This week has provided more “firsts” for us – last Friday, I saw a sign at the local indoor soccer arena advertising summer day camps…so spontaneously I asked Wes that morning if he might want to go watch some soccer. I told him if he wanted to play, he could – but he didn’t have to. His eyes lit up and he told me immediately that he wanted to play! We arrived, and I gave the coaches a quick rundown on the “he’s been in the states a month and might not understand everything…oh and by the way he might be ready to go home in 20 min, so it might be short!” 😉 The coaches were amused with me I’m sure, but quickly warmed up to my little guy, who had so much fun he stayed the entire three hours of the camp, while I stayed and watched :). He was so enamored with the playtime and the kids that we went down to adidas and found a few soccer jerseys and shorts, socks, shoes and shinguards, and he’s already talking about the little 3-on-3 “outside soccer” game he got invited to play in a couple weeks!
Sunday we had another first, (and a second), as we announced Saturday night that tomorrow was Sunday and we were going to go to church again, have lunch and then take a bike ride on the trail to see the turtles in the pond. He wasn’t too sure about church, so I told him if he wanted to go into the kids’ church, Logan could stay with him in class and help him while mommy and daddy went with the grownups. He seemed interested, so we left it at that. Sunday morning, we had zero complaints about church, and he walked right into Sunday School with Logan, and he had a great time while I wrestled with anxiety in service about all the million and one problems that he could have while I was sitting half-a-building away in “big church” LOL!
Our bike ride was amazing, gorgeous, and an absolute blast! I prayed the entire ride that God would bless us by pushing the turtles to come out in the pond so he could see them, because he’d been counting on seeing some – his whole motivation for bike ride! We saw birds, geese, an owl close-up, a baby racoon (and a disgruntled and protective mama racoon), some fish, and several turtles! 🙂
Yesterday, and again today, he’s back at the indoor arena playing soccer in the morning camp. I actually tried “leaving” him here for 20 min while I got coffee (A big deal for me)! I let him know that I was going to drive and get some coffee while he played but I would be back before he came out for snack. He said, “oh, your coffee? oh, yeah, okay!” and waved when I left and again when I returned. As long as he’s busy and occupied, he doesn’t mind that I’m gone. But if he’s at all un-distracted, he definitely cares where people are, where they are going, and when they will be back!
Yesterday was Kris’ 42nd birthday (!!!!!!!!!) and Kris’ one birthday request was that we have a traditional birthday celebration with cake and decorations and presents so that Wes could see what a birthday was like! 🙂 So…we did! We woke up early and Wes helped me put up streamers and a Happy Birthday banner over the table for Daddy, then Daddy took Wes to soccer camp (THANK YOU!!!) and I was able to get my very first 3-hour BREAK (in 5 weeks) and take Logan out for some much needed mommy-time. It was blessed. 🙂 After lunch, the girls, Wesley and I ran to the store to pick up some presents for Daddy, and we wrapped them in race car paper that Wes picked out. He was very excited for Daddy to open presents (because Daddy asked for a big scooter for his birthday so he could ride with the kids!). We came home and baked a birthday cake, and then the kids swam outside in the wading pool while I got Daddy’s dinner ready – special request – Meatloaf. 😉
Interesting scenario at dinner time – as dinner was cooking, Wesley came in to see what was for dinner. When I told him, and he looked in the oven, he got quiet and a bit grumpy and said, “oh, that’s not for me. Not my dinner. I’m having spaghetti.” I said, “oh, nope that’s our dinner, bud, we aren’t having spaghetti tonight!” To which he responded, “I no have dinner tonight.” and I said, “Oh, okay!” and he walked back outside to play (aka SULK). As time went on, and the cooking timer ticked away, he came back in to sulk and turn on the oven light – I think he was really wrestling with “I don’t know what that is, and it looks weird, and I don’t like it, therefore I won’t eat it.” I wasn’t quite sure how to deal with it – fully preparing to deal with starving child who grumped his way through no-dinner and early bed. Kris walked in and noticed him quietly sitting against the cabinets on the floor. He calmly said, “You know what, Wes? Sometimes Abby and Logan and Braeden don’t want the dinner either, but Mommy and Daddy say “eat two bites please!” Tonight, you can have two bites of the dinner, and if you REALLY don’t like it, and its very gross, we will find something else for you to eat so you won’t be hungry okay? Mommy and Daddy will make sure you get lots of food – and you won’t be hungry.”
Immediate change – as I was chopping oranges for dinner (which he loves) and I sat him up on the counter and let him snack on some oranges while the rest of dinner finished. I was in awe at my super-smart husband and his calm way of dealing with the situation. My poor kid was just envisioning an entire night of feeling hunger pains if he didn’t eat the dinner that I prepared. I realized that 5 weeks home is too long to cause unnecessary suffering while he’s still learning to trust that there will always be food available, and he won’t ever have to worry about whether or not there will be a meal for him.
If anyone is wondering how we deal with food in the house – Wes hasn’t displayed many odd food behaviors or obsessions – he doesn’t hoard food, doesn’t obsess about it, other than always wanting to mentally prepare with the “what’s for dinner?” question like any other kid! We did decide early on that we would establish a regular routine for morning and afternoon snack windows where there is always “snack time” and he can pick something or a few things for snack so that he’s not dragging by the next meal-time. However we’ve noticed that some days he is a bottomless pit and needs to have smaller snacks multiple times a day. We have decided that for now, if he says he’s hungry, we need to make sure that need is met. In the first couple weeks, it meant snacks every hour or so – but now 5 weeks later, he doesn’t ask for food unless he’s really hungry – or really bored LOL – but most of the time, we actually have to remind him that he’s hungry. He doesn’t sense the hunger the same way that he did at the Orphanage, I think probably because his hunger now isn’t a painful ache, it’s just an annoying lack-of-energy that he doesn’t always recognize. We see it – I know I mentioned that before – the visible “fading” of his demeanor and produce an applesauce, bananas, peanut butter crackers, or a kids’ protein bar – and the effect is usually immediate.
Revisiting Sunday morning – I missed a ton of what the “big church” message was, due to my constant checking of my phone to see if the Sunday school volunteers had called me, or just in la-la land in my own head, trying to figure out if leaving him in Sunday School was actually going to be traumatizing or a good thing! However one piece of the message caught me. The question all of a sudden was asked, “What has you tangled up?” and it shook me out of my headspace completely. I wish I was an accomplished artist of real-life images because then I could draw the visual that slowly overtook my focus. In my minds-eye I could see myself trying in vain to run, but thick rope-like tendrils of jungle weed were wrapping their sinewy fingers around and through my feet and legs, chaining me to the ground. My arms were outstretched trying to claw my way away, but I could see the vines crawling toward them through the air, latching onto my fingers, so that I couldn’t pry anything off. In one clear instant I knew the one-word answer to the Pastor’s question “what has you tangled up?”:
Anxiety is a 7-letter word that somehow has my spirit convinced it is a 4-letter word. The power that that word has exercised over my heart over the past 6 weeks is monstrous. It has overtaken me like very little has ever attempted to before. The word “conquer” seems to breathe out of it’s slobbering vine-laden jaws with a hot, fiery stench – it seems to have one purpose and one purpose only – to conquer my very spirit. To quench my joy, to rob me of the hope and the anticipation of beautiful things to come. I find myself in daily battles trying to loosen its grip, and the struggle is never-ending. While I may have a few hours or even days of reprieve, it only seems to relax its hold across my chest while it eats a meal and then gains even more strength than before. It arises with the simplest of responses or attitudes from Wes, with the barest of shivers of resistance to a direction, it soars in with a little brown yawn and a bright pink tongue that laps at the infinite lake of sleepiness.
Anxiety is massive – it is real, it is not always practical, but it is incredibly strong. It is a presence that un-recognized, has infinitely more power than when it is called out and identified.
However. Anxiety’s strength cannot conquer me. It cannot have me, it cannot hold me down, or keep me still. It cannot retain me captive in darkness, it cannot keep me confined in despair or self-pity. It cannot render me immobile or incomplete, it cannot rob me of my joy or my hope, it cannot steal my refuge or my safety. It can, indeed threaten all of those things – and it can whisper to me in my dreams that it is coming for me. But I have a REDEEMER. I have an ultimate Authority that I have proclaimed as my Truth always – and my TRUTH is that my God is bigger, more powerful, calming and holds a massive AXE. When I, in God’s divine strength, attack that anxiety with His truth – with the words found in His word, with the promises contained there – the latches on my feet and hands and around my heart break – and I am FREE.
I don’t have to live in it – I may always struggle with some sort of battle, but I don’t have to live there – because I live in freedom. My freedom is beautiful, it is a wildflower landscape of joy – and as I told a good friend this morning – may God always and forever line our pockets with joy – because those moments that I give up and stuff my hands in my pockets and my head falls – in those moments may my fingers close around this lining – and emerge with fistfuls of shining anticipation of the hope and joy that the Lord brings me!