Saturday, December 15, 2012

Isn't There Anyone Who Knows What Christmas is All About?

A Christmas meditation for our friends at camp, at our annual Christmas party.  
"...the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus." Luke 1:30-31
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, 'God with us.' "  Matthew 1:23
Christmas is the celebration of God with us.
We celebrate the birth of God's Son,
of God himself.
But God was with us before that night.

An angel came to Mary,
and told her she would conceive
and give birth to a baby,
and He would be God Himself.
God came into the world,
not on a celebrated night in Bethlehem,
but roughly nine months before,
when He slipped into the womb of an insignificant young girl from Nazareth.

God was with us,
in flesh,
on the earth,
growing quietly in a dark and secret place.
The world may not have known,
but Mary knew.
And those who were closest to Mary knew.
Angels came to Joseph,
and her cousin Elizabeth,
and Elizabeth's husband Zacharias,
and even the unborn baby who was John the Baptist
knew that God was with us.

Fear not, God is with us.
The days passed.
Fear not, God is with us.
The weeks passed.
Fear not, God is with us.
The months passed.
"Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered."  Luke 2:4-6
God did not come unexpectedly.
Mary's days were completed for her to be delivered.
When a woman has carried a baby until that day of completion,
she is not surprised by his arrival.
She may be frightened and weary and excited....
but she is not surprised.
Mary was young and healthy,
but she was also enormously, painfully pregnant,
traveling far from the safety and comfort of her home.
It is likely that she and Joseph hoped beyond hope,
that this baby would see fit to stay put
until they had completed their errand and returned home.
But of course He did not.
The day was upon them,
and nothing would hold it back.
"And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."  Luke 2:7
God came into the wide, wide world,
and found there was no room for Him.
A young woman labored and birthed Him
in a tiny cave devoted to sheltering livestock.
She had awaited His arrival,
anticipated the possibility that He would come
somewhere along their journey.
She had carried the swaddling cloths
with her,
just in case.
But there was no room in the inn.
Every bed was filled,
and so the infant was wrapped carefully,
and placed in a feeding trough for safekeeping.

And it was enough.
He was small,
and vulnerable,
and in His humanity,
unaware.
Like any baby,
He cried,
and nursed,
and slept.
God is with us,
it was enough.

 "Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.  Then the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.'
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
 'Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!' "  Luke 2:8-14
I had joked to a few of you ahead of time,
that I would read this passage aloud and say,
"That's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown."
Then we could all sing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing"
with our heads tilted upward,
and shout "Merry Christmas Charlie Brown",
and we'd be done.

And I was of course joking.
It couldn't possibly be that simple.
Or short.

I was thinking of all of you,
as I read through these verses.
I've heard them read and taught so many times
I can't guess the number.
Ideas jump out at me.
I've heard it taught
that God came amidst the busyness of a Roman census,
and how I should be careful not to be too busy
to notice that God has come.
I've heard it taught that God came,
and there was no room for him in the inn,
and how I should be careful
to make room for God in my life.
I have heard it taught
that angels came,
and told their message of great joy to the shepherds,
because the rich important people of the world
weren't listening for their news,
and how I should be careful not to get too rich or important,
lest I miss that good news too.

And the thing is this.
I think that's all hogwash,
and it takes the punch out of a message that is supposed to be good tidings of great joy. 

God is with us.
He chose to come when people were too busy to take much notice,
mainly because that's how people are.
There would never be a time or a place
in all of human history
when people were not wrapped up in their own cares and concerns.
He came at the most inconvenient of times and places,
because that's what our times and places are.
He comes during finals week.
He comes when we have a big move,
or a job deadline.
He comes when the car breaks down.
And He comes when we are at the bedside of a sick loved one.
God is with us.

God is with us.
He chose to come when there was no room for Him.
Because there is never room for Him.
We don't know how to make room,
and so He comes,
and fills whatever space He is given,
even if that space is very small and very dirty.
God is with us.

God is with us.
He chose to split the night sky,
in a certain place,
at a certain time.
Just beneath that split between heaven and earth,
were shepherds keeping watch.
But it could have just as easily been city folks on a rooftop,
or nomads with their camels in the desert.
It could have been men or women,
rich or poor,
young or old,
because the angels' news was for ALL people.
God is with us.
A glorious God that wants to give us peace,
and love for one another.
By being with us.

Dear ones,
I know your lives are busy, and crowded, and complicated.
You are waiting for God to come,
when the dust settles,
when you get things in order.
You are feeling guilty because you want God to come
but you feel as though you haven't made room for Him.
God is with us.
In all of our tight filthy spaces,
God is with us.
And wherever we find ourselves,
He never stops wanting to be with us.
That's what Christmas is all about.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Dear friends from the adoption world, I don't post much about adoption anymore.  Life has changed, and what used to be front and center, is now a little more peripheral.  Life with my children...bio and adopted both, is now just life.  It is hectic and hard, wonderful and wearing.  Issues related to adoption still impact us tremendously, but they are less obvious.  Like a mammoth underwater structure that everything must flow around, it influences the currents of our lives, though it may not be visible at the surface.

In light of this, I have struggled recently with the thoughts in my head, uncertain where to put them.  I have questioned the wisdom of putting them here.  I have tried to steer this blog along a course that is gentle and positive.  For the most part, life is just that.  But Christmas is approaching and with it comes a flood of raw emotion that is hard to ignore.

I have always loved Christmas.  As a small child I delighted in every single part of the holiday season.  I loved the cheesy store displays, the music and decorations.  I loved the special foods, and church services, and school programs.  As soon as I was old enough to craft and create, I was busily making gifts for everyone I knew.

When I got married, I devoted huge amounts of time and energy to the Christmas season.  I cooked and baked elaborate feasts and platters of baked goods.  I decorated every nook and cranny.  I played Christmas music day and night, and never grew tired of it.  I sewed matching Christmas outfits for the children, and had them photographed.  We caroled, and sang in cantatas, and dressed up as angels and wise men.  Gifts were made and purchased, and carefully wrapped and adorned.  To me, it truly was "the most wonderful time of the year".

And now I dread Christmas.  At best, the thought of it wearies me.  At worst, it causes a sense of anxiety and panic to rise.

I have lots of friends in the adoption world, and there is something they have named a traumaversary.  Which is to say, that even if we don't mark it on the calendar, trauma marks itself on the "calendar" of us.  The mind and body somehow know that special time of year when they were thrown into chaos, and they will let us know, even if we don't register it on a cognitive level.

Several years ago, four little girls came to live with us, five days before Christmas.  It seemed so right, to get them home before the holiday, and so we pushed so hard it hurt, and we made it happen.  I still remember that first Christmas morning.  I felt shell shocked.  I had barely slept for a week, juggling the unfathomable needs of the six children and trying to prepare for a most special Christmas.

We sat together in the living room, and the contrast was stark.  Four little girls screamed and squealed as they mowed through piles of gifts, often trampling one gift to get to the next.  But so many people had lovingly contributed to making this time special for them.  There was something so magical about four little girls finding their home at Christmas.  At the same time, two little boys sat quietly and watched.  Almost no one had remembered that they were the exact same ages as the little girls, and enjoyed presents as well.

That same day I remember feeling a foreshadowing of what was to be.  As the children swam through masses of gifts, I felt the disapproval of visiting relatives watching the proceeding.  Unspoken words hung in the air, and they said, "What sort of savages are these?  They will require firm discipline."  At the same time, dozens of absent gift givers also crowded the room.  They had strong opinions as well, and mouthed the words, "If only you love them enough, they will be just fine."

For the next year we dangled from that wildly swinging pendulum of strong discipline and strong love, and like every other year, at the end of it, the holiday season came round again.  This  second Christmas came with one less little girl, and a deep deep sense of failure.  The house was scarcely decorated, with just a lighted creche in the fireplace and stockings lining the mantle.  Dinner was plain shepherd's pie made with gifted venison.  There were no visitors.  The pile of gifts surrounding the fireplace was modest.

Every child exclaimed over the perfectness of their gifts, the deliciousness of the meal, the beauty of the creche when the lights were low.  But over the quiet voices of the children, I could still hear the voices of the uninvited guests in that room.  Voices that said I had not been consistent enough in discipline, committed enough in love.  And I found that although the chaos had quieted, I still felt shell shocked.  Because the days leading up to that very special day had been fraught with every sort of crazy-making I could imagine, with the efforts of my children to destroy the very thing they so longed for and looked forward to.

The following year we finalized adoptions just before the holidays...sealed with a once in a lifetime family trip.  And so my children set about trying to destroy something even bigger than the holiday season.  They determined to destroy the bonds of family.  In an attempt to prove that nothing was forever, and most especially a family's love, they ramped up the crazy-making to unimaginable levels.  Shell shocked was the order of the day...and of the entire holiday season, and of many months to follow.

And somehow in my mind, the backdrop for all of this is sparkling lights and decked halls.  In my mind, the soundtrack for all of this is carols and Christmas movies.  The smells of ginger cookies and roasting turkey make my anxiety rise.  The thought of getting everyone dressed in holiday best and loaded into the car for the drive to Christmas Eve service, makes me want to crawl into my bed and pull the covers over my head.

Years have come and gone.  Christmas isn't the crazy-making time it once was.  It's actually pretty peaceful and pleasant for the most part.  The family has expectations of comfort and joy, and I work hard to deliver.  We all do.  But the holidays are not the same as they once were, and neither are any of us.  Life is, most days, gentle and positive, but there is still that mammoth beneath the surface, and at certain seasons it can cause ripples if one knows where and when to look.

Monday, November 5, 2012

More Buzz

"Jews say grace at the end of the meal. I do not feel we are less thankful than those who say it at the beginning."

Blessings to the commenter  who pointed  this out.  I did not mean to make a statement of superiority, like saying grace before a meal gives me the moral high ground.  It was an analogy, and all of them break down at a point.  

Rituals of thankfulness are not locked in stone.  I may give thanks before the meal, or after.  I may say a blessing over the children as they leave the house, or as they return.  I may express my gratitude in the morning as I rise, or in the evening as I fall into my bed.

I was simply challenging myself to examine my own routines and understand where I am so abysmally lacking in gratitude.  Where I am so prone to attach requirements to a situation, in order to be thankful.  I am the child that says, "And if the food is yucky, we don't have to say grace!"  

....which doesn't sound anything like this beautiful Jewish blessing I found in my searching.

"Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who, in His goodness, provides sustenance for the entire world with grace, with kindness, and with mercy. He gives food to all flesh, for His kindness is everlasting. Through His great goodness to us continuously we do not lack food, and may we never lack food, for the sake of His great Name. For He, benevolent God, provides nourishment and sustenance for all, does good to all, and prepares food for all His creatures whom He has created, as it is said: You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. Blessed are You, Lord, who provides food for all."

I could certainly benefit from a recitation of such a prayer at the end of all my meals.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thankfulness...What's the Buzz?

Yesterday I was in a great deal of pain.  We drove to the doctor's office, hoping for some relief.  For distraction, in the car, on the way, beloved husband and I were discussing some things we had read and watched lately, concerning thankfulness.  Gratefulness, thanksgiving, is all the buzz right now.  People are trying to incorporate it into their daily lives, and so of course it is running all over my FB news feed....most especially this month, with Thanksgiving (the holiday) on its way, but also before that for quite some time.

When we arrived, we sat in the waiting room, and I thumbed through a magazine, that announced the benefit of thankfulness as one of its cover pieces.  I was anxious to read it, since it seemed to continue the discussion we had been having in the car.  I wondered it if would add anything to the buzz I had been hearing for some time now, and it did.

The thing about thankfulness, is that it seems so obvious.  I did a bible word search the other day, and almost every time you find the word thanks, thankful, thanksgiving....you find the words joy, goodness, mercy, grace.  And of course it makes perfect sense.  God gives us the good stuff, and our natural response is thanksgiving.

Or, not so much.  Because seriously, if that's the case, Americans should be the happiest, most joyful, most thankful people on the planet.  And even more than that, American children should be.  But we're not, and they're not.  We might acknowledge that we should be, but we are definitely not.

You say, Wait!  The new information coming in says we have it all backwards, oddly enough.  Being thankful isn't a byproduct, not by a long shot.  Being thankful is the fuel.  Happiness, and comfort, and blessing don't produce thankfulness....instead thankfulness produces those things.  Or perhaps it just removes the scales from our eyes, and lets us see what has been there all along.  And perhaps when we can see the beauty of our own lives, we are free to make more of it.

The piece that I read yesterday, spoke of how unnatural this process is.  How quickly we as human creatures move from gratefulness to apathy to complaint.  The author spoke of a device, to help safeguard against this natural progression.  She said that we must create rituals of thankfulness.  She freely acknowledged that this was not an original idea.  She pointed to the ritual of saying grace before a meal.

It made me think of how many times I have heard both children and adults alike, advocate for switching grace to the end of the meal.  Whenever some clever soul has brought this novel concept up for review, I have always heard the same points covered.  That we should give thanks when we are "really thankful", implying that when we have enjoyed our meal and filled ourselves, that is the point of true thankfulness.  And it has never gone unmentioned, that if the meal does not meet our expectations, or is in some way deemed unenjoyable, we can opt out of thankfulness.  This is always said as a joke, and followed by a round of laughter, but it is no joke.  It is the truest part of the discussion.

This is how we live our lives.  We pull up to the table and dig in to the meal spread before us.  When we are full, we push ourselves back, and think of what comes next.  We forget to give thanks for the meal that was placed before us, and the fullness of our bellies.  Even worse, we critique the meal.  And as we rise from the table, we wonder about the vague sense of dissatisfaction we carry with us.

The author of the piece wrote of how she had been intentionally creating rituals of thankfulness in her own life, and of course they were unique to her particular situation, but the concept was sound and easily applied elsewhere.  So today I went back to my bible word search, and I noticed something I had missed previously.  Before, I had skimmed over all of the references in the early books.  The ones that talked about making sacrifices and offerings.  In my mind, these verses didn't apply.  They were just some ancient code that I didn't follow or even know much about.  But this time, as I scrolled through dozens of references, I realized that I was looking at just what the buzz is all about.

Thanksgiving is a sacrifice.  It is laying the table like an altar.  We carefully lay the cloth, place the dishes, bring the food that we've prepared.  We call the household members to the table, and everyone finds their place.  And then we join together in the ritual of thankfulness.  Our eyes are closed to the beauty of the table.  We hope that the food will be nourishing and enjoyable.  We hope for enough.  But how can we know?  And yet we give thanks.

May we realize that we pull up to the table a hundred, nay, perhaps a thousand times a day.  May we stop mistaking the food on the table for the fuel of life.  Instead, may we learn to lay the table like an altar and pause to give thanks, every single time.   

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I Ask Thee to Stay

"The Tree" when it came to live with us in 2004
The fall days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting colder.  The trees are dropping their leaves, and I have a burning need to cook apples, and pumpkins, and cranberries.  At this time of year, my soundtrack is Christmas music.  I know Christmas is still a long way off, but I just love the old familiar songs so much, that I always jump the gun and begin playing them early.  I love almost all of it.  I love the sacred hymns, and the silly secular stuff.  I'm very partial to Bing Crosby and Amy Grant.  With a little bit of Elvis and Dolly.

When I was a little girl, we had a small silver Christmas tree.  We slid the silver "branches" out of paper sleeves, and stuck them into holes in what amounted to a broomstick painted silver.  Then we hung shiny colored balls on it, and we were done.  We didn't even have the creaking color wheel.  It was the most beautiful tree I had ever seen.  I used to lay on the couch in early December and ponder its beauty, and vow to myself, that I would stay on that couch, in that very spot, until Christmas morning.

My parents would put a stack of Christmas albums on the record player, and I would lay there squinting my eyes to blur the colors of the shining tree, and listening to the words of the songs.  I loved them all.  I couldn't choose a favorite.  They all evoked emotion that I associated with different facets of the holidays.  They still do.

The other day I found myself humming a song that has been relegated to the children.  I loved that song as  child.  It poured itself into my heart and comforted me.  

"I love Thee Lord Jesus, look down from the sky,
And stay by my cradle 'til morning is nigh."

It spoke to me, a small child, laying on a scratchy couch, under a granny square afghan, that Jesus could see me, see that I loved Him, and stand watch over me through the night.  Because I was a child.  Because I was small, and vulnerable.

"Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay,
Close by me forever, and love me I pray."

The little child in their cradle, looking up at Jesus, who is keeping watch.  A stroke of brilliance.  Be near me always.  I don't know it yet, but every bed will feel like a cradle, and I will always  be small and vulnerable.

Years will come and go, and I will still wrap myself in an afghan in the quiet house, and squint my eyes, and see that the ragged tree is beautiful.  I will still lean into the season of "fear not" and "great joy".  

I will still sit on the edges of the grownup conversations and feel uncertain, and worried that someone will ask me a question.  I will see someone beautiful, and I will want to touch them, but I will tuck my hands behind my back instead.  

I will laugh and be silly, and feel as though the world is filled to the brim with funny things.  I will weep, and believe that my tears will have no end.  

I will look into a mirror and expect to see my own childish image, and instead there will be a woman with lines on her face and snow in her hair.  She knows it now, but sometimes she forgets, that every bed will feel like a cradle, and I will always be small and vulnerable.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Trust Fall

A very long time ago, I used to work as a facilitator at our camp challenge course.  Where we used to zip through the trees, and balance on wires.  Sometimes we did trust falls, but mostly I stayed away from those platforms, unless I had a seriously focused group on board.  In the beginning, I used to think trust falls were simple...almost too easy and cliche.  But then I took a challenge course training, and I never looked at them the same again.

The first thing the training did, was make me become the faller.  Before that, falling was purely hypothetical to me.  But before we were allowed to fall, we had to understand several things about falling.  We needed to know that fallers varied in their levels of trust.  Some fallers were anxious from the moment they stepped onto the platform, and no amount of coaxing from the catchers would change that.  Some fallers were completely trusting until the moment they launched themselves backward into space.  But all fallers had a moment of panic as they hovered in midair.  

It was an actual phenomenon, that the brain would signal the body in that moment, "I should have been caught by now!"  In that millisecond, the brain would scream to the faller's body that the catchers had failed, and they were headed straight for the ground.  

In this moment it was critical that the faller know this, and be prepared for this.  If they were not, they would pull their hands from the carefully configured and knitted position, and give a catcher a black eye or a bloody nose.  Or they would jackknife in an attempt to save themselves, and cut through the mesh of waiting arms with a rocketing posterior.  Knowing wasn't a guarantee, but it helped.

We also had to learn to be catchers.  On the ground, behind the platform, we would stand in two lines, facing one another.  Our arms were outstretched in front of us, alternating with the arms of the catchers opposite us.  From the platform the faller would see two lines of upturned, encouraging faces, and one line of woven arms.  We would not fail the faller.  One person was not strong enough to catch them, but all of us woven together, could cushion their fall, and set them softly on their feet once again.

In a perfect trust falling world, that is true.  Most of the time that is true.  But not always.  As facilitators, we were always instructed to position ourselves at the place where the faller's head would land.  And then we were told the truth.  The catchers don't always catch.  They mean to catch, but somehow they don't.  No one really knows why, but if one person pulls a hand away suddenly to slap a biting mosquito, instinctively the whole group may also withdraw their hands.  One moment there, and the next moment gone.

As a facilitator, it was our job to watch for this, and to literally throw ourselves under the faller if this were to happen.  At all cost, save their head.

Life is a lot like a trust fall.  Relationships are a lot like a trust fall.  That's why we do them.  They give us a tangible, discussable adrenaline rush.  People always have a lot to talk about during the debriefing time after trust falls.

In life I have been both the catcher and the faller.  

In life I have been one set of hands in a woven line, catching and setting down gently.  I have been the catcher who took a hit to the face when the faller panicked.  I have been the catcher who became distracted in an instant, and pulled my hands away, I know not why.  In life I have taken a dive to protect a head or two.  Not often, but it has happened.  

In life I have fallen and felt many arms bear me up.  In life I always, always panic, certain that I will not be caught.  I have flung my arms up to protect myself, and taken out more than a few catchers.  I have tucked my body in self protection, and made myself into a dangerous missile.  Very rarely in life, I have fallen and hit the dirt.  But always there has been someone who saved my head.  They ended up on the ground with me, bruised and dirty, but we were saved.

To this day, my blood begins to rise loudly in my ears, whether I am squaring the backs of my heels with the edge of the platform, or standing on the ground with my arms outstretched.  To fall or to catch, either one is filled with exhilaration and risk, unpredictable enough to never become easy or cliche.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

RIP Baby Mouse



I did the best I could, but I'm a very poor mouse mother.  After four days, his eyes were still closed, so he was very, very young.  Too young.  Here's a post from way back when, that explains why I get myself in these situations.  And please, no more mice for awhile.  Feedings every hour 24/7?  I need to recover.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Broken Cars

Have you ever been driving a car when the engine seizes up?  I haven't, but my husband and son both have.  I happen to know it's a pretty bad situation as cars go.  The car stops, and it doesn't start up again.  Not until you dump every last cent you have into it, and then some.

After you seize up an engine, it feels like you are attuned to every tiny buzz, scrape, or whine that your car engine makes.  Your heart leaps up into your throat.  Is it happening again?  Maybe it isn't really fixed after all.  And all the money is gone.

As time and the car roll along for a bit, you relax.  You hear the little noises under the hood, and you're less likely to panic.  It's probably nothing major...probably nothing at all.  And of course you're right.  Usually it's nothing.

The more time that goes by, the more distant the memory of the seizing engine.  The odds of it happening again seem remote.  You find yourself barely thinking of it, and unless something major goes wrong, the memory continues to fade.

Life is like that sometimes.  The longer we go between stressful situations, the more likely we are to begin to believe they will never crop up again.  We're basically shocked when the car breaks down again.  It just doesn't seem right to have to keep fixing the same old stuff.  But it does, and we do.

And that's about it.  No great words of wisdom here...just the simple acknowledgement that this is the way of our lives, from the time we become responsible for ourselves until the grave.  In a way it's kind of beautiful.  I'm not saying it's particularly nice to drain your savings account to keep your car on the road.  But fixing things I mean.  Finding out what's wrong and figuring out what to do to make it work.  Catching a ride with a friend while your car is in the shop.  Walking to town instead.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Gratitudes in Pictures

I ate this mystery squash for lunch.  I still don't know who left it for us.

This afternoon I took a walk.

I sat on this swing....

....and enjoyed the view.

If you start here....

....you may end up here.

Looking down....

....or looking up.

The road home is always most beautiful....

....as are the flowers by your own front door.


My supper, prepared with love....

....and my dishes washed when I'm done.


My mouse.  A little weird.  Probably a whole other post.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Jumpstart Your Ministry

I was reading a brochure the other day.  It was an informational brochure for a ministry that provided helps of various kinds, in a voluntary capacity.  Cool.  Except the brochure talked more about who they didn't serve, than who they did.  I loved the sorts of things they do.  I loved the idea that an organization or group could contact them and say, "Hey!  We could use some help."  And they would go there and help.  Well, kind of.  But only if you were a certain sort of group or organization.  A very specific sort.  They had a list of prerequisites that the group had to agree to.  They had a list of demands.  In exchange, the group or organization could expect to receive a very specific number of skilled and unskilled hours of labor.  

I'm not entirely sure why, but it made me kind of mad.  Because I still wanted to picture people saying, "Hey!  We could really use some help here."  I wanted to picture these other people pulling up and saying, "We can do that."  And at the end of a long, sweaty day, they would all sit around and eat together.  And after many days like this, they would have had many chances to learn to know one another as they worked side by side.  They would know each others' strengths and weaknesses, and kind of like each other anyhow.  Then, and only then, would anyone care very much what the other one had to say, or thought, or believed.  And after many long, sweaty days, they would talk about that stuff while they ate together.  

They would probably disagree about a great deal, as people are prone to do, but it wouldn't matter because they would be friends anyhow.  And even if they disagreed about a great deal, as people are prone to do, they would enjoy talking about it, and thinking about it, and even arguing about it.  They would marvel that such radically different strangers could become such dear friends.  

I know that people will read this and think, well, that just isn't how things work.  That sort of ministry would never get off the ground.

That's another thing that has been bugging me lately.  I've been watching, and reading, and listening.  It seems as though there are all these ministries trying to get off the ground...trying to pick up steam somehow.  They want to be relevant.  They want to reach people where they are.  They want to be like Jesus, and go eat with the sinners.  Kind of.

Jesus was very cutting edge.  He ate with sinners and tax collectors.  He hung out with lepers and women of ill repute.  He got rebuked for it.  But the thing is this, every time he sat down and ate with another person, every time he touched someone, he was hanging with sinners.  It didn't matter if they were rich young rulers, or devout Jews, or whatever.  They were all sinners.  When I sit down and eat with anyone, I am eating with a sinner, and when I sit down to eat all alone, I am eating with a sinner.

I'm not Jesus.  I am not lowering myself when I eat with sinners.  I am not coming down from some place on high, to bring sinners a gift, or special message (that I have and they don't).  I am sitting with my family.  If I'm lucky we have shared a long day of work together, and we are sweaty and hungry.  It's likely that we'll disagree about a great deal as we sit around the table, as sinners are prone to do.  As families are prone to do.  But we would also marvel that such a rag-tag family could ever be assembled, much less stay together for any length of time.

We'd probably be so tired from our work, and so engrossed in the food and conversation, that we would scarcely have time to think about whether the ministry was getting off the ground.  We probably wouldn't need brochures much either.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Please Help...

I'm writing to ask for some help.  Life has been pretty hard lately.  I have been feeling pretty grim.  Acting grim too.  I've always been of a rather serious nature.  Pretty premeditated and careful.  But I used to know how to have a little fun.  These days I seem to have forgotten how.  It seems like too much work.  And then I find myself sitting in the middle of the fun thinking, "I'm not really having much fun.  What a waste of my time and energy.  I should have gone for the nap."

So I'm looking for some suggestions.  Easy fun.  Fun that requires a little bit of an investment.  Fun with others, fun all alone.  How does one do it?  And how does one stop comparing the fun to sleep?  Or falling asleep during the fun?

***In response to Queen B's comments:  That's just exactly it.  We don't have those children anymore, because they are all mostly grown now.  They will never gather to play in the back yard, or cuddle baby goats, or light saber fight.  The new children are different, and we are different.  Companionship for sure, but even that is different now.  I suppose I haven't liked that for a long, long time.  Which is probably part of the reason why I am so grim, and not so much fun.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Boundaries, shmoundaries....

Recently I've been doing a lot of reading.  Some of it has been books, read from start to finish.  But sometimes it's just me scrolling down the news feed on the old FB, and seeing a friend's status that catches my eye.  Maybe it's a link to a blog post or article, and over time you find yourself clicking your way onto some obscure rabbit trail that you never planned for.  It's how I've found some real treasure lately.

I recently read a blog post that really resonated with me.  It was about boundaries.  I haven't thought much about them lately, other than when I see my challenging children bumbling through life without them.  It's glaringly obvious when they push their way through other people's boundaries and find the person on the other side, shall we say, less than happy about it?  Or not setting them for themselves, and watching them get mashed and mangled in their relationships.

But what about me?  I just always assume I am the expert on all things.  Of course I have a complete and total understanding of healthy boundaries.  I could teach a seminar.

When I was growing up, I thought boundaries meant what stuff you can't touch.  And sometimes it does.  I thought it was the bubble of personal space we have decided is acceptable in our culture.  And sometimes it is.  But that's not all of it.  The post I read described boundaries as "a circle around yourself that brings peace to your heart and world".  As I read it, I realized that this was a foreign concept to me.  It felt selfish.  It felt too "me centered".  

But the thing is this.  The circle around myself has grown so tiny, so constricting, that it feels like a noose.  It definitely isn't bringing me peace.  In fact, I'm mad all the time.  And if I'm continuously crowded, and constricted, and angry, how can I bring peace and joy to anyone at all?  

Another brilliant thing this blog writer said was, "The thing about boundaries is that if you don’t set them in your life someone else will. It’s not their fault for pushing you, it’s yours for allowing it."  

I thought about this for awhile, and I realized something fundamental.  Teens and young adults are boundary pushers.  It is their nature to be so.  And I have six (count them) boundary pushers in my life.  No wonder I feel the way I do!  It's a wonder I haven't been smashed flat as a pancake between a couple of them.  

And so begins the summer project of redefining the boundaries.  I need to map out that circle and figure out just how big it needs to be, and what I'm keeping safe inside of it.  And if you know my temper, who I'm keeping safe outside of it.  It isn't easy for me to do.  It means figuring out what I really need, when I've been trying to survive on scraps.  It means taking time to be still, when I'm used to continual motion.  It means learning to say no, and then remaining firm when the pleading begins.

Here are some areas I need to work on:
  • Over/misuse of the internet in our home
  • Over/misuse of screen time (TV, movies, and computers)
  • Distribution of labor (i.e.  Mom shouldn't do everything for everyone)
  • Respect of my spaces/privacy
  • Respect for my marriage and time with my spouse
  • Guarding times for eating, sleeping, relaxing, exercising, working
  • Guarding quiet, empty times within the context of a large family
  • Letting go of the belief that I must fix everyone's problems and/or remove all struggle from the lives of my loved ones 
  • Letting go of the belief that just because I CAN do something to fix/help, does not automatically make it the right thing to do
  • Letting go of the belief that I must explain myself to anyone any time it is hinted at/requested politely/demanded
OK.  So writing these down, just makes me realize I am barely scratching the surface here.  Plus I have no practical ideas how to do some of these things.  But I do have a few concrete plans, and a few unformed thoughts.  I suspect I should be gentle, which is so foreign to this "take the bull by the horns" kind of gal.  I suspect there is no gentle way to tell teens that their internet privileges are disappearing.  Oh my word, I did not know Netflix was a constitutional right.  Or clean laundry.  Or the use of my car...

Friday, June 1, 2012

Goodbye May...can't say I'll miss you.

I know I don't write often.  I write even less often about our experiences in parenting our medically fragile child, Baby S.  But part of the reason I don't write all that often, is because her care eats up huge tracts of my time.  And most of the time it's boring stuff, kind of like taking care of an infant.  I changed a lot of diapers today.  I fed the baby eight times.  I washed a lot of baby laundry.  I played with the baby.  I was falling asleep in my chair as soon as the baby went to bed.  That sort of thing.

For the most part, we had developed a routine that worked.  Over the course of the last year, baby S had gone from a screaming, inconsolable child to a reasonably contented one.  Her issues with food had resolved.  She had gone from a diet of highly specialized formula, to a diet of pureed, real food.  She gave "growth spurt" new meaning.  Instead of a child living in a pattern of waxing and waning sedation, she was slowly weaning off her huge cocktail of meds.  She was also more aware of her world, which had its good and bad parts.  The good parts meant she could plug in more, and learn more.  The bad parts meant she was more easily overstimulated, irritable, and frustrated.  Overall, we chalked this year up as a good year's work.

Then came surgery.  Baby S had grown so quickly, that it rapidly became evident that her hips were drifting out of joint.  She needed to have her legs and pelvis reconstructed so that they would stay and grow in place.  For the last month we have struggled to care for her.  In the beginning she was clearly in a lot of pain, and everything was a challenge.  But children are great healers, and yesterday we were able to look at x-rays that showed her bones at the time of surgery, and her bones now.  The plates and screws are firmly in place, and new bone growth has filled in all the gaps.  Incisions are clean and clear.  The surgeon was elated.  He pronounced it a success, and expressed his opinion that she should be pain free.  

Which definitely did not explain why she was in the next room, screaming at the top of her lungs, her legs locked into an unlikely pose, vomiting all over the exam table.  

So we moved on to the next appointment of the day, and the next, and the next.  And at each stop she startled everyone with her lung capacity, pained looking positions, and her violent gagging and vomiting.  By all appearances she was a tortured child who needed immediate relief.  And at the end of each stop we were told that she was physically healthy.  Each office full of professionals, and each waiting room full of waiting patients breathed a sigh of relief that the screaming child was leaving...and not going home with them.

We have lost every inch of ground we fought for in the last year, and then some.  Every single one.  Trust and attachment are gone, nowhere to be found.  She rejects nearly all contact.  She rejects the food we put into her stomach.  She prefers to be left in her crib, alone, in a quiet and darkened room.  Everything else is met with vigorous protest.  

It reminds me of when we raised a nest of baby rabbits.  Sure they're cute and fuzzy...but don't go in there.  Don't turn on the light and look at them.  Don't talk or touch them.  Or they'll die.  Just wake up around the clock, hold them enough to get their formula in their bellies, then put them back into quiet seclusion.

It's not fun.  It makes you feel rotten all the time.  There are no good choices.  Every choice you make has negative consequences, and you second guess everything you do.  And you pray that it won't take another year to get your ground back again.  And you pray she won't need another operation when that happens.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Love God, Love Others...Simple Right?

"Perfection in outward conduct consists not in extraordinary things; but in doing common things extraordinarily well.  Neglect nothing; the most trivial action may be performed to ourselves, or performed to God.  If love be in your heart, your whole life may be one continual exercise of it.  Oh, if we did but love others!  How easily the least thing, the shutting of a door gently, the walking softly, speaking low, not making a noise, the choice of a seat, so as to leave the most convenient to others, might become occasions of its exercise."  ~Mere Angelique Arnauld
When we are out among people, it is often easy to hide our true selves.  When we live together, sharing everything, it is much harder to hide.  Every day is filled with thousands of "trivial actions", and those closest to us know if we generally perform them to ourselves or to God.  Those who share our spaces, and tables, and hours know if we move quietly, speak low, choose to wait patiently for our portion, or push forward to get our share.  Those who clean up our messes know if we are attentive and grateful for their service and sacrifice.

Of course children almost never engender these qualities.  Patient instruction and growing maturity will eventually produce this fruit.  Every day gives a thousand opportunities to practice.

All of us may improve by practice, from the cradle to the grave.  All of us may influence the spirit within the home by asking ourselves "Is love in my heart?  And if love be in my heart can there be a complaint on my lips?  If love be in my heart, can I leave this mess for another tired person to clean up?  If love be in my heart, can I insistently demand what I want?"

And what if we are living elbow to elbow with a person who has not love in their heart?  What if our closest companion always pushes forward to get the best portion, and then complains loudly that it is not enough.  For this I do not have all the answers.  I know what I ought to do, but still it stings bitterly.  In theory, all that we do is performed to ourselves or to God.  In practice, that which is performed to God is frequently played out in the arena of loving others.  And "others" can be so uncooperative, so ungrateful, so unkind.  I am often crushed by hard angry heels pounding across floors, doors slammed, angry complaining voices.  I am often angered by the jostling and jockeying for position to get the largest portion, the pouting when another manages to get it instead.  I nearly always simmer when I see laziness devouring the fruit of hard work and sacrifice.  I am infuriated when laziness picks its teeth and belches, and then critiques the menu.

I have no easy answers, but I suspect it has more to do with me than my companions.  This is not the answer that I want, and so I often reject it.  I am intolerably unhappy, and still I reject it.
"It is one thing to go on the lonely way with dignified heroism, but quite another thing if the line mapped out for you by God means being a door-mat for other people's feet.  Suppose God wants to teach you to say, 'I know how to be abased'--are you ready to be offered up like that?  Are you ready to be not so much a drop in a bucket--to be so hopelessly insignificant that you are never thought of again in connection with the life you served?  Are you willing to spend and be spent; not seeking to be ministered unto, but to minister?  Some saints cannot do menial work and remain saints because it is beneath their dignity."  ~Oswald Chambers

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Looking In from the Inside

Today I would like to shout it from the housetop, that I am so very grateful for the gift of friendship.  I am grateful for intimacy with a small handful of women that share life with me.  If all I had were F*ceB**k friends, I'd be in big trouble.  This is not a rant against the big FB.  Some of my dearest friends and I communicate almost exclusively through FB.  

FB is not a new concept.  Being that I am old, I do actually remember life before social networking.  I actually remember life before we all had computers in our homes.  Back in those days we talked about how everyone watched too much TV, and spent too much time talking on the phone.  Whatever happened to sitting down and playing a game...or talking to people face to face?

But back to the FB thing.  The part that isn't new, is the superficiality of so many relationships.  We might spend lots of time with a person, because we work with them or go to school with them.  We might feel like we really know them and are woven into each others' lives.  Then we change jobs or schools, and we never hear from them anymore, and we wonder about this.  

Sometimes we have friends that share some common ground with us.  Maybe we enjoy the same activities, or our kids are the same age and play together.  Then things shift, the commonality disappears, and so do our friends.

All the while we watch.  We see how people live.  We observe their relationships.  We know what kinds of stuff they have, what they do for fun, what they do for work.  We mentally construct cardboard people, living in cardboard houses, living cardboard lives, and we prop them up all over our brains.  These are our friends.

Now we do it electronically.  We watch people live their lives on the internet.  We see their funny conversations with their friends.  We look at the pictures.  We read the status updates.  Then we prop up these virtual people all over our brains.

I don't know about you, but I am not naturally a contented person.  I would often look at these images that I had constructed inside my own head, and I would be convinced that other people had it easier than I did.  I would somehow suspect that other people had more of everything, and that it came to them without the struggle that I experienced.  I believed that other people had more of everything, and that their holidays were more shiny, and their food tasted better than mine.

And as long as my relationships were superficial, I could believe this, and nurse my resentment.  Of course it all blew apart the minute I began to be intimate with anyone.  The minute I began to shred my cardboard cutout, and replace it with a flesh and blood person, was the minute I knew that they struggled just as hard as I did.

Then our family changed, and I did it all over again.  I felt isolated and alone.  I looked at the way "normal people" lived, and I longed for the days when I was "normal" too.  I resented other people because they didn't struggle with the things I did, and they didn't even know it.  They didn't know how good they had it.  I railed against God, and wondered why I had to work so hard, when other people had it so easy.

As long as I saw myself as isolated, alone, misunderstood...I felt justified in my bitterness.  Then I got me a new batch of friends.  We got down to the business of being intimate with one another, and guess what?  My life isn't so abnormal after all.  There they were.  Beautiful, smart, articulate women.  They all have lovely family photos, and more visible success than you could shake a stick at.  Looking in from the outside, I'm sure I would resent them all.  But looking in from the inside, I knew they were all fighting the same fight, nursing the same wounds, crying the same tears.  Also they're funny.  Really, really funny.

So when I am really struggling, when I feel like I can't take anymore, when I want to lay down and give up, I can remind myself of the truth.  That I am in very, very good company.  It changes everything.


Monday, April 9, 2012

The View Inside My Head

I have some advice.  When you download a free sample of a book onto your Kindle, and the sample messes with your head, you should definitely buy the full book.  So you can have your head messed with quite thoroughly.  And while you're at it, make sure you purchase the list of books the author mentions messed with their head before they wrote the book.

So I've been doing a lot of reading lately, and mostly it's making me feel edgier and more irritable.  I've felt this way for awhile, but I've had a hard time putting my finger on the cause of it.  Reading these books seems to be giving me some clarity.  Not making me feel better.

I've come to the conclusion that I have structured my life in a way that says, "Sure God.  I'm all in."  But I haven't managed to structure my heart to match.  Consequently I have a lot of tension, internally.  It tends to come out externally, and it's often not pretty.

I've further come to the conclusion that I do not need to change a ton of externals in my life.  I need to have an internal overhaul.  I'm not really sure what that looks like.  I'm not totally sure how that's done.  Organizing and changing externals has always been my strong suit.  Give me a closet that needs cleaning, or a budget that needs overhauling, and I'm off and running.  Give me a heart to change, and I'm a very slow mover.

Emotions are a biggie.  There's a lot of stuff in my life right now, that feels horrible.  Not that the life itself is horrible, or even that the emotions aren't reasonable, authentic, appropriate.  But my solution for a very long time, is to ignore the "big feelings" (as we like to say) and just get on with the work at hand.

And sometimes this works very well.  The work at hand kind of drags the emotions along like an unwilling child, and gets them to where they need to be.  Sometimes this is exactly what we need to do.

But I am utterly exhausted from dragging my unwilling self around.  My unwilling self is like a miserable toddler dangling limply from the end of my arm, and I, the Mom, suddenly realize this child needs sleep, or food, or eye contact.  I realize that the child is not just being fractious, getting in the way of my work.  The child is actually only trying to communicate their need the only way they know how.

So how does one deal with emotions that just won't be pacified?  How does one figure out what they are trying to say when they have no words?  Why are they here all of a sudden, and what am I to do with them?  Are they useful, truthful....traitorous?  I eye them suspiciously, sure they're up to no good.  Quite honestly, I don't trust them.  They've lied to me before.  They've led me down the garden path  a time or two.

But then again, they are part of our human experience, and not necessarily good or evil.  Nearly everything we experience has some bit of emotion clinging to it, from the moment we rise from our bed in the morning, to the moment we fall back into it at night.  Honestly I have emotions about my bed.  Is it wrong to feel affectionate toward a certain pair of Laura Ashley flannel sheets?

Are you waiting for me to wrap this up with some sort of conclusion that makes sense?  Something that says, "I've wrestled with this and gotten to the other side.  Now I would like to share my new found wisdom."  I'm so sorry that you have hung on so nicely, to simply find out that I am still paddling in the same circle.  Really.  The only good advice I have is in the first paragraph of this post.  But I'll be happy to give you a reading list if you're feeling bored with your life right now. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Failed Adoptions and Clanging Cymbals

Today I was checking my personal messages, and for a moment I drifted off into territory I am trying to avoid.  This was mainly because a friend had posted a link to a story about something that resonates with me.  Something from my own personal experience.  So I granted myself permission to read the article.  It was about a failed adoption by a public figure.  I don't know the figure.  I don't know any of the details.  I just know the story because it is written into my bones.

My friend had noted that she thought the comments were scary.  And they were.  They ranged from ignorant opinion, to mean spirited judgment, to well thought out drivel from people who have nothing but the thoughts inside their own head and no experience with the topic at hand.

The thing is this:  There is nothing surprising about those comments.  They are precisely what I would expect to see.  They are precisely what I would have expected to write, if my life had not taken some of the twists it has taken.  And it is a sobering lesson to me, with my strong opinions and flapping mouth.  How many times have I opined on subjects of which I have no firsthand knowledge?  How many times have I forced my well thought out opinions on someone whose heart is breaking?  And how many times have I congratulated myself for doing my duty, being the voice of reason, providing support....when all I have been is a clanging cymbal in the ear of someone who needed quiet rest?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lenten Update and the Perils of Red Suburbans

I'm back again, reporting on my Lenten media fast.  Not so much reporting on the mechanics of the thing, but just on how I've been feeling, and the things I think about.  Mostly I've been feeling like crap.  I'm irritable, and resentful, and horribly ungrateful.  I know my life is full of glorious things.  Instead I choose to focus on the things that irritate me.  I irritate myself.  

I'm tired all the time.  Yes, I'm physically tired, and there are perfectly reasonable reasons for that.  But I'm emotionally and spiritually tired as well.  Like a cranky overtired child, I'm writhing around fretfully, doing nothing to fix it.  I doubt I can fix it.

I have created small pockets of silence in my life with this media fast.  God whispers into those silences.  I don't always like what is being said.

I want change, but I don't want to have to do anything that will change me.  I want to lose weight, but I don't want to exercise or change any of my eating habits.  OK.  I don't technically need to lose weight.  It's an illustration.

I need a jumpstart.  I'm like my old tired Suburban standing in the driveway.  It's trying to start.  It's braying like a donkey, but in the end it just gives up.  Outside intervention is needed.  Careful coaxing will not cause the huge diesel engine to roar to life with a puff of noxious smoke.

God whispers that He is willing to jumpstart me, but unless I then drive straight to the service station for some much needed upkeep, as soon as I park, I will be dead again.  I don't want to drive to the service station.  That mechanic hates me.  He will look under the hood and find a whole host of expensive repairs that needed attention months ago.  He'll look at me with those eyes that say, "You really don't understand cars, do you?  You are killing this car."

And I really do love my Suburban.  I don't want to abuse it.  It's cavernous, and red, and loud.  It hauls my whole family, and a month's worth of groceries, and an occasional goat.

I really do love my life.  It's huge, and messy, and fun.  It holds everything I ever dreamed of having and more.  But I am killing it sometimes, by the things I do, and the things I leave undone.  It could use a jumpstart, a tuneup, some serious service.  But I get up every day, turn the key, and hope for the best.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Do Something Wonderful

Sometimes I wonder about my biological, neurotypical children.  I worry that we have short changed them by the choices that we have made as parents.  I worry that they will be damaged or resentful, because we have demanded that they make hard sacrifices.  We have expected them to share everything.  We have dropped them off in Crazyland, with no directions for how to get back to where we came from.  Oh yes.  I forgot to tell you.  We live here now.

Sometimes I think we look at them with our tired, half-crazed eyes.  They see us grasping at anything that might heal trauma, or restore hope.  They hear us saying, How dare you?  You with your unscathed brain, your healthy body and soul...how dare you not live your best life?  How dare you not do something wonderful?  

They see firsthand what the rest of the children only hear about.  Appreciate your dinner.  There are children starving in another place.  Be thankful for what you have.  Lots of other kids have nothing.  They see the gaps and the holes, created by want and need.

And then they go out and do it.  They are amazing, and wonderful, and remarkable.  Only they're not.  They're the same as any other kid who has a sound mind, and body, and a hand up in the world.  They just realize what a difference that makes, and they don't always take it for granted.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Day in the Life of Baby S, aka Cake Walk

Enjoying some kitty love
I realized lately, that I haven't updated on, or even mentioned our newest addition for quite some time.  This is probably because in many ways, she is my easiest, least complicated child.  And that's saying a lot, when you consider how complex her care can be.  I thought I'd give you a little "day in the life" of Baby S, and you can decide for yourself.

When Little S came to us in June last year, she was taking three heavy duty anticonvulsants for seizures twice daily, a muscle relaxant for spasms three times daily, and anti-drool med to help her not drown in her own spit three times daily, a reflux med, a laxative, and sometimes a sedative for inability to sleep or soothe.  She was also exclusively fed a highly specialized synthetic formula for children who are allergic to EVERYTHING via a feeding pump through her G-tube.  

Baby S is in diapers, and for the most part is easy enough to care for in that respect, when she's relaxed and in a good mood.  When she's stressed or grumpy, it's another story, with legs that stiffen into rock hard positions, pulled up against her torso, or straightened out stiffly with her ankles and knees locked tightly against each other.  Dressing and undressing her is like a combination of trying to dress a Barbie doll and a rubber chicken. 

She is non-mobile, so she must be carried and moved about all day, changing her locations and positions often to avoid damage to her skin and boredom.  She cannot sit up or hold her head up well (think wobbly newborn), so holding her is a challenge.  She's both stiff and floppy at the same time.  And she bites.

She is nonverbal, yet she is packed full of emotions, and frustrations, and opinions.  She is easily bored, and has very little means to soothe or entertain herself.  This means she is frequently irritable and fussy.  She's easy to redirect and cheer up, but nothing holds her for very long.

She is cortically blind, which does not mean she can't see, but that her sight is limited by abnormal brain function.  We know she does not see well at distances or in low light.  She also seems to prefer certain things to be in certain spots in her field of vision.  So again, she gets easily bored when things don't line up just so for her.

For the first several months, Baby S screamed and raged every.single.day.  This was because she is a human being, and no matter how delayed she may be, she knew she had been removed from her home, and placed into a strange place.  She missed her Mama, and of course she would.  She is not a goldfish or a piece of furniture.  All day long we struggled to keep up on the endless round of meds, feedings, exercises, diaper changes, doctor visits.  All night long we listened to S fret, and fuss, and scream.  Her brain is by no means normal, and it did not seem to process the need for sleep.  The only time she slept was when she would be knocked out cold by her potent cocktail of drugs.  This gave us a few hours of respite in the mornings and evenings, but that was generally it.  The rest of the day she fussed and raged.  The rest of the night she fussed and raged.

And then things began to change.  The very first big change was that Little S began to sleep more.  Some nights she actually slept right through.  For every good night, we could be sure of a bad day.  With a full night's sleep in her tank, she had plenty of energy to fight us all day.  For every bad night, we could expect a quiet day, as she lay back in her chair, dazed and dopey.  But over time it began to smooth out.  Most nights she slept, and when she was well rested, her mood improved during waking hours.

More things began to change.  We began taking her wherever we went.  We included her in the family activities.  We let her taste bits of food.  We made her sit up and be engaged with the world around her.  We reprimanded her sternly when she had hissy fits.  Or when she bit someone.  In short, we began to see and treat her as a little girl.  

Lately the changes have been huge.  She is no longer pump fed her funky formula.  Instead, she is fed plain old normal food that I puree and squirt into her G-tube with a large syringe.  She gets tastes by mouth if she wants them.  She has grown about five inches and gained about ten pounds.  She is being weaned off her cocktail of meds.  Currently she gets two anticonvulsants, but another one is soon on its way out.  She is taking about 60% less muscle relaxant with no noticeable problems.  Her anti-drool and reflux meds are gone.  Her laxative is reduced by about half.  She never takes sedatives.

And it has been crazy lately.  This poor little tyke needs kiddie rehab.  It's shades of the first few months, with no sleeping, and constant misery and anger.  Learning to live outside the strange little boxes these drugs make of her days, is very hard on her.  But if we can do it and keep her healthy, we want to.  The drugs have massive effects on the quality of her life, her ability to learn, and her physical health.

Next on the horizon is major orthopedic surgery to reconstruct her malformed hip joints.  It's pretty typical stuff for kids with CP, but scary new territory for us.  So if you think of us and Little S, throw up a prayer.  We so want her to be able to reach her full potential, and to be a happy contented little girl.  Pray that we will have the diligence and wisdom needed to care for her.

As for whether she is the easiest of my kiddos?  Well I will say this much.  She can't get up out of her chair or bed and hurt anyone or break anything while she rages.  She can't form words, so she can't cuss me out or lie to me.  She keeps her refuse neatly in her diaper.  Yes.  Absolutely she has many of the same trauma issues that many adopted children have.  But she is confined to glowering at me, crying and screeching, and a bit of intentional drooling.  After what I see in this game, I say, "You, Baby S, are a cake walk."  An absolutely adorable, sassy, little cake walk.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Teen FB Update

Baby Boy caught Boo leaving her FB account open.  Suddenly she had a new interest in her info.  Along with playing the flute and clarinet, she enjoys biting the heads off live chickens.  It would have been better if he had not misspelled "chickens", but he was hurrying so I suppose one could excuse it.  This is what I turn up when I FB stalk these two.  I may be wasting my time.

Am I Happy?

Good golly, I did it again, just this morning.  I asked myself if I was happy.  And the first thing that came to mind was that there are a few things in my life that make me unhappy.  Umm, no.  Either I am or not.  Things (external circumstances) do not make me happy or unhappy.

There's this place I love.  They call it the happiest place on earth...and maybe it is.  For some people.  But I've seen a lot of misery there too.  I really think you carry your happy in.  If you carry in mostly miserable, it will not be any different than any other day in any other place.  If you carry in mostly happy, it will be awesome.

So yes, I am happy.  I am also tired, mildly ill, a little bit overwhelmed, a little bit discouraged.  But good golly, I am happy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Trying to Keep Lent

So I thought I'd write up a little progress report on my Lenten fast of electronic entertainment.  Some of it has been very easy, and some, not so much. 
  • Giving up TV has been a breeze.  I've been reading more, and definitely turning the light out to go to sleep much earlier.  Not that I'm getting more sleep.  Baby S is changing up meds, and thus not sleeping much, so though the lights are out, I am not necessarily sleeping.
  • Giving up radio in the car is pretty easy as well, and I have actually been remembering to bring along my CD's on occasion.  I have also become very familiar with the latest Florence and the Machine album, as it is the only one that currently resides in my car.  A teen has forgotten it.  It's pretty good, except for tracks 5 and 6.  They won't play due to a big scratch.  
  • Next up...the computer.  This has been more complex.  Essentially, turning off the computer for communication is a lot like saying to my family, "I'm giving up all of you for Lent.  I'm going in my room now.  If you need me, I will not be available.  See you in forty days!"  It's fairly easy to give up mindless surfing.  Giving up communicating with real people that I love?  Maybe not so healthy.
  • And then there's Faceb**k.  It truly does seem to have a life of its own.  And generally I am doing pretty well here, with a few snags along the way.  Again, I am trying to confine myself to genuine communication.  I stay off my wall and my news feed, and it is helping me practice the discipline of cyber silence.  This is to say I cannot leave a bunch of clever (I think) comments sprinkled about my friends' walls and photos.  Or argue politics.  Or post silliness in the form of statuses...stati (?).  Though I have had to be on FB daily still, because two of my teens have been allowed to get them just this past week, and I admit I feel the need to FB stalk them.  My surveillance has turned up nothing interesting yet.  Really.  They are very boring.
And that's pretty much it.  My Lenten fast does not seem to be making me more spiritual.  It does not really pinch enough to remind me much of Christ's sufferings.  It has however, been a good exercise in learning how I use media, otherwise known as "How I waste time and fill my brain with rot."  Surprisingly, much of what I do in regard to evil technology is very good, and I will cheerfully pick up again in a couple of weeks. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ungrateful Children

Lately I've been meditating on the concept of thankfulness, particularly on how it pertains to our teens and young adults.  So often I hear parents, myself included, launch off into a tirade of how ungrateful their children can be.  It seems to come to a head in the teen years, because as parents, we find ourselves living with these huge, able bodied people that demand so much from us, every hour of the day.  We thought babyhood and the toddler years were hard.  No one warned us about this.  And through it all, they seem to take for granted most of the things we do for love, all the endless sacrifices we make for them.  It's enough to make a person crazy, and my children have seen more than a little bit of my crazy side over this matter.

As aggravating, and disappointing, and heartbreaking as this stage may be, I submit to you (gentle reader), that this may be proof that we are doing our job well.

In my experience, there are three sorts of children.  Two of these types come from hard places...children of trauma if you will.  They are exactly identical in that they are raised up in trauma, neglect, abandonment, deprivation.  They learn that parents and other caregivers are not willing or able to meet their basic needs, or protect them from the harshness of a cruel world.  

The first child never escapes in childhood.  They suffer all through their youth, and no one ever plucks them from their situation and teaches them that this is not how things were meant to be.  They may sense it, and resolve to be different themselves when they are the parent raising children of their own, but they never experience it for themselves.  Any gratitude they may feel for the tiny scraps they were thrown is a perverted version of true thankfulness.

The second child begins the same, but somewhere in their youth, someone intervenes.  They provide stability, support, and nurture.  The child experiences something different, and when they are able to receive it, they also experience gratitude.  They know the contrast, and they are thankful that their life is not what it once was.

The third child is not a child of trauma.  They have received attentive care all their lives.  They feel nurtured and safe.  Every opportunity that can be purchased by sacrifice and hard work, has been bought and paid for on their behalf.  They breathe this like air, and drink it like cool water.  The thought that life could be very different only skitters across their brain on rare occasions.

It makes me sad that some adults are struggling to raise their own children differently than they were raised.  I know daily they dig down deep into empty places, and try to find what their babies need.  They allow their children to feed off their own lives, and find themselves scraped clean of everything good and nourishing.  In the end, they end up starving both their children and themselves, like a woman in a famine zone, with a skeletal baby suckling at an empty breast.

It makes me sad that some children are so very grateful for basic necessities of body and soul, because they have experienced such hunger.  It may look pretty, to see a child behave thus...but I don't like to think of how this pretty picture came to be.  It certainly does not gratify me as a parent.

As we teach and model the virtue of a grateful heart to our children, may we pray that they continue to be a little bit ignorant and annoying.  May they breathe and drink our love and provision, so that they truly only realize how we have laid down our lives for them, when they lay down their own lives for others.  May they appreciate our marriages when they sacrifice for their own spouses.  May they appreciate our parenting, as they raise up their own children.  May they be so well nurtured and nourished that they have deep wells from which to draw.  And may they have a house full of ungrateful teens of their own some day.  It will make me deeply happy, and grateful, and a tiny bit entertained.