Monday, February 28, 2011

When the words finally came...

It’s hard for me to write today.  I’m not 100% sure why.  I have lots of thoughts rolling around in my head.  Thoughts that send me into blog-thinking, but then bounce me back to another place.  Adoption.  ADHD.  Learning disabilities. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.  Chocolate.  The Prodigal Son.  How to Look Good Naked.  The Absurdity of the Bachelor.  Zumba.  Being “out of sync” with those I love.  Dizziness (as in vertigo, not being “ditsy”).  On and on.....  Yet, I feel compelled to write.  I hope that as I type, the right words will come -the words that mean something to me, but that also are noteworthy for someone else.  

Ben summer 2008
I guess I will start with a thought that keeps coming back to me today.  While we were waiting for Ben, and then again after adding Ben to our family, someone, actually more than one someone, said to me, “adoption is the easy way to have a child.”  Wow.  I understand, I guess, how one might think that.  After all, following 9 months of hormonal and physical upheaval with my other two children, I had C-sections, one of which was especially challenging and scary.  There were sleepless nights with shifting of weight trying to get comfortable or fighting reflux.  There were the moments of worry about how my babies were progressing.  And, of course, there was the weight gain.   For some, pregnancy can be a real bear.  For me, I loved almost every minute of it and would eagerly do it again if I had the right parts. 

With adoption.... oh, with adoption, things are so completely different and so not easier.  With adoption, there are no flutters, no kicks, no growing belly.  True, there is no morning sickness or late night trips to the bathroom, but the sleep does not come easy.  The weight of the wait can, at times, seem unbearable...knowing that your son (or daughter) is in someone else's arms or worse yet, not being held enough in someone else's arms.  The wait is usually much longer than the typical 9 months we expect when we are expecting.  For some the wait is years.  There is the fear that something will go wrong.  That somehow someone will make a mistake....that your son won't really be yours in the end.  There are the "what ifs" about a health history that you don't fully know.  And yet, in spite of all that, there is a joy and excitement that comes in the waiting, in the discovery of who your little gift will be.  There is delight in knowing that someday your family will be more complete because of a little person whom you haven't even met yet.  There are the hopes and prayers that go out, across the miles (or perhaps in the same town) for the sweet little face you've only seen in pictures or imagined in your mind...and for the tummy mummy that has grown this child physically, while you have grown him in your heart.  While it is amazing, there really is nothing easy about it.

Ben, cousin Jess, and Zac
Ben summer 2009









Why, you ask, does this keep bouncing around in my head today?  Well, it comes to mind because a friend of a friend, a heart mommy, is waiting desperately to hear whether or not the baby she has been waiting for will truly become hers.  It also comes to mind because friends of ours are waiting for a referral from Haiti.  They have been working on the adoption since August of 2008.  Their dossier was approved by the Haitian Embassy on the day of the earthquake, but only arrived in Haiti in April of 2010.  We also have someone close to us waiting for their 4th adopted child to come home, knowing it won't likely happen until December 2011, even though the baby is born and waiting for them.  When I consider these friends, that old statement, unintentionally hurtful, echoes in my mind.  And, my prayers for them are born out of familiarity and shared experiences.

The thing I have held onto more than once during this journey of adoption, is something that Ken told me.  Along the way, we had to make a decision that caused me to pause and shook my confidence momentarily.  As I sat in the uneasiness of my own thoughts and our decision making, Ken told me of something that I pray I will never forget.  He said, "God is not going to trick us."  God knows what we can and cannot handle.  He called us clearly to adopt.  He knows His plans for us, even when they are not clear to us. 

As I close, I need to say the following:
  • I don't "blame" someone for feeling like "adoption is the easy way" to do this family thing. In fact, in all honesty, I don't even remember who said this to me, though I know it happened more than once. It is easy to make assumptions and say things without realizing the impact.  The comment reminds me, however, that I should not make assumptions about someone else's experience unless I've taken the time to understand where someone is coming from. 
  • I don't expect any sort of praise for the choice of adoption.  Most of the adoptive parents I know would say the same thing.  When people say, "oh, it's so great that you adopted...what a good thing", my response is that it was an absolutely good thing for us.  We wanted to grow our family and this is one way to do it.  However, I do believe it is an amazing way to do it! 
  • Adoption is not for everybody, but I am sure glad that it is for some of us.  Some might say, "if only everyone would adopt, there would be no orphans left in the world."  While that is true, I would not ever want someone who is not called to adoption, to adopt.  Just as I wouldn't want someone who is not called to be a teacher, become a teacher.  We are all called and gifted differently (Romans 12).  Yet, there are certainly ways to support adoption and adoptive parents, which one day I am sure I will write about. 
If you have children, go hug them tonight.  Pray for them and love on them.  If you don't have children, reach out and encourage someone who does.  You will be encouraged at the same time.
Ben with my brother, Steve, and my niece, Mackenzie - two of the people who speak into Ben's life and love on him lots.





Saturday, February 26, 2011

Just my day.

Today has been a good day.  I was woken up early by my son, Benjamin, asking if he and Eliana could watch a movie.  They had a sleep over in his room last night, following a bathing suit bath in the soaker tub.  Thankfully, they did not wake up too early, but earlier than I like on a Saturday.  Despite the early tap on the shoulder, I was able to sleep a little bit longer.  Then, by 7:30, I was up making a pancake, sausage, and egg breakfast for the troops.  I think Ken was surprised I was up and at'em so early on a Saturday.  I am, by nature, one who loves to sleep in.  But, last night, I had promised Ben a pancake breakfast, so a pancake breakfast is what he got.

After a yummy breakfast, Zac, Ben, Elly, and I played an exciting game of Uno.  Elly and I were partners and we won the first two hands!  Whoo Hoo!  Ben won the third hand, which everyone was glad about.  Even Elly thought it was nice that Ben won at least one round.

The kids decided they would play Lego or Nerf or some sort of adventure game in the basement.  But, before I let them go, I asked them to all clean their rooms and the bonus room.  Only Elly had a hard time getting the task done in a reasonable time frame, her little legs dragging as if tied to blocks of concrete..."but I'm just so tired," she said.  "Well," I reasoned, "if you are just so tired, then I guess you should go back to bed rather than play with your brothers."  With that, the cleaning continued and was completed.  What kid wants to waste the day away in bed when there is some good playing to get to?!?  Though, rather than play with "the brothers", Elly invited me to put together a puzzle...so we did.

After a little while, Elly and I went to the YMCA to partake in a family Zumba class and a family fitness class.  It was really fun.  Perhaps it will become a weekend ritual.  Eliana enjoyed herself, but was clearly tiring out by the end.  As we were putting on our boots to leave, Elly sighed and stated, "my body is not made for Zumba!"  I had to giggle and wonder how many times I've said the same thing about exercise. 
Elly decides to go with the ever popular "Three Pony" hairstyle for Zumba today.



No good work out would be complete without a nourishing lunch at....Taco Bell.  Yes, that's right.  Elly and I met up with my sister and her two girls for Taco Bell.  Mmmmmmm....  I love meeting my sister for lunch.  Actually, I just love hanging out with her period.  It is one of the reasons I am happy to be back in Minnesota.  She is a great sister and a good friend.  It was my sister who also alerted me to the good deal at Target - buy 7 frozen food items, get a $5 gift card.  So, off Elly and I went to stock up on frozen foods.  42 frozen food items later (along with some non-frozen items), we were done.  I still have some room in my freezer, however, so I may meander back later.  This time, I will have coupons in hand as well.

Well, it is now nearing 4:30.  The sun is shining.  My day has been good and full.  I've had good kid time, a bit of sister time, some good deal shopping, and now some relaxed writing.  My oldest, Zachary, is lying next to me, wondering why I am "randomly writing" about all these things.  I showed him my blog, thinking he might be impressed by my literary works of art.  He's not.  However, he thinks it is funny that I am writing about him while he's right next to me.  He also suggests that I misspell words to be humorous.  That makes me laugh.



I am thankful for a relatively uneventful but full-ish kind of day.  It makes me feel like I've accomplished some things without feeling like I was pressured to do so.  I am even more thankful for the relational aspects of my day.  I am sure I have a few more "chores" to do and some more family time to enjoy.  Ben is having a play and then a sleepover across the street.  Ken is grading.  Elly is quietly playing in her room.  Zachary has now moved onto the computer.  And I am content and thankful for the simply good stuff of my day.  No big insights to share...it's just my day.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Choir concerts and a bit of perspective

I am sitting in a basement auditorium waiting for my 12 year old and his classmates to take the stage. The buzz of waiting parents, siblings, grandparents, and other assorted friends and relatives fills the air like mosquitoes on a summer evening. I'm saving 3 seats for Ken, Ben, and Elly. We decided the wait time between early arrival for warm-ups and the actual start of the concert might just do us in as the troops were clearly tired tonight. Hopefully, they will arrive soon as the spare seats are being snatched up quickly. I don't want to feel the weight of the stares of late arrivers trying to guilt me out of my seats. Just avoid eye contact...keep typing...don't look up...


This is Zachary's second choir concert of the year. Though he was reluctant to sign up for Middle School choir, he has been pleasantly surprised by the experience. Tonight, the last of the line up is a medley of Disney tunes that included songs that I sang at about his age. His practicing around the house has brought back fond memories of my choir days. It also makes me proud of Zac as he tries and succeeds at something he was so unsure about. Hopefully this night won't end up in nervous vomit as the last one did for one child. Poor guy! Oddly enough, that the same thing happened once in one of my concerts way back when. So glad it wasn't Zachary!


Phew. Ken and the kids have arrived. And just in time too...the lights are now dimmed and the kids are taking their places on the creaky risers. I will have to finish later...

Okay. Concert is done. Kids are tucked into bed. Night time is officially setting in. I am tired.

The concert was fabulous. Zac was very handsome and definitely on tune (I'm sure of it)! Eliana almost made it through the performance without needing to go to the bathroom. She just barely made it back with Ken in time for the "show stopping" Disney medley! Benjamin remained remarkably quiet with his mini stack of books to keep him occupied. And I, I was as proud as could be of my son as he belted out his songs and smiled at me between verses. How could I not be?

It's moments like these that parents can dread...squishing into a crowded auditorium, listening to the music go on and on (especially when your child doesn't sing every number), coralling younger children and hoping they will behave, staying out later than you would like on a school night, yadda yadda yadda...or relish...being one of the select few to attend the performance of the year, admiring the fact that one teacher can conduct a group of 200 young people in order to work together toward something beautiful, rejoicing in the fact that your youngest kids are sitting longer and quieter than they could have a year ago, having a family "date" on a school night, yadda yadda yadda. Funny how much perspective and attitude can make or break what we do...what I do...on a day to day basis.

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray good perspective I will keep!
Good night, ya'll!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Elefun with Eliana!

This morning, after getting breakfast for Elly, snowblowing out the end of ours and our neighbor's driveways (because the snowplow plowed us in), helping Ben get ready for school, helping Ben complete one side of a Rubix cube, and then driving Ben to the bus stop, Elly and I enjoyed some Elefun!  Well, mostly Elly enjoyed Elefun and I enjoyed watching and taking pictures.  Elefun is a silly Hasbro game that Elly got a year ago for Christmas.  It is a blue elephant that blows butterflies into the air...just as all blue elephants do in the wild.  There are nets for 4 players.  The object is to catch as many of the beautiful butterflies as you can in your little net have lots of fun giggling and running around in circles as you try to catch butterflies into your net and pick them up off the floor when you don't quite snag them mid-air.

Honestly, I did not have much hope for Elefun this morning when Elly declared that she was going to play it.  You see, when we got Elefun from my brother and his family a year ago, I was very excited to partake in the butterfly catching.  I lined up with my three kids, nets in hand, ready to make my first capture!  We turned on the elephant, saw and heard the butterflies moving around in the trunk, and squealed with delight as the first few butterflies flew up into the air.  It was fun...but it only lasted briefly as just a few butterflies came out.  We turned the elephant off, detached the trunk, stirred up the butterflies, reattached the trunk, and turned the elephant on again.  "Hooray!" I yelled silently to myself as a few more butterflies started the climb up the trunk.  But, disappointment replaced excitement as once again only a few scawny butterflies escaped the grip of the blue elephant's flexible plastic trunk.  We repeated the trunk prepping several more times so that Elly could enjoy the brief bursts of butterfly bliss and then decided it was time to put Elefun back in the box "until another time" (wink wink).


               

I actually meant to return Elefun to ToysRUs, or at least exchange it, thinking there must be something defective with this sweet blue elephant that only wants to shower us with fun.  But, as with many things (including my Christmas cards waiting to go in the mail!!), I never got around to it.  He was rediscovered a few more times before we moved by an eager Elly, only to be reminded that it wasn't quite the excitement we expected.  He made it past moving screeners (i.e., Ken's junk patrol) somehow and into the moving pod as we packed up our home in Calgary.  Honestly, when I saw it come out of a box when I was unpacking, I let out a little sad sigh..."oh no, that poor disappointing Elefun made it to Minnesota...and now I can't even return it.  Oh well....." but did not have the heart to throw it away.



 
























Well, miracle of miracles!  Today when Eliana turned on the little blue pachyderm, I heard her shout out, "HEY - It's not broken!!!  Elefun works!!!"  Sure enough, the little guy was chugging out the butterflies just as he should.  Suddenly, like the sunrise itself, it dawned on me...Elefun was finally working the way it should because it was on the hardwood floor, with a solid surface beneath it.  You see, my Elefun ignorant friends, Elefun has a wee button underneath it that is depressed (pushed in, not sad) when it is set down on the floor.  When it is depressed, the motor runs.  Apparently, the button was not being fully depressed on the carpeted floor that Elefun was previously played on.   Who knew?  The solid surface was what that cute little guy needed to function the way he was designed to function...to have purpose in pachyderm-ness...to bring the kind of joy only a butterfly spouting elephant can bring!

It is not a far stretch to where my mind went next.  In my life, I also need that solid surface, that firm foundation, on which to sand.  Without it, I simply cannot live out my purpose or be the woman I am meant or designed to be.  Without it, I am in a state of shifting my weight and doubting myself in order to find meaning and significance...just hoping I won't fall off in the midst of my search.  With the firm foundation (and I am talking Jesus here), I know that I am created with purpose, uniquely and wonderfully made, to live out a calling.  I may not always know exactly what that calling looks like from moment to moment; but because I have a solid footing, I know I am not going fall off completely trying to figure it out.  And, in the meantime, I can have the pleasure and joy that comes in showers of butterflies, watching my little girl laugh, solving a rubix cube, and even blowing snow from the end of the driveway. 


Monday, February 21, 2011

The Effects of the Wind

In the last week or so, I have seen and felt the effects of the wind in inescapable ways.   I first reflected on this the other day while I was on my way to the YMCA.  The wind was unexpected to me because the sun was shining and, according to the news, it was relatively warm out.  I got into the car while it was in my garage and hadn’t really noticed that the trees were swaying.  I didn’t realize that it was a blustery kind of day.  Really, it wasn't until I turned north out of my neighborhood that I felt the effects of blast of the winds blowing from the west.

I actually started thinking about the effects of the wind that day because I had to physically and mentally attend more to my driving.  If I had not held tight onto the wheel and kept my eyes trained on the road ahead, I surely would have “blown off” the side of the road.  When the wind was broken by the woods, the car over adjusted in the opposite direction than it was formerly inclined to blow.  Once I got back on course, the woods would end and the blast would occur again.  With my eyes focused on the road, there was no visible evidence of the wind – nothing to alert me that something was happening.  However, the force of the wind on my car was immense.

As I made my turn east, something wonderful happened.  The car was no longer being pushed to the side.  I could relax my grip. The muscles throughout my body took a collective sigh.  Now, rather than being in a path of opposition to the wind, I was in line with the wind.  This was a much more pleasant place to be.

Yesterday, I again had the experience of the wind...this time with the full onslaught of a heavy snow storm to accompany it.  While returning from the YMCA with Elly and Ben, I stopped our van to help a man and his son who were stuck as they tried to navigate a turn off exit.  The wind whipped the snow as the son and I removed snow from the tires and pushed and rocked the car.  The dad, who spoke little English, eventually encouraged me to try and drive, perhaps thinking I was either better equipped to handle the winter driving or weaker than he might be to push.  Eventually the car came out, but I was soaking wet from the snowy blasts of wind.  The drive up to that moment had already been hairy.  The remainder of the drive left me white knuckled with near white out conditions, a testament to the effects of the wind on a snowy day.  

Part way through writing this, I was called away to go help our next door neighbour get unstuck from her driveway.  This crazy snow storm is causing all kinds of havoc.  At any rate, as we finished up, something caught my eye.  Up above the tree line immediately behind our house, was a giant bald eagle soaring in and out of the wind currents.  Just as I thought the elegant eagle would plummet from a push of the wind, it caught itself and mounted up again.  At first, I thought maybe it was hunting but quickly dismissed this idea as I watched.  I am pretty confident that the eagle was just playing; perhaps enjoying the ride or relishing the challenge of wind surfing. It made no headway and did not dive with any apparent purpose.  I thought to myself, “how cool is it that I get to see this right now – in the middle of a blustery snowy day, when I’m writing about the wind.”

From the first instance above, the thought that crossed my mind when I turned eastward down Co Rd. 42 was this: How much is this wind like the directing of God in my life?  When I choose to “go with the flow” of God’s calling and direction in my life, things, for the most part, seem to go smoother.  When I am in God’s word (the Bible), in God’s presence (prayer), and in God’s will (doing those things that bring Him glory), I am slower to anger, quicker to love, and overall in a better place.  My heart, my mind, and my spirit all can rest more contently.  There may be work to be done to keep in that path, but once on that path, the ride is surely smoother.

Well, a few days after I had that beautiful analogy in my mind, there came the snowstorm, car stuck in a ditch moment.  Did my analogy fall apart in that instant????  Here I am, doing what I think Jesus would do in such a situation, but I end up wet and cold and sore, fighting the wind.  I think the above analogy still stands.  However, I realize that a new wind image comes into play – the same one that Peter experienced in his water walking moment with Jesus (he saw the wind and was afraid).  Winds and storms of life do come – sometimes with devastating affects – but when we are grounded (actually rooted) in Christ, then the storms do not need to overwhelm us.  Yesterday, in spite of my wet head and clothes, I felt a sense of accomplishment and confidence from helping someone else, getting the car unstuck, and making it home in one piece.  Even though the winds were raging, I was doing what I was meant to do in that moment – stepping outside of myself and giving.  Why?  Because that is a part of what God’s will for me is – doing those things that bring Him glory and those things which are of benefit to another.  And, I dare never forget the pain and discomfort that Jesus suffered, fighting the storms on my behalf when he went to the cross.

Again, today, I saw the effects of the wind, but in a very different light.  While other animals seem to be hiding from the wind, the eagle was soaring and playing in the wind.  In that moment, I imagine the eagle could have felt like the wind was made just for him.  While he couldn’t physically see the wind, he could feel the wind filling its wings and lofting him skyward, energizing him.  Perhaps, the eagle looks for signs of the wind so he knows where it will get the best flying fun.  It made me think of the quote from Billy Graham that goes something like:
Can you see God? You haven't seen him? I've never seen the wind. I see the effects of the wind, but I've never seen the wind. There's a mystery to it.
I can’t physically see God, but I can absolutely see the effects of God in my life and in the lives of others.  While I want more than anything to be in line with God’s will and doing the things that God would want me to do, even at a cost, I also want to be more and more like the eagle.  More and more, I want to find the effect of the Spirit of God and observe evidence of the One who made so much, as if it was made just for me.  I want to have my eyes wide open and my senses alert so that I would never miss the miracle of a moment or the joy that comes within it.  I want to see God in the simple and rejoice in the everyday, ever expecting for something outstanding to come from the Giver of Life.  I want to see more clearly.

The wind continues to blow outside.  The snow is still coming down.  The kids are getting wound up from another day inside and my desire would be to curl up under a warm blanket for a while.  I have a feeling, just now, that if I followed my gut (and curled up away from the world), I would miss some effects of the wind.  So, I will end this now, go with the flow, do what I ought to do, and play with my kids.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tuesday's Sunniest Spot


Tuesday is one of my favorite days of the week this year.  It is my day off!  It is the day that Eliana and I hang out. Hooray for Girls' Day!  Sometimes we make it to the YMCA.  On occasion, we do our weekly grocery shopping. Other times, we just chill at home - playing Barbies, reading books, singing, dancing, making up new forms of tag, taking pictures, making movies, playing horses, cleaning, or whatever else "inspires" us.  At least some time of our Tuesdays is spent doing our own things for a little while, but rarely out of earshot of one another.  Tuesdays are a treasure to me.

I attempted, unsucessfully to load a
video of Elly singing.  Here's a picture
instead.

This past Tuesday was a beautiful sunny day, the kind of day that allows for lots of sun spot sitting.  Eliana and I spent much of our morning enjoying the warmth streaming in while we read, took turns singing, and simply snuggling together while talking about all sorts of girly things.  Our special day was off to a great start and about to get even better.

At around 11:30, my long time friend - and best friend from days gone by - arrived with her daughter for pizza and a play.  While Abby and Elly laughed and giggled their ways up to Eliana's room, Becca and I settled into our sun spots and started gabbing.  It was like taking a long cool drink on a hot summer's day.

One might think that Becca and I spend lots of time together, the way we get on, giggling like our 5 year old daughters and ending one another's sentences.  But, actually, I don't see her very often at all.  In fact, since January 1988 when I moved from Minnesota to Indiana, I've only spent brief moments with Becca, not even on a yearly basis.  When I first moved away, we spoke on the phone frequently and wrote letters often, comforting one another over the "loss" of our best friends (each other) and sharing the latest and greatest news.  But as time passed, the phone calls and letters naturally decreased in frequency and other friendships blossomed.  This was a necessary transition that sometimes brought sadness, but also brought maturation and satisfaction...we survived and thrived in spite of the changing dynamics of a treasured friendship!

Despite time and distance, Becca has remained a subtle, but constant, presence in my life - even when I didn't fully recognize it.  At random times I would get a note or card from Becca, often just when I needed it.  She has always provided a listening ear or shoulder to lean on.  She is a great active listener!  Becca knows who I am, where I come from, and how I've been shaped.  She laughs at my dumb jokes, listens to my long stories, and understands the quirky things about me.  She knows I have little dancing skill, but when I mention a possible interest in taking belly dancing lessons for fun, she encourages me to check it out because "you'd be good at that!".  Becca also encourages me and challenges me as a parent.  We have a lot in common when it comes to parenting, which is a HUGE blessing to me.  We share faith, memories, and a love of chocolate.  It doesn't get much better than that, does it?

Perhaps the best thing about Becca and our Tuesday visit was that, in my mind anyway, there were no expectations.  No putting on airs or attempting to prove...just good conversation, laughter, and friendship.  Even the awkward pauses were not awkward.  They were just pauses.  I assume this is how Becca feels as well, though I could be wrong. (Gee, I hope I'm not wrong)  The really cool thing is that I know that if a month or two goes by before I see Becca again, our next experience will probably be the same.  And, although I have no need to recreate something that once was, I am glad that I have moved back to the area and near to Becca.  For while I love me a good ole sit in a sun spot, it is not nearly as good as a sit with a friend like Becca.  Becca was my Tuesday's sunniest spot.

ADDENDUM:  I wrote this last night, but decided to wait to post it until I could put these few pictures up.  In the meantime, over the past hour, I have been Skyping with another one of the amazing women in my life, Deanne.  Someday, I will write about her...she is like noone else I have met and is like a sister to me.  In light of the above topic and after talking with Deanne...and since I hadn't pushed PUBLISH POST yet...I felt like I just had to mention her.  My life would not be the same without knowing her. 

Happy Sun Spot Sitting!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Heartbreakers...

I never knew, before becoming a mommy, just how many times my heart would break over or for my kids.  I guess I assumed that there would not be many heart break moments until they became old enough to have their hearts broken by a boy or a girl that they had their hopes set on.  Little did I know that the heart breaks I would experience as their mommy might have little to do with how their hearts were really feeling. 

Now here is a heart
breaker

My reflection about this tonight comes on the heels of one of my children's struggles with knowing just how much he can trust to try and step out in friendship again...especially in light of friendships lost or altered due to the moves we have made.   Those are not his words, but it is the sense that I have about the struggle.  While my son comes across as a competent social butterfly in many situations, he struggles in leaving the safety and security of home to develop and deepen relationships beyond these walls.  My heart breaks in this as I think that his life would be sweeter with more people to call friends.  Then again, perhaps his need or desire for friendship is truly different than mine.  And, perhaps, all he needs is more time, some gentle encouragement, and opportunities to come his way to build the kind of relationships that he needs, not that I think he needs.  Nonetheless, a bruised heart quietly beats in my chest.

My heart has broken numerous times over early missed moments with my second child.  While I always considered 6 months "early" in terms of adoption, it was not until the birth of my third child that I truly realized all that we missed in those first 6 months.  It was strange to grieve that loss so long after the time had passed, but the grief came nonetheless.  That is not to say that everyone should feel the way I do about that.  Every adoptive parent and family is as unique as a thumbprint.  I am convinced of that.  As well, I have so much to be thankful for in terms of what did happen for my son in those first 6 months.  After all, he lived in the home of one of my heros, Thea Jarvis, the founder of The Love of Christ Ministries.tlc.org.za  I know that Ben was guarded and protected by his temporary first family and  by the One that made him.  While there is so much to rejoice over with regard to Ben's early days, every now and then that broken heart sneaks up and surprises me.  In those moments, I often find myself choking back tears and lingering a little longer over the pages of a bedtime story or snuggle. 

Even in the day to day, I find myself with an occassional heart pang or a full out break.  An unkind word spoken from another child to one of mine.  A misunderstanding arising from a moment of impulsivity.  Words that spill out, but can't be put back in.  The fear of teasing over new glasses.  Challenges with reading.  Challenges with math. Challenges with....  Why can't things be easier?  Being one of the last chosen for a team or group.  Unmet expectations...mine and theirs.  Emotions that teeter totter in unexplainable ways.  A grumpy moment from a tired mommy...

I know there are times when life is life and we all need to just buck up and deal with it.  And believe me my wee heart breaks don't usually last very long.  One of my sweet cherubs is bound to do something that snaps that sorry feeling heart back into reality.  :)  Yet, I hope I never lose the occasional sense of a the heart pangs I feel for my children.  They are good reminders of the precious gifts that they are and how much I love them.  My life would not be the same, nor complete, without them.  I just hope I can continue to grow in my discernment in how to deal with them - when to be tough, when to be gentle, and when to be somewhere in between.  And, I hope, that when I make a "mistake" in the approach I take, that God would be gracious and make them forget somehow make it work anyway.  He can do that, you know.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


As I lie in bed tonight, I can hear my little man Ben coughing.  It's a congested asthma like cough...the kind I can't stand.  It's not that I can't stand the sound of it, as in "I'm annoyed."  It's that I can't stand what it means and what it represents.  It means my little man, who can be so tough in one moment, is now under some microscopic attack...again.  He used to cough like this a lot, as nearly every little suggestion of a cold went right to his lungs.  This was his lot from the get-go of life.

Ben was born prematurely and had hyaline membrane disease.  Hyaline membrane disease happens in premature babies when there is a lack of surfactant in the lungs, causing the alveoli in the lungs to close on themselves.  As a result, he has had a history of lung health issues, primarily presenting like asthma.  In fact, while we were in South Africa adopting Ben, we spent a few days at the MD and physiotherapists office doing nebulizer treatments and chest/respitory therapy.  While it was not at all what we anticipated or desired, it was somehow just the way it was meant to be.  Looking back, there was something special about needing to care for our son this way as soon as he became a part of our family - absolute dependence on all of our parts.  I don't think I would have chosen that situation - no one wants to see their little one so sick and we sure would have liked to have spent that time in S.A. in other ways.  We dreaded the flight home, wondering how his little infected ears and lungs would manage the pressure changes.  But, God was good and the flights were fine.

Since those moments in an office full of contradictions - a white American family in a predominately black South Africa, with our beautiful but sickly Khosa baby, in an orthodox Jewish physiotherapists office - we have had many sleepless nights, a few visits to the ER, several urgent MD visits, and loads of cuddles all related to these microscopic attacks on the lungs.  I've run the gamut of feelings on this one, ranging from frustration, sadness, and loss to thankfulness.  The frustration, sadness, and loss came in light of my guy needing to deal with sickness and the early rough stuff of life.  The thankfulness in response to the fighter that he is, in part because of his lungs, the distance he has come, and the opportunities that illness allows.  When I look at it all with the right view - away from myself - the picture of grace and provision is much clearer.  When I look at it through my more selfish frame, the loss seems greater. 

I have not heard a cough for several minutes now.  Maybe he is done for the night.  Maybe not.  No matter what, I am thrilled that these moments of holding my breath waiting for the next cough to come grow further and further apart the older Ben gets.  His lungs are growing up and growing stronger.  He is growing up...growing stronger.  God's not nearly finished with Ben yet.  That brings me loads of joy... perhaps even more joy than knowing He's not finished with me yet either.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Surprise Lunch

(originally written on February 8th)
 
Today, despite the cold, Elly and I ventured out to meet Benjamin for surprise lunch.  I debated going as it meant I needed to “get ready” and push aside the headache I was brewing.  It also meant searching through the unfolded piles of laundry to find a matching pair of socks for Eliana.  Nonetheless, off we went with a quick swing through McDonald’s to pick up lunch to share with my 2nd grade superstar.

The first thing I noticed in the lunchroom is the noise and the “orderly chaos” that takes place in the transition of one class leaving and another class entering the lunchroom hub.  For what initially seems like no apparent reason, whole groups of children stand up and mass exit as if called by a trumpeters’ blow.  In reality, the children are subtly signalled by their teacher’s quiet presence in the doorway at the far side of the cafeteria.  When teacher appears, there is no time to dawdle.  As one mass exits, another arrives.  The new children enter as quickly as the others leave.  The majority of students march in file like ants through the hot lunch line, while a few stragglers meander in, lunch sack in tow.  It looks and sounds a bit like chaos, but in truth, it is a choreographed transition that the children know well.

Since I was Ben’s guest, we were allowed to sit at a guest table.  There are a designated number of seats at the guest table.  Ben, being the host of the guest, invited a few of his friends to the table.  It is clear from the expressions on some of the children’s faces and the outright question “are you Ben’s mom?” that some children are trying to figure out how we fit together.  I love that Ben usually nods his head enthusiastically to this question.  At any rate, there I sat with Ben, Elly, Kieley (whom I believe Ben might marry one day), another Ben, and Zach.  I’ve met Kieley before, but Ben and Zach are new friends to me.  They try their best to show me how cool they are before the meal is over.  Though little conversation occurred, it was wonderful being the honoured guest among such special young people.

Next to the guest tables, and set apart from the long ‘regular’ tables, is the “allergy table”.  My heart ached today for the lone child sitting at the allergy table.  He sat alone shifting his wait frequently, repeatedly leaning off the edge of his seat.  It was as if he longed to stretch his body enough to be a part of the rest of the action, while remaining within the safe shelter of the hypothetical allergin free bubble.  The last time I visited with Ben for lunch, there were at least three other students at the allergy table.  But not today.  My justice seeking heart silently shouted out, “It’s not fair!  Why must he sit alone!”  He is not noticeably “shunned”, but I imagine he feels, at times, like an outcast.  My next thought was to tell Ben that he ought to join this table on occasion to bring some encouragement to the ones who sit there.  I knew the discussion would not be a simple one nor would it be one to have with his friends nearby.  So I decided to reserve my do unto others with allergies discussion for another time.  

Within what seemed like a blink of the eye, lunch was over as quickly as it began.  The presence of Mrs. K in the doorway set off the silent alarm that rallied the children.  Pleased that Ben would respond so promptly to the subtle cue, Elly and I gathered up our garbage and followed Ben to the door.  Ben reminded me that “leftovers are for the pigs” as he dumped the leftovers into the slop cans that the farmers apparently come to gather.  I am briefly reminded of the prodigal son (Luke 15) when he realized that the pigs ate better than he did when he rejected his father and left his home.  I am also humbly reminded of how much we have when compared to most of the world.  Whoa.  Deep thoughts for further consideration at a later time...  I quickly greet Mrs. K, who offers a great update on my fabulous Ben.  Elly, Ben, and I share farewell hugs as Ben slowly moves to join the rest of his classmates.  I believe Ben is slightly taller than he was when he left the house this morning, while Eliana is a smidge more confident and my headache is a little less sharp.  I leave the school thankful for the briefly shared moments, in a chaotic lunchroom, with 2 of my favourite people.  And, I resolve that I shall have these surprise lunches more often.

A Bit About Me...

I guess it would be fitting to share a bit about myself and explain what makes me tick and, perhaps, what ticks me off.  Now how's that for a start?!

I reached a chronological milestone this past September when I turned 40.  Oddly enough, I feel nothing like what I expected to feel like as a 40 year old woman.  In fact, on most days, I seem to think I am merely in my 20's going along, shall I say "holding on", for the ride of my life.  Not that anything about me is still like it was when I was in my 20's, but my heart and my head just cannot seem to fathom that I am entering what some refer to as Dark Age Middle Age.

Perhaps the denial about my age comes from the ever present sense that I do not have within me the wisdom and knowledge that I would suspect one should have at 40 years of age.  Tied directly to that sense is the keen awareness and true hope that God is not finished with me yet.  By that, I mean He is not finished with growing me, shaping me, directing me, teaching me, or using me.  I am not who I was, nor am I yet who I am fully meant to be.  With that deep thought sinking in, who am I currently?  How do I describe the 40 year old me?

The first thing that pops into my mind, because it consumes most of my waking time, energy and thought, is that I am a mommy to three amazing children.  I never realized, prior to having my own children, just how different three little ones from the same family could be.  I also never realized what immense stretching would be required in order to parent in a way that was anything close to the way I hoped to parent.  I am sure that not nearly as much stretching would be required if I didn't care how they turned out...wait, actually, the stretching would come - just in a very different way than it comes to me now.   At any rate, I have two boys and a girl - Zachary (12), Benjamin (8), and Eliana (5).  My first inclination is to start spilling all the details about these three loves right here and now, but I am going to purposely hold back...at least, I will try.


In addition to being a mom, I am a wife.  I married an amazing man, Ken, who has made my life anything but dull.  Ken is a passionate crazy man who seems to do well at almost anything he tries.  He has a heart for Jesus and for bringing others closer to and further in on their walks with Him.  He has the heart of a pastor and the mind of a professor, melding the two together to be a fabulous teacher and preacher.  He values relationship with others more than being right or proving a point, but will not shy away from truth in the midst of relationship.  Wow!  He sounds like a neat guy!  And he's handsome, as well!!

As for my career, I am a part time Speech Language Pathologist.  I have worked in a variety of settings and have learned much along the way.  I currently work with high school and middle school students, but have spent most of my career working with younger children within hospital settings.  While there are many many days that I think it would be nice to be with my kids and doing my home jobs full time, I realize that God has gifted me well to do the work that I do.  It's given me opportunity to meet people I normally wouldn't and, hopefully, make a lasting impact in the lives of others.  I have been fortunate, up until this year, to require very little outside help for the kids.  This year, with transition, I have my youngest in all day preschool / childcare more than I really want her to be.  I kind of hate that part of what I am doing right now, but Eliana loves her school days and I will have summer off - something I haven't had before in my other part time jobs.  Someday I will write some of the lessons I have learned in my career life, but for now I will leave it at this: the more people I work with, the more I understand that God wants me to see my clients and those I work with through God's lens, not my own.  My vision is far too limited to understand the greatness in one individual, especially when, on the surface, that one individual is so limited.

So what are the things that make me tick?  There are so many that I will only start with a few (in no specific order):
  • lying on (or sitting in) the "sun spot" that streams through the window on a sunny day
  • watching babies smile
  • hearing stories of God's faithfulness in the lives of others
  • watching my children make really good choices to care for one another 
  • water - oceans, rivers, lakes
  • seeing my husband in action, especially in regard to ministry and encouraging others
  • seeing someone grow in ways they didn't realize they could
  • hanging out with my family
  • beaches, especially the hot tropical kind
  • feeling like God has used me well to be a benefit to another
  • good music
And, what ticks me off???  Not a whole lot, but here are a few...
  • injustice
  • inconsideration
  • ignorance that leads to hateful or arrogant nastiness....not ignorance alone, because a lack of knowledge in and of itself is not a bad thing, we just shouldn't let ignorance be an excuse for nastiness
  • the battles that wage inside me at times when I lose sight of who I am and who's I am
Well, with that, my second blog under my belt, I am off...nearly ready for sleep and the crazy dreams that surely await.  Did I happen to mention that I have crazy dreams????