Monday, July 21, 2014

Love & Joy, Defined

I'm nearing the end of my trip to China to bring my babies home. It's been a crazy whirlwind of emotional extremes, sensory overload, physical and mental exhaustion, and that bone-deep, feel-it-all-the-way-in-your-soul kind of love that connects this tired, happy momma with her babies.

There are so many moments to share from this trip, and hopefully I'll be able to squeeze some of them into this blog, between the chaos of settling Jack & Annie into our family over the next few weeks.

But right now, before we head home, before all the really important memories involving each of these oh-so-very important people take precedence so I can bear the record for them later, I want to take one tiny minute to share one of my favorite things.

Adoptive mommies and daddies are some of my favorite people in the whole entire world. I have cried sappy tears A LOT over the last three weeks. About half of them have involved my own new kiddos. The other half have involved other newly formed adoptive families. At every hotel we've visited, in the civil affairs offices, at the notaries, at the US embassy, and sometimes just walking the streets, we see other adoptive parents. And it turns me into a sniffly, sobby mess. These moms and dads just love these sweet babies SO MUCH! They are sweaty and frazzled and look as exhausted and overwhelmed as I feel, but the massive, huge thing you feel radiating from them is this big, ol' ginormous love for the wee ones who were strangers until just a few days earlier. And joy--folks, these people radiate joy. Even as they wrangle screaming, red-faced toddlers or cajole overloaded preschoolers to eat. I've seen love and joy in my life, but adoptive moms and dads win.

This morning in the US consulate every single adoptive family was completing a special needs adoption. These sweet kiddos were missing limbs, had unrepaired cleft palates, cerebral palsy, deafness, heart problems, and a host of undiagnosed issues. And every single parent looked like he/she had hit the child jackpot, like his/her child was the shining center of the universe. We proudly showed off our kiddos to each other & compared notes on forthcoming medical treatment once we arrived in the States, and I had to agree that each and every parent had indeed hit the child jackpot and was bringing home the most precious baby.

Compassion, kindness, gentleness, unselfish love are all things that I struggle constantly to learn and practice. At this point in my life I've accepted that it will take a lifetime and beyond to shape my self-centered heart into something more befitting a disciple of Christ.

Being surrounded by compassionate, kind, gentle, and unselfish people is my secret weapon and one of my best hopes for someday becoming like them.

There are so very many things that I love about adoption, and one of the top things is that it allows me to walk among some of the greatest hearts this world knows. It's a tough path, but oh my gosh, the company we keep along the way!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What We Need

Final travel approval has arrived.  I am officially cleared to run away to China and bring home my babies. Well, almost. I still need my Chinese visa, and I need to book my flights. But we're close, so close!

So very many of you have asked what we need, and I love you for that. I'm constantly humbled by the opportunity to walk this path in life alongside so many great & compassionate hearts.

The fierce independence and obsessive self-reliance of my younger self is gone. While I am excited --so excited-- to bring these little ones home, I'm also scared out of my mind. This is a huge freaking deal! Whirlwind travel is not my idea of fun, and I just signed on to 30+ hour flights with toddlers who don't speak English and haven't been outside the orphanage walls. I'm hitting 3 provinces in less than three weeks, all with babies in tow. We can't wait for these two new additions to our family, but I suspect they will be considerably less enthused about leaving all that is familiar to them and joining these funny looking people in a place filled with strange sights, smells, and sounds--and they will probably respond in typical toddler ways. Small child meltdowns and tantrums are also not my idea of fun, especially when I'm jet lagged and tired.

There are so many logistical details that are causing serious stress right now. Because I'm adopting two, I've got to have a travel companion...and that is a big question mark. Who that will be depends on when I can travel, $$, health, and a hundred other little things that make me crazy if I think about it too much. But I have to think about it, because now is the time to book flights!

And money, oh money! Money is such a huge and inescapable part of adoption. For the past year it has felt like I've done nothing but write ever larger checks and drop them down the black hole that is our adoption. Okay, it's not that bad. The kids & I have been planning and saving for this for a long time. We've spent about $25,000 so far, and travel is likely to be another $10,000. Sadly, my travel approval came during one of the more expensive travel periods. I was feeling okay about the financial end of things, but with double-price plane tickets, I'm working hard not to freak out now.

As if the financial end of adoption weren't stressful enough, we are also facing the loss of my income for about a month, as my employer doesn't offer maternity leave, so I have to take unpaid family leave time to make the trip over there and spend a few days recovering from jet lag before I take on day care costs (roughly equivalent to the cost of my mortgage) and head back to work.

Not to mention little details. A crib. Blankets (I thought we had plenty of extras...until I counted and discovered we don't). Shoes. I don't know what size shoes to wear, so I haven't bought any. I've got clothes packed in a couple of sizes, but I'm petrified to buy shoes. Trying to figure out if I need a new car seat or if the booster I've got will be adequate, given the size of my little boy. Suitcase. I was fine with luggage,  until a couple of months ago when my darling kiddos pulled my larger suitcase off the garage shelf and played with it behind the car, where I ran over it the next time I pulled the car out of the garage. I made a mental note to replace it and promptly forgot until now. A ride to the airport. A ride from the airport, probably in my car, because car seats.

What do we need?

Your prayers. Truly, completely, the most important thing. Prayer brings miracles. I need miracles. I need two little hearts to be soothed and comforted, and able to bond with their new mommy. I need my four kids staying home to be safe and happy and mostly safe. I need greater strength than I currently have, to handle the crazy travel without turning into a grumpy beast.

Food. I'm worried about the first days home while we all adjust to this new reality. I'm worried about how to get a shower by myself. I'm worried about kids on all kinds of wacky sleep schedules. If you feel inclined to bring dinner over one night, I will be ever so grateful.

Stuff. If you have outgrown preschooler shoes or an extra car seat or anything else that I've probably forgotten I need, I will accept it gratefully.

Travel funds. My best estimate is about $2000 short on travel costs, based on the higher rates right now. Long before I found my daughter, an adoption advocacy group was raising money to help someone adopt her. That someone ended up being me. The account is still active. Donations are tax deductible, and funds collected go directly to pay for our actual travel costs. If you feel inclined, you can help with this burden:

When I first started my adoption journey about fifteen years ago, I was horrified by the intrusion it presented. I was distraught that so many people were necessary in order to build my family. I saw it as taking something away from the precious intimacy of family.

I couldn't have been more wrong. Adoption has taught me, poignantly and personally, that it takes a village, and that's a beautiful thing. My little family is so blessed to be surrounded and sustained by love.

What do I need?

I need my village. Thank you for being them.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Building Up the Kingdom of God

Today has been a rather discouraging day.

It's Mother's Day, which is always bittersweet. I love being a mom and I adore my kids, but that doesn't erase the scars of infertility and the years of wondering whether I'd ever be a mother. While I celebrate being a mom my heart thinks of the mothers who made painful, difficult choices so that I could know the joy of my children. Since my divorce, most Mother's Days have fallen on a weekend when I don't have my kids with me, so the day is spent in ironic loneliness. Mother's Day reminds me of how far away from family I am, that greeting cards and messages on facebook are how we stay in touch, and I'm jealous of friends who celebrate the holiday by heading down the street to be with family.

I was supposed to teach a lesson in church today, about building up the kingdom of God. Recent health challenges got in the way and after the third round of throwing up over a trash can yesterday I gave in and called for someone to sub for me. I threw away my prepared quotes and illustrations, and ignored my sadness that the months of preparing and pondering were wasted. As I worked on that lesson, the thought kept tugging on my mind: what exactly is the kingdom of God and how do we build it? By yesterday, when I trashed my lesson plans, I still didn't have a definitive answer, though I had some thoughts.

So, today, I wandered aimless and alone through the house, tempted to go back to bed and skip the day entirely.

I'm too much of a stoic for that, though, so I made a list of simple things that I could do without unduly exerting myself and went to work.

One sort of downside of growing up as a deeply ingrained Mormon is that conflating culture and doctrine is the natural way of life. "Building up the kingdom of God" means doing missionary work, going to the temple, teaching lessons at church, doing your visiting teaching. For the past three months I've been studying a lesson that has stories of  tremendous sacrifice to contribute to the church--an elderly man who broke his leg on the way to a church meeting and waited until the meeting was over to see a doctor, families traveling for several days in wagons to attend church meetings, people who left their families for years to serve missions overseas. If you are home feeling nauseated and not getting much of anything done, it's easy to feel pretty useless in comparison.

In the midst of my uselessness, when I wasn't tending anyone's kids in nursery, or teaching Sunday School, or playing the organ, or carrying out any of the other tasks that we Mormons so love to busy ourselves with, I found myself again asking what exactly is the kingdom of God and how do we build it? Because I've got to tell you, if it's going to church and doing missionary work and being busy with church-y stuff, I am so screwed. In this current season of my life I barely keep my head above the water just sorta managing my own health and taking care of four cute kids and doing all the endless tasks involved in adding two more cute kids. That's it; that's all I can do right now.

Today I made bread dough and set it to rise so that I could feed the hungry.

I mixed up iced herb tea that my kids have been requesting and put it in the fridge to chill so that I could give drink to the thirsty.

I did three loads of laundry and sat in the recliner with my sewing kit for an hour, mending tears and repairing lost buttons so I could clothe the naked.

I heated a bowl of chicken noodle soup and nourished the sick, who, this time around, happen to be me.

I started the paperwork for my visa application, in preparation of the coming trip to set two beautiful, precious babies free of the orphanage, free of the stigma of growing up an orphan, free of growing up unloved and unwanted, and I celebrated that soon, so very soon, the captive will be liberated, and strangers will be welcomed home and become family.

And it was enough. My mundane to-do list answered my question.

"Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick and ye visited me, I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger and took thee in, or naked and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Insasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

I didn't have to go out looking for the kingdom of God, or run myself ragged trying to build it. It was right here all along, in the bread pans and soup bowls and late-night medicine and clean sheets.

Happy Mother's Day.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

My Son Dexter

Every year my kids' elementary school holds a race right before Thanksgiving. The first place runner in each grade gets to bring home an actual turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.

Every year my kids plot and scheme and dream and "train" so they can win the turkey.

Every year Grace comes in second place.

Second place winners bring home a pie. This makes mom very happy, because I love pie. This makes Grace very angry, because she hates pie.

Last night at dinner she began discussing strategy for the next Thanksgiving race.

"Argh! It's always Bernadette!!! No matter how hard I try, she ALWAYS beats me. She wins every single year!"

Joking, I responded, "Maybe this year she'll get sick right before Thanksgiving."

All three girls broke out in a chorus of "Mom! That's not very nice! How could you say that?"

Eric looked thoughtful. "Actually, let's find out what she's allergic to and then sneak it into her food. That way she'll FOR SURE get sick before the race, and Grace can win."

There was stunned silence around the table.

Grace: "Gosh, Eric, we don't want to kill her."

Eric: "Well, if she dies she won't ever beat you in a race again."

Mom: "Easy there, Satan."

Eric: "WHAT? I'm just sayin', it's one idea."

The parenting manuals didn't cover this. That will be the title of my book, if I ever get around to writing one. It pretty adequately sums up life at my house.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ten-Year Old B*tches, Sunday School, and Getting our Judgey On: A Little Chat About Motes and Beams

Grace: Mom, can people really get kicked out the church?

Me: Uh....well, um, yeah, I suppose if they do something really bad and it's not safe for other people at church to be around them...

Grace: Can I get kicked out of the church?

Me: What happened?

Grace: XX (Anonymous Child) said that the bishop can kick people out of church, and they can't come back, and he's going to kick me out because I don't go to the right Sunday School class.

Editorial comment here: Grace rarely ever goes to her "assigned" class, and it has quite a lot to do with XX, who is a little bee-yotch. It's not enough that she has to torment and harass my daughter IN the class; now she's appointed herself the God police to judge my daughter for avoiding the scene of emotional brutality? Cue the mama-bear claws now.

This was followed by a heart-to-heart talk about how Jesus Christ invites everyone--EVERYONE--to come to Him, and He's less concerned with technicalities like getting to the "right" Sunday School class, and more concerned with helping each of us be good and kind. We talked about how sometimes when we feel unhappy and miserable, we try to make other people feel bad, too, and that it says more about the person being mean than the victim of the meanness. We talked about who gets to have input in decisions like which Sunday School class to attend--that Grace gets a lot of input in the choice because it's her body & soul under discussion, that Mom gets a say because God assigned her to be Grace's mom & look out for her well-being--and because Mom loves Grace & cares for her--, that the Primary president and bishop get a little bit of a say because they accepted assignments from God to watch over the congregation, and they also love & care about Grace. And Anonymous Child XX gets zero say, because it's none of her damn business.

If there is one lousy, rotten thing that we church people are waaaaaay too good at, it's that all too often, we excel at judging, criticizing, and picking apart each others' perceived sins.

Here's the thing: I believe there are very limited, narrow circumstances where it's not only okay to pass some form of judgment; it's necessary and right. As a mom, I have the right and responsibility to use my judgment to protect my children. While I believe in redemption and forgiveness, I'm not going to knowingly leave my child alone with a convicted child predator because I want to be open-minded and tolerant. As a single woman, I sometimes make conscious decisions to not become involved with some men because their scars and brokenness are not a good fit with my scars and brokenness, and we would be very unhealthy together. I tend to avoid gossipy or negative people as much as I can, because I don't like the feeling that I have around them. I also generally avoid being around people who relish drama, because my life is quite busy enough for good and happy reasons, and I don't need extraneous uproar to distract me from the more important business of being a good mom, a good sister, a good daughter, and a good friend.

I have noticed that when I am feeling most critical toward others, I am always, ALWAYS feeling unhappy with myself. It's not about them; it's about me. I have noticed that when I am feeling chock full, brimming over with love, happy with myself and trusting God, I don't have the teeniest speck of judgment for others. I just love them.

Love is a whole different ball game from criticism. Love listens. Love wants to understand. Love doesn't condemn. Love points the way to healing and redemption. Love says, "I like being with you. I miss you. Tell me how I can help you. Help me understand your point of view." Love says, "Let's walk together,and help each other."

Love isn't always easy. It isn't intended to be. Love sent the most perfect, gentle and loving Man who ever lived to the cross. Thanks to His example, we have a blueprint for how to love each other.

Here's a surefire tip for navigating church life and home life and everything in between: if it's about fear, it's not of God. If it's about love, it's about God. And if you are wielding fear as a club to bring people to God....well, maybe stop and consider who is the author of fear and who is the author of peace and love, and maybe reconsider who you are following.

Fear asks what other people will think. Love asks what you & God think--because your opinion, thoughts, and feelings matter to Him.

Fear threatens shunning, rejection, and being kicked out. Love invites you in, all of you, even in your messy incompleteness.

Fear offers the damning illusion that other people's flaws somehow make you better. Love covers your flaws with mercy, and frees you to forgive the flaws of others and extend a helping hand.

Fear creates rigid rules and artificial boundaries under the false impression that forcing compliance will lead to safety. Love honors free will as one of the greatest gifts of God, and naturally leads to wise choices as love begets understanding.

Fear sees others' actions as reflecting on us. Love celebrates and encourages personal agency.

Fear leads to unhealthy dependence. Love leads to joyful interdependence.

Fear says that questioning is wrong and bad and scary. Love says that questions are the beginning of answers, and that no question is too big or tough for God, even if the question is screamed and hollered.

Fear says people do things because they are evil. Love says only God knows the heart, and people often do things out of deep hurt, longstanding pain, familial patterns, and ignorance. Love sets us free to learn and do better, and to allow others the same privilege.

Fear says you'll get in trouble. Love offers you help.

Fear makes us suspicious of others' motives and actions. Love knows we are all in this together, and love extends grace.

A couple of years ago, in a women's meeting at church, we were discussing ways that we could show love for each other. Sisters shared stories of kindnesses performed, loving words spoken, generous gifts received, and huge sacrifices made for each other. One sister offered the most profound and touching example. "As I look over my life," she said, "I am so grateful for the acts of service, large and small, that I have received. But I think the greatest kindness of all has come simply when others have refrained from judgment."


Here's to opening doors and hearts, living less in fear and more in love, to ignoring the motes and focusing more on the beams, and to extending more grace and forgiveness, even to little ten-year old bee-yotches--who probably need less of my momma-bear claws and more of my momma-bear love.

In the end, love always wins. Always.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

On Easter Sunday

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.

One of my favorite hymns is the quintessential anthem of redemption Amazing Grace. It's only in part because I have my very own amazing Grace, who continues to amaze and astound me every day, as I relish the wonder of being her mother. Each of my babies has been rocked to sleep by the words and the tune celebrating the endless depths of Christ's power to redeem.

The story of Easter is the story of John Newton, who wrote the original lines to the hymn. He could be the poster child for the power of redemption. Law-breaking, atheist, notorious for his profanity, incarcerated multiple times for his rebellion, and actively involved as a slave trader for much of his early life, Newton became a minister, ardent anti-slavery activist, and prolific writer of hymns, sermons, and gospel lessons.

The beauty of the grace he celebrated in his most famous hymn is that we don't remember him as one of many faceless slave traders in history. We don't know him for the violence and brutality that marked his early life. We don't remember him as a great minister. In fact, we don't really think about him much at all. His legacy is the peace and faith and hope and crowning power of Christ's wondrous work, as told in the words to his song.

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be
So long as life endures

The story of Easter is the story of second chances. And third and fourth and one-hundred-seventy-seventh chances. It's the story of beginning anew. It's the promise that all things, no matter how broken, can be made whole. It's the story of all things being turned to our good and to God's glory.

It's the story of grace so powerful that it can root out our sins, change our very hearts, and make us holy. That's some seriously amazing grace.

You can rise above whatever is holding you down. You can be more than you were. Whatever you were yesterday, you can be something more today. It's never too late, it's never too much, and it's never beyond the power of His love.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come. 
'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.

Amazing grace. Redemption. To overcome a life enslaved by chains or a life holding the chains on others, for healing the wounds we've received or the wounds we've inflicted, there is only One with power to bring us above the pain, hopelessness, suffering, sin, and despair of life.

Let His incomparable, transcendent, and truly amazing grace lead you home.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Sparrow. My Story of Matthew 10:29-31

When I bought valentines for my kids to share on Vday this year, the thought flickered across my mind that I should pick up an extra box. So I did. And then I patted myself on the back for preemptively dealing with the inevitable fallout when the last child to choose is stuck with the last box and therefore hates it, not because anything is wrong with it, but just because he/she didn't get to CHOOSE it.

I didn't really think about what to do with the leftover box, assuming, I suppose, that I'd just pass it along to a neighbor, or bring the Vday treats inside the box to share at the office.

So I was surprised when, the moment that I actually thought about it, a clear and distinct feeling came that I should give it to one of my daughter's teachers, for someone in the class who wouldn't be prepared with valentines that day.

I didn't pay much attention, and when I did remember, I'd wonder if I should just hand it to the first teacher I saw. And every time I'd have the clear feeling that it needed to be THAT teacher, in that classroom, in that grade.

I finally remembered on Valentine's Day itself. I grabbed the box and ran into the classroom when I dropped my kids off. The teacher was surprised, and looked doubtful. "Are you sure you want to leave it with me," she asked. "I'm pretty sure that all of my kids are ready for Valentine's Day." I told her to share the treats with the class if they weren't needed.

Later that day I got an email from the teacher. "How did you know?" she wrote. "One of the boys didn't have any valentines to hand out, and he was so sad. I gave him the box you dropped off and it made his day. He was so excited to not only have valentines, but to have such AWESOME ones."

Here's the thing that keeps getting me: I didn't know. His teacher didn't know. The other kids didn't know. Quite possibly, the kid himself didn't even know, because kids are kind of clueless like that, and don't always think about things like asking parents to get valentines for them.

But Somebody did.

Somebody cared enough about one little boy in one little school in one little town, to nudge one distracted and tired mom to grab an extra box of valentines, and point her feet in the direction they needed to go, and then open one teacher's eyes to see where the need was, so it could be filled.

It's not even a very big deal. In the big, grand scheme of things, not having valentines to pass out in fifth grade hardly rates as a reason for divine intervention.

That's how God works, though. If it matters to us, it matters to Him. He moves heaven and earth, moves overworked teachers and moms in minivans, to see us happy.

YOU matter. YOU are the child of Heavenly Parents, and your happiness is their sole aim. You are loved, even down to the details of your daily life. There is nothing too small or too silly; too big or too scary, that it can't be wrapped up in their love.

I promise. You are that important.

And worth so much more than sparrows.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Just One More

Just in case you haven't heard the hollering at our house....

We're adding one more. 

We're bringing home a new brother from China, yes, BUT we're also bringing home a new sister as well. Can you hear the heavens singing? 

I'm not even sure how to tell the story, in part because it's still being written. I'm still having a hard time wrapping my mind around all the crazy things that led up to this decision, and the miracle that we actually got approval to bring home a second baby. I won't lie--I'm freaking out a little bit when I think about TWO new little ones running around my house. One was scary; two is flat out terrifying. 

Oh, but we are so excited! This feels so right for our family. It's such a neat thing to watch things fall apart and then fall back together, perfectly and just-rightly. It's such a privilege to see God at work, up close and personal. 

The adoption process is brutal. I'd forgotten how rough it can be, and this most recent one so far trumps the others in sheer amount of work and emotional energy. At least every other day I find myself thinking that I can't do this again. And maybe I won't. That's okay, if I'm done after these two. 

The thing that has kept me pushing through is knowing that, however rough it is for me, it's so much worse to live life without a family. However unbearable the incredibly invasive process feels to me, it's so much worse to grow up without a family to hug you and play with you and be there for you and remember your birthday, and have a place to go at Christmas. 

One of the reasons that it took me three+ years to get on board the adoption plan this time around was because I wasn't convinced that adopting as a single mom was a great plan. I thought a two-parent family would be better for the child, and I wasn't sure that I, as a single mom, wanted to take on even more--especially when I know so intimately how hard it can sometimes be. God was patient with me and led me along until my heart was ready. Ultimately, two truths convinced me. One, I was busy whining about how I wasn't sure I could handle another child and I wasn't sure this was the right time for me/us, and this wasn't the way that I'd prefer to do it....and the whole time I was whining there were millions of orphans sitting in cribs who never even got asked if they could handle being alone, or whether this was the right time to be orphaned, or whether this was the way they'd prefer to live their lives. Two, I realized that they didn't need a great and perfect plan, with a great and perfect family. They just needed a family. Even a goofy, crazy one like mine. Even a single-mom family like mine, with loud, obnoxious siblings, and a tired, too-often-frazzled momma. We aren't perfect; I'm not perfect. But we're enough. 

I'm hoping to travel this summer to bring them home. Right now my paperwork is working its way through the final steps in Washington DC, then on to China. It's been a long and exhausting process. I keep reminding myself that the real work begins once they get home. Being part of a family when you've never known what "family" means can be scary and overwhelming and really, really hard. I have no illusions that this is going to be easy. But some of the best things in my life are also the hardest things. At our house, "hard" isn't a reason to avoid good things with eternal consequences. We grit our teeth and say lots of prayers and just keep plugging away. There are some advantages to being a stubborn little #$%&.  

Your prayers would be greatly appreciated. For me, as I work my butt off to make this happen financially.  For the kids in my home right now, who are working out realities like new bedroom arrangements and how to keep little ones out of their legos, and can't understand why adoption is such a long & seemingly endless process. For my kiddos who are waiting on the other side of the globe, who are about to go through an unbelievable life change, that likely won't seem like a good thing at first, from their perspective. Please pray for us. 

Also, soak in that loads of cuteness picture at the top. Am I the luckiest momma or what? I CANNOT WAIT to smooch those cheeks, and make my little boy chuckle (because seeing it in video is just not enough, not even close). 

God's plan is a beautiful thing. We are so blessed to be part of it.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

40 Acts of Service

I've been very bad about blogging our 40 acts of service in honor of my 40th birthday. I haven't been as bad about actually doing them, though.

During the past three months we've hauled bags of food to the food pantry, shoveled snow for neighbors, donated money to help other families adopt, and babysat for friends, to name a few.

I'm giving up right now on recapping all of them here, though we did indeed finish our list.

My focus is the takeaway from this little project.

Sometimes I think that I am one of the most obtuse people on the planet. So many of my friends seem to have a knack for noticing the needs of those around them, and finding ways to help. Me, I'm the clueless one on the sidelines who stands and watches, and thinks of opening the door for you after you've already struggled through with four kids and ten bags. This whole charity thing is just not hard wired into my brain and heart.

It's something that I pray for, and work at, and try to do better. And that's been the best thing about our 40 acts of service. For the past three months my mind has been focused on ways to serve people, and I've felt myself actually becoming the compassionate, kind person I want to be.

The 40 acts themselves were wonderful. I'm almost more excited about the smaller kindnesses that popped up because my mind and heart were in charity mode.

The miracle was that for the past three months I've actually noticed. The woman clearing six inches of snow off her car in hose and heels. The mother with more crying children than lap space. The woman with her arms loaded up between buildings. The elderly gentleman who needed a listening ear. This 40 acts project we took on finally succeeded in breaking down some walls of self-absorption around my heart so my eyes could see more clearly.

That is a gift. That is an answered prayer. That is my favorite thing about this experience.

The challenge now is to keep those walls down. I want to keep seeing with these new eyes of charity.

Monday, November 18, 2013

It's All a Matter of Perspective

Grace: "What is the definition of 'obsolete?'" 
Me: "Um, old and doesn't really work anymore." 
Grace: "You mean, like, Grandma Sherry?"
Me: "Oh, BURN." 
Grace: "WHAT?!?! I meant, that she's retired and doesn't have to go to work like you do. What did YOU think I meant?" 


Mia: "Mom, what's this picture?" 
Me: "That's when I was in college." 
Mia: "WHAT?? I didn't know they had fridges when you were in college!"