Maybe I'm the only one that ever feels this way... Have you ever felt like you were a spectator, watching your life play out before you, and being amazed at what you see?
I felt that way yesterday...and not in a bad way, mind you. I continue to be amazed at this path God has put us on..the path of foster parenting and adoption. I always knew I wanted to adopt, but never in a million years thought I would be a foster parent. And even this time last year, shortly after we finalized Lexie's adoption, I never thought I'd be ok with getting together with Lexie's biological family on a somewhat regular basis. So, the spectator comment is not one that I say with the implication that my life has become somthing I didn't want for myself, but instead, as a spectator, I feel like sometimes I am standing on the sidelines watching God moving us-watching him work things out in our hearts that we never could have done on our own.
Lexie's biological aunt, Shontel, had called us wednesday to see about getting together with us. I called her back yesterday morning to tell her that we would be heading to Ballard Park later in the day if she wanted to join us. When we got to the park, Lexie's aunt, along with her newborn and her 5 year old daughter, Paris, were there, as well as Lexie's biological grandmother and Lexie's biological brothers, Keegan, age 9 and Malachi, age 1 and her sister, yazmin, age 4. Keegan immediately ran up to me and gave me a huge hug. "Did you you bring my little sister?" he asked hopefully.
"She's coming with her dad in a few minutes," I told him. Lexie's aunt and grandmother gave me hugs as well.
The last time I saw them was when they invited us to a birthday party in June for Lexie's cousin. At that time, I had not wanted to take Lexie to the party. I remember the frustration I felt as I thought, "Are they going to expect to get together all the time? She's OUR daughter now...we don't have to do this, and I don't want to." Mike said, "Whatever you want to do.." in that way that means, "But you really should reconsider..." and I knew as soon as I said "I'm not taking her." That it was going to be one of those things God would ask me to do. I went, half-heartedly, like a child being pulled along, dragging my feet to some place I didn't want to go.
I had that attitude of, "I'll go, but only because you're making me.." Yeah, that's the kind of heart attitude that really thrills God, isn't it?
That sunny day in June we were greeted with wet, water playground hugs from Keegan and Yazmin-who had not seen Lexie since she was a few weeks old. Mackenzie had been right there with me in sharing my, "I don't want to do this" attitude, but as soon as she saw Paris, yazmin and Lexie grab hands and run under the spray of cool water, giggling all the way, her heart was softened, as was mine. Noah and Keegan became fast friends that day, planning their next get together. I know Lexie had no idea her new friends were family,she was just enjoying playing with them. I was humbled as Lexie's aunt and biological grandmother hugged me and thanked me for bringing her. I was ashamed that I had asked my mother in law to come along, so they would be able to see that Lexie already had a "grand mother." It ended up being a great afternoon. Keegan followed me to the car to give me one more hug and say, "Thank you for letting me see my sister." As we drove away, Mackenzie said what I was thinking, "Oh, mom...we were being so selfish. We need to let them know their sister." And then we had a good cry, as Mae and Noah looked at us like we were crazy...They had wanted to come from the very beginning; why wouldn't we want to go spend time with Lexie's biological brothers and sisters?
Because stuff like fear, and selfishness and judgment get in the way...."What if Lexie decides she likes them better than us?" "We don't have to do any of this. She's our daughter now.." and "She (Lexie's biological mom) made her choice when she chose to do drugs while she was pregnant with Lexie, why should we let her family have anything to do with her?" If there ever in all my life was battle between my flesh and my spirit, this whole foster/adoptive parenting thing has made it very evident. My flesh screams, "I don't owe them anything"..."we don't have to do anything"..."it's their fault they made these bad choices"....
and The holy spirit in me softly speaks.."Christ didn't owe you anything..." "He didn't have to do anything.." "It's not His fault you made these choices..."
Amazed that all of these thoughts pour out of one simple hug from a little boy...So that was back in the summer. Since then, we have been in contact with Lexie's aunt, but had not gotten together again.
So here we were at the park, on a chilly November day, waiting for Mike to arrive with all the kids. As we waited, Lexie's aunt told me that they would be heading to the prison sometime in December to visit Charlene, Lexie's biological mother. I remembered (had I really forgotten?) that I had promised to come see her. That was a year ago....My excuses were that I had sent my paperwork in to be approved for a visit and hadn't heard anything...had I really tried?
I joked with Shontel that I was probably the last person Charlene wanted to see, after a letter I had written to her last January remained unanswered. I had written to her explaining that, in answer to her questions in a previous letter, I was not showing my then 1 year old her picture, nor was I telling her she had another "mama". I explained in my letter that although we were so grateful for the huge part she played in bringing Lexie into this world, that the only mommy and daddy she had ever known were Mike and I. I Told her that in time, she would absolutely know about her birth mom-she would know she had her beautiful eyes and sweet smile, she would hopefully get to meet her and have a relationship with her..but that we would make the decisions about when and where. This was all in answer to Charlene's demand that we bring Lexie to the prison to see her.
For the things I said in the letter, I have no apologies..Lexie came to us from the hospital at 1 week old, still reeling from the effects of cocaine in her little body...while her birth mom was getting high, we were walking the floors at night with her...does that mean that I have a gold star in my crown and Charlene doesn't? Absolutely not. But I still think that some things did need to be said about what we were and weren't going to tell Lexie. I also told Charlene that I hoped she got the help she needed in prison, so that she would be able to have a second chance when she got out-a chance to start over, and even a chance to know Lexie.
I mentioned the letter to Shontel and that I hadn't heard from Charlene since then.
Shontel said, "Yeah, she wasn't too happy about that letter." Carol, Lexie's biological grandmother chimed in, much to my surprise, "You said a lot of things in that letter that she needed to hear. We are so grateful that you're letting us see her, but we know you're her mama."
"Do you think she'd still want to see me?" I asked, sounding like a small child.
"Absolutely." They both answered. We made plans for them to get the paperwork from Charlene again so that we could come visit. I planned to talk to Mike about bringing Lexie to see her..my flesh screamed, "Are you nuts?" and my heart whispered, "You have nothing to be afraid of..."
About the time we finished discussing Charlene, Mike pulled up in the parking lot.
Keegan, Yazmin and Paris ran to the car, and hugs were exchanged all around. Keegan and Noah quickly headed to the playground, and Paris and Yazmin linked arms with Lexie and took a loaf of bread to feed the ducks. Mackenzie and Mae followed a teetering Malachi around, arguing over who would get to hold him next. I sat a bench and watched them all laugh and play. Sat their with my sweet husband, my visiting parents, and Shontel and Carol. I wondered what everyone was thinking, especially Shontel and Carol. I felt my heart softening even more..last time it was for the children, this time towards this aunt and grandma sitting beside me.
We gathered all the kids up on a park bench for a picture. Noah remarked, "Look at Lexie and ALL her brothers and sisters (and cousins)!!" What an interesting sight we must have been, I'm sure.
Keegan ran over with Noah and said, "It's cool that Lexie has two big brothers."
"Yes, It is." I answered. And they were off to play again. mackenzie came over and pulled me aside. "Mom, can we invite them to go out to eat? I want to treat them to go out to eat."
I said, "Have you counted everyone? Do you realize how much that would cost?"
"Yes, and I want to."
"Why?" I asked.
"Because I love the way you and dad look after you've just done something nice for someone. I love the way that feels. And I just want to be with them a little longer." I looked at my oldest child, caught somewhere between girl and woman-who has been saving her hard earned money from crocheting hats for something really special. I guess this was it. Her dad and I agreed and she went and asked Shontel and Carol about joining us at pizza hut. They happily accepted and after a little more play time we began to round up the kids. I was surprised when Keegan ran over to me and took my hand. He just looked at me and smiled, and we walked to the parking lot quietly, hand in hand. Almost to the cars, he tugged at my hand and looked up at me. "Yes?" I asked. "Thank you for bringing my sister. She's so beautiful."
"Your welcome." I said. "You know, you and Yazmin and Malachi and Lexie all have the same eyes."
"We do?" He asked.
I paused for a moment, the words stuck in my throat. "You and Yazmin, Malachi and Lexie...you all have your mama's beautiful eyes."
I realize I'm a fool to think I'll ever be her only Mama.
And he just grinned, from ear to ear. As we loaded cars, Mike ended up with Noah and Keegan, and I ended up with Yazmin, Paris, Lexie, Mackenzie and Mae. Shontel and Carol followed us in their car, ejoying a little bit of quiet, I'm sure. On the way to Pizza Hut, yazmin said matter of factly to Mackenzie, "I'm Lexie's sister."
"Yes, you are." Mackenzie answered.
"Are you her big sister, too?" Yazmin wondered.
"Yes, I am."
yazmin thought for a moment, a little 4 year old thought. "Well, then I guess you're my big sister too!" Then she added, "My big, white sister!"
And we all laughed.
As we sat in Pizza Hut, waiting on our pizza that was taking way too long, that's when I felt it..felt like a spectator in my own life. as I looked around-Keegan and Noah, chatting like old friends at their very own big boy table; Mackenzie and Mae supervising the table with Yazmin, Lexie and Paris; And My mom, stepdad, Mike, Carol, Shontel, the two littlest babies and myself at another table. I sat there, watching. Knowing this was not me-sitting here with my adopted daughter's family...making plans to go see her birth mother in prison...making plans to do this again soon.
This was not the selfish me I knew. The me who wanted to hoard my sweet little 2 year old all to myself..the me who wanted to say we didn't have to let them see her at all...
No, this was the me I wish I saw more often. The me who knew that Lexie was not mine to hoard...who knew God didn't have to give her to us in the first place...who knew my heart was changed toward this family beacause of a little boy who gave me a hug, and a little baby named Jesus who would grow up to die for me...not because he had to, but because he wanted to.
And as I sat in Pizza Hut, surrounded by the sweet sound of children talking and laughing, I thought..God, help me to do more of what you ask because I want to..not because I have to. I don't want to be that child, dragging my feet, kicking and screaming...pouting because I don't get to do it my way. I want to be more of you...giving without expectations...loving first without guarantees of being loved in return...more of you, less of me.
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