Saturday, October 26, 2013

First and Foremost

Landen and Asa introducing themselves up close and personal.

Today marks two months since baby Asa came to live with us.

I remember bits and pieces of that scary, exciting day. My mind was a fog of anxious nervousness. I wish I had written down my thoughts, but I know I didn't. I remember that part ... talking myself out of writing down anything.

The house was tidy. It was the big kids' first day of school. Philip was still off work, recuperating from hip surgery. I have no recollection of the chunk of time between carpool and lunch. Or was that the other home visit ... where the case worker and lawyer showed up late, so lunch sat on the stove until they left? See, I don't even know what time they brought Asa to us.

But I do remember the moment the rented SUV drove up into our drive. (The CPS case worker had recently purchased a 2-door convertible as her personal car.) She and her intern, and Asa's attorney ad litem exited the vehicle, each wearing shades and smiling like it was a normal day.

My insecurities threatened my emotional stability. What do I do? What if he cries? What will they think? How do I convince him he's safe and that I love him? Do I offer to get the baby out of the car? Do I take his bags into the house and let Philip hold him first? Does he have bags? Where are my other kids? I hope they are excited ... but I hope they don't crowd around ... I hope they are really ok with all of this.

Thoughts and concerns whirled around in my head, and I felt like I was watching the driveway commotion from a distance. In the instant that I was about to engage and reach for the safe and non-committal diaper bag, I heard Philip's voice.

"Cari, let him come to you first. I made him cry last time. You get him."

Decisive, realistic, compassionate, straight-forward, selfless.
Philip was everything I needed that day.
Well, Jesus was everything we needed ...
but He sure showed up looking like a bald, blue-eyed, sweetly confident man.

As the late-summer sun blazed down in the Texas heat, I approached the CPS intern. Asa and I were the only ones without shades on. We squinted a silent hello and he came to me without protest or squirm. I sheltered his eyes from the mid-day brightness, and spoke softly into his ear as I gently bounced and swayed, shifting my weight from one flip-flop to the other.

I just kept whispering, "Yes. Yeah, I know ... yes-yes."

Kind of a weirdo, but I'm cute I guess.

Now that I think back, I'm sure I was coaching myself, just as much as I was trying to assure him.

So many unknowns. So many things available to fear. So many opportunities for this to fail.

But I also sensed a thin yet solid thread of hope. Hope in the One who knows everything - . The One who had worked out every little detail of that day. The great Creator who commands our destiny.
"Those who fear the Lord say, 'His faithful love endures forever'." (Psalm 118:4)

"Yes. Yeah, I know ... yes-yes."

We brought Asa into the house where we had a quilt ready for him in the center of the living room ... for the center of our attention. There was a stack of papers to sign, so the lawyer played with Asa while Philip and I tried to pay careful attention to what we were consenting. But the room was a buzz.

The girls offered to show the lawyer "Asa's room". Earlier in the summer, all four sisters had enthusiastically agreed to bunk up together in one room until we knew Asa's sleep disposition and routine. So, even though the middle bedroom still had the little girls' dressers and toys, it was officially and happily "Asa's room".

Eventually, the entourage loaded their SUV and headed back to do what they do. The big kids returned home from school and we were a bigger, happy family. Everyone seemed more reserved, more quiet and gentle than usual. It was nice.

He was happy the whole day. I remember that. I wrote that down.

God blessed me with an easy transition because I was so frail and insecure in my mind and heart.

Unpacking Asa's bag was like trying to get to know someone in one encounter - CSI style.
I looked for clues. I put two and two together. I cataloged my findings against what I remembered from my other 7-month-olds and took a few wild guesses.

When does he eat? When does he sleep? What does he like? What scares him? What soothes him?

I washed his clothes and blankets and bibs and socks. I laid the little photo album from the foster mom on his dresser. I read the formula container and calculated when we'd need more supplies ... feeling very unqualified to facilitate this foreign activity called "giving a bottle".

Then I put his empty duffel bag behind the laundry room door. I don't think we'll ever use it - it has definitely seen brighter days - but it felt absolutely criminal to throw it away.

Before Asa arrived, I had warned the kids that life was going to be very unsure and probably very different for a little while. Among other alterations, there would likely be no more evening swims at the neighbors' - we wouldn't want to freak out the baby with splashy cold water.

Just as I was switching the laundry from the washer to the dryer, the girls came racing into the room.
"Mom!! Guess what?? Asa likes to swim! He loves it!"

They had been in his room and had thumbed through the dozen photos in his album - one or two from each month in foster care. One photo showed bright blue water, the shirtless foster dad, and Asa grinning in a swim diaper.

I immediately agreed to let them go swimming that evening ... Asa and I would watch.

That's about all I remember. That first day of forevermore.

Dear God, thank You for Asa. Forgive me for taking my eyes off You and Your faithfulness in those terrible moments of unbelief ... where I have questioned logistics, doubted sufficiency, and feared the worst. Thank You for working all this for good. You are a brilliant author, and I LOVE that you've written us into Asa's life. Hold us together ...