Wednesday, November 13, 2013

God's Greater Story: More than Beauty

Like many other girls, I long wished my body was more closely aligned with our culture's standard of beauty. Wishing my thick, dark brown, wavy hair to be thinner, lighter, and straighter. My dark brown eyes to be green to blue. I've wished for defined cheek bones and straighter hips.

The church's response to the culture emphasizes to young women that we are uniquely made and beautiful in God's eyes. A few years ago I read a book by a christian author that instructed readers to stand naked in front of a mirror and thank God for each part of their body. Yeah, that didn't fix anything for me...I have listened as churches, inspirational speakers, books, Facebook posts, even Lady GaGa (!), all in unison declare: "I'm beautiful in my way 'cause God makes no mistakes".

There I was, amid all this womanly hurrah, still lost in dissatisfaction with my body.

It wasn't until recently that I realized "uniquely beautiful" is only a very small part of what it means to be fearfully and wonderfully made. God's greater story is at work in my body.

It's happened too many times to count. Once, at my job, an Egyptian mistook me for being Egyptian. At a restaurant the Indian waiter mistook me for being Indian. A friend's Peruvian mother mistook me for being Peruvian. I have been assumed to be Guatemalan, Italian, Mexican, Pakistani... and each time, with a laugh, I say, "No, I'm from Texas!"

Yes, God's greater story is at work in my body. I have a God given purpose to minister to people of other cultures and He has crafted my body in such a way that I am easily accepted. No added barrier of being "foreign" with blue eyes and blond hair. My body is uniquely, beautifully, purposefully made.

Consider the blind man in the bible about whom Jesus said, "This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." And Queen Esther, whose physical beauty captivated the King, and she saved her people, the Jews, from annihilation. Consider Eric Little, the Scottish runner whose story is told in the movie Chariots of Fire, who said "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure." I know of a surgeon who says the same things about his steady hands. And then there's Nick Vujicic, born without arms and legs, who ministers to millions all over the world. 

I marvel at God's greater story. He gifted me with talents, desires, and a purposefully created body all working together for one intent - to display and to be God's love in the world in such a way as only I can. 
For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are Your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand — when I awake, I am still with You.
Psalm 139:13-18


Sunday, October 27, 2013

It's Not Just About The Going

The statistics scare me. According to the research in  "Too Valuable to Lose" by William Taylor, nearly half of all career missionaries (47%) will leave their work within the first 5 years. For the majority of them interpersonal relationships with other missionaries will be the primary reason. Statistics aside, I've seen this happen to friends and experienced the grief of broken ministry relationships for myself. Are we really willing to subject our family to such odds? 

Here at Elim it's missions emphasis week. We've enjoyed incredible speakers who are doing God's work all over the world. Men and women who are drilling wells in Uganda, caring for orphans in Kenya, working with university students in China, and every other imaginable ministry. This morning we heard from Pastor Dick Dreyer who has missions experience in over 50 countries including 10 years in Iran. Over and over students and church members have been challenged to "Pray, Give, and Go".

At the end of the Saturday night meeting the speaker invited anyone who wanted to say "Yes, I'm willing to go" to pray at the alter. I watched as college students walked forward to pray and to open their hearts to seriously consider overseas ministry. As the first few went forward I thought back to my own "yes" prayer. I was 16 years old and on a week long trip to Mexico with my youth group. One evening in a small Mexican church, profoundly moved by all I had experienced that week, I too approached the alter and poured out my heart in prayer.

Now, sixteen years later and on the verge of leaving for Papua, I prayed "Lord, you know I love you. And you know I love to go." In the midst of that prayer I hear in my heart, "Yes, but will you stay there for Me?" And I'm up out of my seat joining those at the alter. Realizing it's not just about the going. It's also about staying.

Mexico. Playing with children who forever changed my view of the world.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Culture Shock and the Adoptive Mom

"Cultural Differences and the New Missionary", the title of chapter three in our Cultures and Customs class text book, may as well been called "Adoption Shock and the New Mom". The stages of culture shock described were mirror images of the attachment process I'd been going through as a new adoptive mom. As I read through my homework I thought, Why didn't the social workers and adoption books explain it this way? It makes so much sense!

As I adjusted to having a toddler at home, I struggled with a tremendous sense of failure both as a wife and as a mother. Looking back, I wish that someone had said to me, It's ok. Everyone goes through this phase. It's adoption shock. So here I am, writing in hopes that someone stuck in the failure and fear stage will read this blog and hear me say - It's ok! You are normal! It's just adoption shock and you will come through!

Comparing Culture Shock and Adoption
In the table below I've taken the causes and stages of Culture Shock, along with a quote associated with each, from the book Anthropological Insights for Missionaries and added an adoption comparison from my own experience. The book raises the point that the severity of culture shock largely depends on an individual's personality and I'll assume the same for adoption. Your reactions may not be the same as mine! The list is long, but I do hope that seeing the causes, symptoms, and stages of culture shock will help as you find your way with your new family.

Culture Shock
Adoption Shock
Causes of Culture Shock
Language Shock
“Suddenly, as strangers in a new world, we are stripped of our primary means of interacting with other people. Like children, we struggle to say even the simplest things, and we constantly make mistakes.”
Isaiah was just under 2 years old when he moved home with us. Much of the time I didn’t understand what he wanted and this led to much frustration for all of us. I simply hadn’t known him long enough to understand his toddler talk.
Changes in Routine
“Life during the first year in a new culture is often a struggle simple to survive. All our time seems spent in cooking, washing clothes, marketing, and building or repairing our houses. No time is left for what we came to do.”
Going from full time work to full time mother was a huge transition. Not only that, but everything took three times as long to do with a toddler in tow. Just eating breakfast became a 45 minute ordeal. I seemed to end up rushed and late for everything.
Changes in Relationships
“Added to all this is our loss of identity as significant adults in the society. In our own society we know who we are because of offices, degrees, and memberships in different groups. In the new setting our old identity is gone.”
Going from managing my department at work, confident and fulfilled in my job, to being a stay at home mommy turned my sense of identity upside down. No longer surrounded by friends and colleagues, I became desperate for relationships.  
Loss of Understanding
“When our knowledge repeatedly fails us, we become desperate, for our lives seem to be careening out of control. In the long run, it is the sense of meaningless arising out of this confusion that can be the most damaging consequence...”
Soon after moving home Isaiah began to have hour long tantrums several times each day and also night terrors. I tried everything I could, but nothing seemed to make any difference. It truly felt as though my life was careening out of control.
Emotional and Evaluative Disorientation
“We feel guilty because we cannot live up to our own expectations. We are angry because no one told us it would be this way and because we make such slow progress in adjusting to the new culture.”
After several months, the stress became too much and I decided to return to work part time. Unable to cope at home as a full time mom, I felt like a complete failure as both a wife and mother. These were by far the darkest days.
Symptoms of Culture Shock
Rising Stress
“In their first service year new missionaries have usually experienced marked changes in their financial status, occupation, geographical location, recreation outlets, church routine, social activities, and eating habits.”
Going from two happily married and content individuals to a family of three was extremely stressful. Our income reduced while expenses increased, our home was turned upside down, and all energy was spent on our new son.
Physical Illness
“One common consequence of high stress is physical illness. Among the more common sicknesses caused by prolonged stress are chronic headaches, ulcers, lower back pain, high blood pressure, heart attaches, and chronic fatigue.”
I developed chronic headaches and fear of Isaiah melting down and tantruming at any moment left me anxious and panicky.
Psychological and Spiritual Depression
“The most serious consequences of stress are often depression and a sense of failure. We are overwhelmed by constantly having to face confusing situations….there is little time for leisure…our support systems are gone…we do not dare admit weakness…”
Depression looming, I returned to work for a break for me and in hopes that Isaiah would benefit from daily interaction with other children at preschool. Looking back, I’m not sure how I would have made it through this stage without some type of separation from the stress.
The Cycle of Culture Shock
The Tourist Stage
“Our first response to a new culture is fascination…This honeymoon stage may last from a few weeks to several months, depending on the circumstances.”
Isaiah moved home and I felt like the most blessed woman in the world. My child, whom I’d longed for and dreamed about, was finally home!
“This stage marks the crisis in the disease. How we respond to it determines whether or not we stay…Another process, however, is also at work during this stage, one we hardly notice. We are learning to live in the new culture.”
This phase lasted about 6 months, with me returning to work in the middle of it. Work became my break and before long I was looking forward to spending time with Isaiah and able to handle his tantrums (and my attitude) in a much more constructive manner.
“The emergence of humor often marks the beginning of recovery…Culture shock is not simply an experience to be endured…it is, in fact, one of the most significant and formative periods…it is a time when we are “bonded” in one way or another to the new culture.”
I don’t remember the exact day, but it certainly was a turning point. Isaiah began to tantrum over something silly and Ben started to laugh saying something along the lines of, “Why are you crying about that?” I laughed too and slowly stopped seeing every behavior as the end of the world.

“The final stage of culture shock comes when we feel comfortable in the new culture. We have now learned enough to function efficiently in our new setting without feelings of anxiety. We not only accept…but actually begin to enjoy…we cherish…and we begin to feel constructive in our work.”
And here we find ourselves! I love the words the author uses – accept, enjoy, and cherish. Isaiah’s behaviors (which are very much improved) no longer leave me fearful and anxious. I am a full time mom again, but this time loving having my son home with me. Perhaps the best part is the realization that, having made it through, I want to do it all again with another child!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

"What you doin' Mommy?"

"What you doin' Mommy? What you doin'?" my inquisitive son asks a little too loudly as he scrambles up the chair beside me. Small hands reach forward and grab my cheeks, pulling and pinching my face until we are eye to eye, foreheads touching, "What you doin' Mommy?"
We were in chapel and I had noticed the girl at the end of our row crying during worship. My heart went out to her and I wanted to encourage with a soft hand on the shoulder and kind words spoken in prayer. But life is different now with my bouncy little boy dancing and clapping to the music beside me. Any encouragement I could offer this stranger would be seconds short and awkwardly interrupted. Looking around to the people standing near I had hoped someone would see her.

But no one else does. They are lost in worship while she cries alone.

Knowing I will only have a few seconds I walk to her, reach out, and begin to pray. I feel her shoulders slump and shake with deep sobs.

Little hands now grabbing, pulling, my prayer interrupted. "What you doin' Mommy?" Isaiah asks."I'm praying for this lady. Do you want to pray for her too?" He decides he will and smiling says "Pray this lady. Amen."

I walked back to my seat a bit disheartened that I couldn't spend longer praying with this girl.

A little later that day I spotted the activity book that I'm using with Isaiah. The title is "Teaching Children to Pray." The arts and crafts projects Isaiah and I had done together that week were all on based on a portion of James 5:16 "Pray for each other".

And then I see it, cleverly disguised hypocrisy hiding in plain sight. I want to teach my child to pray, but am not willing to do so other than by books, coloring pages, and bedtime prayers. Is this really what prayer is? Or is prayer connecting to God's heart and living by what you see and hear from Him? And if this kind of prayer, the kind that moves you to the end of the row to comfort a stranger, is the kind of prayer I want to teach, shouldn't I include my son?

Admittedly, this approach is difficult to manage, but I am willing. As I review next week's activity topic "He Cares for Me" I pray, Lord, bring opportunities to live this with Isaiah. Awkward or not, I want him to see and hear you in the everyday. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The $50 Grocery Budget Challenge

Years ago, when we first arrived to Florida for Ben to start flight training we were quite short on money. Our only income was my $9 per hour 35 hours per week job as a customer service rep at the airport where Ben flew. During that time I used to say the dollar menu at McDonald's was a major financial decision. In many respects it was.

Endeavoring to live within our means, we set a $50 per week limit for groceries. By groceries I mean toiletries, cleaning supplies, food, everything. My work schedule was such that I had 3 days off each week. I'd spend one day planning out my purchases and the next day cooking and freezing meals. I admit there were many times I'd go to the grocery store and lust strawberries or any other luxury items we simply couldn't afford. There was just no way I could spend 10% of the week's grocery money on a box of berries, no matter how mouth watering.

In recent years I haven't given any thought to my grocery bill. Advancing through the company to a manager position and Ben gaining employment meant we had more than enough to live on. I'd buy whatever I fancied and didn't worry about coupons, sales, or whether I could afford organic.

As we arrived this week to our new home for bible college, unemployed and living on the generosity of others, we've reassessed the areas we spend. Groceries is one of my easiest places to go over board so we've established a $50 per week grocery budget challenge. Don't worry, I won't resort to feeding my family rice and beans (unless of course it's Huevos Rancheros which we gobbled up for dinner tonight! Spanish eggs, rice, black beans, and salsa. Yum!).

Part of the budget challenge is to make sure I am still serving healthy, well balanced meals. Of course if I need to spend more than $50 to feed my family then I do it. And it'll be ok to splurge for strawberries should one of us really want them! The idea is to purchase what we need/will consume each week. We want to avoid impulse purchases and buying that extra box of elbow noodles because it's nice to have on hand and I can't remember if I have one at home get the idea.

Yes, it takes work to successfully plan a $50 week. I am grateful for our earlier years when I learned to plan, shop, and cook on such a budget by absolute necessity. And this week? I've purchased the fixings for 5 dinners and all we need for lunches and breakfast. Total bill so far is  $43.16. What's on the menu? Tuna melts and tomato soup, cheesy pasta with carrots and green beans, loaded baked potatoes, Huevos Rancheros, and Gypsy toast with British style baked beans. I need two more meals for under $7. I'm thinking chicken curry and chili with corn bread. The challenge is on!  

Blankies and Bible School

In the rush to either give away, ship, or stuff into our car every single belonging we have, I really didn't care what happened to our blankets. "Just throw them away" I told my husband. Although soft and comforting, the blankets we'd used each night for the last who knows how many years, were quite worn. With a few holes and dingy spots they certainly didn't belong in the giveaway pile.

I went back to cleaning and sorting, not caring what would become of the blankets. In the last two weeks I had left a job that I loved after 8 years, went on a week long church mission trip, and came home to a manic week of sorting out our life before we would leave for bible college and ultimately for Indonesia. At the point we were discussing blankets, I was too preoccupied with the mountainous task ahead of us to care.

With the help of many volunteers we were able to accomplish everything necessary and vacated our apartment on time. As we packed up the final items into the car my husband Ben stuffed the blankets in the window area behind the back seats. Shaking my head I opted not to say anything. Obviously blankets were more important to him than to me.

We had decided to take a week to drive from Florida to the bible school in New York, planning to stop for a couple days in DC on the way. We always talked about seeing the capital and this seemed like the last chance to do so, at least for a long while.

Arriving at our new apartment I was quite pleased to see that the unit was larger than I anticipated. Nicely, but not overly, furnished I was excited to start this new chapter in our lives. That evening, tired from driving and unpacking, I climbed into my new bed and pulled up the comforter. "My love" I said, "I want my blankets." He pulled our soft, worn blankets onto the bed and I fell into an easy sleep.

Of all the belonging I brought, my blankets turned out to be the most comforting. Strange how such a little thing can mean so much when in the midst of change.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sad, but oh so blessed!

I was nervous the first time I stepped foot inside the children's home. Would they like me? What would they be like? Could I make a difference in the lives here? Today, more than a year and a half later, I walked out of the children's home with a grieving heart after saying good bye to teenagers and staff I've come to know and love.

Although fearing rejection from these "hardened teens", my experience at the home turned out to be the complete opposite. Welcomed with open arms, I now know the truth - They made the difference in my life. I am the one who was blessed!

It was at the children's home that I experienced first hand the volatility of everyday life for these teenagers. I walked in on a boy self-harming, cutting his hands open and smearing blood over his arms. I witnessed police handcuff and take away a girl after violent attack on another teen. I listened as kids recounted the most horrific stories of abuse and neglect. I worried and prayed for runaways.

But love is stronger than tragedy. And love pulled me back each week.

It was at the children's home that I saw teens who had everything taken away from them share the last can of soda. Kindness in the most unexpected places. The boy who could make me laugh like nobody's business. The girl who stopped to help a stranger clean her yard. The boy who would bleep out expletives when he rapped for me the "church lady". The teens who would meet me at the car and carry my bags for me, eagerly asking "What are we doing tonight, Miss Anisha?"

I cried on the way home tonight. Sad to go, but thanking God for the privilege of loving and being loved. I am truly blessed.

"Your mercy flows like a river wide,
And healing comes from Your hand.
Suffering children are safe in Your arms,
There is none like You."

There is None Like You - Hillsong

Friday, June 14, 2013

Free to be Isaiah

I recently read a blog post on about raising a high energy child. Reading through the writer's story was like reading about my own wild son. I laughed to myself as the mommy writer wondered if her son's high energy was due to coffee during pregnancy, too much tv when he was young, or early signs of ADHD.

I laughed because I have wondered in the past if Isaiah's high energy could be attributed to the disruption caused by adoption, or my own inexperience, or something inherited from his birth mom. Here we were, both facing a child that has more energy than we knew what to do with, both caught up in "what ifs".

The truth is, I now neither know nor care why Isaiah is the way he is. Like the motherhuddle mommy, I also have come to see Isaiah's zest for life as an admirable quality, no matter how tiring it can be for me.

We've had to be creative, inventing rules that give Isaiah the freedom to explore, but also keep me from jumping out of my skin with worry. "You can climb it, but you have to get down yourself" has put a stop to my yelling "No! Get down!" accross the playground. Similarly, "You can take the scooter on the skate park ramps if you wear a helmet" will hopefully save us from a scary head injury trip to the emergency room.

By far the most beneficial and challenging rule is one that I have for myself. If Isaiah falls down, I don't go to him unless he first cries. That sounds easy, but when you think about applying this rule to watching your toddler fall off his scooter at high speed on a concrete skate park, suddenly it isn't so easy keep those mothering instincts in check.

Maybe it sounds uncaring or somewhat heartless (it can sure feel that way), but by my not making a fuss Isaiah has the freedom to decide for himself if he is hurt. And most of the time, scrapped knee and all, he just decides to get back up and keep going. It's only my heart that is left shaken and in need of a cuddle.

So here's to brave, energetic, adventure loving children. Shaken heart and all, I'm so glad to have one. And if you haven't read themotherhuddle blog, here it is: Enjoy!


Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Call to Mothers: Seeing the Hurt on Mother's Day

Greeters stood at the doors welcoming, hugging, and handing out carnation flowers to all the mothers. I tried to time my entrance, waiting until all the greeters were busy with other people so that I could slip past unnoticed, but sneaking into church is not so easy. More than anything on this Sunday, Mother's Day Sunday, I just wanted to be invisible.

photo courtesy
One lady saw me and handed me a flower. "But I'm not a mother", I said. "It's for the future" she replied with a warm smile. I took the flower, smiled in return and went in to find a seat. Hiding the flower under my bible I fought hard to resist the increasing urge to rip it to shreds.

The music started and that menacing flower opened up all kinds of hurt. The deep grief of miscarriage and the sickening pain of infertility. I couldn't take it any longer. Struggling to maintain composure I ran out of the church and down the street. Finding an isolated parking lot I sat down on the dirty cement, pulled my knees to my chest, and wept.

Amazing how much can change in only one year. This Sunday when I walk through those same church doors I'll do so holding my son's hand. But I won't do it naively.

Many men and women will come to church this Sunday and instead of finding a place of comfort and healing, will endure wounds opened all over again. Will we see their hurt? Or will we be caught up in flowers, cards, and celebrating ourselves?

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”- Jesus (John 13:24-35)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Nama Saya Mommy

In adoption circles the process of developing attachment, the deep connection between families, is often described as a dance. Two people coming closer together, working in rhythm around each other. For me, attachment was more like tug of war or tag. Pushing and pulling, running and chasing. My experience of attachment was mostly sweaty, tiresome, hard work.

Early on, as we planned for adoption we decided to keep in contact with any safe family members of the child we brought home. We weren't interested in co-parenting, but felt strongly that these people would be important for our child to know growing up. We understood that our child would have a history and that part of understanding who you are is to understand where you come from.

When matched with Isaiah we asked about family to keep in touch with. For our little one, his only solid connection was to his foster family. So we set out to make sure his foster mother knew we wanted to maintain a relationship and regular visits.

But how do you explain to a two year old that your mommy is no longer your mommy and now you should love this new lady? How does the new lady become mommy when the old mommy is still in the picture? Would Isaiah ever love me or would his heart belong to the mother who brought him home from the hospital?

The amazing thing about attachment is that once the skill is learned the ability is there to use it again. So despite the scary "what if's" I kept my son close and day after day opened my heart to him. For Isaiah, attaching meant play as well as cuddles. Playgrounds, hiking trails, beach days, swimming pools, all became prime locations for developing attachment. Play and laughter hooking our hearts together.

Today, during our most recent visit with Isaiah's foster family, Isaiah was knocked by one of the swings and started to cry. He ran past him foster mother and into my arms for comfort.

Isaiah's foster mom had told me this would happen with time, but still it caught me by surprise. In that one moment that saw that I am Mommy now. Not just by name or by law, but truly, deeply, Mommy.

Pre-adoption picture from Isaiah's first over night visit.

Friday, May 3, 2013


Melt down of all melt downs. I didn't see it coming either. Wanting to spend some quality time with Isaiah I took him to the Adventure Zone at the Dinosaur Store after school today. We had a great time with the science displays, digging for fossils, whacking ground hogs with mallets and the never ending game of air hockey.

I so didn't see the melt down coming. And it was a big one. I'm talking bamboo under your toenails torture screaming melt down. 

These tantrums started a couple months ago and the smallest thing can set the off. This morning Isaiah freaked because he didn't want my help putting his shorts on but couldn't do it himself when he tried. 

The major melt down this afternoon reared its ugly head when it was time to leave the Adventure Zone. Now please don't try to council me on how I could have done this better, I gave him a 15 minutes to departure warning, then 5 minutes, then 1 minute and a last game of basket ball. I don't know what else to do.

Isaiah flopped down on the floor and just let loose. I asked him to come with me and said I'd had a fun time too. We would one back again but now had to go home. I turned and walked away. He didn't follow. In the end I had to drag Isaiah, kicking and screaming, out the door to the car. It was not my finest moment. 

I hope these tantrum eventually stop. This is the "terrible" two's, right? I mean, they didn't just start with my toddler, plenty other parents have survived this stage, right? Right? Please tell me I will too.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Belizean Boy

We've just returned today from our very first cruise. A 7 day Western Caribbean tour with Carnival Cruise Lines stoping in Cozumel, Belize, Isla Roatan, and Costa Maya. We had a great time celebrating my mother in-law's 60th birthday (which was last September, but never mind about that). Isaiah thoroughly enjoyed having the attention of his grandparents and two uncles.

Without doubt my favorite part of the cruise was seeing the monkeys in Belize. Actually, the monkeys don't have much to do with it at all. Seeing the monkeys allowed a glimpse into how Isaiah will do when we live in Papua.

We had no idea what we were going to do that day when we walked through the port area. A man holding a sign with pictures of tour options caught our attention and after a bit of discussion the monkey trip was selected. We followed him around to the tour office to pay and meet out guide.

Mrs Chris introduced herself and told us to wait while she went for the van. A little while later she pulled up in a mini van and we all piled inside. Isaiah fell asleep as Chris drove us around the city and talked about Belizean culture and her own upbringing as a poor farmer's daughter.

We soon drove out of the city and headed for the jungle. When we arrived at the location where we would see the monkeys everyone jumped out and went to meet our second guide. Mrs Chris said he was the best at monkey encounters.

The second guide's name was Manfred. He met us at the gate barefoot and with a big smile. Seeing that Manfred was barefoot Isaiah too quickly ditched his shoes. Keen to explore, Isaiah ran along the trails at the front of the group looking very much at home in the jungle. Chris commented to me, "He is a little Belizean boy running around with no shoes!"

On the drive back when I told Isaiah we were going "to the big ship", Isaiah asked, "Chris, too! Chris too please Mommy!"

Chris was touched when I told her Isaiah wanted her to go back to the ship with us. "In five years of giving tours this is the first little boy to every take off his shoes and run around like a Belizean. He is also the first to ask for me to go back to the ship. You have a very special one!"

Indeed we do. Isaiah did instinctively what missionaries can take years to accomplish. He just fit. And I cannot tell you how much this did for my heart. I have wondered and worried about how Isaiah would do in another culture. After Belize, I won't worry any more.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Seeing Jane

A couple nights ago while out to eat I spotted a girl who used to live at the children's home. The mere sight of her, although far away, left me shaken again. When I saw her I was in the process of removing my on the verge of tantruming two year old who had just spit a mouthful of milk on the table. By the time I'd walked outside she'd already gone.

The last time I saw this girl she was being taken away by police for striking another child with a bat. At least I think it was a bat, I don't quite remember.

It was a Tuesday evening and like all my other Tuesdays I was on the way to the children's home with a bag of activities. As I walked out of my car this girl, lets call her Jane, ran over to me with a big smile on her face. She threw her arms around my neck and gave me a giant hug. "Hi sweetie! I'm so glad to see you!" I said, and we walked towards the front of the house arm in arm.

As we walked through the front door the staff saw Jane and exclaimed, "What are you doing out of your room?! Did you escape through the window?" They escorted her to the office to be supervised until the police arrived.

Inside the kitchen area I put my bag on the table. A few of the other kids came over to see what activity we were going to do. I pulled out duck tape and promised to teach how to make wallets, bowls, flowers, etc. Several kids sat down at the table, eager to get started. After a little while the staff let Jane out of the office and allowed her to participate in our activity.

The police arrived and Jane went with them to answer questions. Mark, the boy she hit, came in and suddenly I realized this wasn't just some little pre-teen spat. The entire right side of his face was covered with blood. He paced the room angrily and talked under his breath. His eyes were wild and his body tense, ready for a fight. I closed my eyes and began to pray.

Another police car arrived and as the officer entered the home he shouted, "Hey! Some kid is coughing up blood out front!" Everyone ran outside. James was biting the inside of his mouth hard in order to make it bleed. Then he would spit pools of blood in front of the police car. A someonecame back inside and said, "It's ok. It's just James. He always does that." No, it's not ok. I thought and continued to pray.

Eventually Jane came out. She was crying. The police took her away in handcuffs. The other kids told me she'd never been arrested before so she was just scared. It would be ok though, juvy isn't that bad.

I continued to pray and tried to teach the other kids how to make wallets. The whole experience was unreal. Nobody seemed the least bit upset besides Jane and Mark. The other kids acted like this was no big deal. My heart was in a million pieces.

I've often thought back on that night as both my best and worst night at the children's home. The best because with all the business of police questioning I actually got to spend a lot of solid quality time with the other children. The worst because Jane had been violent, Mark was hurt, and now Jane was gone. 

In just two hours I'd experienced first hand the world in which these children live everyday and it was sobering. So when I saw Jane again the other day, even just for a second, it brought everything back. My heart again in my throat I am pushed back to prayer. Lord, Jane needs to know and see your love for her. I really hope she's does. 

*Names of all children changed.

Learning to Love Papi

A colleague at work recently told me about the adoption of his own two children. His son was adopted from an orphanage and the only male influence in his life had been an abusive one. For the first few months after adoption his son wouldn't even want to be in the same room with him. Only time and trust transformed this little boy's perception of who/what a father really is.

Although not to that extreme, our own experience with Isaiah learning to love his Papi has been somewhat challenging. At the full disclosure meeting, before we'd even met Isaiah, we were told "He doesn't really like men". Everyone around the table felt it would take Isaiah time to warm up to Ben. One individual told us, "I don't know how he'll react. He may be scared and run away. Just don't take it personally."

From birth Isaiah lived with a wonderful single foster mother. The concept of "Mommy" already existed, but what about a father? How do you show a two year old what a loving father is? I think it's quite telling that Isaiah chose to call Ben "Papi" right from the start. He had no clue what a "Daddy" was, but Papi made sense to him as one of the nurses Isaiah used to see in his foster home is Hispanic and called her husband "Papi".

To our relief, Isaiah didn't freak out when he met Ben for the first time. He was wary of both of us and mostly kept his distance. No crying or upset, just an uneasiness about who we were. I wonder what was going on inside that little head at the time. It must have been quite confusing.

Isaiah is still learning who his Papi is and the deep meaning of this relationship. Probably one of the most helpful things we have done to reinforce this relationship is to be affectionate in front of Isaiah. He may refuse to give Papi a hug or a kiss when asked, but I quickly and cheerfully chime in "I want one Papi!" After a few months of this Isaiah started to push through and say "No! My hug Papi!" and give a big cuddle.

At some point Isaiah started to ask for hugs and kisses from Ben. And more and more Isaiah seeks Ben out to help when he needs something or gets hurt. I
love watching this relationship grow. Even tonight, as Isaiah went down to sleep and I finished our nighttime prayer Ben said "Isaiah can pray too." I had no idea he'd taught Isaiah how to pray.

Undoubtedly, Father's have a big responsibility. Not just to love, lead, and provide for their families, but to be living breathing examples of our Heavenly Father. By learning to love and receive love from his Papi, Isaiah is also learning how to love and receive love from God. No words could ever express how much this fills my mommy heart with joy.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Potty Training

Ok so this is a bit weird, but I am actually enjoying potty training. Unexpected? Yes, totally. I cannot tell you how much I've feared it. The mere thought of transitioning from diapers to big boy pants would make my palms sweat.

But I hate diapers. And Isaiah is an all or nothing kind of kid. As long as he has a diaper he won't commit to asking to going to the potty when he needs to.

Yesterday after I picked Isaiah up from school I told him he could wear his big boy pants. He was sooooo excited. "You can wear your big boy pants, but when you need to go potty you need to tell mommy. You don't want to get your big boy pants dirty." And with that he was running around in nothing but Thomas the Tank Engine undies.

Reluctant to go on the potty until it was too late I changed his undies every 10-15 minutes for the first few hours. What an exhausting experience, running to the potty with pee dripping down his leg only to get him seated and hear "all done!" without even the slightest hint of a tinkle in the pot.

Here we are 36 hours in and I am so amazed. We've had a few accidents but nothing like at the beginning. He even woke up dry from his nap. Talk about making a mommy proud!

We are by no means out of the woods. Isaiah loves wearing big boy pants and doesn't want to get them dirty, but also doesn't want to stop playing. Jelly beans have been a big help with motivation, but sometimes playing trucks just takes priority and accidents happen. We'll get there and hopefully it will be sooner rather than later....Tomorrow we're going to a friend's house to dye eggs. At least she has wood floors!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Welcomed Home

We're coming up to 5 months since Isaiah came home and he is such different child now. There were always little glimpses of the real Isaiah peeking out. Looking back now I can see he was grieving, but grief is hard to identify and understand in a two year old.

My social worker told me he would grieve for his foster mom and in theory I know this would happen. I imagined Isaiah would be shy and insecure at first. I remembered my training and had a plan. We would be joined at the hip and I would work hard at attachment. I'd read the books after all. I knew the stages.

I didn't expect the pushing and pulling. The melt down because he wanted a cuddle this instant only to be pushed away with an angry hand when I went to give a hug. Or the morning Isaiah pointed to the picture of his foster mom and I said, "Yes, that's Ms Debi." And he screamed back at me "No! Mommy!" Or the way he grieved for his foster siblings and refused to play with other children. If they approached him he would yell, "No!" and hide behind me.

I didn't expect the separation anxiety. I couldn't even go to the bathroom without Isaiah desending into a full blown panic attack. Or the nightmares when he would start screaming and hitting something imaginary. Refusing to be comforted when we came to him.

By the end of the most days I didnt want to see Isaiah anymore and I didnt like myself. I felt like a failure. Afraid to say anything because prior to Isaiah being placed with us we had worked hard to convince social workers that we would be great parents. Sure they told us they were there to support, but I lived in fear that they might think they had made a wrong decision and take him away.

It wasn't all bad though. The real Isaiah was always there, just under the surface. And at many points throuout the day he would be his silly happy self. And more than anything I loved him despite the difficulties. I just didn't understand that the moodiness was grief.

I write this because today Isaiah is a totally different child. He is confident and open. He is happy and inquisitive. He charms everyone he meets and although we still have temper tantrums they seem to be the normal two year old kind! Isaiah is a delight to be with and I miss him when we're apart. I can't get enough of him and love when he scoots up into my lap for a cuddle.

From the moment I saw Isaiah's picture I knew he was my son and desperately wanted him. I have loved him from that very moment and feel priviledged to be his mommy. I see plainly that yes, adoption is wonderful. We have a son and Isaiah has parents. But adoption is born from loss and grief is a fact of life.

Thank God that he is in the business of making beauty from ashes. That He knows the condition of our hearts and loves perfectly. That He sets the lonely in families and tells the most amazing stories with our lives. I feel privileged to be Isaiah's mommy, but even more so to be God's child. Adopted into His family. Welcomed home and my grieving and broken heart made whole.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Hope of Healing

For a year now I've spent nearly every Tuesday evening at our local therapeutic group home for foster children. The opportunity to visit with the children and teens that live there is a tremendous privilege. Still, without fail at the end of the evening I leave with a heavy heart.

This evening was no different. As we worked on a craft project one of the girls who just returned from a visit with her mom said cheerfully, "I found out my dad's real name today!" She was very excited to finally know the actual name of her father. However, this new disclosure now throws doubt on other things she thought were true. She is so young and doesn't know what to believe.

There is always something. Words spoken that remind me of the deep brokenness in their lives. I leave fully aware that I don't have what it takes to heal them. I can't give love big enough to wipe away the pain and anger.

What do you say to a child who tells you the scar on their newly shaved head resulted from a hit with a candle stick? Or that they just got out of jail for stabbing someone and have no problem doing it again if insulted? Or that their case worker says they get to go home the next day, but the following week they are still there? Or the one you believed was turning a new leaf and is now in prison awaiting trial for manslaughter?

I love that scripture describes Jesus as a man of suffering. He, the very son of God, knows the pain of sin. He carried it. He defeated it.

And so at the end of every Tuesday I share my heavy heart with Him. I am reminded that those children are His and He cares for them much more than I ever could. He pursues them with the love needed for healing. He takes broken lives and instead of just mending them, gives new life.

My hear is heavy, but my spirit soars. The hope of healing pushes me back every week. I can't get enough. I am hungry for it.

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:14-19

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Heart Strings

Each year, as part of my job, I coordinate Bristow Academy's presence at Heli Expo. The show is a great opportunity to meet new aviation friends and catch up with old ones. Undoubtably my favorite part is seeing graduates who the first time I met them were considering starting flight training and are now off flying their dream jobs.

This year the show was held in Vegas from March 5-7. After flying to Houston to drop Isaiah off with my parents we then flew to Vegas, arriving a couple days in advance to set everything up.

I don't gamble or smoke and only drink a glass of wine or two on special occasions. Although these three vices seem to be the main sources of entertainment in Vegas, I was still excited to go and experience a new city.

Our trip started well and we caught glimpses of the Grand Canyon from our airplane window. After collecting our bags we headed out to the shuttle stop and waited with a group for a ride to our hotel. I've taken many shared shuttles and have always felt comfortable. Even last year when our driver got hopelessly lost and we bumped our way through an alley of potholes the entire experience was inconvenient, not uncomfortable. Vegas however, is not for the naive.

As it turned out the loud drunk guy from the plane shared our bus and about half way through the journey started asking where he could buy weed. The young Australian teen sitting next to him said he was looking for weed to and so they exchanged phone numbers promising to call each other so they could "get their heads right". I was thankful to arrive at our hotel and escape the whole uncomfortable situation.

The Expo went wonderfully and we even managed to take in the show. Le Reve was extraordinary and we were blown away by the strength, skill, and grace of the cast.

By the third day I missed my little Isaiah much more than I expected. When we called to speak with him on the phone he started screaming "Mommy mommy mommy!" and wailing loudly. We told Isaiah we love him, would see him soon, and quickly hung up. It was too late though, my heart had already shattered into a million pieces. Mom called back later and said Isaiah had calmed down very quickly and happily gone back to exploring the backyard. Calmed down or not, all I wanted was to board the next plane and hold my little boy.

I hadn't expected to miss Isaiah so much. I don't know if I have it in me to leave him again and am thankful that I don't have any more work commitments that would require me to. This whole mommy thing is new to me and I am surprised all the time with the changes that quietly make a home in my heart. Sometimes, like this time, I'm not aware of those changes until they overtake me. It's as if I have little strings tied to my heart. I'm not sure how many there are and only discover one when it is individually pulled.

The highlight of the trip was having dinner with the Helimission folks also exhibiting at the Expo. Both Ben and I were delighted to meet Brian, a pilot who had served with Helimission for fourteen years. Aware that working on the field opens you up to all kinds of difficulties we asked how we could best guard our hearts and relationships. Brian spoke of keeping your family tight and loyalty to one another. He spoke about protecting each other spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically.

Thinking back on our conversation I am reminded of my wedding vows. My solemn vow to be Ben's faithful partner in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and in joy as well as in sorrow. Such few and simple words. Words spoken in love, but also spoken well before any real heartache found us.

In everything I think of God, the loving Father who couldn't bare to be apart from His children and so made a way for redemption. And of Jesus, the ever faithful lover of my soul. I think King David sang it best in his psalm:

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.

Psalm 139:7-10

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Where did all that hair come from?

It happens all the time. In the grocery store, at the library, basically anywhere that involves standing in a line for more than 2 minutes. It's just enough time for someone to look over, see Isaiah and exclaim, "Wow! Where did all that hair come from?" Followed by several quick back and forth glances, looking at me, back to Isaiah, back to me, and I see the confusion all over their faces.

I'm not about to respond "Oh, we'll he's adopted." to some stranger. So instead I say, "It's amazing isn't it! We really love it!" From this point one of two things happen, either the person says, "Yes it's fantastic!" or, and I really don't understand why after I've politely evaded the question this would ever be ok, they insist, "No, really. Where did he get that hair?"

Since my momma bears continuously prowls just below the surface ready to attack at the slightest hint of adoption related junk comments I have to consiously reign myself in. So with a big smile I say, "We don't know but we're glad he's got it!" And sometimes to my amazement people keep pushing and I end up stonewalling with non answers. Or sometmes, if I'm simply not in the mood, I'll say with a straight face, "From me". And as an honest Christian girl I hate it when my frustrations get the best of me and I lie. Ugh.

I wonder, how do parents of internationally adopted children do it? Our than our wildly different hair it's not too difficult to assume Isaiah was born to me. But what if he was of a completely different race? How many more comments would be leveled at us wherever we went? Seriously. Those parents have my respect.

And here's that hair in case you're wondering what all the fuss is about!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A New Adventure

A couple weeks ago my husband received an email that will change my life. We've been invited to join a charitable organization called Helimission in Papua, Indonesia. My husband Ben is a helicopter pilot and mechanic and will use these skills to support the tribal people living around our soon to be home town of Wamena. Air support is especially crucial when you need a doctor and there are no roads to get you to the hospital.

I am excited about this new adventure. Although the timing of the email was surprising, it wasn't unexpected. We've been working towards this goal for the last eight years. We just thought it would be a couple more years until we actually got to go.

The really crazy thing is that this is the second email to drastically change my life in less than six months. At the end of last September we were contacted about at little boy named Isaiah and adopted him a little over a week ago on Valentine's Day (so sweet, I know!). Isaiah is two years old and an absolute delight. He can definately throw a temper trantrum with the best of them, but for the most part he is a very happy child. We feel so blessed to be his parents!

And here we are. Just starting to learn to be a family and now preparing to sell everything and move across the globe. Intimidating? Yes, but I'm up for it!

The first step of this move is to attend a semester of bible college in NY. I've lived in Florida the last eight years so hoping the fall and winter up north are kind to me. Next, we go for language school in Indoneia 8 months or so. Once we have a reasonable grasp of the language we'll move to Wamena and start a three year term.

From now until August we'll get the word out about our move and raise financial support. Yep, this gig is totally voluntary! But we know it'll work out. I simply don't have time to write about all the amazing ways God has confirmed this path to us.

I invite you to join me on this journey. I have no idea what it will look like, but jump in. We've got plenty of room and always love company.