Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sticky Floors and the Grand Marche

I spent just over two months of my life in a land far away from the place I call home. Where the mountains were covered not in pine but in lush green and red dirt. I traveled roads where the major highways were filled with potholes as big as the cramped taxi I sat in. I've shopped in the Grand Marche and bartered over goods and wears. And I've seen the face of poverty and the jaded hunger of poverty.

I was changed.

There are so many memories that I think oh yes, that's the one. The one that changed me. But then I realize that they all changed me, a cumulative quilt of experience and brokenness and adventure stitched together in this fabric of my life.

 I remember one day walking through the crowded market and a small boy, his skin olive and his eyes brown, asked me for money. His clothes were tattered and dirty. His feet were bare.  My French was rudimentary, but I understood his plea and in return I asked where his mamma was. He told me he didn't have one.

No mamma. This boy on the streets. He couldn't have been more than six.

I reached for my purse but my friend grabbed my arm and pulled me away, giving me a silent No with her eyes. She told me later that he was likely lying to me, that his mother was probably waiting down the road somewhere for him, having sent him out with the purpose to beg for money. To take advantage of the heart of some silly tourist/missionary not used to the harshness of this land and the lives of it's people.

Was she right? Probably. I'll never know for sure. But even so, this memory has stuck with me. It's clung tight to my heart through

this boy and his deep brown eyes. And I want to go back.

Ever since I returned from Togo I have wanted to go back. To expand my personal mission work. To hold babies who have no mother and to comfort the children who have lost their families. I want to work in an orphanage, spending long days and longer nights fighting for the rights of babes and children who have no one else who will.

It's why I went to graduate school, really. Yes, I wanted to teach but I chose public health to learn more about how to work in impoverished areas. It's what I wrote my application essay on-the hope to one day return.

Today I read this offering from She Loves Magazine and my heart was full with the longing and my eyes overflowing with the remembrance of the dream that seems so far away now, in this moment of baseball sign ups and wiping down the highchair. And I pray that one day this dream will come to fruition.

My hubby is worried that one day I'll go. Not for selfish reasons, but because he thinks I'll either a) not come back or b) bring all the kiddos home with me. Which deep down I don't think he'd mind at all, option b that is.

But I also know that sometimes these dreams don't come true. That sometimes there are other plans for our futures that we know nothing of. Right now that plan includes 4 little beasties and a job teaching future nurses. My hope is that in this little life I can at least do a small trip, or ten, to help in places that need it most. It's a hard thing, this balancing our wants and needs and the desires of our heart. To know that there is a need out there that needs met and you want so desperately to see that need abolished.

Yet there is a mission field here, right here in this kitchen with sticky floors and crumbs on the counter. Right here with the little girl with olive skin and brown eyes and the young lady with eyes the color of the sea and hair that changes based on her mood. Right here with the little boy whose eyes are sometimes haunted and the one who likes to body slam all who dare to lay on the floor. And with the man, the one who has held my hand for the better part of my life. The one who is my best friend and my love. And this, this mission field is my calling to and it changes me daily.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Five Minute Friday: Open

Come on in, the writing's fine over at Kate's for Five Minute Friday.

Prompt: Open.

Go.


The door is open.
Come rest your weary feet.
I'll hold your hand,
I'll listen while you weep.
I know you seem so far,
I know the road is long.
But I am still right here,
I've been here all along.
I've watched you in your struggle,
I've seen you toil and bear
Those burdens I said I'd carry,
And yet you hang your head.
Come here my sweet child
Come sit beside my fire,
Let me wrap you it's warmth
Take your rest,
I know you're tired.
I'll be your strength tomorrow
When the morning sun is high.
I'll carry all your struggles,
I'll be right by your side.
Though you may not notice,
Though you may forget
I hope you'll find this place again
My door is open yet.

Stop.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Untold Stories

When I started writing in this space two years ago, it was to share my story of infertility. I have had backlash.

I've had others tell me that I shouldn't be so crass. That I should look over what I've went through and focus on the good. I've had people pull away and try to remind me of the life I have now.

But that wasn't the point. I wanted to show the world what it felt like. In that moment. In that place. What it looked like to me in my life. Trying to believe in a God that was faithful when each month was like a slap in the face. What it felt like falling on my face in tears, begging for answers, and then to hear his voice say to me "Be still, and know that I am God. Trust me." 

It's a messy place, that pit of despair. Where all seems lost and you're holding on to a threadbare faith.  When I wrote No Maybe Baby it was raw and cathartic. It became the voice that I had wanted to speak for so long, but was afraid to because I didn't think that anyone would understand.

There are a few stories in the bible where we see infertility rear it's bitter head. I listened to a sermon today where the pastor talked about Abraham and Sarah. If you're looking for a story on desperation-that's it. I could see many of the points that the pastor made-that we are never complete unless we are good with Jesus. That it's God who fills the holes and makes us whole. I see that. I get that. But what I didn't see in this version of Sarah's story was compassion. Because here's the thing-if there's no one reminding us that Jesus loves us and that he will make all things right in his time, if there's no one loving on us when we are in that dark place-then we've lost that vital piece of compassion and empathy. Abraham and Sarah messed up, big time. But I know what it feels like to be in her shoes-and I can't imagine what it would have been like then, when your whole world as a woman was locked in bearing a son.

That's why I have a love/hate relationship with the story of Hannah. She was faithful. She believed. Her husband loved the pudding right out of her. But she was barren. So great was her anguish that when she went to pray at the temple-the priest accused her of being drunk. And I think in a sense she was-drunk on pain. Intoxicated in heartache beyond the point of recognition. And she begged God to give her grace.

Have you ever been there? To that place where you're hurting so much you are nearly unrecognizable? Our girl Hannah, she was. She was there. She knew what it was to feel like an outcast, even when you're loved.

Because infertility does that to you.


We don't hear the infertility stories until they're "made right". Do you know what I mean? How many people do you know of who will tell you how long they tried to get pregnant, and are only saying so now because they are or because they're finally holding that child they so longed for? I can think of countless tales where this is just the case. Or they got pregnant after adopting. You know that one? I've heard and read and bore witness to countless stories just as this.

But what of the stories you've never heard? Stories like mine. Stories where from the outside it looks as if every child was conceived in love and brought into this world to the arms of two parents who anticipated their arrival for nine months, but a closer look tells a different tale. I love my children. I love them as I believe I would had they been born to me. Had I carried them not just in my heart but under it. And yet I will never be given that option. Mine is not the beautiful story of heartbreak through infertility and then the faithfulness of God when conception and a child finally comes.

Because isn't that how it's always said? The faithfulness of God that broke that chain of infertility and brought forth a child?

Is that to say then that God is not faithful to me, because I will never bare witness to this particular miracle?

I will be the first to tell you that I have been bitter. I have been brokenhearted. I have felt that God had forsaken me and I have felt banished from his grace and his faithfulness. So much so that I have wished that I could have been pregnant, just once-even if it were to end in miscarriage, just so that I could know what it felt like to be carrying life.

I think that is probably a selfish thing to ask for. But a part of me feels like maybe it would have lessened the feeling of loss just a bit. Because when you are infertile, it is hard to name the depth of the loss that you feel. It is like a barren black hole that you are desperately trying to climb out of.

And yet, I know that God is faithful. I know that the life he has created for me and my family has been in his master plan for eternity. But this doesn't mean it doesn't still hurt. It doesn't mean that when I watch shows like Fixer Upper on TV and see this family with their four children and their farm and easy love that I'm not saddened, because this is what I had pictured my life to be. And it breaks my heart to know the loss that my children face or will face because they are adopted. And while adoption is a beautiful thing, it is not how family was intended.

So maybe what this all comes down to, this rambling of thoughts and emotions is this: compassion. We all need compassion. No matter our story. No matter our history. No matter our choices or the current place of our hearts. It is compassion that will heal the broken and the hurting. It is compassion that will lead to the cross. It is compassion that is our redemption story. Because no one showed more compassion, than Jesus.

I'm linking up with my dear friend Lisha today over at Give Me Grace. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Greatest of These is Love

Today I was blessed by a schizophrenic. First I answered a series of number questions related to a drawing, then I was asked to read a series of words. But not just any series of words. I was asked to read the fruits of the spirit, and then repeat them.

When I did, only fudging a bit on the version of the verse, the patient’s eyes lit up and they pointed out the top word-love. Then I was blessed. A blessing on me. By someone who lives in a world where things are not so stellar. Where life revolves around cinder block walls and low stimulation.
Some would argue that this is a manifestation of the disease. That religiosity has played a part in the grandiosity of the delusions. But here’s what I think: I think I walked out of that milieu and feeling blessed. And the first thoughts that came to my mind is that people are inherently good.

Despite all the atrocities that are going on in the world. Hell, despite all the atrocities that are happening in the minds of those I work with, people are still inherently good.

My life didn’t turn out how I had planned for it to. There are things in these years that are far from what I had expected and it certainly isn’t the life I had thought it would be. And today, things got stressful and frustrating and I had to take a few moments (and a long run-my muscles will be killing me tomorrow) to work it out in my own heart and mind. But I kept coming back to my interaction this morning.

Regardless of all that happens. Regardless of all that is not how I planned. I have been blessed. And not just by the client I spoke to. And even more so than that were the words used to share that blessing, because the greatest of them is love.

Just love. The conversations with my students and with those I work with seem to always come back to this simple four letter word that is perhaps the most complicated of our vocabulary. And that complication is good, because a word so strong should not be so easily tossed around.

Instead it should be easily shown. Easily exampled. It should be used to open hearts and to calm tangled minds. It should be used to bless. When people ask about work, about experiences like today's they often laugh it off. Sometimes I feel like I should too. Sometimes it comes in such an odd manor that the uncomfortable laugh seems the most appropriate.

But here’s the thing-it’s my job to advocate. It’s my job to show compassion and to be a blessing to those around me. Instead, the blessing was turned to me.  Why?


Because the greatest of these is love.  

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Five Minute Friday: Keep

It's flash-mob Friday! Join me over at Kate's place for a little Five Minute Friday love.

Prompt: Keep

I have this little metal box. It's kind of a gaudy
looking thing-all gold and red and some royal looking designs around the edges. My grandmother had given it to me in middle school and I stored it away up on a shelf next to a stash of salt shakers that I had collected from various restaurants across the state (but that's a different story, and no I'm not a thief).

Inside the box were little mementos. A ticket stub. A friendship bracelet. A memento from the wishing well at Finagen's restaurant. All treasures of some time and place in my life that I didn't want to forget. Looking in the box now, I don't remember all the little meanings behind all the objects, but I do know that they were something I wanted to keep. Wanted to hold on to. Wanted to take with me as a time capsule of sorts-my history overflowing from the dinged up metal holder of lost memories.

My hubby calls me a pack rat. I think I'm a keeper. There's a difference. Things take on a sentimental value to me and I have a hard time letting go. Those shoes I'm wearing in my senior pictures? Still have them. The key chain my sister gave me on my 16th birthday when I got my driver's license? It now holds the keys to my office. The cradle my dad made me for Christmas when I was just a little girl? Sitting in my basement as I type this-full of toys of from my own children.

I'm a keeper. But my hold goes beyond just the sentimental or the tangible. I'm a keeper of other things too. Things I need to let go of. Worry? Yep I keep that on a tight hold in my heart. Fear of failure? Mmm hm. I have a stack of unfinished blog posts and manuscripts to back that one up. Grief? No matter how much I try to let this one go, it has a way of finding me again. And the list goes on.

I remember when I was younger and we sang a song at Sunday school about casting our burdens on to Jesus, for he cares for us. Remember that one? It gets stuck in my head and I don't believe in coincidences. Once when I was going through a hard time in college I drew an old burlap bag full of rocks-my burdens-and stuck it in my bible as a reminder. Because the beautiful thing is that I don't have to be a keeper of all that other stuff. The fond memories? Yes. The goofy moments of my childhood and my adult life? Definitely. But the other things-the ones that drag me down? Nope. Don't need to. I don't have to keep it all.

I know it seems simple, but often the things we keep closest to us are the things we most need to let go of. And sometimes we have to let go again and again before we get it right. And that's okay. Us keepers gotta keep on keepin' on.

But other things I think I'll hold on to. Like the little gaudy box that sat next to the salt shakers.

How about you? What are you keeping today? 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Choosing

I took a sharp intake of breath through my clenched teeth. The words were unkind. Untruthful. Hurtful. And sharp as a knife. I pressed the little X at the top of the screen and bowed my head.

  Jesus hear my prayer...

All day I stewed. Wondering of any truth in the phrases. Any honesty in the painful link of consonants and vowels. This is not where I had planned to be. Not where I had hoped to be. Not where all the years of work and toil had been supposed to lead.

But here I was, non the less.

I texted my hubby for support. I messaged my sister for encouragement. But all their words and expressions didn't quell the turmoil in my spirit. I opened my bible and my study. Neither seemed to share the words or emotions that would balm my injured feelings.

Some days are just hard. Some people are just harder. And some lives are full of hurting that don't know where to stop until they bring others down. These are things out of my control.

But happiness? Now that's a different story. When I was in beauty school I had a teacher named Peggy. She was amazing. This woman who seemed to let everything negative just roll off her shoulders. She didn't fester it, like me. She didn't hold onto it like a knife and a right. She gave a little toss of her Cola-Black hair and smiled. Then she'd say "Happiness is a choice."

That simple. It's a choice. You have to choose it.

Standing at the sink another influential woman came to mind. Dr. Odem was my clinical instructor twice during nursing school. She is a tiny little thing with a snappy haircut and a twinkle in her eyes. I learned so much from her, but perhaps the the thing that stuck with me the most was to give it up. No, I don't mean call it quits-not totally anyway. But give it UP. As in, it's not yours to deal with, so give it to the one in who owns it.

Then there was last Sunday, when we talked about perseverance. And the knowledge that it's usually when you're doing something right that all hell breaks loose. Maybe that's what's happening. Or maybe it's just a bad day. Either way I've got two choices: Happiness or bitterness. Burdens or freedom.

Tonight I'm choosing this:

How about you? What are you dealing with today? What are you choosing? Can I pray for you? 

Linking up with my lovely friend Lisha and again over at a new spot with Kelly at a Field of Wildflowers.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Five Minute Friday: Send

Welcome to Five Minute Friday. The flash mob of writing where we link up over at Kate's place.

The Prompt: Send

Go.



I wish I could send myself a letter. The future me, I wish she could send the now me a letter. Some nuggets of truth and words of wisdom. I think I know what she might say. It would go a little like this:

Dear self,

Hello there. You look tired. No, you are tired. The babe probably hasn't been sleeping well because apparently baby teeth never cease to come in. Which means he's in bed with you-hot and wandering across the blankets in a fit of swollen gum frustration. And he's on the verge of the terror twos, which are as endearing as they are exhausting.

You haven't ran in ages. The weather and your weary body are to blame. And it's dark out there and you've worked enough with the scary patients to not want to be there by yourself. So you're aggravated with this body that you can't even blame on pregnancy and childbirth. There is no such grace for adoptive mammas.

You worry. A lot. You worry about your kids and their friends and the choices they make. You're working on coming to peace with the knowledge that each choice is theirs and not a direct reflection of you. But that's a tough pill to swallow. And you worry about other things-jobs, finances, finding a spare moment with the man you married that doesn't include talk about teacher conferences and baby wipes.

But here's the thing-it's going to be okay.

Tonight it may not seem like it. Tonight may have been full of tantrums and dishes and trying to keep up.

But it's going to be okay.

Your kids-they're amazing. They are funny and creative and brilliant. The twos will be gone before you know it, and those nights of baby fingers in your hair will end too quickly.

Little League and band concerts and being the taxi only lasts for a time. And don't forget-the car is often where your children will talk the most. You'll learn about boys and friends and fights and dreams as you turn on the blinkers and turn down the radio. Before long you wont be wrestling the toddler into the car seat, and the mom-mobile with all the seats wont be necessary.

Soon enough there wont be school papers lining the counters and legos trying to imprint themselves on the bottom of your foot. Darth Vader and Optimus Prime will lose their hold and girls with guitars will take over.

And that man you have? The one that tells you to go to Costco on your own because he knows it's like a mini vacation-the conversations with him will change too. You'll still have plenty to discuss, but you'll remember with a little bit of sadness how you always circled back to the next school project and how you'll ever find a babysitter for Saturday night. You'll miss those "date nights" after the kids go to bed, because that's the only moment the house is quiet.

And the work and job and other worries? It will come. The writing is what you love and don't forget that. The jobs will come and go, and you'll change lives in the midst.


So, ~M. Take a breath and take a bubble bath. Take a minute to relax and breath in the smell of youth and family and adventure.

This world only spins so many times with you in it, don't let it slip by.

Take care,
~M

Stop.