It has been two months since we got the news that Peter Pan did not want to come to America on a student visa. Two months since Little Man and I decided that we needed to go to Latvia anyway because love shows up. Our hearts may have been breaking, but the only thing that we could do for him—for ourselves—was to love and love and love.
Nothing else mattered but that he knew he was loved, is loved, will always be loved.
Except sometimes the rest of it hurts. A whole lot. More than I thought it would.
It is hard to explain the way my life has shifted in the last few months. I have been holding it all close—the pain, the mourning, the soothing of a Little Man who processes loss in loud and angry ways.
I have felt like the widow, who poured out the last drops of oil from her store, the last little bit of strength that I had. But I did it knowing that there probably wasn’t going to be a miracle for me. There would just be no more oil.
Sometimes miracles don’t happen. Sometimes there isn’t a happy ending.
We have been starving for two months.
And I have been wrestling with what that means. Did I do the wrong thing? Did I break my homegrown child by encouraging him to offer up his loaves and fishes and give all he has? Did the loss of my community and the unmooring of my soul happen because of my actions?
But I keep coming back to the truth of the thing: love is what matters. Not results, or my own desires. Only love.
I will not ever regret the pouring out. Going to Latvia was the right thing to do.
When we arrived in Latvia, we were met by two very different children. Sunshine was bouncing with excitement. Peter Pan wanted to know where his longboard and gifts were. One was ready to talk and talk and talk, and just soak in all of the moments of being family. The other was determined to show me how strong he was and how he didn’t need a family.
And thus I began my whiplash rotation between the two.
Sunshine deserves her own story, and it can be found here. Such joy and love even as she fights through the dark places. I couldn’t ask for a better daughter, and I can’t begin to say how much I love her.
But Peter Pan. This one was closed off and protective. He accepted my presence in Latvia with a shrug and a nonchalance that disavowed any emotion. He made his decision—he is not coming to America. What need did he have of me anymore?
And, perhaps the more important question that he dared not ask: what need did I have for him?
Reject before you are rejected. Show your strength. Don’t feel. Don’t care. Walls, walls, walls.
He didn’t make it easy. The sweet, nerdy, giggly boy who left us at Christmas was gone. In his place stood a cold, can’t-be-bothered, stiff young man who busied himself with everything that he could find in order to keep himself disengaged. He ate dinner with us, collected his gifts, and disappeared into the night. This is sometimes what happens when you love kids from hard places. But others’ actions should never determine our own attitudes.
So I poured out my little bit of oil. Every teenager needs someone to come in and take pictures of him at his job. Every teenager needs to be hugged. Every teenager needs to be told he is loved. Every teenager needs to be told he makes someone proud.
That’s my job. And I was going to do it whether he thought he needed it or not. So we took a taxi to his church to join him in his territory. We showed up at his job and ordered food from him. We went to see where he has chosen to live with his roomate.
Two lost boys, playing at house.
His apartment was as bad as I feared. It’s one room and a small kitchen. They don’t have a bed, but sleep—together—on a piece of plywood and a thin foam mattress that unfolds from beneath the loveseat. Their bathroom sink doesn’t have a faucet. The neighborhood is dangerous.
But I could tell he wanted so badly for me to like it and approve. I did my best. The boys made dinner for us and it was rough, but I know they went all-out. We laughed and played games and it felt a little bit like a high school get together. And really, that’s what it was—a bunch of teenagers being rough and tumble boys. Except they are doing it all on their own, without a family to cozy into at the end of the night.
It was joy and glimpses of my silly boy and heartbreak, all at once.
On the bus back to our hotel, Peter Pan finally whispered his thoughts about America and why he is staying. His friend told him that he was being foolish to believe he could make it in America. He needed to be realistic and stay put. So he did.
It’s hard to understand that kind of pull. We tend to think: what are friends compared to a family in America, a chance to study here and make a better life? But for these hurting kids, friends are everything. They ARE family.
Imagine you are 18. Someone comes up to you and says, “Hey, would you like to move to France? It could mean that you will be making a million dollars a year in a future career. It could change your life. But….here’s the catch. You have to leave your entire family and never speak to them again, except maybe once in a while, but we can’t even promise that.” (Thanks to my friend Jaycee for the beautiful analogy)
Would you have done it, at 18 years old? Would you make that leap?
These friends are the only family Peter Pan has. And that family doesn’t have the wisdom or experience to advise making that kind of a leap. Instead, they encouraged him to stay. Latvia is solid and real. I am simply a Neverland he needs to stop dreaming about. Siren calls end in crashing on the rocks.
Yes, this seems all kinds of backwards. But I also know that in Peter Pan’s mind, I am the interloper. I am not one who can be trusted. Not yet. I am a passing dream that he fears he will wake up from.
I need to patiently show him that I will remain a part of his reality as much as he will let me.
And so we left Latvia without Peter Pan. He didn’t even come to the airport to see us off. Instead, he wrote and asked me for money—and he got a little taste of what my tough love looks like. I thought that was the end of it and I wouldn’t hear from him again. I made sure to let him know I was here, but there was not much else I could do.
My oil was gone. Little Man gave all his loaves and fishes and they were eaten up and discarded without thanks or understanding. He cried and raged, and I sat in my silence and we pulled into ourselves. We spoke of it only to each other, and settled into the realities of living in a broken world. Our pouring out and giving of ourselves never guarantees a miracle. But it was the right thing to do.
Love is always the right thing.
Then, after two months of very little, I heard from a woman in Latvia. She wrote to tell me that Peter Pan confessed to her that he wants to visit us. He misses us and is scared. But he could never ask. She begged me not to give up on him.
I talked to Peter Pan and explained all of the steps he needed to do if he really wanted to come: set the dates, get time off of work, figure out how to pay his share of expenses while he was gone. It took him a while and more than one whining session and some more tough love from me. I spoke the truth—his choices made this more complicated, but if he could adult up and arrange everything on his side of the ocean, I would be happy to bring him over to my side for a visit. His choices changed the logistics, but not my love for him.
And he did it. He got it all together. He wants to come. He will arrive July 7th for a two week visit!!!!
So we love and we love and we love. We will keep pouring out and offering up our meager supply without expectation, without strings, without security for the future of our relationship. Because love is always the right thing.
But we have so little time. So few drops of oil. The days and the moments are so small in comparison to the need.
But there is One who does miracles with drops of oil and loaves and fishes. There is One who sustains the unsustainable.
So I will pour out once again. I will offer up the minisule days that we are given. And I will pray for miracles of connection. I will pray that the love that streams forth is beyond what seems possible for our little jars to hold. I will pray that the relationships that are built have a depth that reach further than the days.
I believe that miracles can happen. Not always the ones we were looking for, but miracles nonetheless.
All that we have is this little jar of oil, this tiny loaf. I don’t know what can be done with it.
But I’m going to give it freely anyway.
If you are interested in helping us financially with this sudden two week miracle, you can do that here. Thank you so much for your support and the way you all continue to give of yourselves so that I am able to persist in these relationships. I truly could not do it without your care and encouragement.