Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ghost Baby

Lila was having a rest time today while Faith napped.  She was playing quietly with her Legos in the play room across the hall from our bedroom where I was stuffing Faith's diapers.  I heard the door to the playroom open and Lila peeked her head around the door looking...worried.

"Mommy?"

"Yes?"

"I pretended there was a ghost baby pushing the grocery cart of my Legos and then I started to imagine there really was a ghost baby in the play room and now I'm scared."

Trying to hide my smile I pulled her up onto the bed with me and held her.  "Let's pretend there's someone else pushing the cart - like a princess or something."

"But I already imagined the ghost baby and now I can't imagine anything else."

"Then imagine that the ghost baby is a silly ghost baby.  Imagine he says goo-boo-goo-boo and that he has a poopy diaper.  Nothing with a poopy diaper can be scary."

She grinned and laughed.  "Okay.  First can I tell you a joke?"

"Sure."

"Knock-Knock."

"Who's there?"

"Ghost Baby."

"Ghost Baby who?"

"Ghost Baby poopy diaper!"

"Good one.  Now go back and play."

And she did.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Letter to My Littler Daughter: Year TWO (18 months home)

Dear Faith,

Today you are two and that means you have been a part of our family for 18 months.  Truly, you have been a part of our family since we first learned you existed - we loved you from that very moment.  From that moment, you were ours in our hearts even though we had to wait three long months to bring you home.

Your birthday this year feels completely different than it did last year.  Last year, you had been home just 6 months and I was still trying to figure out how to be your mom while sorting out the role your First Mama should play in your life.  I think I will forever be sorting that out, which is not a bad thing.
At the dumpling party this summer - it is saying something that this is the least blurry picture I took of them that day.
But this year, I am confident in my mothering of you.  I know you and you know me.  I trust my instincts about your needs and you are a uniquely happy and contented baby.

Except you are no longer a baby.  It was just a few months ago that I remarked to Daddy that you finally felt like a toddler and less like a baby.  You can do so much now - feed yourself, maneuver your body in pretty much any way you desire (you figured out how to climb on top of the coffee table - a new skill that you are thrilled with and I am wishing you hadn't acquired!), and communicate your basic desires (mostly through signs and yelling) - all of which have brought you a freedom and independence that you relish.
Toddler!
Just like with your sister each year, I am in awe of how much you have grown and changed in the last 12 months.  However, my awe is different somehow.  With Lila, my awe is rooted in how quickly time passes, how much she develops in such a short amount of time.  I am amazed at the ease with which she acquires new skills - she seems to wake up each day with a new ability logged into her brain.  But with you, I find I'm amazed at your perseverance, your tenacity, your spunk and pluck.  Your development is slow and delayed, but I am no less in awe of it for completely opposite reasons. Where Lila seems to just pick up new skills left and right, your skills come slowly, deliberately and we get to see the process evolve.  It is fascinating and inspiring.

At two years old, most people would only see your lack of development and take note of all the milestones you have not yet reached.  You aren't walking yet - although you stand up for several seconds and have taken three steps, you have limited words and most of them are signed, and you are eons away from being potty trained.  But I have watched you fight for those skills with moxie and courage.  I have been struck by your resolve (a character trait you surely inherited from First Mama and one that I greatly admire) and determination to achieve your goals and get where you are going. You WILL climb those stairs, even in the face of great obstacles like your low muscle tone or your frustrating mommy who, despite dramatic arms waving "all done!" does not seem to understand that you do NOT want her to interrupt your summit.  (Sorry about that, it's just that I have visions of your head becoming friendly with the marble floor at the bottom of the stairs!)

Your therapists often comment on how determined you are and how helpful a character trait that is when you will have a lot of things to overcome in your life.  It makes me grateful to your First Mama for passing that down to you, and grateful to God for already giving you what you need in the face of the challenges you will encounter.

You still prefer to scoot around on your bottom.  I call you Baby Roomba because you seem to like to scoot along the baseboards and walls of a room for some reason.  You have several signs (hi and bye, all done/no, more/yes, eat, drink, baby, ball, bubbles, go, a celebratory clap, me, dog, please, down, up, blow kisses) and know several more visually that you can't yet mimic.  I'm pretty sure you're intentionally holding out on me because you can say "ma-ma-ma" when you want more of something, but you refuse to say it for mommy.  When that word does finally come out of your mouth I will melt into a gooey puddle, I guarantee.

taken by Nanny - love that grin!
You adore your sister and she is wild about you.  You light up when she comes in the room, dive in to hug her and cry when we drop her off at preschool.  I am so grateful for the relationship that the two of you have!

You love to bounce, eat and play with other kids.  You adore babies and are surprisingly gentle with them.  Your favorite toys are balls and anything you can take out of something and put back in.  You have a magnetism to things that are not safe or age appropriate (electrical outlets, Sissy's markers, etc).

You were trying to put the stethoscope around Weston's neck - so helpful!
You give the absolute best hugs in the universe and you give them freely and frequently.  Your laugh makes me giddy, your humor charms me, and your love of life is an inspiration.  You are passionate about doing things by yourself and if we interfere, you will squirm and thrash and grunt and holler until we relent and allow you to go about your business.  The only time you really cry is when you get hurt, when we leave you with a sitter, and when we put you in bed before you're ready.  But you are always quick to recover.  Your adaptability amazes me.
adaptability: napping in Home Depot
I am delighted by you, little girl.  I simply cannot imagine our family without you.  You are a gift, your life is a story worth telling.  Every day, I am grateful that I get to be your mommy.
Love this girl!
I love you so very much.  Happy Birthday, Faith-baby.

Love,
Mommy

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fish and Loaves

Remember how I was back?

Me, too.

I've been trying to find the time/motivation/inspiration/energy to write a follow-up to my re-entry post.  But I've been too busy/lazy/uninspired/exhausted to do that.   Which actually isn't true.

Those are excuses.  And hackneyed ones at that.

So here's the truth: I have way too much to tell you - oh enigmatic crew of internet readers.  (The few of you who are left after such an unexpected hiatus this summer.)

Confession, most of the time when I use big words like enigmatic I have to look up their definition to be completely sure I know what they mean.  Because I have a habit of thinking I know what big words mean and being wrong.  Super wrong.  Like when I thought infamous meant "famous in small circles" or precocious meant "endearingly naughty."  But then sometimes I know words and get to teach them to the Husband.  Really important words like vestibule.  How did he get through life not knowing what a vestibule was?  Hey, look at this strange thought progression I've wandered down...where was I?

Oh yeah... so much to tell you.  But the gist of it is: we bought a house, we worked on the house, we moved in a month later, lots of things broke in the house (did I mention it was raining in our garage?), we spent all our money, school started again, we still haven't unpacked.
The pipe from our master bath.  That's an 8-inch long corroded hole.
Because of all the aforementioned chaos and stress, I kind of lost myself.  Things got a little out of control and I panicked.  We were very short on money, scraping the bottom of our barrel of sanity, and completely out of patience for each other.  So two weeks ago, in an effort to gather my wits, I wrote about how God turns our not-enough into more-than-enough and I made the public decision to trust that he would do that for us and promised to come back here and tell you about how he did it.

Before I do, I want you to know what I think about this sort of thing. This is not some weird Prayer of Jabez thing (remember that self-indulgent nonsense?) or some completely whacked prosperity gospel a-la the Osteens (don't even get me started on this ridiculousness) where I'm saying "God will do what you want, you just have to ask."  It's not true.  In the words of my dear and wise friend who has been through more hardship than a girl should have to bear, "God is not the God of my personal good fortune."  He is good no matter my circumstances, she says.  And I agree.

So this is me trying to lean in to the things I believe.  To take Jesus at his word.  To believe with my actions and life that God is who he says he is and will do what he says he will do.

I believe God delights in giving us good things.  I know his habits.  I know his ways.  I have seen them myself for my own benefit and for others.  I have read about them from the stories of old - when faith meant waiting for daily manna, holding up your aching arms to keep the floods at bay, pregnancy in old age after a lifetime of waiting for a promise to be fulfilled, and walking on water.  I believe faith still means those things.

And I believe that sometimes God gives us enough day by day.  Bit by bit.  Manna from the skies and water from the rocks.  And he says, "Trust me.  Do not store up for tomorrow.  Trust me that I'll do what I say."

And I believe that sometimes God gives abundantly to overflowing.  Quail when they complained, a king when they demanded, forgiveness when they turned away, the cross when they left him to die. To the undeserving, the weak, the least of these, the most of these, and everyone in between.  And he says, "These sacrifices - these covenants - are not for my sake, but for yours!  Everything I have is yours.  You are mine."

And I believe that sometimes God appears to disappear.  It seems he is silent and gone.  It seems he has left us to our own devices.  He doesn't answer our most holy prayers the way we expect.  He doesn't seem to honor our faithfulness, our risks, our vulnerability, our righteousness.  He allows us to suffer consequences that we deserve.  Or those that no one deserves.

And here's what I believe about that.  He is not gone.  He has not given up.  He does hear.  He does not allow passively with no plan of response.  I believe that when the Enemy wins a battle, God has already prepared a Redemption plan.  He has a way of redeeming what the Devil intended for harm.  He takes a tragedy and brings restoration and healing.  He grieves a loss with us and then weaves a new chapter to our story.  He redeems and restores and mends and heals.  He binds up the brokenhearted.  He releases the captives.  He makes a way where there was no way.  And if you are shaking your head saying No, He doesn't.  He hasn't.  He won't.  I'm here to tell you that if it's not good yet, He's not done.  He does.  He is.  He will.

Our little family has seen each of those scenarios play out in our life.

We have prayed for a little girl to get to stay with her family and yet she was taken away. (I'm still waiting for that lamb.)
We have prayed for healing of a baby boy and his recovery from surgery had doctors coming by his room to see his miraculous healing.
We have prayed for a pregnancy and instead been brought the sweetest treasure of a thing we never imagined to dream for.
Oh remember this cuteness?!
We have made mistakes, messed things up, been irresponsible and prideful and still been given the kingdom.
We have prayed Impossible Prayers and had them impossibly answered.
We have prayed for no seizures, seen them stop, then seen them return.
We have risked our hearts and vulnerability and been rejected.
We have risked our hearts and vulnerability and been given the same in return.
We have squandered what was given and been given more.
We have squandered what was given and had to confess and work to repay the loss.
We have seen the last few dollars drip into our bank account mere hours before an adoption fee was due.  
We have been awed as thousands of dollars poured in at once and felt the squeeze of confirmation that Faith was ours because of it.
We have had our own dreams come true at the expense of others' pain and been kept awake at night because of it.

God has been faithful in countless ways.

So when I asked for our fish and loaves to be multiplied, it shouldn't have surprised me that he would be faithful again in surprising ways.  When I stacked our not-enoughs (time, emotional healing, finances, relationships), God met them each in small and big ways - through grace and consequence and healing and miracles.

Our tight finances were alleviated in small ways:
- I found a reimbursement check to Costco (that was mailed to us in April and somehow managed to migrate from our old house to my parents' house and to our new house without getting lost/thrown away/torn up/written on or otherwise rendered unusable)
- Faith's therapy school increased our scholarship by $15 a month
- the water bill was a few dollars less than I had budgeted
- we sold an old iPod on Craigslist
- my mom "bought" an unused gift card from me so we could have cash to go out on a date

Our emotional depletion was restored:
- with an unexpected date night
- by lots of hugs from Faith (that girl knows how to give a good squeeze!)
- with affectionate words from Lila ("Mommy, can we go on a Mommy-Lila date to the park? I like doing things just me and you.")
- by sweet friends checking in on me, making me dinner, watching my kids, bringing me Dr. Pepper

Our time was managed:
- by a new calendar system I'm trying
- in the grace of a new season, new school year, new house, new systems and a chance to start from scratch
- with a lot of effort from the unstructured Husband who followed my not-so-subtle advice in the thick of a fight (I said a bad word) and started using his calendar and alerts on his phone

Our relationships were deepened and healed and maintained:
- with gracious friends who drove 9 hours and suffered through our still-in-boxes life to spend a few days with us over Labor Day (we felt so loved!)
- by the presence of people in our new big-enough-to-host-people house
- when friends forgave my flakiness, my snarkyness, my random crying, my snippy attitude, my negative outlooks, my unkept promises and stuck around and told me they loved me and pretended not to notice all the other stuff
- by the camaraderie of people fighting the same battles, enduring the same obstacles, living in similar seasons
- by the gift of neighbors who take care of us after only a few days

When you consider the ways God cares for his people, we could tick off an example for every category.  We suffered consequences (bye-bye iPod and Half-Priced Books gift card), received undeserved grace (hello friends who bring me meals even when I'm a stress-induced recluse and don't respond to your texts for several days), we received small mercies (neck squeezes from the Faith-baby) and big ones (a clean slate and the ability to pay off our credit card bill - barely).  We saw long-prayed prayers come to be (a gathering of friends and their kids in our house) and we saw the fruits of new disciplines (meal-planning for me and iCal for the Husband).

I was kind of hoping for a big sweeping miracle - like a $1000 check in the mail.

Or a lifetime supply of Justin's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.

But instead I got $75 to Costco and store-bought cookies from new neighbors.

Here's the true miracle: those things are enough - they are more than enough.

And the thing is, if I hadn't stopped to confess my fears and anxieties to my Good Shepherd; if I hadn't quieted enough to hear his voice after the confession; if I hadn't acted on what I believed to be his words to me in response, then I would not have recognized the cookies and Costco check for what they were: fish and loaves, multiplied to abundance.

The Bible says that Jesus fed the multitudes by breaking the loaves of bread into pieces and giving the pieces to the disciples to pass out to the 5000 hungry bellies.  Piece by piece each person ate until they were full.  So it is only fitting that we saw our prayers answered and our needs met in many small ways.  Bit by bit.  Small mercies multiplied to meet a great need.

It's just the sort of thing Jesus would do, isn't it?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Re-entry

I'm trying to come up with a good way to re-enter here after being absent for the last two months.  My absence was not due to a lack of inspiration for blog material.  We had our fair share of hilarious conversations with Lila, new victories and accomplishments for Faith, dramatic stories of plumping leaks causing it to rain in the garage of our new house.

It's just that I've felt so utterly spent - emptied out, scraped clean and bone dry - that I haven't even been able to find the energy to sit down once to type up an update or vent on screen about the minutia of our life.

On one hand, I miss it.  This blog has always served as a sort of journal of sorts - a place for the verbal processor in me to figure out how I feel about something.

On the other hand, I hardly thought about it in the last 60 days.

But here I am.  Trying to figure out how to re-enter, or even if I want to re-enter.

Maybe now isn't the best time.  Now, when I'm feeling a little bit desperate and a little bit exhausted and a little bit at my wit's end.

Maybe now is the best time.  Now, when I need to take some steps toward faith and hope and work out for myself what God might be saying in the midst of the stress and the storm.

I'm closing my eyes.  Taking a deep breath, and asking the question: What do you want to tell me, Shepherd?  In my current condition, what are you saying?  What is true?  Where is my hope?

The first thing that comes to mind is the story of the fish and the loaves of bread.  A large crowd comes to hear Jesus teach, and they are hungry with no catering service available.  After some investigative work, the disciples report to Jesus that the only food available is a few fish and a few loaves of bread.  That's all.  It's nothing really.  Not compared to the thousands of people who are squirming with hunger.

That's me.  I'm squirming with my fears that I don't have what I need.  I'm wondering how what I have to offer is going to be enough.  Financially.  Emotionally.  Hourly.  And the reality, is that a few fish and loaves are not going to feed the thousands.  They aren't enough.  I don't have enough.

But Jesus has a habit of taking the not-enough and turning it into more-than-we-need.  Not only was everyone filled to satisfaction, but the disciples gathered up twelve basketfuls of leftovers.  

So I will offer what I have - my measly fish and loaves - and trust Jesus to multiply it so that it will be enough.  I will try to not let my heart be troubled, and believe him to care for me.  I will stack stones and remember how he has been faithful in the past.  I will put my hope in him.

And then I will come back here and tell you how he took our not-enough and turned it into more-than-we-need.  How's that for a re-entry plan?

5For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
my confidence since my youth.
6From birth I have relied on you;
you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
I will ever praise you.
7I have become a sign to many;
you are my strong refuge.
8My mouth is filled with your praise,
declaring your splendor all day long.