Not to worry. It's currently at the camera hospital, and I'm hoping it will make a quick and full recovery. However, a broken camera means that it's really super hard for me to give an update about our trip to see our son.
Why, you ask?
Because I'm a photographer.
And a perfectionist.
And my brain can't process the thought of doing an update without pictures...
...and I have pictures on that camera that I desperately want to include in this update.
(In hindsight, I probably should have purchased a card reader so I would never be in this exact predicament. Hmmm. Might want to do that before I go and break my camera again.)
Anyway, several people have been asking about our trip, and some have indicated that they're waiting patiently for this post. And since my camera may be gone for another week or two (is it weird that I feel a little lost without it?), I'm going to go ahead and write it.
For your amusement, though, I thought I'd punctuate the post with a few pictures I uploaded from my little point-and-shoot camera...which I let my kids use on the trip. Enjoy!
First off, some awesome news:
Our visit with Mr. J went really, really well!
Yay! We weren't incredibly nervous this time. Not sick-to-your-stomach kind of nervous like back in April. But still...with everything we've been through with Mr. J, there are always a few nerves involved. We needn't have worried; the good behavior that he's been exhibiting at school transferred beautifully to being off-campus with his family.
We had some great conversations with the rest of our kids before we saw Mr. J on that first day, too. Miss J, age seven, summed up what most of us (me, Scott, my mom and dad, Mr. C, 5 years) were feeling. She said:
"I'm really excited to see (Mr. J) today...
...but inside I feel kinda nervous, too."
Exactly. The only one who didn't have age-appropriate emotions was Miss M, which is no surprise. Emotionally, Miss M is far younger than her eleven years. She's very black-and-white in her thinking, and couldn't understand why we would be nervous since Mr. J has been "being good" recently. It did give us a chance to explain (again) how your actions determine how much people trust you in the future, and how damage can be done to relationships. One of these days, we're hoping the empathy and emotional intelligence piece kicks in!
|Baby A, Mr. J, Little K, and Daddy's beard.|
Little K was a bit timid at first. It took him a few minutes to realize that Mr. J was the same brother that he has told us "lives on da phone" or is "working hard on da school bus" (we pray daily that he's working hard and healing at school). It didn't take long for him to realize that his brother liked him, thought he was funny, and wanted to spend time with him, though, and he was at ease in no time at all. Mr. J was surprised by how much he's changed. K was barely talking a year ago, and now he doesn't stop!
With the first hurdle jumped, we left the school with our oldest son in tow. It was a strange sensation to actually have him with us! We eventually met up with the rest of the family at a park, where we had a picnic and spent the afternoon catching crayfish, playing Frisbee and catch, and munching on treats - all things we've always enjoyed as a family. It was a good first day.
|A lovely portrait of our oldest and youngest sons.|
RAD kids try so hard to push away the people who love them, especially when they feel unsafe or out-of-control, that I was eager to make this statement by getting our portraits taken:
"In spite of everything, you are still part of our family and we are still here for you".
Besides the picnic at the park and the family picture, we also made a quick trip to the zoo during our visit, went out for a couple nice family dinners, went bowling, shopped for new shoes, and sat around our cabin while the kids played UNO. Basically, we tried to do all the simple things we've missed doing together as a family. Mr. J played with each of his siblings, frequently wanted to hold the baby, wrestled with five-year-old Mr. C (who has missed his wrestling buddy terribly) and was respectful and agreeable the entire time.
There were a few tender moments, too. Moments only for me and my son, that can only be evidenced by the tears running down my cheeks as I write this. I prayed then that God might help me treasure those moments and ponder them in my heart, just like Mary, and this remains my prayer: that I might cling to what I know is true and not hold on to the bitterness of last year.
What I know to be true:
God is good all the time, and He's got my son in His hands.
Despite all the heartache, the rage, the trauma, the bad choices and the threats, my son loves me. He loves his family. He wishes none of this had ever happened, and I believe strongly that, like every teenager, he's struggling to discover who he is and to find his place in the world. It's just harder for him because of the trauma and uncertainty of his first seven years of life.
It's our job as his parents to stick with him as he figures out who he is, who he is in Christ, and what it means for him to be adopted... not only into our family but into God's.
Saying goodbye was almost unbearable this time. Words of love and encouragement and forgiveness were spoken, hugs were given, tears were shed....except from Miss M, who basically said "See you in December!" :) And then we walked out through the front doors one last time, leaving a piece of our hearts behind.
We had never been together before. Not all of us, since Baby A was born after Mr. J was gone. I will never again take for granted the simple blessing of having my entire family in one place at the same time. The blessing of eating dinner around the same table, of looking back and seeing all six of my children riding together in the van.
It was amazing to finally be a complete family of eight...
...a preview of what's yet to come, Lord willing...
...even if this time, it was only for four days.
Please keep praying for our son. He's made tons of progress since our first visit in April. He actually wants to succeed, and has even moved up another "rank" since we left two weeks ago! We aren't under any delusions that everything is perfect because his behavior is good, but we are really excited to see him in control of himself once again. Our hope all along has been that Mr. J would be able to regulate himself, control his rage, and would get to a place emotionally where he's willing to start the long road to healing. More importantly, willing to let God work in his life. Pray that he's truly headed in that direction!
And for your enjoyment, a few more noteworthy photos I found on my camera:
|A dead zebra head mounted on a brick wall.|
|Pretty sure this is the tablecloth...|
|A tortoise. Or rather, a tortoise leg.|