It was also an emotional hell. This is the backdrop of the "Snow and Ash" story appearing in The Crossover Alliance Anthology: Volume 1.
UPDATE: "Snow and Ash" has also been produced as an audio drama by Untold Podcast. Listen for free here.
***Spoilers beyond this point, grab a free copy before continuing***
Late last year my wife and I accepted the placement of a little foster child. We'll call her "Hummingbird" here.
She was placed in our care because we were considered a "pre-adoptive" family. When Hummingbird came into our home, we were told the adoption would be relatively short.
It wasn't. We just adopted our daughter this past week.
We loved Hummingbird from the moment she stepped foot into our home. She was about sixteen months old when we met her. Initially, the visits with her biological parents were difficult, but manageable. We were just getting to know our daughter, so her mood swings seemed normal.
But pretty soon, the agency moved her visits to a location which required a four hour commitment, twice a week. The visits were an hour and a half each, but my travel time became almost two and a half hours. I lost a full day worth of work every single week.
The trauma to my little girl was far worse though.
I would tell Hummingbird that we were going to a "visit" as we got into the car. She rebelled. She scream. She cried. Every single time.
Then I'd have to drive with her for a prolonged period of time for the "visit". I tried to make these experiences as easy as possible. I told her she would have fun, then I would pick her up and we'd go home again to see mommy, and Daisy & Duncan (our cats). The drop offs varied, but I often had to peel her off my leg to coax her to her biological parents.
Several times she managed to climb up my legs into my arms, and clung to my chest.
To her, I was her daddy. I was the man who was supposed to protect her from those who would harm her. I was supposed to shield her from pain and trauma.
But to the State of Michigan I was little more than an over-glorified babysitter.
I had no rights. I could not make decisions about who could see her and who could not. The State put me into a damnable position: Take her to these visits where she would be traumatized twice a week, or have her removed from the only mommy and daddy she's ever known.
Hummingbird was a self-confident, bold, joyful and happy little girl before these visits. When she was returned to me after an hour and a half, Hummingbird was scared, timid, clingy, sad and depressed. On the way home, I often pulled over into a parking lot so I could take her out of her car seat and let her hug me as she soaked my shoulder with tears and snot.
Twice a week.
Most people in my life cannot understand this horror. I hope they never do.
Over and over, family and friends would tell my wife and me, "God is on your side. This will all work out. She will be yours." But they did not sit in court hearing after court hearing. They did not see the court's obsession with reunification. They didn't talk to caseworker after caseworker about the possibility of Hummingbird going back to the biological parents' care. Or relative placement. They didn't live under the microscope of agency visit after visit in our own home. They've never been in a situation where they couldn't tell their traumatized daughter that they would never leave her. At any moment she could have been removed from our care.
And God... well God wasn't doing much for this little girl. I prayed over her every night. I pleaded with God in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ every day. I laid both of my hands on Hummingbird and blest her moments before each and every visit: "May Yahweh protect your heart, soul, mind, and strength. May He protect you where I cannot. May He fight for you where I am powerless. In Jesus' Name. Amen."
And people continued to say, "God wouldn't let her be put back into a situation like that. Don't worry."
But the reality is, God does allow people to go through horrible things. Even very frightened, very little girls.
I trusted that God was all powerful. And believed that he was in control. I believed he had a plan. But his plan might have very well been that Hummingbird be shown the grace and gospel of Jesus Christ, and then be placed back with her biological family to begin a long process of redemption for them. And God's plan might very well have involved terrible abuse of our little girl so she could be a harbinger of salvation.
This was the backdrop of "Snow and Ash" in The Crossover Alliance Anthology: Volume 1.
I, like Erik, did not want to become a father. Not like this anyway. I found myself having to bear the majority of these burdens and it was terrible.
In the story Erik declared himself an enemy of Christ. During my own torment, there were moments where I was furious with God for not intervening. For not putting a stop to this all at once. It felt like Jesus had become my enemy. And in modern literature, I noted, there are not too many people who see themselves as enemies of Christ. Typically, a person gets angry at God, then walks away and becomes a functioning atheist. But if I'm being very honest, there were moments where I felt if I lost Hummingbird, I would be angry at God for the rest of my life. And even though I knew he was stronger than me, I would be his enemy for the rest of my days. Hence, Erik opposed his people's conversion to Christianity.
Finally, the scene where Honey Bee is forcibly taken from Erik, was the scene that first appeared in my mind. It was how I felt twice a week. I could fight. I could pray. But in the end I was utterly powerless to help my daughter. When it came down to it, any number of thugs could take my daughter and there was nothing I could do.
And yet, in the story God was still in control. Even Honey Bee, though she was abused greatly, could see a higher purpose in the pain.
I wrote "Snow and Ash" at the Darcy Library of Beulah. It was downhill from the location of the visits for Hummingbird. I initially went to the local McDonalds to wait for the visits to be over, but I was harassed and stalked at that location, so I found this hidden away library.
I hope I never go there again, though. It would be too traumatic for me.
After prying my daughter from my leg and handing her trembling body over for the "visit," I would go down to the library, pull out a composition notebook, and write.
One more thing. The author picture featured on the Crossover Alliance page for the book is a picture I took on June 3, 2014 at Douglas Park in Manistee, MI. I took this photo moments after parental visits were suspended. I knew my wife and I still had a long journey ahead of us. (And we did. It took six months of battling to adopt our daughter). But for Hummingbird, the trauma was over. As far as she would be aware, victory was accomplished on that day.