my heart split to slivers while watching my son hunger for a transformation that felt so far-reaching for him. Especially since he’s been praying for [what feels to him like] a very long time. And mama don’t have the answer to his big-boy question.

That’s the gist of our repetitive struggles. And by “repetitive”, I mean: more then once every day. And I am so tired of hearing myself talk and all the teachable moments that I just CAN’T pass up. He’s tired. I’m tired. We’re all tired. At the same time, you need to know that Gabe has such a gigantic heart of goodness and strength inside his chest and we are constantly affirming who he is and building his character up and reminding him of who he is in Christ Jesus and anyone who isn’t his mama would still marvel at the way this God-son spreads seeds of love all over the land around him.

In the midst of all this, Austin and I have—at times—messed up massively in the ways we responded to Gabe’s challenges, getting angry and shout-like just as the good scriptures tell us not to and we have sorrowfully sought his forgiveness and somehow by a Grace higher then ours that process has knit our hearts even tighter together with our boy Gabe.

So, that day when my mattress became my confessional, I had reached the most stretched-out shred of myself – for things mentioned and unmentioned. But, what I was most despairing for was a way to help my son through his breaking s and transitions.

The next day Gabriel’s anger came back, it couldn’t stay away . . . with wild eyes and clenched fists he tornados around his brother Jude for barely any reason at all. I’m in the kitchen elbow deep in sugar cookie dough when the tyrant-tune reaches my ears and the first thing I do this time is all the deep-breath-taking I can possibly suck in, all the way to my belly and back up again, while whispering my “Oh, God . . . help.” And I call for the angry son to “come here please” and I quietly ask him to “go somewhere alone just until I can wash my hands and come talk to him”. The good Lord knows I didn’t need time to wash my hands. I needed time to wash my heart so I could enter into a space with my son and see far beyond the surface issue being repeatedly expressed.

That’s exactly when I had this helpful idea fall into my thinking space and I rushed to meet Gabe in the guest room where he was being quiet and took his hand in mine and guided his body gently to lay down on the rug, positioned his limbs in the most relaxed pose, placed a palm on his forehead and a palm on his stomach and felt the Spirit literally whoosh in on the wings of my urgent pleas. What follows is the record I wrote in my journal the second I was done ministering to my boy, because I didn’t want to forget even an atom of it.

Me: “Ok, Bub. Close your eyes and take five deep breaths all the way down to your belly. Breathe . . . Relax your face. . . Loosen your limbs . . . Breathe.”

(One minute pause while Gabe stills down.)

Me: “While keeping your eyes closed, I want you to tell me where your anger is located in your body. Is it in your mind? Or your heart? Or your stomach? Is it in your left thigh?” (Seriously. You NEVER know.)

Without missing a single beat . . .

Gabe: “The anger is in my stomach.”

At this point I move both my fire-hands to rest softly on his bare belly.

Me: “Ok. The anger is in your stomach, what does it feel like?”

Gabe: “My stomach feels tight and really tense. It hurts all over.”

Me: “Ok. We know the anger is in your stomach and is making your stomach tense and painful. Now, I want you to imagine the anger in your stomach and tell me what it looks like.”

Without missing a single beat . . .

Gabe: “It looks like a dark, red cloud.”

Me: “Imagine for me this dark, red cloud sitting in your belly and taking up all this space where it doesn’t belong. (Pause) Do you see it?”

Gabe: “Yes.”

Me: “Now imagine the dark, red cloud being sucked out of your belly until it’s all the way gone.”

Almost immediately, Gabriel’s eyes POP open and bug out of his head while he exclaims: “HOW did you do that?!?! I CAN’T believe it!!! My stomach hurt SO bad and now it’s all GONE!!! It’s a MIRACLE!!!”

I’m smiling over his wonder and joy, but tell him: “Hang on a second, we’re not done yet . . . close your eyes and imagine the space in your belly where all that anger was . . . now that it’s gone, you have all this empty space inside you and I want you to envision that empty space. Do you see it?”

Gabe: “Yes.”

Me: “Alright, now that you have this empty space, what do you want to fill it back up with?”

Gabe: “God’s love. I want to fill it with God’s love.”

Me: “Good . . .that’s beautiful, Gabe. What does God’s love look like to you?”

Gabe: “God’s love looks like Jesus’ face.”

Me: “Ok. Imagine Jesus’ face coming to you and filling all the empty parts inside your stomach.”

And he did, he took Jesus’ face right inside him and with so much gladness and appreciation coming out his eyes, my boy throws his adolescent arms around my neck and fervently whispers against my neck: “Thank you so much, mama. I feel FREE!” And mama says: “Oh, honey. Jesus set you free, He just used my hands and my heart.”

I learned an invaluable lesson that day: in many situations that seem like a punishment would be in order for negative behavior being chosen and displayed, maybe the offender isn’t always begging for . . .

Time-outs.

Or privileges revoked.

Or firm words.

Or extra chores mandated.

Maybe sometimes he only needs to be touched where he is hurting most. Maybe being a parent means less about correction all the time and more about offering ourselves as a medium of healing for our children. The healing process can take more time then we are willing to sacrifice when life is full and busy, but for the 20 minutes I spent on the floor with Gabe I felt like I was in an alternate universe with my son and I couldn’t even feel the clock ticking.

(Note: I don’t think Gabe received some magic cure-all. BUT. It has been two weeks since this interaction with the Spirit on the extra-bedroom floor and we have not had ONE outrage. NOT. ONE. Sure, he still gets mad here and there – it’s just not even close to the same anymore.)

 

:: Linking with Emily for Imperfect Prose ::

 

a beginning to something ::

I see them in my spirit-eye, hundreds of little flesh-people pinging around inside an institution; the state is their legal guardian, a paperwork file their goodnight blanket and it should never be so. Their heart-lanterns are barely lit, the dust is heavy in their chests and who will wipe off the masks they wear and give them lessons in flight?

{via tumblr, specific source unknown}

After 300 and some odd days of adoption prayers launching off our lips and just as many days of savoring the desire to transplant one or two tinies into our family, we took what was in that pot rotating from the front and back of our proverbial heart-burners and ate it like it was finally time.

{It looked and felt like THIS.}

But when it’s time, it’s time and we didn’t waste any more of it before calling the Foster/Adoptive Mission and scheduling a meeting so we could hear about all the ways we didn’t qualify. That was our fearful thinking anyway and the stream-of-conscious mind-musings would run something like this: “I wonder if it matters that we went through foreclosure this year? Do we make enough money in the eyes of the state? How much will adoption cost? Is our apartment big enough for their housing guidelines? We would need a minivan for even one more child and we don’t have the resources, how will that work?”. Etc. Etc.

The fear whorls with excitement in our bellies when we walk through the star-dotted, blue-black night toward the church where we will find the answers we seek and the adoption representative greets us with a stack of information and starts her memorized monologue by telling us how many abused and neglected kids are in the “system” and an unconscious shiver slithers all down the pearl-like bones of my vertebrae whenever I hear the words “child” and “system” in the same sentence. And we are only in the very first stage of this “grafting in” process, but I get all claw-footed, holy-fire-fierce inside while sitting in that room listening to statistics designed to stagger—but no less affecting for all that. There’s a silent begging in my brain: please don’t tell me any more because my arms are already poised to wrap and we’ve got months to go before they could possibly be requited with the sensation of holding at least one hurting little girl tight against my God-filled body; I have months to go before the Love in my hands can begin the arduous journey of rubbing the abuse and neglect off her skin.

But, she does tell us more then our hearts were meant to handle, I am convinced, and the knowledge of what goes on in this world in just a sliver shy of causing complete paralyzation . . . There’s this woman they know, something unspeakable must’ve happened to her at some point in her life because she doesn’t know her own worth and can’t keep her legs together or the heroin needles from her veins, so she just keeps pushing addicted babies (5 to be exact) right out of her belly and into the state’s rehab cradle. My God, that’s just one story.

In the end, Austin and I, we’re catching our breath and sitting in trepidation while waiting for the answers to all our fear-like questions and would you know? Not one of them mattered or was validated and can I tell you how high we were from our own qualification? Oh, we still need to work out the vehicle part (a minor detail, right?!) but adoption through the state of CT? Is FREE. Not many things in this world carry that four-letter word, but I find that all the ones that matter do.

We went in with all our questions and concerns and came out under the same night sky with air in our feet and something close to euphoria thrumming in our blood and we’re valiantly saluting a beginning that has no definable outcome for us . . . From refinement of time and trial, we know better then to wrap our fists around our own expectations because it seems that quite often the catalyst which launches a movement in our lives is not always the same as where we end up, but we do believe that something life-altering and New Kingdom promoting is present inside each tiny fiber of this forward-moving thread.

I’ll keep you posted. And your prayers would be so tenderly appreciated.

Love,

Erika

 

Life Lately

In Adoption: This week past we shared fellowship with some friends who have travelled deep into the heart of adoption. Their arms are so wide-open and their hearts even more with the loving of two Littles from across the globe. We went to them with our story, how we came to be at this unexpected place and where on earth do we go from here (?) and heaven smiled on our coming together and exploring regardless of the outcome – there is no prescription in this process. But the thing I carried home right close to my aorta was a simple prayer born from one tiny piece of our conversation . . . “Our Father, what is real family for us?” And the reason I supplicate this sentence to heaven is because the way family has been defined by our western, white-man’s dictionary might not be the truest or deepest definition of family. On the alternate hand, we cannot make our statements like a blanket and say all family’s should be a mixed-up, colorful collection. But, what in this world does it mean for us to be family? I believe on the other side of Jesus the margins are stretched and family is global, but how that plays out in each of our stories is as colorful as the earth itself. So we pray and we pray and we pray, “Our Father, what is real family for us?”

Pray with us?

In The Living Room: Look how cute they are. All my dudes and my Dude working out their manly-muscles with Tony Horton and his P90X. This is the recipe for making children fall into their pillows come nightfall.

Did I mention how cute they are?

In Adventure: This trio of wee boy-hearts, they beat for adventure and I spend considerable energy trying to reveal to their young eyes that adventure is in the vision of the beholder and can be unfurled in the smallest stuff, but this week I wanted to make it bigger for them . . . “Adventure Week” I told them and they did their Little Savage(s) dance of untamed enthusiasm and blew my eardrums into the next county with the whooping and hollering.

Monday, Adventure Day 1, began with our first-ever walk all the way into downtown . . . From the top of the hill next to home, my finger points in the distance to a scene they’ve seen a few hundred times, but this occasion is different because their vantage point changes as their legs will bring them there instead of spinning car wheels. “See those buildings off in the distance? That’s where we’re walking to. YAY!!! We’re going to have SO much FUN!!! AND, we’ll get ice-cream when we get there” It is incentive enough.

Our muscles groaned up that same hill on the way back, but there was such satisfaction in using our bodies so well. To say we “had a blast” would be stating it mildly and the memories from that day and the rest of our “Adventure Week” are pure gold. I think I feel a tradition coming on.

In The Neighborhood: I hear the screams while I’m up to my elbows in dishwater suds. A pounding heart propels my feet to a dead run out the door and in the direction of audio terror. WHAT in the world is it this time? I wonder, but not for long as galloping legs carry me around the bend half a block from home to the scene of disaster.

There he is.

Seth is bleeding and bruised from his helmeted-head to his flip-flop feet, but instantly I can see that all his wounds are surface. Unfortunately, my heart starts in with serious palpitations as I take in the REAL problem . . .

I don’t know HOW they manage to wreak the havoc that they do.

My Mid-Son very effectively crashed his bike into the neighbor lady’s Mary Kay, pastel-pink Cadillac. I’m not making this up. He side-swiped that sucker from back to front and left rubber-tire skid marks along the whole length before landing head over heels on the hood. He then rolled to the ground where bare skin collided with unforgiving pavement.

My fear kept me from confronting the owner to talk restitution, so when Austin came home, I sent him over to face the music (or, in this case, “face the make-up” {oh man, that is the cheesiest thing I have ever said – maybe}). And you know what? All those scuff marks buffed right off that pastel-pink paint.

Sigh.

The End.

P.S. I’m buying stock in band-aids and Neosporin. And buffing thing-y’s

In My Mind/Heart: This homeschool mama has a whole week off, starting yesterday. Hooligans are at summer camp with their friends – kayaking, fishing, swimming, hiking, crafting and learning about Jesus through nature. I’m certain that they’re bored to tears.

What’s a poor girl to do besides suffer at the beach?

My mama gave me an audio theatre presentation of the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I took him to the sun and sand and listened straight through his story for three hours and when he died in the end, I felt like I had lost a dear friend as I cried silently behind my sunglasses. Radio theatre is amazing like that, the characters come alive and tug you right into their circumstances. The beach beneath me disappeared and I found myself walking the streets of Nazi Germany, breathing the sights, sounds and horrors of the day.

My appreciation for the man Dietrich became through unprecedented events and trial, amplified with each passing scene. An idealistic pacifist he was, but when reality rolled repulsive in the form of a monster named Hitler, he discovered a painful, yet graceful, marriage between his divine ideals and the world’s human actuality.

Five minutes before listening to the rope stretch around his neck, the story leaves you with one of his final letters from his two years in traitors prison and I have been ruminating on those words: “I have come to some conclusions. During the last year or so I have come to know and understand more and more the profound this-worldliness, our Christianity. This is something that I am discovering right up to this moment. That it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to live by faith. One must completely abandon any attempt to make something of oneself. Whether it be saint or converted sinner, churchman or righteous man or an unrighteous man, sick man or healthy one. By this worldliness, I mean living unreservedly by life’s duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing we throw ourselves completly into the arms of God, taking seriously not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world, watching with Christ in Gethsemene. That, I think, is faith. That is how to become a man and a Christian.”

I’ve been filtering memories from the last ten years of living through this lens of the world being the medium by which I find myself in the arms of God and I discover so much truth there, not to mention the richness of paradox. It also reminds me of a single line from one of my favorite songs, “Let the world wound me, until I see You alone . . . in everything.” 

Selah.

In Thanks: #301 Children playing hard/falling into bed. #302 Hugs, tears and forgiveness before the sun goes down. #303 Walking everywhere with the elements all over my skin. #304 Summer dresses and flip-flops #305 Italian Ice to make a day special. #306 Bandaids and Neosporin! #307 Anticipating vacation. #308 Whole family bike rides – 3 growing boys sandwiched between us.

Love to all,

Erika

P.S. For some reason, I am unable to link to other pages from my posts. So, where you see “friends” highlighted, that is supposed to take you to steadymom.com, “story” is supposed to direct you to Wherein My Heart Changes (under “We” and “Wonderings”) and “place” is Wherein My Heart Changes – Part 2. Sorry. WordPress and I are going to have a little chat to see if we can sort it out. :)