Saturday, December 15, 2012

Where is God when.....

    There's a message that floats around my inbox and fills up my FB news feed---it turns up usually when something tragic has happened.  I'm sure you've seen it too---it's the one that addresses the question of where is God when tragedy strikes.  The answer given in this particular message is something like--Well---we have continually asked God to get out of our schools---out of our government---out of our lives---and so He finally has obliged us in this respect.

And I just feel like I need to say this---Guys, God has never needed our permission---or an engraved invitation from us---to be present in our schools---in our government---in our lives.  God is here---He made this world and everything in it.  We broke it with sin---but God didn't leave us when sin entered the world---He set a plan in motion to redeem it through Christ.  

  If God turned His back on us every time we turned our back on Him---we would all be in a very dire position---to say the least.  But God doesn't love the way we love---He loves unconditionally.  And He doesn't give up on us when we give up on Him.  God is in our schools because He's God---He isn't Tinkerbell waiting for us to clap our hands and say that Yes, we do believe in fairies.  It isn't our belief in Him that gives Him life or meaning or anything at all.  Our belief in Him is what gives US new life, meaning, salvation, and anything Good.  God is God---and He is here whether we believe in Him---whether we invite Him or not.  God is in our schools because He lives in the hearts of our students, our administrators, our teachers.  God is present.  

With that said---the inevitable questions follow....

Why would God let this happen?

If God is sovereign---then this tragedy is His will---and how can it be that He is a good God if this is so???

Questions like these have no easy answers...

What happened in Connecticut was a tragedy of monumental proportions---one that strikes a chord of empathy and compassion in all of us.  Our grief is ignited for the people whose lives were either taken or turned upside down by the loss of a family member or loved one.  And the grief is amplified exponentially when the lives of children are taken.  It shakes us.  I think our love for children is a holy love---one given to us by a God who took particular delight in children.  The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these....  And I believe God too---feels the grief that we feel when children are harmed.

The fact that children were exposed to this kind of violence----it makes it all the more horrible---all the more unconscionable---all the more evil.  And in writing this---it is not my intention to make the events of yesterday out to be anything other than what they are.  

Evil walked the halls of that elementary school yesterday.  But friends, I don't believe for a second that God wasn't there as well.  

I know that God was there when I read about Victoria Soto, who stood between her students and the gunman---who sacrificed her life for theirs. 

I know that God was there when I read about the principal  and school psychologist who, upon hearing the first gunshots, immediately ran towards the danger in an effort to confront the gunman---they died trying to protect the students and faculty of their school.

And I'm certain that as time passes, more stories will come to light---stories of people who put themselves in harms' way to protect others.  

And this love of others before self---this self-sacrificing kind of love----I just don't believe it can be present when God is not.  

Our God is a God who lives in the hearts of His children.  And wherever His children are---there He is also.  He doesn't leave us when terrible things happen.  I don't have any answers about the whys...and my heart and my prayers go out to any and all whose lives were forever changed by yesterday's tragedy.  But in the midst of this uncertainty---I do know some things which remain true:  God is present---and God loves us.  And there will come a time when He will make all things new.





Monday, September 3, 2012

Corduroy's Cake Adventure

There once was a bear named Corduroy....

One day, his friends, Ashley and Nikki, said to him:  "Wouldn't it be nice if we made a cake that looked just like you?"

Corduroy looked back at them askance.  "Ummmm.  I'm pretty sure I've never nor will I ever want to see a cake that looks just like me.  And besides---Ashley---didn't you once start a fire in the kitchen while attempting to boil water?"

Ashley replied, "That was a long time ago.  And I believe I have learned from my past mistakes---thus eliminating the chance that I will repeat them.  Profound, right?"

"Profoundly stupid," muttered Corduroy under his breath.  But after rolling his eyes, he grudgingly agreed to the plan, though he secretly believed it would only end in tears  (or flames, whichever came first).  Still, it was for Miriam's birthday, how could he refuse?

Ashley baked the cakes and cupcakes---and had many adventures, which you can read about here:  http://ashleyandstuart.blogspot.com/2012/08/dear-friends-family-countrymen-etc-as.html

After a fair amount of destruction and subsequent reconstruction to Ashley's kitchen, everyone decided it would be best to continue this ill fated plan at Gran's house---well, everyone except Gran that is.


Before heading over to Gran's house, Ashley sent threatening text messages to her.  "Are you humming the theme song to 'Jaws'----because you should be.  Da da....da da.....da da da da da..."

Corduroy reprimanded Ashley for her poor manners---but apparently it was to no avail.  For when Nikki texted Ashley a few minutes later---cheerfully mentioning that she had her apron all ready.  Ashley chuckled in a somewhat evil fashion and texted back:  "The apron won't save you!"

Corduroy was very disappointed in Ashley's behavior, but, for the sake of Miriam, he continued to cooperate with the plan.

Ashley and Nikki assembled the cake and cupcakes until they resembled a naked bear.  Corduroy was slightly embarrassed at the scandalous sight.


Then, they drew his face and outlined his paws and overalls with black icing.  Corduroy watched with bated breath, still anxious.


They added light brown frosting for his muzzle and the pads of his paws.  



Then came the dark brown frosting for the rest of his fur.











Suddenly, Corduroy, driven to distraction by the naked bear cake, began to contemplate a new career as a pole dancer.  He said he thought his missing button and the resulting off the shoulder overall strap--made him look sexy.


Ashley and Nikki talked him out of his spiral into depravity---and then continued working.  They added a purple pocket and a party hat.

And finally, they piped in Corduroy's green overalls.  They added finishing touches---like an "M" for Miriam on his pocket---and filled in the whites of his eyes---and decorated the party hat with dots of pink and white icing.



Nikki even iced a leftover cupcake with green icing---and Ashley piped the number one on top with pink icing---making a special little cake for Miriam to smash at her party.



In the end, even Corduroy agreed that the cake wasn't half bad!  

Ashley asked--"What comes before Part B, Corduroy??"

And Corduroy joyfully replied "Part-Aaaayyyyyy!!!!"

***Stay tuned for the Corduroy Cake adventure Part II---the Party!!!!



Friday, August 31, 2012

The Non-Baker's Plea

Dear friends, family, countrymen, etc


As many of you know, my daughter's first birthday is quickly approaching.  On September 4, she will be one whole year old.  I am still trying to wrap my mind around how that is even possible---my best guess thus far is some kind of warp in the space time continuum.  Because, seriously, she can NOT already be a year old.  My little girl--- the walking, talking (sort of) queen of maniacal laughter can not possibly be turning one whole year old.  Except that she is....

Anyhow, excuse the sentimental introduction.  And let's get down to business. I need your help.  Those of you closest to me have recently heard me ramble on about how I am going to make a homemade cake for Miriam.  A homemade cake in the shape of Corduroy.  I'm copying some other woman's genius blueprint for this fabulous construction (ain't the internet grand)---and tonight, I have just finished baking the cakes and cupcakes (which will be artfully cut and arranged into the shape of Miriam's favorite bear)---and mixing up the homemade icing.

And here's where I need your help.  The next time you hear me proudly exclaim that I am going to do anything at all whatsoever in the kitchen "from scratch"---I am asking that you kindly and patiently remind me that I once started a fire in the kitchen while attempting to boil water.  People who start fires in kitchens while boiling water have absolutely no business attempting to turn food into anything other than food---specifically bears with green overalls.  People who start fires in kitchens while boiling water should really just concentrate on making food that tastes like food.  That would be a good place to start....

But no.  It's Miriam's first birthday.  It should be special, right?  With a homemade cake and everything. So tonight's plan---no biggie.  Just bake the cakes.  And mix the icing.  That's all.  Tomorrow's when the real fun starts with the decorating.

What could possibly go wrong?  Just ask the person who once started a fire in her kitchen while attempting to boil water.

A line of Andrew Lloyd Weber's "Phantom of the Opera" springs to mind:  "A disaster beyond your imagination will occur!!"  If you call me friend, you should quote this to me the next time I start getting all idealistic about my kitchen skills...

Anyhow--disaster number one:

The cakes and cupcakes actually made it into and out of the oven with little drama.  However, once placed upon the cooling rack---which to my credit---WAS on the highest counter available---Molly, our golden retriever---through some act of incredible acrobatic prowess (probably fueled by an adrenaline surge brought on by the smell of butter cake)---managed to lick the corner of the 8" cake (which was to be Corduroy's tummy) before I chased her down and kicked her outside, into the rainy, windy remnants of Isaac.  And so, of course, I had to cook that cake over again.  Or did I?  Bwahahahahaha.

Disaster number two:

"I think I'll just make the icing from scratch.  Everyone online says this recipe is super easy and tastes wonderful."  Oh friends---why did you not shut this plan down??  Why Why Why????   There are perfectly good cans of frosting just sitting on the shelves going to waste.....Why didn't I just pick up a few cans??  Why???

Step 1:  cream butter and shortening in mixing bowl with blender.

Okey dokey.  I go to town with my happy little mixer---and then o holy mother of pearl----chunks of butter and crisco go flying all over my kitchen--speckling me, the counters and everything on them---not to mention the ceiling above us---with well, slightly mixed chunks of butter and crisco.  My first thought?  "Well, that will be fun for later, huh?"  Stu, hearing me doing an impression of Yosemite Sam, sweetly asks---"Do you need any help in there?"  Me:  "Ummm.  I might need help later...."

We won't even talk about what happened when I added the confectioner's sugar.....O the horror.


And see, tomorrow---there will be food coloring involved....of course since the party is being held at my parents' house---we (Nikki will supervise me tomorrow---this may be a saving grace---or she might just run away screaming) will assemble and decorate the cakes in my mom's kitchen.  Again---this really doesn't need to be said---the Bwahahahahaha is implied---but still Bwahahahahahahaha nonetheless.

Anyhow---I've recorded these misadventures for the sake of posterity.  I shall read over them when I get all---"Oh that doesn't sound too hard" about cooking---or my friends and family will speak with me using one of these two acceptable opening lines: "People who start fires in kitchens while attempting to boil water...." or "A disaster beyond your imagination will occur."

In the meantime---what's started is started.  And tomorrow---it will be finished......as will possibly be my mom's kitchen.....as will possibly be me after my mom sees her kitchen.  Hmmmm.  All in all, it's really been a pretty good life.....This letter may not be necessary after all.












Tuesday, June 5, 2012

On Being "that" mom....

   My sister in law, Nikki, went with us when we registered at Babies R Us and Target.  She walked us through the baby stuff like a pro---and helped us find the stuff we'd love---and avoid the stuff that warranted a swift--"Don't get that....you'll hate that..."  

It....

Was.....

Awesome....



There's still one moment from those excursions that stands out vividly in my mind.  Me standing in front of the video baby monitors with a wistful expression on my face. 

Nikki:  Oh Ashley....don't be that parent.
Me:  I'm pretty sure I'm going to be that parent.
Nikki:  sighs  Yeah--I know.

Heh.  I did steer clear of the video monitor.  But the truth is....I am soooooo that mom.  It's actually pretty ridiculous.


It all started with poking the baby whenever she was too still or quiet---just to make sure she was still alive.  You can read more about that here:  http://ashleyandstuart.blogspot.com/2011/09/poking-baby.html  

And then Miriam learned to turn over---and she found that she liked sleeping on her tummy.  Egads!  SIDS!  You're supposed to sleep on your back, kiddo!  So you know what I did, right?  I'd check on her constantly---and if I found her sleeping on her tummy, I'd flip her to her back.  Which invariably woke her up and made her mad---but hey, I felt better.  Which was the point.  Stellar parenting---yes, I know.  Actually this phase didn't last long because my husband---who is normally extraordinarily indulgent with me----actually put his foot down.  "Ashley, you have to stop flipping the baby.  She's fine!"  This conversation eerily paralleled the poking the baby conversation...

Other sure indications that I am indeed that mom---

I read three baby care books cover to cover---and I continue to reread them---and I get mad when there are discrepancies between them. (I recognize this is illogical---if I wanted them all to say the same thing---I should have just bought three copies of the same book.)

When Miriam was rolling over---I used to worry it hurt her heard when she went from tummy to back....so I spent an inordinate amount of time on the floor--- always having a hand ready to cushion that head when she rolled.

I once googled "Baby gets sick dies from eating too much oatmeal" because I was scared that I'd fed Miriam too much baby oatmeal and that she had developed some kind of deadly blockage or something---from OATMEAL. Sigh---that one hurts to admit.

I insisted we take her to the ER for what turned out to be....drum roll please.....constipation.  My dad's comment:  "Be sure to call me next time she has a bowel movement so I can have another heart attack."

And I suppose that you can imagine how this freaks me out:



video

And this as well.

And I learned that no matter how nice the nurses at your doctor's office are---you shouldn't call them once a week over stupid crap.  Strangely enough, they don't like that.  Not that I did this---I just heard from a friend...


The standing and crawling led me right back to the baby books for babyproofing ideas---which very specifically outlined all the ways my child could die in my home:  suffocation, strangulation, poison, fire, drowning.....I told Stu---our house is just one huge accident waiting to happen.  Blurg!

I'm still that mom---standing in front of the video monitors---going---I just want to make everything safe and happy ALL the time.  Which is of course impossible---and will only become more impossible---because Miriam's world is just going to get bigger and bigger.....

I think part of being this way stems from the fact that I've never spent a lot of time around babies.  Children, yes---babies, no.  I've always thought of babies as being extremely breakable.  And I've always been that person that didn't even want to hold the baby until he or she was a solid three or four months old and seemed just a little less fragile to me.

Before Miriam came home---I even practiced diapering and swaddling on paper towel rolls. Here's a photo example of that little piece of crazy:
****You can tell that this isn't the original because it's actually NOT on backwards....Yes some of us really are that stupid...

I didn't know anything about babies, really.  Hence the marathon baby care reading.  And maybe that's why I was ultra worried about safety.  Still---I know it's time to stop driving myself----and everyone around me---crazy.  I'm hopping off the crazy train---right now----well, after I make sure that everything in this house is flame retardant.....  Ha!

It's true--I am that mom.  But still---I love being a mom.  Take one look at this face---and I bet you can tell why.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Finalization---Before and After

Before---

 Almost eight months ago, we brought baby Miriam home.  We were happy and excited---and in love---but uncertainty about the future of our family circled us---and the tiny baby who woke up every few hours for feedings and cuddles---she wasn't the only thing that caused us some sleepless nights, or in a manner of speaking, I suppose she was.  Would she be here today only to be gone tomorrow?  And at the same time that we loved, we grieved. We grieved for what was---and we grieved for what could be.  Adoption is born of brokenness---of heartbreak.  C's heart was broken---while our hearts were filled to bursting.  We contemplated the sacrifice.....and at the same time we recognized the possibility that it would be undone---and that baby Miriam would go into foster care---or be placed with a completely different family. (Our adoption experience is not by any means indicative of all adoption experiences, there were many atypical factors which brought about these possibilities---though still---I'm not certain there is a "norm" in these situations)  Stuart sat in the recliner holding a tiny bundle whose arms stretched out towards his face----unable to maintain the boundaries between the face he wished to present---and the face which represented him.  And in that moment lay both my undoing---and my strength.  Peace beyond understanding.....those words had new meaning.  Sometimes God gives you a peace that isn't of your own manufacturing......I don't know---maybe this is a foolish thing to say since probably any peace---anything good---it's never of our own manufacturing.  It's always from God.  It's just---at that fork in the road----this truth was more apparent to me than ever before.  I knew that any peace we enjoyed in the midst of not knowing......I knew it wasn't really ours---it was on loan---it was a gift that we couldn't have given to ourselves.  And on top of that peace--I think we gained a few drops of understanding in this time of "before:"

I think we learned something about the nature of love-----the people we love aren't on this sliding scale when it comes to their importance.  It isn't as if---the longer you love someone, the more they matter.  We couldn't have loved Miriam more in that moment----and there was no certainty----there was no timeframe set for how long she would be with us.  And love abounded just the same.  Love may be the only thing that doesn't diminish as it is given....even when it is given in uncertainty---God gave us a unique gift when He gave us the ability to love---because it only increases exponentially as it is given away---even if the object of our affection may not stay on our horizon for more than a blink.

 And we came to understand that we don't control anything.  God is in control---and God will provide.  Perhaps it's easy to say that God is good all the time now, on the other side of the rainbow, so to speak.....but I found that I believed it then too---with the forecast of tomorrow's day hidden and unknowable----I knew that God was good.  I knew that God would be good even if things had turned out dramatically different.  God works for the good---the good we can see and understand----as well as the good that we can't.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord."  Isaiah 55:8

After:

We finalized our adoption on Monday, April 30 at 9:00 am at the Shelby County Courthouse.  It's a funny thing---because nothing has changed really---and yet simultaneously everything has changed.  The courts officially recognize that Miriam is our child---"as if she were born to you--"---that's the terminology that was used.  In other words---no one can take her away now.  We don't have to prove to anyone anymore that we are the right parents for this child.  We're just her parents now, and that is a huge relief.  We've always felt we were her parents---from the first minute.  But that wasn't a legal truth until now.  And definitely, a weight has been lifted.

Please don't misunderstand me---it wasn't as if someone were waiting in the wings---just looking for a chance to swoop her out of our arms.  I don't want to paint adoption in that light---that wouldn't be an accurate picture.  However---it was a possibility---though not a probability---that our fears would come to life.  But still---no matter how slight the chances of something going wrong in the adoption plan----the idea of those chances danced around in our heads at times, and wormed their way into anxieties.  Even though we knew---trust God---and whatever happens is His will, His plan---and it will be for the good.....still---we're human---and we worried at times.  And to have those worries dashed away with a single phrase:  "You understand that this is not a custody hearing.  Should this petition be approved---it will be as if Miriam is born unto you."  I can't say it wasn't a relief---and that it didn't feel darn good.  Because it did.  Miriam will always have two mothers---one loved her and gave her life but was unable to parent---and one was given the privilege of parenting her.  I will never pretend that C is less than she is---I will never pretend that she isn't important.  Because she is.  She's a part of my child.  And I don't intend to use the phrase "as if she were born unto you" in a manner that negates the roots of my child.  But I do intend to view this phrase as an affirmation that my family is valid---I am her mother and Stuart is her father---the privilege----the responsibility for the well being of our child belongs to no one (no human, at least) but us.  And I think that this is why, when the papers were signed approving our petition to adopt----our family clapped in the chambers----this is why we threw what I like to call Miriam's first shindig hootenanny----this is why we celebrated---and thanked God for all that He has done.

Aunt Nikki is a pro with her camera---so here is April 30, 2012---in pictures.

Waiting inside the courthouse.  Miriam is in her bib, as always, to protect her clothes.  My girl still has her reflux---and she really has no qualms about spitting up anywhere---courthouse or not.



Swearing in.  Miriam's raising her right hand too----you just can't tell in this picture.  ;)




Our petition to adopt is approved!!!


Kenneth Armstrong was nice enough to let is take a picture with him to commemorate the day:



Miriam's favorite part of finalization day?  The mirrors on the ceiling of the elevator.  



And we'll end with some family pics---the Finches.  Aunt Nikki really had to make Grandaddy (or G-dawg as he likes to be called) behave.  He kept talking about being acquitted and such when he was supposed to be smiling for pictures.  We think he was joking.  Sigh, I remember similar shenanigans during our wedding pictures.....good times, good times.   And Nana and Miriam unintentionally coordinated their outfits. Awwww.  Though Miriam was jealous of Nana's bracelet. 


A picture with Aunt Nikki.  We love you Aunt Nikki.  I think everyone should meet you because anyone who doesn't know you is just missing out.  


Huffstetlers and Finches.  Pop and Gran were just a little bit excited.   Hence the hootenanny the next day.  


And just us---a party of three.  





Friday, April 6, 2012

Salvation---today we remember it isn't free...

Then he said to them, my soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death... Matthew 26:38

......"My father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will."   Matthew 26:39

Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists.  Others slapped him and said, "Prophesy to us, Christ.  Who hit you?"  Matthew 26:67

They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head.  They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him.  "Hail, king of the Jews!" they said.  They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.  After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him.  Then they led him away to crucify him.   Matthew 27:28-31

Have you ever wondered why there are stories of martyrs who have been put to death for their faith who endured their suffering with songs and praises---while Jesus went to His death crying out for the Father to stay with Him---feeling "overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death."  Are the martyrs stronger somehow than Christ?  No.  Christ suffered something worse than physical torture and death---as if that wasn't bad enough.  Christ suffered the abandonment of the Father.  One who had existed an eternity as the holy Trinity---the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit---in perfect communion with the Father, in perfect fellowship and submission to and with God and as God----went to His death alone, stripped not only of his clothes---but also of His perfect companionship with God.  Because God can't bear sin---He wouldn't be God if He could.  And Jesus took that sin upon Himself----brought God's judgment down upon Himself---in our place.  His heart, as well as his body, was broken---so that ours could be mended.  Our salvation is not free---there was a cost---it's just---we aren't the ones who had to pay it.  On the day that God died for us----He turned the world on its ear.  And sometimes I don't like to think about it---because the truth is---what God did for us---it demands a response---and it demands a change within ourselves....at our church they like to say:  "Religion changes behaviors---the gospel changes desires."  One cannot accept the truth of the crucifixion....of Jesus going to  His death alone and in agony----all the while asking God to forgive the people who put him there (and that would be us as well as those were there on that day---our sin as much as theirs hung Jesus on that cross)----and not be changed.

Today I will take a moment and remember what God has done----I will look at the grudges that I carry around with me as if they are an integral part of my being---I will acknowledge that I cling to them as a way to remember who has wronged me---so that I can be sure to distance myself from them---so that I might protect myself again....and then I will think of Jesus on the cross---broken in every possible way........ a line from the "Hunger Games" come to mind here---where Katniss is processing the extravagance and abundance of the Capitol----while at the same time remembering the plight of starvation among the people in her district.  She doesn't say anything---but it is written across her face.  And Cinna says to her: "How despicable we must seem to you."  And this is what I say to God when I look at my petty grudges---so carefully preserved and guarded close to my heart---as if they were precious......while He gave His Son---somehow gave Himself---over to death and the agony of separation----all to forgive and cleanse our sin.  Why does He give everything to cleanse our sin away---and yet we are so staunchly engrossed in remembering it.....holding on to it.....never allowing its grip on us to loosen---both in our own sinful patterns we can't seem to break free of----and also in the sin of others---which we refuse to forget.  In the light of what Christ has done......"how despicable"  I truly am.

This reminds me again---I am human---Jesus is God.  I cannot live the life Jesus lived.  But because He lived---because He died----I can live a life in companionship with God.  This life---and the time after this life----filled with the joy of walking with God---it costs me nothing.  But do not mistake that to mean there was not a cost.....there was a tremendous cost---and Jesus stepped in my place and paid it for me.  And He paid it for anyone reading this as well.  This Easter season, it is not the time to embrace religion---laws and legalism---that will only change our behaviors.  Let's embrace the gospel---the truth of how much Christ loved us and what He did for us to complete that love----and may that gospel change our hearts and our desires.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Springtime memories

As we move further into March---and as the days seem progressively brighter and greener---as wind and warmth promise Spring---I can already feel the memories of last year's spring tugging at my sleeves.

It would feel wrong and unnatural not to acknowledge them in some way---and also---because looking back I can clearly see God's hand in ways that weren't apparent to me then---in a way it would be even sinful to dismiss them perfunctorily. It is so easy to forget the good things God has done for me----in the moment of their appearance---I am exceedingly grateful  to God----but as time passes;  the memories of His obvious faithfulness become fainter---and it takes a concerted effort to retrieve them.

And then the painful things that God has walked through with me in order to eventually bless me---if I don't take the time to look back with the benefit of hindsight---I could easily miss yet another opportunity to acknowledge the absolute goodness of God.  Miriam wouldn't be here with us without a number of painful experiences: struggling with infertility, a broken ankle which prompted me to learn to knit (one of the first things that drew C to us as she searched through prospective adoptive parents), and two failed adoptions (ie--biological mother changes her mind and the adoption plan does not occur.)

I think it's important to remind myself of these things.  Because when I get busy---or just in a routine so much that I can't see anything beyond it---I do forget.  I forget to be thankful---I forget that having this baby isn't something that I made happen or that Stu made happen, but rather something that God made happen (as is the case, I imagine, with any child in any family).  God wove every thread---no matter how inconsequential, or annoying, or painful, or commonplace it seemed---into a very specific pattern.  He gave us this child, this blessing.  And we don't deserve it.

The fact that God is not transactional with us is a common theme in the services at our church.  One of our pastors said once that it's one of the hardest things for us to wrap our heads around---because we are so transactional in our relationships with others.  You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours, right?  Another of our pastors put it this way---(and I'm paraphrasing as I can never remember complete quotes)---"You put in your time, you go to church, you read the Bible, do your good deeds, as if you're putting coins in this big cosmic vending machine---and at the end of the day if things don't work out the way you want them to---you're mad at God---because God owes you.  You're trying to turn your relationship with God into the same kind of relationship you have with everyone else.  But you know, you better hope God doesn't get transactional with you.

Amen, right?  I'm so guilty of this---kind of in a backwards way.  I don't do a ton of good deeds;  I miss church, I pretty much stink at relationships (my foot lives in my mouth)---I have perpetual tunnel vision where I see only my own little world....so I've never thought I had any coins to stick in the cosmic vending machine....but I remember when we were struggling with infertility thinking--Ok God, I know I'm not the best person around, but surely I'm not the worst right?  I mean there are people walking around with babies right now---and they've done things a lot worse than me.  I don't deserve to be punished like this......And even then, I knew better, I knew that God doesn't rank sins in the same way that we humans do----I knew I deserved way worse than the absence of a biological child---I deserve an eternity of separation from God in hell.  But still---somewhere beneath the folds of how I knew I should feel----at the most basic level--- I felt betrayed.

And then God began to whisper adoption.  And I did not want to do it.  I wanted having a child to be something that happened between Stuart and me.  Already we'd added the doctors into the mix---I didn't want to add social workers and the faceless pregnant women who I couldn't even begin to imagine.  I knew God was saying "adopt"---I very clearly heard him say "no" to a biological child at this time--but I didn't want to do it.

So let's back up and review--I was ungrateful, disobedient, and selfish. What do I deserve?  Squat.  Actually---less than squat---punishment would be the more fitting response to this kind of attitude.  What do I get?  A beautiful, loving, silly, laughing baby girl whom I can't fathom not being a part of our family--Miriam.  And not only that, but those faceless women I couldn't imagine ---I was privileged to meet three of them.  Two of them chose to parent---and that is as it should be.  A child should be parented by his/her biological parents if it is possible---and if the situation is a healthy and safe one.

Which brings us to past Spring.  We met M on April 14.  Here was my first impression of her and her daughter:

 M is a really beautiful woman.  She has long hair and dark brown eyes.  Her complexion is the color of coffee with cream---and she definitely had the whole pregnancy glow thing working for her.  M brought her daughter, C, with her to the meeting.  C is five years old---bubbly, sweet-natured, polite, and altogether adorable with her sparkly shoes and meticulously braided hair.


I can remember Stu saying the night after we met her:  "Part of me is sad that the baby can't stay with her." And this thought troubled me as well, though a bigger part of me was excited to meet this child and to bring him into our family.  When M chose to parent---yes it was extraordinarily difficult--even though we knew it was best---it was still very very hard.  I won't pretend that it wasn't.  I broke down numerous times and in some embarrassing fashions.  But God did grant us a peace---despite the fact that we apparently didn't trust Him enough not to be upset.  We were given a peace that we didn't deserve.  And M is someone I'll never forget.  And I am not at all sorry to have met her---rather it is a memory that I will hold carefully to.  I will take it out and polish it when it becomes unclear ---because it has become something precious to me---something I wish to keep vivid and sharp in my mind's eye.  Because meeting M and subsequently finding out that M chose to parent the child herself--it was the beginning of learning to trust God---and to finally feel---that no matter what happens---no matter if we never become parents in any fashion---God is all we really need.  God gave us a peace we couldn't have attained on our own (and it wouldn't be the last time He would do it for us either)---He gave us the strength to get through something that we weren't sure we could get through---God brought us closer together when it would have been easy to drift apart.  I think that this time starkly brought out the realization that God is who is carrying us---completely.  He gave us a love for M----one that hasn't died---though sometimes when I am absentminded--it goes untended.  He reminded us---there are hurting people all around us---they need our prayers, our compassion, our action----they do not need judgment from anyone but God.  And one part of my heart which had remained cold and hard---began to soften upon meeting M.

Then there was B.  We met B on May 6, 2011.  This was the day after M's baby boy was born---the day after we learned that she had found a way to parent the baby.   Of B, I wrote:


We met a woman with a broken heart yesterday.

     "I feel as though I can't breathe."
     "My child will always wonder, 'if my mom kept my two brothers, why couldn't she keep me?'  "
     "Am I doing the right thing?"
      "I called the church and told them I just needed someone to talk to.  I don't know anyone here."
    
    Her head was bowed most of the time, she rarely met our eyes, and she cried throughout much of the meeting......

God gave us a love for her, as well.  And the ability to have a happy heart when we were told that B would find a way to parent her child.  Because how could we not be?  When I think of her now---I like to think that she is happy and smiling---at peace with her three sweet boys.  

I don't know---the joy I find in being Miriam's mother---it's all tied up with these other women somehow.  I'm not completely sure why---but when I think of C---Miriam's biological mother---I also think of M and B.  Maybe because I met them on the path to Miriam---maybe because though they didn't add a third physical person to our family---they somehow added to us---became a part of us---nonetheless.  Meeting them changed us, I think.  

And then there's C.  Here was my first impression of her---we met her mid-August.

Our first meeting with C was much more comfortable than any of our other meetings.  C is easy to talk to, full of laughter, and she truly seems to be a person who lives in the delight of fellowship/relationship with God. 


We still meet with C---we met with her when Miriam was 1 week old, two weeks old, 1 month old, two months old, four months old---and most recently, when Miriam turned 6 months old.  Our next meeting is scheduled when Miriam turns one year old---though I imagine we may meet before that time.  The relationship we have with C is a learning process.  With M and B---we met them once---we passed by them and they passed by us---only briefly---though the meetings impacted Stuart and I permanently.  Etched in my mind forever will be M's quiet, sad smile---and B's tear-filled, downward cast eyes. But they are memories only---we have no real relationship with them, though if I ever chanced across either of them again---I would recognize them instantly. With C---the relationship is ongoing---real---and because it's real---it's difficult.  I've always been the kind of person who doesn't hold on to people when I feel like things get too hard.  If my feelings are hurt once too often--if someone hurts or wrongs someone I love----if I feel like someone isn't meeting me halfway (can you say transactional?)---I walk.  And usually--I don't look back.  I do it carelessly---with no qualms---and then, years later---the regrets surface.  

It's scary to admit this about myself---but honestly---I've done this numerous times.  And I'm only just now beginning to realize what a terrible trait this is.

So, our relationship with C can be hard.  I was telling a friend the other day---it's almost like being in a love triangle.  Stu and I love Miriam---C loves Miriam---but we're still working on the relationship between us:  C and Stu and I.  Complexities abound on both sides---and they are difficult to navigate.  This is usually where I bolt--and I tell myself---I don't have time for this.  I know, I am so wrong for this---and I guess, tenuously forming this relationship with C, even though it isn't easy---has made it even more clear how wrong I've been in the past to live as if relationships cease to matter when they become too imperfect.  I just want to smack my past self---sometimes present self as well, (cause I still struggle with this)---and say:  "Hey idiot, it isn't supposed to be easy."

I don't know---I read a lot of rainbows and ponies stories about open adoption situations before we adopted---much of it is required reading if you adopt.  And I think, on one hand, I'm glad I read these books---because they do negate some of the stereotypes you might be holding onto---and plant in their place a more compassionate, loving view of these women who make adoption plans for their children.  But---on the other hand----it makes it seem easy.  Maybe, for some people it is.  I don't know.  For us, it isn't.  Misplaced fears and an overly developed sensitivity that raises its hackles at the slightest offense can wreak havoc on a tenuous relationship.  And in the delicate situation we're in---it's extremely easy to misplace fears and remain overly sensitive----for all parties involved.  But I know I can't bail.  It would be wrong, yes-----and extra incentive to hold on:  Miriam will one day have questions that I can't really answer.  C can though---C is the only one with those answers.  And for Miriam to know C---to have a connection with her biological mother----I just imagine that might be important to her someday----and I don't want to rob her of that just because I'm insecure.  That would be selfish---selfish in a way which would ultimately be hurtful to Miriam as well as to C.  So we're working on it---and we pray that God is working on us---all of us in this love triangle.  Because there's still a rebellious little voice in my head---well, sometimes it's bigger than little---that says:  "Why can't Miriam just be our child?  Mine and Stu's?  Why do we have to share her?"  My main objection to adoption from so long ago----it still lives and breathes--and I know how ungrateful and selfish it is---yet I haven't completely managed to squash it.  Blurg---who am I kidding---I can't do away with it on my own.  I have to pray and struggle and work---and trust God to mold my heart into place.  It shouldn't just be about Stu and me.  Somebody make me a flashing, blinking, neon sign, would ya: "It isn't all about you, genius."

I really hope---that as I learn to lean less upon my own understanding---and more on God---and remember how He isn't transactional with me---and how "I better hope he never gets transactional with me"------I'll be less transactional in my relationships---with C, in particular, yes----but really with everyone.  I'll accept that people are messy---I'll remember that I'm pretty durn messy myself---and I'll love others regardless.  This is my prayer.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bargain Babies

Did anyone catch the wreg newscast at 10 tonight?  They did a piece whose ads had multiracial families formed through adoptions cringe in anticipation (the bad kind) entitled "Bargain Babies."

The ad showed an African American baby and a Caucasian baby side by side.  The voiceover was something along the lines of:  Two babies---both of them need to be adopted.  But one of them costs less than the other.  You may have to wait years for one baby---but a significantly less amount of time for the other.  Watch tonight, Bargain Babies.  Cringe, cringe, and cringe.  

Ok---lemme start off by saying that many multiracial families that are formed through adoption already find themselves under some pretty intense scrutiny.  At the grocery store, at restaurants, at the park....Here are some comments that friends of mine have had thrown at them as direct fire---or, if it's a sneak attack--then----spoken loudly so that they could be easily overheard.

"How much did he cost?"
"Somebody gave that girl the wrong baby!"
"You know the only reason they adopted those babies is because they got paid to."
"You're adopting a black child....will it be a crack baby then?"

Stu and I have been extremely blessed in that we haven't had any really ugly encounters.  My friends, my family----everyone has been loving towards me and towards my child.  Even before Miriam got here--- everyone was holding their breath with me----waiting for this child---loving this child before we knew a thing about her.  I put it out there early that in all liklihood---our child would be of a different race than us----because I didn't want it to be a huge surprise when the baby came.  And people continued to celebrate with us----I saw our joy shining in the eyes of everyone I would call a friend.  And for this, I am eternally grateful.  I can sit here and cry my eyes out when I think about it.  Seriously. And to any of my African American friends who may be reading this---I need you to know that your excitement before baby Miriam arrived---your love once she got here---your continual support as she grows and develops--- means the world to me.  I still carry within me a fair amount of fear---that I'm going to mess my kid up---with skin or hair care mistakes----or that because I haven't experienced racism myself---I might not be able to prepare my baby girl for how to handle herself when she has to go through that  (ugh, ugh, and ugh---the world is so wrong).  I worry that my kid will wish that I am black---or that she will wish she were white because I fail to instill a positive self image within her.  But knowing that my African American friends have been so supportive of my adoption makes me feel like I have a safety net.  I've had some candid conversations with some of you-----about racial relations---about dealing with ignorance and prejudice.  And you have been so kind and loving in your willingness to share with me---and to offer some much needed advice.  The truth is--my African American friends have a wisdom that I can't have---you've dealt with things I haven't had to deal with---and you've walked out the other side with dignity, grace, even forgiveness.  Except I can't really say you've come through the other side---that implies that the struggle has reached its end---and I know from talking with you that it hasn't----that the struggle will unfortunately never end. Hatred has linked elbows with ignorance and this deadly duo is just hanging around---being passed down---generation to generation.  But you keep walking---you keep holding God's hand----and I just have the utmost respect for you---and I feel a tremendous sense of thanksgiving towards you.  -----Ok---little tangent there, but it needed to be said.


Of the above hurtful comments----only one was spoken to me---the crack baby comment.  And the person who said it seriously didn't even realize she had said something hurtful.  Her face was serene and politely inquisitive as the words poured out of her mouth.  Even when my jaw just about hit the ground.  

I have not had an ugly public scene---though it may only be a matter of time---because I think every family I know who has adopted transracially---has experienced the nasty public scene at some point or another.

I dread the nasty public scene----and at the same time, I feel guilty for dreading it.  I have not had to contend with the racism that African Americans have had to contend with----and so anything unpleasant that comes my way now does not even compare to what my friends have been diffusing, diverting, ignoring, combatting---all their lives.  And part of me is ashamed---because maybe I should have been a bigger part of the battle all along.  Don't get me wrong---- I've never understood how someone could hate a person based on the color of their skin.  I watched my mother defend her kids (she taught for years at Whitehaven high school) when people said racist things about what it must be like to teach at a school whose population was primarily African American.  And I tell you one thing---you want to see my momma get riled up----you just try and insult her kids.  But you better stand back---cause you're going to get it.  Believe me---she never has put up with that crap---and she never will.  You don't grow up in a home like that without some of that spunk seeping into you.  But the more racial problems become something that affects me and my family---personally---at a very intimate level (It doesn't get more personal, more intimate than your baby)---the more I feel it in a new way.  And the more I feel---that I haven't done enough to fight the prejudice that lurks just beneath the surface.   This fight should have been my fight all along.

Sorry---back to the point.  Though I have guilt over feeling this way when I compare my experiences with those of others---it remains a fact that intense scrutiny is not fun.  One of the gals who has adopted transracially says:  "Sometimes I just want to go to the store and buy my bananas---that's all.  Let me buy my bananas and go."  And when you see the ad flashing for "Bargain Babies" you can't help thinking.  Great--let's invite even more criticism of our families.

But I thought the segment itself was interesting---disturbing----but interesting.  I think that it highlighted the need for finding forever homes for all children, regardless of race.  I like what the adoptive couple said near the end---when she said something along the lines of---I think that this means that we all---white, black whatever---need to step up to the plate and give these children homes.

I think that the fact that a financial stipend is needed in order to find minority kids homes is just a symptom of some deeply rooted societal problems.  And while I don't think that it was necessarily wrong to point this out---I am afraid that some people will take away an unintended message pertaining to my family---and to other families like mine---Oh, if you're a white parent with a black child---then you must be getting paid every month.  Hmmmmm.  That's why you made the choice to adopt transracially.

And I feel the need to respond to this message.  So here are some things I want you to know about my family.

I don't get paid a stipend because I adopted through a private agency, not through the state (though I don't feel that adopting through the state is wrong.  Not at all.  Every child deserves a home.) My child did not "cost" less than a caucasian child. (I hate the "cost" thing---money changes hands anytime someone brings a baby home---hospital, agency, whatever)

When you adopt a child---you don't check the box next to the race of the child you want----you check off the boxes of the races that you do not wish your child to be.  Although, you are told that if you are open to adopting an African American child---it is highly likely that an African American baby will be placed in your family.

 I did not adopt to do some great altruistic thing.  As my sis-in-law Nikki said---I wanted a baby---I got me a baby.  God blessed me with Miriam----I hope He'll work it the other way around as well.  But any good that comes out of our adoption----is because of Him, not me.  I am pretty selfish when you come right down to it.  But God loves me anyhow---and He gave us this beautiful little girl.   And if you want to look at it that way--- God blesses me and my husband with something we haven't earned and don't deserve---then yes, I got a "bargain baby."