Five years ago July 2, 2010 Sarah came to live with us. We didn't know it at the time, but that was the day she would come into our home and never leave to live with her mom again. Please let me preface this all by saying this: Sarah's mom loves her very much. But sometimes even people who love us hurt us.
Before Sarah came to live with us, Chris and I spent four years waiting and praying for God to open the doors for her to come to our home. We knew that living with her mom was not good. When she lived with her mom, she was a pawn, free childcare and often the brunt of her mom's wraths. Without divulging a lot of details - that's as far as I can go.
For four years, Chris and I banged our heads against the wall and had our hearts broken repeatedly as she was used as leverage against Chris and his family. For four years, we took turns being discouraged to the point of wanting to give up, but we knew we couldn't.
The year Chris was deployed I didn't even get to see Sarah. Her mom would never have let her come visit me and I didn't ask. Fortunately, she spent the entire summer with Grandma Mary - one of her most favorite people in the world. Chris returned and summer loomed and I began praying. I remember telling God that I could not watch Sarah get into the car and drive off with her mom again knowing it wasn't a good situation for her. That was when He began opening doors and ideas for us to help Kate move down to Wichita. We were able to persuade her to move here and as a result she let Sarah live in our house. Kate found a job and a small apartment up the street from us. We even did Thanksgiving together with her, Tristan, Summer and my family and some church friends that year. Sarah loved it, she got to have Mom and Dad together for that one holiday. It helped that at that point in time Kate had a new person to focus her displeasure on - she was getting a divorce.
Sadly, January 2006 Kate sent Summer to visit Carl (her dad and Kate's soon to be ex-husband) and he kidnapped her into Iowa. Kate was left with no choice but to return to Iowa, but she allowed Sarah to remain with us.
In March we went to a lawyer and began the paperwork to gain custody of Sarah. In Kansas, Sarah had to live in our home for six months - we hit that point in January 2006. We waited and waited until the papers came in and Kate was served and then we let Sarah go visit her. We needed all of that in place for Iowa to recognize that we had temporary custody of Sarah.
Our initial goal was to share custody of Sarah, but after coming home crying because they made her feel awful for wanting to live with her Dad, we had some decisions to make. It took, time and prayer to decide, what did we want to do to protect Sarah. As I said before, Sarah's mom loves her, but even those who love us sometimes hurt us. After some prayer and talking we gave the lawyers the instructions she needed and told her what we wanted to have happen.
September 2006 we received papers in the mail. They were the papers giving us custody of Sarah - sole custody. There is visitation for her mom and we try to make sure Sarah talks to her mom weekly if not everyother week. When money permits (which it did until this past year when Chris lost his job) we made it a point to send Sarah to visit her mom. Even when she was angry with her mom and didn't want to go visit or want to talk to her. But that day - that wonderful day when we got those papers - they marked a new chapter for us and for Sarah. No more could she be used as leverage, no more spending most of the year either calling the cops to find her, or banging our heads against the wall because we couldn't find her. No more would Sarah be used as free childcare (she still babysits, but we try to keep it at once a week and when possible I try to pay her so she can earn her own money), no more worries that stepdad's might or might not be harming her or alcoholic grandfathers might take their anger and alcohol fueled rage out on her. No more worries about garbage being fed to her about me, or Chris and the type of man he was.
That all happened five years ago and the child who walked with a bullseye on her forehead and back now walks with her head up high. She is smart, funny, and can give as good as she gets. She had several years where she struggled and she is so a drama queen, but we wouldn't have her any other way. We are so proud of how far she has come - and her relationship with her mom is on the mend. They are talking and working on having a solid relationship and her mom is working to make sure she lets Sarah know how much she means to her and that she misses her -even when life is crazy. With the help of a therapist for a while, Sarah worked on letting go of her anger and is moving into the process of forgiveness towards a lot of things and towards a lot of people. She has come to know Christ - something that might not have happened had she not come to live in our home. She is happy and for the most part pretty well adjusted.
Yes, from time to time we butt heads and she can make me crazy at times, but I wouldn't trade her for all the tea in China or the money in the world. Today she turns 16 yrs old. It's hard to believe when it seems like only yesterday she was braving the icy walk to come into the house and hug me and tell me she loved me. The little girl who used to be small enough to sit on my lap now towers over me and can see eye to eye with Chris. It's insane how quickly they grow up.
I love you Sarah. Happy Birthday Sweetie.
Maureen a.k.a. The Bonus Mom