Saturday, July 3, 2010

The End of My Rope

We all know the phrase, "I'm at the end of my rope," or something similar to that. I'm going to be honest--I have a pretty long rope. I don't mean that pridefully, it's just the truth. God has blessed me with a laid-back personality that can handle quite a bit of stress without actually getting stressed out. That comes in handy with a family as large and ever-changing as mine.


In the last three years or so, I've been pushed farther and farther down my rope.

It started with Vivian (third picture from the right at the top of this blog). Now, I was used to taking care of kids in my family. I was not used to taking care of kids who became part of my family and were then taken back out of my family just as quickly. But that's what I learned to do with Vivian. She became our foster child at six weeks old and lived with us for six weeks, which seemed like forever. Then, with only five days notice, she left to go live with the family who has now adopted her. The day she left, I thought I had died. I slid a little farther down my rope, but I still had a lot left to hang on to.

Next came Shyanne. My precious Shyanne (middle picture above). She also came to live with us at six weeks old. But she was with us for eighteen wonderful months. For that entire year and a half, Shyanne was my baby. We did everything together. Everything. She's the only person with whom I've ever shared a toothbrush, if that tells you how close we were. :-) After eighteen months, Shyanne went to live with her aunt, and a month later, home to her dad. They're doing well and she is a beautiful and smart and precious 2 1/2 year old. But the day she left...I knew I had died. I will never forget the moment I kissed her goodbye and we drove away. It brings tears to my eyes even as I type it one year and one week later. That day, I slid a long way down my rope, but I still had quite a bit left.

During the time that Shyanne lived with us, Noel (second picture from left above) also lived with us for about three months. Noel was four. And...well...Noel was four. :-) Fitting a four-year-old into the routine of life changed it significantly, and life with Noel was not always easy. All four-year-olds have their issues...especially those in foster care, but Noel was a good kid, all things considered. The sadness at her departure was different and less heart-wrenching than with the babies we'd had almost from birth, but we were still sad. The experience of life with Noel sent me a little farther down my rope, but when I looked down, I still had some left below me.

David. My baby boy, my little miracle, my beloved David (third picture from left above). He came into my life at just ten days old. He weighed barely over five pounds and his carseat swallowed him, but it was love at first sight. He was my boy. After about three weeks, David got sick. We had to admit him to the hospital, where he stayed for twenty-five days. During that time, his condition confused every doctor and nurse we encountered, and he ended up in ICU and came close to meeting Jesus face to face. For twenty-five days, I spent as much time at the hospital as I was allowed. I hated it, hated seeing him sick and hurting, but I wouldn't have left him there without me for anything in the world. David had hundreds of prayer warriors fighting for him, and he got better and came home. He lived with us for four more months before he moved to his aunt and uncle's, and then to his dad's. I still get to see him. In fact, he's asleep on the other side of the room right now. But it isn't the same. The day he left, part of me left with him. I will never forget kissing him goodbye, then standing in the street and watching him drive away. Again, tears come to my eyes. When I slid down my rope that day, there wasn't much left.

Ali (second picture from right) is David's big sister. She came to live with us shortly after David came home from the hospital. She was fourteen months old. Ali challenged me. She wasn't a bad little girl. In fact, she was very good, very smart, and about as easy to live with as any fourteen-month-old could be expected to be. But I just didn't connect with her. I loved her, yes. But I didn't connect. I think it's because David was already mine, and she symbolized another part of his life that I wished didn't exist. She reminded me that he wasn't all mine. Ali left with David to go live with her aunt and uncle. She is doing wonderful, and her aunt and uncle are planning on adopting her. But Ali's presence pushed me down my rope a little farther, and I was starting to get nervous at how little I had left.

Valentina (far right picture above) and Vanessa (picture in previous post below) are sisters. Valentina is seven, and Vanessa is nine. Their personalities are as different as night and day. Having older children in our home was a different experience from those we'd had before. It was easier to say goodbye, because they didn't feel quite as much like they were "ours" the way the babies did. They had their own family, and they knew it. However, having them with us was more of a challenge than having the little ones, at least for me. Conflicts with the younger kids were a daily exercise building for us all. :-) Plus, the girls had four brothers and sisters who made regular visits to our house, which made life even more exciting. It was more subtle with Valentina and Vanessa, but having them in our home pushed me down my rope still farther until I was hanging on to the very end of what I had thought was a fairly long rope.

This is Amber.
She's thirteen...
...going on twenty.

This is Christopher.
He's eight...
...going on five.

Amber and Christopher just came to live with us this week. Christopher might have autism, we're not sure. Amber is a great kid--super helpful, very sweet, lots of fun...but she's a teenager. ...I'm not good with teenagers. I told a very dear and very wise friend before they came, "I'm not sure I'm ready for this..." I suddenly realized I had reached the end of my rope. When I looked down, there was no more rope. When I looked up, I saw the end of it dangling above me. But my wonderful friend's response set my heart at rest: "Aww, that's perfect, then! Now He can be strong when you are weak!" That's when it hit me--my rope was gone, but I wasn't falling. I looked down again and saw the all-important thing I'd missed every other time because I'd been so focused on my rope: I was sitting in the hand of God. It had never been my rope holding me up at all. It had been His hand all along. Now that I've been pushed off the end of my rope and have nothing left to hold on to, I reach for what has been there from the beginning. I hold onto His hand. And as I do, I'm watching an amazing thing happen: ...He is lifting me up. Not just up, He is lifting me past the beginning of my rope, past the highest point I ever achieved on my own. It is only in this moment that I realize the truth: my rope was never holding me up. It was holding me down. Now that I've reached the end of it, God can take me higher than I ever dreamed. So my prayer for you tonight is that you may reach the end of your rope so that God can lift you up, as well. Because let me tell you--the view is spectacular! :-)