one thousand gifts–the candy edition

Monday, October 31, 2011

We have so. much. candy. in this house. It’s really outrageous. Four kids = exponentially more candy. I can’t figure out the math part of it. And I have to eat the candy. I must eat the candy. I cannot stop eating the candy. Well, I can, but it’s hard. Very, very, very hard. I’m spending this sunny, rainy, brisk fall day enjoying the falling leaves outside my window, enjoying the candy joy inside my house, and enjoying the fact that trick or treat was Saturday instead of tonight.

 

454. the steadiness of rain
455. numbered lists
456. traveling safety
457. fajitas, margaritas, supper with friends
458. far away children, loved and familiar
459. the bright pink, fork tender center of a prime cut filet
460, finishing an entire book in one afternoon
461. golden rays of afternoon sun
462. beauty of silence
463. upgraded airplane seats
464. a love that punishes (from children just learning to love)
465. birthday celebrations
466. trick or treat community celebrations
467. the joy of costumed children
468. baby voices saying 'tick or teat'
469. happy visits from my mother-in-law
470. my children's overwhelming love for their grandma


please

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Please know that when you say ‘third-generation welfare recipients’, you’re talking about my children.
Please understand that when you say ‘addict’ in such derisive tones, you’re speaking about my children’s mother.
Please know that when you say that you wouldn’t want your child to marry someone of another race, what I hear is that you wouldn’t let your child marry my daughter.
Please understand that when you say that a clean drug test is required before someone should receive food stamps, what that means to my children is that they wouldn’t have received food. At all.
Please know that when you label some of my children as biracial or black or even adopted in contrast to other children, that what they will hear is only the label.

I don’t think that you mean those comments to be hurtful to particular people. I don’t believe that you mean to be racist.
But they are prejudiced comments. They hurt me, in particular. It’s painful.
Someday my children will understand these slurs, and it will hurt them too.

Please think about that.
Please stop.

ragamuffin grace

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Brennan Manning is one of my favorite Christian authors, thinkers…well, he’s one of my favorite Christ-followers, period. The Ragamuffin Gospel is one of my all-time favorite books. I had heard such good things about his new memoir that I couldn’t wait for it to come in at the library. I figured I needed to own it, to mark it up at home, to savor it slowly.

image

I started and finished it on a flight from DFW to Dayton. It took me just under two hours. Not because it was bad, but because I just couldn’t stop or slow down. You think you know a lot about someone’s life after you’ve read several of his books, but this one was far more intimate. In retrospect, the plane might have been a bad idea for a reading venue since I was struggling to keep the tears from the college-aged guy next to me who was playing baseball on his iPad. I don’t think he would have understood.

I think the thing that sticks out the most to me from Brennan’s story is just his complete brokenness. Brokenness has definitely been a theme in my life this past year. I know some people who pick a word for the year in January. If I had done that, I wouldn’t have picked brokenness. But that’s my word for the year.

The thing about Christianity is that we’re promised a happy ending. However, we tend to believe that if we’re good Christians, we’ll get that here and now. Brennan’s story would indicate otherwise. We’re taught that the closer we get to God, the better things get. If we follow Christ with all our hearts, souls, minds, lives, then we will obtain victory over all the junk. The fact that Brennan never conquers his alcoholism really upsets the whole apple cart in that respect. For a man to minister to so many people, to preach the gospel of grace so compellingly, to follow Christ virtually his entire life, and still never get victory in this…what does that mean for me? The power of Christ is contrast to the powerlessness of this man over his alcoholism – why??

The beauty, the absolute grace, the part that brings you to your knees in brokenness and praise is Brennan’s testimony that it’s all grace. We’re all broken. We’re all sinners. In Brennan’s words, “These things happen.” We’re worse than we think. We’re forgiven more than we believe. Our sin never is greater than the love of God. Never.

This book, written by a man on his way home, is a testimony to all that matters. I’ll close with his words,

“My life is a witness to vulgar grace – a grace that amazes as it offends…This vulgar grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us. It’s not cheap. It’s free, and as such will always be a banana peel for the orthodox foot and a fairy tale for the grown-up sensibility. Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot cover. Grace is enough. He is enough. Jesus is enough.”
Brennan Manning from All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir

grateful gifts

Monday, October 24, 2011

Today, I’m feeling immensely blessed in this journey that God has taken our family on the past 13 years. We are different than who we would’ve been otherwise. Even in the most difficult of times, even when it was the most counter-intuitive of choices, we still chose God. And I’m so very, very grateful we did.

My list of gifts will be a week delayed since I’m pretty sure that I left my notebook in Texas this past weekend. The one I can share is my ‘gift of the day’: My son, my precious, struggling, full of pain, full of joy 10-year-old son, is one of the strongest people I know. He’s smart, he’s intuitive, he’s sensitive, he has always cared more about others than himself. Today, he made one of the toughest choices a kid can make. One to follow his conscience, honor the God he loves, and go against the crowd. One to subject himself to ridicule. A choice that was not made because his parents ‘forbid’ him to do something, but because he knew what the right choice was for him. Then he put the substance behind his choice. He clearly articulated the reasoning and some further insights beyond his initial reasoning that just blew me away. He’s a gift. Every single overly dramatic, angst-y (it’s a word; don’t question me), brilliant, compassionate, angry, sweet, young-man, little-boy part of him. A gift.

 

linked-up catch-up

Friday, October 21, 2011

Here’s some links, both old and new. As much I tried to keep my links each week fresh, I keep forgetting to add them. And since I’m on a mini-vacation this weekend, it’s all ya get till Monday!

The one that made me think: Ask a Gay Christian - Rachel Held Evans

The one that quickened my soul: 3 Simple Ways to Live a Life of Simple Beauty - A Holy Experience

The one that made love my marriage even more: On Dating Your Husband- Imperfect Prose

boys

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

At the end of this emotional day, in prayer for my children, there is this.
When you need it most, I have a hundred reasons why I love you.
You are not alone.

Jars of Clay - Boys (Lesson One) (Live) from Jars of Clay on Vimeo.

everyday grace

Monday, October 17, 2011

In two surreal and completely separate moments this week, I was complimented on my parenting by strangers. I don’t think this has ever happened before. Sometimes people compliment me on my children’s behavior, but I’ve never been complimented, to my recollection, on my behavior.

I’d just like to share one of these moments: Last week, we had to leave a store early because Brenden was sick. That day I was doubting my parenting in a very real way. I felt so discouraged over the entire situation. I do not feel it was my finest day as a parent.

We returned to the store about a week later where to my surprise, a store employee asked Brenden if he was feeling better. She said she remembered how kindly I talked to the children and how they responded so respectfully; they don’t see that very much in parents. She said, “You are obviously a really, really good mom.” (To which I nearly snorted aloud.)

I don’t share this to brag on myself in the least bit. If you read this blog, you know that I struggle with parenting the same as anyone, and I do not really consider myself to be a truly great parent. I share this to brag on my God. Isn’t that just like Him to give this gift, this moment with a complete stranger, to cover that very moment where I had doubted myself the most with His unlimited grace? This blessing, this unmerited moment was just a beautiful reminder of His presence.

 

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.
Psalm 27:4

 

437. cool, sunny fall outdoor days
438. hand-markered, poorly-spelled love letters from my daughter to her father
439. morning smiles
440. apples, red, ripe, and round
441. steaming orange flesh of my sweet potato
442. spicy, fragrant mulled cider
443. crunch of colorful leaves underfoot
444. the certain chill of a fall rain
445. reading my favorite childhood book aloud to my favorite children
446. online community
447. traveling vicariously with Tony Bourdain
448. shining droplets of everyday grace
449. fort building in the backyard
450. Saturday nights with sisters and cousins, food and laughter
451. Sunday lunch with new friends
452. trust in an old friend, safety and encouragement all in a few minutes on the phone
453. late night laughter with my best friend

wednesday weblinks

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Links that have moved me this week (clearly just snippets included…click through for full text):

In Which I Write a Letter to Women's Ministry - Emerging Mummy
”We need Jesus. We are seeking deep spirituality. We are seeking fellow travellers. We are hungry for true community, a place to tell our stories and listen to another, to love well. But above all, point me to Jesus - not to the sale at the mall.”

Let Us Be Women Who Love - SheLoves/Magazine.com
”Let us RISE to the questions of our time.
Let us SPEAK to the injustices in our world.
Let us MOVE the mountains of fear and intimidation.
Let us SHOUT down the walls that separate and divide.
Let us FILL the earth with the fragrance of Love.
Let us be women who Love.”

In This Rape Center the Patient was 3 - Nicolas Kristoff (NY Times)
”Sexual violence is a public health crisis in much of the world, and women and girls ages 15 to 44 are more likely to be maimed or killed by men than by malaria, cancer, war or traffic accidents combined.”

31 Days of...
I’ve been visiting through these links as I’ve had time. This is project which I think originated with The Nester, but last year spread to 8 bloggers and this year, what is that list? 200 and some bloggers? Amazing. I regularly read Emily at Chatting at the Sky, but I love being inspired by all the different bloggers involved with this project.

no reservations

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

anthony-bourdain-no-reservations

Oh, Anthony Bourdain. Foul-mouthed, snarky, cigarette-loving, possibly alcoholic Tony Bourdain. I find him so compelling. Why? A huge number of people really seem to hate him.

Might be his writing. Often narration only serves the purpose of telling back story, making you feel pandered to, like you can’t really understand everything that’s going on without someone spelling it out for you. Sometimes it is truly distracting from the visual. Tony’s narration is interesting, accessible yet still quite literary, and well-crafted, adding to without overwhelming the visual story line. Good writing is sexy, and No Reservations is a sexy show.

Might be his unapologetic commitment to vice. Smoking, imagedrinking, cursing, wildly inappropriate sexual comments – he doesn’t make excuses nor does he pretend. Just when you start to think that this show is a great show that your kids will enjoy, he makes an Estelle Getty comment that you just can’t erase from your mind. I’d like to, but still. can’t. erase. it.

Might be his style. The silver fox hair, the earring, the clothes which are mostly stylish, yet not too trendy. I would sum it up as ‘masculine.’ (a feat, in my opinion, as most ‘fashion’ for the opposite gender is entirely too feminine.  See: capri pants for men.) Helping his style is his wife. Love her. She’s pretty.

Might be the food. The delicious, delicious food. The commitment to meat. The mocking of vegetarians. I feel like I’ve eaten a whole meal after every show. Except for the food of Namibia. No one should eat a warthog’s anus. Even if that’s how people have lived for hundreds of years. I’m going to go out on a politically incorrect limb and just call that out as wrong. So wrong.

But really it is the show itself. The show just comes across as alive. There is almost never a traditional tourist spot, ancient ruins, or #1 thing to do while in Rome stuff - it’s just a search for some truly authentic experiences. (Read: any experience involving large quantities of alcohol.) His Emmy-winning Beirut episode is a must see. It’s brilliant in a political, social, world-view kind of way. Most of the shows end up like that. You start out thinking you’re watching a food/travel show and end up with a perspective on the world that you didn’t expect. Tony is respectful without being ingratiating or patronizing. He doesn’t mince words when something is just plain weird or gross, but he usually waits so as not to offend his hosts. I know a lot of people can’t stand him. I just disagree. While he should be the very picture of an obnoxious American (see the vice paragraph), I think he brings the best of America to the world. The humility to learn, the graciousness of accepting hospitality, the communal aspect of sharing this wide world together.

In sum, I am poor. I am dependent on the Travel Channel for my world experiences. I like Anthony Bourdain.

opened eyes

Monday, October 10, 2011

My very being longs for beauty, for meaning, for something beyond the everyday. God gives me more than I dreamed or asked for, fulfilling the longing, when I open my eyes to see His gifts…

423. DVR
424. the high-pitched 'singing' of an almost two-year-old
425. the snuggly feeling of clean socks
426. pain-free surgeries
427. friends to transport children
428. the comfort of the Spirit
429. the rattle of a loaded down wagon rolling across pavement
430. hand-me-down clothing
431. afternoon hikes
432. the sound of falling acorns
433. intimate concerts at an historic venue
434. the beauty of brokenness, the promise of restoration
435. mercy
436. steaming bowls of minestrone, topped with the fragrance of pesto

what if

Friday, October 7, 2011

The most powerful word that I’ve received during the past couple months is this: Our adoption process is done. Our adoption journey has just begun.

Really and truly, I kind of just wanted this to be done. I want everything to be over. I’ve been thinking that the journey is over, and I think that’s at the heart of my struggle over the past few weeks. I just want it to be over. All the hard parts. All the painful parts. I want it to be easy. I know it’s not. I know God called me to this, no matter how long it takes. I know that it’s exactly what I should be doing, exactly where I should be. I know all of this in my head, but my heart has had a little ways to catch up.

Obviously, I process things through words. I find it difficult sometimes to process at all without the actual words to do so. So when this word was spoken to me, my heart just settled into it like my head on a soft pillow. Yes. Those are the words I’ve been missing. That’s the release I needed. The process is finally, at long last, over. But our journey…

Brenden is sick. He didn’t tell me he’s sick. He didn’t say anything. He woke up this morning, moving very slowly. Quiet. Not disobedient or defiant. Just slow. I asked him what was going on. He wouldn’t talk. We stopped by the office to see Wendell. We went to the store. He wouldn’t talk. We got all the way into the store, and finally I just said, “Brenden. I love you. I want your day to go well. I want you to be happy. I want to help you with whatever is wrong, but I can’t do that unless you use your words to let me know what’s going on.” Still, he wouldn’t talk. After a couple more cajoling pleas, he finally said, “I don’t feel good.” I asked if his tummy hurt, and he said, “Yes. I threw up in the potty at home.”

Seriously? You’re so sick that you’re vomiting, and you can’t tell your mama? We drove all the way to the store. We stopped at the office for awhile. We’ve been shopping for 10 minutes. You couldn’t have let me know?

He said he wanted to come home and take a nap. So, we came home. I take him up to his room where I discover that he did not, in fact, vomit in the toilet, but instead, all over his bedroom carpet. Terrific.

I spend time with him. I let him know that it’s my job to take care of him. That I want to take care of him. That when he’s sick, I feel sad for him. I want to help him get better. I want to help. Those are the things that I try to impress on his heart. But my heart? It hurts. It’s so very painful to parent a child that doesn’t trust you. On a basic level, it hurts my feelings. But truly, it hurts because I hurt for him. I want him to be whole. I want him to be free. I want him to trust, to love without reservation.

What goes through his tiny little head that he doesn’t feel safe to even mention to me that he’s sick? To let me know that he needs help, that he needs holding, that he needs his mama. Our journey is far, far from over. We have so much healing to do. Sometimes, it fills me with fear. What if this doesn’t get better? It should. I believe it will. But what if it doesn’t?

One of the most important things I’ve learned over the past year is to turn my ‘what if’ into an ‘even if’. Instead of ‘what if’ things happen, I say ‘even if’ those things happen, what then? Will I still trust? Is God still in control? Is He still good? Do I still choose Him? It’s been a freeing practice in my life. I challenge you to do the same with  your fears.

So today…
What if Brenden is always full of fear and never truly trusts us?
EVEN IF Brenden is always full of fear and never truly trusts us, I will continue to work to help him learn to trust. I will love him anyway. God is still in control. God is still good. I still choose God.

 

Chapter 1 – Sitting by the Well
What Women Fear by Angie Smith.
Read along with the Bloom community at in(courage).

medical vagueness

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Yesterday, I had a minor medical procedure. One that will eventually result in me taking one less medication for a large portion of my life, so I’m pretty pleased about that. Here are the things I’ve learned from an in-office surgical procedure:

1) It is difficult to explain to your children a medical procedure that you do not want them to know the specifics of. I settled on, “I’ll be getting a shot today.” It leaves a bit to be desired, but seeing as how “magic” was my go-to answer for how babies were born for most of their toddler years, I consider it an improvement. (Yes, yes. I know the perils of lying to my children. They know the truth now.)

2) I dislike getting shots in my hip. Intensely. Never had one there before, and it hurts like a sonofabitch. (Insert Lily’s voice here)

3) I also dislike shots of epinephrine. Especially when they don’t warn you it’s coming. Suddenly your heart’s taking off like a racehorse, and you don’t know why. It’s fun. Thanks for that, medical team.

4) It’s sort of unnerving for your surgical procedure to be performed by a ten-year-old. I mean, I know he’s probably older than that (Doogie was 16, right?), but come on, I’d at least like a doctor who shaves. Also, he’s soft-spoken. Very soft-spoken and almost, well, effeminate in nature. I hate saying that because that always comes across so offensive and that’s not my intent, but I don’t know a better word to describe his softness of demeanor and body language. It’s just enough to make me feel uncertain of his authority. Poor guy. I wanted to respect him. It just wasn’t really happening.

5) I have a difficult time sleeping off pain meds. It takes forever. I felt more normal about suppertime, but until then. S  P       A           C        E       Y.

6) There was/is no pain. It’s fantastic. If I were being more specific about this procedure, I would highly recommend it. Love me some pain-free surgery. I did not have high hopes as the ‘no big deal’ spot I had removed from my lip several weeks ago ended up being MUCH more painful and uncomfortable than they let on. 5 days of sutures in the lips = 5 days of close to misery. I can totally understand how people go insane from chronic pain. (It was even that painful, just extremely uncomfortable all. of. the. time.)

7) No matter how old I am, how many children I have, how long I’ve lived away from home, my dad still knows how to love me well. (I like him quite a bit. He’s pretty cool.) He dropped off my get-well flowers on his way home from work, and they are gracing my table as we speak. Well, I’m speaking. You’re just reading. Maybe.

monday unplugged

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Writing this post, unknowing when I’ll actually get to post it since our internet is on the fritz. It’s not completely out, but our moments of connection are few and far between. Good thing God’s gifts are not solely dependent on our technology.

408. family dinners
409. teaching the art of compromise
410. the magic of children in footie pajamas
411. the soothing cadence of my husband’s voice in bedtime stories
412. fervent prayers
413. sweet expectation
414. the easy weight of a trusting child resting on my shoulder
415. snuggling the tension away
416. late night laughter
417. a cleaned-up front porch
418. covenantal community
419. the body and blood, bread and the wine
420. beautiful, comfortable seating
421. Sunday naps to the sound of football
422. the hope of answered prayer


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