Thursday, May 30, 2013

Time keeps on slippin slippin slippin

This week marks the end of another school year.  We now have an 8th, 5th, 3rd, 2nd and 1st grader.  Feels weird to type that out.  I always feel too young for how old my kids are getting.  This weekend marks an even bigger time in our family's life.  4 years ago on the 31st, these two little children walked into our home and our family forever.  It would take another year and a half before the courts would agree with what our hearts knew.  As we sat waiting for a referral for one child from Ethiopia we had gotten a call about siblings that were local the Monday before.  After some prayer and discussion, Trevor and I decided that God's heart, our heart, was to give a child that needs a home a family.  It didn't matter where they came from.  I've always gone by the thinking that you just keep walking through the doors God opens until He closes it.  We met with their mom for her to get to know us a bit one day.  They came to visit another day so they would be comfortable with us and the following Monday Perri walked in smiling from ear to ear and Logan walked in with his arms crossed and a scowl that told us he had fought hard to get to this day.  When I look back on that time, it's a blur really.  I'm so glad I blogged about it so I can look back and see what it was all like.  We had 5 kids aged 8 and under overnight.  3 of them 3 and under.  We could have given so many excuses.  We could have said not now, no.  We could have said we don't have the money or the space or the time.  Thank God we listened to HIM.  Thank God we stepped out on faith and trusted.

Trevor had been layed off from his job.  They weren't sure how long it would last but probably a month and were pretty certain he would be able to return to his job.  It wasn't exactly the most opportune time to bring two other children into our home.  People thought we were crazy.  Many still do.   It wasn't easy.  There were times that were outright ugly.  Parenting little ones that are grieving is hard.  Parenting little ones that are transitioning into a new family is hard.  Parenting little ones that all the sudden have two new family members is hard.  Parenting is hard.  Being layed off is hard.  Patience is hard.  I blogged about the good, the bad and the ugly and I'm so grateful I did.   That experience taught me, like none other, that God provides.  Always.  He saw to it that we had food and snacks and clothing for them all.   He provided through angels all around us that would help with the kids and love on our hurting new babies....angels that sent gift cards and showed up with clothes or dinner....angels that showed us grace and generosity and the love of Jesus. It was amazing.  I remember that Trevor and I just decided to look at the lay off as a blessing.  He would get a month home with all of us and we would have a month or longer to bond as a family and grow together.  It truly was a blessing in disguise.  That experience also taught me that sometimes our blessings come from struggle.  Sometimes things aren't always as they appear and you can find His goodness even in the sufferings. 

Our family has gone on to welcome other little ones into our home throughout the past four years through Safe Families and it has been amazing to see our children's heart for others grow.  Some may question if that is fair to our children to make them share their rooms, stretch the money even further, spread our time amongst them all but I can tell you we wouldn't have it any other way.  Do we always get it right?  No.  Are their sacrifices, yes.  Sometimes do I have that I want peace and quiet and more money kind of day?  Absolutely.  BUT...The opportunity our children have to see the love of God poured out onto a family that is struggling, to children that need comforted is an experience I can't put a price on.  They are better because of it.  We are better because of it.  The children that have walked through our doors have given us more than we have ever given them.  They have taught us. 

Especially those first two.  The two that stayed.  The two that became ours.   I can't imagine life without Perri and Logan in it.  It has been a privilege to watch them grow in security and see them flourish in consistency and stability.   I've gotten to see our 'originals' open their hearts and their lives to another so intimately and innocently.  What an honor to be their momma.  I often think of Perri and Logan's first mom, with tears.  I sometimes feel angry at a broken world that failed her.  I feel sad she is missing all of this.  I pray for her often and am forever grateful that of the choices she had, she chose life.  And she chose us.  She chose to give them a chance to break the cycle she and the generation before her had lived with. 

I wouldn't have chosen for my Perri and Logan's life to begin like it did.  I wish they hadn't had to go through such loss and pain but all of this has taught me that God can use anything for good.  Adoption is a story of loss but it is also a story of redemption.  It is a story of the gospel...a story of love...of choices....of family. 

That summer, 4 years ago, I had prayed three specific prayers over and over.....
1) Open my eyes to the needs of others around me, Lord, and use me.
2) Break my heart for what breaks yours and give me the strength to act.
3) Whatever you ask, I will do.

I have tried to live each day since like that.  It has changed my life. Do I fail?  Continuously, but it is the desire of my heart.  Being the mother to these 5 is my greatest challenge and my greatest joy.  I can't wait to see what adventures the summer holds for all of us.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Slippery Slope

Definition of SLIPPERY SLOPE

As defined by Merriam -Webster : a course of action that seems to lead inevitably from one action or result to another with unintended consequences

It often seems as if my life is one.  Truly.  I remember in high school learning this definition and my girlfriend, Diana, and I making up stories that just kept going and going.  We would get laughing so hard making up stories about some unsuspecting soul.  I didn't know that would come back to haunt me. 
3 weeks ago our basement flooded.  Not furniture floating flooded but standing water from wall to wall.  (Enter initial 'course of action.')  Mind you, there is someone living in our basement right now.  I discovered this at 6am.  I woke up our friend and we started immediately getting all of her stuff out and I called Trevor with a slightly panicked tone in my voice and told him he had to come home right away.  My husband is Jamaican.  While this might seem to be a crisis to many of us, my husband never operates in crisis mode.  He doesn't have a crisis mode.  No problem, Mon.  He was home by lunch. 

We spend the day cleaning out every single item in the basement and dragging soaking wet area rugs through my house and into the garage where a pile the size of Everest seemed to appear.  The restoration company was able to come the next day and set up dryers and disinfected and all that good stuff.  Pretty minor flooding.  We were blessed really.  I know families that lost so much in area flooding that it was just a huge inconvenience to us. 

The insurance adjuster came and surveyed the damage.  They would have covered carpet but do not cover area rugs so that was the first big hit.  Area rugs are not cheap.  (Enter 'unintended consequences') Then a few days later the washer and dryer just stopped working.  Both of them.  Granted those suckers were old but the insurance guy told me to call if there were any problem with them so I did.   He was estimating the loss to be about $2500.  I started clean up and repainting the floors and the walls right away.  I took laundry to my mom's and spent the entire day there running between her house and my sisters two doors down to get a weeks worth of laundry for 7 done. 
I called the insurance adjuster to see when we would be getting our check so we could replace the washer and dryer and he told me it would be a few weeks.  Ugh.  So I'm thinking I can make the laundry situation work until we get a new set, right?  Wrong.  After depreciation of our washer and dryer and our deductible, we'll be getting a check for like $300.   Well, woohooo!   What the what?   I do not understand insurance.  I get they were old but I can't exactly replace them for that.   So in a desperate facebook plea to buy some old ones from people we know, some wonderful friends had just moved and gave us their extra set!  So gracious and generous.  So thrilled and happy.

We have to borrow a truck and go pick them up.  A friend comes over to help move the old ones out and the new ones in.  I go off to a friends with another week's worth of laundry piled up in the van.  The paint is now dry enough to move everything out of our family room and back into the basement and our friend doesn't have to sleep on the couch anymore.  Trevor through all of this is having to work every weekend so the pile in the garage remains and the trips here and there to pick up a part and borrow a truck and all of that eat away the little time we have in the evenings. I am supposed to keep parenting as normal and work around all of the basement's contents scattered throughout our family room and maintain my patience amongst the chaos.

He goes to hook up the dryer one evening and discovers the vent is filled with lint.  We don't want to shell out anymore money so on FB many friends weigh in on how to do it ourselves.  So we borrow a dry vac for the next day from friends and he works on sucking it all out another evening.  He can't get it all.  So we borrow another tool from another friend and he will get to that tomorrow.  Meanwhile, I am off to another friends to do a week's worth of laundry for 7 again.  Which takes an entire day.  I mean 8 am to 5 pm back to back as fast as you can fold it.  

I decide that Trevor has been working so much and so hard and I will just help out while he's at work so he will only have to hook up the washer and dryer when he returns that evening.  It's just sticking a little brush on the end of a plastic tube in the PVC pipe to clear it out.  How hard can it be?  In the words of my 4 year old nephew helping me fold laundry one day, "I'm a super good big help."  So I stick the sucker in there and wiggle it around and start to pull it out and it breaks off in my hand.  Breaks off so far in there that I can't reach.  Of course, it does.   At this time, I feel like falling to the ground and pounding my fist on the floor in the best 2 year old style fit you've ever seen. 

I text Trevor.  So I don't have to say it outloud.  That No problem, Mon vibe he's got going comes in SO handy on occassions such as these.
The laundry has taken over our bedroom and with the next toss of dirty drawers onto the top of the heap will require it's on zip code. Deep breaths.  I call the professionals.  The professionals can come the next day. Thank you, Jesus.  

They came today.  They can only get to one end of the vent because the other end they built our deck over.  Not kidding.  So they cleaned it out and my awesome husband hooked up our washer and dryer and I started laundry while whistling and skipping.  The sun shines brighter.  The birds sing clearer.  You get the picture.  

We are supposed to cut a trap door in the deck to have access to the dryer vent.  Don't worry. We won't be doing that on our own.

Oh and the PVC pipe I stuck that dryer vent cleaner in and broke off.....uh yeh, that was the vent for our high efficiency heating and air unit.  So I guess I'll call them too.   

And that, my friends, is a slippery slope.  

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Springing in to me.

Every Spring I spend the last few weeks of March climbing out of a hole.  Call it seasonal affective disorder, depression, the blues, a funk, whatever it is when Fall turns into winter I seem to literally fall into another me.  A me that I don't really like honestly.  A me that is less patient and kind, less fun and friendly, less than who I know myself to be.  Nothing too dark, not crying in the corner by myself me but just not me.  Every March I climb back out of it.  I can feel it happening.  I can feel the irritability start to fade away with every ounce of sunshine that soaks into my skin.  I can feel my laugh come easier.  I can feel it happening.  Usually by May I'm back.  Found myself again. 

This year I was going to stave off the hole.  I was prepared.  I was ready and waiting like a lion for the pounce and it came anyway.  It hit me again.  I felt shame in it.  I felt loss in it.  And that just makes the hole bigger.   I felt the irritability rise as the temperature outside decreased.   Energy for five kids seemed harder.  Typically outgoing me, turns inward.  The mundane everyday occurrences of life were enough to freeze me in an overwhelmed state some days.  Subtle things mostly.

This year I learned from it all.  I learned we all need grace.  Sometimes, big huge double portions of grace.  We usually need the grace when people feel least like giving it to us. 

I learned that people get nervous when you just say you're blah, maybe even depressed, fighting the blues.  I realized how heavy the stigma of mental health feels.  I think it's because people don't know what to do.  I can hear about your influenza because I understand how that is transmitted.  I know you need rest and fluids to help you feel better and I know that in about a week you'll be back to normal.  Mental health isn't quite as neatly packaged.  There isn't any of that in-a-week-to-10-days you'll be all better proclamation. 

I learned that partly that stigma comes from others questioning your faith.  There are people out there that don't get it.  They do not understand the whole hormone, chemical imbalance, psychological aspect that comes into play.  So they think you can pray it away or if you were in the word more or had a better relationship with Christ, then the darkness wouldn't come.  I want to smack those people.  In the less of me times and the happy Spring/Summer/Fall me times, I want to smack them.  They make me feel less than and shame on me for giving them that power.   It is in those times I depend on Him even more.  You can long to feel close to Him and still feel far away.  Even when you seek His face.  Even when you sit at His feet.  That is where the faith comes in.  You trust He is there.  You know that this is part of that less than you you and that your feelings are just feelings and the TRUTH is He is right there with you.  In the Fall and the Climb.  He is with you always and you read the truth and you rest in it and wait for your feelings to match up.  Those people that don't understand, that's their issue.  Not yours.  Let them carry that. 

I learned that there are so many others out there like me that don't feel like they can tell anyone because of the judgements, the looks, the stigma.  One in five adults suffer from some form of mental health issues but no one ever talks about it.  (I could now go on a rant about the state of mental health in our country and the school shootings and the divorce rate, homelessness, etc but this is just to say, reach out.)  Be the kind of friend that someone can call and say I'm struggling lately.  And you don't judge.  You listen and you support and encourage.  Be the kind of friend that lets people in.  That lives authentically and shares your life with others, even the not so you you.  Be the friend that steps out in trust and says, I'm hurting and could use your prayers.  I'm in a hole.  My marriage is in a hole.  I feel like a loser mom lately.   Be the friend that can say that and the friend that can hear that without judgement.  Offer grace and prayer and maybe cook a meal or take them out for coffee or a nice long walk. 

I know we like everything to be okay.  I know it is most comfortable for everyone to think that life is without struggle.  I know we want to believe that everything is as cheery as our instagram pictures make it look.  I know we want to read through Facebook posts like a copy of US weekly and see how great everyone is doing.  We want it to all be okay.  So does the person in the hole.  And sometimes there is no real reason that they feel that way other than they do.  And that is okay.  I know the hole is scary and you don't want to get too close but it is okay to hang over the hole and reach out a hand.  It is okay to just say I don't know how to help but I'm praying for you.  It is okay to just say the ridiculous to get a laugh or to drop off their favorite Starbucks just to say you aren't alone there in the hole,  I see you struggling and am here.  

I learned that comparing ourselves to others is almost always a recipe for disaster.  Do not let your contentment in parenting, marriage, what you're wearing, your walk with Jesus,  how much you're making, your weight, any of that depend on how others are doing it.  You are fabulous even in the hole.  Usually you haven't really changed, just your circumstances have and your fabulousness is still there it's just harder for you to see at the moment.  But it is there.  And so is HE.

I learned almost all of us have been there.  Few choose to admit it.

I learned I feel like I have to explain this all away by saying it's not that bad and my family is still great and we are happy and I do count my blessings and I am appreciative of all I have.  I feel like I need to say most days are fine and it really is good.  That is the fear of the judgements I guess but then I'm back to the people that just don't get it and well, I didn't write this for them.  I wrote it for you, the one in the hole.  The one that has just climbed out and the one that is clinging to the ledge. I see you.   I know.  I don't know what got you in there.  It doesn't matter.  Maybe it's a seasonal thing, or a life's curve thrown at you.  Maybe it's from poor choices you've made or injustices done to you.  Maybe it's genetic, hormonal, chemical imbalance.  I don't know what got you in there and it doesn't matter.  What matters is you are not alone. I've been there.  I see you.

I learned that I put that shame of the stigma on myself and I won't do it anymore.  I learned that I am that kind of friend that can say it and hear it.  I learned that it is something I will most likely struggle with for the rest of my life and no matter how prepared I feel, it will come.  I learned to not let that make the hole wider and deeper.  I learned that I crave sunshine like my husband craves his momma's cooking.  I learned that my God is greater and that feelings are fleeting but Truth just is.  I learned that we do not extend grace ever enough and that there is nothing more lovely or humbling than receiving it.    I learned that for me,  I can not exercise it away or take enough supplements and herbal remedies or pray or study His word or cling to my faith enough to make this go away for me. I learned that it is okay to need help with it.  Whether that is medication or counseling or whatever that looks like for you.  I learned that I expect others to be okay with it but wasn't okay with it myself.  I'm over that.  Do I struggle sometimes?  Yes I do.  Is my life still beautiful?  Absolutely.  Is God ever present?  Indeed He is.  Always with me.   I have an enormous tapestry of blessings in my life to be thankful for.  I'm not about to let a little hole ruin that.   Somedays, when the sun is shining and the wind is gently blowing through my open windows, I can barely see it anyway.   And I have 3 seasons to prepare for the next round!

Is 46:4 "I am He, who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you. I will sustain you and rescue you."