Tuesday, December 29, 2009

they said it

We are thoroughly enjoying a week of rest, play, and family time at Jon's parents' house in Michigan. Nate and Dexter have quite an audience of grandparents, aunts, and uncles and they have not disappointed!


[Upon coming upstairs, directed toward Grandpa]

Dexter (loudly): Is anyone looking for a grandson?


[Nate got a Nerf gun from Aunt Keri and Uncle CJ. He was playing with it downstairs as we were about to gather the whole family together to sing Christmas carols.]

Jon: Nate, come upstairs - it's time to sing some songs about peace on earth.

Nate: Peace on earth? OK, I'll put my gun down.


[Referring to the pig-in-a-blanket that Dexter was trying to eat with a spoon]

Me: Dexter, you have to use your hands to eat that.

Dexter: It's too hot! Mommy, will you roll it up and pour soup on it?

I have no idea where my kids get this stuff, but it does provide good, cheap entertainment!

looking at the one

Haregewoin Teferra, from the book There Is No Me Without You

I am beginning to wake up.

I wish I could say that, because God so loved the world, I have too. I wish I could say that statistics about genocide and child soldiers and poverty and hunger have motivated me to make real changes in my life -- to sacrificially love the suffering world. Sure, I've shed a tear, prayed some prayers, even sent monthly checks. I've talked about these things at dinner parties like a good socially-conscious Christian should. But mostly I have felt numb and powerless, overwhelmed by numbers I can't understand and concepts I have never experienced. In the end, these problems have been too big and too far removed from my comfortable suburban life to move me to authentic compassion.

Even our decision to adopt from Ethiopia hasn't felt like a reaction to the suffering world, necessarily, but more like a simple yielding to the way in which God has called us to build our family. We don't view it as rescuing a suffering orphan, but rather bringing home our son or daughter and fulfilling God's promise to care for him or her.

As part of our adoption preparation, I am reading a book called There Is No Me Without You, the story of an Ethiopian woman who accidentally starts an orphanage in her home. Much of the book centers on the problem of AIDS in Ethiopia and other developing countries, and the tidal wave of orphans it has created as an entire generation disappears from the disease. I have heard all this before. I have read the statistics, heard Bono's speeches, and seen pictures from friends' mission trips. So why was I completely shocked by this book? Why did I feel like I was hearing all of this for the first time? What made me suddenly care?

Mother Teresa called it "looking at the one." According to sociological research, when human beings are faced with massive problems on a global scale they experience what researcher Dr. Paul Slovic calls psychic numbing. They don't care, and they don't act - perhaps because they don't feel that they can make any difference. When faced with the problems of a single individual, humans are empathetic, compassionate, and willing to give sacrificially to the cause.

One of the children in this book is my child. AIDS is killing the generation that should have fed, clothed, and educated my child, and all this time I have not cared. We have not cared. Miracle-working drugs have made HIV manageable and AIDS almost invisible in America and that is good enough for us. Drug patents, international trade policy, and illogical, self-serving rhetoric are keeping Americans safe, healthy, and rich while children in Africa wake up between two dead parents. Am I over-stating? Over-simplifying?

I don't know. All I know is that an Ethiopian child I've never met is already teaching me, waking me up, shaking my shoulders, and asking me to move.

Monday, December 21, 2009

they said it: movie edition

PLEASE can we watch The Lion King, Mommy?

If you have ever been around me and my siblings for more than a few minutes, then you have heard us quote from one of the following movies: The Princess Bride, National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, Orange County, Anchorman, or Dumb & Dumber (and please don't judge my siblings on account of this list, they were led by a very bad example). My poor sister-in-law Emma, who grew up in Australia, thought we were completely batty for the first year until she figured out that when we started talking nonsense we were actually quoting movies.

All that is a long way to say... my family likes to quote movies. Imagine my pride when I observed my children inheriting this wonderful trait! Nate enjoys quoting from movies, but his favorite thing is to play a game where I have to guess which movie the quote is from. I am terrible at this game, since he is quoting movies like Veggie Tales: King George and the Ducky, but he is very patient with me. "Think about it, Mommy!" he says encouragingly, even when I insist I have no idea who said "Now stick your tongue out!" (In case you're wondering, it was Mittens from the movie Bolt.)

Recently Dexter has also been showing promise in the movie-quoting realm. I thought he was just being strange yesterday when he looked up at me and said thoughtfully, "Mommy, when I grow up I want to be Peaches." But apparently, Peaches is a character in the movie Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, which he watched at Nana and Papa's house this weekend. I am still deciding whether this makes his comment any less strange!

Then last night we were getting the boys ready for bed and Dexter escaped into the living room. He started jumping up and down on the couch stark naked and shouting, "I speak whale! I speak whale! I speak whale!" For those of you who did not watch the movie Finding Nemo 136 times in 9 days while your toddler was in the hospital... well, I guess you just won't get it. :)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

fourth sunday of advent

Arrival, by Todd, Janet, Sage (8), and Karsten (5) Gibson

Sage, age 8, read this poem in church today:

First Coming
by Madeleine L’Engle

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine. He did not wait

till hearts were pure. In joy he came
to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

better than our promises

Our engagement photo, circa 2001.

We had a glorious weekend in LA for our dear friends' wedding. It felt like a family reunion in many ways: laughing, telling stories, eating, dancing, bickering good-naturedly. The warm sun coupled with deep friendship to do good work in our souls.

I had the privilege of being a bridesmaid in the wedding, so I had an up-close view of the bride and groom as they spoke their vows to one another. In that moment, the words of a Sara Groves song came to my mind: Better than our promises / is the day we got to keep them / I wish those two could see us now / they never would believe how / there are different kinds of happy.

I thought about my own wedding day and the words we spoke, having not the faintest idea what we were saying but knowing that we would find out together. And we have. It has been beautiful, enriching, painful, and redemptive. There are different kinds of happy and, as Sara goes on to say in the chorus of the song, it's a sweet, sweet thing.

Congratulations Matt & Tiffany! We pray that your marriage is richly layered with different kids of happy for decades to come.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

to pause

To pause may open
us to space
of stillness
solitude in unity.

Kneeling in the black
to let
a sinking quiet
seep against the flow
of pumping veins
from fingers, toes
to chambers,
and rest there.

The table
lifts a modest column,
wax and cord
as yet intact
now ready for
the melting trial.

Scraping flint to
spark and
gasping breath
do not disturb
our silent sweet
togetherness --

An unseen fire.

Monday, December 14, 2009

they said it

[Today in the car.]

Dexter: What are you eating Mommy?

Me: I'm drinking coffee, sweetie.

Dexter: Mom, when I'm two and a half, can I drink coffee just like you do?

Me: Um... I don't know about that...

Dexter: Then I will be big and strong.

[Today at the grocery store, Dexter sees a display with a 2 foot tall Pillsbury Dough Boy. I swear this was totally unprompted and I've never called him a dough boy... to his face anyway.]

Dexter (pointing at the dough boy): Look Mommy! It's just like me! It's just like me!

things that do not happen in LA

I do miss the sun once in awhile, but these 2 stories are just a tiny slice of why I absolutely love living where we do.

Two summers ago we were out on a walk in our neighborhood. Dexter was just not quite a year old at the time, and so naturally was in the habit of pulling off his socks any chance he got. When we got back from our walk I noticed that only one of his cute little yellow USC socks had made it home with us. I was bummed, as we don't have many stores here in Seattle that carry USC stuff (go figure). A week later we were at the local pool and another mom came up to me holding Dexter's sock! "We saw it on the sidewalk by 4th Avenue [about a mile from our house] and knew it must be yours," she told me.

On his way home the other day Jon was stopped at an intersection about 1/4 mile from our house and noticed a kid's glove hanging from a nail on the stop sign. He thought it looked suspiciously familiar, so he grabbed it just in case. Sure enough, the lonely mate was stuffed in Nate's jacket pocket - the other one must have fallen out on our bike ride a day or two earlier. Which means someone saw it, picked it up, and hung it on the stop sign just in case its owner passed by there again.

Oh, I do love it here.

For the record, the raccoon family that lives in our yard is NOT one of the reasons I love living here.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

third sunday in advent

Joy To The World, by Cheryl, Brian, Michael (9) and Matthew (2) Spitzer

In addition to the poem and image, today I want to share an excerpt from another post about the 3rd Sunday in Advent (read the whole thing here).

Today is Gaudete Sunday ("Gaudete" is Latin for "rejoicing"). In the midst of Advent’s long journey, our worship on this day calls us to lift up our eyes, focus anew on our destination, and thus find renewed strength and refreshment from realizing that “our redemption draws near.” To mark this day, the liturgical colors are changed from deep purple or blue to rose-pink. That is why the third candle is different than the others on the Advent Wreath.

Here is a word to keep us going to the end. “The Lord is near.” So, take a few moments today to rejoice. Be gentle with yourself and others. Cast your worries on the Lord. Say a word of thanks when you pray. Receive his gift of peace.
Breathe. Rest up. Enjoy a moment of respite and allow yourself a little rejoicing.


The Winter Is Cold, Is Cold

by Madeleine L’Engle

The winter is cold, is cold.
All’s spent in keeping warm.
Has joy been frozen, too?
I blow upon my hands
Stiff from the biting wind.
My heart beats slow, beats slow.
What has become of joy?

If joy’s gone from my heart
Then it is closed to You
Who made it, gave it life.
If I protect myself
I’m hiding, Lord, from you.
How we defend ourselves
In ancient suits of mail!

Protected from the sword,
Shrinking from the wound,
We look for happiness,
Small, safety-seeking, dulled,
Selfish, exclusive, in-turned.
Elusive, evasive, peace comes
Only when it’s not sought.

Help me forget the cold
That grips the grasping world.
Let me stretch out my hands
To purifying fire,
Clutching fingers uncurled.
Look! Here is the melting joy.
My heart beats once again.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

second sunday in advent

OK, so it's Thursday. Hey, I'm just faithfully living out the words in my post from earlier this week about failure...

Origin Story (detail), Lily Hewitt (age 9)

Too Much To Ask
by Luci Shaw

It seemed too much to ask
of one small virgin
that she should stake shame
against the will of God.
All she had to hold to
were those soft, inward
and the remembered sting
of a brief junction- spirit
with flesh.
who would think it
more than a dream wish?
an implausible, laughable

And it seems much
too much to ask me
to be part of the
different thing-
God’s shocking, unorthodox,
unheard of Thing
to further heaven’s hopes
and summon God’s glory.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

the beaten path

Tonight I heard a poet I love speak words I needed. The poem she read contained a reference to a Fredrick Beuchner quote that sent me searching the interwebs for the full context. I was not disappointed.

From Wishful Thinking: A Seeker's ABC
by Frederick Buechner

We all pray whether we think of it as praying or not. The odd silence we fall into when something very beautiful is happening, or something very good or very bad. The ah-h-h-h! that sometimes floats up out of us as out of a Fourth of July crowd when the skyrocket bursts over the water. The stammer of pain at somebody else’s pain. The stammer of joy at somebody else’s joy. Whatever words or sounds we use for sighing with over our own lives. These are all prayers in their way. These are all spoken not just to ourselves but to something even more familiar than ourselves and even more strange than the world.

According to Jesus, by far the most important thing about praying is to keep at it. The images he uses to explain this are all rather comic, as though he thought it was rather comic to have to explain it at all. He says God is like a friend you go to borrow bread from at midnight. The friend tells you in effect to drop dead, but you go on knocking anyway until finally he gives you what you want so he can go back to bed again (Luke 11:5 – 8). Or God is like a crooked judge who refuses to hear the case of a certain poor widow, presumably because he knows there’s nothing much in it for him. But she keeps on hounding him until finally he hears her case just to get her out of his hair (Luke 18:1 – 8). Even a stinker, Jesus says, won’t give his own child a black eye when the child asks for peanut butter and jelly, so how all the more will God when his children . . . (Matthew 7:9 – 11)”?

Be importunate, Jesus says – not, one assumes, because you have to beat a path to God’s door before he’ll open it, but because until you beat the path maybe there’s no way of getting your door. “Ravish my heart,” John Donne wrote. But God will not usually ravish. He will only court.

Whatever else it may or may not be, prayer is at least talking to yourself, and that’s in itself not always a bad idea. Talk to yourself about your own life, about what you’ve done and what you’ve failed to do, and about who you are and who you wish you were and who the people you love are and the people you don’t love too. Talk to yourself about what matters most to you, because if you don’t, you may forget what matters most to you.

Even if you don’t believe anybody’s listening, at least you’ll be listening. Believe Somebody is listening. Believe in miracles. That’s what Jesus told the father who asked him to heal his epileptic son. Jesus said, “All things are possible to him who believes.” And the father spoke for all of us when he answered, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:14 – 29).

What about when the boy is healed? When, listened to or not listened to, the prayer goes unanswered? Who knows? Just keep praying, Jesus says. Remember the sleepy friend, the crooked judge. Even if the boy dies, keep on beating the path to God’s door, because the one thing you can be sure of is that down the path you beat with even your most half-cocked and halting prayer the God you call upon will finally come, and even if he does not bring you the answer you want, he will bring you himself. And maybe at the secret heart of all our prayers, that is what we are really praying for.

Tuolumne Meadows, inspiration for Luci Shaw's poem Making A Path.

Monday, December 7, 2009

homestudy buddy

We've heard that adoption is a hurry-up-and-wait process. If that's true, we are definitely in the "hurry up" part! Our first contact with our social worker was Friday, December 4. We met with her 2 days later and have 2 more meetings on the calendar, so by Monday, December 21 we will be done with that part of the homestudy. Then there will be about 2-3 weeks of writing for both us and the social worker, after which we will be completely DONE with the homestudy!

We will then have a few more steps to take to make our dossier complete and authenticated, but it's possible that we will be ready for a referral as early as February. For those of you unfamiliar with adoption-speak, that means we find out who our child is -- name, gender, pictures, biographical information, etc. There is usually about a 4-6 month wait between accepting a referral and traveling to pick up the child, so we are still shooting for late summer or early fall for our travel. This could all change of course, as there are many unpredictable elements in the process of international adoption... but still... we're excited!

[By the way, I titled the post "homestudy buddy" because I love love love our social worker! She is so helpful and encouraging -- one of those people who you meet and feel like you've known forever. And she brought me incredible authentic Ethiopian coffee. I love her.]

P.S. Our agency director, Joy Casey, is currently in Ethiopia visiting the orphanages... she will probably hug & kiss our child on this trip without even knowing it -- crazy! If you want to read the reports she is sending back, check out the YWAM Ethiopia blog.

sorry gene kranz (as played by ed harris)...

...but it turns out that failure IS very much an option.

How did a made-up quote from a 1990s movie about a 1970 moon mission get so deeply ingrained in my mind? In truth, I can't really blame Apollo 13 for my perfectionism. I have always wanted to do things right the first time. I have never wanted grace: I have preferred not to need it, thanks.

The other day I drove by a neighbor's yard and caught sight of a dark red apple hanging on an otherwise barren tree. I almost stopped. I so badly wanted to stand under the tree and look up at the lonely apple, hands on my hips. "It's December," I would say. "It's OK to fall now."

Friday, December 4, 2009

i feel you

Last night was our church's prayer service, a monthly gathering with prayer, silence, music, and communion. Toward the end of the evening we shared requests for ourselves and others and prayed for each other. I asked for prayer about our adoption process -- for God's guidance and provision throughout each step of our journey toward bringing our child home.

After all the requests were shared, we bowed our heads together. Forrest prayed for Bob. Vicki prayed for Lorraine. I prayed for Russell. And then Mary Jane began to pray for me and Jon and our child in Ethiopia. I have known for months now that we have a child waiting for us across the world. But last night, maybe for the first time, I felt it. All of a sudden I had strong and urgent desire to GO - to run across the mountains and oceans and cultures and red tape that separate me from my child. The child I love, but whose face I haven't seen.

Wait for me, my love. I'm coming.