Saturday, September 3, 2011

These are the words I would say....

Ah, Labor Day weekend. A respite for most from the work-, school-, full-of-duties typical week. A promise of (hopefully) cooler weather on the way and favorite hoodies making their return. But for me, it brings back a rush of memories and things I sometimes try to forget. 16 years ago today, my brother took his own life. It's better to just go ahead and get that awkwardness out of the way. "Passed away" really doesn't ring true in these types of circumstances. Now, don't put on your obligatory sympathetic face. In 16 years, it's amazing how much you process and accept. That being said, there are certain aspects of his death that get more difficult for me as I grow older. I am not sure why that is or exactly which part of my recessed brain has been activated with the passing of time. Definitely not the practical short-term memory part. Nevertheless, this time of year creeps up on me and then blasts me with its reality each first weekend in September. My mom said the other day that you can feel it in the air. It's true. If you have ever gone through a tragedy or loss, you well know that grief cycles yet has no solid formula for each individual. Yes, there is a similar pattern of feelings, but grief seems to show itself differently according to our dispositions, thought patterns, and circumstances. Tricky little bugger, grief.

So here I am this year, noticing the more melancholy feelings in myself, searching for the trigger until...aha! Labor Day. Picnics, road trips, a lengthy funeral procession escorted by dozens of our city's finest policemen. That is my most vivid Labor Day memory. My brother was a police officer for the city of Nashville. He was also a soldier in the Navy who bravely served in Desert Storm. It was after this experience that he returned....a bit more broken. His real battle wasn't against a physical enemy or threat, though. He fought well. Just not quite long enough. He left behind a wife and 3 children. He also left behind the rest of us who loved him and held him dear.

Suicide is not something we generally bring into our daily dinner conversations or party icebreakers. It is, in general, a taboo and unfortunate topic. Death itself makes us feel discomfort, but add anything 'out of the ordinary' and we quickly move past the point of social acceptance. At times, it has been uncomfortable to mention. My mother still says she has 4 children: 3 here and 1 with Jesus. I still say I have 3 older brothers, which is great until anyone asks further questions or are curious about how he died. Then it gets a bit...special.

My favorite incident was the time we had extras for the annual Easter dinner. The one poor innocent soul asked, "So, is that your sister?" "No, that is my sister-in-law." "Oh, so that guy is your brother?" --awkward pause-- "No. That's her boyfriend." ~sigh~ And (giggle) ...cue story. Ironically, people seem even more uncomfortable when you are able to pleasantly explain. It's more entertaining now that said sister-in-law is re-married to a fantastic fellow (previously mentioned boyfriend). The book that my family could write if anyone would believe it were true....

There are days when I miss him more than others. Jeff could fix anything, build anything, and figure out just how anything worked.....he was really quite convenient to have around the house. He never called me by my name. Instead, he called me "Peanut." Don't ask. I have no idea. But I loved hearing the sound of it ring up the stairs when he came through the door. We have friends who call their little girl "Peanut." The first time I heard it, my heart initially sank but then lifted with a feeling of joy. I hope that daddy never stops calling her by that nickname--even when she is 16 and rolls her eyes at him. She will love it more than words can say one day as she looks back.

I missed him greatly on my wedding day, and I felt a pang of loss when my babies were born. They have no knowledge of him other than the stories I can offer, and as I was 18 and he 33 when he was gone my memories are sadly too few for them to understand. I want to paint a full picture for them, but the mind tends to get filled with many other things as the years come and go. However, certain things remain clear and bright. These are the things I want to hold onto--to take with me as I continue to surpass him in years. Things I would say if he were still here to hear them.

And so I have decided to share a few of those things. Not as some sort of bizarre connection with the other world, but simply as a way to connect my heart with my thoughts. I have never been one to spend time at his gravesite as I found it too cold and distant for me there. I don't converse with him or write him letters. Those things are wonderful outlets for some; for me, they offered no healing. Instead, I believe that my brother is waiting for the rest of us to arrive in heaven where we will have plenty of time to catch up on everything we missed. I'm sure you have your own thoughts about that topic, but I am ok with it. (Really. Don't share them.)

Until then, these bits of one-sided conversation will have to do:

"I have 501 things for you to make or fix. When can you start on that?"

"Please stop playing that wretched rendition of 'Born in the USA' on the piano. We can hear you all over the house. Feel free to continue that Carpenter's tune, though.....or use your crazy Bon Jovi voice."

"Mom made fried chicken. Meet me tomorrow at our usual kitchen spot, and we will eat it straight from the fridge. If I save you any..."

"Your children are beautiful, smart, thoughtful, amazing people. You should be so proud of them."

"Your granddaughter is precious and full of life. She also has your gift of good bit. I think her Daddy did, too, when he was little. I hope you can keep up."

"Can you say just a little while longer today? I'm sure the kids would love to see you."

"Please keep waiting. I'll see you soon."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Work in Progress

As I enter back into the blogging world, it comes to my attention how very lacking I have been in even using this medium to keep up with everyday happenings. I have decided that it is ok with me if no one else decides to peruse my entries. I am going to write things out...for posterity or just plain ol' therapy. It provides me with a useful outlet for my inner ramblings.

My thoughts of late have been turned towards the concept of community. My fabulous friend Tiffany wrote a blog about one particular aspect of this topic. Should you have a few extra minutes, head on over and read it. You'll be glad you did. But finish this first. I digress...

My heart and mind have been struggling. There is a longing deep within me to "fit," to belong, to have some sense of rightness in the world around me. I have cried. I have prayed. I have cried some more. Little by little, it seems that the answer to those pleas in the dark is not going to be a neatly wrapped parchment scroll dropped from the heavens into my lap. Nor is it going to be some sudden sense of revelation and knowing. Instead, for me, God has chosen to take me on this personal journey His way. (I know, right? How far we mistakenly think we have come from being in the same, treading the same those Israelites.)

Over the past few weeks, I have seen that my community is bigger and more diverse than expected. Just as there are many hats that we each wear as we switch out our roles in life, there are also many facets to our daily lives and the relationships we share. I have a wonderful place of connection at my neighborhood elementary school. My children grow and learn there, and they are blessed daily by incredible teachers and friends. I laugh now when I recall how very very fearful I was about sending my offspring into the lion's den of public education. Yes, God. I hear You on that one. As a result of this choice, I now have the glamorous job of the substitute teacher which has allowed me to become familiar with the place my kids spend 7 hours of each weekday. I have the opportunity to volunteer and give my time to the teachers who invest in 24 kids all day every day....and somehow seem to do so with a smile. Friendships that I treasure have formed from this particular gathering place. All in all, a great big piece of who I am centers around this brick building with its aged copier and fussy laminating machine. I am at peace there.

I have a broad and very eccentric circle of friends. These people rarely have graced the same locale, but they are of the utmost importance to me. I know who to call when I want to go see a movie no one else will want to see and exactly which theater has better popcorn for such an event. I know who to call if I want to wander the aisles of Target or Barnes and Noble just for the heck of it. I have our-kids-are-friends friends, book-reading friends, day-to-day-let's-get-through-it friends, and friends who offer to pray and mean it . It's a great big mush pile of personalities, people, and places I have been in life. But it all comes together to make something well-balanced and lovely and so very necessary.

Part of what I am learning is that the place I was seeking to meet my need for validation may, in fact, not be the correct place. Not to be too cliche, but putting all of my eggs in one basket at this point in my life may not be what is wise or even fair. Not too long ago, I had one of those emotional breakdown moments which we females tend to do now and then . (Sorry to sound stereotypical, but it's true.) I called my sister-in-law, and during all of my complaints (valid, of course) and questions about searching for my place and purpose she made this comment: "Maybe God wants you to look to Him and not the _________. Just Him." Well, since we are being honest here, I did not enjoy that little nugget of wisdom one bit. Nope. Didn't like it, pushed it aside for a good while, and decided that was just something for her to say to sound all holy. (Sorry, sis-in-law who hopefully doesn't read this blog post!!! hehe) Fast forward a couple of weeks, and I am pretty sure she was correct. God has decided to use that as a reallllly funny life-plot development for me. Cue the irony. And I am slowly learning to listen.

I may not make it through this particular episode completely whole. A few bits and pieces may need to be lost, refined, or adjusted along the way. But if I get to the end with a greater appreciation for those that impact my life, a greater awareness for the places in which I can serve, and a greater focus on God and not the extra....junk....then I think it will be ok. Or at least my view will be much clearer.

OH! And here is that blog link:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Brave Journey

I spent the end of last week at the Orphan Alliance Summit VII Conference in Louisville, KY. Since that probably sounds like a long and mysterious title, I will give you the brief summary: basically, 2 days where all kinds of people who have any type of interest in orphan care, adoption, missions, etc. gather together to worship, be encouraged, meet one another, and learn lots and lots of information. It was a wonderful way to spend a few days, and I am still attempting to process everything that I learned and heard while there.

Each day the schedule began with a joint session followed by "breakout sessions," or smaller classes, which were more specific to your personal interests or needs. One of the sessions that I attended was called "Becoming a Multicultural/Multiracial Family." I decided upon it not only because it sounded interesting, but also because it counted towards my Hague training (10 credit hours we are required to take for our agency and for the government). The topic was divided into 2 sessions, and I had only planned on going to the first one. However, I learned that the 2nd session would be a panel discussion and I opted to attend it, as well. It turned out to be the best part of the conference for me.

It was led by 3 adult adoptees who each told their story, and then the floor was opened for questions which they graciously and openly answered. The things they chose to share truly opened my eyes to the path before us as a family. To be honest, I had never really thought much about what my child-to-be will think when she reaches the age of 30 or 40 and looks back. The feelings and thoughts she might have as an a a mother of her own children...had not really occurred to me. I wish I could say I had fully contemplated this entire journey, but most of us as parents don't often think that far down the road. (Or maybe I am the only one who doesn't!) We are trying to safely navigate the day to day with perhaps a thought for the future college fund thrown in here and there. I try not to spend a good deal of time dwelling on the "did I?" and "will they?" questions, although I do pray for specific things such as "please Lord let them all love each other when they grow up" and the desperate cry of " also please don't let them need too much therapy."

As a mom, I dream and hope for my children, I encourage them in the things they love to do, and I pray that God will cultivate His gifts in them as they go into their futures. But to be honest, I rarely think about what that future will look like to their minds and hearts, or how they will all feel about this adoption journey when they are grown and living out those dreams. These 3 individuals who spoke to us gave me a great deal to examine in my own heart, and they also gave me so much to ask myself. I will admit to having a moment of, "What am I thinking??!! What if I ruin everyone's life??!!" during this time of self-reflection. But in the end, it comes down to knowing what God has called us to do...and doing it. If I can confidently say that we are seeking God and His wisdom, then I have to trust Him with the ENTIRE thing. That means a few months from now as well as 30 years from now, I have to allow Him to guide us.

Another great part of the conference was getting some fabulous resources. This afternoon, I began reading one of the books I received and came across this quote: "All parenting is a brave journey of faith." I think that is such a simple yet profound statement. Yes, I have 2 children here waiting with us for the arrival of their sibling. Yes, when they are all 3 here together there will be challenges and trials along with the joys and the triumphs. But we don't turn back just because the road ahead looks a little unclear. We keep going. I am thankful to be on this brave journey. I pray that one day, when we all look behind at the road we have traveled, we will mostly be able to see His work in all of us. And, hopefully, we will have arrived at our destination together.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Freedom of Speech

I would like to preface this post by saying I have absolutely no objection to online learning, modern degree progams (in fact I'd love to be part of one if your wealthy relative would like to send me a check), or new-fangled education methods. I'm just talking here....

Yes, it's been ages since I decided to update this little corner of my mind. I will try to improve. Ideally these writings would be about adoption news and details of our fabulous Colombian travel plans. However, those have yet to be written unless someone has had a premonition. Instead I shall regale you with some fascinating thoughts, ok? Ok.

The past several weeks have offered me much opportunity for personal reflection. It seems I have reached a point in my life where particular things, relationships, stages, beliefs, feelings, etc. need to be examined. No, I am not having a crisis of faith or a nervous breakdown (yet) or anything of that nature. Rather I am simply finding myself frequently.....unsettled. Let me give you an example of my recent thought processes:

A few days ago, one of my nieces mentioned having to give a speech for one of her college classes. This brought back many oh-so-horrible memories of my own undergrad speech class and the case of nerves that would inevitably decide to show up just before it was my turn. Very few people deliver riveting speeches on random topics at this stage in life, in case you are wondering, but we all somehow waded through this rite of passage together. Surprisingly (or not), the world of technology has now changed the long-dreaded public speaking debacle! Instead of going before a class, my niece gave her speech in front of her husband who recorded it and posted it to YouTube. Her professor would be doing the entire evaluation on the web. The public audience has been removed. Where then is the need for nervousness? Most of us can spout off any type of knowledge, or lack thereof, in front of those with whom we are most comfortable. It sounds like a great concept all around, doesn't it? No fear, minimal risk, no peer rejection--why not?

Wellllll. If you are me, you are a bit troubled by this idea. Learning simplified or the fall of traditional education as we know it?????? Gasp! I know. That's over-doing it a bit. Throwing in a bit of drama for flair. But think about it. As much as I love technology, at some point we are losing touch with a very important reality: the big wide world around us.

Online speeches aside for a moment, this triggered something in my feeble brain. How often do we see this scene unfold in our daily lives? It becomes so very simple to get stuck in our roles and our smallish frames of reference and lose sight of a bigger picture. I will speak for myself and say that life with minimal risk is much easier than the alternative. However, what will I miss if I stay here in this place of security simply because I fear the unknown or rejection or ________ (fill in the blank with any number of ridiculous fearful imaginings)? I will probably miss a lot of little things, and I will most definitely miss the bigger results that God has in store for my life.

So I am for reinstating the outside world. If that requires me to make some changes, to become more focused in certain areas, to find a different path of sorts, then so be it. My hope is that the destination will be worth it. It may not be simple or comfortable or quiet, but most worthwhile things aren't. And as far as the world of public speaking goes, I'm for a crowded room. Because really, if you can't picture people in their underwear and talk to them for a full 3 minutes about a foreign diplomat whose name you drew out of a hat......what's the point?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Faith, Hope, and Love

I know it seems that updates are few and far between. This is mostly due to the fact that there is really no big news to update! We are just waiting. And waiting. But at least no one is waiting on us ~ our part is done for now! As soon as we receive our approval, I will certainly post it.

However, I have been thinking and praying and hoping.

Specifially I have been thinking quite a bit about my faith, or lack thereof. Am I really trusting God with this process in every way? Am I praying enough, seeking enough, growing enough? Many times the answer is: probably not. But I'm trying. And God is reminding me that His strength is still undeniably perfect in my weaknesses. He is also gently encouraging me to stay focused on those things which are most important. Sometimes the process is hard, but the result will one day overshadow the wait.

My friend, Kelly, brought her baby girl home from Colombia last August. We were 'introduced' through our caseworker last spring and discovered we live only 10 minutes from each other. Tonight we were able to join in the celebration of G.G's 1st birthday. It was so precious to watch her as she tried her cake, opened her presents (i.e., played with the tissue paper) and experienced all of the fun 1st birthday things that we so often take for granted. It was also exciting to think that our turn for 'firsts' will hopefully be coming soon. These are the moments when I know that God is in our circumstances. He so gently lets me see what is ahead for our family. He so kindly places people in our path that give us hope.

Recently, some friends of ours were re-located and had to make a big move. While we were so very sorry to see them go, can you guess where they are? Yep. Bogota, Colombia. We do not yet know which orphanage we will be working with, but we do know that at least the court proceedings will take place in Bogota. Now, honestly ~ what are the chances that you will leave the country for the first time ever and be able to visit someone you know? Claudia can speak Spanish faster than the speed of light. Our children will see friends. We will have the comfort of familiarity, if only for a few days. Again, God is moving. How amazing that He loves us enough to work out all of these details.

I hope to soon have exciting news to tell. Until then, we will continue the journey knowing that the plan is not our own. And that is a very good thing.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you."

Somehow 2010 is gone and here we are: 2011. Amazing that we are all still here; wasn't the world supposed to end already in some type of dramatic event? Partying like it was 1999 and all? Hmm.

As a brand new year unfolds, it truly feels sort of like a fresh slate this time, a new page if you will. Usually the ringing out of the old brings thoughts of resolutions and plans--things I say I will do and then am filled with disappointment later when I, in fact, did not. This year I have decided not to set unreasonable goals for myself. Perhaps I won't write "defined" lists at all and will keep to more general ideas. Maybe the key for me is to keep my expectations for myself lower; then I can only exceed them! This sounds gloomy, but that is not my intent. No, I just want to be able to meet the goals I set. And this year, those goals will be less about me and more about things of significance.

For the past few days, I have been pondering the people in my life. God has chosen to bless me and my family with some of the most amazing friends we could ever ask for. These friends are brave. They are loyal. They show integrity of the deepest kind. They deal with life as it comes to them, but with such strength and faith and.....courage. Of course, they don't recognize it as such. All the same, it's there. They are people that I am thankful to have on my side. It is humbling and honoring to know them. Don't get me wrong--they are also just plain fun and interesting and great to hang out with. I know just who to call for catching up on absolutely everything, who is always up for movie viewing, who to email that will understand that ridiculous incident, who to meet at Starbucks when the week is hard on either side, and who can fill up 8 hours with endless talking, eating, laughing, or...doing nothing at all.

That being said, I also know who I would call when a playground should be built for orphans in a foreign land. I could tell you where to find people with the biggest hearts you have ever seen. And you might even be surprised. I know who lies awake at night praying for a little boy in Africa to soon be at home in his bed. I know who to email when someone has a need that must be met before things fall apart. You may even see them give away what they just received, on many levels. I know exactly which doorstep I would end up on if things were at their worst. And knowing that would make things just a little bit better. All in all, my thoughts have leaned towards gratitude and amazement that I can claim such friends as mine.

So this year, my hope is to be just a little bit more like the people around me. My friends are bold. I don't have a great deal of boldness, but I would like to. Not so much that I am one of those annoying people that none of you would enjoy, but enough that I could take a chance on something when I hear that still small voice. Enough that I would be more than just someone who follows quietly. Enough to make a difference.

This year, my hope and prayer is that we will soon travel to another country and bring home our third child. I will have to find some boldness for that as neither of us have never left the good ol' USA. In fact, our kids have never been on an airplane. Leave it to us to do all of those life-altering things at one time. Woohoo! (Hey, I never said I did things halfway; just that I could stand a little more confidence as I go.)

And this year, I hope to be more aware of the world around me. Maybe then, just maybe, my friends will think of me and be as grateful as I am. Happy New Year!