Winter has finally hit Western Pennsylvania and from the sounds of predictions being whispered in the produce aisle of the grocery store this winter promises to be colder and snowier than the last few years.
Last winter we lucked out with milder temperatures and minimal snowfall…both a blessing from the perspective of Momma chauffer…. Which doesn’t mean I love a good snowfall. There is nothing I fantasize more about during the winter months than a snowfall epic enough to shut down the state and allow us to hibernate at home for a week or two. Unfortunately epic snowfalls like that rarely come about and instead we are faced with cold, ice, and snow minimal enough that life marches on, but significant enough to make life more challenging.
For our family that challenge comes as a result of a full size van that performs poorly in the ice and snow, and a steep driveway that is accessible during the winter months only to 4WD vehicles. This means that when snow coats our gravel driveway we have to park at the bottom of the driveway and hike 1/2 mile in to get to our home.
We have become accustomed to this winter tradition, always leaving the house dressed for a winter hike on the off chance we won’t be able to make it back up the driveway, and often carrying a sled or two in the back of the van to help transport groceries and gear up the long driveway if the van won’t make it.
The challenge, however, is often simply making it TO the driveway. Living in the country means our roads are often the last ones in the area to be cleared, so it is always with a prayer and an adventurous spirit we venture out after a snowfall.
Today was no exception.
It seemed the weather was reflective of the last 24 hours at home…a bit icy and dicey.
Here is the reality:
I always struggle with writing about the darker side of adoption and the hard days at our home. And by hard days I’m not talking about sass and spilled milk. I’m talking about epic tantrums that last for 12 hours.
I struggle with sharing for multiple reasons.
I struggle with the challenge of simply vocalizing the reality of this journey. It is a crazy ride of ups and downs with an ever consuming barrage of emotions that are so hard to comprehend by someone who hasn’t lived it that I often feel it is not worth trying to verbalize. And that feeling of defeat can often be seen in the longer stretches of silence on the blog. When things are unbearably hard I am too worn down to type.
I struggle with finding the balance between honoring the stories of my children and their individual struggles, while being real and honest and raw about our life, because it is a life full of blessings even though those blessings aren’t always neat and tidy and may seem unconventional to others.
But I write.
I write to educate others and share the things that have worked or been an epic fail for us on this journey in the hopes that someone else might find answers that they are searching for.
I share to encourage. Our message is never intended to gain accolades or sympathy or promote judgement about our children. We share our story of struggle so that you might find strength in your own story of struggle, knowing that you are not the only one struggling day to day to find direction, hope, joy or simply a moment of sanity in the midst of the darkness you find yourself lost in.
I share with the hope that the truth of our journey might lead you to be more empathetic towards people in your life that are walking a similar road. Raising children with special needs, whether yours biologically or those who have come to you through foster care or adoption, is exhausting and hard, and if by sharing our story you feel inspired to reach out and lighten the load another family that is struggling as a result of an understanding you have found in our story, than the time spent and the vulnerability that comes from opening our life to others is worth every word.
I share to bring awareness to epidemic of neglect and abuse that destroys the lives of thousands of children daily. I share my boys’ struggles to bring awareness to the devastating affect anger, substance abuse, pornography, hatred and basic neglect cause. The sins of the parents not only destroy families and hurt children, they change children. I watch my boys try to navigate life with the same devastating diagnoses of PTSD that a soldier, a grown man exposed to war, shoulders. A life with Reactive Attachment Disorder, a disorder that changes the very brain function of children whose most basic need for love was not met in infancy, and is, according to our therapist, “The most challenging mental disorder to work with and heal.”
I share to bring a voice to my boys and all the children who struggle and are judged by their behaviors by those who can’t or are unwilling to dig beneath the surface of the “bad kid” label and consider the hurts and emotions driving those behaviors.
I share to end the silence, because as far as I’m concerned there is too much uncomfortable silence surrounding this important topic.
Which brings me to my point.
Today, on the way home from church, as we neared home we found ourselves stuck halfway up an icy hill not too far from home. This road was not only icy but also narrow, with sharp curves and steep drop offs. We were a quarter way up the hill when I began to panic that we would not make it. I hadn’t realized how steep the grade was until we were climbing. Halfway up the hill our tires began to spin, and 100 feet later we came to a stop. The van wouldn’t climb any further. The road was too narrow to turn around. So we began creeping our way backwards, down the hill, in reverse. It was a painstakingly slow process as we worked to keep the van in the middle of the curving road and away from the drop-off alongside the road. Every turn was a blind corner. We knew that we were at risk of being hit from above or below by a car taking that corner too quickly. We prayed and creeped along. The journey down the icy road became a familiar analogy of our adoption journey with close calls, frequent corrections and adjustments, and a white knuckle grip on the steering wheel.
Along the way we encountered a few vehicles. All saw us before tragedy struck but even those encounters were familiar and comparable to our adoption journey, with some drivers honking in frustration at the inconvenience our struggle was for them, while others simply drove by, eyes focused straight ahead, unaware of the breakdown happening just feet away from them.
Then there were the good Samaritans…those that noticed our struggle, stopped to check on us, and offered their assistance to help us get back home safely and in tact. After a extremely challenging Saturday I couldn’t help but draw a comparison to those in our life that “honk,” those that simply drive by not noticing, and those who stop and ask, ” What can I do to help?”
I am so grateful for those good Samaritans that stopped me today and asked, “What can I do to help?”
You know who you are.
And while there is often nothing that can be done to help, like by the fellow drivers that stopped us on that icy road,
the inquiry, the love, the words of encouragement, and the concern shown by others can be just the boost needed to keep crawling forward.
During this Christmas season, as we celebrate the hard journey taken by a faithful young man and his wife heavy with child, let us all take notice of those around us traveling lonely, hard roads. Let us be more like the humble shepherds who chose to look up and then show up.
Let us judge less and love more.
Let us love as Christ loved.