Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Big Move to Wordpress

In These Shoes
I've been working on this move mentally for quite some time. It's the fingers to keys competing with fear of stepping off cliff which has held me back... until now.

We are just talking about a new blog here, aren't we? But, to me, it's more. Broader scope, greater commitment to quantity & quality, wider audience base-- eventually. In truth, it's a risk I'm taking and to me, it's huge.

So... without belaboring the point (really, to keep from stalling) my new site is:

Shari Dragovich~ In These Shoes

Actual URL: http://sharidragovich.wordpress.com/

I will not be posting to this site anymore. As of now, the content will remain and I will provide a link to teamdragovich on the new blog for readers to browse old posts.

In some ways, I resisted the move simply out of nostalgia and maybe a little loyalty; much like the childhood blankie still resting on my bed. Blogging on Team Dragovich has been healing balm during the two most difficult times I've face thus far in life-- deployment and adoption.

But, nothing has been lost. Only an adding to. Rejoice!


I'll see you soon... In These Shoes

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Runner Girl Rides Her Bike-- Part 2


I’ve taken quite a while on this “Part 2” post, haven’t I? Some of this is simply a hectic start to summertime, but more truthfully, my silence is more a lack of progress—at least visible progress.

The truth is, I’m slow to embrace this season of trying new things and being uncomfortable. Much like my slowness to embrace any of life’s major changes—even those deemed “good”.

I’ve had to finally admit I’m stuck and have been a little stuck for some time now. Stuck in my running, stuck in my reading, stuck in many of my relationships—especially the ones more difficult to nurture.  Different is uncomfortable. Hard, even. I don’t think I can handle hard. Apparently, God sees things differently.

The last two books I’ve read have made this truth uncomfortably clear. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan monk and writer says in his book Job and the Mystery of Suffering, that in order to truly experience life fully, we must be willing to embrace the dark with the light. The key isn’t always to try and squelch the dark, but rather to accept it being there, embracing it as part of the journey. And the journey—for those who choose it—is good, even when it hurts, for it is a path unto deeper fullness.

Ann Voskamp, in her book, One Thousand Gifts, speaks early on the literal meaning of manna used by God to sustain the Israelites during their 40 years in the desert. It means, “What is it?”

That which cannot be defined, fully sustains.

Can I embrace the mystery? Can I let that which I do not understand sustain me? Am I willing to stay on the journey, open myself to receive the gift of the present—no matter what the present brings?  Can I stop asking, “When will I…” and start saying, “Yahweh, I thank thee for…”

Sunday, Superman and I went for a 30 mile bike ride. We rode fifteen miles to a neighboring town, had some Sunday fried chicken, mashed potatoes and peach cobbler (not the best bike riding lunch, but we are in North Carolina, after all). I loved it. Wind in my face, feet circling in rhythm with the wheels, husband beside me. We had fun.

Yesterday I ran along the NC coastline. I have been in Beaufort the last two days on a writing assignment—Blackbeard, the Queen Ann’s Revenge and a new exhibit at the NC Maritime Museum. I went alone. Children are with grandparents, Superman had to work. I went alone.

I breathed in salty air. I felt its stickiness on my skin. I watched wild ponies eat their breakfast on an island far off. I enjoyed the songs of birds not heard in the Piedmont. I slept in a beautiful19th-century built home. I witnessed an early morning rainbow—the largest most vivid one I’ve seen in quite some time.

It’s all together—the light and dark. Times of beauty in seasons of pain. Rohr says its fear which keeps one from living fully. Voskamp calls it ingratitude. I see both stealing my joy.

 I’m always looking for a destination. An “ah-ha!” for every moment—especially the hard ones. But maybe there’s no destination. After all, if I truly believe in “full life” as Jesus describes it, then I’ve already arrived—full life, eternity, happening now.

So, is there an answer to my question—why does everything have to be so hard right now? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe. But to speak it seems trite. Maybe instead, I’ll just live with the unknown. Accept the dark with the light. Stay on the journey.

And what about you? Are you living uncomfortably? Can you count one thousand gifts? Are you accepting light with dark? Staying on the journey? Accepting the gift of now?

I would love to hear from you!

Grace and Peace,
Shari

Friday, May 27, 2011

Runner Girl Rides Her Bike--Part 1


Everyone copes with anxiety differently. Some people eat more. Some drink more. Some shop more. Apparently, I run more.

This is the only honest way I can explain how I jumped from 35-40 running miles a week, to sometimes over sixty. In case you weren’t sure—that’s not a safe increase. Obviously—as I became the not-so-proud recipient of a strained Achilles tendon and stress fractured foot to prove it.

Truthfully, I didn’t set out to increase my mileage. It was unintentional—if you can believe adding 15-20 extra miles a week could pass under one’s radar. But, looking back, I can see how it happened. 

Christmas 2010 was still not the peaceful, joy-filled season I was hoping for. Better than 2009—our first year as an oreo family of seven—yet still personally unsettling. We trekked to Reno at the beginning of December--first time with five kiddos--where I ran a disappointing California marathon, and the rest of the trip I spent somewhat tight- chested, as it was yet another "first meeting", and for whatever reason, those first meetings always leave me tight-chested.

Then the usual holiday-rush and post-holiday daze, all of which left me slightly bewildered by the beginning of 2011. I guess this is where the extra mileage came to play. My solution for shaking the New Year blues was adding a three-mile run into my early-morning routine.

Adding a morning run isn’t a problem. Not backing off regular mileage is.

Here I was, doing this incredibly healthy thing for all the wrong reasons. I wasn’t adding extra miles to just start my day off right. I was running to escape this uncomfortable season of life.

Just as high-speed police chases never seem to end well, neither did my own attempt at escape. All it did was leave me broken—unable to even go one mile for relief from the pressing in of my life.

I had made a decision to start doing triathlons before my last marathon. Now I was forced into the sport by virtue of injury. I begrudgingly began swimming at the gym, and mustered all the excitement of a child ordered to clean his messy room, when it came to buying me a bike and gear.

I tried to put on a happy face for riding—and even let a little joy slip out as I surged down hills and powered back up again. But, it was a fragile happiness, lasting only until my first unintentional contact with the ground.

“TIMMMBBBBERRR!”
“I hate this. It’s stupid. Why can’t I just run?” I muttered, as I crawled out from underneath my bike—quite unsuccessfully, I might add, since my feet were still clipped in.

Why can’t I just run, I prayed. Why do I have to be so uncomfortable? Why does everything have to be so hard right now?

Whine, whine, whine… right?   

Or maybe... it’s an honest question, coming from an honestly seeking heart, looking for a true and honest answer?


.... more to come. 

Thanks for allowing me to write my journey as I swim, bike, fall and even run a little through it.

Grace and Peace,
Shari

Monday, May 23, 2011

Hunger’s Strangling Hold


Today, our little princess had paper put in her ears. At least, that’s what I keep telling her. Hopefully, it was a bit more sophisticated that shoving paper down her ear canal. Whatever the ENT did exactly, I’m not sure. Something about sloughing off scar tissue around the holes in her eardrums then covering the holes with a paper patch. I was told the odds it will take are about 50/50. I’m going to keep a positive outlook (not always so easily accomplished) and assume God can work the odds in our favor a bit.

She did great, which was an exhale for me, as I’m scarred from past ENT visits with her. Limited English, a general fear of life—let alone doctors, prodding into the very places on her body which obviously were in great pain, over and over again, mix quite nicely to produce tantrums and general uncooperativeness from my little darling.

What caught me off guard was her obsession over not being able to eat breakfast. She hid her fears well at first, not mentioning her disdain over missing a meal. Eventually, however, her thoughts betrayed her—thanks to happy juice. As her mind loosened, so did her tongue.

“Daddy,” she asked Superman right before surgery, “how many days does it take before you starve to death?”

He shot me a look with one eyebrow raised and a weird smile on his face. Hmmm, I thought. Where did that come from?

After surgery when Little Sister was waking up, in between spells of crying and swooning, she asked,

“Will it take three weeks of no food before I starve to death?”

Again, Superman and I exchanged the weird eyebrow smile—only this time neither of us was smiling so much.

Fast-forward two hours at home, after she’s had an ice-cream treat and trail mix, she brings it up yet again. When I asked her if she felt like a little lunch, her first reply was, “No,” (which makes sense after just finishing trail mix). Three minutes later, she half-stumbles into the kitchen and says:

“Mommy, I do want to eat lunch. Because I don’t want to starve to deaf.”
Have you ever worried you would starve to death? Did you ever fear your children would starve to death?

Can you even fathom?

My heart sank into my stomach. After nearly two years of never missing a meal or a snack, healthier than she’s ever been in her whole six years of life, my daughter’s fear of hunger grips tightly—a constant choking hand, reminding her to be ever vigilant. Eat all you can, when you can. Your next meal is not guaranteed.

I am powerless to loosen hunger’s hold. I can teach her portion control, be a constant reassurance and provider of the next meal, but I can’t shake off the fear. It is her fear. Hers to loosen and overcome.

But then again, who am I to replace God’s redemptive work in my daughter’s life? The very cruel and hurtful thing which holds her in fear, may be where God meets her, frees her and heals her at just the right time.

Oh God, grant me the faith to continually believe in Your power over all fears.

Grace & Peace,
Shari


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Blogs-- the new daytime television?

I read an article in the New Yorker last night about Ree Drummond-- Pioneer Woman. I'm sure many of you are familiar with her. I mean, she has some 200 billion-trillion followers on her blog-- well, maybe not quite that many. I think the exact number is somewhere around 23 million page viewers a month.
Ree blogs about her daily life as a cattle rancher's wife. She's written a book, From High Heels to Tractor Wheels--A Love Story; and cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks. She's been on every major morning show, cooking, sharing about her idyllic life on their thousands of acres of ranch land, homeschooling her four kids, perpetually in love with her cowboy husband, Marlboro Man.

Ree's blog started as a way to stay connected with family and other adults, as life on the ranch is anything but socially engaging. She captures her days on her super-fancy Nikon, downloads the pictures, makes them look story-like, then lets the pictures inspire her content.

Why am I going through all this about some homeschooling, ranching, perpetually in love with her husband, incredibly talented and intuitive, ridiculously prosperous woman? I'm not sure, other than her blog intrigues me-- causes me to ponder a bit. It's fun, but I don't visit it every day. In fact, I've been to her blog once. I don't pine away all day, wondering what Pioneer Woman will share next.

But lots of woman do... over 23 million a month.

It dawned on me that Ree Drummond's blog is the holy-grail of reality TV via internet. It's almost like daytime television... in fact, one might call blogs like Pioneer Woman the new daytime television. Soap operas are dying to women living vicariously through someone else's ranch world romance.

I am sounding a bit critical here, and I don't mean to. I admire Ree Drummond. I'm incredibly jealous. Stupid jealous in some ways. Here is a woman, stuck in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma, who starts a blog and is now world-famous. She found her niche, simply doing what she inherently loves to do. In many ways, I'm inspired.

But, I guess what disturbs me, is how easily we (the proverbial "we") become sucked into others' lives--forsaking our own very unique lives individually designed and purposefully prepared in advance. I guess not everyone believes this to be the case, but I do-- or at least I say I do. Most days are a struggle to really live it.

Also disturbing are Pioneer Woman's critics-- those who spend hours making fun of her through counter blogs and twitter feeds. They read her posts then mock her; mimicking her voice and quirky phraseology; making fun of her daily monologue and criticize her out of their own insecurities. What wasted time and energy; self-destructive and soul rotting.

You know... I want to expand my blogging. It started as a way to connect with others who were adopting, too. Now it's just about our life and often I struggle to find content. That's seems weird-- woman with 5 kids, military wife, homeschooler, adopting older children, runner, reader, writer--however green this last one may be.

It isn't just content-- it's finding content worth sharing & the amount of time it takes me to write a single post. In the New Yorker article, Ree says she can blog with kids hanging off her earlobes (or something like that). Not me! I'm a slow writer, and if I spent the time editing each blog the way I do my articles for Elite, you'd never hear from me.


So... I'm curious. What does bloggy world do for you? Who do you read and why? What makes you follow a blog? How much time do you spend blogging-- writing your own blog and reading others' blogs. What do you think of the whole blog & internet culture?

These are somewhat random thoughts, but I wanted to share and hear your voice, too.

Grace and Peace,
Shari

Friday, May 13, 2011

Getting Dirty

Finally. The grass is shooting through the bed of straw which has graced our yard for two weeks now. For the past three months our yard has looked like a disaster. The process of landscaping-- at least our landscaping--is so dirty, messy, wrought with pitfalls, back-tracking, little mistakes... big mistakes and slow, slow progress.

My life has felt a little like my yard lately. Messy, mistake-ridden and just down right dirty.

I over-trained for my last marathon and stress-fractured my foot during the race. Then, I was too prideful to quit, running over 16 miles on a fractured foot. I've had people say how amazing it was that I finished. What they don't realize it was no noble cause which kept me going... it was fear of humiliation.

Then there's this adjusting to a daughter thing. I'm embarrassed to say how many days I've been reduced to cursing once everyone is in bed and Superman and I are safely out of ear-shot...
               "I'm telling you, all it seems all I hear is b!&#%ing and moaning!"

I'm guessing this is because I've never tape recorded myself and had it played back on me.

I know I've mentioned this before, but here I am again, wondering... is this her personality? Is this her "girl-ness"? Is this her adjusting to adoption?

I remember the first year I attended a homeschool conference. I went to all the boy-specific workshops-- how to teach 'em, how to discipline 'em, how to put up with their farting and grossness...

This year, I'll be attending all the girl-specific sessions. Especially the ones on how to handle  b!&#%ing and moaning. :-)

Thankfully, my yard is almost done. At least the overhaul. Now what's left is to help it grow, keep planting and nurturing the gardens, keep getting dirt under my nails and into my shoes. After all, it's the only way my flowers will continually burst with color, the birds and butterflies will dance and serenade us and my vegetables will produce abundantly.

Guess it'll be the same with my life. Keep getting dirty.

Grace and Peace,
Shari

Friday, May 6, 2011

Excuses, Excuses


If only I looked this good when stressed.
Or, maybe not.
I'm bummed it's been so long since my last post.

And just when I was starting to really hit a blogging grove. Ugh.

Here are my top 10 excuses ('cause you really want to know-- I can tell):

1. I was in St. Louis and Kansas City the first week of April running the St. Louis Marathon and spending some wonderful time with my siblings. Alone.

2. I stress-fractured my foot while running the St. Louis Marathon and have been learning to embrace my space boot these last 3 ½ weeks.

3. We’ve been elbow deep in an entire landscaping makeover since February. It reached critical mass, the end of April.

4. I took a 6-week, on-line writing class to refine my writing skills and force me into deadlines. It worked.

5. I’ve also been working on a couple travel articles for a regional magazine. Deadline was end of April, beginning of May.

6. School, school, school—and June is staring me in the face.

7. I have a daughter now. Who knew??

8. Reading for my book clubs (kids and ladies) has been taking over normal blogging time--not sure why now, all the sudden.

9. Our family tripped down to Atlanta last weekend to watch the Braves v. Cardinals game.  Though still slightly cranky with St. Louis for “breaking” my foot, I managed to cheer for our home team (yes, I refuse to take responsibility)
           
**Note: The trip to “Hotlanta” was because of MY writing gig— an article about baseball 3 ways (Fayetteville, Durham, Atlanta). This is the first time in Team Dragovich history in which the work related trip was mine, not Superman’s. Yes, I am incredibly proud of this and do not mind bragging. 

10. Have I mentioned I have a daughter?

Well... so it goes. 

For the record; I don't begrudge the woman in the picture. I just think she may be as detached as another cake woman I've heard of-- "Let them eat cake!" 

Grace and Peace,
Shari

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Reading Shakespeare Outloud


JB dressed in 16th century garb last summer
Yesterday afternoon, I decided to read some Shakespeare. Weird, I know. I could try to explain the deeper ponderings of why, but it would still be weird.

The last time I really attempted to read Shakespeare (not in kid-friendly format) was lots of years ago in college. I took a Shakespeare class as one of my English electives because I wanted to feel intellectual by learning Shakespeare and I heard it was an easy “A” from an easy professor. I finished the class with a “B”—barely.

I had forgotten how impossible Shakespeare is to read in your head. I started with The Two Gentlemen of Verona. It’s the first play in my Norton’s Complete Anthology of Shakespeare (also bought, by the way, so I would feel intellectual). Quickly, I realized I was in over my head. The words were drowning me. My brain was choking on “How now,” and “thee”, “thou”. Even the side notes and footnotes were not enough to keep me afloat. I was quickly sinking to the bottom of Shakespearean intellect.

Fortunately it dawned on me to try reading aloud. Suddenly, I wasn’t drowning anymore. It wasn’t a smooth sailing, but I was above literary water. The language demanded my full attention and absolute concentration. But with each line spoken (no matter how halting my voice), I seemed to propel forward and strengthen my stroke against the thick current of Shakespeare’s language. I began moving with his words, catching his rhythm, the nuances of his humor and layers of meaning.

My Shakespearean reading event didn’t last long. Imagine that. Before Act I was over, my children burst in with their own drama to report. Someone had been incredibly naughty playing baseball. Defied Daddy. He’s acting like he’s two. He’s in big trouble.

Oh, how we love to gloat over the sins of others!

My little offender plays the false martyr role well. He will accept any consequence you give him with a sort of stoic heroism (in his own eyes, that is). Stoic victimization is closer to reality. Later, my husband and I were discussing the deeper layers of this behavior,  imagining the environment responsible for creating his warped, distrustful view. Wondering, how in the world we will help him break free and fully live.

True living must be done out loud. There must be a willingness to hear the squeaking of your voice, get embarrassed and get over it. When my son accepts his punishment as his “lot in life”, quietly insulating himself against hurt, adding up the score always against his favor, he silences the full life meant to be lived in and through him.

We force him to live beyond his comfort zone. We demand reconciliation and closure in conflict. We nudge him toward selfless acts. We actually expect him to sacrifice sometimes. He has no choice but to live out loud. It is hard work and we don’t do it perfectly. But, we try and we can see him trying, too.

Shakespeare was never meant to be read silently. Neither is life meant to be orchestrated from within. Its most fulfilling moments—forgiveness, sacrifice, service and love—are lived in the open. I have no doubt my child will learn to live out loud. Like Shakespeare, he is destined for it.


Friday, March 11, 2011

The Words Bleeding Me-- Hope


       When a fringe homeschool family raises unsocial awkward children-- or even worse, neglect their children’s education to the extent it makes national news—it is frustrating for the rest of us raising happy, healthy, intelligent, and socially accepted children.  It may even be the reason we are subject to unnecessary scrutiny and laws.

        When a fringe “Christian” group traverses the country thumping their Bibles, displaying their hate signs and screaming Scripture to condemn others, it is heartbreaking to watch the message of love and hope being smeared and misrepresented.  It may even cause those on the cusp of belief to turn away from God in fear they will become Bible thumping, sign screaming people, too.
  
       When a few despicable greedy people coerce and lie to desperate parents in developing countries, financially gaining by manipulating the life-saving measure of adoption, it leads to an almost complete shut-down of adoption—leaving an estimated 5 million orphans without the opportunity to ever grow in the love of a family.   They may never have the ability to grow at all.

        This is what the orphans of Ethiopia face.  As a way to eliminate scandal within the adoption process, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Women’s and Children’s Affairs (MOWA), along with the Ethiopian Government, created a new policy cutting the number of adoption cases heard in court from 50 to 5 per day.  That is a 90% decrease.  For those unfamiliar to Ethiopia’s adoption process, just know this—rather than it taking several months for children to be united with their families, it could now take years.  Approximately 2,400 children were adopted from Ethiopia last year.  Under the new policy only 240 would have made it home. 

       Just the other morning, I was reading accounts of former gang members of L.A. who told of their initiation process.  Out of such desperation to belong to what they called a “family”, they would kill an innocent person—someone picked at random.  If they could murder in cold blood, they were in.  Despite their considerable dislike towards the command, their deep longing to “belong” took precedence.

        Children need families.

          Last week, JB missed the turn to our house, while on a bike ride with Sam and my husband (who was running with them).  Sam yelled for JB to come back, but he was too far ahead and too full of feeling the wind on his face.  The story ends happily, of course.  JB was recovered by Daddy and Sam within 5 minutes.  No harm done.  But JB’s little world was momentarily shaken.  He was melancholy the rest of the day, and even had trouble going to sleep at night.  We had a lot of rocking and holding.  Finally, he looked at me with crocodile tears in his eyes:

            “I was so scared, Mommy.  I thought I had lost my family again.  And now I wouldn’t have a family to love me anymore!"

Children need families. Yes-- they need food, water and education, too.  But not like they need families.

           Those of us who have adopted from Ethiopia, or are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia have a choice to make.  We can wring our hands, feeling angry, allowing our minds to think only the worst—or we can hope. 

Hope is a small word, but it carries an eternal promise.  It challenges us:

 “Do not be sad in the trials.  Rather, rejoice.  Because suffering brings perseverance, perseverance brings character and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, He has given us (Romans 5:2-5 paraphrased).

“Yet you heard my cry for mercy, when I called to you for help… The Lord preserves the faithful… Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord!” (Psalm 31)

Hope does not disappoint.

I happen to believe that the same God who guided JB, Risa and every other orphan into the hands of loving families, is the same God who sits over the nations of the world:

“The Lord foils the plans of the nations; He thwarts the purposes of the peoples.  But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.” (Ps. 33)

Already, the faithful prayers of believers have availed much.  Meetings continue to happen.  The plans of the Lord stand firm. Hope lives.

Goodness knows I hate going through suffering to get at hope.  If I had known how traumatic these last 20 months would be… well… I’m just thankful I didn’t know. 

Children deserve a future and a hope. 

Continue to pray.  There is always Hope.


PS... These two blogs have helped me pray specifically.  Though both were written before the new policy was announced, I think the prayers are still an excellent guide:



Friday, March 4, 2011

The Words Bleeding Me-- Trust


What an unwelcome friend.  A running injury.  My Achilles tendon is painfully swollen, halting all running in the most crucial weeks of mileage. 

            My only other running injury was to my IT band—the illiotibial tendon which runs along the outside of the leg from hip to knee.  That was five years ago and a most troublesome experience.  Many months of running in pain. Running then walking.  Not running at all.  I was so scared.  Terrified of the unknowns.  Plagued by the “What ifs…?”.

            “What if it never heals?”

            “What if I can never regain my momentum?”

            “What if…?”

            My husband constantly chided me, “You have to have faith.  Believe it will heal.  Trust that you are doing the right things for it.  Stop being so negative.  You can’t live in fear and heal.”

            “But what if…?”

            Now, five years later, with my leg propped up on pillows, I’m hearing the same old thing.  “Stay positive.  Relax.  Trust it will get better.”

            There’s that word again.  Trust.  Trust in what?  Trust in the therapy?  Trust in the rest?  Trust in miraculous healing?  

            "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."  Proverbs 3:5-6

            E.M Bounds calls trust, “Faith in full flower…It is firm belief.”

             “Trust sees God doing things here and now… [it] brings eternity into the annals and happenings of time, transmutes the substance of hope into the reality of fruition and changes promise into present possession.”

            Hope to reality.  Promise into present possession. 

Bounds goes on to explain that trust sees God doing things here and now.  Even more.  Trust expands its sights into the eternal and brings it to the happenings of time.

Hope to reality.  Promise into present possession.

Trust in a thing, activity or organization is passive and carries no substance.  Trust in a person is where Trust flourishes.  Healthy relationships are the fertile soil for trust to grow and thrive.  Children trust their parents.  Husbands trust their wives and vice versa.  Faith-filled people trust their God. 

At least… these all happen in a perfect world.

Trust is something I took entirely for granted; until I adopted my Ethiopian children.  In my relationship with my biological boys, I unknowingly enjoyed a sweetly cocooned life filled with mutual trust, understanding and unhindered love.  They trusted me to nurture them and always have their best interest at heart.  Because they have never experienced anything but fullness of trust, they operate out of a position of trust.  Their instinct is to trust.

Not so with JB and Risa.  Their instinct and consequently their actions tend to be born from lack of trust.  It was a blow to my mommy ego.  How do you parent children who don’t trust you?   The relationship is broken before it even begins.  

Part of the missing trust is simply a natural part of the transition-- the grieving and bonding process.  The rest, as far as I can discern, stems from their lives pre-us.

One child recovers quickly.  There is evidence of healthy, trust-filled relationships in this one’s life.  This child now thrives in the cocoon.    

The other child still holds trust at arm’s length.  Scared to let faith fully flower.  Though there is much of this child’s life I will never know, I see the effects.  Unwillingness to release into the cocoon.  Expecting the worst from people rather than the best.   The “What ifs… “ plague this child. 

Just as I cannot force my tendon to heal, just as I cannot force character to develop, I realize I cannot force faith to fully flower.  

“Trust grows nowhere so readily and richly as in the prayer chamber,” says Bounds.  “The eye and presence of God give vigorous life to trust, just as the eye and the presence of the sun make fruit and flower to grow, and all things glad and bright with fuller life.”

It is time for me to look higher than my children’s field of vision.  It’s time for my eyes to see the eternal, grab what is hoped for-- change it to reality—from the position of bended knee and bowed head. 

“All things are possible to him who believes,” Jesus says. 

It is time for me to believe.  “What ifs…” have no place in my life or the life of my children.  Not for my body.  Not for my mind.  Not for my child. 

Excuse me.  My chamber is waiting.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Prayer to end Human Trafficking



            Last night before going to bed, I already had a sense of purposefulness for this morning’s quiet time.   Rather than my usual reading and journaling, I asked God to reveal His desire through specific Scripture—though I had no idea where in the Bible such scripture might be.  With some apprehension—not in His words, rather in my ability to discern His speaking to me—I opened my Bible and landed on Psalm 70 – 72.

            The crime of human trafficking—in particular of women and children—has been weighing heavier and heavier on me.  While I sip my hot coffee, preparing for the battles of my day-- piled up laundry, cranky children, squeezing in my next run—a child is being sold for sex.  Another child is exploited by his or her own parents, who out of desperation, exchange their child for next month’s bread; dooming that child to slave labor or the black market side of adoption.
            This morning, the words found within Psalms 70-72 spoke directly as intercession for those caught in human trafficking.  The prayer that follows is almost completely Scripture filled.  It is what covered three pages of my journal entry for the morning—something I rarely share:

           
            Hasten, O God to save them!  O Lord, come quickly to help those caught in human trafficking. 
            Put to shame evil people who would commit such violence—confuse their ways. 
            May they be turned back in ruin and disgrace, may those who capture and sell children—who say, “Aha!”  “Aha!” be turned back—caught and trapped by their own crimes.
            But, may those who are targeted be rescued and give You praise!
            May they be glad in You!  Let them sing continually of Your praises,
            “Let God be exalted!”

            Those trapped in this human violence are poor and needy—come quickly to them, O God!
            Be their Help and their Deliverer;
            Let them take refuge in You, do not let them be put to shame.
            Rescue and deliver them in Your righteousness, turn Your ear to their cries and save them;
            Deliver them from the hands of wickedness—from the grasp of evil and cruel men.
           
Father, be their Hope!  Do not forget them!
For You brought them forth from their mother’s womb, You know the very hairs on their heads and You have a purpose and a plan for them.
O Lord, come quickly!  Be not far from them.  Raise up workers to be Your hands and feet;
Those who will shine Your light in the darkness and expose the horrendous nature of human trafficking and those evil enough to engage in it!

Though the women and children being trafficked are seeing trouble too deep to imagine,
Father, I ask and trust You to restore their lives.
From the depths of the earth, bring them up, increase their honor, comfort and heal them of their woundedness. 
You are Redeemer, Healer God and I trust fully in your power to fully restore what has been lost.

Thank you, Father, for faithful men and women who answer the call to expose and eradicate human trafficking;
Putting to shame and confusion those who pursue such violence;
While offering Your hope and  future to those rescued from it. 

Strengthen and support such workers.  Lead them in the specific way they need to go. 
Direct their paths—guide them through the darkest of dark holes on this earth, protecting them from harm.

Raise up a war cry among your people, O God!  Cause deep, moving outrage. 
Overthrow tyrannical governments, who turn a deaf ear to the cries of trafficked children!  Replace such rulers with Godly governments which honor and uphold all human life as precious.  Endow kings with justice and those in power with righteousness. 

You promise to defend the afflicted among the people—save the children of the needy and crush the oppressor,
You promise to rescue them from oppression and violence, for their blood is precious to You!

May we, Your people, go when You call, move to where You lead and do what You have purposed each one to do.
                       
            For all You have done and all You will do—I praise You! 
            I praise You with song and dancing
            I praise You for Your faithfulness; my lips shout for joy—even in the midst of sadness.
            For You are Redeemer God!  You have rescued and restored thousands of victims of human trafficking,
            And I look to the day when it is wiped out completely!

            By the power of Christ, I pray,  
Amen

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Words Bleeding Me—Responsibility



“Isaac, son.  This is ridiculous.  Why do you not spend the five minutes required to put your clothes away?  This is not my expectation.  Meanwhile, your dirty clothes stink up my carpet and your section of the room is a general mess.  This really frustrates me, and it isn’t the first time I’ve caught this laziness from you.   Now I see that I can’t trust you when you say your chores are done.  Now I have to come behind you and double check.  I shouldn’t have to do that!  You are quite old enough to know better and I expect better.  You are acting as a bad example to your younger brothers, and if this is how you expect me to recognize maturity in you and gift you with more privileges, you’re sadly mistaken.  In fact, there will be no more afternoon friends until I have double-checked your chores, and since I am never just sitting around waiting to check people’s chores, then you will just have to wait on ME to have TIME to check you off and if that means you miss afternoon friend time—well then so be it.”

And all Isaac heard?  “wonk, wonk, wonk, wonk.”

I’m thinking it was somewhat overkill.  If the glazed over look in Isaac’s eyes was any indication to my ranting’s effectiveness, I would have to give it two thumb’s down. 

Oh, but it felt good to rant.  All that pent up anxiety, just gushing forth with such self-righteous bravado and mock concern for Isaac’s future ability as a responsible member of his own home someday, I mean, the boy won’t even put his clothes away-- WHICH I FOLD FOR HIM (what a slap in my face!)-- how will he ever be able to manage to hold down a job?!  

In my life, rants are directly and positively correlated with the perceived heaviness of my responsibilities.   I am an extremely responsible person.  In fact, I am so responsible that I become irresponsible.  Abandoning that which I am actually able to control, I fret over that which will never be mine to manipulate or turn the way I see it should go. 

Example:  I recognize a character issue in one of my children.  Within my power and responsibility are:  1st—continual, effective prayer for my child, and 2nd-- creating an environment which makes it painful for such a negative character trait to persist, at the same time rewarding the development of positive character traits.  Outside of my power is the actual changing of the child’s heart.   What do I typically do?  Well, it depends.  But, I have been known to act on that which is not within my power, causing more drama, fearfulness in them and a general lack of peace; rather than create a fertile environment where positive change can sprout, establish itself, flourish and grow.  I can provide a painful environment, all right—painful… and then some. 

Naturally, I am excellent at carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders.  There is the very popular Christian book called Boundaries.  I’m sure it was written for me… though I only read the one for marriage.   And then, of course, there are all the parenting books.  I’ve read plenty of them, more to my detriment—or should I say to my children’s detriment, rather than my own.  What happens when I read such books?   My responsibility baggage only grows larger.  I stuff in more things for which I think I am responsible.   I learn some parenting technique crucial to the first five years of their lives—which now that they’re all six years and up, it must be too late and all that’s left is suffering through the consequences of my ignorance.  Shoot.

I would say that responsibility has also played a part in the process of attaching to my adopted children.  In last week’s post, I wrote of the materials making up attachment—materials I couldn’t recognize until after we came home and I was experiencing them.  If parenting brings with it a new, deep sense of being responsible for another human life, then I think adoptive parents could, quite possibly feel the weight of such responsibility two and three-fold.  Add to that extra layers:  adopting older children (who’ve already past those 1st five years of life, let’s just say), adopting after already having several children in your home who you are also responsible for (perhaps—we’ll just pretend—three boys who will now have to share everything and everyone in their life, and one who will have to share birth order to the degree of being what adoption circles call “artificially twinned”), and adopting children whom you think are one age (well under five), but turn out to be another age (almost 6). 

I can only speak for myself.  Maybe I’m the only crazy adoptive mother who has to battle constantly to keep responsibility in its rightful place.  Logically, I understand I have no control over what happened to my children pre-me.  But there are days when my eyes aren’t well focused and my mind crammed full of my to-do list, that I blur the lines of responsibility.   “What if….”, haunts me.  Fear of rejection teases me.  Responsibility for their woundedness, attitudes, relationships and future lives, piles up like my dirty laundry, emitting the odors of life’s stink and always being added to faster than I can deplete it.   All of it blocks deep binding love from taking root.

I have circled all the “I will”, “He will” and “The Lord will” passages of Scripture:
  “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you” (Ps 32)
 “He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways,”
“I will rescue him, I will protect him for he acknowledges my name,
I will answer him, I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.  With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (Ps. 90)
“He will cover you with his feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge” (Ps 90)
“My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land.  I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them.  I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord.  They will be my people and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.”  (Jer. 24)

There are hundreds more.  Interestingly, no where have I found a passage of Scripture which commands me to do any changing of my children’s hearts, nor have I discovered where it is within my power to heal their woundedness, remove their fears or restore their hearts.  None of these things, which I find myself wringing my hands over, are within my responsibility, or ability to affect.

What is within my responsibility circle is prayer and creating an environment which makes ripe the work of the Lord.  Praying in all seasons over all things, keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus (which, coincidentally keeps my eyes off all my perceived responsibilities) and offering myself continually to God as a living sacrifice—allowing Him to do transforming work in me as well.

I’m still looking for the passage that says ranting is one of my responsibilities.  It promises to be a long search.

Grace and Peace,
Shari

Monday, February 21, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Words Bleeding Me—Compassion




            There never has been an emotion so disturbing to me as a mother, as feeling no compassion toward my own children.   Before adopting our two Ethiopian children I had read of families who struggled to attach and much ado is made of attaching and bonding in adopted children.   I have even had a friend or two who struggled with attaching to their biological children for several months after giving birth.  But the substance of non-attachment was one I could not grasp.  I had no frame of reference.  No emotions to give it shape.  Like being told to make a paper-mache doll with only a form and no physical materials, nor instructions for applying these missing materials and actually create something— this is what I held in regards to attachment; an idea I saw straight through with no meaning.

Once home, it didn’t take long for all that substance to surface.  And surface it did—like a wounded soldier pouring his blood over the battlefield, frantically ripping clothes to stop the bleeding.  The materials of non-attachment were overwhelming me—anger, resentment, regret, loss, physical discomfort and lack of compassion.  No compassion.   Still, my chest is tightens as I write it.   Horrified that I could experience such ugly sentiments towards children, let alone children I had chosen to mother. 

His crying didn’t move me.  Her protruding belly from malnutrition only frustrated me.  Their mood swings and ugliness towards my three biological boys angered me.   The clinging to my husband, the laughing in my face taunting, “No love Mommy.  Only love Daddy!”  Running to any other parent for attention, affection and acceptance.   The outlandish tales of a rosy existence in Ethiopia.  The refusal to eat—or the hoarding at every meal.   Touching them, holding them and comforting them made me desperately uncomfortable.  I could have been hugging one of my mother-in-law’s cactus plants with more ease.

            No compassion. 

            Oh, what a horrible mirror it is which reveals a shallow love! 

 Of course, that is not true.  Such a mirror is the best kind, but at the moment of revealing, it may as well be shattered glass broken over one’s head.   All those years of loving my children, I took for granted.  I assumed I knew what love was.  I assumed I had a heart of sacrifice.    I remember looking into each one of my son’s eyes the day in which they were born, knowing that if I had to die in that moment so they might live…. I would plunge the knife myself.

The first time I looked into the eyes of my Ethiopian children…they were empty.  Empty, pathetic eyes which looked right through me.  But by the power of God Almighty, the many witnesses and my signature on the dotted line…I could have driven away and never come back. 

No compassion. 

For a time, I held it in, terrified to confess my horrible secret.  Finally when I did reveal my ugly truth, not many knew what to do with it.  “I think you show great compassion by not letting them continue to live in their woundedness,” one friend encouraged, after an exhausting day of feeling like all I did was discipline them.  Others just listened—sometimes crying with me, sometimes admitting this is why they would never adopt themselves. 

Maybe it was the last statement which sparked just enough indignant emotion to dare believe compassion would come.  Who am I to deny these two a full, loving home, opportunity to truly live and experience all God has for them, all because of my insecurities?  Is God not big enough to change me?  Did He not know me and all my below-the-surface shallowness before we ever walked through adoption’s door?  Wasn’t He the one who gave me a compassion for the widow and the orphan in the first place—a compassion which bled enough to act? Though it was still struggling for position with fear and guilt, compassion began pulling forward.  I started praying for compassion to take hold.

Somehow I believed that I would wake up one day and just “feel” deep, overwhelming compassion and once I did, it would stay.  I would always “feel” like their mom, and there would be no more of this shallow love nonsense.   Apparently the mirror still shatters easily over my head.  Compassion is in constant competition with residual guilt and fear.    But it knows its proper ground and the battle is well fought.

I recently read a passage from Psalms 103:

Praise the LORD, my soul;
   all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, my soul,
   and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
   and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
   and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
   so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

I have not traveled the roads of post-adoption very well.  But after 19 months, I am encouraged.  I see that I am “crowned with love and compassion”.  I didn’t crown me, God Almighty did.  He forgives my insecurities, He heals my shallowness of heart.  He redeems my life and I wear a most glittering crown of precious jewels.  I am satisfied with His goodness and thankful for the bleeding time, which has brought forth compassion-- whether I feel it always resting on my head or not.

….Now, if only the frown line on my forehead would be erased as my youthful energy is being renewed like the eagle’s.  Oh well, that’s what bangs are for, right?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Uh-oh... Make mine a Tuesday??

Okay, I knew I would drop off my "Monday" ball sooner rather than later.  Oh well.  Tuesdays can be just as good as any for proving my loyal readers with something funny, uplifting or just plain weird to laugh about.   Besides, I have a good excuse-- I was designing my husband's homemade Valentine's Day card; dutifully painting in the lines and conjuring up a poem to fill the inside blankness.  So there :)

In honor of Valentine's Day, I wanted to share how my husband and I first met-- or at least first began dating.  If you already know the story... forgive me.  I won't keep telling it after this-- or maybe I will.

  We grew up in the same "blink-and-miss-it" town and so had known OF each other all our lives.  I never really thought much about him, and figured the feeling was mutual.  However, one night while celebrating our high school's latest football victory-- which of course, he was one of the super-stars-- I learned the depth of his affections for me.  The entire high school (so it seemed) was out a road party... yes, I said road party-- that would be a party, complete with bonfire, on a road... and just about the time I was leaving with my friends, waiting for them beside their car, Tony comes strolling up, full of his football greatness and ready to score again.  He somewhat arrogantly leaned against the car, arms across his chest, looked me in the eye-- I think (it was dark)-- and blurted out:

"Hey.  You know, you're hot."

The End.

PS.  And... our first date was to McDonald's. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Make Mine a Monday: Happy Birthday Wyatt!

Twelve years ago today, I woke to sharp pains in my very pregnant belly.  Within 10 minutes of the first contraction, I had two more contractions and my water broke all over our bed.  I shook Tony awake-- no small feat-- and with much fearful excitement, explained the situation.  He stared at me sorta confused, then asked,

     "Are you sure you didn't just pee yourself?"

It reminds me of a recent country song's main chorus line... hmmm, how does it go?  Oh yeah,  "Stupid Boy".

Happy 12th Birthday, Wyatt!!!!  We LOVE YOU!!!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Freedom is in the eyes

I know very little of the similarities and differences between Egypt and Ethiopia—political, social, economic or otherwise.  I understand a scant history of Ethiopia’s political system and nothing of Egypt’s—other than the ancient days of pyramids and pharaohs.  But, I recognize the ‘look’.  An oppressed place filled with an oppressed people, not free to make their own way.  I brought that ‘look’ home with me in the eyes of my Ethiopian children.  I’ve lived the past year and a half working to erase the chicanery of a government which leaves it’s people staring through hopeless eyes, destined to live out some level of victimization.  It makes me cussing angry.
 
The images of Egypt remind me of a place I once visited.   Not the mobs of people throwing rocks, hanging off tanks or being run through by government vehicles—well, maybe the last one is similar, as far as chaotic traffic goes.   It’s the streets.  Dirty, confused, seemingly random.  It’s the buildings.  Either crumbling, concrete or dated to the ‘70’s with wires strung haphazardly, leaving me to wonder of the percentage of electrical accidents per year.  It’s the age of the people.  Young.  Where are the elderly-- those with the wisdom to impart to the younger generations, guiding them in the way they should go? 


But, in Egypt, people refuse to be oppressed by a corrupt government any longer.  They know of freedom; it bubbles to the surface despite all efforts against it.  However, I wonder, how will they get there?  All this talk of revolution, but what about reform?  What is the plan?  Who holds the keys to securing a system of government which bends to the will of the people, rather than the people bending to the will of the government? 
Why do I care so much?

Barely two countries to the south is the land I visited.  A land so filled with potential, fruitfulness and beautiful people.  And I walked out of that land with two of its children because somehow the richness of the land isn’t fully available to it’s own citizens to flourish and prosper.  Yes, Ethiopia has suffered drought and disease.  But, what of the government, which holds its people by marionette strings, manipulating their moves, under the guise of compassion and benevolence, not allowing them to rise up from such hardships as free individuals collectively seeking a better way?

While in Ethiopia, our group happened to cross paths with the ET president.  He was leaving the same restaurant we were about to enter.  It was almost bizarre; one of our guides said, “Oh look, that’s our president.”  Whose president? I questioned.  The president of your company?  The president of this region?  Surely not the president of the country!  “Yes.  That’s the one.”  He was leaving the restaurant, surrounded by men in suits, smiling happily at us and waving.   He had a gentle face.  A paternal smile.  And I wondered,  ‘Do you see us with your children?  Do you understand what is happening here?  We’re not tourists, you know.’ 

“In a state-run society the government promises you security.  But it's a false promise predicated on the idea that the opposite of security is risk.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The opposite of security is insecurity, and the only way to overcome insecurity is to take risks.  The gentle government that promises to hold your hand as you cross the street refuses to let go on the other side.”  ~Theodore Forstmann

Earlier this week, my son told me of the Chinese working the diggers in Ethiopia and how they didn’t look out for the children.  “They should’ve looked out for us!” he lamented.  “Well Buddy, that’s not what they are there to do.  The Chinese are there to build roads.”  It was a feeble excuse.  What was I going to say-- Well, how could they possibly be looking out for you?  Didn’t you notice how MANY of you there are just running freely in the streets?  I saw the diggers, holes and road crews intersecting freely with the people.  There were no barricades or safety measures taken that I can remember.  “They just should have watched out.  One boy was killed”, he continued.  My breath caught.  Just add it to many frozen moments these past 18 months of my chest tightening and head spinning with the grimness of his life before us.   There isn’t even hand holding in Ethiopia.

I want Egyptians to succeed because I want Ethiopians to succeed.  Those vacant, hopeless, victimized eyes aren’t fitting of a people with such splendid stature.