Small Miracles

Nov
2016
30

posted by on Adoption, Faith, Joy, Parenting, Prayer

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This morning one of my children woke me up before everyone else and the two of us went downstairs and settled on the couch to stare at the Christmas tree, me with all my coffee, her with all her words.

She wanted to read to me from a book she had finished the night before (Mercy Watson, in case you’re wondering, and kids go nuts for these books…I recommend). I asked her what the book was about and she told me.

This doesn’t sound interesting or remarkable, but in fact, this little moment was huge in our home. Because this little one was adopted at age 5 and has huge mountains to climb in order to catch up. Thus far she has shown little excitement about reading, and I’ve never been able to get her to tell me about what she’s read.

So when she tells me that Mercy is a pig who gets scared and searches for buttered toast and all the hijinks that ensue, my heart swells and I praise the Lord. Here is an answer to prayer, seemingly small, but gigantic in my eyes.

But here’s the thing, this progress wasn’t made in some dramatic, miraculous way. It’s been the slow and steady work of three years. Evaluations, adjustments, making mistakes, trying again. God’s guiding us on the slow journey through all of this.

It’s easy to dismiss these moments as just the product of a lot of hard work. As a Christian, even though I profess trust in a sovereign and working and planning God, I often forget to see His hand weaving these small moments together.

I think it’s also tempting to ONLY see God when He does the big impossible things. He cures cancer or provides the money at just the right time or changes the hard heart or restores the broken marriage.

He certainly works like this. I’ve personally witnessed all of the above and stood in awe of His hand at work to do what man could never do. But I’ve felt the frustration of Him not moving in all other areas in this same way.

Why doesn’t He just fix everything all at once? Why do I still battle sin? Why the sickness and the struggle and the pain?

The answer to the above is essentially I don’t know because I’m not God, and there’s a big theological answer to the whole thing but it essentially boils down to us trusting that He knows what He’s doing and can do it better than we can. This is what it means to believe.

As I’ve grown in my faith and gotten older, I’ve learned to rest and wait on his grace to show up in the small and surprising moments instead of constantly searching for the miracle. The miracles come, but the little moments come much more frequently, and they are so sweet.

Talking to my 8 year old about a fictional pig this morning, I remembered that He’s caring for all the little concerns in my life, that I oughtn’t give up on Him working, and that His goodness and beauty can be seen everywhere and at all times, if I’m just willing to look.

 

 

posted by on Faith, Joy

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“So how then do we compel true, heart-centered change, both in ourselves and others? We tell the story of grace.” – J.D. Greear

My memories of high school have started to blur as I’ve grown older and my brain has had to make room for present realities (ahem, 4 children basically take up all of your brain space), but today my head and my heart are filled with the foggy memories I do still have. For many, those four angsty years are ones to try and forget – and believe me, I have my fair share of regrettable moments from those 8 semesters – but for me, those four years were pivotal and meaningful in my walk with Jesus.

In 1998, I entered my freshman year at University High School, barely 14, fairly insecure, with two good friends and a handful of acquaintances to my name. One of those two friends told me a woman named Michelle wanted to start a Bible study for freshman girls.  And I’m not sure if you remember, but at that age, a place to belong is really all you want, and I was immediately like YES.

Thus began four years of my eyes being opened to the story of grace through the sacrificial love of this beautiful woman, Michelle Beckman. I, like many who are raised in church-going, God-fearing homes, was beginning to recognize that my parents’ faith wouldn’t carry me into adulthood and my weak attempts at good behavior wouldn’t save me. Michelle entered into that and gently, lovingly, showed me grace.

I say “showed” and not “told me about” because that’s exactly what it was and that is what changed me. Of course Michelle talked about grace, but it was the fact that she KNEW it and loved it and reveled and delighted in it that warmed my heart to the reality of it and compelled me toward a different way to know God.

During those four years, we sat in living rooms and on benches at school and in cars late at night and talked about Jesus and talked about boys (of course, boys) and talked about worries and fears and hopes and dreams. She laid down her life and her time to make the gospel of grace real for a group of teenagers.

When you’re a teenager, you’re self-absorbed and haven’t figured out yet that there’s a world that exists outside your own (I mean maybe that was just me, so I shouldn’t say “you”). At the time I thought she was just super cool and loved staying up late and having sleepovers with teenagers. Now, close to the age she was then, I think OH MY GOSH I cannot believe she let us all crash in her apartment and watch Pride and Prejudice until 3:00 in the morning. I want to cry when my kids keep me up past 10.

She came to our homes for dinner and got to know our families. She prayed for us and with us and taught us how to love the Bible and read it to know Jesus and how to find satisfaction in Him. She let us screw up and showed us compassion when we were floundering. She gave us the space to be young and immature while also calling us to courage and growth. She did not call us to good behavior. She called us to grace.

See, the easy, but unfruitful road, is to hold ourselves far off from others and call them to godly living without getting involved. But there is no love in this. As Paul tells us, “If I…have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal…I am nothing…I gain nothing.” Michelle loved. She loved without exception. She wasn’t afraid to enter into messiness and get her hands dirty – not unlike our Savior, who knelt and washed the filthy feet of those whom He loved.

But she did not just love. She loved with joy – not the fleeting kind of joy that you get when life goes your way or you got the thing you’ve been wanting – real, lasting, joy. Anyone who has known her will tell you about her smile and her laughter. She was able to “laugh at the days to come” because she was secure and happy with Jesus by her side. Of course I know she battled for joy, like we all do, but “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks,” and if that is true, then the joy that emanated from her told you what was filling and flowing out of her heart.

And when, 5 years ago, Michelle was diagnosed with colon cancer, that joy, even in the midst of the ugly, terrible, painful battle, was real and felt by all who came in contact with her. If you’d doubted it was real, and I don’t think any of us did, we all knew how real that joy was then.

A few months ago the news came that Michelle’s cancer had spread yet again, that the treatment had not worked, and that she had decided it was time to go home. And yesterday, the news that she has entered into that eternal rest.

Yesterday, when I heard the news, I stood at my counter and wept for just a minute before the demands of life (ie the aforementioned children) pressed in and I had to set the grief and sadness aside. But I spent the rest of the day contemplating this remarkable woman, the impact she had on my life. A mere month ago, she and I exchanged a few messages, and I was able to tell her, I wouldn’t be who I am without you. The trajectory of my life changed because you were in it. My marriage, my children, our adoption, our ministry – it has its roots in your sacrificial love for me when my faith was forming and my future was a blank slate.

The stories like mine are countless. Hundreds who can point to her and say, my life was changed because of this woman. So many of us wanted to be just like her, but the truth is, if we are in Christ, the joy we all saw in her is for all of us. He is our treasure in this life, just as He was hers. I do not have a multitude of teenage girls to mentor right now, but I do have 4 little people who are watching and listening to everything I say. Will they say “love, grace, joy”? Will Jesus be real to them because of me? I pray that what has been true of Michelle will be true of me, a life lived to see others “comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge…filled with all the fullness of God.”

Today Michelle is with her dearest friend, her loving Father. Her pain has ended. Now she does not see in a mirror dimly, but face to face. The joy she had in this life was bright and far reaching…now it is blinding. As I said in a text to my mom and sister in law yesterday, her best days are yet to come.

And so are all of ours. Because of Jesus, our future is very bright, and this life is only the tiniest sliver of a beginning. To all who are missing Michelle, may you grieve with hope, and may you know the grace, the love and the joy that were so real and true for her.

Scan 16

posted by on Parenting

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About 8 years ago, when I was pregnant with Reagan, I was told that I needed to choose a pediatrician. I realize I should have assumed as much, but I remember thinking, “I do?” As though I were going to magically have a doctor for my kids without actually doing anything about it.

I don’t remember specifics, but I know I made that decision as I make many decisions, somewhat haphazardly and distractedly. I think I chose our pediatrician mostly because my friend Carey, whose kids I had babysat, loved him. And I’m a lot like Carey so I figured he was probably my cup of tea.

It wasn’t until I was sitting in the waiting room with baby Reagan a few months later that I realized people actually take this decision very seriously. There was a pregnant woman sitting across from me, and after a few minutes of chatting I realized she was essentially there to interview this office and this doctor. And that she was doing so with multiple pediatricians before making her decision.

Oh. Should I have done that??

This is how I feel much of the time. As though I missed a mom memo that tells me how to be super dialed into my kids’ health. Instead, I am the person who only goes to the doctor if it’s absolutely, 100% necessary. Like there needs to be blood or a very high fever or difficulty breathing. And I am the person who is often completely clueless about what I should be doing for my kids health-wise.

So, a couple of weeks ago (we’re getting to the good part of this story, people), I took Charlotte and Titus in for their yearly check up (which I feel is a huge accomplishment, btw).

Oh, and just in case you are at the beginning of having children, you should know that the best thing you can do is schedule as many of these checkups as possible simultaneously so as to avoid multiple trips to the doctor. Yes, I know they will schedule your kid’s checkups near their birthday, but you don’t have to keep them at that time of year. Instead, just take them all in in April, or June, or whatever. But not August, when every single child in your city needs a checkup before school starts. Never. August.

Anyhow, Charlie and Titus had theirs together, which was great for the aforementioned reasons. It was also great because Charlotte and Titus are best friends and really laid back and easy going about the doctor so it’s not stressful in the least.

They happily stood on the scale and had their heights measured and sat like statues while their blood pressure was taken. They did their vision screenings and I was so proud of Titus for knowing his letters I didn’t really care how well he could or couldn’t see.

And then we waited and waited and waited for our Doctor. Guys, in order to know how amazing our pediatrician is (as luck would have it, since, as I already mentioned, I thought very little about how or why I chose him), you need to know that I almost always wait at least 45 minutes, if not more, to see him, and I don’t even care.

This man sat on the cold tile floor with Charlotte for 20 minutes when she was 18 months old. He gently walked me through the medical aspects of our adoption, like getting tested for every kind of disease and overcoming malnutrition. He extensively researched epilepsy in developing countries when we thought Eva may be having seizures (she wasn’t). Basically, he wins at being a pediatrician.

Aside from all of the awesome things he’s done for us, he is the father of 3, 2 of whom are twins, so he just gets parenting. So when I, say, don’t follow the back-sleeping rule or the harness-carseat-until-they-are-adults rule, he’s understanding about it.

So whatever, take as long as you need Doctor. You’re probably being awesome for someone else while I’m sitting here waiting for you.

He did finally come, and started by going over the kids growth charts with me. He was marveling at how much good nutrition has changed Titus in the last 3 years (20th weight percentile! Up from <1% when we got him!) I said something about clean water and then this conversation happened:

Doctor: I can’t remember…did either of them have giardia when they got here?

Me: Yeah, Eva had a parasite…but we just waited for it to pass through her system.

Doctor: Did you see it? When she, you know…

Me, horrified: What?? Ew. No. Uh, I’m not really one to check my kids poop every day. I’m not that kind of mom.

Doctor, thankfully, laughs.

A few minutes later he is checking Charlotte first, and we’re talking about a few skin issues. Mild dry skin, and a kind of rash called moluscum. He starts telling me about how it’s fine to just leave it alone but if it bothers me, I can use this or that product on it…then grins at me and says, “But as we’ve already established, you’re not that kind of mom.”

He gets me!

THEN, a few minutes after that, he started Titus’s check up. Titus, by the way, cackles through the whole thing because he’s ticklish. Which I love. Anyway, the Doc is chatting with me as he tests reflexes and looks in his mouth and so on. Then stops abruptly when he shines his otoscope in Titus’s ear.

“Hmmm…is that…there’s something in there…I think it’s…I think it might be a bead??”

What?!

Uh, yeah, it’s definitely a bead. A necklace bead. From one of those WRETCHED necklace making sets your girls become obsessed with.

Doctor: Has he been complaining about his ear hurting?

Me: No! Well…I guess he said something about his ear a few weeks ago but I thought he was being dramatic because Charlie was getting attention for her sore throat!

Doctor: Barely containing laughter.

Me: TITUS! Did you put that in there?

Titus, proudly, grinning: Yeah.

Me: How long as it been in there??

Titus: Um…I think 100 days.

Me: Don’t listen to him. 100 is his favorite number.

And then I just didn’t stop laughing for the rest of the visit.

Except to stop and tell Titus he could explain to daddy the $35 copay it would take to have it removed at an ENT because they couldn’t get it out at the pediatrician’s office. Titus didn’t seem phased by this one bit.

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I am really REALLY not that kind of mom.

Y’all, I’m just NOT the kind of mom to pay close attention to my kids’ health issues. Every day someone has a new bruise or cut or tooth falling out or coming in or mild tummy ache from holding it too long or sniffle or cough or whatever. And honestly if I worried about it all I’d go insane. So I kiss it and say it will be fine or give them a wet paper towel (the cure of almost every boo-boo) or just plain ignore.

And let me just say that some moms ARE that kind of mom and I need those moms. They are the ones who make me take my kid to the doctor when it’s necessary or say, “hey, it might be this,” and I reply “You’re right! I never would have considered that!” They’re the ones I call when I have that deep down sense that I should probably be more worried than I am. There’s no correct type of mommying here. But I’m really really ok with the kind of mom I am. Or am not.

However, the next time someone’s ear hurts, I will probably take them to the doctor immediately, no questions asked.

posted by on Faith, Parenting

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This Easter season our children brought home an Easter Devotional Kit created by our wonderful Children’s Ministries staff. In it there was a grapevine wreath, meant to represent the crown of thorns worn by our Suffering Savior, and a stack of little blank cards. The purpose? To teach our children about what to do with their sin.

It was pretty remarkable to see this great news from my little children’s eyes. It’s rare that all four of these crazy kids is fully engaged in what we are discussing around our messy dinner table. Typically, there is at least one who is hanging upside down in his/her chair or talking about unicorns while Josh and I try to redirect back to the subject at hand. But these words brought these kids to attention.

We read 1 John 1:5-9 and talked about what it means to be in the light, what it means to be in the darkness, and what we do when we sin even though we’ve said we believe. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

As we talked about the darkness and the light, that the one who says he has no sin deceives himself, and the one who professes the truth but walks in darkness is a liar, our kids grew increasingly nervous. Hands were popping up (thank you, school) with questions about what we’re supposed to do. What if we sin?? What happens? Are we in darkness? Our kids immediately recognized this for what is is: really bad news.

But then that good news of confession and you could see the relief. Ok, so we sin, but we can tell God and He loves us and forgives us and changes us! He, through His son’s death, has given us something to do with all of this yucky sin.

To make the process a little more tangible for the kids, there was the simple act of writing (or drawing a picture of) your sin on a little notecard and pinning it to that “crown of thorns.” I told the kids I was sorry I had gotten angry with them before gymnastics, wrote it down, and pinned it to the wreath. They eagerly followed suit (well, one had gone back to his/her dinner with gusto but that’s ok). They all had immediate examples of things they’d done wrong, little sins they’d been carrying around with guilt.

What struck me in that moment is that the gospel is so simple a little child can understand it. But interestingly, I think they often understand it better than we do because of it’s simplicity. It made complete sense to them. “I feel guilty about sin. But you’re telling me I can bring it to Jesus and be free? Yay!”

We adults have a harder time with this truth. Of course, as a new believer, it often has that blissful ring to it, but the longer I’ve walked in the faith, the more difficult this simple transaction – our sin exchanged for His holiness – seems to become. I believe this is one of the main ways our enemy, Satan, targets us to derail our faith and effectiveness. He complicates our simple understanding of what we are to do with our sin, and teaches us to converse in the language of regret and shame, the very thing we left behind when we believe.

Add to this a culture that has glorified the pursuit of personal happiness above all else and we are left with no room for confession and humility. But, of course, we all go on sinning. And if we have imbibed this message from the enemy, from the culture, we will feel paralyzed by the weight of our own sin and we’ll look anywhere but the gospel to try and absolve ourselves and get rid of that feeling.

Thursday morning – just days after going through that very devotional – found me sitting on the couch at 5:30 in the morning with Bible in hand, but heart in complete turmoil. I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t pray. I was wallowing. I was overwhelmed with all of the ways I’d failed and sinned this week and that language of regret and shame had crept in.

A missed evangelism opportunity, anxiety over counsel I’d given, frustration with my children – all came rushing in and I felt burdened under the weight of it all. After almost an hour of this I gave up, threw on some work out clothes and went for a walk, choosing a worship playlist over my current workout music of choice (the Hamilton soundtrack, in case your curious, which is surprisingly good running music).

As I made the mile loop around my street I began to pray. I let words of truth (through song) penetrate my guilt-ridden fog. I remembered this is Easter week. I remembered the gospel. God made flesh, death to life. I remembered that we do NOT believe in a God who asks us to come cleaned up with our many good works to lay at His feet. Instead we come messed up and He does the cleaning and willing and working for His good pleasure.

And as I neared the end of my walk and the sun was coming up over the horizon there were these words coming through my earbuds and reaching my heart:

Oh, death, where is your sting?

Oh, hell, where is your victory?

Oh, church, come stand in the light!

The glory of God has defeated the night!

 On that dark day a Savior died, and three days later He arose with the sun, and His light penetrated the darkness. Our sin, that great darkness in our hearts, exposed to the light and made powerless with His victory. “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Resurrection. Life.

If you, like me, feel weighed down by your sin, your failure, your weakness, I encourage you to go back and read those words from 1 John with the eyes of a child. Do not forget that, in fact, He told us to come to Him like little children. Weak, needy, desperately grateful that He has taken our punishment for us.  Stop trying to clean yourself up. Stop replaying it all in your head and walking in condemnation and shame. Confess your sins to the one who is faithful and just to forgive, and walk in newness of life.

 

 

A Year of Grace

Jan
2016
04

posted by on Faith, Joy

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Honestly, I could not tell you what my 2015 resolutions were. I’m sure I made them. I may not have gotten as far as writing them down anywhere. If I did, it’s probably a list on a random page of one of the 15 spiral notebooks that float around my house. These notebooks serve as to-do lists, grocery lists, random writing down of information during phone calls, random doodling during phone calls, sermon notes, writing ideas, and coloring books. There is no rhyme or reason. Type A people, you should just stop reading now because this is probably stressing you out…

Wherever that list may or may not be, I don’t have any recollection of it. But I think it’s safe to say that if I did make goals for 2015, they were not achieved. 2015 was, for me, an unexpectedly challenging year. Of course I did anticipate that when we adopted and grew our family rapidly and basically turned our house into an elementary classroom it would come with challenges. But I think I felt that we were “settling,” in a sense, as we began 2015. Now I look back and think, yeah, that whole settling thing ain’t gonna happen anytime soon.

2015 brought a lot more questions than answers. I encountered new dilemmas, particularly with our children, for which solutions seemed, and continue to seem, elusive. I found myself often feeling overwhelmed, weary and directionless. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t, to put it succinctly, just get my crap together. There’s this picture on Reagan and Eva’s wall and one time Josh and I were laying on the floor in there (you know, because sometimes you just run out of energy and lay down on your kids’ floor) and Josh said, “That’s a picture of your life. You’re that giraffe. And those 4 giraffes are comin’ at you and there’s nothing you can do about it.” And I laughed until I cried partly because it was funny and partly because it was so painfully true. These kids are trying to stampede me pretty much 24/7 (Do giraffes stampede? Probably not. And that’s not even a verb. Whatever, I’m sticking with it).

Giraffes

So, this may be a bit of an overshare, but honestly, I wish we’d all just share this stuff more so I’m just gonna dive on in. In March of this past year, I began to struggle with anxiety. Not “Oh gosh, I’m so nervous about my upcoming job interview” anxiety. More like “Why do I feel so freaked out all the time” anxiety. I’ve never been an anxious person. So it took me a while to figure out what was going on, and eventually I ended up sitting in the ER because of shortness of breath and chest pain. Once all the tests had been done and the consensus seemed to be “it’s probably anxiety,” I just felt so ashamed, so silly for ending up in the ER because I was having a panic attack. Other people have stressful lives. Not me. I have a great life. What is wrong with me?

But as I talked to those I was close with, I learned that this is not an uncommon thing. Actually, it’s very common. I am not alone in this.

(Just as an aside, I am not talking about anxiety disorders here. For many, anxiety is a constant, physically painful struggle that requires counseling and sometimes medicine. I’m talking about getting to this point where your body basically says “You are way too stressed out and I’m here to tell you to do something about it already!!”)

This experience got me thinking. What is making us all so stressed out? What is making me feel so stressed out?  So out of necessity, I had to start really evaluating my life, how I was spending my time, what I was doing with my energy. And that’s pretty much how I spent the rest of the year, trying to reduce stress. And yeah, I went to the doctor and we talked about all the things I need to do. Exercise more, sleep enough, get time to myself, etc. And all of that is good. And I’m glad I have some tools that help me cope when I start to freak out. But mostly this year of trying to regulate my stress levels or whatever has just led me back to the same two things again and again.

  • Our expectations for ourselves, our lives, our children, are ridiculous. We all want to be interior decorators and gourmet chefs and entrepreneurs and organic gardeners and beauty queens and super-moms and super-wives and presidents of the whatever. We want our lives to look like a Pinterest board. It’s unattainable.
  • But more importantly, my bigger problem was this: I like to be in charge. I like to run things. I want to be God. And I can’t be. And because I can’t be, I panic.

There’s a free antidote to both of these issues but it’s sometimes a hard pillow to swallow.

Grace.

This year, if I learned one thing, it was that I want to understand grace. I don’t want to have a small view of it. I want to walk in it. I want to know the abundance of it that is promised to us in Scripture.

In October, when our family spent a week at the beach, I finally got the time to read a book that one of my best friends recommended, Extravagant Grace by Barbara Duguid. There’s a lot that I love about this book, but the main idea that has really stuck with me is that grace is just so scandalous. Even as I read this book I found myself second-guessing everything, thinking, wait a minute, that can’t be right. And then looking it up in Scripture and thinking, Oh. That’s Biblical. That really IS how grace works. It makes no sense to our works/wages mentality. It cannot be earned. I can’t good-works my way into or out of it. I can’t keep it in a neat and tidy box and get it out when I think it might help me. It doesn’t work that way. In fact, the more I think I can contain it, the more I end up avoiding it altogether.

Real, scandalous grace is for the sinners. It’s for the weak. It’s for the messy and messed-up and tired and confused and overwhelmed. And that’s exactly who I am. It’s who we all are. Grace is where God’s strength meets our weakness.  We aren’t meant to stand on our own and do all the things and impress everyone around us. We aren’t meant to be God. We’re meant to receive His grace from His ocean of steadfast love and faithfulness and display for those around us that it is not WE who are great but the One we serve.

Grace means I can say yes when I’m able, and no when I’m not, without condemnation or guilt, because it is God who directs and strengthens for the tasks He has assigned. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.”

Grace means I can see beyond the lie that a perfect home or healthy meals or a toned beach body or great vacations or the best parenting method or a huge savings account or WHATEVER is going to satisfy. Instead I can say “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.”

Grace means I can’t make my children anything. I can entrust them to a faithful God while I obey, instead of constantly wringing my hands, worrying that any wrong move on my part will keep them from the Kingdom. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”

Grace means I don’t have to know everything or have all the answers or be the smartest person in the room. I can be weak and weary and not feel like that’s the end of the world, but instead like that’s the best place to be to better know my Savior. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Most of all grace means I’m ever looking ahead. Because true Grace points us forward to our final rest. We aren’t meant to be satisfied here. We aren’t meant to figure it out. We aren’t meant to have all the answers. We’re meant to receive grace and long for the one Who bestows it. Long for the time we’ll be with Him and the concerns of this life will be a dim memory. “We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Any good work or success in this short life is born out of grace, out of dependence on love for the Savior. Apart from Him, we have no good.

So, yeah, I’ve made some 2016 resolutions. And they’re around here somewhere. And I may or may not be successful in them. But this I know. A year of Grace is better than a year of success.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you so that having all sufficiency in all things you can abound in every good work.”

HAIR

Oct
2015
28

posted by on Adoption

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There are many very hard things about adoption. Really, a case could be made that everything about it is hard. It’s totally the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my short life. Some of those hard things are serious and painful. But some of them bring a lot of laughter. The language barrier for example. Like to think back to the fact that I had two children living in my house who literally knew less than 10 words of English is hilarious to me. Anyway, I thought I’d take a blog post to focus on one of the funnier hardships of adoption rather than going all serious and emo on you poor people like I always do.

Hair. You guys. Can we just talk about the hair for a minute? Sit back and relax and grab some tissue (for the tears of laughter, obviously) because Katie Hughes trying to learn how to do black hair is a comedy routine. Let’s reminisce and enjoy my hair journey together, shall we?

So first of all, as any of you who know me can attest to, I have a pretty laid back personality. I am NOT type A. In many ways, I think this has helped me through the adoption, and continues to help me in this nutso life of ours. But in some ways it’s just the least helpful thing about me. I’ll go ahead and say from experience that with specific regard to the hair issue, it’s probably more helpful to be like super duper type A. Like this chick, who clearly adopted a little black girl and made it her mission in life to learn everything there was to learn about her hair. BTW I’ve had this blog recommended to me like 10x in the last 2 years. I watched about 5 of her videos and was like “Yeah, OR I could just hire a professional. Peace out nice type A adoptive mom.”

When we were in Uganda, Eva’s head was shaved. All of the children had shaved heads. This made life much easier for their caregivers in the orphanage.

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What this meant for me is that the entire month we were there I didn’t really think much about Eva’s hair. In retrospect I kind of wish she had had hair then, because I know my Ugandan friends would have taken me somewhere to have it done and at least pointed me in the right directions product-wise. As it was, I had to do nothing, which was fine by me as I don’t think I had the emotional capacity for hair concerns while I was in a constant state of anxiety over things like getting passports from the Ugandan government.

But a few months later I found myself with a little girl who SCREAMED every time I touched her hair. With anything. Comb, pick, brush, shampoo, conditioner, etc. Because her hair was so short I just tried to pick it out every morning which was AWFUL. Oh, FYI, never try to comb/pick out dry black hair. Must. Be. Wet.

After a month or so of the screaming and the crying every morning I started to feel a little desperate and began to approach total strangers about her hair. For example, when I was at a medical office I noted that the receptionist had lovely hair and, being me, was like “Excuse me, my daughter is black and I’m basically a moron and have no idea what I’m doing and you have lovely hair please help me.” Y’all. this total stranger went on her computer, printed out pictures of every product she uses, and told me how to/how often to use each product. I need to go back and thank that girl. I mean, come on. I’m such a weirdo and she was so nice to me.

I then took said pictures to Target, where the girl stocking the shelves in the hair aisle ALSO happened to be black and have lovely hair and I again word vomited all over her and told her my whole story and she helped me find all my products and gave some additional tips. I took my various supplies home, determined to make some progress.

It was at this point that I learned that there is a reason there are A LOT of products out there. Because when it comes to taming black hair, every hair type is not created equal. After this it became my mission to find the right products for Eva’s hair. As it turned out, there were certain things that simply would not work in her hair. However, the problem with this mission was, once again, my laid back personality (see paragraph 3, please). So it didn’t take long for this mom to say “OKAY enough is enough, we need to find someone ELSE to tackle this nonsense.” My mornings were still filled with screaming and I was over it.

Eva’s hair was long enough at this point for her to have extensions braided in. I found a random, very nice lady who did this in her home and she plaited Eva’s hair for the first time. She was so nice and patient with Eva’s…emotions…and we walked away with THIS beautiful ‘do.

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So have I mentioned that the glorious thing about doing this is that it LASTS? Like 4 weeks (or, ahem, if you’re lazy, 6) I was so. happy. 4-6 weeks later I was like, yeah we’re doing that again, and had an appointment to go back. The day I was taking Eva in to have her hair done the second time, I got a text from this lady reminding me that I needed to bring the extensions this time. Oh. Crap.

First, there was the fact that I had no idea where to go. No. Idea. You can’t buy this stuff at Target, guys. Or Costco, or Trader Joe’s. Which are the 3 places I shop. So I sent a facebook message to my friend, who is black, and asked her where to go WHICH WAS SO RUDE BECAUSE SHE WEARS HER HAIR NATURAL AND DOES NOT USE EXTENSIONS but whatever, she was gracious about it even though she, too, had no idea, because of the whole not using extensions because she has beautiful natural hair thing.

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But miracle! I found a place. Which brings me to the second “oh crap” moment which is that, and I am not exaggerating, there are THOUSANDS of different kinds and colors of extensions. I walked into that store and almost laughed out loud. I wandered the aisles for like 5 minutes before I thought, “This is dumb. I’m not fooling anyone in here.” And went and asked yet another person to help me. I don’t know what’s wrong with me but I can’t simply say, “Excuse me, could you help me find Kanekalon braiding hair in black #2?” No, I have to tell my whole life story in order to explain why I am in the store buying black hair extensions. Poor people. I just apologize to all people everywhere for doing this to them. It’s a sickness. I’m sorry.

After making it through my life story the girl knew exactly what I was talking about and HURRAY we had our hair. Whew. Well, Eva had it done again and again it was beautiful. And let me repeat that this girl was so sweet and patient. BUT, she was also a perfectionist. Which meant the hair was perfect but it took between 6 and 7 hours both times. And guys? Just no. Even my laid back self can’t do 7 hours for hair. I just can’t.

After we went the allotted 4-6 (ahem 8) weeks with that hair, I just took it out and left it as a fro for the summer because swimming and I’m not getting hair done only to have it ruined by swimming. And Eva needs to swim. And run and jump and dive and skip and just move constantly all the time. So no hair for the summer.

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When we were back in school and our daily routine again, though, I was in the same boat. Fighting her every day to get it done, all the tears. Thankfully at this point my friend who also has an adopted black daughter told me about her hair girl. Enter Brittany.

Ah Brittany. My knightess in shining armor (yes I made that word up). Brittany is the Eva whisperer. I don’t know how but she managed to do Eva’s hair in an hour (not with the plaited braids, but with this sort of ‘do, but still an hour is FAST).

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She also managed to make Eva worship her even though she made Eva cry. I kind of just stood there dumbfounded when I picked her up and she was jumping around with joy and could not stop hugging Brittany. And then Brittany totally unveiled the mystery that was Eva’s hair drama for me by informing me that yes it hurts to have your hair done but all black girls just learn that that’s a part of life from when they are very young. But Eva didn’t have it done until she was 6 so she was a mega drama queen about it. And she just needed to get used to the fact that this is part of her life.

All this time I kept thinking “There’s no way this should cause so much screaming. Am I really hurting her that badly?” And thanks to Brittany, I have the answer. Yes and no. Yes it hurts. No she shouldn’t scream that much. She just needs time to get used to it.

Brittany not only gets Eva, she gets me. Like when I show up with the wrong hair and she just laughs at me and tells me she’ll just straighten Eva’s hair and I can bring the right kind next time. Or when she has to explain to me that it really is so much easier than I think it is and I really can do certain things myself. And she’s not condescending at all even though she would be entirely justified if she were. All that to say, we love this woman and she is stuck with us foreeeever.

Now Eva BEGS to go have her hair done. Not by me. By Brittany, of course. By now she recognizes that I am terrible at it. She’s been rocking the ‘fro for the last few months because I just keep forgetting to make an appointment and she’s kind of like “MOM. Please get my hair done. This is embarrassing.”

Sorry, babe. I’m a mess. And so are you. We’ll just both be messes together.

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You know that moment when your kid is doing something really defiant or disobedient and instead of calmly correcting and disciplining them you get angry and let your temper get the best of you? No? Ok, think harder then, because we’ve all been there.

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(Arms Akimbo: The scolding, angry mom pose)

Something no one quite prepared me for was this common occurrence in parenting, sinning against one’s own children. I don’t know that anything makes me feel quite so low, quite so inadequate, quite so hideous, as when, instead of teaching my children by example, I display the very thing I’ve asked them not to do. My attention is wanted, and I say “Not now, I’m busy,” in exasperation. The same instruction is disobeyed for the 40th time in one day and I yell, “Just do what I say!!” A fight breaks out between 2 (or more) and everyone gets sent to their room in anger instead of being engaged and trained and disciplined.

I wish these were hypothetical situations for me, but they are all too real. And perhaps they are real for you, too. Perhaps you find yourself wallowing in guilt as you think of the ways you haven’t parented as you should have. And yet it is this very thing, this moment of failure, that can be one of your greatest opportunities as a parent.

Somehow in all the parenting literature and teaching I think we’ve lost the importance of repenting to our own children. Now, don’t get me wrong. Instructing children in the way they should go, when they rise up, when they walk along the way, when they sit down to eat, when they lay down to sleep, this is vastly important (Deuteronomy 6). We are called to it, and it IS indeed vile and disappointing when we don’t live it. Yet we live on this side of the cross, where the perfect parenting life was lived by Jesus, and our punishment for sinning against God in parenting was taken by the death of Jesus. His life and death make it possible for us to both live holy parenting lives AND repent freely when we don’t.

If you’re anything like me, though, repenting is the LAST thing you want to do. Not only is it embarrassing when you act like a spoiled child TO your spoiled child, but usually, said child is in the middle of sinning against you when you sin against him/her. So even if you feel a little guilty you also feel a teensy bit justified. When I let out a Miss Piggy like noise of frustration when one of my kids is writhing on the floor in rebellion I’m not usually feeling like my frustration is unwarranted.

(I should confess that RIGHT NOW one of my children is out of bed for the FIFTH time telling me totally unimportant things and my own writing is convicting me as I battle the urge to throw myself face first onto the couch and yell “JUST GO TO BED ALREADY FOR THE LOVE”)

Let’s have a real life example. This will be fun.

Lately, one of my children, who shall remain nameless, has been having a bit of an extra hard time with being told no. Said child pouts, glares, refuses to respond, stomps, slams doors and cries. Here are 2 responses to this kind of behavior:

1. I calmly send the child to his/her room. Then I calmly explain why this behavior is unacceptable. Then I, again, calmly talk about the gospel and how it is the only way to God, who is the only one who can give us a heart to obey. Then I continue to calmly respond as said child either repents or continues to rebel.

2. GAAAAAAH ENOUGH ALREADY JUST GO TO YOUR ROOM AND STAY UNTIL YOU CAN HAVE A GOOD ATTITUDE

Obviously approach one is both preferable and significantly more godly. In it, I reveal the gospel to my child through my words. But in the second, if I repent to my child, I’m able to reveal the gospel to my child through my actions. The child sees that saying sorry for sin and asking forgiveness isn’t scary, it’s freeing. If mommy can say, “That was wrong. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me,” then he or she can say it, too. If mommy can pray and ask God to cleanse her of sin and renew her heart, then he or she can go to God, too.

Besides showing our children a very tangible picture of the gospel, repenting to them also gives us credibility. Our pastors have often said that children can sniff out hypocrisy in their parents like nobody’s business. And it’s true. They know when their parents aren’t who they say they are. BUT, if their parents are honest when this happens, when they aren’t who they know they’re called to be, it’s not hypocrisy, it’s the gospel.

For some reason we want to hide our true selves from our children. I suppose it’s because we all want to be heroes in our children’s eyes. But our calling isn’t to make ourselves into heroes to our children. It’s to make our children see Jesus as their hero. It’s important that we acknowledge to them that we aren’t the heroes of the story. They already know it. They’re not blind. But when we admit it, they see through our failings to a gospel that saves and frees us to live lives of obedience and repentance.

Parent, don’t be afraid to let those kids see your weaknesses. You might find that your best parenting is done when you’ve completely failed. After all, His power is made perfect in weakness.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)