It has been 77 days since we have seen his sweet face. Most days it still seems as if we will never get out of this dark valley we are walking through. Every once in awhile I see a little glimmer of light on the horizon but it quickly fades as reality once again sets in. This is a hard place to be.
It would be an easy jump to leap into a giant pity party. Or to grow angry. Angry with the foster care system, angry with the judge, angry with dishonest caseworkers, angry with God. It is something I must choose to fight against, sometimes minute by minute. In fact the new catch phrase at the Graham house has become, "Focus on your blessings rather than your burdens," as we work to encourage each other through this new normal.
As I was thinking about all of this yesterday, it made me remember a conversation I had recently with my 7 year old. It was Easter time and we attended the community Easter egg hunt. As we arrived, children were divided according to their age group and given a specific area to hunt. Within each area were 3 prize eggs: 1 golden egg, 1 egg marked with an "X" for a boy and one egg marked with an "X" for a girl. As we set off on our hunt, my girl was quite lucky. Among her treasures, were both the "X" egg and the golden egg. As we headed to turn in our treasures I decided this would be a great teachable moment. I pulled Skyler aside and asked her to think about others in her age group. There were a lot of other kids and I wanted her to share one of her prize eggs. We talked about how it would be kind to give one of the two eggs to someone else so they could have a special prize too. I told her that it wasn't really fair for her to have 2 prizes when others had none and asked her to give the girl egg to someone else because the golden egg was probably the grand prize. With much encouragement, Skyler kept the golden egg and gave the "X" egg to another girl in her age group.
As it turns out, the big prize was for the egg with the "X." The little girl Skyler gave this to received a huge Easter egg basket filled with toys and candy. When Skyler turned in her golden egg she got a chocolate bunny. To say she was mad is an understatement. All the way home she complained and grumped about not getting the big prize because I made her give it away. I listened to her whine for a bit but after about 10 minutes, I had had enough. I sat her down and talked with her about the situation. I reminded her that when she went up to the egg hunt, she went with nothing but an empty basket and now she was coming home with not only a bunch of eggs, but also a chocolate bunny. I tried to help her see that she came home with more than she went with. I would love to say that my pep talk worked and she skipped off merrily into the sunset counting her eggs (and blessings), but not all endings are storybook endings. I am pretty sure that if you ask Skyler about it now, a month later, she will still be mad. She may never forgive me for this moment!
At least not until she is older and wiser like me. I mean I would never react like that.
Or would I? Maybe a better question is, am I? If I am honest, and I always try to be, I would have to shamefully admit that I am behaving the same way. I wanted the grand prize...I wanted the boys to stay here with us. If they are here I know they are safe, well cared for, and loved. I don't want to be satisfied with the chocolate bunny of the 2 and 3 years we had them here. I want the whole basket. I have come home from the party sulky and mad. I did not get what I wanted, and it is not fair.
I can imagine Jesus pulling me to the side and reminding me..."Marla, you came to the party with nothing, and you went home with a full basket." I wonder if He is as weary of my whining as I was of Skyler's? My home is still overflowing with blessings. I have a husband who serves the Lord with all he has and who loves me. I have a houseful of children and we have been celebrating things like marriage and graduation these last few years. My children are all walking with the Lord, I have a nice home and a warm bed. The list could go on and on. But still I whine.
I imagine the Apostle Paul may have had a similar struggle before coming to the place where he was able to pen these words: (red words mine!)
Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned [am learning] to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned [am learning] the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.