On a good day, parenting will test the integrity of your character. On a bad day, parenting will test your will to live. Parenting children with trauma histories will cause you to test the integrity of everything and everyone you thought you knew, for the rest of your life.
~J. Skrobisz

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Suffering

Written with sincerest and utmost respect and fan-affection for the Chapman family, remembering them in the anniversary of their loss

I just returned from Charleston, SC where I attended a Women of Joy conference. The leading reason my friend (a RADical mom too) and I chose to attend is because the concert last night was Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W Smith. And if you're a contemporary christian music junkie, well then, you know those two major headliners are too hard to pass up for $79! All the other speakers and worship leaders are just icing on the cake.

Steven CC's youngest adopted daughter passed away two years ago next friday in a horrible accident; their youngest son was backing out of the driveway and little Maria, unseen, was struck by the moving vehicle. This past Thursday, little Maria would have been 7.

I've been listening to Steven CC's music since I was a girl, his career taking off right about the same time as my father passed away. His poignant lyrics and soul-searching rhythms have carried me through many of the painful moments of my life and even the beautiful ones. It can be said that his music has always been with me. Therefore, so has the thought of this man and his family. Although I will never know him personally, I feel connected to him because of the intimate moments of my life his music has been a part of.

Thus, when he and his family suffered such a devastating loss, I felt that much more connected to him and vowed to myself since 5-21-08 that I would pray for his family every time I picked up one of his CD's or heard his tunes on the radio. Suffice it to say, I've prayed for them a lot. Particularly as he is an adoptive parent too. They have three biological children and three adopted daughters from China, the youngest of which having passed away.

Last night's concert then, was a culmination of two years of prayers and renewed faith as our family endured it's own suffering. Many times through Sissy's challenges, I would remind myself, "yes, but our daughter is still alive, while the Chapman's daughter has passed. And which suffering do I honestly believe to be worse?" I never meant it as a slight to their family's pain, rather a plumb line for mine and I was anxious to hear how his music, life view and personal message had morphed to account for the suffering on this planet regardless of choosing to surrender one's life to Christ. Unintentionally, I assigned to the Chapman's loss an air of "see, not even famous, wealthy families escape pain. But how will they navigate their faith in the face of it when by comparison to my life and daily trials, they live a charmed life?"

Of course, with his daughter's birth date having just passed and the anniversary of her death pending, the concert was very emotional and heartbreaking. Don't misunderstand, I wasn't reveling, I was glad that he was honest. It would have been an affront to all of the women in the audience that have suffered as well (because no one walks this planet escaping pain) if his concert was uplifting, ignoring the obvious truth that their grief is still raw in addition to being very public. As I listened and tears rolled down my cheeks, I thanked God that my suffering hasn't been in the lime light, that I haven't had to share my angst with everyone and either be forced to chose to put on a brave face or in last night's case, let it all hang out in front of an audience of 4000 strangers. True, I'm brutally honest on my blog, but I can choose when and what I let loose about. On the stage, in the news and globally renowned, that's not possible.

I purchased his most recent CD which can be summed up as a compilation of soulful ballads that rehash the stinging moments of his grief and left the concert pondering but a little bitter. For the entire length of Steven's career, his music has helped me through all the painful moments in MY life and there have been many. But he goes home to his mansion in Tennessee and I go home to my 1200 square foot house. He has money to pay for his medical bills and I have been uninsured for nearly six years, my teeth literally rotting in my head because I can't afford to have them repaired. He had scores of amazing religious friends and leaders helping his family through their loss and I have had a few close loved ones that understand my pain because they live it too. He has three biological children. I have none. He adopted three times and his children are not impaired. I have adopted three times and two of mine will never be functional adults. He told us all about the successes of his adult children and I harrumphed. He had respites at beaches, resorts and lakes. I've had my little house and a few brief moments away. He's traveled the world over many times. The furthest I've been is Niagara falls and San Diego. He's had the whole world praying for his family. I've had a handful of folks remembering me in prayer. He has created an orphanage in his daughter's memory. I have a free blog. He has an award winning musical career to wend his way through his grief and hundreds of thousands of fans following him for decades. I help my husband in his window washing business, many days biting my lip as the wealthy people we help, treat us as servants and not humans even though washing those windows is often very therapeutic for me. His youngest living daughter is the voice of a new Veggie tales character. My youngest daughter is in counseling because the pain and trauma has been too great for her. His oldest daughter is a missionary in China with her husband. I pray to God that Sissy never marries because oh, what a mess that would be. His sons,one of which is married to a life-long sweetheart, are musicians opening for Casting Crowns. My son will hopefully be able to wash windows in our business.

I read all of the comments on the CD jacket about Steven CC's grief and how each song tells a story about a stage of it and I got angrier and angrier. Yes, his family has endured a tremendous loss but how many ordinary, simple folks like me suffer tremendous losses over and over throughout the course of their lifetimes never having had what the Chapman family has had to fall back on and yet ... and yet THEY still proclaim the love of Christ? Whose suffering is worse? I can never compare. But whose testimony is stronger in the long run? I believe it is that of the unsung heroes that suffer and still proclaim Jesus Christ as their Lord. I don't have songs to sing about my grief. I don't have a CD jacket to tell everyone about it. I don't get to go on stage and stand under a spotlight to tell others about how I still love God despite it. I don't have a fancy house to go home to. I don't have a hope and a future for two of my children that will include the amazing things the Chapman children will accomplish. I probably won't ever adopt again even though some part of me really wants to. It just costs too much, in every sense of the word and without the support that families like the Chapmans have, that cost is too great for us. Despite it all, I stand firm on my faith.

WG's favorite song is Steven CC's song "Yours God." The lyrics of this song tell how everything in our life, good and bad, still belongs to God. Just Thursday my sweet pumpkin said to me, "Mom? We're all just little kids because God? He's the father of everyone. So there really aren't even any dads because God is the Dad of everybody. See? And anyway, it's all His, so I'm God's kid. Get it? We're all just little kids, GOD's little kids. And He's our Dad."

WG's Daddy may never write a worship song that she'll claim as her favorite and she may never be a Veggie Tale Character voice, but her unscripted words speak much louder. And just as the Chapmans take hope in knowing that they'll embrace Maria again when we get to heaven, I will have the opportunity to be with my children in their whole, perfected forms, their impairments vaporizing into nothingness, the pain and anguish of helping them overcome on this planet despite those impairments, vanishing in like kind.

I may have attended a concert that included two music giants yesterday evening, but I walked out of that coliseum knowing unequivocally that all the other ordinary folks like me, are the real giants for the Kingdom of God.

6 comments:

Tammy said...

You are a Super Star in the kingdom of God and I applaud you.

Thank you for writing that sincere and heartfelt post.

Jennie said...

wow, thanks Tammy. I believe all of the other amazing people on this planet are super stars - we just don't get earthly accolades for our acts of selflessness and sacrifice.

GB's Mom said...

Mom extraordinaire is a pretty good legacy, even if you don't have a huge house or tons of day to day support. You've got God and he sees you for what you are. {{{Hugs}}}

PS you are still very young- don't rule out another adoption yet. I was 45 when we got GB. I didn't plan on anymore kids, but God's plans were different!

FosterAbba said...

To be honest, I really feel angry when personal tragedy strikes the rich and famous. The fame, fortune, and public accolades give them far more opportunities for support than what is available to us common folk. What really irks me is when the media picks up these stories and uses words like "inspirational" and "overcoming obstacles."

Most of us common people suffer far worse than most of the rich and famous do, yet nobody builds foundations for our disabled, disfigured, mentally ill or dead children.

waldenbunch said...

I, too, am a huge fan of SCC. Cried when he lost his daughter and through their struggles. I always wondered why his girls seemed okay and ours struggle so much. But I'm convinced you don't get the whole story because they live far too public a life. I believe they struggle and doubt and hope and cry just as we do. I understand knowing they are financially better off and their lives are so much different, but no one gets a free pass from pain. And I have to realize as I tell my kids, life isn't fair. That includes life for the adults, too. We share what we choose to and much of the ugly and painful stays hidden from the world. My human nature wishes things were different for you and for me, but it's not my job to question God, even though I do. I also believe God is watching and desires us to need him more than the things. I know where you're at. Just understand that. And I believe there are many unsung heroes, especially moms, living in the trenches and making a difference, one tiny step at a time. You are one of those moms.

Chris P-M said...

Amen! We actually visited one of the healing centers that Steven Curtis Chapman built in China while we were there adopting our son. The woman there mentioned that he was difficult to work with, as he had his own ideas and was somewhat demanding. Yes...you can do lots of good stuff for folks when you have the money for it. You can even have people think you are a saint.

The real saints are those who are "in the trenches" every day and dealing with difficult children. We get no credit for it. It's quite the contrary...people think we're controlling and harsh. Yes, all because of a dream to raise a child who turns out to have serious issues. AND it sucks that the systems in place don't get it. People buy the hype though.

Great post!