Thursday, February 15, 2018

Happy Valentine's Day.  It's a day for cards, candy, flowers, and kisses.  A day when we appreciate and celebrate all the people we love and who love us. 

But to be perfectly honest I've never been into Valentine's Day.  Maybe it's because the day is associated with things more than people.  Sure people are giving the things and people are getting the things...but it always seems to be about the stuff.

I don't know about you but I never feel more love on Valentine's day than other days.

It's a day heavy with expectations.  And for me, the most earnest moments of love have always occurred unexpectedly.  And if not unexpectedly then mundanely.

I remember being nervous and excited on my wedding day, and of course I loved Timmy.  But when I think about love and Timmy- I think about how when he was only 17 and I 16- he stuck by me as I hugely struggled with anxiety and depression.  I think about our first year of marriage where we literally ran out of money and bought groceries at Sears because we could use our Sears card.  I think about several months later when my period was late and I took a pregnancy test in the Clarion Walmart bathroom because we couldn't wait the 5 minutes to drive home.  It was positive- I took five more just to be certain.

There we were barely making ends meet and pregnant.  This was 8 years ago and there were no teaching jobs to speak of and despite having just graduated with a teaching husband began looking for a job that had nothing to do with what he had always wanted to do..teach.

I think about moving back to the South Hills of Pittsburgh with an 8 month old and moving in with my in-laws while Timmy started a new job.  I think about all the nights he got home late and all the times I asked him if he was ok with giving up on teaching.  And all the times he said yes.

I think about our first home and the first time we, as a married couple, weren't broke.  And how we looked back on those Clarion days with affection and even a little bit of envy.

I think of holding babies that just won't stop crying and hair back as toddlers puke- and I look to my side and there is my husband.

I think of bringing home a traumatized, neglected, drugged 2 1/2 year old and watching the life I knew tilt on it's axis.  And there is my husband.

We can set aside a day to acknowledge love with fancy dinners and grand gestures, and love can be found in the midst of those things, but love is not those things.

When I think about the times love has made my chest ache and feet move- it's been tucking my kids into bed as they tearfully tell me about having trouble with friends.  So the next day I set up the slip n slide and resign myself to having their friends over so relationships can be mended.  It's when I am feeling anxious and down and not pleasant to be around and Timmy runs out to get me my favorite burger.  It was holding kids who were dying from curable illness and still they were going to die.  But I was going to hold them.

The moments when I have known- I would take someone else's burden if I could.  And times when someone would take mine.

Is there any love that doesn't deny self?  Love is selfless.

I thought it so fitting that the beginning of Lent fell on Valentine's Day this year.  What a great reminder for me of what love is.

"My command is this: love each other as I have loved you"  John 15:12

How did He love us?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" John 3:16

He gave...but it's not simply that he gave, it's what he gave.  He gave himself.  He laid down his life.  

Love is actionary and sacrificial.  It doesn't say and not do.  It doesn't feel and not move.
And whereas I know there are moments when love seems easy.  When I said, "I do", the first time I held my babies, when I committed to adopt Martina and Roman...and many other moments when love floods my heart.

I know that love is putting others before myself.  And I must be incredibly selfish because that, more often than not, isn't easy.  
But it is love.  And love is good. 

Happy Valentine's Day.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Looking back and moving forward

As 2017 ends and we head into 2018- I do what so many do- and look back on the past year.  Last holiday season found us with a newly adopted Martina, a SUPER clingy Simon, and unmet expectations.

Timmy and I really thought we had no expectations upon adopting Martina- we talked about all the possibilities prior to bringing her home- and decided lets not expect anything.  But when the orphanage worker placed a skinny, drugged, infant like two year old in my arms- my eyes flew to my husband's- and it was clear- we weren't expecting this.  

Christmas last year ended in bitter tears as we had to let go of all the expectations, we didn't realize we had, for our new wonderfully made daughter.  

In a world that places such high importance on intelligence- whether it is a free movie rental for every A on a report card, the "gifted" program, or different color cords on graduation robes- we, perhaps unintentionally, but nevertheless, enforce the idea that our worth and our academic achievements are one and the same. 

Education is a gift, one that we here in the USA are blessed with.  The problem isn't that we find value in education BUT rather that we find OUR value in it. (Just to be clear)

Martina has an under developed brain and untreated hydrocephalus.  I say untreated because a shunt was never placed to drain the fluid.  We have seen a neurosurgeon at Children's and surgery will not be beneficial to Teeny at this point.  Martina also has nystagmus and very little if any vision in her right eye.

She came from a hard place.  She had very limited interactions from birth to 2 1/2 years.  It is impossible to tell where neglect and disability meet.  Will she talk?  We don't know.  And from there are hundreds of other, will she...fill in the blank.. questions.  And though the questions are varied- the answer is the same- we don't know.

So each day we work with Martina on many things- getting from a kneel to a stand, tolerating different foods, holding a spoon, simple signs...etc.  

Does she have value? worth?   Martina is immeasurably valuable.  Created individually, specifically, carefully drawn in the image of God.

Unfortunately not everyone sees her value- her birth country couldn't see it. Instead they measured her against typical children and found her lacking.  She was assigned a crib and minimally fed a convenient liquid diet.

This last summer, when we were at the pool, I heard two young boys call Martina stupid.  She was having a super happy moment and cracking herself up while floating in her baby boat in the baby pool.  The boys were splashing in the water and she loved the sound.  They saw her joy and seeing that she was not expressing herself in a typical way- called her stupid.

So this year I have taken time to talk to my kids about what really matters.  Some of what I tell them is contrary to what they are taught at school or in the world in general.  O well.

In the past year I have watched Dexter, Bea, and even Simon (it just took him a little longer!)  choose to love Martina.  And I have seen Martina's love for her brothers and sister.  It's not a small thing to love, so I thought it worth mentioning.

Dexter has begun to love reading and it is the sweetest thing to watch him read stories to Simon.  Bea takes care of her siblings like you wouldn't believe- she is my biggest helper.  And Simon is refusing to potty train- but he is O so cute and he loves to snuggle!  Martina is learning to "like" to walk and beginning to use more sounds when she babbles.  

Martina gave us a scare several weeks ago when we went to get her up from nap and found her covered in vomit, breathing erratically, and unresponsive to our words or touch.  She had a grand mal seizure (generalized tonic-clonic seizure).  She continued to seize the entire ambulance ride and for an additional thirty minutes or so at the hospital while they tried to place an iv to give her medicine to stop the seizure.  The next several days were incredibly difficult as we waited for Martina to recover.  When she woke up late in the afternoon the next day- she had no muscle control (which wasn't unexpected) but as the day wore on she began to rage.  She couldn't sit without immediately falling over and though her eyes were open she wasn't present with us.  For the next 15 hrs or so- we were left to wonder if this was a reaction to the medicine they had to give her- or if the seizure had caused temporary or permanent damage.  Her Dr really didn't think it was the medicine- so as I drove back and forth between the hospital and my parents' house I was left wondering- if it came to it- how was I going to bring Teeny home like this?  She had come so far in a year...and now it felt like all of that progress was gone.  I felt like life had just settled...and now this.  I felt like, "Hey God!  She has SO much that she has to work through...why more?" 

I wondered how was I going to handle explaining to her brothers and sister that she was different now.  O how they would miss the Teeny girl that they knew.  I asked myself, was it ok to grieve the loss of somebody who was still there?  When I got to my parents I was greeted by three happy to see me kiddos.  And Dexter's first question was how was Martina.  

While I was away another Dr. decided to switch Martina's medicine and from that point on she began to improve.  She is now home, back to herself- perhaps just a little sleepier as she adjusts to her seizure meds.

 There was a moment in the hospital when I had to seriously confront the question... If this doesn't get better, is God still good?  Is He still faithful?  Will I still be joyful?  Yes. Yes. Yes.

Christmas this year was very different than last.  It ended with Timmy and I standing outside Teeny's room listening to her laugh hysterically as she watched her new night light project spinning stars on her bedroom walls.  Life is so busy that so often the gradual changes in Teeny go- not unnoticed- but unawed (ahha I don't think that's a word!  But unappreciated just wasn't what I meant!)
It was a rare moment of calm, in our crazy house, on Christmas night, where we stood outside Martina's door in awe of what happened that past year.  She is a different girl than she was and we are different parents than we were.

This next year will, no doubt, have it's share of craziness!

As we open our home and hearts to our new son "Roman"- we know we are opening to new trials and new heartache- because loving the broken, breaks us.

So let it

Break our definition of success.
Break us of our pride
Break us til we're uncomfortable

I want it to
Break away everything that makes me feel safe, secure, whole- that isn't Jesus.

Bit by bit, I want the hold this world has on me, and the death grip I have on it, to break.  I want to free fall into the arms of Jesus.

This year I want to revel in the freedom that only complete surrender can bring.  2018 goals.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

It's safe to say I never expected to be adopting again so soon.  Actually, I vividly remember standing in a small apartment far away from home, trying to calm/dodge the blows of a headbanging...thrashing....smelly Martina...and saying to Timmy, "I can't do this".

I remember sitting in the shower (there was no bath((which has been my safe place since I was little)) so I blocked the drain and tried to regroup in 2 inches of water...) frantically praying, reading the bible, googling bible studies that deal with fear... and saying over and over again to God, "I can't do this."

Those twelve days were the worst.  Just the worst.  I  was so scared, and lonely, and to be "ugly honest" I was angry.  It was NOT what I had planned.  I should have been better at this- God called me to adoption.


I missed my babies at home (bad), Tina was withdrawing from sedation medication and did not sleep- like at all.  She didn't want to be held- she wouldn't stop slamming her head on things and I felt isolated and trapped in a tiny apartment in a foreign country.

For the record I know this doesn't paint me in the best light.  But it is honest.

And it turns out I was right...I couldn't do it.

 I'm not sure when God spoke into my crazy heart, but He did.  And do you know what He said to my cries of, "I can't do this!"?

He said, "I know."

Martina has been home for ten months.  My little girl who couldn't sit, hated to be touched, and wouldn't look at me when I spoke to her- follows me around the house, reaches to be held, and looks when I say her name.  She is loving, and stubborn, and so full of joy.  I can't imagine my life without her.

And I am thankful each day that even though I can't do it- I have a God who says, "But I can."

The night before we left Bulgaria with Martina- I didn't sleep- shocker.  I was trying so hard to imagine what life would be like once we got home- and I was terrified.  I couldn't focus my mind to pray- words were crashing all around in my sleep deprived brain- but I needed to talk to God.  I needed to affirm what was true and focus on Who was there, right there, in that tiny apartment, in that foreign place, with me.  A good and faithful God.

So I picked up a pen and a scrap of paper and wrote to God.

Today I was sitting at the piano- messing around with a melody for the words I wrote 10 months ago in Bulgaria. Teeny was next to me, adding her notes to mine- and I didn't immediately make the connection.  Then she laid her head on my arm and I choked up.  In Bulgaria I talked with God about His faithfulness when I felt like I was drowning... and now here I am safe on shore playing piano with one of my biggest blessings.

I set my phone up to record us as we played.  This is a hobby of mine and the music is technically awful- but it's not about that.  I planned on just sharing with Timmy, but he and I think it's too sweet of a moment not to share.

He has called Timmy and I, again, to adoption.  He has broken our hearts for Roman, and squished him in there so that we love him already and will work diligently to bring him home.

I'm excited to see where God is leading us- trusting all the while that He is leading us closer to Him.