Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Get it out of my brain

I have a child who I find it particularly hard to connect with.
I know....... you're all shocked.
I'll give you a moment while you silently remove my "mother of the century" label from my contact in your phone and text your besties "Did you hear the one about Chrissy.....?!?"
It makes me feel like a failure. And maybe I have failed in a lot of ways so far this morning.

Anyway, this child.
He's a pleaser. He is a perfectionist. He tries WAY too hard.
He whispers when he asks for something. He insists others follow every rule, even some he made up because he thought it was a rule I'd like. He uses phrases he's picked up in the wrong timing like "Hey mom, at least lunch was delicious!"
It has been known to drive me to the brink of insanity and make me say things like
"I just wish ONCE he'd break a rule or do something wrong so I would know he's really a child!"
I know some of you are parenting a child like this...
and you're laughing or maybe just solemnly nodding. 

Moving back towards the point... last night I was given a small gift.

Ahhh, the "golden hour". Some refer to this time period as that magical few minutes when the sun is just creeping below the horizon in the evening and everything is bathed in its glorious golden light... when photos look magical and sparkly and have starbursts of light in the trees. For me, it's those few moments when I tuck the 9 younger kids into bed at night and they give me that last piece of information for the day. I've written about it before, but last night I was given some insight into the WHY behind the crazy-making behavior.

I walked into the room just as this particular child was chastising one of his brothers and saying he was going to "tell mom". Gotta love it. I asked what was going on and when I found out that (as usual) it wasn't tattle-worthy, I asked him why he thought he should tattle or try to get his brother in trouble for something that wasn't a big deal? He answered.. "I don't know... I just thought..." and trailed off in thought.

Then, as if God himself gave me this picture in my brain, I said "Hon, WHY are you always so WORRIED about EVERYTHING?? You live your day WAaaaAAaaaY up here (hands up above my head - frantically shaking)... 'ohmygosh Mom is going to be mad at me! Ohmygosh what if I do something wrong!!' and I want you to bring it WAAaaaaAAAaaay down HERE (hands out at mid-waist - smoothly washing back and forth)... and just relax... breathe...it's all going to be okay. Do you understand?" (This is a very important question when dealing with kids who didn't speak English until they were mid-Elementary school aged.) I could tell he didn't fully get it.

So I walked over, knelt at his bed and said - "You are SO worried all of the time... wanting everyone to follow all of the rules, wanting Mom and Dad to be happy with you, but when you are so scared and worried and 'way up here'... mom and dad get worried and frustrated and get 'way up here' too. Do you know why you are so nervous all of the time?"

I got this small glimpse.
A tiny, itty bitty little glimpse into the world from whence he came.

"In my brain I just still think like I was when I was at the care center. I just still remember the nannies and they were not nice and I just can't stop thinking about them not being nice and I get scared and think I have to be very, very good. I don't think I will ever get it out of my brain." and he started to cry.

I share this not to give too much personal information about our children... as I have not mentioned names or given specifics as to which child I'm referring to. I share because, sometimes we don't really SEE why the behaviors are there. I know I knew on a very logical level that he was pleasing in order to feel accepted, but I had no idea the depth of that fear. And I'm his mom. It's my job to know.

So... I looked at him, touched his face and said...
"Oh, honey. That's not okay with Mom that you're sad. I'm going to help you get it out of your brain. Do you know that the way they treated you was wrong? The way they treated you was not kind. The things they said were not okay. Those ladies were NOT your Mom. They were just women working at their job. That's all. They may have made sure you had food, but they did too many things that hurt your heart, and that's not okay. Jesus is going to get this stuff out of your brain. Did you know that when Mom and Dad got to the care center and we brought you out of there and to the guest house, that was the first day you were really ours? You weren't the "care center boy" anymore. You became OUR boy and got OUR name. That was the OLD you. This is the NEW you. We even gave you a new name, didn't we? That's because we want you to be able to say 'that was the old life, this is my new life.' Those things happened to you, but they are over and done and far away now."

At this point, I'm stuck between anger at the life my kids led for a year and such happiness that they don't have to live that life anymore.

"Any time you feel afraid, or feel like your brain won't let you forget how you were supposed to live at the care center, I want you to pray inside your brain, right where you are, whatever you're doing - 'Jesus, I don't want to be the care center boy ANYMORE! I want to be my Mom and Dad's son. Please change me.' Can you do that?"

I empowered my son to rid himself of the fear, anxiety and distrust he's been living with for so long now. I taught him to lay his stuff at the feet of Jesus and that he doesn't HAVE to be stuck in that place anymore.

What an immense privilege. 
What amazing power we have as parents.
And yet, often times we don't use it. 

And, as I have said a hundred times before...
Because he can't say the words without smiling.
And I know inside he gets warm fuzzies.
Because I do, too.
I looked into those weepy eyes, smiled, and said:

    "I'm my mommy's baby. 
              My mommy loves me. 
     I am precious. 
             I am a treasure."

And he smiled and simply said  


Saturday, September 28, 2013

I was a cloud.

I just turned 37 this week.

Let's let that sink in for a moment, shall we? Yikes. I don't "FEEL" 37... not sure what that's supposed to feel like anyway... but I think the years speed up after your early 20's and somehow you wake up one day and you're closer to 40 than you are to "young and stupid".

I was thinking about that this morning when I woke up.

I've come a long way, baby!

Once upon a time, I was a pissed-off teenager. I was the oldest of two, my parents divorced then remarried, I became the oldest of 5, and my inner control-freak was fuuhreeeaking out.
I was scared.
Fear looks like anger sometimes. At least it does with me.
They are my synonymous emotions.
Fear/Anger. Usually those closest to me can't tell them apart.
So, I looked angry.
I was mad at my parents, mad at their new spouses, mad at myself, mad at life, mad at God - whoever I deemed Him to be at the time, and mad... well, just because it was easier that way.

Pissed-off teenagers are even more stupid than regular, happy, well-adjusted ones. They make other people miserable. They ruin family events. They ruin the best days. It can be 70 degrees, sunny with a light breeze, great music playing and no pressing events to tend to... and one single pissed-off teenager can screw it all up.

That was me. The screwer-upper.
I remember when my mom coined the phrase "you are such a cloud!"
But it was so incredibly true.

My parents were worried about me, with good reason. I consistently made poor choices. I hung out with the wrong people. I stayed out too late, snuck out, broke rules and broke laws. I was your everyday, ordinary, cliche delinquent teenager.

I married my husband at 18. We thought we knew what love was. We thought we were SO smart and independent and wise beyond our years. We were both strong-willed, first-born, tough-as-nails, independent people. We thought we had this whole thing figured out.
He was far wiser than me and we had a conversation one night under the stars that amounted to "if we get married, it's forever. There's no exit plan. Deal?"
Yeah, I told you we had it all figured out.
Except not. 

For years, we struggled. We were head-strong kids playing house and learning that love is a decision and a choice. It wasn't always easy, but it has been worth it always.

However, every time we got together with my family - even though I was married, had kids, and was living differently for all to see - I was reminded of what a horrible kid I had been. I felt reminded of my poor choices, my poor lifestyle and all of my mistakes. It made me angry, it made me embarrassed, and it reminded me that my family hadn't magically forgotten all of my sins...any more than God had. And He knew them ALL, not just the public ones everyone could see. I'd never be forgiven. I'd never be able to move on. I'd never live down the junk in my past.
I was marked, sealed, finished.

Fast-forward a bit...
we were living in Colorado Springs, land of beauty so amazing you just look around and know that none of this could have ever possibly have just accidentally happened. Glorious blue skies - bluer blue than anything you've ever seen, giant mountains that seem to guard you from whatever is on the other side... it's very small-making.
One day I remember standing in worship realizing how screwed up my life had always been, wondering if I'd ever really meant any of those times I walked down front, got sprinkled, dunked or re-dedicated. I just knew I wasn't really forgiven.

I realized I was tangled, trapped, caught, sinking, drowning in the weight of my history and I was struggling to even gasp for air. Emotionally it reminded me of the time I was caught in an undertow in the Atlantic. The panicked struggle, the fight, the smothering weight of fear. It's so incredibly heavy.
I felt like a fraud.
I felt like a failure.
I needed help.
I needed a rescuer.
I needed a hero.
My husband couldn't save me. 

This is when if this were the Bible it would say "but God..."

Being an independent, strong-willed, first-born, tough-as-nails 20-something means you figure things out on your own. I didn't want to hear what the pastor said... he didn't know my story. I didn't want to listen to whoever was speaking at Women of Faith that year. She didn't know me personally.
I prayed. I listened. I changed my radio dial to the Christian Music station. I absorbed those truths like I was being marinated in them. Slowly, slowly, slowly... my frantic gasps for air became life-giving breaths. My panic began to slow. My brain could reason again. I was able to hear, feel and speak to the Lord. The Holy Spirit was audible and palpable in my heart. I heard him louder than my failures, louder than my doubts, louder than my fears. When I felt myself again sinking back into the waves of failure, inadequacy and regret... I would hear "Take my hand. I've got this." I would breathe deeply the truths I was learning. I would shake off the ropes entangling me, dragging me back into the depths, and I was just so thankful to be rescued.

So for those mommas and daddies out there parenting that first-born, strong-willed, tough-as-nails kid... don't give up on them. Love them in the middle of it. Speak truth into their lives. Tell them you love them anyway. And that you always will. Assure them of their value. Assure them they are worth it. Pray for them. Then pray for them some more.

And me?

This past summer my mom told me about how she had always been praying for me. All along. In the middle of the junk, the angry teenage years, and beyond. She told me that she'd given me over to Jesus and just asked that He wouldn't let me get hurt beyond repair. It was the first time I'd heard her heart in that way.
And she told me how proud she is of who I've become.

All of those years, I thought she didn't care. I thought the "cloud" she saw when I entered the room was a storm cloud. Maybe she did. But, now I see it was the cloud that was blocking me from being ME. It was a cloud of fear, doubt, anxiety, lies and anger. These things don't come from Jesus. They come from the enemy.

Now that I'm all old and junk  37  I can see that God TRULY does work ALLLLLLL the things together for good. It may not feel like it now. It may look hopeless. You may be saving up so you have bail money when you need it or just praying to get through each day with your child. You may still be that child.

I'm here to tell you... He saves.
He saves you, he saves me.
You call, He answers.
And... oh yeah, He forgives.
All of it.

I'm living proof.

And I'm no longer a cloud.

I was fought for all along. Not just when I realized I needed rescue, but before that too. Way back in the beginning. I was rescued and saved for a purpose. For a time such as this. I'm going to do something amazing someday... even if it's done in my every day... and at the end of that and in the middle of it too, I can say "all because of Jesus."

So, I'm sharing with you the words that meant so much to me, still do. The verses that bring me peace, that give me a sense of worth and value.

Psalm 18: 1-19
I love you, Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and I have been saved from my enemies.
The cords of death entangled me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called to the Lord;
I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came before him, into his ears.
The earth trembled and quaked,
and the foundations of the mountains shook;
they trembled because he was angry.
Smoke rose from his nostrils;
consuming fire came from his mouth,
burning coals blazed out of it.
He parted the heavens and came down;
dark clouds were under his feet.
He mounted the cherubim and flew;
he soared on the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—
the dark rain clouds of the sky.
Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,
with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
The Lord thundered from heaven;
the voice of the Most High resounded. 
He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
The valleys of the sea were exposed
and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at your rebuke, Lord,
at the blast of breath from your nostrils.
He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where have you BEEN!??

Oh, hi there!
This may have been the single longest blogging hiatus in my humble blogging history.
Sorry 'bout that!

July... we had an extra baby friend visiting while my friends were in Lithuania bringing home their newest baby boy! He was with us for 18 days and was absolutely the most adorable distraction to everything else I probably should have been doing!

Also in July we found a house to buy! As soon as my sweet baby friend's mommy and daddy came home we started packing and we moved August 2nd!

The first two weeks of August were unpacking here and cleaning/painting/repairing at the other house to get it on the market, which happened mid-month, and then in testimony to the amount of hours spent cleaning/painting/repairing at the old house... we were under contract in 11 days! Woohoooo!

Also noteworthy...
We (hello, my name is "We") started homeschooling.
(I'll give you a moment to address the irony of this while reminiscing over this post from last fall)
HOWEVER, I still totally stand by what I said in the original post. And I saw some of that from the homeschooling mom pages I'm on when school started back. "All of these moms celebrating that their kids are going back to school today... it's so sad how happy they are to just send them away!" HARSH! And GEEEEZ... I was a twinge jealous of those cute Pinterest-y chalk board first-day-of-school photos! AND, this year I would have just two kiddos at home during the day. Those grocery carts that look like race cars seat two kids. See how easy that would be?? Yeah. I GET IT! But, right now, this is the season we are in.

And, truth be told, it's slightly fun.
I may even be enjoying portions of this season.
                                                                 But don't tell anyone. 
...more on home school later.

So...our new house!
We bought 15 acres with a great house that was a foreclosure property... and with that got apple trees, blackberry bushes, walnut trees, a run-off pond, 14 Muscovy ducks and assorted critters that live in the woods! We also got mystery wiring, a few leaks, some drainage issues and vintage appliances!
But it's awesome and we love it.
We've already put up a tire swing and the trampoline, picked 150lbs of apples, gone shooting shotguns in the woods.

So, the baby duckling needed to be separated from the others. 

S'mores... yummmm

Giant hydrangeas by the front door

Hiking in the backyard

Muscovy ducks

The kids found this cow bell and tag in the yard

Bringing some crushed moving boxes to the fire pit

Boys + fire

Boys + mud

Boys love turtles


So... that's where I've been!
More updates and topical stuff soon!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Being a chef's wife

My husband wished me a Happy Anniversary (on facebook...from out of town) by sharing this blog post written by a chef on "what you need to know before marrying a chef".

While I can definitely identify with a lot of what the chef/author said, there's quite a few benefits to being married to a chef that I'd like to point out... on our anniversary! (I love you, honey!)

  • Two words: Burre Blanc. 
  • No one else has three compartments in the fridge dedicated to strange looking jars of sauces "just in case the mood strikes" and someone really wants (for example) Vietnamese food tonight.Neighbor calls asking for hoisin sauce? Why of course! Black sesame seeds? Done.
  • Him: "What are you in the mood to have for dinner?" Me: "Pteradactyl! Make it happen!"  Him: "Second choice?" Me: "Something that I want." .......And every single time this happens- it's always exactly what I didn't know that I wanted. 
  •  It's a major benefit to have someone around who can dice an onion in like 3 seconds...and doesn't mind doing it.
  • I can text or call when he's at work to ask super important stuff like "does millet have gluten?" (no) or "how many minutes on these boiled eggs?" and he always has the answer. Faster than google. (okay, maybe not faster than google... but more reliable than clicking through results.)

  • He's used to cooking for a bazillion people so he has taught me how to think more like a chef in cooking large quantities of things. I was still buying the little cans of tuna until he showed me where they have the giant ones! He also was the first to buy the 40lb bag of brown rice and convinced me to buy fruit by the case from our local co-op. 
  • Yes, sometimes my favorite nutmeg grater disappears when he's doing a competition somewhere... but we do have more kitchen gadgets than a small gourmet shop. I have 4 sizes of ice cream scoops, two types of microplanes, multiple cheese slicers, spatulas in every size and material... and a lot of things I don't know how to use.
  • When he complements my dinner, it's a REAL complement! He's got a dozen initials after his name, judges other professionals, certifies new chefs... and so when he sincerely tells me something I made is really good, those are the complements that really matter!
  • He may see no problem with the super expensive cheese or dry-aged-for-longer-than-makes-sense-to-my-brain cut of beef... but he can also take a few leftover chicken thighs, some random condiments and whatever is in the pantry and make lunch for all the kids with some kind of leftovers to put in the freezer for another night. I see "we have nothing to eat here..." he sees "Mystery Basket!"
 So, yes... being married to a chef means lots of nights alone, permanent markers in the washing machine, criticism on how you store items in the fridge, no offers from friends to come over for dinner, and being given bites of food and told "just taste it... don't worry about what it is"....
but they are passionate, artistic, creative and driven. They see solutions. They can tell sole from flounder, fresh from frozen and point out menu errors for sport. They tell great war stories about a super busy night, that lady who ordered the well-done filet, or the myth of the 40-hour work week, and wake up saying "I just dreamed my next menu item!"

I've been blessed to be married to an amazing man who happens to be not only an awesome husband, friend and father to a dozen kids who think he hung the moon... but he's also a chef, and a really good one, and I'm very thankful that he chose me!

Happy Anniversary, sweetheart! I love you!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The magic of the one-year mark

If you adopt a child you'll hear "just wait until it's been a year..." or "you won't really find your new 'normal' until one year at home" or "all of this stuff will be a distant memory once you hit the one-year mark."

Oh, the hype.

Let me clear something up for you, sweet unsuspecting momma.

There is nothing magical about hitting that circled date on the calendar except that you survived and everyone survived along with you.

At the one-year point your child (consciously or not) may remember the year before, the trauma that happened, the loss... and grieve again.

At the one-year point you may be disappointed in your level of attachment. Them to you, or you to them.

At the one-year point you may be still struggling with lies, sneakiness, language barriers, trust issues and resentments.

At the one-year point you may still be grieving the life you had before.

At the one-year point you may believe the lie that "this is as good as it will ever get between us"... and it may be your marriage you're talking about.

At the one-year point you may be struggling more than you were at the one-month point and feel like a failure.

At the one-year point you may still be "one day at a time" surviving.

And it's okay.
It IS normal.
It will get better.
It may not ever look like you thought it would... but it can be beautiful in a different way.
This is not the end of the story. The story isn't over until the day you meet Jesus.

It's called being a parent. Parenting is sacrifice. Not in the "ohhh look what awesome people we are for our huuuuge sacrifice" sort of way, but in the daily "this sucks but I'm doing it anyway because I know what's right" kind of way. Every time you respond with patience and kindness when every fiber of your being wants to snap and look like a guest on Maury Povich... you've sacrificed. You've grown a tiny bit and you're becoming better. Every time you look up, give your full attention and don't send the child away but listen to the story about the pretzel that looked like an A or a V depending on the way you turn it... you've made progress. You're getting there. You're doing it. Bit by bit. Day by day. Moment by moment. And you're succeeding!

It's been one year since we brought our 5 home and yes, there are still struggles! Yes, we love our family! Yes, I still snap and freak out when someone uses the wrong verb then makes it plural. Yes, I fail and toss and turn at night thinking about how my children will only ever remember me losing my junk over the 15th spilled drink of the night or the time I wore noise-cancelling headphones while eating dinner because they could NOT for the sake of their lives and mine use their inside voices.

But then I have little successes:
a boy comes all the way back inside to give me a hug before school because he forgot;

one tells a sister to 'go get mom to help you' instead of being the parent this time;
"Mom! Did you see me?!" and I did.

And I realize... we're doing it.

It may not be magical at the one-year point... but I'm here to tell you that the 2 year mark is coming. Then the 3-year. Then the point will someday come when your child has been in your family more than they ever weren't... and THAT is magical.
No, that's redemption.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

When you're 15

My very first little girl is 15 today!
It doesn't quite seem possible...
seeing as how there's no way 
I'm old enough to have two teenagers..!
(humor me)

Dear sweet daughter,
I thought about what to write for your birthday. I thought about being all sappy and sentimental.
I thought about reminiscing about all the birthdays before today. I thought about telling the world some of the funny things you've done/said/written. I thought about just posting that picture of you covered in mud from Sunday. (I reserve the right to post it here further down the page.)
Ultimately, I decided that I'd like to share with you the things I hope for your future.

A Mommy's Fifteen Wishes for her Baby Girl on her Fifteenth Birthday!

1. Friends. I hope you have a couple of good friends. The kind that call you out on things that aren't right, support you when the whole world tells you "you can't", cry with you and make you laugh and spit liquids out of your nose. 
2. Selective Hearing. I wish I could sit on your shoulder and whisper in your ear every time someone says something unkind, untrue, unwholesome or hurtful. I would whisper truths - you are good, you are kind, you are beautiful, you are worthy, you are wonderful. 
3. Childhood. I wish for you to slow things down, enjoy the simple things, enjoy being a kid a little while longer. Twirl in your dresses, sit in your blanket fort and color, sleep with your blankie. These things go by so fast but they don't have to be gone just yet. 
4. Silliness. You have such a great sense of humor... don't ever lose that! The hardest things in life are lightened up with laughter! Spend some time being silly, practice laughing at yourself, and don't take life too seriously. 
5. Safety. Listen to the still, small voice in your spirit... the one that tells you to freeze right where you are, or leave right away. Trust it. Obey it. And keep your phone in your purse in the back seat when you finally get to drive a car. 
6. Direction. Like a compass that always points north, I wish for you a lifetime spent seeking after the heart of Jesus. Let Him be your North and all of the decisions you need to make will be easier because you know which way you are heading. 
7. Comfort. I wish for you to be comfortable in your own skin and comfortable with who you are. You are beautiful. Your heart is kind. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
8. Smile. You have such a beautiful smile! I hope you can be the type of young adult who has a happy heart and brings joy to those around you (and skip the moody/brooding/dark/emo years. Please.)
9. Clarity. I hope you see through the fog of this world and are able to simply see the right way to go. I pray you don't get bogged down sifting through the shiny new offerings the world wants to distract you with, and that you can always tell the fools gold from the real thing.
10. Modesty. I know it's hard in our society... but I wish for you to value yourself and your future husband so much that you dress the way you'd want other women to dress around him.
11. Independence. I hope you grow up to be the type of woman who can change her flat tire AND make homemade bread with dinner. A woman who can install a ceiling fan AND walk in heels. Not that you "don't need a man" but that your need for him is more than just what he can do around the house.
12. Travel. Go - see stuff! Swim with dolphins, climb mountains, hike trails, feed the hungry, bandage the wounded, pray with the oppressed... then come home. Because I'd miss you if you were gone for very long.
13. Siblings. Yeah, you figured I'd throw this in... but I wish for you to have a great relationship with them (yes, all of them... even the teen boy and pre-teen girl). You have an amazing gift in having so many brothers and sisters. You will always have family. You will always have nieces and nephews. You will be someone's favorite Aunt. You will always have a place to go for holidays and you will always have someone who is willing to drive to wherever you are just to sit with you when you're facing something hard. Don't squander your gift.
14. Saving. Save money for a rainy day, save notes, save journals, save ticket stubs and mementos. Save time for what's important, save your wisdom for those who ask for it, save your love for the one who deserves it.
15. Love. Oh, yes, baby girl... I wish for you to find love some day. But right now, fall in love with the One who IS Love. Let Him show you what it is to be loved and what love should look like. Don't fall for the lies of this world, for the infatuations and the crushes. Wait and see... wait and be sure... because I've been praying for the one man God has for you for your someday! I've been praying for him since you were a baby. He's going to be something special. He will be patient and kind, strong and sincere, romantic and smart, wise and discerning. He will be enthralled with your beauty and you will be his treasure. Dad and I - we want only who is right for you. Trust us in this. We love you too much to trust you to anyone but the one God has in store for you.

So, sweet baby girl... this is my list of hopes, dreams, wishes and prayers for you on your 15th birthday! I'm so proud of you you are, who you are becoming, and who you hope to someday be. You are amazing. You are lovely. You are my treasure and I'm so thankful you are mine!

Happy Birthday! 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Women of Planks

This is one that's been rolling around in my head for quite some time now.

I've noticed that online, in print, and on social media outlets people have lost all decorum and sense of self-control. They no longer think about who they hurt with their words and instead just go all-out vigilante on whoever they think is doing wrong in the world at the moment.

The one that really got to me recently was a series of posts by a friend who is a pro-life activist in her area.

Now, before you start heading for the "x" button to get the heck out of this blog post ASAP... hear me out.

I'm pro-adoption, pro-babies, pro-mommies, pro-people.
I'm pro-making good choices and I'm pro-marriage. I'm pro-waiting. I'm pro-choosing what's best for another even if it hurts you personally. I'm pro-loving people who don't think like me. I'm pro-Jesus and I think he's anti-hate.

When I scrolled through some pictures from a church event at a pro-life rally recently I noticed SO much hate. So much looking-down-our-noses at those who would/are/did choose abortion. I saw fear and hate and guilt and disgust and pride and ickyness. I saw the clear absence of Jesus. I saw name-calling and condescending terminology. I saw Christians acting like Pharisees. I saw Godly women with plank-filled eyeballs calling out others' sins in disgust. I wanted to puke. Then sob in a corner.
Because, people... this is NOT what Jesus would do. I've yet to find one reference in scripture to Jesus blasting someone's sins with hate mail or wearing an outer-garment emblazoned with "babies>murder". I've yet to find him not reaching down to touch the hand of the broken, healing the wounded, and comforting the mourning soul. I've yet to find him preaching via sign-on-a-stick.

The pro-lifer's call it "going to march at the abortuary" or "murder office"... pro-choicer's call the pro-lifers "forced birthers" and say they "seethe with hatred and disgust while preaching about God's laws".

Am I saying don't be active with causes you feel strongly about? Absolutely not.
What I AM saying...

Choose life, yes. But choose LOVE in how you speak.
Choose to help, not to hurt.
Choose to support, not to shame.
Choose to love, not to hate.
Choose to empower, not to fear.
Speak kindness and love and compassion over those who are fearful.
Speak kindness and love and compassion over those who are ashamed.
Speak kindness and love and compassion over those who feel stuck.

And put down your freaking signs.
They are disgusting.

If you MUST carry a sign, carry a sign that simply says "Please, don't."
Carry a sign that says "I'll help."
Carry a sign that says "Signs hurt, Jesus heals."
And then carry plentiful hugs, smiles, compassion and tears.
Consider their sins no worse than your own.
Consider if this was your daughter, or sister, or neighbor or best friend.
Consider your greatest failures on display for all to see... then trying to hide from the fear and shame...
but instead you are doubly shamed by those who were commissioned to love you.

Shame on us for ever looking down on another in disgust.
Shame on us for using our "christianity" to bring condemnation on another.

Thank you sweet friends who are concerned about my stance on abortion. I'm pro-life, but pro-ALL-life. I think that with as much passion as we have for the unborn, we should love the already-born. I think pro-lifers should be pro-adoption. They should be pro-teen mothers and pro-incarcerated mothers and pro-homeless mothers. We should love others the way we've been loved. And if love is the ultimate way we can BE Jesus... we should love that way and I don't think that way includes being hateful. Yes, pray. Yes, discussions in love. Yes, march on Washington. NO hateful, shameful, angry signs written to the women visiting the clinic.
I hope that clears up my position. :)

Friday, February 22, 2013

20 things I've learned

I realize it's been awhile since I've blogged anything.
It's not for lack of activity... I just feel like anything I have to say goes like this:
"Hi there! Well... things are busy... mostly good... it's winter... I'm tired of cold...the end."

So... I decided instead of 2 months of posts like THAT, I'd share with you some things I've learned over the past many weeks of radio silence.

I present to you: "
20 Things Chrissy has learned and feels the need to pass on to you, unsuspecting blog readers!"

1. The 6' tall shelf in the pantry is no match for a 4 year old in footsie pajamas who REALLY wants Girl Scout Thin Mints at 5:45am.

2. A 4 year old who is startled at 5:45am while eating stolen cookies will not drop the bag of cookies, but will drool chocolate while formulating an excuse.

3. The inner cardboard tube does not go down the toilet. Ever. Just put on gloves and pull it out. Long gloves.

4. You don't want to know what the sticky thing is on your sock. Just pull them off and throw into the washing machine.

5. Birthday cake for breakfast is totally acceptable. Just do it. It's no worse than donuts or Cap'n Crunch - no offense, Cap'n.

6. There is no vacuum in the world that is a match for 12 kids and a Great Pyrenees. A shop vac with an extension cord is your friend.

7. Noise cancelling headphones are also your friend.

8. Drink lots of water. Migraine-free for 15 days on 80oz a day! Woot!

9. If you spend 2 hours making homemade soft pretzels 5 of your children will think they are toxic. Actually 7 will... but two will see the reaction the 5 caused and decide to quietly choke it down anyway.

10. The amount of time spent doing a new hairstyle is directly proportionate to the difficulty your daughters will have locating their elusive sleep hats. You will threaten to wrap their heads in underwear. Take deep breaths.

11. 2100 square feet is not quite enough for 14 people and a giant dog. Well, the people can fit... it's all of their stuff. Not my stuff. My stuff is awesome.

12. If you plan to relax with a cup of hot something and read a book for an hour during nap time it WILL be the day your children act as though your quesadillas contained ephedrine.

13. Chalkboard paint + red sidewalk chalk = no bueno (in keeping with the quesadilla theme). Let's all ban together to outlaw Red Dye #40. And all other red dye too. I hear you can use beet dye to make Red Velvet cake. If this is true, I'm starting that petition.

14. The Care Bear Stare does not work on a sink full of dishes. It's not moving. Stubborn.

15. A coughing child is pitiful. Two coughing children grate on your nerves. 4-6 coughing children drive you to noise-cancelling headphones and googling "world's strongest cough suppressant" even though three of your kids are allergic to dextromethorphan. Yes, I spelled that without looking it up. (and just so you know... the general consensus is that the world's strongest stuff tastes like "melting down a Vicks mentholated cough drop, steeping a bunch of pine needles in it and then sprinkling in some ground-up moth balls for seasoning." I'm totally getting some.)

16. Your straight-A earning, honor-roll making, AP class taking daughter who has missed 13 days of school without getting a doctor's note will not be granted any special exceptions to the "over 10 absences" rule and will have unexcused absences listed. You will not care because she's a straight-A earning, honor-roll making, AP class taking sweetheart of a girl who was legitimately sick but didn't go to the doctor because who wants to pay $40 to hear "rest and fluids... it's a virus"? Certainly not you. Or me.

17. As much as you don't like to play the "give me a freaking break. I have 12 kids." card, the day you email the wrong info to the wrong person about the wrong children, then send in the wrong field trip permission trip form with the wrong kid, then forget a doctor's appointment and realize you never made a follow-up ortho appointment... you can play that card and play it you shall. Get a t-shirt made. Order business cards. Or make them yourself out of empty toilet paper tubes and red sidewalk chalk - that would be more effective anyway. And pat yourself on the back when you go to bed knowing you kept everyone alive for another day - even if you didn't once call a child by their actual name on the first try. There's always tomorrow. Or the day after that. And accuracy stifles creativity. Go with it.

18. Do not try to do yourself any favors and get the sugar-free or lite version of any coffee at Starbucks. You will hate it and it won't be the same. Get a small instead and enjoy it. Sheesh.

19. Small children yelling from the back seat - even in a giant 15-passenger van - CAN and WILL be heard at the drive-thru yelling "CAKE STICK!! CAKE STICK!!" Assure the drive-thru operator that they are not cake-stick deprived and no, you don't wish to crawl through the van trying to find the rogue cake ball to stop the shrieking of one very small 4 year old with ZERO cake-stick coordination.

20. Never underestimate the power of a well-timed Disney movie. DVR shows and don't allow them to be viewed until juuuuuuuust the right time that you need it... then WHAM! Instant TV-trance and you have a few moments of peace! Win-win.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Melkam Genna, a year later

A year ago this morning in Addis Ababa, I anxiously awaited a driver named Binyam (who ran on Ethiopian time) to arrive at the guest house to drive me and the other parents who had arrived in Ethiopia before me over to the orphanage to meet my children!

I had consumed multiple cups of super strong coffee, forced down some eggs with shells mixed in for good measure, chatted with the families I had only previously met through emails, and kept glancing out the door like a crazy person.

Finally, he arrived, I ran around announcing to the other families that he was here and it was time to GO!

The long, bumpy ride through the streets of Addis seemed to take forever. It was a familiar ride - horns beeping, goats and cows interweaving with people on the sidewalks, children in tattered and torn clothing, mothers begging at cracked open car windows, buses crammed so full of people I started suffocating just looking. Finally, one of the other mommies said "this is the street" and I felt my heart rate triple instantly. I fumbled with my cameras, asked others to take photos, mumbled something about not photographing my hindquarters, wiped sweaty palms on my jeans and grabbed the seat in front of me as we hit every pot hole down the alley to the gate. The van stopped with a jerk and the driver turned off the engine. Immediately little hands and toes appeared at the gate as children were shouting that someone was here.

I was so incredibly nervous.

Would I recognize them from their photos? Would they know me? Would they run away? Would they even like me? Would they be afraid of me or turn into show-offs? Would I like them?

As we piled out of the van and fumbled towards the gate, I remember thinking this was lacking any sort of pomp and circumstance. I'm about to meet my children! Where is the ceremony? Where is the parade? Life just goes on all around us like the entire world isn't aware of how this meshing of two worlds is about to change the lives of 14 people forever!! Don't they care? Shouldn't there be a moment of silence and some sort of... something?? This is EPIC, people!! Somebody make an announcement or stack up some rocks as a monument to this moment!

Then the gate creaked open on it's rusty metal hinges in that sound that normally races up my spine like a horror film sound track... but I barely noticed. I was scanning the sea of faces looking for the ones that belong to me.

I saw her. The baby of the five... looking up at me with those big eyes that we now joke would allow her to get away with anything. She looked nervous, so I smiled and walked inside the gate. I recognized them immediately, even mingled in with the other children. In my head, I was matching names with faces and trying to absorb everything my senses were picking up.

In this 15 seconds of elapsed time, suddenly I realized I was standing within the same 4 walls as the children I'd been dreaming and praying about for the past 5 months and I reached down and scooped up that baby girl and squeezed her tight.

She giggled, hugged me back and started inspecting my necklace, sunglasses, ponytail and face. The other four were right behind her, clamoring for hugs and inspecting this white lady from their photo albums. There was this somewhat awkward moment when we were all just looking at each other and across the lines of two languages there was an understood emotion of "It's really YOU!" in the air. 

Photos were taken, videos were rolling, and I think the only word I was able to say was "Wow..." for about 5 minutes.

 This day was incredible to say the least. It also happened to be Genna - Christmas in Ethiopia where they follow the Julian calendar. We played and hugged some more, saw everything there was to see that they wanted to show me, and then had a Christmas feast together complete with goat, lots of things I couldn't identify, lots of injera and lots of coffee. The kids drank soda and I attempted to choke down a tiny glass of honey wine out of respect.

I don't remember much of the rest of this day except for an overwhelming sense of peace - I had met them, they were wonderful! Any fears I had previously had about adopting older kids, older boys, a large group of children all at once, or anything else I'd imagined or read about online... were gone.

Melkam Genna, Ethiopia.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Blessings of Christmas

December blew me away.
I've talked before about how the Lord always provides for our family...but I need to share about the past month.

The first blessing of Christmas occurred just after we returned from Thanksgiving with Paul's parents in NY.
We were just running low. Low on gas, low on groceries, low on cash and low in spirit. It was just one of those times...more bills and unexpected stuff on top of an already tight budget and we were waiting on payday. It was no fun.
I just prayed "Lord...what's going on?! I feel forgotten right now."
I got a call from a friend who asked if I was home. Frankly, I had no desire to see anyone... I was just in a funk. I had a headache (and a side of pity party) and I almost said for her to please come any other time... but that nagging voice in my head said to tell her to come now. Well, she showed up with 3 cases of leftover cans, boxes, bags and turkeys from some local holiday meal thing! Suddenly I was standing in the kitchen filling up the pantry and planning meals.

Christmas continued to amaze us when church friends started leaving anonymous cards with cash or gift cards, cards came in the mail with grocery cards and Target cards and people were dropping envelopes in my purse at church!
One life group from our church collected money to bless a family with and they picked US! The same friend who brought the food over that day called to see if I would be home for another delivery... so you can imagine my surprise when it wasn't her carrying a turkey, but the sweetest couple at my door with a small box! That little box contained MULTIPLE gift cards so that we could go shopping for food or gifts or whatever we needed!
I cried. Big huge tears. It was simply amazing! Christmas shopping was suddenly less stressful, and every time I used money from one of those gift cards I was just so grateful to those sweet families who blessed us in this way.

A sweet friend of mine called me one evening to tell me she had received a strange phone call... someone who said they got her number from a mutual friend and wanted her to contact us and be sure someone would be here at a certain time so that they could make a delivery. Not sure what to make of that (and having watched a few too many episodes of NCIS and CSI) I wasn't sure if we SHOULD be here at that time... but considering I was more curious than fearful of certain death... we waited for the mystery to arrive! Somehow the local AAA (yes the auto club) had heard about our family and their office chose us to shower with gifts! They showed up with two cars - both trunks full of wrapped gifts addressed to each of our kids by name - and some for Mom and Dad, too! It was SUCH a shock! The kids all enjoyed the gifts they received, but nothing was as incredible as MY gift (well, it said "family"...) a new 6qt KitchenAid mixer!! My 17-yr old mixer had died earlier this fall! I was so surprised and I have already tested it out on a quadruple batch of muffins and some biscotti! I have NO idea how they got our name, or how they knew that I had been drooling over this mixer for months now... but that was such an amazing gift and something that will be used VERY often!

Another day a local family contacted my husband and said that they had hoped to bring us a meal back when we were first home with the 5, but our meal calendar was filling up and they wondered if that night might work well! What they didn't know is that he had just left town, things were CAH-RAZY around here with school and stuff, and that meal could NOT have had better timing. They brought pizza, salad, cookies and apples AND a gluten-free pizza for me. They also gave us a card with an additional gift inside to use later. 

After Christmas, we were heading up to Pennsylvania to visit with some of our closest friends (Paul had work in the town where we previously lived, so we made it into a family trip!) and after driving through the night and being completely exhausted, we decided to stop at a Cracker Barrel for breakfast. We had to wait for a table (something about there being 14 of us? hahaha!) for a bit, but everyone handled the wait very well by playing with the toys in the store area. We sat down, ordered our food, spilled cups of water everywhere three separate times... but three separate people came over to complement us on how well-behaved our children were. When you stand out like we do, those are the absolute sweetest compliments anyone could give! One kind older gentleman walked over to our table, asked if these children all belonged to us and when we said yes, told us how blessed we are and said to Paul "Santa told me to give this to you... Merry Christmas" and handed him money... enough to pay for breakfast!

Twice in December someone dropped off clothes on our porch.

One of my daughters' Sunday School teacher cleaned out her toy room and brought over a ton of Rescue Heroes (which have become an instant favorite), a basketball hoop and some other toys! I was going to save the Rescue Heroes for Christmas, but they saved the day when we had a full day of rain and all these kids stuck inside!

A very close friend received an amazing gift, one that restored her heart from brokenness, and I got to count down the minutes with her and watch it unfold. (sorry to be vague...but it's her story to tell)

A friend "got an AMAZING deal" on a Keurig machine... which she gave to me... because she knows I bleed dark roast arabica.

Another friend handed us cash for the car trip home...because she knew it would help. It bought lunch!

Finally, but certainly the top of my list...
watching my children experience Christmas - several of them for the first time. The joy on their faces and the pure excitement and honest appreciation for every single gift is something that words don't every accurately depict. It was wonderful.

The blessings lavished upon all of humanity in the gift of Jesus, blessings lavished upon my children through the generosity of others... all a picture of that kind of love that gives with no expectation of return, just to bless the recipient.

If you're reading and you were a part of any of this...
 please know how much we appreciate everything. This past month I've felt the presence of the Lord in these gifts, and I've heard him say with each thoughtful gesture from friends and strangers...
"You are never forgotten."