October 31, 2011

Of Late Fees and Beatitudes

We bought a stove after eight months of cooking with two burners and having no oven. It was a good deal: half price, discounted, discontinued, last one in stock. We could not have done better! And then the clerk offered us an even steeper discount if we signed up for the credit card. We are fiscally conservative and owe no credit card debt. So we did it. And promptly paid the balance when the payment came due.

And then came the perfect storm.

The payment, while made on time, was just late enough in the day that it went through the following business day, accruing a slight penalty, which we did not know we had because we had mistakenly signed up for paperless billing.  But we paid in full. No bill, no worries, right?

Except for the automated phone calls. “Sorry we missed you. Please call us about your Sears card” every time I picked up the phone. You didn’t miss me! Here I am! Talk to me! Since nobody would talk, I assumed it was another offer. More credit. Lower rates. We didn’t need either. I didn’t call.

No e-mails either. I pay the bills in our house and everything goes to my e-mail account. No e-mails, no worries, right?

Except when Matt finally called to please ask that we no longer receive the annoying daily phone calls we found out the slight penalty had snowballed three months worth of interest. Frustrated, he used his “ma’am” voice to explain clearly and without a doubt that we had NO idea of the penalty, that we had NO idea what the phone calls were about and that we would have paid the bill right away IF we had known about it. They waved the fee and gave us the benefit of the doubt. 

Problem solved, right?

Except it was still the perfect storm.

A month later we found out our bank would start charging $5 a month for the use of the debit card unless you had multiple types of accounts with them. We’d been wanting to re-finance so it was the right time to switch mortgages and avoid silly monthly fees.

So Matt went to the bank confident in our great credit and little debt to be told we had a small blemish that kept us from the best possible rates. No guesses here: the Sears card small late fee on a very expensive stove.

We called Sears, we raged and ranted, we reminded them of what we’d bought, that this was ludicrous over such a small amount, that we did not know about the fee, and on and on. They politely explained they would send it to their referral department and let us know.  “By the way,” they said, “it probably won’t get changed because it is not the bank’s error. But you can try…” Hopes dashed. This blemish would stay on our credit for seven years. So much for good rates for a while…

So what do Christians do when in trouble? We asked our church to pray. And they did. But I didn’t hold much hope because, after all, we had made a mistake and well, when you don’t pay your bill you get stuck with the bill collectors. Is God able to take care of such silliness? Sure, but He would take care of our needs either way, so why not let life take its course? Anyway, that’s theology for another day.

In any case, I happened to mention to Matt while we waited for the dreaded results that Sears should have at least sent us an e-mail reminder that we had a paperless bill. Every other company does and…that’s when he said: “Maybe they did…” Oh. No. Please. No. They did. To his e-mail. Not mine. Because he set up the account. Not me, as usually happens. 

This, of course, ensued a fight. “Why would you give them your e-mail?” “Why would not you NOT open messages from Sears?” “Why…why…why…” I walked away angry and in my room the Lord spoke to me: Are you perfect? Do you not make mistakes? Has he not forgiven you much?

Convicted I came back and hugged him: “We’ll get through this. We’ll figure it out. I’m sorry I acted like that.” We talked, we forgave each other, and we discussed the next step on our plan without the re-financing. No need. Sears called on Friday: blemish cleared against all odds! Praise Jesus for his faithfulness.

Sunday I was sitting in church listening to my sweet husband preach on the text of the week: Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy (Matthew 5: 7) and a light went on in my soul. God will not be manipulated by us. Nothing we do will change his mind if his mind is made. But like any loving father, He is true to his word.

There was no earthly chance of us getting that mark off of our credit. Sears did everything right and we did everything wrong, however innocently. It was divine intervention, of that I’m sure, because even the manager said it would never happen. And most often than not, God does not explain himself to me. I don’t know why at times He intervenes and why at times He does not.

But He explained this one:

We were shown mercy. Pure, simple mercy. And I understood exactly why.

We made the choice to stand together as a team against this problem rather than let it divide us, we quit fighting and forgave each other’s part of the blame.

We showed mercy to each other that afternoon.

We didn’t know at the time that the way we approached this hurdle would define its outcome, and had we known, it would have defiled the purity of the intentions, but I am convinced that had we reacted in a way less pleasing to the Lord we would still be stuck with the blemish. For seven more years.

Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy. Those are not empty words but one of the many promises He has made to us that we can trust and live by. 

October 20, 2011

Does DNA make a family?

Friends, here is the latest post for Adoptive Families Circle. It is very similar to one I posted here a while back (in fact, it was the foundation for it!) but if you are fairly new you may not have read it before. You won't be able to leave comments at AFC unless you are a member, so would you kindly come back here and leave your thoughts? I would love to read them!

How much did she cost?" "Why can’t you have biological children?" "Why did her birthmom not want her?" "Aren’t you afraid of how he will turn out?" "Do you know who her REAL parents are?"

When we walk around the block, or through the grocery store, or just about anywhere else, there's no hiding the fact that we're a family formed by adoption. Not that I would want to hide it -- ever. But I do sometimes cringe at those intrusive, tactless, ignorant questions that would never arise in any other context.

October 14, 2011

Learning To Love

Standing in the middle of the room I wondered what he was up to. We had been dating but a few weeks the day he turned with a mysterious flair towards the stereo and pressed the play button. The vibrant notes of jazz piano filled the room as he took me in his arms and, with a boyish smile, began to sway me to the music of a song I had never heard.

After the initial surprised at being twirled around the floor by a man I knew simply does not dance, and the giggles ensued by the flirty silliness of the moment, I began to listen to the words that floated above our heads from the smooth, seductive voice of Harry Connick Jr, his all-time favorite.

I could learn to love you.
I could get used to this.
I could learn to love you.
And the shelter of your kiss.

He never sang the words to me. He didn’t say: this song is for you. He didn’t have to. We stopped giggling and simply danced, my head to his chest, listening to the unspoken meaning behind the song choice, behind the moment in which we were caught up, enjoying the genesis of a feeling that was budding and growing with each spin.

Our song.

Lovers are dreamers and I've been walking in my sleep
When I awake I'll never take a chance that I can't keep
A thousand first times never add up to last
And I've been told a heart of gold melts away too fast.

This was more than a good song to dance to; this was a confession. He had had several very short relationships and was not much of a risk-taker when it came to them. I was the first one he pursued, the first one he took home, the first one he danced with.

He had made the choice to take a chance.

The choice to risk going after the one that made his heart stop. The choice to make of this a lasting relationship. And ultimately the choice to fall in love and to make it last a lifetime.

I could learn to love you…

He decided to decide and he decided on me. He knew love is not meant to be the butterflies and fuzzy feelings alone but also the conscious determination of the will to grow in love and to make love grow.

I could get used to this…

He didn’t say he loved me for several months after that. But I knew the day the feeling was born. We’ve spent ten years choosing to nurture it every day. There have been seasons when we have let it nearly starve and there have been season when it has been as strong as a bamboo shoot. But the choice has always been ours to make.

We choose to love each other every day, even when it’s hard to like each other. We choose to stay together when it is difficult and when we would rather run. We choose to forgive, to let go, and to make “you” more important than “me”.

We learn to love over and over again.

Several years after the dancing episode I finally asked him if he had meant to choose that song, if he had done it on purpose for me to hear what he could not yet express. Of course, he had.

October 9, 2011

It Happened at Daycare!

Here is the latest entry for Adoptive Families Circle. They won't let you comment there unless you are a member, so if you have some comment-love for me, please, please come back here and talk to me!

"When you have a multicultural, multilingual, and multiracial family you get used to some strange comments, bizarre questions, and amazing assumptions.
Some you are prepared to deal with, some you learn to handle as you encounter them, some are forgettable, and some stay with you and don't let go. There is one such interaction in particular I remember and it happened at daycare."

Read the rest of the story here: