January 7, 2017

When You Come

‘Twas a few nights after Christmas, when all through the house . . . the creatures are indeed stirring.  Every bed in the house overflows with relatives – aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents – who have traveled long distances to celebrate this holiday season.  But none of us can sleep on this not-so-silent night.  The little ones are tossing and turning and squirming fitfully in their beds, refusing to succumb to sleep.  Their wild footsteps echo off the hardwood floors in the hallways.  Their agitated cries ensure that none of us will be settling our brains for a long winter’s nap.  At least not anytime soon.

This is not exactly the image of my home and family I was hoping you would see when you come.  Just a few days earlier, we are all cleaning and sweeping and polishing in anticipation of your arrival.  We look out the window frequently, waiting for you to come.  The hour gets later, the clock ticking well past the usual bedtime.  Finally, you come!  And out in the driveway there arises such a clatter, the littles ones spring from their beds to see what is the matter.

Which is fine, just this once.  I want them to see you.  While you are here, I hope that you will get to know these precious children who are living in my home.  I want you to love them and treasure them as much as I do!  During your visit, I hope that the bonds between you and them will be formed and strengthened.  May they find in you, unconditional love and acceptance.  May they find, in your warmth and tenderness, a sense of belonging and connectedness.
The hallway soon fills with rolling suitcases and zippered jackets, excited laughter and lively conversation.  So wonderful to see you!  I’m glad you made it safely!  How was your trip?  Do you want anything to eat?  Understandably, it takes a while for everyone to settle in.

The next morning, due to the excitement still lingering in the air, the children rise earlier than usual.  Even before the day begins, my busyness caring for guests disrupts their accustomed breakfast/medication/diaper routine.  The kitchen countertops, which usually have bowls of fruit or protein-rich trail mix for snacking, are filled instead with goodies you thoughtfully brought with you:  holiday cookies, home-made fudge, caramel corn, candy canes and a large bag of Hershey kisses leftover from a party.  The kids, of course, are elated at the opportunity to consume such rare treats!

Something we always do when you come is shop:  wandering through the mall, searching for clearance items at department stores, or taking the grocer list to the market.  Even with the challenge of getting little ones in and out of car seats, strollers, and shopping carts, it’s a fun way for us all to get out of the house and spend time together. 

Unfortunately, the hour gets later, the clock ticking well past the usual lunchtime.  A quick stop at the food court should suffice, as long as we keep in mind that several of the kids have food allergies.  They will have to skips their naptime today.  Which should be fine, just this once.

The rest of the day flies by like dry leaves in a wild hurricane.  An aunt working on a craft project.  An uncle instigating a nerf war on the back lawn.  Grandpa tackling the boxed Christmas toys with the tags that say “assembly required.”  Cousins sharing social media news and Instagram photos.  Mama planning tonight’s dinner.  Papa finishing up some home repairs before returning to work in a few days.  Our home is filled with the sights and sounds of a large extended family!

Mixed into the bustling scene of our home are the children.  Precious little ones who have joined our family through foster care and adoption.  These are children who have been hurt and traumatized and abandoned and neglected. They have been exposed, before they were born, to substances that have altered their little brains and damaged their central nervous systems.  Even on good days, it is a challenge to keep them regulated, balanced and calm.  They thrive on routine and consistency and structure.  Predictability.

So when you come, and we decide to spend the day shopping instead of staying home during their usual nap time; and while you are sleeping comfortably in the beds that they normally call their own; and we are eating foods that they don’t normally eat, sometimes later than usual; and when our house is full of the laughter and lively conversations that come when you visit . . . the change in routine and diet, along with the overstimulation of their senses, wreaks havoc.  A recipe for meltdowns.

As one of my older, more articulate children once explained to me, it’s like electrical currents start running through their bodies, and it becomes nearly impossible for them to relax and act calmly.  Instead of the well-behaved and cooperative children I had hoped you would see, you are instead seeing children who are acting wild and out of control.  Children who are yelling and throwing toys and jumping off the furniture.  Children who are irritable and disregulated.  Children who, instead of sleeping at night, cry and scream inconsolably.

This is not exactly the image of my home and family I want you to see.  But this is us.  This is our family, the one that God has formed.  The children that He created and, in His loving sovereignty, brought into our lives.  The amazing, resilient children who are struggling to overcome near-insurmountable challenges and damage to the wiring of their brains.  Children who are learning how to thrive.

And these are the children I am hoping you will love and treasure as much as we do!  The ones who may find in you unconditional love and acceptance.

I hope that when you see the stockings hung by our chimney with care, you will be able to say Love lives there!  A broken and imperfect family, for sure, but a home that is overflowing with love.  Love for the Lord, and love for each other.

I hope you see that even in our weaknesses and failures and shortcomings, God is at work here, every day working to accomplish His purposes.  Even now in the chaos and messes and tantrums and tears and sleepless nights, He is restoring and redeeming and forgiving and healing.  We are so thankful that He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love! (Psalm 103)

I had hoped to boast in my peaceful, serene home full of perfectly-behaved children being raised by wise and patient parents.  But that’s not reality.  The reality is undeniably humbling.  So instead of boasting in myself or my home or my children, “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) 

It is all about Christ in me.  Any successes, any progress, any good that happens here is only because of His power.  Not because of my excellent parenting skills, my well-planned consistent routine, or my experience with traumatized children.  But only because of Him.  And in the mess and turmoil and meltdowns . . . He is full of compassion.  He knows my weaknesses and limitations, and yet He still called me to this task.  It is only His grace, in the midst of it all, that is sufficient for me.

Unconditional love.  Boundless grace.  Steadfast Redemption.  The indomitable power of Christ at work in me. 

Those are what I hope you see when you come.

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