20 September MMXVI
We have just weathered a storm. Literally. A few weeks ago, our North Florida home was hit by Hurricane Hermine. Our neighborhood was littered with huge fallen trees and dangling power lines for days. With no power in the midst of Florida’s late summer and Jimmy working the post-storm chaos, I left town with 5 of our children. Our older boys remained in town to assist Jimmy with the clean up of the storm debris and to keep an eye on our home.
A precious, saintly friend in south Georgia graciously welcomed us into her home and tended to our displaced children and to their very frazzled Mama. This sort of uprooting would always tend to rattle me but this time I was especially concerned. Since coming home from China with Song-Felicity, we have adhered rather strictly to the “cocooning” recommendations for children who are adopted internationally. We have kept her world very small and predictable, not often leaving our home with her. For the first six weeks that we were home our only outings were dropping children off at Vacation Bible School or at ballet lessons. Or when I really felt myself caving to cabin fever, I loaded the children up for a ride to a convenience store for the summertime treat of an icee. Even during these excursions, Song-Felicity and I remained in our van while her older siblings accomplished our errands. We had only recently begun to venture out a bit more by taking her to Church and along with us as we drop her sister off at kindergarten.
By the time we left town after the storm, Song-Felicity was already sensing my stress and was confused by the changes in our home routine which has now become quite familiar to her. She had heard the scary noises of Hurricane Hermine’s stormy winds and the crashing of trees in the dark around our home. And she had spent a day and a half witnessing us scurry around while we had daylight and then navigating the nighttime hours by flashlight and candles. This was a stressful dynamic to all of our little ones but most especially to Song-Felicity who had been home less than three months and was only beginning to acquire some English.
The anxiety I would have felt leaving Jimmy and our older children behind while fleeing with our younger ones was more than magnified by my concern for how our youngest daughter was perceiving all of this. I worried that she might think we were taking her to live in another home with new people. The only way I knew to communicate safety and stability to her was to snuggle her even more closely than usual and to make sure that I stayed very near to her.
I have a perpetual litmus test for Song-Felicity’s stress level. Her thumb. The more anxiety she is feeling, the harder and faster she sucks her thumb. It is actually calloused. When her stress is lower, she sucks her thumb as she falls asleep and, once she surrenders to slumber, it quietly slides out of her mouth. When her anxiety level is higher, her thumb stays in her mouth throughout the entire night and she sucks it so vigorously that I hear her in her crib which is on the other side of our room.
While we were away, I slept with Song-Felicity in bed with me. She clung to me with her left hand and sucked the thumb of her right one. All Night Long. She broke my heart as I imagined what was distressing her. Was she afraid the storm had blown our home away like Dorothy’s to Oz? Was she anxious that her Baba and brothers were never going to join us on this exodus of ours? And, perhaps most heartbreaking, was she frightened that she was going to be left in yet another home? That her “forever” family was not forever after all?
I snuggled her closely throughout our nights away, holding her tightly both in my arms and in my prayers. I prayed for her security to remain stable and for any fears of abandonment to be kept at bay. And through these nights I realized that while I was calling out and clinging to God in this physical and emotional storm, Song-Felicity was calling out and clinging to me. And I was humbled. To a level which is just incapable of being reduced to words.
Though I can keep my daughter and her siblings dry and get them to higher ground and keep their precious heads above the stormy waves, I will never be able to be their shelter in the storm…in any storm. I can only let Song-Felicity, and each of them, witness me as I look toward the One who can. I can merely provide her with an opportunity to witness her mother clinging to the only true Shelter until the time she grows to recognize Him as her Shelter too.
What a heavy and precious responsibility that has been entrusted to me…to reflect the Savior’s sheltering love back to this tiny girl until she can perceive the source of the reflection herself. He has entrusted me with something…with someone… so precious to His Heart. And I am aware, more than ever, that I can only hold her tightly through whatever storms surround us and rest in His sweet shelter as He holds tightly to us both.
“For You have been a defense for the helpless, A defense for the needy in his distress, A refuge from the storm…” Isaiah 25:4