April 25, 2011

Of toilets and newlyweds.

It was Christmas morning and I was a new bride merely in the first few days of our honeymoon. We had arrived to Georgia a couple of days before to celebrate the holidays with Matt’s extended family. We were all sitting at the restaurant that Matt’s grandparents owned, enjoying a sumptuous breakfast of sausage, eggs, grits, and biscuits when I felt it.
At first, it was just mere whispers but soon it had turned to loud thundering and carrying on. My stomach was working overtime after a week of eating meals on the road and the last two days of being served good ol’ southern food by the buckets.
You see, when I travel my stomach does not fare well but usually I struggle with the inability to make use of the restroom (I know, this is way more than you wanted to know about me, but I have a point, so bear with me, please) and we had been traveling for several days now.
Matt and I got married the week before Christmas and, poor as we were, we decided not to take a fancy honeymoon but instead travel leisurely from Missouri to Georgia, to spend Christmas with Matt’s family. It was a wonderful week. We stopped in Saint Louis and watched a snow storm from our hotel suite. We paid our respects to King Elvis in Graceland. We visited New Orleans and ate many dinners to the sound of live jazz. We froze while touching the beaches of Panama City, Florida. All before we made it Georgia to Mamaw and Grant’s house where the rest of the family was waiting for us.
So by Christmas morning I was overdue for a time spent on "the throne."
I made my way quietly to the main house, just a few feet away from the restaurant, to find some place where I could be alone with my rumbling tummy. I got to the only bathroom in the house, settled comfortably, had a good talk with my porcelain friend and then, when I tried to flush, well, that’s when all hell broke loose.
You must remember there were about twenty people who had been using that bathroom for the last couple of days. So that day I drew the lucky number. To spare you the details I will only say I had the need for a simple, basic tool with a wooden handle and a rubber head. None was found in that bathroom.
I began to hyperventilate at the thought of asking Matt for help.
Why such drama?, you might ask. Well, to understand the depth of my despair you need to know that I am phobic about using public restrooms to do..ahem…number two. When I went to college the greatest problem I faced as a Freshman was timing when all the girls in the 26 double rooms that shared two bathrooms each with four stalls would be asleep or away so I could use the facilities undisturbed. I spent a whole year setting my alarm at 3 am so I could go in peace. I do not to this day, do public bathrooms when I can avoid it.
And while Matt and I had a courtship of a year and a half, it was the first time we ever spent in such close and intimate proximity, if you catch my drift.
Mortified but in desperate need of a plunger I snuck into the restaurant and hid behind the counter trying to get Matt’s attention without the whole family noticing. He was sitting all the way across the room when he spotted me and, of course, did not come quietly and discreetly as I had hoped. Everyone now was wondering if everything was all right.
He did not know where to find a plunger either, so Mamaw now became involved in helping me. I went back to the house to search for the plunger and successfully located it. But was otherwise unsuccessful in my task of freeing the toilet for further use. So…back to the restaurant I went.
I managed to beckon to Matt before I went running back to the house, into the bathroom and locked the door behind me. He came and knocked on the door to ask what I needed.
“-Can you tell me how to use a plunger, please?”
“-Let me come in and help you, baby.”
“-No! No, please, just tell me how to use a plunger.”
“-Ok, put it into the toilet and push on it. Then let go.”
I tried, and tried and tried. Nothing was happening and I was panicking. Was I going to have to let my new husband in? He had not even seen me use the bathroom yet at that point and now I was going to have to ask him to come and unstop a toilet that was several days overdue?
By now I was sobbing ridiculously and uncontrollably.
“-It’s not woooorking. Oh, Matt, I don’t want you to come iiiiiiiinnnnnn.”
“-Baby, please let me come in and help you.”
Tears streaming down my blushing bride eyes I opened the door and let my sweet husband in. I thought I would never be able to look into his face again when the first thing he did was open the window of the bathroom. It took him a good while to unstop the toilet while I hid behind the closet door in agony.
When we returned to the restaurant the story had spread quickly and the whole family was waiting to express their sympathy and let the jabs begin that I still have to hear every Thanksgiving when we return to Mamaw’s house. The new owners, Matt’s cousin and his wife, have since remodeled the house, although the infamous toilet remains so most years, there is at least one moment when they see me head to the house after a meal and the story is retold.  
Why am I telling this embarrassing story with way too much personal information about my digestive habits? Well, I have spent the last few months unstopping my toilet since my five-year-old began to take care of her needs all alone. She does not know what TWO squares are and, since she prefers my toilet over the other three we have (four if you count the broken one in the basement…) I am left to battle with the toilet on a weekly basis. I have become master of the plunger, a five-star general in the unstopping toilets battle. I just wanted to remember my humble beginnings when I let a plunger turn me into a weeping, trembling mess.

That’s all.

April 22, 2011

The Hard Love

She raised me alone from the time I was six. After my father left all we had was each other. She worked so hard and started at the bottom, climbing her ladder until she could support us both comfortably. She parented alone, she did the best she could during the tumultuous teen years when I did not cooperate much.
She cried, she despaired, she struggled.
She found the best opportunities and brought us here to make a better life. To further education, to learn another language, and unsuspectingly, to find and be found by the One who would save us and with whom we have both fallen in love.
When times were tough in our new land, she made some tough choices and I will never really understand how difficult those times were.
And yet, now that I am a mother, now that I am a little bit in her shoes, not completely for I have a loving partner to support me, I am beginning to realize how hard a mother’s love is.
How deep, how wild, how savage, how primal.
She didn’t know Him all those years. She only knew Him after I had met Him and helped make the introductions. Yet in the strength of her love, in the sacrifices she made for her only child, in her example of laying down her life and her desires for the sake of her daughter, unknowingly she gave me glimpses of His love and it was not difficult for me to grasp the reality of this Loving Parent when I came face to face with Him for the first time.

April 21, 2011

"The Call"

When you are in the process of adoption all you want is “the call.” The mere mention of that event can make your stomach knot and your heart rate accelerate. It is what you pray for every night, what you hope for every time the phone rings, and what you cannot imagine ever happening.
We experienced “the call” one Wednesday in March. The “there is a baby for you, would you like to know more about her?” call. It was exhilarating and exciting and amazing. We were ready for it, we longed for it, we had been preparing for it, and when it came all of our dreams seemed to come true. 
A year and a half after “the call” we were settled as a family of three. We knew we wanted more children. Maybe one or two more at some point. We would start the process of adoption again when Isabel was about two, knowing it would take several months to complete it and bring home baby number two.
But God had other plans…
That spring, unexpectedly, Matt received a call from a church in a small town a few hours away that wanted to interview him. He felt it was time for him to make a change and he was praying about accepting. I was frustrated with the seemingly bad timing of the offer. If he accepted we would move in September which meant I either had to move a month before him to start at a new school in August or take a semester off and start in January, which meant living on one income for a while.    
The same day Matt accepted the position at the church, I took a job at one of the high schools in our new town to start in January. We still had not figured out exactly how we would work out the timing but we had made the decision prayerfully and trusted the Lord knew what he was doing.
The night we took the jobs I was out for the evening when Matt called and asked me to come home now. Our social worker had called. She never called. E-mail was her normal way of contacting us so we got back to her right away. She proceeded to tell us about a two-day old baby boy that had been placed in their care by the same woman who made an adoption plan for Isabel, her birthmother. The agency had a policy to call the family of the first biological sibling in such cases.
Do you want the baby?” she asked. This was “the call ” to be sure. But this time we were neither expecting it nor prepared and at first I didn’t know how to feel. A completely antithetical experience than our first one. 
Did we want the baby?
We were about to embark on a new chapter of our lives where we would be experiencing several of the greatest stressors a marriage can go through: a new job, a new town, loss of one income, a house to sell, both a mortgage and rent, moving from a house to a two bedroom apartment, on the second floor, with two dogs and now a new baby and a toddler under the age of two.
This was a tremendous risk and by all rational thought a bad idea.
But how could we not?
This was Isabel’s biological brother. And while I am a firm supporter that family is not made by DNA, so many adoptees are never afforded the opportunity to meet, let alone grow up with someone who shares with them physical features and such a shared history. In a world where talking about babies inheriting grandmother’s nose or dad’s sense of humor is a main subject at family reunions, people who were adopted can feel isolated and out of place. How could we separate them? So we did.
We adopted the baby.
But in God’s amazing goodness, adopting this baby also meant maternity leave for me from my current job and with it, the opportunity to keep our health insurance and receive a little pay while we made the transition to our new city, finished the semester and started at a new school fresh in January.  
We picked up Noah on a Saturday and we moved the following Saturday to our new apartment, dogs in tow.  Right away Matt had to report to church and begin work. I was home with the kids and the dogs. I thought I would go insane. I thought I would be lonely and sad. But those first six months in our new life were the happiest months I remember in a long time. We were broke, we were alone, and we only had one another. We grew closer as a family and closer to the Lord.
The day Isabel ate a blue crayon, threw up blue chunks and followed me sobbing with filthy little blue hands, while I attempted to keep the dog from eating her mess I realized I was not reacting the way I thought I would have with all that stress. I was laughing. I could see the humor in the situation and I could not wait for Matt to get home to tell him about my day.
While I will never forget the first “call” because of what it meant for our family of two, it was the second one that sticks in my mind as the most wondrous and memorable one. It came not at the right time by logical standards but I serve an illogical God whose timing is perfect and whose plans and ways are higher than mine and I praise him for that each time I look at my precious boy.

April 18, 2011

Lessons from a piano

When I was sixteen I walked into my room one afternoon after school and found the most perfect present I had ever been given: a beautiful, oak-color, upright Yamaha piano. And just as quickly as it came to me I had to sell it when we moved to the USA shortly after.
I started playing the piano when I was three. I was given a toy piano and a love affair began. I was not able to start formal lessons until I was about eleven and, until that day on my sixteenth year, I always had to practice in borrowed piano classrooms.
Playing the piano was my escape during the difficult teen years and when we moved and I had to leave my world behind, one of the most painful things I left was my wooden friend.  I vowed I would own another one as soon as I could afford it.
It wasn’t until I had been married three years and we bought our first house that we had the space to put a piano, although not the funds. So I started saving my birthday presents, doing odd jobs to make some extra money and after about a year I had a modest thousand dollars. A thousand dollars for an upright Yamaha is merely pocket change. But Yamaha had the piano that had my heart so Yamaha is what I wished for.
So armed with my pocket change I started searching. Nothing. What I had saved was not enough and I was despairing.  At one music store a great salesman almost sold me one for three times what I had, swearing the payment plan would not be bad. Still, Matt and I were tight and a piano payment was like another car payment. Heartbroken I walked away.
Disappointed and eager to get back to playing I had decided to lower my expectations and buy any brand of a piano in semi-good shape that I could afford because I did not want to wait another year or two.  One afternoon I spotted an ad in the paper for an upright Yamaha for two-thousand dollars. The owner was moving soon and was motivated to sell. Still, it was double what I had. But I asked Matt to call the man see what he had to offer. We left a message and waited.
It was a beautiful day, so I went outside and laid on my hammock for a while. I started to pray something like this:
Lord, I realize I’m being way too specific with my request, but Yamahas are what I’ve always known and it has been my dream to own another one since I had to sell mine. I also know, Lord, that money is tight and that it would be irresponsible to buy one on payments. I have a thousand dollars, Lord, and I am going to be a good steward of what you have allowed me to save. If a Yamaha is not what I need, then Lord, please send me to the right place and I will buy what I can find for what I have.
And then I must have fallen asleep because Matt woke me up with a look of triumph on his face. You probably know what came next:
“-I just talked with the piano guy. I only told him we were interested in his piano and he blurted out that he was ready to move to Las Vegas and that, while he had listed it for $2000, he will give it to us for $1000 if we can go get it today!”
You bet we did. And I was not worried one bit about the condition of the piano. I knew what I would find when we arrived, and a piano tuner confirmed it about a week later when he told us my beloved new purchase would sell for around three grand at a retail store.
This is a good God, a loving God that cares even about these small dreams and hopes. But it was more than that.
Not only has this piano brought me hours of enjoyment and relaxation, but it became very useful a few years later when I became the piano player in both of the churches we have pastored and I needed to practice at home.
Not only has this piano brought me joy but now I am teaching my little girl how to play and care for this beautiful  oak-colored upright Yamaha so much like the one that sat in my room for too short a time.
Last week I wrote about God going before me a decade so I could stay home with my kids one day. This week as Isabel took her piano lesson I was reminded that I have journal after journal of stories of how the Lord has taken care of my needs, present and future, silly and meaningful, big and small.

April 15, 2011

On distance...

Linking up to the Gypsy Mama's Five Minute Friday for a quick writing exercise. Wanna join? You are a click away!
There are almost three thousand miles of space between the two halves of my heart. Seventeen years ago it split in two and I left one piece and took the other. After all this time my heart still cannot find the piece that will make it whole.
It’s in the land of Condors and snow-capped mountains where the earth literally splits in two and you can stand with one foot on the north and one foot on the south. It is a place where the days are as long as they are wide, the sun shines perpendicular and the people speak a language of beauty.
It is only when I land, both feet on its soil that my heart begins to beat as strong as a complete heart should. But of lately, this happens only when I have with me the three people who now own the piece I took for I am not my own anymore.
I am never truly home. I am part of a people of deep cultural past and history and my skin, my dark eyes, my accent are all reminders of my beginnings. But it is in my adopted homeland, the land of the bald eagle and the starts on the Old Glory, that I have found my love, my God and my descendants.
One day, when I finally arrive to my true country, the one of which I am a forever citizen, my heart will finally reunite not only with its other half but also with the One who created it to beat and to whom it was completely given so many years ago.

April 13, 2011

In just one minute.

Last week was my birthday.
It was a busy birthday. Like all Wednesdays it was full, it was fast, and a little furious. Teaching three-year-olds in the morning, ballet class and errands in the afternoon, Bible study at night, praise practice to end the day.
It was a blessed birthday. The kids made me cards, signed their names and drew their marks. Matt gave me a sewing organizer that I desperately needed and a set of headphones for running that actually stay in my funny-shaped ear holes.
It was a good birthday.  My hubby and I had some time alone to grab lunch thanks to a dear friend, and spent an hour talking and walking down the mall aisles hand in hand, without counting heads and holding little hands.
It was also a humbling birthday and one to learn a good lesson about loving well .
You know how Facebook declares your birth date to the world? Mine was posted as well.
And this year I was overwhelmed with the amount of people from all of the paths of my life who took time off their busy day to write a happy birthday note on my wall.
See, the thing is you can see a birthday and you can choose to ignore it. I know I often do. I also know it only takes a minute to click on someone’s wall and wish them a good day.
But that’s just it: it takes a minute and, in my busy day, a minute is gold.
It is a minute less I have to browse through my close friends’ pages and catch up on their lives.
It is a minute less for me to think of a clever status to post so that I get lots of comments.
So it's a lost minute.
It is a lost minute to wish that person I had not seen/talked to/interacted with in ages a happy birthday. Will they even notice or care if I don’t? I wonder.
Until I was that person.
I don’t know why this year in particular the response was so widespread. I really don’t. But I do know this: I felt loved, remembered, cherished, blessed.
Amazing how that one minute these people took to click, write, click again made a difference to a stay-at-home mom who sometimes wonders if she has disappeared from the face of the earth now that she is not “out” in the world.
And it made me think that perhaps I pass on opportunities daily to take one minute to make someone’s day with a quick e-mail, a short wall message, a comment on a blog, a brief card in the mail.
Just to say: I remember you, I love you, I cherish you, I've been blessed by you.
It only takes one minute to remind someone they matter to the world.
Do you have a minute today?

April 11, 2011

When I pray for you...

A few days ago I received an urgent prayer request for a friend in need. Immediately I began to pray. As I was asking God to move in that situation and be with my friend the thought hit me:
Does God really need me to remind him of a situation of which He was aware even before I was?
This got me thinking about the purpose of praying for other people.
Do I pray to call God’s attention to someone’s problem?
He knows the situation in even greater detail than I ever will.
Do I pray to tell God what He should do about someone’s problem?
He certainly does not need my advice on running the universe.
Do I pray to move God to action?
He is behind us, with us, and before us, always in constant motion.
But as I was lifting my friend in prayer, I felt the anguish of her situation in my own soul. And then I understood…
We pray for others to change our own hearts.
When I pray for you for a few minutes my heart is not focused on my own little world but it is connected to yours, hurting with you, rejoicing with you as we were commanded to do (Romans 12:15).
When I pray for you we become community, you and I and everyone else who is lifting you up and He is there because we join in before the Lord in petition, as were commanded to do (Matthew 18:20).
When I pray for you God reminds me of your need, He tells me what to do about it and moves me to action as we were commanded to do (Galatians 6:2).
In that moment of discovery Christ changed my focus a bit. I started to pray less for God to move in my friend’s situation, trusting He knows what to do, and more for him to keep her heavy on my heart so I would not forget her suffering.
I began to ask not for God to move but for God to move through me and to show me how to help her in practical ways, how to do my part to ease her pain and support her through this, how to be his hands and feet.
We throw the phrase around: “I’ll pray for you” without understanding the magnitude of the promise we are making. It is not a small thing to lift someone in prayer for it will change your heart and fuse it to that of the person in need as you help them shoulder the weight of their pain by your love and concern.

But prayer is powerful and much more than words sent up to the ceiling.
When I say “I’ll pray for you” I don’t want to mean I will sit in my quiet corner and remember you as I talk to my Savior, unless I am willing to move when He prompts and touch your life as He requires.
And if you pray for someone, He will require it.
Prayer must not be a passive act but rather one full of action. The type of act that prompts a phone call, a card, a meal, a check, a hug, a sacrifice.
This, I think, is the purpose of intercession: to bear each other’s burdens heart, soul, hands and feet.
Linking with Michelle @ Graceful for Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday.
and with Jen @ Finding Heaven for Soli Deo Gloria.

April 8, 2011

If you met me...

Linking up with the Gypsy Mama's Five Minute Fridays. Five minutes to write.


If you met me first you would notice my accent and ask me where I am from. This would get me talking about a land far away where it’s never too hot and never too cold, the people are warm, the streets are crowded, and where I left half of my heart almost seventeen years ago.

If you met me I would most certainly mention my two children, ages 3 and 5, boy and girl, mischief and drama in that order. You would probably want to share stories of pregnancy and then you would find out that my children were adopted. When I show you their picture you would probably want to know from where, and I would tell you they are red, white, and blue-blooded children. You would ask how old they were when we adopted them and I would tell you they were both infants. Then you would ask the inevitable question: “are they brother and sister?” to which I would reply with a look of confusion: “do you mean are they biologically related? Yes. Yes, they happen to be.” Because after all, they are siblings because they both share the same parents, last name, home, pet, etc.
If you met me I would ask lots of questions about your kids, your husband, your background, because I would like to get the small talk out of the way (because I’m horrid at it) and get to the heart of who you are so I can really get to know you.
If you met me I would try to find a way to see you again or talk soon because all friends were once strangers.
You in? Go find Lisa-Jo and tell us what would happen if we met you.