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.