It’s Sunday afternoon and it’s quiet around here, which is a rarity. The little one is at a friend’s pool and B is in his element at Best Buy…or maybe a hardware section somewhere. In the meantime, ya know what has settled on my mind? This girl.
We didn’t see her coming, but we knew one day she would go. That day will be here next week. Jada Marlee is my soon-to-be 11 year-old niece, my sister’s daughter to be exact. She was born 6 weeks before Brandon and I began dating, so she has never known me without him and vice versa. After my sister’s 4 boys, Jada was the girl that we all waited for and I swear our family dressed her in enough frills to last a lifetime.
A couple of months before Jada was born I had a dream about her. It had little detail, but I remember it vividly. We were walking along a path together, hand-in-hand. She was young, maybe 3 years old, but all I could see was her hair. A mountain of dark ringlets. The feeling I had in the dream was that we had a very special relationship – more than just “Aunt so-and-so” and niece.
It wasn’t until a few years later, as this little girl with a head full of long dark ringlets sat with me that I realized I actually saw Jada before she was ever born. It was really her in my dream and the Lord was preparing my heart for what was to come. I never imagined the impact that she would have in my life – in our lives.
Due to special circumstances that I may explain someday, Jada came to live with us in June 2011, when she was seven years old. She came to us on a Friday and we had her enrolled in summer camp by Monday. We literally became “parents” in three days. It was a whirlwind, but calm all at the same time. Looking back I know it was solely God’s grace that enabled us to take on such an assignment. We knew that’s exactly what it was – an assignment. The summer carried on and in order to get Jada registered for school and covered by our health insurance, among other things, we needed to petition the court for custody. The petition was signed and granted on August 15, 2011. I can remember leaving court that day as Brandon and I just stared at each other. We didn’t know whether to cry or stick a sign in our yard that read, “It’s a Girl!” There were a lot of unknowns, but we made a commitment between God and ourselves that we would do whatever He asked us to do concerning Jada. We wanted to offer her the stability that she needed, even if that meant until she was grown.
Truly, in my heart I knew it would be temporary and over the next couple of years there were many days I hoped it was. Goodness, it was hard. Harder than hard. Due to changing schools 8 times in 3 years, Jada entered 2nd grade on a Kindergarten reading level and we found ourselves thrust into teacher meetings, testing, tutors and hours of table time in the evenings. She would cry,
we I would cry and then we’d all hit refresh and start again.
It’s a funny thing, actually. All the things you never think about when raising someone else’s child. Brandon said on many occasions that he felt like a divorced couple without being divorced. Acting as “supervisors” during court ordered visits with her parents from two different states, scheduling phone calls and juggling holidays. It was very important to us that Jada maintained a relationship with her mom and dad and other extended family, so we made our best efforts to accommodate. God, you know you carried us through…through learning curves, through her questions, through our questions, the nights that she would get up in the middle of the night to make sure we hadn’t left, striving for restoration between my sister and me, misunderstandings, setting boundaries...all of this and so much more.
I listened as others would offer encouragement by saying “Oh, it’s so great that you are a marriage and family therapist and already know exactly what to do.” Ummmm, maybe not. ;) Credentials on the wall: 0 In-your-face reality: 1 I have to be honest with you, after 3 years of being a Mom-Aunt, nurturer, tutor, carpool provider, Barbie hair dresser, party planner and problem-solver, I don’t know what my life will look like again. How do we go back to just us...or do we? I don’t have all of this figured out yet, but I do have an amazing amount of peace. Peace for Jada and peace for us. This is exactly the way God planned it and I’d do it all over again. Every bit. The seeds that have been sown in each of our lives are guaranteed to produce a bountiful harvest. No matter the children that God has already promised us of our own, Jada will always be our first child and I count it all joy.
So, this week I will prepare for her out-of-state move to be with her dad. As I pack her clothes, her headbands, her polka dot rain boots, her nail polish, her art supplies, Snowball, Butterscotch and her cozy blanket, I’ll try not to focus on what’s leaving, but the memories being left behind.
Love you much, “Marlee Mae.”