Our sweet tender Ravenna has been walking through some deep grief and questioning over the last few months. She has been really wrestling with wanting to see and know her birthmom, to tangibly feel her and be known by her. We have both curled up and wept together, talked to God about the pain and agreed that we will love and honor her birthmom and these feelings in every way that we can, she and I. I wrote more about this intense and intimate, sweet and searingly painful moment here. Then and few weeks later, after all of my attempts at things to help (draw a picture of birthmom, give her a name Ravenna creates, etc.) fell completely flat with almost hostile indifference, Ravenna came up with this:
It was a moment I hope to never forget. It was so beautiful.
Read the story here.
Well, about a week later, her class started a section on families. The teacher wanted to share something about adoption with the class. When I asked Ravenna what she wanted the class to know, she frowned and said, “I don’t want to tell them anything, Mama.”
Her teacher was wonderful, and we talked through some of what has been coming up for Ravenna. Instead of family trees, they made adorable family gardens.
Her garden with 6 flowers for our family of 5 now sits where she lovingly placed it on our mantle.
But, she kept mentioning wanting to make a family tree.
And, I kept trying to figure out how to honor Ravenna’s whole story in that family tree.
What does it look like when there is a birth family, a foster family, and all of her immediate family now?
Which thing goes where on the tree?
How do I guide her as to where those things go?
In true Ravenna style, she led me.
She proclaimed one morning, “Mama, I want to make a fabric family tree!”
The girl is crazy about fabric. She took a whole box of it all the way to Mexico as her one main toy during our Whatever Project roadtrip and has already started piling some up for when we go this year!
So, we headed off to the fabric deptartment, and I stepped back and finally let Ravenna lead. She lovingly and deliberately picked out fabric for everyone. Ladybugs for Georgia, space for Parker, Lighting McQueen for Daddy…and horses, two different horse fabrics. One for her birthmmom and one for her foster mom. She included her birthdad and foster dad as well with dog and buffalo fabric. It was a garden with birds and sparkly see-through candy canes.
During all of this, she twirled in the aisles, hugging her fabric and saying, “Oh, I love this day, Mama, I wish it would never end!!!”
We bought a pack of two canvases, and she diligently went to work.
I let her decide where and how everything went, and it was totally different and far better than if I had forced structure on it.
This is her masterpiece, her family, filled with love–her love for these people in her life.
So, do you see it? the candy cane fabric?
She insisted that she did not want to be a part of the tree. At first, I paniced thinking maybe she did not feel like part of the tree or part of the family. I could not be more wrong…
She wanted to be touching everyone. She said, “I love them all, Mama!” So, if you look closely, that candy cane fabric is around and ontop of every piece there.
Then, as we were working away, she cutting and placing fabric and I glueing it down, she stopped and said, “Oh no!!!” and ran to her room to get something. She came back with that big striped piece (from her Mexico collection) that is now across the top saying, “Mama, we forgot God, and this would be perfect!”
So, God gets to hang out all striped and sparkly at the top of our family tree!
She made me the top of the tree flanked with Doug on one side and my mom on the other and she is nestled up close to us.
She then brought it to school, wrapped in more fabric so her special secret would not get out
and proudly showed her class.
Showing Daddy over and over again!
“God sets the lonely in families…”
Shannon and her husband Doug live in Washington State with their three wild kids: Ravenna (China), Parker (Big surprise guy!), and Georgia Mei (China, special needs program, heart condition). They are working hard to love the Lord and wrestle with what it means to fully live, serve, and love in the name of Christ. You can read more about their family on Shannon’s blog. And, you can read Ravenna’s very own blog here.