We need one another when we mourn and would be comforted.
We need one another when we are in trouble and afraid.
We need one another when we are in despair, in temptation,
and need to be recalled to our best selves again.
We need one another when we would accomplish some great purpose,
and cannot do it alone.
We need one another in the hour of success,
when we look for someone to share our triumphs.
We need one another in the hour of defeat,
when with encouragement we might endure, and stand again.We need one another when we come to die,
and would have gentle hands prepare us for the journey.
All our lives we are in need of others,
and others are in need of us.
~ Litany from the Order at Worship
That was from Chapel this morning, but it was really powerful to me as I reflected on recent studies with Alex in preparation for his baptism, and my own personal studies in the practice of kindness.
Nathan doesn’t have to practice being kind. He just is.
But I’m practicing.
It is one of those days where I feel light in my again, after these dark years through which we have endured. I am grateful. It has been a long time since I woke up smiling.
I don’t mean the past handful of years were bad; that’s not what I mean, and I really wouldn’t trade them for anything. But they were, in all honesty, very hard. They tore apart who we thought we were, through us into the refiner’s fire, and then spit us back out again into cold snow. That’s what it felt like at the time, over and over and over again.
But we did not lose faith, and we did not fear, because we could see the bigger picture.
We knew we were made of eternal things, and that God was making eternal beings of us.
Slowly, every so gently, we see the unfolding eternity even now, even in the midst of battle, even in the small moments of life where we are all so much better than a year ago, or even yesterday.
Kyrie cuddles with her blanket in the mornings, and is very adamant about having it with her. Nathan and I were discussing this, confused by her obsession, though impressed with her capacity to go “fold” it up and put it on her bed when she really was ready to be up and dressed and go have breakfast. It finally hit us the other day: attachment. She’s the only child we’ve had from the beginning, growing up with healthy attachment. The blanket thing? That’s normal, and a sign of healthy attachment developing. What a strange experience she will be as long as we have her with us!
This came from her teacher yesterday:
It made me cry when I opened up the message and read that. It made me so happy!
I love those two so much.
We have had Kyrie far longer than anyone told us she would live, and once again she has pulled through weeks of crisis to give us days of “normal” toddlerhood. She tells us when she needs to go potty, has learned to say owwww-weeeeee when she is hurt (or wants attention), and speaks in full sentences now. She signs while she voices, hugs her brothers and sisters, and next week will officially be twenty months old. I can’t believe it!
We have learned from her not to take a single moment for granted.
And what moments we have now!
We have normal family dramas, but they don’t overwhelm us anymore. We have normal sibling squabbles, but we aren’t drowning in them anymore. We have development issues and interactional practice and learning moments as normal as any other family, but most of our time together is happy.
Except, you know, for that time yesterday morning where everything was so perfect they even got skittles on the way out the door, just before Alex and Barrett got in a fight.
But we left them to finish their business, and know how they handled it?
They came to the hospital and gave a lesson to the chaplains about how to get along with others, and why family is important, and how the choices we make impact the kind of consequences we experience. They sang a song, and hugged the chaplains, and we practiced an increase in love by inviting them for some brisket lunch with the chaplains, which the boys thought was heavenly! It was so good for us, and sometimes I am in awe of the place we have come to when I know the journey we have already endured.
The children have endured much, even with us. Moving is always hard, and expensive, and so much work, even if for very good reasons. We had to get the baby closer to the hospital, and the last two times we took her to the ER we may have lost her if we hadn’t been so close. So we know we followed the prompting that was very much real, and we are grateful. We have also seen Mary and the younger three blossom as they are free to express themselves at school in full access language through signing, and what a delight it is to me to watch Kirk and Alex be able to communicate in only sign to me and the girls as well. I can’t tell you the difference in their affect and interactions since being in these schools that have been so good for them.
It’s been hard, though. We are still waiting on our Bartlesville house to sell, and the baby has had surprise expenses, and moving without any warning (literally happened in two weeks) was expensive, and Mary needed new batteries and Kirk needed new glasses and they all needed new mattresses, not to mention real life. It was a challenge, especially when we take into context that these expenses remain with us as long as the children continue to grow and thrive. It’s not just bills to pay; it’s their existence.
But Heavenly Father is faithful to us, and we continue to have sufficient for our needs, through our very hard work and the generosity of so many. Our GoFundMe page for the baby’s recent round of expenses and travel to the new doctor that has helped so much is almost to half our goal! That’s amazing! Besides that, people have sent us QT cards to get the children to and from preschool all the way across town, we got the baby’s things one day at a time while still getting coats and shoes and scrambling for long-sleeve uniforms. Always what we needed came, just enough, and we know these were angels helping and giving and providing because of so much love. Kirk got his glasses, Mary has new cochlear implant batteries, and we are almost there for what we need for Kyrie. These are miracles to us!
Know what else are miracles? Coupons! Someone gave us vouchers for the car wash, and we got the van and car cleaned out for the first time since summer! I could not be more thrilled! We also keep being given pizza vouchers for a nearby pizza place, so I take the kids there often on the night before the day I start my 24 hour shift at the hospital. Last night we got free kids meals at Chick-Fil-A!
We have moved from a five bedroom house into our tiny house at the river, but we have the whole river to play. We will keep watching for a home to settle in near Mary’s school, but for now it is like camping and the kids are having blast while Nathan and I learn so much. It’s really been good for us. A friend told me this morning that we will look back on these days and cherish the memories, and I have no doubt of it. We have not wasted a single moment, not take any experience for granted, and live every day so grateful for our children and our family beyond what there are words to express.
Last night we ventured out to the Christmas lights at Rhema, and it was a beautiful night. We wanted to go while it was still warm, and the children were so good! We laughed and played and enjoyed our time together, without any trauma reactions or acting out or mean parents. All of us did well, and it was so symbolic of how far we have come, what we are learning, and how much peace we have been given as we continue trying. There are not words enough for me to say how full my heart is, and how happy I am, and how glad I am, even though I am so very aware we are all so human and still learning.
We are also excited to share more miracles unfolding:
First, the book has been accepted into a ton of publishing fairs for the next year, as well as nominated for more awards from this year. This is so exciting! We are also grateful for those who continue, a little at a time, buying books to donate to other foster/adoptive parents or the handful of parents with babies like Kyrie. These families send their thanks in notes full of tears and hope. Thank you for this!
Next, one of Nathan’s musicals is being produced in Philadelphia next year! How exciting is that? He and a different composer are working on another new musical, too, and that one just had its first table reading. This is huge, really, especially when you consider he did this while caring for our family, while staying with the children when it was his turn while I was at the hospital for chaplaincy training, while editing our book, while moving our home one load at a time every day for a month, while working another job writing copy for another company, and while working numerous community events and positions to help change the world in the ways only Nathan can. Besides all this, we have been working for two years on founding a non-profit organization to help families like ours who have medically fragile children with everyday life not covered by insurance… and yesterday found out that our 501c3 status was finally approved! It’s official! We are using Fractured Atlas as our umbrella agency, since our fundraisers come through theater and experiential events, so they cover our legal and financial and board pieces as well. So company matching grants and other donations will go to Fractured Atlas but be earmarked for our company Seven Lively Arts. Nathan has worked so hard on this, and I am so proud of him! I know he is so very humble, but I want the world to know how hard he works to provide for our family and to help care well for the children.
The other big news is that I have officially accepted a position with St. John’s Hospital to help develop the BAT team here like we did at Jane Phillips. The BAT team is the behavioral assessment team, of course, and we respond to crises in the hospital and in the ER and all the mental health issues referred to us, and then help those patients get inpatient where they need to go or referred to outpatient counseling. This is really important to me, because when people are in crisis they need good help and safe help, not bad practitioners or waiting lists. So I am super excited! I will finish my chaplaincy training, so this job will be evenings and make for some long days as I work until midnight everyday and some weekends. But I will finish chaplaincy about the same time as the children get out of school, and so I will be able to be home with them all during the day all summer! It’s really another miracle for our family. I will be able to home with them while also helping pay for the expensive medical care, but still maintain summer home school, fun outings, and keep chores done so that the children can play and eat in the evenings – which are their favorite activities with Papa anyway!
Fourth, it may not make any sense to you, but for us it is one more Kyrie miracle: we finally got her approved for RSV shots through the winter. RSV is bad for any baby, but it could easily and quickly kill her. The vaccine is very expensive and a monthly shot, so also requires home health to give it. Medicaid denied her, and we have been battling it for two months. The pediatrician insisted on it, the ENT insisted on it, and the Pulmonologist insisted on it. We finally just got word that she has been approved after the appeal, and I cried then, too. The nurse told me, “she may have a chance to see Springtime, if we can keep her healthy this winter.” So I don’t know how to explain it well, but it’s huge for us, this miracle, one among so many, and one more that made me cry.
This is our family, who needs each other, just to get through today.
We had a lot of hard things happen, our family.
The deaths of both my parents. Miscarriages. So many foster children, which was hard work even when the children liked us and responded well. Cancer. The work of transitioning into adoption and the drama of all the adoptions finalizing. The challenges the kids came with, and the challenges in ourselves we didn’t even know we had until we got the kids. The medical crisis of Kyrie, where we hold our breath everyday – every moment – while we wait to see if she is taking her next breath or not. It has been a roller-coaster full of emotions, with hard things and scary things and painful things. It has at times, even been awful. Terrible, really.
But it has not been without purpose.
And it has not been without hope.
We are not with out hope.
We know in whom we hope, and why we hope, and how hope is even possible when life can be this hard.
We know what – who – is the true miracle.
When I woke up smiling the last few days, I realized it was because we have each other.
I always used to wake smiling, even as a baby, but when Nathan and I got married, life happened.
Or, rather, death happened, and there was so much of it.
Losing both my parents, and all our pregnancies, was way harder than I knew at the time – and I thought it was hard when it was happening!
But the recovery was slow, with every new crisis like another sucker punch.
Slow or not, recovery is happening, and it feels good.
Christmas feels good, even with a tiny tree older than Nathan but perfect for his crafty personality.
Needing each other feels good again, instead of needing to cocoon while the pain was so great.
I even started texting my brother and his wife and Nathan’s sisters every day, because we are so far away, and so much has happened, and I realized how much I miss them. We have had no drama between us, but there is disconnect without intentional connection, and I needed them back in my life. I am not very good at it anyway, but I can say hello. Or share something. Or ask something.
Already I learned more about their lives than I ever knew before, and I feel badly about the time that has slipped through my fingers while I was grieving and then sacrificing and then surviving.
But that’s part of our own restoration and return to health, that kind of reaching out again.
Because I am really lucky to have good sisters, and really lucky my brother will still respond to me even though just last week I let my password expire at work and then spilled juice on the keyboard and now someone am locked out of my printer.
But we need each other, because we are family.
And it feels good.
As if that was the plan all along.