Simultaneously , we were working on the restoration of Dylan on yet another level as well--which was from the damaging affects of vaccinations--specifically the MMR shot. My husband was too dealing with his own battle with neurotoxins that invaded and deprived him of a life that could be completely normal. The irony that there were two of them, one who learned as I watched and one who had to learn to trust as we watched, not only in the process of healing but also in the role we filled on many levels regarding his recovery if he could stay the course and hope for a brighter tomorrow. How could there be two boys, one I loved with everything I was and one I learned to love as God's faithfulness showed up, took over and gave us all hope? The road that took us closer toward the call was painful. It stretched us, it twisted us, it gave others reason to doubt our motives and it also gave us favor.
As much as the circumstances proved to be challenging and in addition to the above mentioned struggles, there was yet a 3 year old and a newborn that I needed to be mommy to. They had no understanding of the difficulties and nor should they have. I tried with all my might to be all that God called me to be. I thanked Him for the amazing helper he gave me in a woman he gave me to model what a godly mother looked like--she had all the qualities I could identify with: she was funny and happy and adorable. She had one quality that I didn't: she LOVED to serve. She served us for almost 6 years. I refer to her as God's gift to me who came alongside an already underqualified woman and showed that despite my weaknesses He lavished His mercy upon me. Her name is Esther. I watched her spend endless hours and energy cooking and ironing and loving and praying for all of us. I watched her shoulder my burdens and my husband's and cry out to God on our behalf. She is no longer with us, but she still shoulders our burdens. She will never not be with us--forever in our heart and only a visit or a phone call away. She knows our heart and she knows our pain that is giving way to purpose. She knows our desire to raise our children that despite the odds, shows God's mercy and
The first week after the death of Dylan and Olivia's parents proved to be a fast reconciling of reality. We quickly remembered that their mom (my cousin and best friend) Lisa had asked us a few years prior if anything ever happened would we take the kids. Without a second thought we answered yes. When Simon only 6 weeks old, my husband and my dad flew to Florida to bring them to their new home. It was the only way. As their legal guardians no one was authorized to escort them except for either my husband and/or myself. My aunt and uncle (Lisa's mom and dad) were there, staying in the house that their daughter was murdered in and making plans while Dylan and Olivia were in the arms of their next-door neighbors being comforted.
The first obvious plan occurred when my husband and my dad walked in and my aunt said "meeting out back". They walked out by the pool and as soon as they sat down she said, "Well, we decided to keep the house." My husband's response was, "Whoa...we are going to wait until we talk to people who know more about this type of thing than I do." She proceeded to try to sell him on the idea.
After the memorial services my husband flew home with the kids. My aunt and uncle were busy loading a UHaul truck with as many items with monetary value they could fit into it and left behind most of the kids' personal effects that required us to take a trip a month or so later to select items that were important to them to feel as if a piece of their home was coming to Pennsylvania with them. It was hard to conceive and the bank that handled the estate told us we should put a stop to her ridiculous behavior. We knew her irrational tendencies and decided to stay out of her way and if this was the way she grieved then we preferred to stay clear and give her room to do so.
I can remember as a child my mom called her demented as a result of her anger that lashed out at my mom for allowing me to use a toy (a lemon-twist) that my mom bought for Lisa's birthday present. I was only about 7 years old but I still remember how upset my mom was at my aunt's over-exaggeration to my trying a toy that she bought for her niece. It was a moment in time that for whatever reason is forever ingrained in my memory. It was at least a year that they didn't speak.
I am not sure if it was that incident or the fear that my aunt evoked as a result of watching how she treated her kids that scared me. We always seemed to be punished by her. I still have pictures of all of the cousins lined up on the couch as a result of her wrath. Whatever it was, it stuck.
My husband and dad arrived home New Year's Eve 2003 with Dylan and Olivia. We began 2004 with 2 new children and a life of challenge that we NEVER could have predicted--even after all of the things we had already been confronted with.
It was within a very short time that I realized my aunt's anger for Lisa's decision in choosing my husband and I for the task of raising her kids was more than she could swallow.
I didn't know until they were already with us that there was a trust that would help with their support. I was thankful for that but it wouldn't have changed our accepting of Lisa's decision regardless. Along the way I am glad I didn't initially know when others have tried to raise issue with why or how we took the kids. Honoring God is not enough for many people without expectation of a return. It was enough for me. I remember telling my husband when we were processing the magnitude of the task at hand that I didn't need to be swallowed by the whale as Jonah was. There were many places in my life that I struggled to honor God completely but this was one undeniable role and call that couldn't be dealt with half way.
My aunt threatened our decision becoming permanent by telling us that if we accepted this responsibility she would do everything within her power to "ruin" us. My response was as steadfast as the call. I told her to take it up with God. That He chose us for it, and that we had no choice but to honor Him in it. I empathized with how hard this must be for her to handle under the circumstances and that even her other daughter, Lisa's own sister, who was 6 years younger than I, wasn't chosen. I was not insensitive to their reality but I was unable to offer a solution that satisfied her. I tried to help her see the positive points as she now had the ability to see her grandchildren without the distance between them. I assured her I would do everything possible to support their relationship. I found this particularly challenging as she began working behind the scenes on the kids' emotional and psychological pain. I attempted to communicate with her about it while being sensitive to her pain while at the same time adamantly insisting that she not create more for them or us. Ultimately I feel as if she knew she wasn't up against me personally but my resolve and determination to step up was a result of my trust in His call upon my life and it seemed to incite her all the more.
It didn't take long to realize that the experiences they were having while in her presence were absolutely not of the standard that we lived by. There were little things that became known to us. She only wanted the kids for a whole weekend while there were times that 2 nights made plans we tried to make as a family difficult. I welcomed some of those times to "feel" like the family I had lost and the kids I was most comfortable with had some time to feel that ease with us...mostly being sensitive to how hard it was for Daniel. We did explain that going to church was something we did and it was important to us that they do that as well. She began going to church. What could we say except that having her under the influence of God would not only help them and us, but her as well. So there was a stretch of time that she saw them many weekends. It was hard to conceive why Olivia came home happy to be back and Dylan came home disconnected. In fact, he always came in the house well after Olivia and would walk the long way around the house to avoid walking through the family room where my husband and I typically spent Sunday evenings. They always came home at 8:30--never earlier--which was a time we requested as it was their bed time.
The first 2 days of the week Dylan barely spoke at home. He seemed extremely hostile toward his environment and emotionally void of caring about the family. It was sad to watch a child that already was so compromised emotionally become void after a visit with his Grandmother that I had hoped would offer a place of solace and fill a void that I expected only she could. She was supposed to love him unlike anyone else on the planet and after what had happened I really trusted that my inherent fears of her would be put to rest as she found a newfound purpose that had a calling of love all over it. How could it then be that the opposite emotion was showing up after his time with her? And what about Olivia? She was fine. She was happy when she was with us...all the time. She didn't morph into an emotional recluse. I know Dylan always had certain challenges with his diagnosis of Sensory Integration but what was already an obvious part of his emotional status became exaggerated with his time with her.
He became obsessed with money that he claimed he had lots of. He talked about it with Daniel in particular. I couldn't imagine that she had revealed to them aspects of their financial reality when I specifically asked her when I found out that I absolutely did not want to discuss that with them...or anyone else for that matter. I knew money not earned was the fastest way to ruin anyone. She assured me she would not. She attempted at first to get information from us about the financial matters but we told her that we had asked the bank, who managed the trust, to handle every detail and there were attorneys and counsellors in place and associated with that task so that we would never be criticized by anyone, not even the kids, who we soon realized were potentially under her spell. As time went on we realized that she was working against us on every level. She even discredited my husband's knowledge and understanding of how best to care for Dylan's process of recovery. She questioned it, shed doubt about it to the kids and occasionally sent "other" information that was partially what we were doing but without the fullness of our process. Anything other than what we were doing was still managing symptoms and we weren't interested in just managing his symptoms but restoring the whole child. For a long time I thought that perhaps what he ate when he was with her was causing his emotional separation for the first half of the week and this is what I told his teachers when we spoke about the potential cause. Occasionally the kids themselves would let their guard down and tell us that their uncle was watching things on his TV that were not what we would approve of. They graphically described certain scenes to give us examples as they wanted us to know as all kids want to be found out. It amazed me how much of the bad things a child's mind could retain after just one exposure but when it came to the positive teachings it seemed that the reinforcements were endless and the fruit was sparse. I quickly learned that is how evil infiltrates.
Another customary and particularly disturbing occurrence after Dylan's time at his Grandmother's house was that he would have terrors in his sleep during the night--either on Sunday or Monday without exception. He would run through the house flailing his arms and screaming frantically: "Mommy! Mommy!" He would run to me every time. It was awful to see this already starving child for his mother's love behave from such a subconscious level of pain. And why only after visiting his Grandmother? This troubled us more than anything. What could we do? How could we possibly ask her about their visits? What did they talk about? How could we and expect her not to become completely hostile toward us (even though from what we could ascertain she was already)? Was it presumptuous to think that the woman who emotionally loved them most could also be intentionally harming them the most as well? We asked Dylan's counsellor what we should do. Without knowing the details, he felt that she was clearly keeping us from becoming a unified family. His advice was too hard to take. How could we possibly separate them from her? They had lost so much already. So had she. They would resent us for doing such a thing. It would surely cause another horrendously painful wound that no child should have to endure, especially after what these 2 children had already suffered through and were learning to live with. It was also hard to conceive and therefore there was doubt that she could really do such a thing. I always knew her to be angry and resentful...she would even get upset when Lisa would come home for an occasional visit and want to stay at my house instead of with her. She would put up such a fuss and Lisa wouldn't want to confront her further so she would stay with her mom and within a few days she would be regretting her decision but mostly her inability to confront her mother's desire for control. It was the very reason Lisa needed to leave Pennsylvania. Her control and her anger was stifling. There was a pervasive oppression associated with all of her relationships. Perhaps that is why the relationship with her Grandchildren was not capable of being normal. If she cannot control the significant people in her life, then she starts trouble. An example of this is that she has been divorced from my uncle for over a decade and my mom told me when she was still alive, which has been about 3 years, that mail still goes to her house and she still writes his checks. Her son, who is a year older than me still lives in her home at the age of almost 44. It is a very sad reality. It also seems to be the men in her life that have been most affected by her control. But for me, I am caught in the middle of accepting a role that is supposed to be life-giving and being frustrated by a woman who is life-taking.
It was a year ago when I received a phone call from the school. My 3 oldest children, Dylan, Olivia (who we had at this point adopted 3 years earlier) and Daniel had been pulled out of class and questioned by Children and Youth Services! I didn't even know what CYS stood for before that day. The principal of the school didn't owe it to me to give me notice of what had occurred but he did. It spoke volumes to who he knew my husband and I to be and it also spoke of who he knew my kids to be. That very same day, my son Izik answered a knock on the door to find 2 police men standing there asking if everything was ok. He told Esther of them wanting to see her and she laughed it off as she walked to the door thinking he was joking with her. They questioned my kids about the food they ate, the way they were disciplined and the conditions in which they were living. Their conclusion was that they were living and eating better than they or anyone else they knew. Esther invited them to a Mexican dinner and/or stuffed chicken. With their apologies they were on their way.
I considered this to be the time when the line was crossed and our family was put in jeopardy. The kids felt the same way. I was thankful that we did not need to assert our authority and have them resent us for opting to keep their Grandmother out of their life. She did it. They saw her motives for what they had been all along and now we had no doubt about whether or not she was sabotaging our efforts of restoring these children. Right after that occurred the kids started sharing many disturbing emotional and psychological plots that allowed her to attempt to lure them in to a depraved emotionally unstable world filled with manipulation and paranoia. When CYS finally made a visit to our home to complete their report they told us that they would most likely be back again because they were told that she would keep calling UNTIL they found something on us.
I received an email that was most disturbing from her a month or so later and then another and another. The accusations were horrifying and even frightening. She accused me of being "responsible" for Lisa's death! She said I always wanted everything that Lisa had and now I think I have it! WHAT?!! WHERE did that come from?! Could her mind have distorted my respect for Lisa as my cousin who was 4 years older than me and naturally someone I looked up to...to THIS?! I just couldn't wrap my head around the degree of torture to which she lived within her own mind! THANK GOD!
Needless to say as my uncle and her daughter who began making attempts to connect with the kids and were turned away...unless it was done on our terms and under our roof, the kids told us emphatically they wanted nothing to do with any of them. It was significantly noticeable how instantly at ease they became...especially Dylan.
In one of her emails to me she assured me if I did not allow her to see her Grandchildren then I could anticipate spending all of my time in court "instead of at the gym". It did not phase me. Within a few months of that email we were served papers in the state of Florida where the trust was initially held and because it had been moved to Pennsylvania within the year, papers were served in the state of Pennsylvania and by the D.A.'s office. It was more than shocking since we had NEVER had "control" of the trust (or at least we thought not). We trusted and requested the attorneys and counsellors to guide us through that process anticipating needing to protect ourselves from her unstable and jealous tirades. We felt at some point she would attempt to turn the kids against us...we just didn't expect it so soon.
I cannot say for sure whether or not she actually planted seeds that began the investigation, but I do know for certain that she did call the newspapers and the media who dredged up the past and how the kids came into our lives in the first place. So my question of doubting but struggling with how she could not protect Dylan and Olivia after everything they had been through was answered definitively within an evening with 2 major news channels and 2 major newspapers report gross distortions and inaccurate information about our character. My husband, who had a successful practice was shamed in an instant. The man who would give the shirt off his back to protect another was suddenly being portrayed as a doctor who was "siphoning money out of orphans trust fund"!! We didn't get a new patient in our chiropractic office for more than 3 months. It was almost too much to bear and if it weren't for our faith in God who ordained our role I do not know how we would have handled the challenges of this legal process in addition to the pain that we suffered through finally getting to a place with them that revealed why it was so hard in the first place.
God does promise to work all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28-29.
I have been speaking that verse over our family for the past decade and needless to say a few others have shown up to keep me hopeful in the midst of our circumstances. Psalm 91:14 says: "because he loves me, I will rescue him." I often wonder if our story will ever be "heard" in the court system. I have my doubts. I do hold on to the fact that God knows our heart, He knows everything we have done in order to honor Him and maintain a position of integrity. He alone knows that as we were instructed, we trusted. There is a saying in chiropractic that says "as the twig is bent, so grows the tree". The way we were bent was according to people in positions that have knowledge and expertise in their field. I would never admit to understanding the position I had been called to as a trustee as well as a guardian and therefore I requested the support of those professionals to always be in compliance with my role.
Again, I learned from this particular challenge, within this overarching position of restorer of hope, family and future that regardless of the amount of effort that is put into a job, even if it is well done and protected, evil can infiltrate without substance. It can devastate and disseminate every protective mechanism in place to avoid the very evil it creates.
When life is lived at the level of what lies beneath the surface of one's outer shell, I have found God uses certain trials to show even us what we are made of and who we ultimately trust in. When we are shaken what comes out? Who will we be found to be in our adversity? Are we worthy of the call? I have been challenged on yet another front and I can only pray I will not remain who I was when this all began. I desire to become a woman of influence to offer hope to a hurting world. How can I be able to offer it myself if I simply adopted 2 children I didn't choose and who didn't choose me but merely applied what I knew to date about mothering and neurotoxins? However my story has become enriched and I have become enriched with the depth of pain at a level we didn't earn, but have had to defend with every ounce of my fiber and still have nothing to show for it. How will this all turn out? I honestly do not know in the courts but I do know in light of our family: we will continue to be strengthened and prosper as we have since the last day they spoke to their Grandmother, our determination to seek God and trust in His redemptive power alone will see us through regardless of the outcome. I will trust in God alone to restore what the enemy has stolen--in this case, our reputation and our children's security at a certain level. The more we are afflicted, the more we will multiply for a greater purpose than ourselves.
Our family has a gift of restoration. We have already been restored. With any gift there is a responsibility of earning its worthiness. Are we worthy of influencing others? When Jesus had to feed the multitudes He had to break the loaves of bread and put it in baskets and pass it around. It never ran out and there was plenty left over. How is that possible? It is the result of being broken that produces supplies that are unlimited in others times of need. If this family is going to feed the masses then we need to be broken, even in ways we didn't deserve so that our gifts can be shared to encourage others and offer hope.