Last fall was undeniably one of the worst seasons we've experienced in our history as a family. Circumstances felt so bleak at times that it was difficult to see joy in any situation, impossible to grasp it, hold onto it, and coax it out from beneath the dark veil that clouded every aspect of life.
Our family was so traumatized last fall that we were scarcely able to function. The pain, anger and uncertainty bled over into everything we did, everything we said, everything we felt, and for one of the first times in my life, I understood what it meant to feel desperately hopeless.
But we were never completely without hope.
While we were exhausted and afflicted, God sent others to hope for us. They prayed for us, prayed with us, held our hands, and listened to the mourning of our hearts. They brought us meals, brought us groceries, offered to watch our children, accompanied us to meetings and appointments, and sent us cards and letters of encouragement. They helped us financially, and committed to it in the future as well. They thought of us, Bibles in hand, and shared scriptures that lifted us up when we were at our lowest.
The people of God loved on us like crazy, and it was beautiful; the body of Christ working together the way God intended.
One of the most beautiful things that was done for us in the midst of our darkness was done by some precious friends, friends with a rambunctious young family much like our own. They drove an hour just to be with us, and spent time filling the garden around our house with bulbs that would bloom in the spring. They prayed over each of those bulbs as they planted, and they reminded us that spring comes after every dark season, and spring is filled with new life and new hope.
I was moved to tears often as I thought about those bulbs during the winter. Our son's behavior was still out of control at his school, and I kept thinking "Okay, God. Spring is almost here!" I eagerly anticipated the day when we would see the first shoots of life springing from those bulbs, breaking through the dirt and on up towards the sun.
And that day finally came - the week before we left to visit Mr. J at school for the first time. Coincidentally (and by coincidentally I mean not coincidentally in the least), it was around the same time that we heard the first positive news from the staff at our son's school.
Mr. J appeared to be trying.
Scott and I had a great visit with our eldest son over Easter weekend. We played games, toured the school, talked cordially about nothing serious, and introduced Mr. J to his new baby brother. There were no deep conversations and no apologies, but there were no fits of rage or irrational behavior, either. There were even a few moments of tenderness, when our son couldn't keep the tears from running down his face, and when he let me comfort him. When we had to say goodbye on the final day, we left him sitting at the table, head buried in folded arms, sobbing. I did the same in the parking lot.
Yet in spite of all the tears, or perhaps because of all the tears, I finally have a new hope of my own.
The biggest sign of hope God has given us is that somewhere between last fall and this spring, our son has moved from "I'll kill you if I come home" or "I'm never coming home" to "When I come home...".
He's written that he wants to change his life so things will be different when he comes back, and although he's still struggling frequently with anger and irrational outbursts, he seems to be recovering more quickly, picking himself up, and trying again. We remain hopeful.
Spring is here at last.
If you are one of those people that brought hope to our family last fall and continue to do so as we walk this difficult journey, we thank you and love you more than we could ever express. Please continue to pray us through this process, specifically for Mr. J's continued change of heart, and for his eventual emotional and mental healing. He still has a long way to go. Please pray that we can offer grace and unconditional love in spite of everything our family has been through.