Hard things

In the triangle corner behind my bed, a stack of cardboard boxes is growing, a little more added each day. The snow outside descends and rises again; the mud and dripping branches remain. Inside we are cozy, with our twinkle lights draping the mantel, and the miracle of six stockings hanging once again above the fire, where last year hung four.

I am buying lots of things.

I just purged my house, nesting, frenetically sorting through every closet, every drawer, to remove all that we don’t need. I toted stacks to thrift stores, discarded what was junk.

And bought more. Because we don’t have enough flannel shirts and wool socks, and the list says ten.

I need to cut snowflakes for my windows, but I have made the hot chocolate a couple of times already, and unwrapped the precious Nativity from Jerusalem, and finished a Christmas program dress for my big girl and a line of T-shirt dresses for my little girls. I love making things times six. The hot chocolate tastes like redemption.

Two weeks from today is a termination hearing.* For eleven months, two small people who do not share our name have shared our home. We have committed to let them share it forever, if we get that chance; and the time ticks down. Who would have thought that in joy could be so much pain, and in pain could be joy?

I buy hoodies and long jeans and boys’ work books, size 6, my silent gift collection: Hannah packing for her son. I just want him to be warm.

The rain drips from the eaves, the wrong weather for December third. The mobile therapist comes, and the lady who reads adoption books, and the behavior specialist, and the mail lady with more boxes. My puppy gets muddy in the yard, and I bathe her. The children can’t play out until it freezes. They strew dress-up clothes and Matchbox cars around the living room, bang on the piano, do belly races down the stairs, pull leaves off the fern, I think. Though I have never caught them at it; maybe it’s the puppy.

Love is pain.

The next-to-last Christmas gifts have been ordered, and the stack behind my bed grows quietly. Because I cannot wrap and display the presents yet (cf. the state of the fern), they curl in the darkness of the boxes, germinating. Half, at least, are for my son oh son my son.

I believe in a God who brings light out of darkness, spring after winter, growth by way of pain. I believe that the things we bury rise healed, multicolored, radiant. But I do not know how I can give him up, even for a time. We have accepted the opening, and the time ticks down.

He will build a weather-proof shelter, wear boots, cover his ears with a warm cap. I will write him reams of letters, make him laugh. They will feed him well, and he will learn to cook tasty things over the fire with the other boys. He is very excited. And torn.

Daily life is consuming, difficult. The hopes and fears of all the years are realized together, forged between the meltdowns. We are vigilant, and fractious, and steady, and tired. Who would have thought that help for our son and permanency with children birthed to others would coincide? And neither hinged on the other, and neither certain; dreams curled in darkness.

Life does not care what my heart is doing; life goes on. But there are more holes than substance, by now, in this soul of mine, and soon the rain will fall through.

But now it has turned to snow.


* Update 12/4/2018: The morning after this post, we received word from our caseworker that the termination hearing has been postponed for several months. This means bio family has earned another chance to win the children back, and are unexpectedly doing a striking job of it. The journey continues.

* Update 12/19/2018: Thanks to everyone for your kind words. I’m sorry I can’t reply individually. I appreciate your care.

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Wendy Zook
5 years ago

I think of you and cry and pray!

5 years ago

And I think of you too… and pray… and feel… we’ve thought of this…..painful…

5 years ago


5 years ago

Oh Shari this is just so MUCH.

Sharon Yoder
5 years ago

Oh Shari… I have no words.

5 years ago

Oh, Shari……you and your husband are brave to do the right, hard thing for your child…..I know a decision like this has a long, painful backstory, takes a desparate humility and is evidence of your love for your son…..know I will be in prayer for you and your family…..and blessings to you as you wait and pray about your two sweet foster children!!

Carolyn K
5 years ago
Reply to  Sherri

These were the EXACT words I was thinking. Sherri put them well. Shari, thank you for being vulnerable and sharing them with us. Count me as one who will be praying for you and with you.

Kim Z
5 years ago

I can’t wait to hug you long & hard. Thinking of you lots & praying. You’re a strong mom, love that about you!

Mom Coblentz
5 years ago

? ? ? ?

5 years ago

Spring after winter. The only way winter can be survived. Maybe even enjoyed. Love and prayers to you.

Cynthia Brubaker
5 years ago

So difficult. I admire your courage and your love as parents.

Dorcas G.
5 years ago

Lifting you up in prayer! My friend went thru what you r experiencing…turbulence, painful times…and then painful decisions. There was redemption in body & spirit…

5 years ago

Can’t wait to hug you! Crying along with you now. Your sweet family is in our thoughts and prayers.

5 years ago

Crying for you. Sometimes the path to healing feels like heartbreak.

Larisa Mast
5 years ago

Blessings to you, dear lady! This made me teary. Yes, hard things. May Jesus meet you!

Regina S
5 years ago

Shari, I wish I could come to your house and give you a big hug and let cry on my shoulder. And we can pray together and you could cry some more and you are allowed to get tears and snot on my dress. Hugs to you sweet one!

5 years ago

You’re a woman of courage and bravery. Dear friends of ours chose to do the same things and 2 years later, are so thankful they did. It doesn’t take away the hard, but it makes it worth walking through.

Priscilla F.
5 years ago

I will be praying for you. What intensity life continues to hold for you and yours. You have no idea how much I have learned and benefited from you in the 2 years since I stumbled upon your site by way of looking up “high-heel cupcakes”. (By the way, want to know my first thought when I realized the tutorial for the cupcakes was on a Mennonite gal’s blog? (I’m laughing rather shamefacedly)… “Really? Fancy high heel cupcakes by a Mennonite?” I know, I know, stereotype much, right? Forgive me please!) All God’s best to you as you keep on for Him!

5 years ago

Oh Shari, when I realized where this was going, I immediately teared up. Praying for you.

As one who has watched the incredible young men who live in the woods with those boys, I know your son will have incredible feet to follow in these next months.

5 years ago

I worked in a children’s home for years. I sometimes thought if those parents just provided more loving structure, loving discipline, etc., they could keep their special needs child at home. Then it happened in my uncle’s family. I knew they had provided a stable home for their son with all of the above and more. Yet they needed help and made the difficult decision to take their son to a group home.

I predict the hardest part of your son’s adjustment will likely be the first night at bed-time. I sometimes told parents who left their daughter with us that the adjustment will likely be much harder for them than for their daughter. They will have this huge hole at home and their daughter will have all these interesting new things to do and think about.

May God grant you as parents a double-portion of grace and peace as you walk this journey. And may your son experience hope and healing– Linda

5 years ago

You are so brave sister! And beautiful! ?

5 years ago

I admire your humility and bravery. Hugs and prayers! It takes a strong person to admit one needs help. But inside you feel so weak.

Joanna Yoder
5 years ago

Tears falling here. Your family has been often in my heart. Prayers that joy will seek you through the pain of the coming days.

Ruth Fisher
5 years ago

My mom heart hurts with you. True love is what helps us do the best thing, not the easiest. Prayers for you and yours!

5 years ago

Hugs, prayers, and tears. May Jesus wrap all of you in His never failing love.

Alta Wenger
5 years ago

Tears and love from an online friend….blessings to you and your son!

5 years ago

Thinking of you, and praying.

5 years ago

I deeply respect the work that camp does; and likewise, parents who reach out for resources.

I admire your ability to brandish through the physical requirements of your life when there is tumult drumming in the backdrop. But also, I pray for the healing and patching of those soul holes. Wishing you beauty, grace, strength—Marlene

5 years ago

I cried. And will pray. Bless you!

5 years ago

Shari, you don’t know me and i am a silent reader of your blog… but my heart resonates with yours… i too have collected a myriad of clothing to keep my son warm and watched him carry the heap to campsite just a week ago. The journey to this point has been hard… but there is peace at the core. Prayers to you as well.

5 years ago

And may I add.. those holes in the soul… it’s where God’s love is gonna shine through and touch the world around you…

Rebecca Yoder-Shetler
5 years ago

In my very limited parenting experience, I think the biggest need for parents can turn idolatrous: being everything our children need. Your strength in letting go of that for the good of your child is evidence of deep love. Praying for you, dear friend.

5 years ago

So beautiful. So sad. Such longing. Such pain. Jesus cares about the holes. God bless you & your family Shari.
Prayers & peace.

5 years ago

Hug to you Shari! ? May God continue to be with you every step of the way in this journey…

Jean Baker
5 years ago

Our lives have many things in common, right down to the termination hearing being postponed last Friday… and I cried as I read through your post again tonight. Our son has been home from camp for a year and a half now, and my heart cries with you as you begin the journey. May God hold you close….

5 years ago

I’m with all the others in admiring your courage in something so hard. You wouldn’t be doing this if you didn’t believe it to be the best for your child. God bless you and bring redemption out of the pain.

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