My father is in town visiting and staying with his sister, who lives in our township. I planned to have them over for dinner last night, serving a huge pot of potato soup and a large crockpot of navy bean with ham. It was all planned in my head, down to when I would do the soups and when I would tidy up, and when I would teach Friday lessons.
But Beth started with a profusely running nose Thursday evening, and much more congestion than her allergies normally cause--a cold picked up from her Tuesday afternoon library program. The incubation period for a cold virus is almost always 48-54 hours, so it's never hard to think back to the source (not that it matters anyway).
My uncle is germ phobic, so instead we planned for me to bring the soups, including corn bread, salad, and ice cream and blueberries, over to my aunt's house, while my husband and me took turns staying home with Beth. My aunt is doing enough extra cooking with my dad and his young wife there, so I knew that at almost 70 years old, she was exhausted and could use a night off cooking.
I had a 6 PM deadline to do all this cooking, and mostly everything was going smoothly, until Miss L. came over after school and said she just had to speak to me in private.
I went outside with her and proceeded to hear pretty horrible things about her mother's problems. Miss L. wanted advice. I have watched this girl bypass her childhood in the weeks since her grandmother died. She's a nervous wreck now, feeling responsible for her mother, and wondering how she can keep her mother from either committing suicide, or being killed by the boyfriend.
I asked questions about who she and her brother could stay with in their extended family. There are two aunts nearby, and a great grandmother who is 70 years old, but no one gets involved in her mother's issues, possibly because Miss L and her brother are both handfuls and presumably no one in the family wants to have custody of them. That's all I can think of, as to why the extended family is not protecting these kids from their mother's ongoing dysfunction. The grandfather, with whom they live, now knows some of what is going on, but he has not kicked out the mother yet, and he has not brought in anyone to protect the kids during his second-shift work schedule.
I listened and counseled, but I don't think I helped her dilemma much. I counseled on how to protect herself, but I sensed she wanted me to help protect her mother.
An enabler already, at 12 years old. Generational drug and alcohol abuse is ruining our nation, and as I speak with her I remember it's highly probable she will marry a drug or alcohol abuser, or become one herself, or both. So I try gently to explain what an enabler is, and how it never works to try to "fix" someone. We can't fix anyone; only God can.
But these are difficult things for a 12-year-old to hear, least of all a 12 year old who desperately wants to save her mother.
She had to go and check on her mother, so our conversation ended.
I went back into the house and soon my head began to pound with a migraine, brought on partially by all the heat in the kitchen as I prepared soups and cornbread, and fueled by all I had just heard and could do little about. My husband had to rush in and out of the shower after work, and go over to my aunt's with our food and non-sick kids, while I stayed home and nursed a migraine and loved on Beth.
I called child protective services about Miss L.'s situation, which was a weight on my mind, as much as I tried to remember the importance of establishing and maintaining boundaries while helping people. As much as I abhorred the act, it was time to involve CPS based upon the issues Miss L. brought up this time. I had asked her if she felt a foster home would be better for her and her brother. She doesn't want to leave her mother for fear of what her mother will do to herself. "I can't leave her."
Those are the words that echoed in my mind half the night in the wee hours.
It was after 4 PM yesterday that I called CPS, so I could only relay what I knew to an after-hour staff member. On Monday I will be called by regular day staff for more information. And I was encouraged to call the sheriff for a welfare check on the kids, any time I felt the situation warranted.
Every child loves his or her mother. Even Miss L., who is driven crazy by her mother's poor choices, loves her mother dearly, even if she has to be her mother's parent. I don't know what will come of my calling CPS. I don't know what their limit is. How much does a child have to be suffering before they are removed from the home? Does it have to be physical pain only, and never emotional?
There are physical things, too. The 8-year-old came last week, asking Peter not to tell anyone about how his mother shook him horribly because he spilled his milk and his sister cleaned it up with his favorite blanket, which made him throw a nasty fit. So his mother shook him violently, or enough to scare him and make him ashamed of her behavior, more than his own. Is that enough for CPS, even though we've never seen bruises, only facial cuts that could have resulted from a number of things?
It wasn't the shaking of the 8 year old that made me call, but that is evidence that the suffering is not only emotional.
These kids will be a difficult foster placement. Their minds will be even more troubled, their behavior even more problematic. Bonding with foster parents will be difficult, as it will feel like they are betraying their own mother, even as they both ache for normalcy and a functional home situation.
Am I supposed to be wrecked by their situation? Is that a holy feeling...being wrecked emotionally and mentally by other people's suffering? Are my own children supposed to know so young that some parents love their own dysfunction more than they love their kids? How can I teach compassion, while also teaching holiness? How can I teach "judge not" while also teaching responsible living?
For kids saved before their teens, the idea of their own sin and how it makes them similar to all the other sinners of the world, is a difficult concept. Being saved early is good, but it doesn't make it easier to feel grateful for what God has done for you.
Were we placed in a $43,000/year average income neighborhood merely so we could have an inexpensive home, enabling me to stay home with our kids? Or was there more to it?
You can't do mission work very effectively without being present in the "field". God has placed us in the field, and we are reeling--I am reeling--at the cost. How much is it supposed to cost? How long will it be before I can do my part each day, and then move smoothly along with my own joy?
Sin is ugly and the consequences are uglier and God is dangerous, as I read in this blog. This isn't so much a question of "how could God allow this?" God doesn't make people sin, and he doesn't smooth over sin either. Miss L. has lost her childhood as a result of her mother's sin, and God won't stop or freeze those consequences. He hates sin and demands righteousness and allows sinners to destroy themselves and their loved ones.
Isaiah 43:18-19 “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
This beautiful verse gives me hope. I remember that God makes all things new. I remember that Miss L. belongs to the Lord. She was fearfully and wonderfully made, and He has a plan for her life. I remember that my prayers are holy and they will be heard. I remember that as I help and am wrecked in the process, God is always there for me...to fill me up...to renew my joy...to work in my own children in the context of this neighborhood.
The answer isn't to wish we could give our children a healthier neighborhood, but to model how to be thankful for this one.
It was after all this discourse with the Holy Spirit, that I finally fell asleep last night.
What about you? Are you wrecked as you help others? How do you fight for joy afterwards?