Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Broken they may be, but worthless they are not.

This afternoon I was raiding the garage fridge for all the makings of a preschool lunch. I was over ambitious in what I tried to carry into the house and ended up dropping a large jar of Adam's peanut butter on the concrete.

It broke, of course, and my heart lurched as a large shard of glass slid across the length of the floor, leaving a trail of shimmering and hazardous slivers in its wake.

There are very few messes I find more frustrating to clean than broken glass.

But as I swept up the tiny fragments, I made an effort to draw some parallel between the broken glass and the strange beauty created by the smaller bits, catching the light and making my dustpan look as if it were dressed for a party.

Perhaps, on a different day, that imagery would have rung true. Today, however, what was in the forefront of my mind was the fear that I associate with broken glass. Dread may be a better word than fear. Or foreboding.

While sweeping up so many miniscule pieces there is the very real and likely possibility that something will get missed. Some near-invisible fleck of shattered jar will find just the perfect little dip in the flooring and hid away until I have forgotten entirely about the event. Wait until I no longer keep a pair of slippers outside the garage door. Wait until one day I walk out with my feet bared and that so-small glimmer will become a sharp pain.

Yesterday Andy and I welcomed two new children into our home.

The last portrait I gave you included four beautiful, brown children.

I hate trying to be
politically correct
when identifying races.
The appropriate title
seems to change frequently
and my information doesn't update
often enough.
So I say "brown" simply because
that is what the pretty girl of the family
told me she prefers.

They moved back home with their mom, which is a story for another day. The parting was bittersweet, but left our home feeling like a home.

When they moved out, we were left with four foster children, all of whom have been part of our family from the beginning.

After almost six months, we know each other fairly well. We feel comfortable with one another and each of us has trained the others how to get the best from us.

For two glorious weeks I felt like I was living with my family. My home was predictable, full of peace and happy camaraderie and full of children who have started to let their guards down.

Oh it was bliss!
Bliss may be a bit of an exaggeration.
But it was at least pleasant.

As we knew would happen eventually, we saw four new children this weekend. One came for a day, one came for a weekend and ended up moving in and two showed up at our door late yesterday evening.

When the person delivering the children called, she told us to have a bath running and wash them first thing. They had "bedbugs."

So when two tiny children arrived, one two years older than Jack and another just a few months younger, I had a warm bath going and lots of toys out to play with.

I helped a young boy undress. His clothes were caked with dirt. Instead of underwear he was wearing filthy swimming trunks under his jeans. Beneath his clothing was the wonderfully smooth skin of young-childhood, marred by dozens of small red spots.

The tiny girl has eyes that will not focus and cause her to always look as if she is afraid. Her skin too was dotted with bug bites as well as two large raw and red welts between her legs. My hope is that they are the result of ill-fitting diapers and not something more sinister. Her hair is sickly and she is so thin that her ribs can be counted.

When the woman dropping them off asked me to throw away their clothing I was a little shocked. It was fortunate that they were so close to Jack's age because everything they came with, left with our garbage pick up this morning.

The bath disturbed my heart, to see such small children walk in, so obviously ignored for a long period of time... but the sorrow went deeper as I tried to get to know them.

Neither of the children can talk. I don't mean they aren't physically able, I just mean, nobody has ever taught them how. They seem to be able to converse with each other, in a language that I first thought was foreign, but they are extremely limited in the words they can speak to others.

A boy that is five and a girl that will be three this month. They can't tell me anything.

Luckily they are very good mimes and both seem more than able to follow directions. I do understand when the boy calls his small sister "baby girl" and I have started to identify words that we used often today: share, purple (baby girl's favorite color), trucks, helicopter, BIG helicopter, no and hey!, which is what they call Andy and me.

We tried to tell them our names,
but they persist in shouting "hey!"
when they want our attention.
They aren't the slightest bit interested
in "Emily" or "Andy"
so when they remember not to shout,
they call us mom and dad.

Oh friends, can I tell you. This is really hard.

These children have been horribly neglected. They need so much. And I don't want them.

Please don't misunderstand me. I want to love them, and take care of their needs at this very moment. But their needs are beyond my ability. To say "yes" to giving all that they require means so many nos to the other relationships and dynamics that are established in our home.

I don't want to say no to the four children who are making their home with me. I don't want to say no to Jack and Joey. I don't want to say no to my own selfishness. I don't want different when what I was building was so comfortable.

These children are shimmers of something broken. A broken history, broken family, broken hearts... I am not capable of cleaning this mess.

I want to see beauty in the dustpan, but my heart is fearful. Whatever sweeping I can do, won't be enough. Pain is still there. For each small fragment I can piece back together, another chip of glass waits to draw blood.

I don't know what will become of the two new waifs that are now sleeping in my home. But I do know that ultimately, my job is not to repair the broken.

With the grace and strength of the Holy Spirit I may be able to sooth. To calm. To teach. To love.

But putting the pieces back together will always be beyond me.

As I wrestled today with welcoming these two glass-glimmers, I thought of a story in John:

"As Jesus went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?'

'Neither this man nor his parents sinned,' said Jesus, 'but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.'"

I so badly want to blame someone for the hurt inflicted on the children that find their way to my home... but "this," whatever "this" may be, happened so that the work of God may be displayed.

Friends, I have two darling children in my care this evening that need more than I have. Please pray with me that God's abundance would cover over all of my lack and run deep and rich into their lives.

1 comment:

Alissa Maxwell said...

Oh Emily! My heart breaks for you looking at those children. It's so good to acknowledge what you cannot do - that honesty is the only way you're going to keep moving through each day. Remember what you can do, know that your abilities are enough, trust that God will take care of the rest, and just do your small (and huge) part. Love, safety, nourishment, hope.