Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Heavy List

Night terrors
Mother killed in a car wreck, but he survived
Given acid by a 40-year-old man
Mother died of cancer
Cut her arms
Father beat him
Hoarded food
Father smoked pot in front of him
Parents didn't want him, moved between extended family
Attempted suicide
Pretty sure parents were making meth
Mom was in jail
Father pinned his over 6-ft tall frame to the wall and screamed in his face
Moved about every six months to avoid bill collectors
Mother missed a meeting with the school because she was drunk
Dad in jail
Couldn't bring himself to read The Outsiders because it's too much like his own life
No one wanted to sit by her, not even the teachers
Dad took him to the bar, gave him a cup of quarters to play video games in the family room while he partied all weekend -- every weekend
Restraining order against her mother
Only got to eat at school
Mother told him he was stupid
Restraining order against his father
She hung on the guys because that's the only love she's ever known
Father committed suicide
Locked in his room

These thirteen to fifteen-year-olds have floated into my life around August and then left about June.  I rarely ever get to see them again.

I taught in special education for over ten years.  There were nights that the heartache I would carry home would be almost too much to bear.  His or her name tumbling over my lips in whispered prayers as I'd make dinner or fold the laundry.  And not just for the kids, but their families too. 

I knew that was the best thing I could do for them. Pray.  But also to be a gentle light in their world of darkness.  Talk about bowling and fishing and cosmetology with them.  Speak a few words of hope to his mother.  Tell her father about her strengths. 

I moved to teaching English this year and a few more were added to the list.  My heart is weary for them.  It's their face, especially their eyes that get me.  At times, I can hardly spit out the lesson when I see their eyes. Sometimes they're blinking back tears and I can barely hear the whispered, "'s just not my day."  Another's eyes stare right through me, grey-faced, lost in painful thought and yet, protected by it's veil at the same time. 
There are a some of my dear colleagues that also pray for these young lives.  However, many others seem to able to just acknowledge the situation with a "That's too bad" and move on.  There are times when I wonder if I need to toughen up, not worry about it.  I mean, really, what difference can I make? 

And the more I think on it... I'm right.  I can't make a difference.  Not without the power of Christ that lives within me.  And it's not just me.  It's me joining forces with all the others that chose to stop instead of turning away.  We by the power of Christ make the difference.

Those looks from these kids strike a deep chord in my heart...not pity. 


Thursday, April 3, 2014


Mommy, I have to tell you a secret:  i have an imaginary friend
Oh, that's nice. What's 'is name?
Fancy Dancy
Oh? (I stifle a little giggle) Is that a boy or a girl?
A girl. I'm teaching her English.
(more giggles) Oh really? She can't speak English?
No, not very much.

Mommy, I've been writing a letters to a leprechaun. 
Oh really? Did the rest of your class write one too?
No, just me.
Oh? (I giggle) Well what did you say?
I asked him where his gold is, but I told him I didn't want it.  That was a trick, Mommy!

This is just a little slice of how awesome this kid is. His imagination is so stinkin' fantastic that there are times that I wish I could just pretend with him the entire day.

Things with this little one didn't start out so awesome though.

To begin with, the day he decided to make his appearance in this world, I decided that he needed to stay IN. Needless to say, I was petrified. Me? Really? God, you sure you want ME to take care of this little life? I did not want to get in that Durango. No. Way. Kim's calm, but firm voice knocked over my thoughts, "Becca.  We have to go.  Now."  Then he climbed into the truck and patiently waited.

It was a balmy morning in late May, grey and misty, just starting to feel like summer.   I wondered up and down our long gravel driveway one last time.  Finally I just had to blank my mind and get in.  By the time Kim got me to the hospital, and all checked in, I was already 7 cm.  I was showered with praises by my midwife for making it so long at home.  ...She didn't know my little secret.

I'll spare you the scary details of the actual, natural, labor. [Although I did offer, more than once, to go into the sex ed. class at the high school and explain every last scary detail.  The teacher never took me up on it.  I think I scared him.]  It was all very intense, and I was not very good at helping this poor baby out, but thank God he made it so my body did it anyway.

By the time I heard my little boy's cry I felt as though I'd been thrown through the windshield of a car and was now lying on the pavement.  Utterly shaken and honestly more than a little surprised I was alive.

It is in this moment, they place this teeny little soul at the nape of my neck.  I can't even hardly lift my arms to hold him.  I knew I was supposed to be so happy, that all that had just happened was supposed to vanish instantly and I'd be head-over-heels in love.  But I wasn't.  And I felt so ugly that I wasn't.  I mean, I loved him because he was my son, but I just couldn't get over the fact that they'd placed him in my care.  I wanted to yell- What do you think your doing!?  Why aren't you taking care of him?  Can't you see that I can't do this?  I didn't say anything other than, "Oh my..." over and over, but they didn't let him stay with me for long.  I don't know what the reason was exactly, but that time of bonding slipped through my fingers, and I'm afraid my dear little boy paid the price.

Dakota was exceptionally alert as a newborn.  When visitors came through they remarked at how he could fix his gaze.  When he looked at you, it was as if he was reading your mind.  He can still do it to me.  He has eyes like a polished Tiger's Eye stone.  When he was tiny, they'd almost hypnotize me.

I think it was partially because of this hyper-awareness that we struggled so much.  It was like he knew how drastically his world had changed and how fragile he was.  I called him my little pea pod.  He would roll up like a little armadillo and squirmy-wormy into the nape of my neck.   I think if he could've crawled back down my throat to my tummy, he would have.  He wanted me and me alone.  Of course it's a natural thing for a baby to want his mother, but Dakota was different.  He was desperate for me.  It was as if he thought that if he lost sight of me for a second, I'd be gone forever.  Not the easiest thing when you're used to having time to at least take a shower and use the bathroom by yourself.  Of course I'll never know if it was because of those lost moments of initial bonding or not, but somehow he'd lost his sense of security somewhere along the way. 

Little by very little though, we grew our love.  Tiny root hairs dug into the hard clay.  I was scared.  I was unsure.  I was used to wrangling 14-year-olds at school, not providing every single need for a tiny little baby.  But, watching him sleep, and praying, watching him wrap his brand new fingers around mine, and praying, feeling his kitten-soft hands brush the side of my cheek, and praying, reassured me.  The dirt became softer, and soon a small sapling uncurled its leaves stretching to the sky while roots drove deep to the soul. 

I'm so thankful that I was given the chance to figure to figure out that I'm not supposed to have it all figured out.  Today my love for this child is an oak: living, breathing, steady and secured in God's grace.