Saturday, December 25, 2010

It's a Beautiful Day

I am thankful, very thankful.  A few weeks ago, Steve and I discussed "getting through" the holidays, but it has truly been much more than that.  We have been blessed, especially this year, with answered prayers and opportunities to grow closer to God, we've been challenged and tested, our hearts have been broken, and I feel as if we are beginning to come out the other side still seeing so much love, joy, and hope.  I cannot deny the grace and love that I've experienced this year.  Here are some things that I feel especially grateful for:
Steve and I have prayed diligently for a few years now for God to lead us to a church family, and He has done that in such a significant way through Harvest.  We have never felt so welcomed and loved before in a church setting.  I adore this family, and I am honored to call them my brothers and sisters in Christ.  I know they are refining me and helping grow closer to the Lord.  I'm thrilled to be a part of this exciting church and ministry.
I'm thankful that I had the opportunity to spend a weekend with old friends from O-town this summer.  Holly, Nancy, Shantel, MC, and I had so much fun on Diamond Lake just being goofy and almost burning down the boat house with our mad grilling skills.  We had long talks, swam the lake, drank coffee, and sang songs on the piano.  I love these women so much.  Ya ya!
This year Steve, Alex, and I took a family vacation, and it was awesome.  Bald Head Island was the kind of vacation that we always wanted to take.  There were no cars on the island, we drove around a golf cart, sat our butts on the beach, made some new friends, and just CHILLED!  I even loved the two day drive through the mountains.  It was wonderful and memorable.
Although we have faced deep grief this past month, I have never been surrounded with such love and comfort from our friends, family, and community.  I feel as if I've learned so much through TJ's passing. I've learned what it means to be there for someone, and how wonderful all those beautiful prayers, gestures, phone calls, messages, and hugs truly feel to a hurting soul.  I feel as if Steve, Alex, and I have been lifted up to God in such a significant way.  Unfortunately, through this human experience I know that someone else will experience pain like this, and I hope that I can be there for someone else as significantly as our friends and family have been there for us.  It has given an added dimension to how I see this world.  Even today, I shed tears over our little boy, but I couldn't do it without remembering the love that we have been given during this time.  I understand on a much more significant level how it is that among our Lord's greatest suffering, we can experience His greatest joy and triumph.  I'm beginning to feel that this is TJ's greatest legacy.
My daughter amazes me on a daily basis. She's funny, and she's so her own little person.  I'm grateful for her tender heart and her new passion for telling me EVERYTHING she may have done wrong since her very existence.  Although she has been driving me crazy from time to time telling me things that may be questionable in judgement, I can see the Holy Spirit working in her heart; she wants to bring EVERYTHING to the cross and ask for forgiveness and guidance with these things that are weighing on her conscience.  She has a more acute awareness than most adults I know for what God wants for her life; she's feeling that and dealing with that.  It's so huge right now, and to have this opportunity to see her grow closer to God is so amazing.  I'm thankful, and I wish I had her sensitivity, awareness, and willingness to acknowledge and repent for things that I think we often blow off as adults.  This little force is teaching me every day.  I love her so much.
How I got blessed with Mr. Stephen Craig is beyond my comprehension.  The devotion, passion, and love that he brings to this family every day is beyond words.  He loves me, and there are times that I don't know why.  I'm a pain in the butt.  He still thinks I'm funny.  He would do ANYTHING for us.  He feels our pain and joy greater than we feel it ourselves.  He is an amazing man.
I get to go to a job that I love every day.  I get to laugh with kids and help them be the people they want to be in this world.  It's hands down, the best job ever.  I work with talented and passionate people who get goofy and ridiculous along side of me.  It's amazing to have this.
I still have questions and confusions in this life, but how can I not see the blessings that are here before my very eyes?  I'm grateful to be able to see this a month from TJ's passing.  I know that in and of itself is a gift.
So thank You, Lord.  Thank You for being in my life in these significant ways.  Help me to care for these beautiful blessings as they have cared for me.  I am honored to be Your child.  It is an experience that I wouldn't want anyone, friend or stranger, to be without.
In Jesus' name I pray.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Great Books of 2010

Many of you know I'm a book junky.  I read all the time; it's how I unwind, entertain myself, and escape!  I didn't grow up loving books.  I actually tell my students that I was the kid who went through school not really reading anything cover to cover, and fumbling my way through.  I was definitely a late bloomer.  It wasn't until the fateful day when I stumbled into 12th grade and something just clicked.  I was in a gothic literature course, and suddenly I really wanted to read Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Frankenstein.  I remember sitting in that class in a circle and discussing the books, like a book club.  The students' voice mattered more than the teachers and that really inspired me; it absolutely motivated me to want to go home and carve out the time to read what we were discussing.  The other fateful event that happened to me was Mrs. Schnepp's writing class.  To say that I LOVED being in that class is an understatement.  I found myself in that class.  I discovered my voice and for the first time in a very long time, it wasn't about dancing (which thankfully earned me admittance into a wonderful college, but I was becoming very disillusioned with the industry as a whole), it was about my story.  Through this life changing year, I found a passion for reading and writing and reaching people through teaching.
I tell that story because there are a lot of kids out there who haven't fallen in love with reading or found the motivation to do well in school and because of my personal experience, I believe in the late bloomer.  So, here are some of my favorite books that I've read in 2010.  Feel free to share any books that you loved this year too!

The Help 
For anyone who has a strong sense of justice, you'll love this book.  It takes place during the Civil Rights Movement and takes you on the journey of a privileged southern belle who goes against the tide and uses her voice to help others who have helped her be the person she is.  I LOVED it!

The Hunger Games Trilogy
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a realistic fiction reader all the way, but I couldn't put these books down, and I totally jumped in my car on the day that each book came out and made it my mission to get my copy.  Katniss Everdeen is fierce.  There were so many layers of themes that keeps your mind cranking as it takes you through an intense plot.  You'll love it.

I watched Jonathon Franzen's interview on Oprah a few weeks ago.  I was glued because I wanted to see how they would both handle the awkardness of how he didn't want to be a part of her book club a few years ago with The Corrections.  I thought both Oprah and Jonathon Franzen did a fantastic job of addressing it and acknowledging its uncomfortable situation, but they didn't dwell too long on it.  Jonathon Franzen described his writing process of being very alone and cold, where he puts himself into a place where he can work out all of the things that his mind processes about life on paper.  I felt his conflict of living in this modern day world and connected to it too.  I think many will find themselves somewhere in the characters of this book...thought provoking.

Three Little Words
Once in awhile I pick up a biography/memoir.  This book written by a young writer was poignant about her childhood in the foster care system.  Her story has a happy ending, but she is very passionate about using her voice to express what many in the foster care system go through.  It's very real, and I sincerely appreciated what she had to say.  If you like The Glass Castle, you'll appreciate this one too.

Growing up in New York and spending a year at NYU certainly gave me some grounding to connect to what the main character goes through in this historical fiction meets realistic fiction.  Her grief was gripping and the connection to the French Revolution was awesome.  I learned a lot to say the least.

You can see that I have YA fiction as well as adult fiction on my memorable list.  I LOVE reading books that my kiddos are reading.  I love to buy them and put them in my classroom library and talk about and share them with my kiddos.  So much fun!  

Here are a few more titles that I enjoyed:
Will Grayson, Will Grayson
I am Number Four
Little Bee
Songs for a Teenage Nomad

Happy reading, dear friends!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Distractions from the Lily Pads

I want to tell you that we have been doing absolutely fine, but that's not really the truth.  We are definitely jumping on different lily pads of our grief.  The Sunday night we were supposed to leave for Ethiopia, Alex had a really good cry.  The realization that our plans were not going to happen came into full reality for her.  I'm just glad that Steve and I were there to be with her and comfort one another as a family.  
We still have TJ's picture around the house and by my desk at school, and I can't imagine taking them down right now.  With Steve's permission, I have posted our referral pictures of our little boy.  I know most of you have seen these, but I sometimes can't help just looking at that face, those hands, those eyes.  I wanted so much to be his mom, and I have to tell you that the realization that he's not here on this earth leaves a heavy pain on my heart.  I literally feel this weight on my chest and in my stomach.  This is where I am emotionally right now. 
I told Steve last night that I feel like David in the Bible, crying out, lamenting.  I don't want to be over dramatic, but I think this is the reality of grief and being human on this earth.  It won't be until we're with our heavenly father that we will feel the full peace of his love and understanding.  Before I woke up this morning, I was dreaming of being in Jesus' arms and experiencing the healing that can only come from Him.  I woke up and didn't feel that healing, the pain was back in my chest, but I know that's where He will bring me eventually.  
In the meantime, I wanted to show you how beautiful our little boy was.  Sometimes I try to imagine how much more beautiful he is in heaven.  I know that, "What you talkin' about, Willis?" expression is a joy for all up there; it especially brought joy to our family seeing his little personality in those pictures.  We felt connected to him immediately.  So, I love him.  I wish he were here.  I wish all of our plans were in action to bring him home.  I wish I had held him, but I didn't.  But I do feel like the pain in my chest is his soul finding that special place in my heart, so that when I go to heaven one day, I will know him without even opening my eyes.  
In the meantime, I find distractions to get me through.  I'm fine at school because I'm busy.  But I've found being home is especially when I feel all these things.  During those times I pray and look at scripture, but there are moments when I need to flipping escape.  I finished reading Jonathon Franzen's new, massive novel Freedom on Tuesday, which was an effective distraction for a good 10 days.   Yesterday, I was thankful to have to go to Target to get some Christmas gifts before the vacation.  As usual, I wandered down the book aisle and ended up picking up Amy Sedaris' new coffee table book Crafts for Poor People.  I found myself literally crying with laughter in the middle of Target.  Needless to say, I'm finding every excuse to buy multiple copies, so don't be surprised if I show up at your house with a gift wrapped rectangle; just humor me.  On the way home, I cozied up with some wonderful gangster rap in my Honda minivan.  Obviously I'll take any distraction I can get right now...
The juxtapositions of my life are certainly apparent.  I'm doing all that I can in the moment to process through this holiday season.  
So amidst all this craziness, I want to reiterate that God is sovereign.  Although the lily pads of this particular journey may look a little insane, God will win because love always conquers.  I am thankful for the scattered distractions, but really that's all they are; I think it's ok to entertain them and see life's madness, but for me, it's not really the guiding truth in my life.  Reverend Run from Run DMC always closes on his show saying, "God is love," and that is indeed true.  Yes, I can find God in a lot of different stuff, even in the Jay Z song blasting from my Odyssey's speakers last night.  The truth is that God was with my little boy while he was here on earth, and God is with him now in such a more apparent way.  
We love you, TJ.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Each Day

Steve and I are one of those "crazy" couples who will go to counseling to process through anything significant in our lives.  Naturally, we scheduled a counseling appointment this week to talk about TJ and to see if there's anything we should/could be doing to help Alex through it all.  I learned some things, like I usually do when I go to counseling.  So, I thought I would share...
My counselor described grief like jumping on different Lily pads of different emotions.  I explained that although Thanksgiving weekend was incredible difficult, we were doing much better since then and that I didn't know if that was ok or what.  I don't want people to think I'm an unemotional robot, but by Monday, I didn't have any more tears to shed at that point.  I just wanted to focus on getting back to work and doing, doing whatever I needed to do.  Also, we have been surrounded and lifted by so much love and support that I truly feel God's great strength behind me.  Our counselor said that grief isn't a one way tunnel, but it will be ok when I jump to another Lily pad of emotions.  I felt comforted by that.
I also explained that I'm afraid.  I'm afraid of moving on too soon to the next referral without properly honoring TJ's life.  I'm afraid that I'm going to fear when we accept the new referral when we're ready.  I'm afraid of not giving the same abandoned joy to the preparation of our next baby that we had with TJ.  Again, my counselor told me that it would be unnatural if I didn't feel fear, and that is ok to feel all those things.  This next process will be a different process for us.  I don't want to be gripped by fear, but I don't to be afraid of being afraid if you know what I mean.  This helped me know that it's ok to feel this.
I think the gravity of bringing children into our lives really touched us significantly when we received the news about TJ.  We never even held him, and we felt/feel so much love for him.  I think about how much God loves us, and I still don't think I can wrap my mind around how much and how deep that is.  I can't imagine how much love TJ feels in heaven right now.  I sincerely can't imagine it!

Monday, November 29, 2010

It's the Little Things

So, here I am sitting at the kitchen table suffering with Alex doing double digit addition.  She almost threw a conniption fit about thirty seconds ago when she realized she had to do the back of the paper too.  I actually smiled when she did this because I felt peace.  I'm not saying that I feel good that my kid was going to throw a fit, but I'm glad she's just being her.
I am humbled by the hugs, words of encouragement, and love that so many have given us.  I went back to work today, and although it was tough, it was the best thing I could do.  Within twenty minutes, I was glad to be there.  I was thankful to have to tell a kid to pull his pants up.  I was humbled to receive hugs in the halls from colleagues.  I was quiet, but grateful for my job, my community, my friends, my students, and now I'm grateful for my whining daughter who may hate math as much as I do.
It was great to write emails, take attendance, read Eleven with my kiddos, and even great to grade late projects.  It feels good to move and to be useful.
Thank you to everyone for your love, prayers, and thoughtfulness.  I am sincerely humbled.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
   When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
   When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals--
I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats its wing
   Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
   And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting--
I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
   When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,--
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
   But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings--
I know why the caged bird sings!

Sometimes we suffer and feel pain; I can't think that there isn't a reason for it.  My heart feels like the caged bird's wings right now, but I know those scars are going to be a part of my being from here on out.  I'm reading a book called Little Bee at the moment.  It's about a Nigerian refugee girl, named Little Bee, who went through a great tragedy in her homeland and then spends two years in a refugee detention center in England.  Little Bee describes her point of view of scars as something beautiful.  How could we imagine that we aren't going to go through this time on earth without acquiring the scars that will make us beautiful in heaven one day?
We all have wounds and scars.  Some of us have spent a majority of our lives covering those wounds up so no one can see them.  I think when you do that, you don't allow the fresh air to heal it.  My wounds are pretty visible right now.  I don't want to pretend that my wings are all ok.  I think that with time they will heal and scar over, but it will be beautiful.
I am blessed.  I don't want to pretend or wallow that this isn't true.  I am surrounded with amazing people who will let me heal and help me fly.  I am uplifted by a God who uses all things to magnify Him, and I believe that the reflection of His light on our scars is part of His plan.  Perhaps it isn't in the greatness of our moments here on earth that truly reveal our purpose, but in the grieving times like these.  Perhaps it is when we see our tattered wings that we realize we can't do any of this on our own.  We must rely on the grace of God to heal us over and make us stronger so that once again we can soar with His majesty in a greater way.
I'm sure Paul Laurence Dunbar had many more things in mind when he wrote this beautiful poem, but I can't help but feel some sort of connection to it today.  The wounds are healing slowly.  My boy has flown free.  My scar will remind me of this, and I will see God reflected in every nuance of its shape.  Like some scars, I may even forget it's there from time to time, but I'm sure that those moments will come and I will haphazardly run a finger across it and once again, feel its grooves and picture on my skin.  Maybe by then I will even smile at its memory.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dearest Friends and Family,
I sincerely want to thank you so very much for all of your love and prayers.  There aren't enough words to express our heartbreak today.  Our baby boy went to be with Jesus.
Steve and I cannot think of why this happened.  I know that everyone who could have done something to help our little boy did all that they possibly could.  I am grateful that he was with loving people at Hannah's Hope, and I know that they are grieving too for him.
More than anything, I want to honor his little life and keep in my heart the memories of the joy and excitement he brought to us and so many people that we know.  I know God has a reason for all of this, although I don't know what it is right now.  I also know that God's plan is greater than our own, and I have to believe that.
Right now, I want to be grateful for the opportunity that I've had to celebrate him.  So many of you were a part of that and that joy was magnified in all of your prayers, love, and excitement.
It's obvious to me how fragile life is.  It's obvious to me that we can so easily take all of this for granted.  But although I want to say he was mine, he never was; he always belonged to God.  Now TJ is with Him, and he's dancing and singing.  One day, I will meet him and rejoice with him.
Thank You, Lord, for this chance of experiencing this, even it was only for a little while.  Thank You for his short life and the opportunity Steve, Alex, myself, and so many others had to love him here on Earth.  We know that You, God, are bigger than the right now; You are sovereign.  Thank You for surrounding us with such amazing people to comfort us and who have been praying for those near and far who touched his life here on Earth.  We are touched, deeply.  In Jesus' name I pray.  Amen.

I love him.

Yesterday was tough in our journey to bring home TJ.  We knew that getting a phone call like this was a possibility, but any mommy doesn't want to know that their baby is not feeling well.  Our little TJ had pneumonia this week and although he's doing much better, you can't help but feel helpless.  On top of that, we received updated pictures; TJ is experiencing eczema on his beautiful face which is causing discoloration on his cheeks.  I know they are taking amazing care of our little guy at Hannah's Hope, but I'm not there.  So, all Steve and I can do is pray.  I have never had to rely on God so much in all my life.
It brings me to tears to know that my beautiful boy is a world away, he's stuffed up and itchy, and here I am sitting "comfortably" in my home.  I can't tell you how much I want to hold him and do what I can to make him all better.
So, I'm getting on a plane in about ten days, but then the overwhelming feeling that I will not be able to bring him home then took hold.  I know God has a plan, and I know this is a part of it.  It's just not easy during moments like these.
The good news is that he's growing and gaining weight, and I am sincerely excited for that!
Please pray for our little boy.  We love him.  We want him to feel better.  I think that's all any mommy wants for their babies.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A November Morning

by Jeffrey Harrison

It's a gift, this cloudless November morning
warm enough for you to walk without a jacket
along your favorite path. The rhythmic shushing
of your feet through fallen leaves should be
enough to quiet the mind, so it surprises you
when you catch yourself telling off your boss
for a decade of accumulated injustices,
all the things you've never said circling inside you.

It's the rising wind that pulls you out of it,
and you look up to see a cloud of leaves
swirling in sunlight, flickering against the blue
and rising above the treetops, as if the whole day
were sighing, Let it go, let it go,
for this moment at least, let it all go

No, I didn't take a brisk walk this morning other than the one with my pajamas on with the dog in tow three houses down to get her to go to the bathroom (Charlie, the best dog ever, has gotten into the habit of rolling in the most disgusting poo when we let her outside.  Needless to say, she's had three baths this week and can't be trusted off a leash right now.).  I received this poem via email the other day, and it spoke to me on many literal and figurative levels.
The Craig Family is totally overjoyed as we prepare to bring home our little boy.  Also, fall is my favorite season; the crispness in the air refreshes me, the juxtaposition of the colors in the sky and on the ground are astounding, and we just finished the great birthday month (Steve, Alex, and I all have birthdays in October.).  So much to celebrate!  
But amidst all the joy and celebration, there have been trials.  Not everything has been easy.  Especially for me, who has a very inherent sense of justice, it doesn't sit comfortably in my core to let things lie when I see things that are not ok.  I can remember incidents from when I was a child, screaming in my brother's ear to be heard, even though his hearing was just fine, to fight for my right when he was beating the tar out of me or whatever...  I guess I have a fighter's spirit.
The hard part is when the person you confront doesn't agree with your sense of right and wrong; they don't share your values or ethics.  This is something that God is definitely bringing me through right now.  This conundrum has been the topic of many of my prayers lately.  So, what do ya do?
Well, for now, I look at my crazy daughter who hates to brush her hair, my husband who thinks I'm the funniest person he knows, that sweet picture of our little boy, and our cuddly dogs and realize that somehow it's going to be ok.  I'm especially thankful that God put me in a Bible Study to help me through times just like this.  I know He has me right where He wants me and that I'm going to come through this closer to Him.  I find myself grateful for this situation; weird, huh?  I am truly relying more on Him than I have in a very long time.  God and I are having more and more intimate conversations about an area in my life that I have probably been compartmentalizing for a very long time; it's obvious to me more than ever that He wants all areas of my life.  I feel walls that I've put up come crumbling down.  I find myself vulnerable.
But that's where Jesus meets us best I think, at that place where we finally give up what we can do and ask for His help.
This is where we say that we've had "Enough" of seeing this through our own eyes and ask for His perspective, His way, His guidance.
This is where I am on this cold November morning, and I'm grateful.  Thank You, Lord once again.  Your ways amaze me over and over and over again.  

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sincere Gratitude

You hear about people being unexpectedly generous and how awesome that is, but until it happens to you personally, you have no idea what a gift from God it truly is.  Steve and I received an awesome email from our pastor at Harvest this week; someone in our church offered to pay for Steve's second trip to Ethiopia to bring home our son.
For the record, I want to state a few things:  1.  When we started the adoption process, the Ethiopia program was a one trip process, so we didn't anticipate two trips until this past spring when the process changed (for valid reasons, in my opinion.)  2.  We in no way were complaining about this second trip.  It wasn't what we expected, but our agency was very good at counseling us through this whole process that with international adoption, anything could change at the blink of an eye.  3.  When we heard the news about the second trip, we knew that our pennies were already being stretched and were fine just sending me to bring TJ home.  Steve, of course, was disappointed, but we knew that God had gotten us this far and He would bring us through the rest!
With that being said, we have just been praying for God to take us through each step of bringing home TJ, and He certainly has.  When TJ comes home, it will mark two complete years that we have been going through this process.  We have encountered our bumps in the road, if you will, and we're not done yet, but here we are!  Last week, we had a call with our contact at All God's Children, and she strongly advised us that we should both be traveling for the second trip as well for multiple reasons, as you can imagine.  We didn't complain or grumble, but we certainly stopped in our tracks and prayed for what God would have us do.  That's really all we did...we prayed to God to continue to guide us considering what our agency was telling us.
In the midst of this, Steve, Alex, and I began attending Harvest this summer.  Since Steve and I met over 12 years ago, we have always attended very large churches.  Although we've been quite spiritually fed at these big churches, we have not been relationally fed; it's easy just to come and go in big churches.  (And I do not mean to say anything negative about big churches in any way; we played a big role in slipping through the cracks as anyone.)  It's been evident in many ways that Harvest is where God wants us to be.  This church plant has truly helped us develop relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ, which is what we were praying for.  We just feel grateful to have that right now.  When people have asked us if we have children, we are thrilled to discuss our crazy and beautiful Alex and our precious TJ, who is not in our arms just yet.  Everyone has been so excited and supportive of our new addition to our family!  I know they have kept us in their prayers as well as being vigilant to pray for Alex as she is heading into this huge transition too!  It's been more than we could ever imagine.
But I have to tell you, when we received this news this week, I was speechless.  The outpouring of joy and support that we received before this email was beyond what we would ever expect from anyone, and then this.  I don't know specifically who offered this incredible gift to our family, but I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Thank you for giving Steve and I the opportunity to not only help one another a continent away as we prepare to bring him home in January, but also for giving us the joy of having this memory together as a couple bringing home our son.  We were prepared to adjust to anything, but this is such a huge gift and means SO much to us.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Steve and I were reflecting on this the other day, and just saying that we've never experienced something like this.  It is the evidence that God is with us, God is listening to us, and He truly cares about each and every one of us.  If you ever wonder about this, here is the evidence.  On the flip side, there have been times when I have prayed for things and God had a different plan.  But like the Rolling Stones have sung, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you might find you get what you need."  God knows what we need to bring us to Him, and that's not always what we, in our humanness, think we need.  Whatever The Rolling Stones' religious affiliation is, or lack thereof, they have a point.
So, again, I thank the giver of this gift, but equally important, I praise You, O Lord, for working in our lives.  Thank You for giving us more than we could imagine.  Thank You for our church.  I pray that You bless this church, so more of Your blessings could overflow through it to those who need it, especially those who don't have a personal relationship with You yet.  Also, I pray that You let this person who offered this beautiful gift to us know how appreciative we are.  Thank You.  Amen.

PS.  After I wrote this blog, Pastor Vernon Rainwater from our old church (Northland) down in Florida wrote  about prayer this on facebook; check it out!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

To TJ's mom

Dear TJ's mom,
I wanted you to know that you have been on my heart, especially since receiving his referral.  Steve and I are giddy with excitement and can't wait to hold him and be his parents.  We pray for him every day.
But I would be dishonest if I didn't admit that amidst our joy and anticipation, I know that you are out there mourning.  I can't imagine what your grief must be like, and I'm so sorry for the pain that you must be feeling.  I want you to know how much I appreciate you and all that you went through and are experiencing right now.
From the evidence that I have about you through TJ's lab work and the doctor's evaluation, you loved the lives that were inside you.  You took great care of yourself, probably knowing that you would be giving him away. 
The pieces of the story that I've heard breaks my heart for you in such a profound way.  You went to a hospital, you delivered twins and your baby girl passed in God's arms.  You left your deceased baby girl and your baby boy in that hospital, without a trace.  My assumption is that you prayed that by doing so, your little boy would have the opportunity to grow and learn and live without the threat of constant destitution. 
I know you are out there.  God knows that you are out there.  I want you to know that I think of you often.  I pray for you.  I want you to know that as we sit here an ocean and continent away, that we love your little boy so much.  We feel so blessed to have this opportunity to love him and guide him as his parents.  We are far from perfect and we don't have every material thing one could imagine, but we have huge hearts and a strong love for our Lord.  Steve and I know that we were meant to be TJ's mom and dad, but we do this knowing that a huge sacrifice was made for us to be able to have this blessing in our lives, your sacrifice.
Please know that you hold a special place in my heart, and I know that you have a strong place in TJ's heart too.  In our eyes, we will always hold you in the highest regard for your courage and unselfishness.  We know your little girl is with Jesus, and we hope that while TJ is on this earth, we will raise him with tons of love, laughter, and a strong faith in God.  We want him to know that although he may mourn the loss of you in his life, that God has a plan for him, just as He does for all of us.  This pain is a part of who he is and who he will become; we just feel blessed to play this role in the story.
Thank you.  We love you.  I pray that God gives you a peace as you walk your days here on earth like the rest of us, that your little boy is loved and cherished so very much. 
With love,

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tunnel Vision

I measure every Grief I meet (561)
by Emily Dickinson

I measure every Grief I meet
With narrow, probing, eyes –
I wonder if It weighs like Mine –
Or has an Easier size.

I wonder if They bore it long –
Or did it just begin –
I could not tell the Date of Mine –
It feels so old a pain –

I wonder if it hurts to live –
And if They have to try –
And whether – could They choose between –
It would not be – to die –

I note that Some – gone patient long –
At length, renew their smile –
An imitation of a Light
That has so little Oil –

I wonder if when Years have piled –
Some Thousands – on the Harm –
That hurt them Early – such a lapse
Could give them any Balm –

Or would they go on aching still
Through Centuries of Nerve –
Enlightened to a larger Pain –
In Contrast with the Love –

The Grieved – are many – I am told –
There is the various Cause –
Death – is but one – and comes but once –
And only nails the Eyes –

There's Grief of Want – and grief of Cold –
A sort they call "Despair" –
There's Banishment from native Eyes –
In sight of Native Air –

And though I may not guess the kind –
Correctly – yet to me
A piercing Comfort it affords
In passing Calvary –

To note the fashions – of the Cross –
And how they're mostly worn –
Still fascinated to presume
That Some – are like my own – 

I often examine other's grief and wonder with my very own "probing eyes" what is the cause of their grief.  As I experience my own "grief" from time to time, I also see it "in contrast to the Love."  (PS. I love that she capitalizes "Love" in this poem).  The grief comes sometime in the letting go of things that I may have thought were important at one time, to have the realization that it meant nothing. I find the worldliness being cut from my life almost daily to force me to have tunnel vision on what is truly important:  my God.  Things that at one time I felt to be important are not; it simply becomes nonsense.  
As I may experience "banishment from native eyes, in sight of native air," I realize that my grief, again, comes from letting go of what others think and focus once again on truth, on Him.  Nothing else matters.  I am not here to please but to be purposeful in glorifying Him.  I've learned that sometimes this means extending grace even when I don't want to and simply moving on.  I often think that the grief comes in the transition of experiencing a wound and then it scarring over; it takes time for it to heal, reconcile, and feel the benefits of lessons learned when looking at that mark left behind.  I'm there, in the transition.
You and I may not agree on the prize, we may not even value the same prize, but my prize will not award me here on this earth.  My treasure is with Him, and I, like you, are going to have to work out this earthly presence.  Healing will come through nights like these; praying, pondering, reading, writing.   Healing will also come in the joys; teaching, laughing, growing, changing.
Again, the grief "in contrast to the Love," is little in God's great light. More than anything, I want to be able to stand in God's light and be able to magnify it more and more and more as each day passes.  This process is challenging and difficult, wherein lies the grief at times, but necessary, especially if your eye is on the same prize that my eyes are on.  So, I have to be thankful in times like this for the opportunity to experience what I've experienced and allow the wound to heal.  Just like Jesus' piercings, those wounds are what it's all about.  Without His wounds, ours would be meaningless.    

Monday, September 6, 2010

some thoughts

Our old neighbors down in Florida lost their beautiful 5 year old little girl yesterday afternoon.  A few weeks ago, I mentioned that our friends, Josh and Lisa, were going through a parent's worst nightmare:  their little girl, Ava, had a brain tumor that would maybe give them a year with her...she made it to 10 weeks.  I remember living in our house in Forest Edge, and Ava being born.  I remember being so excited for Josh and Lisa; they had a wonderful son, Noah, and now they were having a little girl.  I'm sure many of you do not know the Hunter family, but I encourage you to check out Josh's blog; he has documented this journey with Ava, and even left a post since her passing that brings so much to the forefront.
It reminds me that this life is not ours.  It is not about us.  It's about Him.  I believe that even in the midst of this tragedy, God is in control, He is being glorified in this moment.  Our children change us, even if they are with us for a brief amount of time.  They make a mark that makes us feel more deeply, care in a way that we never knew that we could, and get serious about the important stuff that we may have been putting off.
I remember when I discovered that I was pregnant with Alex.  I had this release of all this "stuff" that was weighing me down.  All of a sudden, it was clear what my priorities were more than ever and that nothing else mattered.  The past was no longer a heaviness in my heart; it was now transformed into this force to make me a better person for my baby and my husband.
Living my life as Alex's mom and Steve's wife has taught me how to be there, no matter what.  It has taught me to lighten up in some areas and get serious about others.  It's given me the opportunity to see what is truth, real truth, and to clear away nonsense and noise that so often can fill our lives if we aren't vigilant about it.  I can't imagine the person that I would be without them.  And now, we have TJ coming home soon, and still, I can't fathom how his beautiful life is going to change us.  Even now, I still feel like I haven't touched the ice burg on learning and growing to be a better servant for God.  Josh definitely talks about how Ava's life has done this for him, and I'm sure his words are much more significant than mine.
Steve and I are thankful for friends, family, and even those who may not like us so much.  I believe that God puts everyone in your life for a reason, and I refuse to believe that it's not for anything but to bring us closer to Him.  Yesterday, I spent the morning reading Romans 1 & 2 and just praying about some challenges that I've been facing, personally.  I went to Romans because Alex's memory verse last week was this:  "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  (Romans 3:23)  That means you, me, your pastor, everybody.  My only question is, what are you doing as a result of that?  Are you continuing to just let hell go in a hand basket or are you making steps to rectify, to turn away from what you've done, and change into a person who is a vessel of blessing.  I realize that I will never stop messing up while I'm here on this earth, and therefore never stop rectifying, turning away from wrong doing, and ultimately never stop trying to be a better vessel of blessing.  I feel a responsibility to take that journey, to run that course until my last breath, and my daughter is huge part of my motivation.
I can't imagine what it would be like to lose her.  And now, I can't imagine what it would be like to not have the hope that TJ will be coming home and be in our lives, just like our crazy Alex!
I'm still working out how to be the best mom for Alex.  Especially right now, Steve and I are focused on learning more tools to be the best parents for Alex.  I believe we're going above and beyond to accomplish as much as one can in this moment before TJ is here.  This is our time to prepare her, to build her up, to correct as much as we can to help her grow and face future challenges.  Again, I can't imagine not having the opportunity to do this.
Please pray for the Hunter family.  Give everyone a hug in your house and ask yourself what it would be like if they weren't there.  Finally, be a blessing for them.

Friday, August 20, 2010

You Can't Legislate Christianity

" Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. "  -Romans 12: 2-4
 I love when I have the opportunity to get in the car with enough time to listen to Chris Fabry on WGNR in the afternoons.  He comes on from 3-4 pm, and I'm always intrigued by his relevant topics in the Christian point of view.  You can subscribe to his podcast; you might really like it!
    Anyway, I caught the tail end of the show as I left school to pick up Alex at the bus stop, and Chris Fabry was talking about how you can't legislate Christianity.  I couldn't agree more.
    I am personally not a fan of Christians who get on their soapbox about certain controversial legislative topics.  I don't want to sound like I don't support the Christian point of view on these topics because as a Christian, I support what Jesus says in the Bible about these issues, not a politician.  I get a little frustrated when people make these issues about politics because in my eyes, they aren't.  I know that there are many people who don't agree with the Bible and are very against the Jesus' message on particular areas, and I respect how you feel, I just may not agree with you, and I mean that with love!
    Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love people, all kinds of people.  I grew up in a very diverse setting and my track record shows that I'm usually drawn to people who are the exact opposite of who I appear to be.  With this perspective, I have so many kinds of friends, and they are beautiful, wonderful people and most of them don't share my faith.  I am humble enough to know that I have no idea how it feels to walk in every one's shoes; I only know what it's like to walk in my own and to express what I've learned as a result of that experience.
    What I have learned is this:  I only began to touch the tip of the ice burg of how to love when I gave my heart over to Christ.  I bought the contemporary ideal which is often advertised in the media and our culture that I was supposed to engage in certain behaviors, which in my opinion are glorified.  On top of that, the media rarely shows neither the consequences nor the pain that those behaviors can cause in one's overall life.  So, like me, I "drank the kool aid" and found myself in my late teens through the age of 22 very depressed and saddened by all of this.  Unfortunately, I didn't think there was any other way and felt trapped and disillusioned by what my culture was feeding me; I thought this was it and this was how my life was going to be for the rest of my life.  As a result, I continued with destructive behavior and found myself more depressed by its results.
    I am thankful that God gave me the courage to be on my own and dive into a new adventure when I was offered my teaching job down in Florida when I was 22.  It was then that I could take seriously the call that was speaking to my heart: I needed to etch my own, new identity, and all I knew at the time that the main part of this step was going to church and praying.  It was total blind faith, but I felt so comforted and affirmed as I walked closer and closer to Christ.  It took me a few months to solidify my relationship with Christ where I could verbalize exactly what I was doing; it wasn't an instantaneous thing, but I knew that I needed and wanted Jesus in my heart, and I didn't look back.  He had taken away the guilt and the condemnation and allowed me to be new in Him.  It was the most beautiful dance, a courtship, if you will.
The Ya Yas at Diamond Lake:  August 2010
Steve and I arriving at Bald Head Island, NC
    Here's the deal:  it wasn't legislated to me that I had to live a particular way and make those choices for my life.  It was because of the love of Christ that He brought me to Him and brought angels to me to support me in my walk, especially my husband and my Ya Yas.  It was because I learned what real love is; I learned that it's not exactly getting what I want, especially in the moment.  I learned that sometimes you have to wait for the best things in life.  I believe that that's how God works, and that's how God reaches people.  It's not about someone attempting to overpower someone like a megaphone in one's ear.

It's an endless conversation, but like I said, I don't want anyone to be legislated to behave and feel a certain way; it's a matter of the heart.  As far as I'm concerned, my heart belongs to Him; it's His!  I think it's a valid question that I think everyone should ask themselves:  Who does your heart belong to and is this person worthy of it?  Only you can answer that for yourself.
With Love,

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Livin' the Vida Loca

Alex's snaggle tooth

Too many topics to cover...
I started school off this week, and it's been awesome.  My kiddos are sweet and funny.  I have artists and musicians, skateboarders and football players...  So awesome!  As usual, my colleagues and I on the second floor of HSJH had too much fun.  We simply love kids and love to be at work.  It's a great combination!
The Craig family has had a new visitor for the past two weeks.  My sister in law's dog, Marley, is staying with us for a few weeks (Suzy, he's yours again in two weeks!!!)  He's seriously the sweetest dog, but he's large.  I've frustratingly come home to missiles and smeared missiles in the house three times this week, and I'm not down with that.  After cleaning up doo doo and other sundry doggy chemicals for an hour when coming home from work, I left Steve a nasty message with an ultimatum:  me or the dog by the weekend.  Well, like I said, Marley is a sweetheart.  He loves Alex sooo much.  He sleeps with her every night and wants to follow her everywhere she goes.  On the other hand, when we come home in the afternoons, he's too wild for me.  I open the door and he barges out like a steam engine right into the middle of the street.  To walk him when we get home is like being pulled around like a rag doll.  My poor father in law came over in the middle of the day this week to get the dogs outside, and Marley knocked him on the ground.  That's not a good thing.  Those of you who know Charlie, my dog, she is literally the easiest dog ever; I'm spoiled with her.  I kind of like it that way...two more weeks.
My wonderful friends in the hood threw me a super sweet baby shower yesterday.  Kim, my neighbor, should be a party planner.  She had everything so beautiful!  Although I don't have a specific time when TJ will be home, opening presents for him and receiving stuff for his room really made it sink in.  We will have a beautiful baby boy soon.  Whoa.  My friend, Sarah, sent me a link to a blog of a family she knows who adopted from Ethiopia.  They just brought their beautiful little girl home, but I appreciated their blog so much because it was very honest about their trip home.  To say the least, it was challenging to travel with a new baby for 24 hours on a plane.  Because of finances, I plan on traveling alone when TJ comes home; we can't swing it financially for both of us for the second trip.  I begged Steve on Friday, after reading this blog, to please try to come up with a way that he can come with me!  This is my prayer request right now.
Alex starts second grade at Heritage Christian tomorrow.  Second grade!  Where did the time go?  She's ready with her new messenger bag (that's right; a messenger bag, because she doesn't like the backpack), and a lunch box.  For the past two years, I have been the "eat school lunch everyday" mom.  Because we have gotten more into organic food, I have decided to pack her lunch as much as possible.  We'll see how it goes!  I love her so much, and my goal for her this year is to inspire her to LOVE reading.  I'm going to work my magic and see how it goes!  She will also be starting the year off looking like Nanny McPhee.  Her front tooth is literally hanging out of her mouth because she REFUSES to pull it out.  It's the most awkward thing I've ever seen, but those of you who know her, know how stubborn she can be. She has been wrestled, offered money by various people, and pleaded with to get the tooth out.  Oh well.
Steve has been working at the state fair this week.  Habitat is building a home there and then transferring it this coming Friday to the site.  He has come home burnt from the sun and sweaty.  I know it must be rough out there, so here's a shout out to all the folks out there hammering away on that house!  They truly don't call it "sweat equity" for nothing!
On another note, have you seen Ramona and Beezus?  If you haven't, you should!  It made me cry.  As I was sitting there, I realized that Alex is very much like Ramona...good intentions, a little bit of a mess, big heart, and independent as can be.  It was humble, sweet, and NOT dumbed down.
So, we're off!  Off to another week of making it work!  
Alex and Marley eating breakfast

Sunday, July 25, 2010

In Response to Friday

Lift Every Voice and Sing
by James Weldon Johnson

Lift ev'ry voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list'ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast'ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered.
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

I have never been a big fan of poetry.  It confuses me, but as I sit in my mid thirties, I think I'm starting to appreciate it more.  I like to read it to see what the author has to say.  I am beginning to love the craft of words in such a form.  I love this last stanza, and although this poem seems to have a patriotic theme to it, I think it's very pertinent to us all.  It reminded me of my thoughts on Friday, especially as I read, "God of our silent tears, Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way; Thou who hast by Thy might, Led us into the light, Keep us forever in the path, we pray.  Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee, Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we gorget Thee; Shadowed beneath Thy hand, May we forever stand, True to our God."
We are "shadowed beneath Thy hand," and sometimes in despair we forget that He's always there.  So, I thank You, Lord for everything.  I know You're here, but I'm feeling that stony road on my weary feet.  But, I do know that You will bring me through, and there is great joy ahead.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Yes, I Have My Days

I gotta tell you, I've been very good up until this afternoon.  We are down to the nitty gritty, officially #4 in waiting for TJ's referral.  I have been patient and kind willing to let God do His thing in His timing, but today is one of those days, where I'm ready today, now.  It all began with a mass email we received from our adoption agency saying that they are seeing further delays with the new two travel process to Ethiopia. I have gone with the flow, prayed through the upcoming court closings in August and September, and here I am.
I would be dishonest to say that I'm not feeling anxious, defeated, even.  I accept this as part of the adoption process, but it doesn't make it any easier in this moment.
I called Steve after reading the email and said that I needed a nugget of hope that we're going somewhere, that our little boy is there, that this is real and within reach.  I literally cried.
I'm asking for prayer because I'm ready to see my little boy, plan to see him, get ready for him.  I want him home.
Well, it's all I got, but I just wanted to share a moment of raw truth in the frustration of it all.  Again, please keep us and TJ in your prayers.  Thanks.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


A wonderful friend and I had a cookout chez moi the other evening.  She is also an educator, although in higher ed, and we began discussing the topic of what it means to be "polished" in the world of education.  Although it may have a positive connotation, it's definitely a backhanded compliment, and definitely that I'm not ready to prescribe to.  Here are some reasons why:

  • Whenever I come across someone who is "polished" in education, I am not sure if I can trust what they're telling me.  My pal and I described it as accepting the "kool aid."  For example, a politician or even an over eager administrator says that this is what we're going to do, without a) having any idea if it's really good or bad for kids, or b)because someone above them has sold them this crap because if they "buy in" then their futures look brighter.  I question people's motives sometimes.  I like to call it critical thinking, something I'm rather a fan of and encourage and teach my students to do.  It's tough because teaching students to be a critical thinker means to question authority at the risk of losing favor, but to also maintain a balance of respect.  Not an easy line for anyone, especially teens with still-forming frontal lobes, to teeter on.
  • Polished people often don't do the research on what the "kool aid" actually is.  Although it's refreshing at first and quenches one's thirst (didn't mean to be a poet, I swear), it's actually filled with tons of garbage.  Take for instance NCLB (No Child Left Behind) or Obama's "Race to the Top." (Looking at the political side of this, you can see that I certainly do not stand on one of side of the political spectrum or the other; I am spiritual, not political.)  Both programs look shiny on the outside, but once you start digging deeper, you see that they are both founded on ideas and principles that squash out what education is really about:  teaching children, who don't all fit into the same size or shaped box.  Anything that is formed by a politician or even one with those aspirations, have totally lost site or have no idea what they are talking about.  The depth of their program is one-sided and does not serve all, as public education is supposed to.   
  • Polished people have sold their "edge" to see things as they really are.  They always have a smile on their face because they aren't facing reality and missing the breath of an entire situation that they are supposed to fix with their product.  If I put my head in the sand when reality hit, I would be smiling too, like most politicians.  Ergo, I am not a fan of governors of education.  They have aspirations that are not about education whatsoever.  Look at Charlie Crist down in Florida, the once Governor of Education...he's now the governor and looking to move to the senate.  Thanks for looking out, Charlie.  As many can see down in Florida, many don't want to send their kids to public schools in that state.  Way to make a difference, but I gotta tell ya, he looks good in his pictures.  This can be seen all over our country, unfortunately.  
Am I a little rough around the edges?  Yes, certainly.  I could probably use a little self editing, I know this.  But at least I'm honest.  I know many who are the same way.  It's tough to be guided by programs that you can't buy or swallow, if you will.  I don't totally buy the polished people.  I'm forced to do my own reading and research whenever I'm being pitched to.  I think that's fair and responsible of me.  I encourage you to do the same.
Becoming "polished" seems to have its benefits:  the leadership position that you always wanted in order to make a difference, the higher up friendships, etc.  I'm blessed to work in a frank atmosphere.  Your heart and credentials seem to matter most of all, but I know that's not the way it is everywhere.  So, I urge you to be careful before buying into something that you don't know much about!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cramping My Style

I gotta tell you that today I am overwhelmed with emotion of how this stupid plantar fasciitis is cramping my style.  I found myself crying like a baby, mouth in downward dog of a cry, when I came home from Jazzercise today.  It is so freaking painful, and it's making me uncomfortable just being free (I'm typing this while intermittently rubbing Gold Bond Pain Relieving Analgesic)!  I have stretched, iced, and received lovely foot massages daily from Steve, and straight up, this sucks.
I sound like a baby, I know I do, but I gotta tell ya, that I do know that God gave me this stupid thing for a reason.  I pray to Him everyday about it.  I have two things working against me right now:
a) I have always been very healthy and strong.  Never a broken bone, nothing.  I was built like an ox.   The only time I ever had severe pain was when I was 13 and landed on my back trying to do a back handspring; this resulted in discovering my scoliosis (so much for the "back checks" in elementary gym class).  I stopped growing, so it wasn't a big deal.  Nevertheless, I think that I've discovered that I have some pride in naturally expecting my body to do what I need for it to do.  On top of that, I made it a goal to work out everyday possible this summer.  I look like I have issues in Jazzercise.  For those who know me, I freaking love Jazzercise.  It's my outlet, but not anymore.
b) I'm too busy for this crap.  I have a lot of minutia to deal with on a daily basis, and that's not slowing down anytime soon.  I have expectations to take care of, etc. and I can barely walk.  I'm frustrated.  I'm thinking, "why now?"  School is starting back up in a few weeks, and I have a baby coming home in a few short months.  As my mom would say, I don't have time for this sh**.  I want to be occupied by these other wonderful things, not foot pain.

Anyway, here's what I know...this isn't going away right now.  Although I have another doctor's appointment next week and will be begging for cortizone shots, this may take some time.  I literally cried out to God this morning, feeling all of my humanness.  I know He wants me to lean on Him more.  I'm doing it; I don't have a choice.  For the meantime, I exasperated by this.  I know it sounds so menial, and in many cases it is, but I just needed some time to vent!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Different Perspective

A few weeks ago, I learned that old friends and neighbors of ours who lived down in Florida are going through one of the most difficult times a parent and family would face:  their beautiful little girl, Ava, has a brain tumor and the diagnosis is for her to only live 12 to 18 months.  
As I have been following their blog and praying for them, I have been shaken with the reality that none of us know what God's plan is for us or our children.  Every day is a gift; so cliche, but I don't know any other way of stating it.  I think about the vacation that we just took and watching Alex play, and I am overwhelmed with how precious she is.  Here a few things that I have processed about my kid:
1.  She's a sharer.  I mean that in the most diverse aspects possible.  She would literally give you the shirt off her back if you needed it.  She wants to give juice and snacks out to her neighborhood pals all the time.  She wants to share her time and experiences with others.  
2.  She can express miles in just a look.  To the right is just one prime example.  She doesn't mask her feelings; what ya see is what ya get.  Ask her a question, and she'll tell you, but don't expect anything sugarcoated.  I think this makes her hilarious.  This look to the right is the look she has recently given me when I hug or kiss her in public; obviously, she loves that she's loved, but apparently she's getting too cool for the mush. (Oh well!  She's gonna have to put up with my mush for the rest of her life!)
3.  Alex loves to talk, but she's still working on syntax and pronunciation, which I think is adorable.  My kid is tall for her age, and often looks older than her 7 years.  When she talks, her true beauty comes out, in my opinion.  She's fearless when telling a story or joke, and the essence of who she is exudes from her desire to tell it like she wants to say it.  
4.  She likes to lead and direct.  She is her daddy's little girl.  I heard stories of how Steve always brought the most kids to Vacation Bible School and organized outings with all of his friends.  My daughter inherited this gift.  She's truly her own social director and will grow up to probably be a teacher or event planner.  If you ever are not sure how to do something logistically with many people, put the task to Alex...she'll tell you who, what, and how everything will get down with such detail you'll be freaked out.
5.  She's very sensitive to bad language, etc... This is one way that I know the Holy Spirit is in this little body.  We went to see The Blind Side last fall, and there were some dark previews before the movie.  She was practically curled in a little ball, so she wouldn't have to hear or see them.  I thought at the time she was being a bit dramatic, but I realized that she's truly sensitive to stuff that could have a dark side, and she doesn't want to be anywhere near it.  I respect and love that about her.  As a society, we have overexposed our kids to so many inappropriate things, that it seems that many of our kids are now immune to it.  I'm blessed to have a kid who is aware and sensitive to it.

I am praying for a miracle for our friends down in Florida.  I am praying for a miracle, peace, strength...the list goes on.  Reading Josh's blog this evening made me realize that God is using Ava and the Hunter family this very moment at 1:35 in the morning.  Please pray for them.  Read Josh's blog; it's God inspired.  
Then, go hug your kids, look them in the eyes and think of what God is giving you through them.  

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Desire to Bolt

I'm a few chapters into Women, Food, and God by Geneen Roth and already have  been faced with some revelations.  Although, I have a clear definition of who God is and how to know God personally and don't agree whole-heartedly with her expansive definition (after all, Jesus did say that no one comes to God except through Jesus, himself: John 14:6), she has made some good points about relationships.  I know some of you may not agree with that, but I stand by it. So, I guess we can agree to disagree, but I do hope and pray that one day you will embrace this.  Because of my life experiences, I know this to be true, but now I'm getting off topic.
Many of you know that I have had a particularly strained relationship with my mom, who at one time was my best friend.  We stopped communicating around December due to a very heated argument, which had been building up  for a long time.  My mom and I don't see eye to eye on many things anymore; the hard part about children becoming adults is that the parents have to let go.  But I guess I expected my mom to always support and be proud of me, no matter what.  In fact, I expected her, more than anyone else, to go above and beyond for me when I needed her, especially now as grandmother, but that has not happened, and I've been hurt by her lack of involvement among other things.  There are two sides to every story, and I know my mom has her side, so don't be quick to judge anyone.  But all in all, I imagined that when I grew up, my mom would always want to be there, and the fact is that she simply doesn't, and she has her reasons, which I know are valid in some cases.
Here's the deal, I have a habit of bolting from relationships that are too tough.  I have done it to many people, friends and family.  In my mind, I have never wanted my presence in someone's life to be a burden and a source of pain, so I figured that if I removed myself then I would be removing their pain and frustration.  I'm starting to rethink this.
As a teenager, I experienced the pain of an eating disorder.  It was retched, and I would never wish it upon anyone in my life.  Some people drink and do drugs, and some people obsess over food or a lack of it.  All in all, it's a symptom of something beyond the food and drugs, some pain that I didn't or couldn't deal with at the time; something that I was trying to bolt from.  I must say that to this day, I hate being weighed.  It brings back bad memories as a dancer, especially.  In a turn of events, I had to go to the doctor for the plantar fasciitis that I've been experiencing, and lo and behold, I had to get on the scale.  I weighed much more than I expected, and considering that I've been working out everyday for the past month, truly got to me.  Fortunately, I'm wise enough to not go back to those external behaviors of my old eating disorder, but in my mind, I was sad and frustrated.
I decided to pick this book up because I heard about it on Oprah, and it related to things I've experienced.  I don't agree with her spirituality, but I thought it would be worth a shot.  I thought I would pick up some quick tips about accepting my 35 year old body as it is, but I'm discovering much more.
Perhaps my pain over the freaking scale is due to my desire to bolt from my relationship with my mom.  Obsessing over my body when seeing that number could be a way to avoid the huge rift in my life, in which I participated in.
So, now I'm up to the part where I need to face these feelings and as Geneen Roth says, to give myself a chance to discover and become the person that I can be by dealing with the root of the matter rather than bolting from it and not trusting that I can do this (paraphrased, of course).
Good Lord, that's a lot to wrestle with, but she has a point.  I have not given myself a chance to be the person that I could become by seeing this relationship through.  To get right down to it, that's what Christ did for us.  He accepts us as we are and sees us through it all in order for us to transform into the people we can be, so He can use us to do His holy work.  And now, here it is being applied to my own life, and I missed the boat.  Maybe I can swim and catch up to it.

Well, I guess I have some work to do and a scary road to face with my mom.  I'm scared, I'm not gonna lie.  I'm scared that I could be hurt again, scared that I'm not gonna know what to do when I'm disappointed, etc...  The reality is that I have to face the situation rather than bolt from it.  It sucks, but I'm gonna do it.  I'm grateful for that stupid scale moment because I do think that it forced me to look in another direction: to God, to truth.  

Friday, June 11, 2010

Week 2: Day 5

   I have been praying last night and this morning for my daughter, Alex.  I love her so much, and although at times, she frustrates me to no end, she is my baby.  She is a total combination of my husband and I.  She has her daddy's gifts of looking ahead and organizing things and being her own social director (just call her Julie from the Love Boat), and wanting to play with her friends 24/7.  On the other hand, she and I share a deep sensitivity for what's really going on in a situation (she feels the "layers"), a strong intuition, and a strong sense of justice and fairness.  Putting all of these things together, Steve and I have a beautiful little girl who wears her heart on her sleeve, loves people, and wants everyone to play fairly and nicely.  We love her so much for that.
The challenge with this has come twofold:  she's learned over the past few years that sometimes you have to negotiate with friends in order to feel like everyone feels good about playing (i.e., you can't always get what you want; a part of the only child syndrome, which she has learned well) and that you can't take justice into your own hands when you feel and see what's really going on.  This is something I still wrestle with, and I'm 35, not seven.
So, here's the deal: seven year old mean girls suck.  There's a little girl that Alex sees around the neighborhood from time to time, and to be honest, she seems to straight up not like Alex.  Although that's stupid right there, I know that some kids just don't have chemistry, and I can handle that.  Unfortunately, this little girl has learned to whisper secrets about my child in front of my child (I've seen it happen).  She has also flat out told Alex that she won't play with her.  What the heck?  Did my kid fart in her face or something?  Yesterday, while my kiddo was down at the neighborhood pool with some other friends, it unfolded again when this other little girl walked onto the premises.
I have to tell you, my kid is not stupid, and I trust her intuition.  I've seen this other kid whisper in front of her to every other little girl and turn to Alex and tell her that she can't listen.  So, my kiddo starts crying because all of her "friends" have now allowed this little one to whisper in their ears and leave Alex out.  Now my kid is labeled as the "drama queen" and the "cry baby." It's a lose-lose situation for her.
I've heard many parents say, "kids will be kids," or "you have to let kids work it out," and I don't whole heartedly agree with this.  We live in a messed up world with messed up people (very much including everyone in my family, especially me and my kid), and it's absurd to think that it's ok to let seven year olds work it out on their own.  What do we them to learn from this?  That it's ok to treat kids like crap when they feel like they want to?  To be honest, we all feel this tendency, but it takes our maturity and wisdom to not do adults.
As a teacher of adolescents, I see what happens to kids when they are not parented through these situations; they turn into mean girls.  They think they are entitled and feel no empathy for anyone else around them, and it's totally ridiculous.  But as the adults and parents in society, we allow this to happen and fester by carrying a philosophy of, "kids have to work it out on their own."  In my opinion, that's just putting your head in the sand, and I don't agree with you if you feel that way.
When my kid messes up, which happens more often than I would like, she messes up big time, for the whole world to see.  And although it sucks, because the whole world sees, at least I know her heart, and I can handle it right then and there.  I hold on to the small smidgen of hope that I know my kid isn't getting away with anything; it's out in the open.
My kid also asked Jesus in her heart a few months ago, and again it's awesome and tough because she has a strong conscience, which I know is the Holy Spirit.  When she messes up, she feels it BIG TIME.  It doesn't excuse her form getting out of consequences in our home, but she feels so bad when she does something not good, especially when it hurt someone else.  I know the blessing is that Jesus isn't letting her get away with anything.  He's really challenged Steve, Alex, and I to see things as they really are and take responsibility for guiding her through all these situations with love and discipline.  It's harder than it sounds, trust me.
My charge to you is to pay attention more than maybe you have.  I know that I was mean girl here and there throughout my childhood and adolescence, but it wasn't ok then and it's not ok now.  It's not ok to choose not to see how our kids are treating others because we don't want to get involved.  Well, I'm sorry to say, but it's your job to get involved.  Don't take the easy road, it won't get your kids anywhere except down a road of self centeredness and selfishness.
I say this with love.  I hope everyone knows that.  Sitting on the other side of the fence stinks because it's a lonely place to be, but at least I know what side I'm sitting on.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Week 2: Day 4

My guilty pleasure over the summer is to watch So You Think You Can Dance.  Those dancers are so amazing; it definitely brings me back to my glory days dancing in the city.  As much as I loved dancing, I hated the life of a dancer.  It wasn't for me.  I loved going from class to class at Steps, but I hated hated hated the auditioning process.  I just didn't fit the type, ever.  I always felt out of place, and didn't know if the choreographers wanted me to dance it my way and see my personality or their way.  It was tough.  Also, growing up without knowing if the bottom was going to drop at any moment, I couldn't handle not having any stability.  I think any starving artist gets really good at waiting tables, and Lord knows that I'm THE WORST waitress ever.  The whole lifestyle didn't suit me.  It was great while I was a teenager and didn't have to worry about bills, etc.  But as an adult, it was the most uncomfortable thing ever.  I'm glad I had the time to explore it because now I know for sure.  My dream was to be discovered immediately and not have to worry about the down time in between jobs, but unfortunately it doesn't work that way.  Most people have to pave the road for awhile, especially in between jobs.  Everything happens for a reason, that's for sure.  I was meant to have Steve, Alex, and soon TJ (by the way, we're #6 on the list!).  I was meant to be a teacher and use the gifts that I've been given in a classroom.  This I know for sure.  All in all, I love to watch this show anyway because these people are beautiful, and as any dancer knows, it's about heart.  I get this and love to watch it through they eyes of a dancer, again.
On the other hand, Alex and I slept in until 9:30 today, which we cannot make a habit.  There's much to do, and I'm behind already.  I didn't get to jazzercise, so I'll have to walk/run it off later.  Also, I have four centers to work on for compare and contrast.  I love putting all this together and pretty much creating my own curriculum with my vision for this class.  It's awesome.
On another note, I went to the doctor for my feet.  She didn't want to do the cortizone shots because they break down the fatty tissue to cushion your feet.  I agree with this.  So, she sent me to the chiropractor to do some laser therapy, which at first thought worked, but it hurt all the same about an hour later.  I don't think I'll continue down this route.  Instead, I've opted to go to the podiatrist in a week and a half to possibly get fitted for orthodics.  Also, I'm gonna start swimming laps again a few times a week to get off my feet.
I'm reading How I Live Now as recommended by Carolyn the Librarian.  It's kind of weird.  I'm not really down with the whole kissing cousins thing, and therefore I kind of want to put it down.  I'll see how it goes today.
That's all I got; peace.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Week 2: Day 3

Jeez a louise! Alex woke up in the middle night with an asthma attack; here we go again. I hope this bout will be a short one. Girlfriend is ready to get this show on the road. Keep her in your prayers.
Today I have a doctor's appointment for my feet, and I'm not dodging this one. I'm actually hoping they give me a cortisone shot.
I'm also working on a my centers for cause and effect. I'm glad I have the summer to do this because it's a lot of work. I know it will be worth it in the end.
For the past two days I've been listening to my favorite radio station: K-Love. Jars of Clay has been raising money for a cause they feel very close to: access to clean water for people in Africa. The link to their cause is They are raising money to build wells for villages in Africa. They've been informing listeners over the radio of how they've seen people dig holes in the dirt and put their head in there in order to get a drink of dirty water, and of people walking for miles to get a few gallons of water. I believe in this mission, and I encourage you to check out the link. I also learned that 1 American dollar can provide clean water for one person in Africa for an entire year. It's unbelievable the access that we have to something we take for granted everyday, me included.
They continued to talk about how people have challenged them by asking why they aren't doing something for people here in America, like New Orleans, etc. It's a valid question, and I've been asked it myself about our adoption. Like Jars of Clay, when we looked at adoption my heart was immediately drawn to the children of Africa. There was a joy and excitement that was in my heart, and I felt convicted that my baby was there. It's not everyone's calling, and I understand that, but it's mine. Just as we all have different interests and passions, it's the same in this situation.
I respect everyone's calling, wherever and whatever it is. Just follow your passion. Pray for God to lead you where you're supposed to be. Keep your heart open; you never know!