Friday, October 3, 2008

Update on Joey

OK, I think I should clarify a bit about what's going on with Joey, because when I read the post below, I thought it did sound strange that I used the term "adopt" to describe a kid who is going though a tough time and is certainly not my son. So I'm going to give you guys more details.

Joey isn't just going through a tough time. He was orphaned just a few weeks ago when both his parents died in a tragic situation. His grandparents have temporary custody of him and his two younger siblings (a toddler and a baby), but the family can't decide on what's best for the kids (who should get them, should they be kept together, etc.) There were no clear provisions in his parents' will, so there's a lot of legal confusion thrown into the mix. Several families (some blood-related, some dear friends) want the kids. Some want just one or two of them. Some infighting seems inevitable. It's all just yucky to think about.

In the midst of all this, of course, Joey is acting up in class, not completing his homework, and barely getting the attention he needs. That's why God has called me and my husband to (with full permission of his grandparents) "adopt" him for now in our hearts, even knowing that he will likely be placed with someone we don't even know and will move away from us forever.

He's not living with us, of course. He does have a stable, if relatively stress-filled home to go home to. But we're spending time with him, giving him lots of love, and supporting him through it all. I asked my son this morning as I was driving him to school if he was feeling "OK" with us giving Joey lots of attention right now. My son is happy with it, enjoys the playdates, and really loves his friend.

As I dropped my boy off, I also looked for Joey in the crowd. I had been thinking about him all morning, and I walked up to him.

"Hi Joey," I said. He smiled at me. "Would you like a hug this morning?" He said, "I would!"

I held him close for a few minutes, which is probably more time than his poor overworked and deeply mourning grandparents have right now. I told him I loved him and that I was looking forward to him coming over to my home again on Tuesday. He told me all about some funny, interesting lego-involved adventure he had had. I only caught half of it, of course, but it was just good to see him smile.

I feel so fulfilled right now with our family reaching out to this great kid. I feel like my arms, my heart, my quiver—for now—is full.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

An Adoptive Heart

There is a little boy in my son's class right now who is going through a whole lot of suffering. (I won't go into details, because this is a public blog). He's a first grader, like my son.

My son's little private Christian school is made up of a close community of families. It has a heart for reconciliation and revival in Austin. And sometimes I'll pop in to have lunch with my son during the day. Tuesday, that's what I did, and I spent a little time, too, chatting with his classmate, whom I'll call Joey here. As I spent some time with Joey, I just found myself falling in love with him. And he opened up to me a bit about what's going on in his life (for a first grade boy, that means about two sentences, but they were meaningful). The next day, I returned to the school and sat with my son and Joey in chapel. I ended up holding Joey all through chapel and just giving him comfort and care, which he drank up like a thirsty puppy. Then I asked his family if I could invite him over for a playdate with my son after school.

They were fine with that, and he came over after school and played with my son. They got along famously, playing nonstop, running, laughing, and scheming. I had to force them to stop for a little dinner. I'm guessing it's some of the happiest time he's had in a while.

And I really enjoyed this kid, whom life has dealt some nasty blows so very young. I realize that although I'm no therapist, I really have a knack for relating to people going through hard, confusing times. It's not that I understand everything they're going through. It's more that I am simply OK with whatever emotions come out. I've experienced so many emotions, and to such intense degrees, that I am pretty tough to shake up. Little Joey has been acting out lately and sometimes going into some coping mechanisms (like rocking and moaning) that tend to freak people out. But it doesn't throw me a bit. I've been there. I just am thankful that God gave us such coping skills, and I hug him until he feels better and then invite him to share with me how he feels. Then I send him off to play again.

Right now, his family is so overwhelmed with all they are having to handle themselves that little Joey's needs are simply slipping through the cracks. And his family is thrilled to have anyone investing time into him, so I'm not "stepping on any toes."

When I first heard about all that Joey's family was going through, I joined the list of people to deliver food to the home, and I talked to my son about how he could reach out to Joey and be patient with him if he feels sad at times. But I wondered if there was really anything else that I could do. I mean, the family already has a counselor meeting with Joey, the school has been mobilized to minister to the family's needs, and the kids in the class are well-parented Christian kids who should all extend love and understanding to Joey. There didn't seem to be a further place for me in the healing process. And I certainly didn't want to be one of those women who project herself into every drama around her, assuming that she has some magical solution for every hurting person.

But as I've spent time with Joey, I've discovered that I really, really love him. I'm praying for him so much. I think about how he might be feeling that day. I want to look into his sweet eyes again. And others can tell that I seem to have a "way" with him. I'm just comfortable with hurting people, that's all. And I am OK with sobbing in one moment and building legos in the next. If there is a spiritual gift of calm in the midst of a storm, I have it. And I know it's a gift, because it is the exact opposite of everything that naturally happens in me in my own strength. I mean the exact opposite. I'm the queen of panic, naturally.

The sobering fact is, little Joey will most likely not be in our life for long. He'll be moving soon, most likely, due to unheavel in his family situation. So I have maybe a month to spend with him. But my son likes him a lot, I love him a ton, my husband is drawn to him, and he needs something that I am well able to give: attention and understanding. His whole family is suffering and unstable right now. I am happy and stable. So I have an abundance of ability to grant him what—for now—his family can't.

So as I've been praying, I'm feeling this from God: that I am supposed to "adopt" Joey for whatever time I have with him. I will likely not see him again after his family moves. But for now, he is "mine" in a spiritual sense. His family is desperate for the help (I'm not forcing my way into anyone's world), my home is plenty open for him (I don't have any crying infants to tend to), and my heart is drawn to him. Sounds like the kind of thing that God would do...mobilize His seeking daughter's heart for a precious son of his who needs love.

For now, Joey is a part of our lives. My husband and I decided last night, after some prayer, to open up our home and hearts full throttle to Joey, inviting him to spend time with us while still being wise about his needs that we can't meet right now. And I couldn't be more excited if I were actually adopting my own kid.

What is God doing in all this? Maybe He's finally beginning to show us the answer to our question that we've been asking persistently for months: Should we adopt? The answer is Yes. Because it is always Yes in God's kingdom. Because The Father has only one begotten Son. We are all adopted. And whether it's for a month as a friend of the family, or for a lifetime as a legally binding parent, we are all called to an adoptive heart for the Kingdom of God.

Psalm 68:6
"God sets the lonely in families."