Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Month of Josiah

One month ago from now I was puking my guts out from all the anesthesia I'd had on an empty stomach and I was completely over the phrase "You'll just feel some pressure." Ironically, the only person who wasn't lying when they said that phrase was the lady who put the giant epidural needle in my spine...but I digress.

A few hours before that, and 22 hours after the whole saga began, we finally got to meet our brand new and not at all tiny son, Josiah. Twelve days past his due date, Josiah (then still fondly referred to as "Tater Tot") was in no hurry to make an entrance. Hours of really fun and very unproductive procedures had only gotten me 4 cm dilated. Then, at about four o'clock I was dosing in and out while we were waiting on the doctor to discuss our options when nurses suddenly came running through the door. The baby's heart rate had dropped for the second time and a few frantic minutes later they were rushing me down the hall for an emergency c-section, leaving Andrew alone in our room.

Those few minutes were terrifying and confusing as I lay paralyzed on an operating table with medical staff running all around me. But, our hurried prayers were answered when they got the baby's heart monitor hooked back up and his heart rate was normal again and the medical staff were able to slow down and wait for my doctor to arrive. Andrew was broughtinto the room then and we decided to proceed with the c-section anyway.

Andrew said it looked like they were trying to wrestle a hog pulling him out. Then we heard, "He's huge!," "Big boy!," "Is that a toddler?" They pulled down the sterile sheet so that I could see my doctor holding up our son. There he was, a giant red baby with arms and legs hanging like long monkey limbs and the hands and feet of a two-year-old. I saw him and thought, "That weird looking kid is mine. How strange." Then they put him on the scale, 11.03 blinked and held, and I thanked the Lord for c-sections! They handed him to Andrew and we stared at his chunky face that looked just like my baby pictures and it still felt surreal. There he was, baby Josiah.

A few hours later Andrew brought Judah into the hospital room, he had a bouquet of flowers, some pictures he had drawn, and wore a sweet, excited, almost embarrassed, smile as he met his little brother for the first time. We told him his new brother's name was Josiah Malaki, which means "The Lord helps," and "My Messenger." This was the little brother Judah had waited months for and it was love at first sight.

Life's been a blur ever since. It seems like it's been forever since our family went from three to four and yet it went by in a flash. Life is slowly beginning to stop its reeling. Today I forged through two giant piles of revolving laundry that have been permanent fixtures for the last few weeks. Some days we're getting a rhythm back to our school days. We're starting to get the hang of scheduling everything around feedings and learning to plan an extra hour to get out of the house on account of the blowouts and peeing all over the couch and the outfit changes.

As someone who tends to focus on the future and try to get through difficult seasons by relentlessly attacking problems with possible solutions, I'm trying to learn to live in the moment. I've been forced to slow down on life that does not involve breastfeeding and diaper changing and teaching a Kindergartner math. I'm trying to remind myself that these moments will go by quickly and neither of my boys will be little and needy forever.

A month of Josiah has brought a lot less sleep and an appalling amount of money spent on diapers. It has also brought laughs and fat baby cheek snuggles and sweet big brother kisses. It has brought tears (the good and the bad kind) and joy. Tonight Judah prayed for Josiah to grow up to be a great man of God, to love him and serve him, and I echoed his sweet and tender prayer for both our amazing boys.

Monday, August 18, 2014

I Have Two Sons

I have two sons. One son was brought into our family through adoption, the other will join our family by birth in a few weeks.

These boys will share so many things: a crazy family that loves them, a room, an identity as missionary kids, inside jokes, vacations, but one thing they will never share is the color of their skin and the things they encounter in the world because of it. I pray they will understand one another and stand by each other in the face of these experiences, but particularly when it comes to being a person of color in our society, one will experience it by proxy and the other will experience it personally.

As a mother of a black son I dread this truth. Several years ago we visited a civil rights museum and I stood in front of a blown-up image of an African-American student in Little Rock, Arkansas, walking to school after desegregation. Behind her is an angry mass of white faces and I stood transfixed with horror at one woman's face, her mouth open wide, expelling hateful words, brows furrowed with determined fury. In my mind, suddenly the young black girl she was screaming at was my son and I had to hold back the tears as I thought about someone spewing such hatred all over him, merely because of the color of his skin. I thought, for the first time, what it is like to be the mother of a black child. The helpless feelings of sorrow and anger at the injustices, and even dangers, your children face. I felt them too as I stared at that photo.

Today it is unlikely my son will be followed down the street being hatefully screamed at, but he will experience many subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) acts of racism, people and systems that consistently make him question his value as a young black man. In the face of current events my heart is heavy with the pain and anger and confusion that still makes up the issue of racial injustice in our cities.

Whether some people want to admit it or not, the reality is that if both my sons decide not to walk with the Lord and make terrible moral and legal choices in life, one will most likely be given the benefit of the doubt and every opportunity to change, and the other will likely be labeled and dismissed. One might get community service and the other prison time. One might be pepper-sprayed and the other shot. It is so much less personal to think about this truth in light of differing communities, but having that divide present under my own roof makes it a more intimate pain.

As I have watched the events of Ferguson, Missouri, unfold and witnessed the frenzy of angry and unloving words unleashed in the world of social media, I find myself deeply troubled...both as a mother of a black son and as a Christian. The incident that touched off the eruption is not 100% clear, the diluted messages coming from within the community makes it difficult to hear the truths being spoken, and the aggressive and uncompassionate backlash from those watching widens the chasm between people.

Facts and law are not unimportant to the Lord, but if that was all He looked at we would all find ourselves condemned. The facts and laws involved in these current events are important but they do not tell the whole story. We, as the Church, have the opportunity to reclaim the story that is unfolding for the Kingdom. Redemption and transformation won't come from the law or from being right; it will come from the power of grace changing hearts. And, no matter how impossible a task this seems to be at the moment, Christ makes all things possible in Him. Standing hand-in-hand with brothers and sisters in Christ from different backgrounds and with different opinions is made possible because we are one family in Him.

Many Christians seem to be abdicating their role to stand for justice because they see a lack of clear and "practical" steps to be taken. I certainly do not have all the answers about what has to be done, but I know Someone who does. And, I know a good place to start is in humility. Jesus Christ stood silent in the face of his opponents, an extra act of sacrifice as He went to the cross for them. Can we, as His Body, not find it in ourselves to listen more than we speak, to be slow to anger, and quick to love? Can we lay down our literal and metaphorical weapons and reach for someone's hand instead? Perhaps it will be in these moments of self-sacrificing humility and in a quiet affirmation of people's value to the Kingdom that God will make the next steps clear.

I have two sons and God breathed life equally into each. They will stand hand-in-hand because they know they are of the same family...even when the tough times come because that is what brothers do. I pray that we may do the same as the family of God.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Time is a Gigantic Freight Train

Time. How can something that passes objectively at the same, steady pace be experienced so subjectively? In some seasons time seems to elongate. It stretches and sags in the middle like salt water taffy on a pulling machine. And then in other seasons time seems to barrel toward you like an ominous and gigantic freight train.

I have to admit that as I get older I have more of the latter experiences than the first, but right now I am most definitely finding myself playing chicken with the freight train of time. And, it is sort of freaking me out.

Our family is awaiting some major life changes in the next few months, ones that require a great deal of physical, emotional, and mental preparation. They are exciting changes but, as with any major transitions, they require a lot of work...and if you are a worrying planner like myself, they also consume a great deal of soul-energy.

Homeschooling. Some days I just wonder what I am thinking! School starts sooner than I would like to admit and with everything else that has been going on this summer, I am just now getting the details nailed down. I'm buying curriculum and trying to figure out a good planning method and I can't seem to think clearly with the light of a freight train flooding my eyes! I know that God led us to this decision, for at least this season in our lives, but God's leadings tend to take us straight outside of our comfort zones.

Baby. AHHH! We're having a baby in two and a half months. It still seems sort of surreal, except that we have a crib and I have a little human kung fooing around in my uterus. But, two and a half months? We don't have a name picked out yet! That might not bother some people (ahem, Andrew!), but I like to feel like I have a little cushion of time before deadlines and there isn't one blasted name on our list of potentials that I feel at home with yet. And, it feels like such a very big deal to name a human!! We've got classes to take and stuff to buy and life as we know it to kiss only two and a half months.

Judah. My crazy nut of an only child. It's just two and a half months until our family isn't a family of three but of four! I'm not an overly emotional person but for some reason it's hitting me really hard (we'll blame it on the pregnancy hormones). It's just been the three of us for nearly three years now and it's hard to imagine life where Judah isn't Daddy's only buddy and Mama's only favorite boy. Intellectually you know that it all just works itself out, that somehow God arranges it so you think two (or three, or four, or five, if you are so inclined) little humans are the most amazing people on the face of the earth, but your heart has trouble believing it before it happens. The dreaded and mostly irrational Mom-guilt has started to set in as I know more of my time will be directed away from Judah and I frantically want to somehow slow down the rushing of time to cherish these last months with only him. The two-year anniversary of our forever day with him is coming up and the topic of adoption makes my Mom-guilt all the more acute as we prepare to toss another major life-transition onto a five-year-old who has already seen too many. I trust that this change will bless beyond all of our expectations, but I also know that it will add to the list of things he will have to wrestle through as he processes adoption as part of his story.

If I wasn't already exhausted from growing a little human inside of me 24 hours a day, all the soul-energy I've been expending on these things has left me totally worn out. I've found myself succumbing to a paralyzed fear as I stare down the tracks of time and see the inevitability of change. When I do try to figure out the details a sense of dread sweeps over me, mostly eclipsing the joy that is awaiting us on this journey. It's time to change that because, no matter what awaits us, God is good and He has filled our lives with blessings. (I wouldn't mind if time would ease up a bit though!!)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Regular Mama

"I have three mamas!" Judah exclaimed. "M. and C. are my foster mama [his two dear previous foster mamas are one to him]. J. is my birth mama. And, you are my regular mama."

It never felt so good to be a "regular mama" as I looked at his sweet and eager face, grateful that God had written these important women into my son's story but that I was blessed to have him forever.

With the anticipation of a new baby in the house this year, conversations like these have tripled in frequency. Birth parents and adoption and skin color and the meaning of family are discussed and mulled over and questioned at somewhat of a dizzying pace these days. 

Thinking about the baby, the other day Judah said with a big smile, "We'll see...if the baby is going to be black or white, a boy or a girl!"

I laughed because he was so genuine about his excitement but it hurt me to have to explain again that the baby's skin color would match mine and Andrew's and not his. I could see on his face that he was disappointed as he tried to process. We talked about his birth mama and how he grew inside her tummy and how his skin color matched her's but that God made family to be so much more than matching skin tones. 

Adoption is a blessing and joy, but moments like these remind me that there is also deep sorrow and loss involved in adoption. Judah often talks about his birth mama and how he misses her. He tries to process being the only brown boy in our family, and in the last year and a half, in most of our general acquaintances. He mulls over the new name he received at adoption, sometimes with happiness and other times with sadness. 

My kid is fiercely loved by so many people and is one of the most genuinely happy and loving kids I've met. He has a spiritual openness and awareness that makes prayer time with him sweet and awe inspiring. We encourage a relationship with his birth mama and are open to relationships with other's from his birth family as God opens the doors. All of these things infuse confidence in him and give him a foundation to stand on, but it is natural for him to struggle to make sense of the losses as well as the blessings and to wrestle with his identity. 

As I am soon to add birth mama to my resume, the adoptive mama in me has been struggling with the implications for our family, particularly for my son. I know that as much as I love him and as much as I celebrate his life, I cannot shield him from suffering the loss and confusion that come with adoption. The fierceness of my love can give him a softer place to land when he falters, but it cannot eradicate entirely the sadness and doubt he will encounter. This regular mama's heart breaks when I think about that.

But, I also know that the Lord has fitted our family together perfectly and that His love for my son swallows mine whole. As the days dwindle where I get to be mama to only one amazing child I think with both trepidation and joy what a birth child will add to our family. In the end, for all the changes it will bring, I can come back to the fact that although technically I will be an adoptive mama to one child and a birth mama to another, God orchestrated it so that I'll really just be a regular mama to both. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Lent: The Bitter and Sweet of Suffering

Each year as I follow the rhythms of the Church Year something new and fresh is revealed. I experience the seasons differently every year and with more depth. This year I have found my inner and outer life embodying the themes of key seasons, as if I'm physically walking through the changing seasons, bringing it alive for me.

In Advent I found myself in a season of restlessness and waiting, weary and feeling ministry was a little more laborious and the long-awaited results were still just too far out of reach. I felt the discontent and lament that can be associated with waiting and found that I needed to remind myself of what I believed in and the vision the Lord had set before us. I felt, in my own way, the weariness of a broken world waiting on the hope of Christ.

And now, in Lent, a bittersweet season acknowledging the grace and mercy we receive as a result of the suffering of our Savior, I've found myself walking a journey of my own suffering and in need of God's mercy and grace. In this season I found myself pregnant, which is both terrifying and exciting, and embarking on a journey I had not known would be so emotionally and physically taxing.

The discovery that I was pregnant came alongside a series of symptoms that were difficult and concerning, making us fear the loss of of another pregnancy. With each symptom we worried and called the doctor and went in for tests that reassured us, only to turn around and start the process again. After weeks of the emotional yo-yoing we were exhausted. Some days I didn't know if I could take one more worrisome symptom. I thought, if things are going to go badly, I'd rather it just happen already and end the constant ups and downs. In and around the worry and tears I spent most of the day in bed or throwing up.

Just when we thought we couldn't take another scare, the troubling symptoms subsided and left in their wake only my continued and unrelenting nausea. The morning sickness would wave over me every morning, knocking me off my feet for hours, subside briefly midday, only to regain momentum and crash over me every single night. All the normal anti-nausea medications were not even sending me to the ER with uncontrollable tongue, jaw, and facial spasms. That was fun...and attractive.

I was so thankful for a flexible ministry schedule, as I was rendered useless for several months. I was also thankful for a husband and son who joyfully picked up all of my slack, but it didn't make the physical suffering much easier. Most days I was a zombie and most nights I closed out the day throwing up and crying pitifully in a ball of misery in my bed.

When you're in the middle of suffering, whether physical or emotional, whether life altering or just a long and challenging season, it seems to swallow you whole and it's hard not to let it define your entire being. A dear sister in Christ shared something with me during this season that gave me both hope and perspective. She said that in her own difficult journey she had found that God never wastes our suffering. She wrote it to me in a text message but the profoundness of its truth kept me coming back to that text over and over again during these months.

The question we ask while deep in suffering tends to be why?, which makes it seem like God is far away and spiteful. But this perspective made God seem close and compassionate...which is, of course, the nature of God.

Our world is broken and dying and we suffer the consequences of that daily, sometimes more intensely than others. God doesn't always take away our suffering, but He always intervenes on our behalf. He walks with us through the suffering if we will welcome Him. He looks intimately at us and our circumstances, working and redeeming every moment for His glory and our spiritual benefit, letting no suffering go without purpose if we turn to Him. He cherishes it all, holding it close to Himself, as He did the suffering of His own Son.

It is only because Christ walked the journey of purposeful suffering before us that we can also suffer with purpose, experiencing both the bitter and sweet that comes with suffering. The bitterness in our suffering is easy to pick out, but to find the sweetness we have to look to Jesus, knowing He sees each moment of our suffering, and ask Him to show us where He is working for His glory in us and those around us.

I wish I was better at this approach to suffering. I wish, even in these last months, I had applied these truths more thoroughly, but I do know that each time I have experienced suffering in my life, when I turn to Christ in its midst, even imperfectly, I experience new truths about who He is and in that there is such sweetness.