Alabama: When Walls Speak…

Still waiting to close on the sell of the Alabama house. Rode there with Erick yesterday – was out of work sick, but could tell how hard it was for him to go there alone so I loaded myself into the old truck beside him, and we started our journey to there. Within minutes of leaving home, the dread fell deep and the quiet spoke between us – so much history we’ve made, and some of it is still just about too painful to bear…

We got there and I went inside – swept the wood floors again in the empty place. Allowed my eyes to fall on every wall I painted, the curtains I chose for each room, the sweet little porch outside the kitchen where I painted and planned and built dreams of days we would spend there, and then I walked out to the tree where I had planted daffodils as a ring all the way around it. They are peeking through, still there, doing what God designed them to do. If only humans were so reliable and obedient…

I remember conversations no one else heard. When I spoke to Keylon about the future. He was SO excited when we were buying that house – a home we would never have bought if not for him coming to us. We made room for him, and as I told him more than once, we made room in our hearts, not just in our home, and that is where the real commitments are made…

Taking in another’s 14 year-old as one’s own is risky. You know it before you take the plunge, and I’ll admit, had it not been for the Holy Spirit’s persistent nudge, we wouldn’t have, but Erick and I both felt Him speak “make room; set another place at the table.” And so we did…

There were azaleas there when we bought the place and he was fascinated by the colors. He would listen as I named the different plants and he was very interested in my nesting, both inside and out. He watched as I climbed the ladder to stencil above the front door. “That’s cool” he said when I removed the template to reveal the design underneath. He said it would be cool to stencil all our names on the walls in big letters since it was “our home”…

The yard was/is huge, and he and I would talk about the future on drives to school. When I would tell him that big yard would one day be filled with children and family – that he would marry and have “little Keylons” and Noah would marry and have “little Noahs” and they would all come to Pa and Granny’s farmhouse and there would be flowers to pick and bring inside and good food on the table around which we would all gather. I can still see in memory his cheeks pulling the corners of his mouth into a shy smile, and then we would ride in silence to the school where I would wish him a good day and promise to see him after…

It wasn’t easy. Not at all. Noah was young, too – just boys trying to learn to be men while also trying to learn how to be family; brothers. Keylon would sometimes get rowdy and challenge me, especially if he had an audience of other teens. Noah would become angry, never thinking I did enough to reign Keylon in. Noah could not understand that building relationship would take time and to expect Keylon to live such a drastically different life than what he had ever known without time to process and adjust wasn’t fair or reasonable. Most of the time I would take Keylon to privacy to deal with him. I knew we were up against a lot and my hope was that love and care would win in time. Erick and I had rules and limits for both boys, but the two were from different worlds and we were walking a path brand new to us with no real help – no one else around knew any better than we did how to make it work, so we did our best – at least knowing that is a comfort…

I’ve often considered how and why so many kids who need good homes can’t be placed. I understand better than I did before. You can, and we did, assume complete responsibility for someone else’s child, but her “rights” were not terminated so she still had access. I get that he felt pulled apart at times. I saw his tears. I saw her texts. I read his actions after visits with her, and I ached for the unfairness to him and to us…

Things you take for granted until you are “raising” someone who hasn’t been taught: littering (it is a legal matter and huge fines go with it for people like us – people who have cars, insurance, jobs). He did not know. When summer came and Erick was still going to work every day he asked why Erick was working in summer. He didn’t know that being off during summers was a teacher thing, not an everybody else thing. I explained a two week vacation was what most folks got (after earning a second week for a certain number of years of service to an employer). Taxes: He didn’t know that taxes were a thing working people paid – he thought it was money that you get at the end of the year from the government. When I explained how our paychecks are taxed before we get what’s left over, he said, “man, that stinks!” He also told me after many months of watching Erick work long hours that he never intended to work like that. I explained that Erick “working like that” is what provided ease of access to the shoes and clothes and dinners and movies out that we all enjoyed. He pondered…

Teaching scripture and prayer as daily bread was met with some respect but led to a conversation that informed me “young people want to be young people and find that Jesus stuff out when we are older.” Not long after, a teenage peer lost his life in an auto accident. I offered, “we aren’t guaranteed getting older.”

I remember the day he got off the bus with a tooth ache and how he had to have it pulled the next day (the day I had my hernia surgery ). He later told me that lying on the electric throw while he recovered was the most comfortable thing he had ever felt. I remember everything. I remember every struggle, every triumph, every insight that I got into a life so unlike my own in so many ways yet so familiar in others. I tried so hard to tell him, to show him, that the love of Jesus is the very best thing on this earth; that it compels a surrendered heart do do hard and holy things; that life is about this great love, but that even with this love the world is a hard place…I tried…

He shared a lot of stories with us, stories very painful to hear. He shared even more stories with Noah. Many know and others sort of know that we had this young boy with us for a year and a half. We signed up for the remainder of his growing up years, but when he went home to Mama there was nothing we could do other than let him go just as willingly as we had let him come…Open hands…that is what I’m learning to offer…

I don’t think I’ll ever understand this side of heaven what all this journey was about for Keylon, for Noah, for Erick and for me, but I’m trying to stay open to whatever The Lord will teach me from it so that I can better honor and serve Him with the days I have left. I saw a lot of miracles during our time with Keylon. I was broken and healed by his presence all at the same time. I am sure that had I not had my own turbulent early years I would not have been so ready to offer home to him especially with the inner-knowing that the emotional cost to us all would be substantial. I am trying to live what I teach – that my life really isn’t my life. My life belongs to The Potter, my Heavenly Father. I am only the clay…May His will be done, and may our boys find Him their soul’s safety and life…
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