Life is Hard

When life gets more challenging, it becomes far more complicated to write about.  These are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself over the last 6 months while I have been experiencing what I will call “writer’s paralysis.”  What do I write about?  What should I include?  What should remain private?  How much do I say?  How do I express some of my feelings without my blog becoming an emotional outlet and nothing more? How do I glorify God through what I share with others? What is helpful to others?  I haven’t been able to get past all these questions and I’ve finally concluded that it is never going to be in a neat little package where I always say just the right thing in just the right way.  But I really need to write for my own sake. So I’ve got to start again somewhere.

There are many things that I wish I would have just banged out a quick post about.  Like Nathan’s 11th birthday, which we celebrated in August.  But then, I want to write about each child’s birthday and then it gets more complicated because of how our lives have been altered because we chose to adopt.  I am creating a permanent record of our family.   And while it is not my goal to present this idyllic picture of who we are as a family, I can’t share every detail of what we’re going through either.  I find it hard to discern where the line is much of the time.  It is hard to know where to begin and where to end.  But writing nothing has also inhibited some of the support that we need and appreciate so much.  So I need to share our lives with you.

We have suffered much as a family since we made the decision to move forward with adoption over a year ago.  When we truly seek God in what he would have us do with our lives, we must be prepared to suffer.  God didn’t put us on earth to just enjoy ourselves and pamper ourselves and spoil ourselves silly with things and activities and experiences that make us feel good and happy and relaxed.  When we open ourselves up to allowing God to work in us and through us, surely he is willing to put us in the fire to refine us and mature us.  Fire is hot.   It burns and hurts.  It causes us to question whether we have made decisions that we can live with.  It causes us to wonder if we will ever truly enjoy life again the way we once did.  While we are interested in growing in the Lord and becoming the people he wants us to be and he created us to be, it’s hard to get excited about suffering.  It’s hard to cling to the joy that God desires for us to have when life is really hard.  It’s hard to love someone who is difficult to love.  In one of the books that we purchased to guide us in parenting our hurt child, wounded kids are described as prickly.  Indeed, it’s hard to try and get cuddly with a cactus.  It’s difficult to live with someone who you don’t have that kind of relationship with.  It’s hard to live with the dynamics that this creates in a family.

We’ve always been thoughtful and intentional people.  Most of the choices we have made (since marriage) about how we are going to live have been contemplated and deliberate.  But we have been forced into living at a whole new level of intentionality where we can do or say almost nothing without prior thought as to what the consequences and reactions to that will be.  It is hard to describe this way of living to others and difficult to fully convey what our daily life is like now.  The one thing I can say is that it is hard.  EVERY day.  Some days are harder than others.

I think as humans, we generally do not gravitate toward what is uncomfortable or challenging. Most of us who have the means to own a washer and dryer (or have access to them) choose to use them to get our clothes clean and dry.  Most of us who have the opportunity to use a dishwasher to get our dishes clean, happily choose to use it.  Most of us choose to drive a car (many with heat and air conditioning) opposed to a horse and buggy to get ourselves and our families around.  Most of us use a powered mower to cut the grass.  Most of us prefer to use the phone or email to contact someone rather than running to their house or business to speak with them.  Why do we do this?  Simple!  Because it’s easier!  We like easy.  We like comfortable.  We like fast.  We like free time.  Generally speaking, most of us make many choices that make life easier.  And life is much easier than it could be due to those choices.  Many of you have probably already figured out my point in all of this.  Why would we deliberately make choices that make life harder than it has to be?  Why would we choose the more difficult path?

I suppose that most people who worked hard through college and finished with a degree would say that they were willing to go through it because of what they gained in the end.  Most people who choose to work out and be fit are happy with the results that they achieve.  Most people who work hard at a job and are able to provide for their families, are willing to do it, week after week.  Most of us who are parents and raising kids would probably say that it’s all worth it because of the rewards that come along with the work of caring for our children.

But what about when that college degree didn’t result in a “satisfying job?”  What about when you’ve worked hard to take care of your body and be healthy and you’ve ended up with serious illness or chronic pain?  What about when you lose your job and can’t seem to find another one and can no longer support your family?  What about when you generously invest in a child and parenting them is difficult no matter what you do?  What if the rewards are few and far between?  What then?

As our conversation with God has continued about what he called us to do, our choice to follow him in obedience to carry out what he had for us, and living with the consequences of that choice, He has brought many things to mind to help us work through where we are.  One of those things was an analogy that I believe the Lord gave me to understand how our lives have changed.  When we say yes to God, he may send us into dark places to do the work that he has for us.  He will not send us alone.  He will send light (Jesus) with us, but he is most certainly willing to send us where it is dark, sometimes scary, and where we can only see in front of us as far as the light shines.  We don’t know what lies ahead, but we need to keep moving forward.  As the Lord brought this to mind for me one day, I envisioned a dark cave that we entered with only a candle to guide our steps.  We must hold on tightly to the candle.  We can’t move ahead without it and we have no hope without it.  So we cling to the candle and move forward in faith.  Until our child is willing to take our hands so that we can lead him out of the cave (darkness) we are stuck in the cave with him.  We want to run from the cave and be free and be surrounded by light again.  But God clearly called us into the cave.  So here we are.

On a More Positive Note…

We have seen many improvements and growth in Nathan in the last 6 months.  His conversational English has come so far, it is truly amazing.  We are very grateful for a caring, thoughtful, kind, supportive ESL teacher at his school.  She has become a very important person in our lives who is making a difference in Nathan’s life every day.  Her communication with us as parents has been excellent and we are so thankful that God put her in our lives.  He is reading English at about a 2nd grade level now.  He is a good math student and is doing well in math except when language is a barrier to full understanding as with story problems.  But he also has a good math teacher who has taken an interest in getting to know and understand Nathan and works hard to figure out how best to help him.  She is cheerful and encouraging and I spent about 30 minutes just visiting with her after our parent teacher conference with his homeroom and ESL teacher.  We believe we made the right school choice for Nathan this year and are still praying and thinking about what to do next year.

Nathan has quickly become an “American football” fan and has become a student of all things football.  He has learned much about the rules of the game, is becoming familiar with certain Vikings players, and spends a lot of recess time playing football with other kids at school.  He also does his best to recruit his siblings to join him out in the yard and frequently asks Bruce to come outside and throw the football with him.  We are hoping to get him on a team to play next fall.

He still enjoys soccer and I believe the plan is still for him (as well as Brian) to participate in indoor soccer starting in March.  Katie and Olivia will likely want to play as well, so I have no idea how to juggle that financially and schedule-wise at this point.  It is hard to give all the kids some of the opportunities that they would like to have to participate in different interests.

Nathan has two good friends at school that he spends most of his lunch and recess time with.  We are thankful for Daniel and Eric.  Nathan and Jason remain good friends as well, but they don’t talk on the phone as often as they used to.  They always enjoy seeing each other and spending time together when our families are able to get together.

He has had thorough medical exams and has had some dental restorations, so his health is very good.  He remains to be a very thin person, but he has gained 4-5 pounds since July, so he is definitely growing.  He has been looking taller to me lately as well, but we haven’t measured him.

We have started counseling with a wonderful therapist who I believe God ordained for Nathan.  He has background experience and expertise in all of the areas that are necessary for him to understand what Nathan has been through and what he is currently dealing with.  I am tremendously thankful for how God brought us to this and that we have begun this very important piece in Nathan’s journey of healing.  His therapist even played football in college which really impressed Nathan and will help them connect as they build a trusting relationship with each other.  Even the weekly appointment time that we were offered could not have fit more perfectly into our rather complicated family schedule.  Seeing God’s faithfulness in providing for us through it all has reminded me that we are not alone in this.