Mr. J and Miss M lived fourteen different places during the year before they were removed from their biological family. I remember sitting in the courtroom at their final termination hearing and not even being able to fully grasp this fact when I heard it for the first time. I had spent my entire childhood... from birth until leaving for college...living in a single house, and yet these poor kids with drug-addicted parents had been bounced around town like a couple of little ping-pong balls. Fourteen different places! I couldn't believe it.
They lived in many apartments, it seemed; wherever they were offered the first month's rent free. They lived there for a month, and then were evicted when they didn't pay. Some of the places they lived were set up for them by government or local agencies trying to help, trying to avoid homelessness for the children, but those didn't last long, either. They lived with relatives for a while, relatives with equally disturbing drug problems and parental discretion, where Mr. J remembers some pretty awful things.
The "home" that shocked me the most, however, was the tent. I have nothing against tents. Our family spends a week or two in a tent every summer, but it doesn't contain all of our worldly possessions, and it isn't because we've run out of places to live. The thought of my kids actually living in a tent in someone's backyard still makes me cringe.
Needless to say, my oldest two children didn't have any stability in their early years. It's no wonder that they've had trouble forming parental relationships and still have difficulty trusting adults to take care of them, after how grossly they were let down by the adults that were supposed to provide a safe home for them no matter what.
When Mr. J and Miss M were finally removed from their biological family, they spent a year in a foster home. Then they came to us. And they've been here...with our family, in this one home...for five-and-a-half years.
They've lived in this little green house for longer than they've ever lived anywhere else.
This is the house we brought them home to. This is the place where we carved out room for each of them in our family, where we put glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling on the very first night, and lit up the clouds in the nursery with pink and purple butterfly lights. This house is where their caseworker sat and talked to them about their "forever family", where we've cuddled and read books together, where we've celebrated and mourned and fought and apologized and laughed and wrestled and cried. This is the house where our kids have finally found the stability that they've always needed, and where they've spent so much time healing and learning to trust.
And tomorrow, we're moving.
Lord, help my kids to understand that this house is not their home. We are. Help them to process their feelings well and to not get lost in the uncertainty and instability they are bound to feel in the next few days and weeks. Let the excitement of our new house fill them up, and help us to make new memories together, while sharing memories from our old house. Please don't let them feel abandoned. Please don't let them feel like their worlds are turning upside-down again. Let this be a time of further healing, when they know without a doubt that our family is safe and stable and whole and happy no matter where we live.
Help them to see, Lord, that their true home is not the four walls between which they have lived, but the four arms - Mom's and Daddy's - between which they have been loved. Amen.