I remember being a kid and going to St. Louis to visit my grandparents, aunts and uncles. My Grandma Hughs was an avid wrestling and boxing fan. She'd always have one of them on on her little TV and us kids would get such a kick out of watching her get all worked up. She'd be hollering at the TV and before you knew it, she was up on her feet yelling "Give him the ole one-two." She was pint-sized and full of life and oh how I miss her.
Truth be told, I've felt like I've been dealt a few blows here lately. Satan never really plays fair. He's all about the kidney punches, low blows, and even after the eight count and you're begging to tap out .....he just doesn't stop. He's low like that. And as strong as you think you are, I can assure you, you'll never be pound-for-pound in this match. It seems he'll always have the upper hand.
But just because he may have the upper hand, doesn't mean that we can't beat him at his own game. Because when we have God in our corner, we can begin to see the lies and the deception, and come out swinging, fighting our way back into the game.
And that's what I've been doing.
You see, the past several months have been hard. Adoption isn't easy. It's beautiful in so many ways. Goodness, how it's beautiful. Our love for him. His love for us. How he's thriving and growing and happy. He's absolutely precious. Yet that doesn't all of a sudden take away the struggles. There are real battles people who foster and adopt face. And sometimes, I think the outside world doesn't always see these struggles. They assume that everything should be perfect. That everything is perfect. He's perfect. We're perfect. And let's be honest here, no one is perfect. It's almost as if the standard for adoptive parents is higher than for biological parents and it makes no sense at all to me. If anything, we should be given more leeway, more understanding and kindness because this is a journey.... a process if you will and sometimes we just need your understanding.
9 months ago as we pulled into the driveway, it was as if Satan himself was sitting on my doorstep waiting for me. I have been thrown so many low blows, I can't even tell you. We've been dealing with normal things you deal with when taking in a foster child; things like establishing trust after being the 5th home he's been in, difficulties with eating habits since he'd basically lived on orange Crush, mac and cheese, and ice cream, attention seeking behaviors, adjusting to having another baby in the home, etc. We've also been having to deal with individuals who have been less than helpful....less than understanding in helping us through these struggles and I'm telling you, it's just been hard.
Bonding doesn't happen immediately in these situations. It's a process. I carried our other three kiddos for 9 months, feeling them kick and roll, suck their thumbs, have the hiccups. Creating hopes and dreams for them. And then I spent every day, 'round the clock, caring for them. Feeding them, rocking them, singing to them, loving and kissing them and doing all the things us mommas do. And all of it created a deeper bond between us. But I missed that with Chi. I missed all of it. I missed carrying him. I missed giving birth to him. I missed all the nights of getting up to feed him and rock him (and yes, I'm weird, I loved those nights with our other kiddos). I missed his first word. His first time rolling over, sitting up, crawling... even his first steps. I missed all the formative months of when babies learn to trust and bond. And that's been hard. So when I say that bonding is a process, it's just that. It takes time. It takes daily working, daily doing the things that seem out of place to do for a 2 year old but that he needs - like rocking him while maintaining eye contact. That's hard for him. Truthfully, it's hard for him to be held for any length of time because he was never used to being held. Most of you saw a picture on Facebook the day the adoption was final of him sleeping in my arms..... it was the first time since we brought him home that that had ever happened. It's so many things that are worth it but that are also difficult while in the midst of it all.
A few months ago, I found myself in a deep depression, struggling from day to day to do the basic things that need to be done as a mom of 4. I would go from one extreme of being angry and impatient to the other of crying and feeling hopeless. I began to question God and His calling us to this. I began to question my ability to be the mom Chi needed me to be. And ultimately I began thinking that my family would be better off without me. That my kids deserved a better mom. That Mark deserved someone who could handle all of these battles without falling apart. They simply would be better with me gone. And that thought led to thoughts of how I could take my own life and make it appear as an accident so they could still get my life insurance. I spent a lot of time wondering how to do it, all the while Mark telling me he thought I was depressed and needed to go to the doctor. Then my best friend began saying the same thing and I had to pause and take a close look at what was going on.
Sweet friends, hear me when I say this, Christians and even counselors are not exempt from these struggles. I wish I could say I was. I wish I could tell you that these thoughts haven't at one time been in my head. It's so very hard to be in that spot knowing that you're being irrational, that being gone would cause them more harm than good, yet still simultaneously thinking they're better off without you. It's such a devastating place to be and my heart goes out to any and every person who's ever been down that road.
Yet through all of this, my Father revealed something to me.
Satan wouldn't be attacking me so hard if there wasn't something glorious on the other side of these struggles. He called us to this for a purpose.
So, I began calling the doctor's office trying to get an appointment. They weren't accepting new patients. Our doctor had moved to a different clinic. Weeks went by and they never would return our calls. So then I scheduled an appointment with our doctor at his new clinic. And then had to cancel it. But through all of that time, God kept reminding me that we face battles every day. The problem I was facing was in how I was addressing the battles. God calls us to suit up and fight. To put on our armor.
And that's what I started doing.
I began swinging and throwing my own combinations.
I dug deeper into His word. I prayed harder. I spent more time with Chi reading and playing and singing to him. I started focusing on Christ's promises and less on my problems and the depression began to slowly lift.
We were making incredible progress. We were growing and bonding and loving more and more deeply.
I had fought my way out.
And yes, I realize this isn't possible for everyone. There are those who need to see their doctor. Who need medication. And honestly, I believe I was one of them. Yet God, in His kindness, helped me work my way out of it all.
But hear me when I say this. Satan is relentless. And it's how I know that God has something incredible in store for our family and our sweet Chi.
Because through all the battles and struggles I had faced, just as I was standing back up I was side-swiped, knocked to the ground flat on my face. And having endured all that I already had, this was an all out low blow, cutting me to the core. Someone had sent DHS a message saying I didn't love Chi. The message was full of lies and hatred and I was absolutely heartbroken. I had the wind knocked out of me. And I don't even know that that fully explains how hurt I've been. Particularly given where I had been and all the fighting I had done for him. The fighting to love him beyond measure, not just as someone loving a child, but as me loving MY child. Yet learning that it was someone within our circle (yet not a close friend) was all the more heartbreaking. Our worker visited with us and let us know that she had no concerns whatsoever, that the message had no foundation for several reasons. We then had to jump through some more hoops as protocol and had another meeting with more people who all said the same thing. The message had no credibility, complete with them not even getting our last name correct. Our workers have been in our home for months. They've seen us interact, love each other, give hugs and kisses. They've gotten the pictures I sent them of him being the sweetest little cow in the Christmas play, and pictures of the zoo and playground and trips we've taken. They knew these were lies and it felt good to have that validated.
But you know what? Having them believe and see my love for my son didn't take away the hurt. It didn't take away that someone lied about me. Because, that's what this was. It was a personal attack on me. And as a result, a lot of things changed in our lives.
Yet one thing remained. God was faithful. In the weeks leading up to this, I'd been learning about putting on my armor. I had been fighting my way out of depression. I was fighting. But this ... this made me a fighter.
There's a difference in fighting - just haphazardly swinging and throwing punches. But a fighter.... she's not just armed, she knows how to use her armor and use it wisely. It's not just about swinging here and there, it's about trusting The Teacher, following His instructions, and making each punch count for His glory and honor.
And I was able to do that. I was able to fight well and honorably.
I wish I could say that takes away the hurt. It doesn't. But it does give me peace in how I handled myself.
I've cried a lot of tears over the past 9 months. Battling myself. Struggling to be the best mommy I can be to all of our kiddos. Fighting depression and trying to figure out how to work my way out of it. Dealing with hurtful comments from people. Knowing people are talking behind my back about our struggles instead of just taking them to the foot of the Father on our behalf.. Dealing with thoughts I wouldn't wish on anyone. That's why this came as such a shock to me. But you know, it didn't catch God off guard one bit. He knew. Sweet friends, He knew. And He'd already gone ahead of us preparing the way. What this person meant for harm, God used for good. He used it to validate us as parents. To remind us that Satan attacks when the Father has something great in store. And you know, as a result of all of this, Chi's lawyer pushed even harder to get us a court date, which led to us officially being his parents last Monday!
Christ has done so much for us here lately that when I step back and look at it all, I'm in awe. Just having everything finalized has done so much in the way of letting go and being able to fully embrace and love without fear of losing him. We're so much closer today than a week ago and leaps and bounds from where we were 9 months ago. And I can only look up and thank the Father for that. It's His working in and through me and gracious, it's been hard, but oh how different I am than just 9 short (long) months ago and it's been worth every battle I've had to fight.
God works through the storms. And oh that I could always remember that.
That I would remember to put on the full armor of God. Remember that attacks often are a reflection of just how great His promises are on the other side. And remember that in order to fight well, it means suiting up.
I'm fighting my way out. Following the Master. And most importantly, loving my family. Soaking up our time together. Praising Him for all His provision. Giving Him all honor and glory for pulling me up out of the pit. For showing me how to fight well and honorably. For His peace. For our sweet son.
And praying that whatever battles you may be facing, that He'll show you just how to suit up and fight well too.
Stay strong friends.