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My Weakness, His Strength

Sunday

I had intended to hang my Christmas fence garland this afternoon, but it is pouring rain right now. Maybe I’ll wait. In the meantime, I have Christmas music blaring all over the house, thanks to the kids. It’s a little disconcerting to have Toby Mac singing about Christmas, a singing reindeer playing “Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer” and my snow globe trilling about wishing us a Merry Christmas – especially when they are all in the same room with each other.



So yes, Thanksgiving is over and it is officially the Christmas season. And – I’m doing ok. Normally, this time of year puts me a real funk. Around the first or second week of Nov. I noticed I was feeling a little more heavy-hearted and then it occurred to me that the holidays were approaching and it suddenly made a little more sense as to why I was feeling that way. But I’m doing all right now, I feel. Maybe this will be my best holiday season yet, post marriage. We’ll see.



Ellie…well, her goodness that I wrote about last time lasted all of about three days. And then she began slipping again. I wasn’t surprised or even really disappointed. I expected that. She’s destroyed a few more things in recent weeks, but it seems to be a little less than normal. She does seem to be responding well to my change in the way I handle things. A lot of this isn’t really so much what the therapist herself is recommending, but what I’m gaining from the book she loaned me. I think I’m going to buy my own copy so I can highlight some things. I am figuring out that my normal parenting style (authoritarian, usually) just isn’t going to cut it with this kid. So we’re doing a lot of “re-do’s” where I force her to re-enact sinful scenarios, only with her making the correct choice this time. It’s still not easy, especially when she lies to me. I know she’s probably lying but she is a first rate actor and so it leaves me doubting. The other day she went into Will’s room and destroyed both his regular deodorant and his hunting deodorant, strewing the pieces all over his tv cabinet. She swore six ways to Sunday it wasn’t her – but she was the only person who could have done it.



And then there’s another twist. A week ago Lizzie deliberately disobeyed me. She wanted to take her kindle up to her bedroom and I told her no, to put it on my bedroom shelf instead. She said she needed to charge it (the charger is in my room in my power strip) so I said that would be all right. But before I left the room I saw this look in Lizzie’s eye that I hadn’t seen in a long time – a look that made me immediately suspicious that trouble was afoot. I went down in the basement with Ellie to do something. Then, when I went upstairs, I checked my room. Sure enough, the kindle was missing. I immediately went up to Lizzie’s bedroom and confronted her and she protested her innocence and even began opening up dresser drawers showing me that there was no way possible that the kindle had been hidden in her room. And then Ellie found it in a desk drawer and showed me. Lizzie immediately burst into tears and shouted that Ellie had to have snuck it under her shirt and planted it in the drawer. I knew that couldn’t be true because Ellie had been with me the entire time. Anyway, Lizzie stuck to her story. It didn’t matter how much I reminded her about how God hates lying and how she now had a block between her and God. She didn’t seem to care that she had just destroyed the trust between us. She was sticking to her lie. The next morning she was just as recalcitrant and even stormed into school, not letting me walk with her to her classroom like I normally do. That evening I again attempted to draw the truth out of her and she set her jaw and continued to lie to me. And of course, this makes me doubt myself – Could Ellie have snuck the kindle upstairs and planted it in the drawer? But no – she was with me. And I would have seen the outline of the kindle under her shirt if she was hiding it. But yet, Lizzie has been so honest with me for so long…I thought. Finally, later on the evening Lizzie broke and confessed the truth. It felt like a victory, but kind of a hollow one.



I was devastated. About a week before this, my friend, Deb, had come to me and advised me that I need to be keeping a sharp eye on Lizzie because, in her words, “Lizzie likes to lie.” I told her that had certainly been true in the past, but it had been almost a year since I had caught Lizzie telling an untruth. I thought we had this thing licked. She nodded and said well, she was only telling me because her own daughter had had issues with the same sin, so she recognized the signs.



She was right.



The next morning I found a note that Lizzie had written after I put her to bed. Before I had put her down she had refused to pull her covers up. I realized that she wanted to be cold, in an effort to punish herself. So I had spent some explaining to her that every sin she had ever committed or would commit was already paid for when Jesus died. There was no reason to punish herself. Of course, parents still have to train their children, so they punish their kids, but no payment from ourselves is ever required because that was already taken care of at Calvary. I don’t know how much she understood but she eventually pulled the covers up. The next morning, though, I found a note she had written and in it she said that I should just “give her away” and “put me back in foster care” and that she should have to sleep outside with no pajamas and blankets. Sigh…



I was so still so disappointed in her, but I went upstairs and I just rocked her on her bed, like she was a baby for a long time and she laid there and cried and cried. I want to think that means her heart is still tender, but I just don’t know anymore.



I am actually kind of suspicious that some of the things that have been destroyed in the house have actually been Lizzie’s doing and not Ellie’s. It seems like Lizzie is often the one to discover the misdeeds. I can’t prove it, of course, but now I am suspicious since she is obviously not as trustworthy as I thought she was.



I guess it is slowly dawning on me that I may never – probably will never – have the mother/daughter relationship I had always envisioned in my head when I thought of mothering girls. I may get moments here and there, but the vast majority of my time with Lizzie and Ellie is going to involve trying to save them from themselves. It is going to take the rest of their growing up years to help them heal from the hurts of their early years and I may not even be completely successful with that. It’s not like an illness where you can envision a day when your child will finally be healed and normal again. These girls may never be completely healthy.



And that’s kind of the biggest issue with foster care. I’ve been thinking I may do a research project for school on this subject sometime. We remove kids from their biological homes because they’re not safe. But in doing so, the children are often hurt in other ways. So which presents more of a danger to the child – leaving them in a dysfunctional and unsafe, but biological home, or subjecting them to the ills that come from disconnectedness? I don’t know. I know the system is flawed, but it’s what we have. And really, when you’re dealing with something that is rooted in sin, you’re never going to have a perfect solution.



As I mentioned, I was very discouraged by these recent events with Lizzie. I was grocery shopping one day, thinking these things over, and I suddenly had this thought. It was presented in such a way that I’ve come to recognize as thoughts not from my own brain, but from God. The thought that came to me was this: yes, things are hard right now, but someday, I will reap the reward many times over because I invested so much time into so many children. I could have chosen to have just one or two children – and there is nothing wrong with that, of course – but I always had the desire to have a large family, so I did. Having a lot of children means there’s a whole lot more work to be done. But if I am faithful, then someday, in my older years I will be surrounded by the fruits of my labor. Some of that is probably pure mathematics – generally speaking, the more children you produce, the more grandkids you end up with. And, of course, there are no guarantees. I do not know that the girls will want to come around at all with their families. They may reach adulthood, decide the grass is greener in Biological Land, and I may never see them again. But, still, the thought washed over me like a promise and I took encouragement from that – to hang on. The best is coming.



And then immediately afterwards, while I pushed my cart through the store aisles the song, “All of Me” by Matt Hammitt came up on my play list that is always set to shuffle and began to play through my headphones (I listen to my headphones when grocery shopping alone – I really detest buying groceries and it helps to pass the time more enjoyably). This was a song my sister-in-law sent me over four years ago when it looked like, for a few weeks, that I might lose the girls back to their bio mom. As much of a pill as Lizzie was at the time, I couldn’t bear the thought of losing either of them. And so in those weeks, I would play the song over and over again.  Here's the link: All of Me Here are the lyrics:



Afraid to love, something that could break
Could I move on if you were torn away?
And I'm so close to what I can't control
I can't give you half my heart and pray He makes you whole

You're gonna have all of me
You're gonna have all of me
'Cause you're worth every falling tear
You're worth facing any fear

You're gonna know all my love
Even if it's not enough
Enough to mend our broken hearts
But giving you all of me is where I'll start

I won't let sadness steal you from my arms
I won't let pain keep you from my heart
I'll trade the fear of all that I could lose
For every moment I'll share with you

You're gonna have all of me
You're gonna have all of me
'Cause you're worth every falling tear
You're worth facing any fear

You're gonna know all my love
Even if it's not enough
Enough to mend our broken hearts
But giving you all of me is where I'll start


Heaven brought you to this moment, it's too wonderful to speak
You're worth all of me, you're worth all of me
So let me recklessly love you even if I bleed
You're worth all of me, you're worth all of me

You're gonna have all of me
You're gonna have all of me
'Cause you're worth every falling tear
You're worth facing any fear

You're gonna know all my love
Even if it's not enough
Enough to mend our broken hearts
But giving you all of me is where I'll start

You're gonna have all of me
'Cause you're worth every falling tear
You're worth facing any fear

You're gonna know all my love
Even if it's not enough
Enough to mend our broken hearts
But giving you all of me is where I'll start
Is where I'll start



And there I was crying in the grocery store again. God had sent this song to remind me of my love and pledge to the girls, not just four years ago, but now when I am fighting for their hearts and minds. I will continue to give it all I’ve got.


Wednesday



I made 5 trips to Pleasantville today. Five. I took the kids to school. Then I went home, picked up Ben, and ran him to Indianola for Genesis. Then, I was home for less than an hour before heading back down to the school to pick up Ellie for her dental appointment. She has another rotten tooth and has to have it out on the 15th. They’re going to put a spacer in there until the adult tooth comes in. She’s had a bump on her gum for some time – turns out it’s full of infection from the tooth. Yuck. So then I took her back to school. This time I got to stay home for exactly one hour. Then I had to go back to the school and pick up Sam and Lizzie for their dental appointments. I had originally planned to pick them up just a few minutes before their appointment time since the dentist is right there in Pville, too. But then one of the teachers emailed and asked if I could pick them up early because the entire elementary was going to be over at the high school for some assembly at the time I planned to get the kids and it might be kind of hard for me to locate them there. So, that meant I went home again – for 15 min. And then we went back down to Pville and Sam got 3 fillings and Lizzie got 2. Now I am home. I’ve already showered and I’m waiting to watch “Speechless” and then the Dolly Parton special. My cold has continued to get worse. I cannot hear anything at all today, my ears ache, my throat hurts, I haven’t slept well in over a week. This reminds me of the cold I got 3 months ago that lasted forever. I fished some old antibiotics out of the cupboard today. Maybe that will help.

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Last week Lizzie asked me if it cost me any money to adopt them. Thinking of the few hundred dollars I spent in court costs I replied, “yes.” Astonished, she then exclaimed, “You mean you bought us?!”


Friday

Another crazy day…It doesn’t help that my ear is so plugged that I can barely hear anything. I hope this cold works its way out of my system quickly. Well, “quickly” would have been a week ago, I guess. I wish it would just give up.



Well, I currently have Ellie scrubbing the inside of the upstairs medicine cabinet. She took toothpaste and decorated the entire thing – even wrote out her name with blue toothpaste. Sunday night she salted her hair – dumped the popcorn salt on top of her head until it turned white. It wouldn’t be a huge deal for a white girl because all you’d have to do it is shake it out. Not so much for a black girl. They have all kinds of oils and gels in their hair and salt likes to stick to that. Then, she upended a bowl of popcorn on purpose, all over the basement couch. Then, when I told her to get dressed for bed, she instead stripped herself naked, ran into her brother’s bedroom, and urinated on the floor.



Tuesday, I washed laundry. Tons and tons of laundry. And then Ellie came home from school and dumped a bottle of corn syrup into the clean laundry. I lost it Sunday night when she went to the bathroom in the boys’ room and salted her hair. But I was actually pretty calm about the corn syrup, which was pretty amazing, because that made a huge mess and created all kinds of extra work for me. I made Ellie clean that one up, too, although I had to help because of the magnitude of the mess. As we were doing so, she had the nerve to ask if we were going to “play with pudding” that night (something her therapist suggested). I told Ellie I would love to do that, but now I wouldn’t have time because I had to wash laundry all over again. Natural consequences.

Just last weekend my dad had shared the verse, Deut. 33:25 with me, "...as your days are, so shall your strength be."  That had been rattling around in my head ever since and as I found my hands covered in sticky syrup and tried to clean it off the rug and started doing laundry all over again, I found myself repeating it over and over again.  Maybe that's how I stayed so calm.


Our latest therapy session was quite informative for me. This is what I learned from Cindy, the therapist:


· *Ellie probably has some sensory issues going on – which makes sense to me. She’s always been very particular about the feel of certain clothing and goes insane if her sock seams are not on the right part of her foot

· *Ellie is emotionally at the level of a toddler, which is why I’m seeing all these toddler-like behaviors. Intellectually, she is just fine, which is why she functions well at school. But her emotional growth was stunted in her baby years and she’s “stuck” there

· * Ellie’s play therapy is revealing that she is very nurturing. Cindy said she is always wanting to take care of the play animals, making sure they’re warm and wanting to fix their owies

· *Ellie is obsessed with the idea of permanency. Cindy has a sand pit in the play room and she said Ellie continually buries things and then has to uncover them right away. I thought that was normal childish play, but Cindy said it points to Ellie’s need to know that if she can’t see something, it will still be there.



I’m still learning how to deal with these things. I’m planning to buy my own copy of the book Cindy loaned me so I can mark it up. It’s really good.



This last time I asked about how to handle lying since that has been an on-going program with both girls. Cindy explained that when children have RAD they have difficulty separating themselves from their behavior. I can see that. When I have asked Ellie why on earth she has done something she usually tearfully comments something like, “Because I’m a bad girl!” Lizzie used to do the same thing, I remember. There’s a part of me that wants to argue that your actions reveal your hearts (ie: if you do bad, it’s because you ARE bad), but I think that’s more for typical people. RAD is not typical. Cindy explained that RAD children equate their self worth with their actions. Lying about what they have done is not only an attempt to stay out of trouble, but they will lie with their last breath because if they admit that they did something then it’s like throwing in the towel for them. They have admitted that they are as worthless as their bad actions. Lying is a desperate attempt to separate themselves from their actions. That’s probably not super-clear, but I understood what she was saying.


I’m also learning from my reading that often adopted children, particularly those adopted from foster care, carry a deep shame about their circumstances. It can take a lifetime to convince them of their self-worth. Acting out is a way to “preserve” this shame, which seems counter-intuitive, but it is what it is. It’s so convoluted and it’s so cyclical. They feel bad about themselves, so they act out, which gets the parent upset, which makes them act out even more.


So that’s what I know now.


This is hard.

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A couple of weeks ago we went out to Council Bluffs for the day. Our old church has always had a “Harvest Sunday” every fall, which is the highlight of the church calendar. Since we hadn’t been out in 2 ½ years, it was time. It was a nice day. Arien even came with us. Everyone seemed excited to meet her. Afterwards, I took the kids up to DeSoto Bend. We used to go there from time to time. It’s a nature preserve. Every November, the eagles make a stop there on the Missouri River and the center is built with these huge glass walls so visitors can see them, but we didn’t’ see any that day. They also have the stuff that was recovered from the Steamship Bertrand that went down in the 1860s and was recovered a 100 years later. It was a nice trip.

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Sam has to be a rabbit for Christmas. I am really irritated. It’s bad enough that the kids’ school program falls on the same night as my Word Weaver’s Christmas party. Well, that can’t be helped. But this year they have a new, young, music teacher and instead of just having the kids wear their nicest clothes and sing a couple of songs about Santa, she’s having the third graders dress up like animals. WHY?!? Not only that, but the parents have to come up with the costumes. She said in her note to not buy anything – just to attach some rabbit ears to a baseball cap. Um, who has rabbit ears just lying around their house?! And all our baseball caps are in bright, non-rabbity colors with slogans scrawled across the front. I already looked on Amazon and couldn’t find anything. So now, in the busiest month of my year, I have to make a trip to the costume store in W. Des Moines and see if I can come up with something.

On the other hand, I think I seriously love Sam’s classroom teacher. She sent home a note this week about upcoming activities in December and said in there, underlined and in capital letters, it read, “No Teacher Gifts!” Oh, yay – that helps me out so much! Maybe I’ll get similar notes from the girls’ teachers.

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I stumbled upon a new store out at the mall the other day. It’s called “Altar’D State.” It only took me a couple of minutes to realize I was in a Christian store. But it’s not a book store. It’s full of clothes and home décor. Christian Christmas music played through the speakers. All the clothing was modest. It’s a real “boutique” type of store so the prices were a little high. But it was refreshing to be in there. They even had a mannequin wearing the Ephesians 6 armor of God. It was neat to see in visualized like that. I’ll definitely be going back sometime.

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I switched my insurance. A year ago I had seriously considered this, but told myself I would give Blue Cross one more year. Well, a few weeks ago I received a notice stating that in January, my premium would be going up $130 a month. That’s just for me – I would be paying $422 a month, total. I can’t do that. It’s already high enough. A year ago when I was toying with the idea of dropping Blue Cross, I had done some research on different Christian sharing companies, where medical needs are shared with one another, rather than funneled through insurance companies. At the time, I had decided that my first choice would be Samaritan Health care. So, I applied a couple of weeks ago and was accepted. Yesterday, I called my local insurance company to let them know I was dropping Blue Cross. The receptionist who took my call said that the agent had told her to just give customers the 800 number for BC/BS. I asked her if that meant I wasn’t the only one cancelling my policy. She replied, “Oh, my goodness – it’s been crazy! All kinds of people are dropping them!” I guess a lot of people aren’t too crazy about contributing to the CEO’s cushy salaries anymore.


I’d still rather have traditional insurance, I think. I’m not sure how my doctor’s offices are going to handle the idea of me cheerfully telling them I no longer have actual insurance – just send me the bill instead. Samaritan doesn’t cover preventative care, so I’ll be on my own for my yearly exams. And since I have an established history of migraine and allergy care, Samaritan won’t cover any of those bills. But, my insurance costs will be dropping $100 a month now from what I’ve been paying, so with the money I save, I should be able to cover those bills I incur. Maybe with Trump taking office, something will change with the healthcare laws and insurance will become more affordable and competitive. But until something like that happens, I have to do something else.

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The other day Ellie came home from school and announced that her teacher “ still believes in Santa!” She told me that she had asked her teacher if she does and her teacher replied, “Well, of course I believe in Santa!” I can just imagine the look Ellie gave her at that! Ellie said to me, “I’ve never known a grown-up before that believes in Santa!” So this morning, when I took her to school and walked her into her classroom, Ellie loudly whispered to me, “Look, Mom – there’s that grown-up who believes in Santa!”

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Well, I think I’ve finally come to the close of this post – it only took me a week! I have a feeling the rest of this month may be like that. This morning I took the kids to school, drove home, picked up Ben and took him to Genesis. Then, I drove out to W. Des Moines to pick up one of Lizzie’s Christmas presents. I thought they were going to deliver it to my house, but no, I had to pick it up at Target and if I didn’t get it by today, they would put it back on the shelf. So, I ran out to Target – only to be told I was at the wrong Target store – argh! So, I drove to the right store and picked up the present and few other things I needed. Then I got home and had to do the water billing up at City Hall, which took 2 hours. Then, I went home and worked on my short formal report for my class. I turned in my rough draft last weekend, feeling pretty good about it. I figured it might need some minor polishing before I turned in the final copy. Hah! I got a note back from my teacher saying, “Sarah – solid start!” Start? How about “Finished”? And all week long I have not had a chance to work on it. It took me about an hour, but I finally got that thing as good as it’s going to get. I’ve got one more project and some little things to do for that class before it finishes. Then I have three weeks off before my next two classes start. I have to squeeze some of Will’s work in, too, before the end of next week when his semester ends. He needs help with a report on Hitler and some essay questions. Payback is coming when I start my math class in March!

Ok, I’m rambling now. Time for some more Sudafed and the next item on my to-do list.











































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