Friday, March 25, 2011
Guest Post: The Marathon
One emotion really stood out to me as I re-read it all: fear. Okay, if I'm being honest: terror. Matthew was 2.5 when we met him. He was lovingly attached to his amazing foster family and here we were about to rock his world. It wasn't love at first sight for any of us, and all of this change was happening in an unfamiliar place to us, away from our support system of family and friends. Yeah, terror was just about right.
This is a passage from a blog entry I wrote after meeting him for the first time:
....there was a lot of joy today. However there was also a lot of sadness. The foster mother is grieving the loss of Matthew and I feel her pain deeply. There are also all of the losses Matthew is about to experience. Then there is the reality that this child is virtually a stranger to us. I love him. I have loved him since before I knew his name, when he was only a picture. But now I must begin the journey of falling IN LOVE with him. And even scarier (because I know it will take so much longer) is the knowledge that he must fall in love with me too. This child who I have yet to make smile. It is rather daunting.
Back home, my oldest sister was reading my blog and she knew that I was struggling. She sent me an email and the subject line read "you were made for this". I still vividly remember reading it as I sat in the Korean guest house.
Here is just some of the encouragement she wrote to me that day:
"I want you to remember that you have come into this with your eyes open, and that if you thought for one minute you could not handle this, you would not have moved forward after you saw Matthew's photo for the first time. You have killed yourself with yard sales, a tight budget, immeasurable planning....you are the most together person I know. This is a marathon, not a sprint. This is going to be hard at first, and making it harder is your empathy for Matthew and his foster family. You need to remember that this is also what will make you a wonderful mother to him. It is Ok to cry right now, tears or pain and/or anger. A lot. It will carry you into what is next."
After I read the email, I looked down to the hardwood floor, and saw it was covered with round wet droplets. A collection of my tears, soaking the floor, as I soaked in the encouragement from my sister and the many others who took the time to send emails, comment on my blog, and pray for our family. I took a deep breath and told myself to get it together. I could do this. I would do this. It wasn't necessarily going to be easy, but I was made for this.
It has been 15 months since Matthew joined our family, and during that time, I have reminded myself of my sister's words: This is a marathon. And it is. Heck, half of the time it feels like the stinking Ironman triathlon. But we are still in it.
We started out running, red-faced, with stitches in our sides, and frankly it didn't even feel like our shoes fit right. But we kept on. Soon, we began to find our stride. We were still tired and sore and it was hard to catch our breath, but our pace was steadier. Nowadays, we walk. There are still Charley horses or short bursts of ungraceful jogging, but they don't scare us. We work through them and return to our steady pace.
Have you ever been to a marathon? All along the course, there are people there cheering on the runners. They hand out water, energy snacks, even beer. People make signs and t-shirts to encourage their friends, and wait at the finish line to celebrate.
We had that. Messages from friends. Prayer. Dinners brought to us. E-mails from strangers. A kind friend who would call and ask me how are you, and by the way, it's totally fine if you say you are not okay. Encouragement. Don't forget wine. Wine is good.
We had a cheering section. And the knowledge that God knit our family together in His infinite wisdom.
I think that one of the biggest lessons I have taken away from our experience, is that everybody is running their own marathon. They might be doing it gracefully or erratically. You might not understand it at all. You might not know what you can do to help.
Just cheer them on. Pray for them. You can even run beside them for awhile (as long as you don't show up with perfect running clothes and immaculate makeup. Don't be that girl--nobody likes her). Bring some snacks and water. Or better yet, wine. Wine is good.
**Jenny, I love you and am praying and believing that your transition with Chloe will be more like a 5K than a marathon. Regardless, I am here to run alongside you if you'll have me. I promise to wear an old t-shirt and no makeup and we'll totally go out for frozen yogurt afterwards.**