Family photo 2013

Family photo 2013

Monday, August 11, 2014

Flintcidents

You know, incidents involving Flint.

They number themselves greater than the stars in the sky.

Oh, I kid. There's not that many. But almost.

That boy is two handfuls and a box of chocolates.

On my good days, I maintain a healthy sense of perspective about it all. I am a blend of gracious and strong. I keep things light and offer up my most compassionate heart as a gift to his very soul. I remember his past, his wounding, his pain and his loss and his grief and his far less than fair shake that began when he was but a tiny little tyke. I recall that he is just a boy, a child, that repetition and correction are a way of life for a parent. I see him and smile in the way that make my eyes crinkle with hearty gladness. I look at him and well up with tenderness, love. A gentle giant, my boy, An African Prince.

If I were to decide to trust you, dear friends, with my fragile innermost self and lay bare my honest soul before you I would have to confess: Those days don't happen often. Not as often as I would like. Not as often as they should.

In my less than glimmering moments, I just want rest from the relentless labor of parenting a child that challenges me to the depth of my core nearly every single day of our lives together. I long for ease and respite. I yearn for change, relief.  I don't like the mother I've become, who I've allowed the stress and strain Extreme Parenting to make me. I can't believe the voice that rises out up out of me, booming, thundering, scary I'm sure. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and all at once fathom the palpability of the anger in the room. I shudder at my own thoughts, harsh and unkind. Bitterness and resentment bubble beneath the surface. Straining, I push them down again and again. Grief over the loss of life as I once knew it with the babes I gave birth to washes over me. I romanticize the years where things were simpler and parenthood resided firmly in the category labeled Fulfilling Joy. I reminisce over the days before multiple Flintcidents every 24 hours stretched me thin.

I doubt the wisdom of this placement with me. I fear a different person, woman, mother would be better equipped, more aptly suited for this role. I mourn for the perpetuation of his troubled lot, being placed in my care.

I wonder where the person I used to be has gone? The one with abounding compassion that would take every penny she could scrounge and save to throw caution to the wind and fly halfway across the world to bring two children she had never once met and knew next to nothing about into her family to make them her own. Was she ever real or was she only imagined in my mind, based on a lofty ideal of "orphan care" that had no bearing in real, actual life where the draining work of raising hurt children is involved?

I cannot be sure. It's all muddled together now.

All I know for certain is that I have given up waiting for normal to recommence, which I actually think is a kind of natural progression and a good thing. It's a continuous effort, but the loss of expectation helps me ward off crushing disappointment. There is a constant reawakening in progress to the acknowledgement that I, as a grown woman made these choices to step directly into the realm of Adoptive Parenting, come what may.

I took an extraordinary leap of faith that led me to Ethiopia, and this boy.

I will continue to summon the strength to give my all on his behalf, to honor my commitment and provide him what is due.

No matter how many Flintcidents come my way.

* Full neuro psych eval is scheduled. Stumbled upon it serendipitously through a friend. It was also recommended by our former counselor. Maybe it will give further insight that will help me understand how to better parent the boy.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

"What kind of God do they serve?"

I remember it well.

The time I was sitting at the kitchen table in the home of a friend, stuffed to the gills with some of the finest authentic Indian cuisine you could ever imagine the pleasure of feasting upon, when the woman sitting beside me said something casually that struck me so deeply it left an indelible mark. The kind where your brain forms a new pathway to accommodate a revelation entirely novel to you, where your mind is pierced with a foreign concept that suddenly presents itself common knowledge and your perception irrevocably shifts.


It's the type of thing you don't easily forget.


With a matronly tsk, tsk, tsk, that let me know some profound thing was to follow, she simply said it was such a shame. What the Christian missionaries were doing in India. Working so hard to convert people from their beloved, historic religion to make them followers of Christ.


The woman was the mother in law of my friend, a devout, committed, lovely, hospitable, warm, compassionate and kind Hindu grandmother living in India, visiting the U.S.


I already held great respect and admiration for her, so when she made her claim, I had to give it credence - to try to see it from her point of view where the religion she loved and adamantly adhered to was under attack by evangelizing Christians in an attempt to save them from themselves. I could understand her grievance and figured if handed a different set of circumstances in life, over which I had no control, where I were in her exact shoes, I would likely maintain her precise position. I realized how much we actually had in common, she and I. We were both lovers of our faith, our deity, our method of worship.


We were both exclusiveists who believed our religion was The Right and Only One.


We were both, to an undeniable extent, a product of our environment.


*******

In the last couple days I saw a question raised regarding the horrifically mournful conflict taking place in Iraq where Christians are being executed in droves.

"What kind of God do these people serve? Who would have them annihilate an entire group of people, including women and children?"


And I can't help but think of this:


1 Samuel 15:3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys."

And this: 


Numbers 23:15-18 Have you allowed all the women to live?" he asked them. They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.
And this:

Deuteronomy 2:32-34 When Sihon and all his army came out to meet us in battle at Jahaz, the Lord our God delivered him over to us and we struck him down, together with his sons and his whole army. At that time we took all his towns and completely destroyed them—men, women and children. We left no survivors. 

And lots of other examples. 

Then I wonder, if my husband or sons were Soldiers in God's Army would they have done this very thing, if commanded by The Lord? If so, would they believe themselves right and honorable and righteous and valiant? Would they see their commitment to the slaughtering of another sect of people an act of true and noble service while they gave thanks to God for the victory?  

Yes, they probably would. 

It would be the God of the Bible that told them to do so. 

He is the kind of God who would do that.

God granted entitlement is a complicated concept intricately bound by the perspective of the Deity one calls "Lord."  

One God's victorious obliteration of a nation is another God's devastating loss. 

Then the tables turn.

Lord help us all. It's a mess down here. Pretty sure we can't figure this out on our own.



Finally, finally, I *think* everyone here is on the mend. Meadow and Flint caught it too. 
Now, let the summer fun begin! ;)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Nothing Important

Nothing will make a woman feel older than the 20 something year old guy who works for Samsung telling her that her almost-13-year-old daughter could probably help her figure out her brand new-to-her-but-already-outdated galaxy S4 smart phone. True story.

Um, Young Samsung Sir? FYI: My dear pubescent daughter owns an awesomely user friendly Apple iTouch. Did I mention it was APPLE? And that it's easy to use? Oh yes, it seems I did...
***********
The Virus from Scheol descended upon our family mid June and has.not.left.us.since. 

High fevers, terrible, dry hacking coughs, body aches, nausea for some, extreme fatigue, loss of sanity for the mother.....all the usual symptoms. 

With its incredibly long and gnarly incubation period, they have fallen like sickly little flies. Like flies falling one, two, three weeks apart, stretching out the length of our entire summer. Just when I think the last of them has stumbled as prey for the predator, another succumbs to its wily ways. 

Meadow, Flint and I are the last hold outs. Those cramped quarters orphanage years did an immune system good. It obviously prepared them nicely for their cramped American quarters. 

Don't ask me how I'm doing it. If you did, I would have to tell you I am drinking my body weight in glasses of water doused with a generous splash of ACV every day, that I gulp garlic by the spoonful, swallow zinc like there's no tomorrow and rub essential oils all over my parts all the day long to hold the germy gremlins at bay. Then, after all my bragging about my Superior Immune Boosting Techniques, I would fall ill. I know Murphy. His law is not to be trusted, my friends. 

All this illness has had us cancelling this and opting out of that to avoid spreading our sweet love all over everyone. It's been such a bummer on our summer. 

This is usually the time of year we are out and about socializing the awkward, savage hopelessly nerdy, uncivilized home schooled children (!) If they are not able to learn how to appropriately interact with other human beings during the summer then WHEN? I ask you. 

It's a legitimate concern.

Lord knows, once the school year starts, the doors shut tight and all Lessons in Conduct with People end. For nine long, under-socialized months. Come next May after being closed in all winter, I wouldn't be surprised if they need rabies shots along with their etiquette classes. 

But maybe they will most likely have figured out my phone with their endless hours of confinement. Which is a really good thing because I'm clearly too old to do it...
Every day the greens are brought in for dinner that night! 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

3 words

I know. Yesterday's blog post title was lame-o. Seriously, the hardest part about blogging is thinking of a stupid title for each entry! Though I seem to manage. To come up with something stupid. 

The stuff written wasn't so much about being feminine. Not really. It was more about what I see as our continued need for feminism. Even from the personal vantage point of my small town, raising a slew of children, keeping a happy home, joyfully interdependent with a supportive man, life. It was spurred by the "I don't need feminism because...." campaign floating around Internet Land, then a facebook discussion about Rachel Held Evan's subsequent blog post where she lays out, in no uncertain terms with a plethora of statistics from a variety of angles, that in fact we do still need feminism. Our sisters who are suffering at the hands of others, of men, who are we kidding? They do. Need. It. And in the subtle ways objectification and marginalization enters our lives, we need it too. Our daughters, they still need it.

*************
After hearing about the tragic, far too early loss of a truly extraordinary woman who was my age and adopted a whole slew of children, many with special needs a few weeks ago, I began thinking about the remarkable legacy she left behind and how many lives she touched.

It made me stop and really consider, what exactly am I trying to accomplish with my time on this earth? I can't be sure how long it will be so am I earnestly working toward the end I hope to accomplish?

I asked the kids to each come up with 3 words they would like to be known by.

Here were their responses:
Jayla - kind, patient and hard working
Stryder - glad, thankful and happy
Onyx - courageous, adventurous and loyal
Meadow - smart, strong and interesting
Clover - likeable, friendly, playful
Tyden - hungry (?), energetic, grateful
Flint - playful, thankful (couldn't think of another)

Oh, and Bob's initial answer: Lover Of Tisha.

Then I made him get serious.

Bob's official answer: supportive, wise, fun

I've spent no small shortage of time over the years wishing I were something...else. Gentler, calmer, more docile and gracious and warm and merciful. Less aggressive. Less assertive. Less vocal and controversial and contrary.

But with time and age (and hopefully wisdom!) I have begun to appreciate the particular characteristics that make me uniquely me. I am comprised of qualities that come to me naturally, easily. I am learning to work with them, to enhance them, to allow them to be used to mold me into the best version of myself I can be, rather than someone else with an entirely different set of traits.

And what I noticed about the words the rest of my family chose is that they are words that each of them already are.

Gosh.

I have to take a beat.

And let my heart swell up glad.

They want to be known by others in a way they already are.

I       love        that.

Because it means they are confident in the very things that make them them. 

My husband is definitely all his words. In spades. 

I put a lot of time into thinking about my words and I'm sure they would have been different words 10 years ago and they will be different words a decade from now.

Here they are:

Brave

Reflective

Impactful

When it's all over if I am given the gift of time to look back, I don't want to wish I had been more brave, more willing to take a risk and speak up and be bold and courageous and use my voice and my actions and take chances and learn things the hard way if need be. I don't want to cower in fear or apprehension or be paralyzingly concerned with other's perception of me. I want to be free.

I want to have been thoughtful about what I am doing and why I am doing it and what I am saying and why I am saying it, even if it is prone to fluidity and fluctuation and progress. I would like to know where my passions lie and for what reason they reside where they do and understand them as they naturally evolve with new information and thought.

Like most people, I hope to make a difference. Through word and deed, that my time here won't be wasted. That it will have been lived with intentionality and purpose and even the smallest impact in my tiny sphere of influence.

Those are my 3 words.

Today, that's what I would say...
The beekeeper. Oh. My. Love. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

To be feminine.

Out this past weekend (hallelujah!) with my only squeeze after spending the week cooped up with sick children, I walked from the restroom in the back of the restaurant to the front door where my saucy enchilada awaited me so we could leave following our decadent meal sans the 12 and under population that inhabit Deutschland.

The frosting on my cake laughed as we strolled outside. "That guy in the restaurant turned a full 180 to check you out," the butter-er of my bread said. "He did not!" I replied, honestly oblivious.

"Oh, yes he did," urged my Suga daddy.

"Well, how old was he?"

"I don't know, older."

"Oh." (Uttered the vain, crestfallen woman that is me.) "Then it doesn't count."

Fast forward to the next day when the whole brood downed orange Dayquil and headed out to cash in coupons for free barbeque food (Thank you, Pikes Peak Library District!).

Different place, same scene.

The woman has to empty the pea sized bladder before leaving the dining establishment.

The man waits up front for her.

[Insert] The crumb snatchers run amuck outside waiting for the man and the woman.

Man, turning his back to the restaurant and his face toward the woman: "How old do you think the guy behind me is?"

Woman: "Um, I dunno. Maybe 30 or so."

Man: "He was totally diggin' your treats as you walked by."

Man: "He's younger than you. It counts. Boom!"

Woman: {Blushes with a wave of delight.} Yeah! Maybe I still got a little bit of it after all. Which, at the ripe old age of nearly 40 means something!

Which is, as it turns out, such a sad, terrible shame.

Because I, as a woman, have to continually fight the urge to buy the lie propagated by society that my physical appearance is the equivalent of the measure of my worth.

I must resist temptation to feel that when I can no longer turn the head of a man, I have lost a piece of myself that held any significant value.

My self is not confined to my aging body bound by eventual deterioration with the stroke of the clock.

I am so much more than that. I am my mind, my heart, my intellect, my will and my compassion and my determination and my drive and my fiery passion and my connections with other human beings. I am the love I give and the nurture I share and the joy I express and the justice I crave and the ever evolving thoughts I rouse.

My body, my wonderful, dutiful, flawed gift of a vessel, is only a servant - ushering the more imperative parts of me through this world.

As I think about my own life I consider the advice I so often bestow on my girls. Pursue an education. Even if you yearn to be a stay at home mom and raise your babies all the day long, take advantage of your ample opportunity for educational advancement, so that you are able to earn a living, if need be.

Funny thing, I don't even have to mention it to my boys. They seem to inherently know they must forge a path toward economic independence and provision for themselves.

Then, I remember the Bikini Express drive through coffee shop perched on the Colorado Prairie in the middle of the winter housing young women in blizzardy weather wearing tiny swimsuits to serve warm beverages to men with wives and daughters at home.

And I think about the way I've been told in conservative Christendom that it's my responsibility not to provoke lust in a man, but to dress with regard to my brothers in Christ, as to not prove myself a stumbling block, which includes wearing yoga pants. Even if I plan to do yoga...

And I recall all those countless movies I watch with my children. How 50, 60, 70, 80% of them pair a man 15-20 years a woman's senior as her spouse or love interest, and no one bats an eye. Nor do they ever call him a cougar. It is accepted as natural.

The double standards run deep, they run rampant. They are pervasive and entrenched and difficult to weed through.

And I think, as far as we've come, we still do need feminism. Lord help us. We just do.

Proudly displaying the crinkles! And look at that cute boy!! 

Monday, July 07, 2014

I love Jesus. But what about God?

It's my children's fault.

When I began their elementary educational career, like a good Christian homeschooling wheat grinding woman who was convinced denim overall jumpers weren't just for toddlers anymore, I read the Bible to my wide eyed loyal subjects. Less than bedazzled by their previous memorize-verses-out-of-context Awana experience, I figured we should read it as it stands. The whole shebang. Beginning to end. Year after year. Not just bits and pieces and sections here and there to prove a pastor's premeditated point, but all of it.

Far more fascinating than I gave it credit for being, I found the Bible a hum dinger of an emotional roller coaster. I met God in places I never imagined seeing The Almighty Him. Lord, is that you? Stoning Achan's entire family for a crime it seems only he committed thousands of years before it became legal in the state of Colorado?

There were so many examples throughout the Old Testament that were startling to my perception that God is love, God is light, God is mercy and God is compassion and God is grace. Some people paid so dearly for the slightest sins or even for the transgressions of others, while others tended to get away with far greater offences. To me, there didn't seem to be any clear cut, predictable rhyme or reason for why God behaved situation by situation as he did. It looked like He just did. 

The Egyptions kept me up at night. As in, literally awake, trying to figure it out, wishing I could better understand.

My mental gymnastics went something like this:

If it was Pharaoh alone Moses besought to free the Israelites from bondage, and it was Pharaoh's decision to make, and God ultimately hardened Pharaoh's heart anyway, why were all the Egyptians made to suffer when the angel of death came to their doors on that woeful Passover night?

What if some of them were basically kind hearted, decent, good people, trying to live their lives and wishing their leader would simply relent?

Was it really necessary for all their firstborns to die?

But wait, Tisha the Bible says no one is really a good person, right? We are all born dead in trespass and sin, right? 

By that logic, those Egyptians couldn't have been that good anyway.

But by the same token, the Israelites couldn't have been that good either!

They certainly showed that during their wilderness wandering years.

Why were their babes spared?

I guess it's good to be God's chosen people.

And what about me?

I'm really bad.

But wait, is it my fault? Or Eve's.

Or maybe Adam's.

He ate the fruit too.

I hope I don't ever lead my husband down a path that ruins everything for all humankind.

Poor Eve.

She had a lot of weight on her shoulders, eh?

Remember when Herod killed all the baby boys how cruel it seemed?

God did the same thing though. 

Then, when the red sea folded in on the Egyptian soldiers, many of those mamas who had just lost children undoubtedly lost husbands and sons.

What a rough day for them.

On my meanest PMS, I-gave-up-sugar-and-caffeine-which-includes-chocolate-all-at-once-day I couldn't imagine being able to do something like that.

I must be nicer than God.

Wait a sec, that's impossible.

I'm not even that nice.

But still.

I couldn't kill a bunch of people.
 
Most definitely not a bunch of kids. 

God's ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts.

You can say that again.

Love you, Lord.

Would you mind giving my husband a raise? I'd like to take the fam to Disneyland and praise you for my magnanimous blessings while I shake Cinderella's hand.....
_________________

Even now, I hear so many people say, "I just want to follow Jesus." And I'm in the same boat. I too want to follow Jesus. He is cool and radical and interesting and counter cultural and pretty bad ass.

But I also want to love God.

I really do.

For who He is.

With eyes wide open to His complex, multifaceted, perhaps beyond comprehension, widely variegated reality.

And a full awareness that I'm not going to be able to figure Him all the way out and there's no way I want to downplay Him into tidy apologetics driven sound bites that make Him easier to digest so He won't scare people away.

He's pretty bad ass too.

Dude. 

I've always been drawn to Him. 

I'm just glad I'm not an Egyptian.




Waiting for the fireworks. I suppose these are our I'm glad we're not Egyptians faces??? 
Who knows...

Friday, July 04, 2014

Searching and Finding

One of the most eye opening parts of leaving the cult in which we were so deeply entrenched for nearly a decade was the gradually blossoming realization that there was a distinct possibility the manner in which we were stringently taught to interpret and apply Scripture was not only unusual (we already knew it was different, that was part of what made us special, the last faithful remnant an all that jazz) but perhaps even fatefully flawed. 

I remember vividly directing sincere Biblical questions toward our leadership (whom we were very close with) and being told, "you think too much."

But that was just it.

I couldn't stop thinking.

And eventually, I decided though it would carry us to a contrary position, where we no longer believed All The Truths We Held So Dearly, where we would lose each of our friends and our entire social network and our Once Convinced Sure Footing in The Center of God's Will, thinking was good. It was healthy. It was sincere and honest and I craved something more than blind following arrogant knowingness.

I longed for the God I felt like I read about in the Bible. The one who shocked me when he didn't allow Moses into The Promised Land. The one who sent the angel of death to the door of the Egyptians. The one who used Gideon even when his faith sorely lacked and Peter though his fear momentarily overrode his resolve. The one who watched Japheth's daughter offer her sacrifice. The one who gave Hannah a baby she would not raise. The one who conversed with the devil and seemed to toy with Job's life. The one who leveled Jericho with the sound of the trumpet, the one who saw Steven stoned to death for his belief. The one who used Deborah, Ruth, Esther, to serve his purposes in a male dominated cultural era. The one who would choose a man like Saul, a persecutor of the saints, to shoulder such a great responsibility as writing the Epistles to his brand new church. The one who sent Jesus. Jesus, who was sometimes full of tenderness and compassion and sometimes heavily confrontational. Jesus, who seemed to break all the rules yet stand unified, One with God Almighty. Jesus, who was often surprising, doing things that were sometimes difficult to fathom, like the God I loved to ponder.

The God I couldn't compartmentalize, or explain away with a handful of trite phrases intended to maintain a tidy and secure faith I could claim to have a firm grip upon.

I began looking at Scripture with new eyes. Ones that no longer made room for simple explanations, this means such and such. Period.

It was wonderful and fascinating to begin to finally experience the freedom to think. To find God larger, more vast and broad than I had ever imagined, where I didn't have to understand and explain all His ways. Where He could be mysterious and too big to have to answer to some religious group's fervent desire to capsulize him into a form we could easily swallow.

Maybe all those verses we explained away with the intellect of our minds and the obedience to think what we were taught had alternate ways of viewing them.

This was an enlivening, humbling and emboldening and awakening recognition to me.

Immediately upon our departure, we found a mainstream, non denominational, evangelical church to make home. It was a wonderful place, full of comfort and kindness and new friendships.

Where our cult was rather harsh and confrontational, our new church was gentle and accommodating. It was a breath of fresh air. Lacking experience with any type of typical church setting save the Catholic school upbringing of my youth, I found church a healing balm to my wounded soul. Though in the cult they taught me churches were basically evil, I loved it there. Their brand of "evil" warmed my broken heart.

And still, over time, I realized, I didn't find myself mainstream there either.

The questions still lingered. I recoiled at many of the Acceptable Answers I Was Supposed to Believe. The lingo and catch phrases and consolations spoken in lieu of apparent rational thought made me want to crawl out of my skin. In some ways, it reminded me of the cult that had irrevocably scarred my trust.

I began to awaken to the reality that I may not be a Conservative Republican after all. That I might not believe inter country adoption is a suitable answer whatsoever to the orphan crisis, that though I personally, passionately mourn my husband's sterilization and wish beyond all regret that we had allowed ourselves a unhindered quiver full, birth control and abortion are intricately complicated matters to sort through and that if we really believed in all the bits of the Bible, wouldn't we all be fruitful and multiply to God's content rather than just railing on abortion? After pulling 2 children from their country of birth to raise here, I questioned the ethical purity of this church lauded option and the authenticity of my motivations for doing such a thing. I took the Bible off the throne of worship where I once held it and started to see its magnificence and usefulness in a new, less rigid light.

I questioned the simplicity offered as the single road to salvation. I became friends with a homosexual young man who loved God like I did. I met, learned from, and truly loved a Hindu grandmother from India who taught me so much about devout, unwavering faith. I worked for an Atheist Persian family who showed me more about graciousness and generosity and decency and kindness and humility than I had ever previously known. I wasn't willing to damn them to hell.

Today, here I sit in the tension of not knowing and growing far more comfortable with it than I ever thought I would.

I used to have answers for everything, The Right Way To Look At Things.

Now, I kind of revel in looking at them from different angles.

God is so big, so vast, so great and beyond my pea brain's ability to fully comprehend, by any stretch of the imagination. I like that. He is my unsearchable maker, that I love to search, outside my realm of knowing, yet tenderly known.

I've decided to rip my religious labels off and be at home with that.

And I've learned enough about myself to know, forever a searcher is probably where you'll find me.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

A Yin for Every Yang

Just the other day, there I was, minding my own business lost in the luxurious leisure only the life of a stay at home woman can so lavishly provide when a child sauntered directly into the center of my zen like state and halted it with a scream. "MOM! We have mites in the chicken coop!"

No, no, no! Not the dreaded, next to impossible to eliminate, blood sucking, bird infesting mites. Say it isn't so.

I frantically consulted my dear friend, Internet to rid our sweet hens and their humble abode of the despicable tiny creatures who hold no apparent value on God's Bountiful Green Earth.

Not long into my search I found a sure fire solution to our creepy crawly problem. Yipidee! The item had rave reviews from a wide variety of people and promised to ease our mite contaminated pain. I placed an order on Amazon for The Product Sure To Cure What Ails and breathed a great big sigh of relief.

Until.

Later that evening when I decided to do a little further research. Where, to my dismay, I found equally compelling evidence that this particular solution, the one I placed such high expectations on for gleefully ridding us of the funky buglets who made our hens their home. Just as many as raved about it, ranted. They said it was dangerous and perhaps even deadly, not just for the mites, but for the birds. Boo. 

I cancelled my order. 

And so it goes. I stumbled upon the flip side of the coin.

I was then reminded, (again) for every ying, there is a yang. An alternate view point, a different vantage, a varied perspective, an opposing opinion. Maybe even equally as valid. 

I can't help but think of how true this is when we talk about matters of The Evangelical American Church. (Hobby Lobby, anyone? Ahem.) For each victory applauded, each perspective lauded as Most Righteous and Sincere and Godly, there is a different view. Perhaps not in complete opposition, maybe just a unique way of looking at things.

As I was reading some of the HL drama unfolding online to my husband last night, he asked, "I wonder if any of the merchandise manufactured in factories overseas for Hobby Lobby is produced through exploitation of its employees. Are they all being fairly compensated?"

The notion hadn't yet occurred to me. It was a great question. I couldn't stop thinking about it.

So, I looked it up. And lo and behold, there were others asking the very question. Posing the possibility of the slightest bit of hypocrisy when it comes to valuing life not only in the womb, but after people are born, actual, living, breathing, working and sweating and crying and laughing and laboring to supply a future for themselves and their loved ones, human beings.

Could those journalists reporting on the issue have a biased slant? Of course. Could those shouting victory over the SCOTUS ruling also have a partial point of view? You bet your birth control pills they do. Because we all do. Each and every one of us is guilty of forming an opinion and finding evidence to support it, while turning a blind eye to that which holds contrary. We all do it.

We are also all guilty of the wearing the Blind Hypocritical Badge of Superiority. (Never is this more true than in parenting. Have you ever yelled at your children to stop yelling? Yeah...me neither....)

At the end of the news day, when all the uproar dies down and our minds move on to The Next Big Thing, I am glad, so very grateful and honored and privileged and glad to live in a country where we are free. Free to choose our stances. Free to change our minds. Free to pursue the version of truth (because there will always, until the end of time, be conflicting views of how truth is portrayed) that makes the most sense to our brains, free to inform ourselves to the best of our abilities through various means of research, free to hear the words of others and still form our own opinions, free to develop and listen closely to how our conscience speaks to us, and act accordingly.

Free to ponder the yang beneath the yin.





Sunday, June 29, 2014

Today

Free tickets to The Denver Zoo plus free lunch for our whole family, thank you Children's Hospital! 






Saturday, June 28, 2014

Monday, June 16, 2014

Winning You Over

Imagine yourself a very young child, living in rural southern Ethiopia, roughly age 3. You are strongly attached to the mother who has carried you on her back and nursed you since the day you were born, her only method of being able to reliably provide nourishment for you.

You have a father who loves his family dearly, and four older siblings. Then one day, in a tragic accident, your mother dies. You are left with a grief stricken father who is now unable to work because he can not leave his children behind at home with no one to care for them.

He struggles to feed you.

You don't eat every day.

Things remain this way about a year until finally, your father decides you would be better cared for elsewhere, placed with parents and a family who have the means to support you.

At the age of 4, you don't really understand what that means.

All you know is he has taken you away from the family you loved and you are now in an orphanage in the capital city of Ethiopia.

The nannies don't speak your native language. They can't understand you, you can't understand them.

You watch your dad leave and you are left in this unfamiliar place, entirely foreign to you, where you must learn to make a new home for yourself.

From time to time, your father visits you to see how you are doing. You beg him to take you home. He insists, this is what's best for you.

Slowly, you begin to warm up to the nannies. You learn their language, bit by bit. You make friends with other children in your same position.

You live here 3 years.

It begins to feel like home.

Until once again, you will start again, anew.

This time you are going to a place even more foreign with people even more unfamiliar.

Your visits from your father will stop. You wonder if you'll ever see him again.

These people look nothing like you.

You can't understand them and they can't understand you.

You must learn another new language.

They've taken you to America.

You have a host of new siblings.

There is a lot to eat, but the food isn't good to you.

You miss daily meals of injera.

You miss your nannies and your friends.

You miss the orphanage you called home.

You miss the father you've missed for so long.

Again, you are forced to adapt.

Everything is different here.

The sounds, smells, tastes, nothing is the same.

You long for the comfort of home. Either home.

You crave your mommy.

Why did she have to die?

But you must move on, so you will.

Only this time, you aren't so trusting.

The rug has been pulled out from under you too many times.

You will push down your emotions and not get too close.

Distance is your refuge.

The adults in your life, they are always letting you down, leaving you.

These white grown ups mean nothing to you.

You don't know how long this will last until you are forced to move on again.

You've learned your lesson now.

You won't let these people in.

You will keep them at arm's length.

You won't need them.

You won't love them.

They have permanently taken you away from everything you once knew.

You will coexist only. Learn to cope. Play the game. Say what they want to hear.

You will produce exceptional compliance, scared of not being good enough for adults to keep you around.

But no matter what, you won't give them your heart.

It's been broken too many times.

And that's why 4 years later, your white mother struggles to connect with you.

She strains for it, works for it, yearns for it.

She tries again and again to talk to you, to move close, to reach you.

She wants you to be her daughter, not just in name, but in heart.

As much as you'd like to let your guard down, you just can't.

You avoid her at all costs.

You avoid all adults as much as humanly possible.

No one, not a single one of them will gain your trust, your affection.

Not again.

Though you see how much she wants it, how hard she tries.

And you do get tired of being on the outside looking in.

It's lonely here.

So when you come and talk to her in the kitchen while she's washing dishes, and you've got nothing in particular to say and you are just making the smallest bit of conversation and you are not nervous or scared or resisting or pushing back, you show you are learning, ever so little, to rest in relationship.

Even for just a moment, you sought her out.

Your white mother rejoices.

You have warmed her heart.

But you are scared. Still. So scared.

If you are not good enough, will she leave you too?

So you pull back again.

And the dance continues.

What you don't yet understand, is she will not leave you.

She has committed to you.

She gives her all for your care.

She thinks of you, night and day and day and night.

She will serve your best interest to her full capacity.

She will offer herself to you.

She will love you.

Always.

There is great hope.

For both of you.

Because you are brave.

And she will never stop.

Attempting to win you over.

You are worth it.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

These Magic Moments

Meadow standing in the kitchen, talking to ME (!) while I do dishes on this rainy Saturday afternoon about nothing in particular, just chatting away. No other kids on the room, only she and I. Choosing nearness. Easy, natural flow. Smile on her face, light countenance.

Sweet girl, melting my heart. Little things, big, big progress. {grateful}

Friday, June 06, 2014

The Devil Around the Corner

I was a huge fan at first. It was a deep sigh of validating relief to hear the developmental and neurological how and why our children learned to relate the way they do. I took the information in, scribbled notes, did my homework, carefully pondered what we were taught, and earnestly endeavored toward the end labeled Marked Improvement. But it was creeping up on us all along, from the very first week until the last when we found ourselves at an insurmountable impasse. We just couldn't quite see eye to eye.

We weren't able to square our perspectives enough to reach that profitable zone of comfort. You know, the one where we may not agree on everything but we share a discernible measure of common ground so that I am able to glean from your considerable knowledge and vast insight and garner new truth that will benefit my life and the lives of those I love and care for.

That's why our relationship with our therapist had to end. It just did.

In meeting numero uno, I asked the kindly gentleman to please, for the love of all things sacred and Holy, counsel us in a secular manner. We are paying for his expertize in the field of childhood trauma and attachment, for tools that would better equip us to handle the particular situation with which we reside. We aren't shelling out valuable time, energy and substantial wads of hard earned cash so that he may demonize M & F's home/family of origin, express to our adopted children their imminent need for water baptism, or repeatedly relay to me how God placed them in my life to teach me what I need to learn. (All of which took place.)

He      just       could      not      resist.

Thinking back on it, my feeling is that it all boils down to one basic reality. Though he and we alike place ourselves in the line formed for Followers of Christ, there are immense chasms of difference in how we see our faith playing out as we meander about east of Eden where life is far from untarnished. We both pursue Truth, we simply find and define it in really dissimilar ways.

It was at that initial appointment, the one where I implored the man to please leave religion out of this professional arrangement, when he inquired about the state of affairs in our house regarding missing items, broken belongings, financial pressures, fuzzy or foggy thought patterns, forgetfulness, and other indications that the enemy was in our midst.

Fuzzy or foggy thoughts? Sir, have you ever lived with 7 children? They siphon out each one of your precious brain cells you used to rely so heavily on, they mush them into a ball with their perpetual flurry and return them to the confines of your head with a mere shadow of the clarity you once held. Forevermore I fear, my thoughts will fog.

Well, and our dishwasher did break last week. That was unexpected, a bit of a hassle, and it did cost several hundred dollars to replace it. Wait a second, could it be Diablo himself entering our home and destroying our family's ability to WASH DISHES WITH EASE? Say it isn't so.

I mean, it couldn't have broken because it was exasperated. Worn thin and tuckered out from being run 3X each and every 24 hour period of its sad, hopeless existence doomed to the scrubbing of plates and bowls and glasses and silverware all the livelong day. Poor thing. Washing up for a family of 9 is no joke. RIP dear dishwasher. You served us well and I fear we may have taken advantage of your tireless labor. May you find joy in the dishwasher graveyard where there's neither dirty pot nor pan to be found.

Seriously.

I know the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Yes.

But I won't look for him in all the nooks and crannies of my beautiful existence on this earth. I just can't do it.

I live a wonderful life in a free country where my refrigerator is so full of the colorful, nutritious food of my choosing that I had to buy a second one to house all the bounty we store. I have a husband I love who would honestly go to the ends of the realms of this earth for my benefit. I have borne five healthy, robust, loud and sometimes obnoxious children. My home is on 35 acres of gorgeous Colorado prairie with majestic mountain views and the sky is so big and wide and open and blue it takes my breath away.

I am afforded a life in the land of plenty, the US of A where I am free to pursue the path of my choosing and there are a myriad of resources at my fingertips to help me do just that.

I am able to raise and educate and feed and clothe my children and to instill my own values and manage to have a whole lot of fun along the way because I have so few worries about their safety or need for medical attention or general overall health. Barring unforeseen catastrophe, their futures are theirs to claim, exactly as I have carved mine.

By American standards, my life is very simple. But from my vantage point, I perceive wealth exceeding my wildest dreams.

It is our children's parents who have suffered. The ones who felt they had no better option than to place their beloveds in the hands of another to provide what they could not offer themselves. They are the ones who have lost a spouse and have no means of affording the medical attention their children needed. They live within the confines of a continual search for enough food to survive the day, the week, the month.

I am the one who was able to rally the resources necessary to facilitate an inter country adoption. By all measures of tangible measurement, I am extraordinarily rich by comparison.

If anyone could easily accuse the devil of having a stronghold in their lives, it may be them.

I refuse to give him credit for lurking around the corners of my big, beautiful, abundant life full of ample amounts of every single thing I could ever need and beyond. A life where I am the one able to raise other people's kids, because I have more than enough.

Nothing has happened to me that is worthy of great complaint. I am a fortunate, fortunate woman.

Any hardship I face I see as simply part of the toil. The sweat of the brow aspect of living in a fallen world, working hard to keep the hope of meeting Him face to face alive and well.

A little perspective, if you please.
Picnic lunch with sweet, long time friends.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

What I look for I will find.

Ambling about the minor metropolitan known as Colorado Springs with my husband in our giant bus of a vehicle, pole after pole is pointed out to me, a smattering of lines attached, streaming from each of them. "We changed that one out last Thursday when I worked late." "I did that one when I was an apprentice on Moss' crew." "This one here caught on fire." An electrical lineman for Colorado Springs Utilities for nearly 20 years, the man is impassioned with, enthralled over, captivated by power lines. They're not something I would ever, not once, notice if left to my own oblivious-to-such-crucial-matters devices. I mean, I covet electricity as much as anyone. Use it every. single. blessed. day. But the method of its movement to from point A to its arrival at destination B would not be regularly considered, if it weren't for the shorn head man that shares my illustrious electricity charged home.

I wonder how many people are like me. Tether-fully obliged to the wondrous illumination it provides our existence, yet unconscious of the awe of its production and the precious nature of its carefully constructed, maintained by lineman like my husband, route. And that's just electricity.

It happens to be a lot like me with babies.

Haven't you seen the sheer number of pregnancy announcements dotting the pages of social media?! I ask my friends. "Uh, no. Not really. I haven't paid any attention." They reply.

Everywhere we go, I take note of women with gloriously swollen bellies, "we're expecting!" proclamations, and newly born, sweet smelling, feathery haired infants. I Can Not Help It. After spending the last 4+ years yearning and longing and hoping and praying and trying for (which is a lot of work, right Bobby?) a tiny little wee one of my own, my senses are primed. I can sniff them out anywhere. Pregnant Women. Newborn Babies. Wonder of All Wonders. The Gift of Birth. Nary a single one will escape my awareness. As happy as I am for friends and love ones to experience the joy I so desire, each one pierces my heart a deep shade of green.

Yet most of my peers, gleefully beyond that stage of their lives, scarcely notice at all.

It reminds me of the acupuncturist who recently asked me if any of my tattoos were Chinese symbols. Of course my tattoos are not Chinese symbols! I don't know the first thing about Eastern medicine, very little about acupuncture, and harbor shamefully scant knowledge about China itself, for that matter. (Except for the next to near impossibility of purchasing any actual thing that was not produced there. I am certainly aware of that.)

She is an doctor of eastern medicine. She sees eastern symbols. Her senses are honed, her mind studied, her perception molded by the reality of her life in the making.

I can't help but wonder how my own life could be enhanced by shifting my expectation, sharpening my senses to see what is lovely and breathtaking and wondrous and excellent and common but rarely noticed. What if I allowed myself to take a beat with greater regularity, to slow down and express gratitude and praise and goodness, to engage in the exquisite simplicity all around me, to marvel in the faces and actions of the children I love, in the friends I keep, the husband who adores power lines?

What if I focused my intention toward expecting great, everyday things? Not naive extravagance, or the absence of heartache that befalls us all, but genuine bountiful, prolific, unabashed, basic, every day good? What if I polished my senses through routine practice to witness the best of what my moments had to offer me, with a full, glad heart?

Would I see more good, would I find more extraordinary in the every day momentum of my vapor of a life if I trained my eyes to look for it? I suspect I would.

My guess is we all might.

It might even be worth the effort.

* Our first salad bar for dinner of the season. A summer treat everyone likes, especially mom because no matter what you choose off the line every plate is a picture of health.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What to drink, what to drink...?

Now tell me ladies that you do not want something light and fruity and cold and refreshing, yet still healthy (and not full of sugar!) to drink on those glorious, long, hot summer days. Go ahead. I won't believe you. ;)

I saw a version of this drink online somewhere recently and it has become my new ADDicTION. It's crazy good. 

Here's how you make it: Step a few fruity tea bags for several minutes until they're nice and strong (I have black cherry and citrus kiss here, I mixed the two), add some cold water (how much? I have no idea. Whatever tastes good. I'm allergic to implements of measurement.) add a smidgen of honey to sweeten things up, pour in a generous splash of your favorite ACV (you KNOW I'm a fan from WAY back of this stuff) and/or a squeeze of fresh lemon to give it a little zing, pour over ice and tada! 

A gorgeous glass of refreshment able to make your taste buds sing without leaving you feeling weighted down with syrupy sweet carbonation. Seriously. It will keep you happily drinking all day. (And if you add a little vodka, maybe all night too...:)) 


Monday, May 26, 2014

On the Cult

Did I ever share with you the story about the religious cult I *forced* my husband to participate in shortly after we met, when I was 20 and he 21, if he were to have the *privilege* of dating *me*?

It's a real knee slapper, letmetellyou. 

He tells it best, really. When he says he wanted me so much he would have done just about anything. He was blinded by zealous lust youth. It's the only possible explanation that makes a shred of sense. Why else would an otherwise intelligent, well studied, smart and resourceful and talented and capable young man bite off such an indulgent piece of insanity pie? 

We remained a full decade, the entire rest of our twenties through the birth of our second child, there. Criticizing the satan blinded world for what they clearly did not realize, for blithely refusing Our Superior God, (did they not know who they were saying no to?!) witnessing the "good news" of of stringent adherence to a wacky version of Bible worship, tirelessly working to recruit, not to increase our dwindling numbers but the save those poor, unassuming wretches from themselves, convincing ourselves we were The One And Only Faithful Remnant, moving The Prevailing Word throughout the obviously needy world. Culting. 

We changed our vocabulary to omit words like "creative" and "hoping" and "trying" because they were not cult approved. We "believed" for this and "believed" for that and we "believed" the confession of belief would yield receipt of our confession. We did not try, we endeavored.

We called those bold enough to depart "cop outs." We had to. We couldn't dare admit they were wise to something we refused to see.

We claimed the promises of God and prevailed in outreach and brought down the devil's strongholds wrestling not with flesh and blood but with spiritual wickedness in high places.

As a young married couple leading a home fellowship we reproved and corrected people with children regarding how to raise them because "the word gave us the authority."

We tossed cliches around like beach balls, nodding in agreement with our fellow cultees over our own carbon copied, cut-out rightness.

We wore the clothes they told us to wear. Sunday best, casually nice, casual.

We turned in our personal schedules to prove we structured our time well. We asked permission for travel. Married two years, we asked permission to have a baby.

Our critiques did not end with the religion free lost, it was most harshly doled out for the devout who did not believe exactly as we did. Those who thought Jesus and God were one in the same, those who drew consolation from the notion their loved ones awaited them in heaven instead of in the ground awaiting the trumpet of The Lord, those who prayed The Lord's Prayer and baptized babies. All those who found themselves outside the bounds of The God We Made.

The cult took a heavy hit when several of its leaders, including the highest acting Man of God was rightly accused of and sued for sexual exploitation of members of the flock. The hypocrisy was exposed, for all to see. But explanations were made to minimize infraction, as they so often are. And though red flags flew and the sting of betrayal wounded, we stayed put. Good cultists, we were.

It's all so utterly cringe worthy to me now.

Though wrought with many years of tear stained regret that burdens and darkens our earliest days spent together, the ones that should have been filled with lightness and fun and the excitement of dating and planning a wedding and merging two lives into one,  I can easily enough understand what led me there, what lured my husband-to-be in, and what kept us for so long. Still.

It's that universal craving for belonging, the comfort of assurance, of knowingness, of being on that one right, most heavenly side. It's the fearful feeling deep inside in the dark of night that a God I can't compartmentalize is simply too scary. The one I fold into The Great Origami Creator and keep in my pocket laden with predictability, that's a God I can trust. It's the notion of security I claim when I am sure I know Him well enough to accurately anticipate His moves, His motives, His thoughts toward me, His thoughts toward those outside me...them.

It all amounts to a pretty massively smug, safe, elitist rush.

When we left the cult, we left everyone, every single one of our social connections, behind. That's the way it works. You are, for all intents and purposes, shunned should you choose to walk away.

*****

More on what came next another day....


Taken on Mother's Day. The frigid day I sharked my kids with 7 consecutive Uno wins.

Monday, May 19, 2014

"God Placed These Kids With You To Teach You What You Need To Learn."

Looking directly into my eyes, he said those exact words.

This was the moment I wondered if we should have hired a non Christian therapist.

They are the very words that made me want to fly out of my seat in his office and go somewhere far away to a land where phrases like that were never uttered aloud. The words that caused my skin to crawl and the tiny hairs to stand up on the back of my neck. The ones that alert my heart that it must immediately rise and pound and get stuck directly in my throat. Where I feel my whole body begin to quiver, not solely in outrage, but also in sorrow and grief over the trite expression offered in an attempt to grant consolation.

Maybe I am mistaking something. It's hard for me to be clear. Are we saying that our Ethiopian children's parents were placed in a position that they were unable to provide the basic needs of their little ones to such a degree that they felt their best option was to relinquish their child's care to a family of greater affluence so that I could learn something I needed to know at the hand of God? That these kids were taken from their homes and culture and language and familiarity and comfort and siblings and their parents, who loved them dearly, where they must forge a new life with an entirely new identity wrought with struggle for healthy human attachment and a sense of worth and belonging, so that I could grow?

It seems as if the Ethiopian members of this arrangement got the bum deal while I'm getting precisely what I require for personal growth and spiritual development. 

Gulp.

Why do I find myself less than comforted by that assertion?

Going through some tough stuff with Meadow this weekend we watched her Lifebook video together. It's the one where her father is interviewed at length. Where her siblings are introduced, one by one. Where they clap their hands and sing a song she must have known when she was little. Where their home is shown and their way of life is shared including food preparation and farming their land. It's the one where her father speaks of his love for his baby girl, named Masso for blessing, where he tears up while telling of his love for her mother and his devastation at her death. The one where the faces of each of her brothers and sisters reflect like a mirror to her own. Where she was loved and wanted, but her needs were not easily met. Where he talked of hope for a better life for her, with strangers who had the ability to provide what he could not.

A life where, as it turns out, she would have her needs amply met but she would feel lost and lonely and sad and far removed from those who have given her everything she now has, while at the same time far removed from those she lost. Where those who provide for her physically face extraordinary difficulty in helping her feel any sense of closeness to them, worthy of her relative physical abundance.

Masso was the youngest of five at the time she was relinquished.

I too have a baby girl who is the youngest of five, my sweet, precious, treasure, Clover.

I really can't fathom the concept of someone across the world requiring a bit of personal growth that called for me turning over my beloved girl for them to raise so God could teach them what they need to learn. As a privileged American, it's not something I have to consider.

As the one with monetary means, I have the luxury of looking at our inter country adoption as my blessing, as benefiting my spiritual existence while I gain important life lessons, as my service toward the impoverished, and I can pat my back and breathe it all in and count myself benevolent for my good deed and fortunate that God has provided exactly what I must have to come into my fullest self.

But I won't.

I can't forget the price that has been paid by my children's parents nor the fee that the girl I now call my daughter must continue to summon as she finds her way in this bountiful place she feels she doesn't belong.

And I honestly hope I never do.



Wednesday, May 14, 2014

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