Friday, March 21, 2014

the man he was...

Some of you may know that my father-in-law, Caroline's "Papa," has been struggling with a progressing dementia for the past several years after he experienced a series of mini stokes.  He was already blind, and as you can imagine, that has only aggravated his confusion.  

As Papa has become more and more disoriented, he now slips in and out of lucidity.  

Sometimes he's there.  Many times he's not.

The last trip Papa made to our house a year & a half ago

There are not enough words to describe the agony and heartbreak of watching a loved one gradually slip away.  

A husband.  A father.  A grandfather.  

It breaks our heart to see Papa's "thinker broken."  

Who he is now is not who he is.  It's important that we remember Papa for the man he was.  

My mother-in-law (aka "Nanny" as you all have known her through the years) just wrote down these heartfelt words to do just that.  

The Man He Was
(by Shirley T. Corbett)

I once knew this man
Lying here close by my side.
During all these years, he has taken me for a ride.

He’s been strong and wise in so many ways.
He’s been here for his family through all these days.

He is not quite as clear as he used to be.
Now all I have is what I was once able to see.

I miss him! this man that he was,
His words and his confidence, as he worked so hard.
Always knowing exactly what to do, 
Leading his family through the good and the bad,
Always aware of what he had.

He was there for me through the thick and the thin.
Able to survive from without and within.

Now I feed and clothe him and see that he’s clean.
I make decisions about his every need.

He’s there somewhere, the man he was.
Sometimes I hear him by what he says.
He laughs that laugh he’s always had,
And says “I love you, did you know that”?

Most of the time he’s talking to someone else.
He thinks it’s mama, or Linda, or Sharon.
I’m always gone to take care of things.
I’m never around according to him.

Our lives have been good,
God has blessed us so much.
He’s been with us these 60 years, we can feel His touch.
He gave us three children with their husband and wives,
Eleven grandchildren, and two great grands to complete our lives.

He may not understand all that goes on in this life.
But one day, at the end of all this strife,
He will  be able to see, and to think once more,
As we meet anew on that heavenly shore.
Until that day comes, I will continue to strive,
To make life for him a good way to survive.

One day soon, I will understand God’s will, 
When He takes him home to be with Him.
Until that day, God will give me grace,
As I continue to run this human race.

I thank you, Lord for the strength You give,
And the grace you provide each day as we live.
The blessings we have are more than enough
Even though the path may be awfully tough.

I can never thank you for all that you do,
As you not only provide for our every need,
but You bless us in so many other ways too.
I’ll live my life to bring glory to Your name,
Until I end this race inYour eternal Hall of Fame. 

Papa's first time meeting our baby Caroline

Papa's first time meeting little Jameson

We know that one day we'll see Papa dance again.
We will always remember the man he was.

Our Father, would you be most merciful to Papa
Grant him peace in his mind
Bring calmness to his fearful, restless heart
Provide to Nanny the unending strength, wisdom, and patience
that she requires to sustain herself through each day
Surround them both with the support they need-
those functioning as Your hands, as Your arms,
embracing them and caring for them through these days of challenge
Cause them to trust in You more deeply, more fully
And allow them to feel Your continued presence
that You promise us in the dark valley of death.
Draw their eyes and their hearts toward the Resurrection Day,
when at last, these weights and ills will be no more.
In Christ's saving name,

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

strength training of a relationship...

Many of you know I'm coming off of a year-long hip "injury" from repetitive overuse last summer.

Whew.  Almost a YEAR.  (Seriously, how do these professional athletes recover from injuries so quickly?!)

It's been a long, grueling process of physical therapy:  flare ups, modifications, orthotics, and a ton of strength training.  I'm FINALLY to a point where things don't constantly hurt anymore.

Through this year, I've learned so many things, but perhaps the biggest lesson in this journey of muscle rehabilitation (that I think can be so applicable for life itself), is that many times you have to stay in the pain and work through it if you ever expect it to go away. 

Here's what I mean...

On the days where my pain was at its worst, it seemed like I should do nothing else than lie on the couch motionless.  It hurts!  Why would I want to MOVE?

But with the type of injury that I had, I actually needed to move.  Just in the appropriate way.  My physical therapist would show me the small, slow, specific movements that I needed to begin if I ever wanted to stop the hurting.  Really?, I questioned, This is going to create MORE pain, not LESS!  

It seemed totally counterintuitive.  Nevertheless, I began faithfully doing the exercises... only to be met with more pain.

This is not working! I complained.  How is this ever going to go away?!?  (As if things were going to heal in one week or even one month, Amy.  But don't we always want the quick fix?)  In fact, things worsened for me.  Badly.

I repeatedly came back to the physical therapist in TEARS.  Not pretty tears.  With every setback, I'd lose faith. "I need you to tell me again how this is going to help," I'd cry.  She would patiently talk me through my doubts again and again.

Slowly, and I mean slowly, I'm building back my strength.  But I'm realizing that this idea of working through the pain isn't just for our bodies.

It's for our relationships as well.

As we come into fellowship with others, we should expect there to be some measure of pain involved, if it is to be a REAL relationship.  (now, pleeease hear me-- I'm obviously not talking about expecting pain to the point of abuse, whether it be physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, etc.)

But if we realize how broken we all are at our deepest levels, a REAL relationship means it will also be a messy one.

Every relationship is like learning to partner dance... inevitably, toes will be stepped on. 

You're going to see parts of me for who I truly am, and vice versa.

You're going to say things and I'm going to say things that hurt the other, whether intentionally or not.

You will be disappointed in me at times, and other times, I will be disappointed in you.

If we're going to have a REAL relationship, as opposed to an acquaintance relationship, where everything is "good" all the time, there will MOST SURELY be times of misunderstanding and times of tears.  Times of reconciling and PLENTY of opportunities to forgive.  Marriage is certainly one example of this, but so is every type of relationship that we enter.

And when the painful times come, the question in that moment will always remain:  Are you committed to work through the pain?

When I don't do things the way you would do them, will you write me off?

When I say something too harshly and hurt your feelings, will you take offense and pull away altogether?

Too often our first reaction is to turn away.  Or pull away.  We retreat, both physically and emotionally.
We tend to give up on people and relationships way too early and way too easily.  Maybe we add that person to our "I tried" list of failed relationships and resolve to go find another friend.

Or maybe we lash out and attack.  Often times we mask over our hurt with anger.  Anger is the easy way out, because it's a wall that keeps us from admitting our own vulnerability.

But what if, instead of pulling away or going on the attack, we took the risk of moving towards the person in love to be honest about our feelings?  What would happen if we moved towards the person with the hopes of restoration?

In the tough moments, it can seem so counterintuitive to stay and reconcile.  To attempt to work it out.  Like my physical therapy, it seems like that route would only bring about MORE pain into what's already been damaged.  Why would I want that?  Escape in any form would certainly be the easier option.

But working through the pain is ultimately the route to experience healing.

This past week, I sat on the couch across from a new friend as we did the difficult work of a real relationship for the first time...

That hurt my feelings.  Let's figure out why it hurt.  Let's talk about why you said that.  Let's try to understand where we're coming from so we can go forward from here.

I wouldn't say it was an emotionally pleasant conversation for either of us.  It was facing the pain and working through it.  But I'm so thankful she and I were committed to understanding the other.  We each saw areas in ourselves that were being challenged and grown by the other.  And then it hit me,

This is the strength training of a relationship.  What temporarily left us sore has made us stronger because of it.

Our relationships are only as strong as our ability to work through the times of pain.

The process of seeking to understand, apologizing, and offering forgiveness is a "messy necessity" for a healthy relationship to grow.  Our friendships will only be deepened through a faithful, long-term commitment to work through the pain instead of running from it or attacking when we feel it.

The past year (and the past week) has revealed that I am so, so weak.  Both physically and relationally.
God has shown (and is showing) that to me more clearly.

Thankfully I have a strong Savior who, himself, worked through pain to reconcile a relationship with me.  Even when I didn't want anything to do with Him!  (1 John 4:19)

That is an utter mystery to this broken, always-failing sinner like me.   But hallelujah, praise Jesus that He did.

It's that love, and that reconciliation that gives US the strength to stay, and not run.

To forgive, and not lash out.

To trust, and not build even higher walls.

To be vulnerable, and not to hide from each other.

And to continually resolve to work through the pain.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

don't touch the hair...

When Jameson first came into our family, I remember listening to some podcasts about hair and skin issues in transracial adoption, and in those podcasts, there was one question that came up each time that baffled me:

How do we tell people not to touch our child's hair?

Well, that's ridiculous, I thought.  Why does it matter as much?  What's the big deal with that?  At the time, I was holding a brand new baby and it was so common and easy to run your hand across their head not giving a second thought.  The question made me think about how I had just played with a little girl's hair at church on Sunday, too... was that wrong?  Why would they make such a big deal out of touching a kid's HAIR? I wondered.  It seemed a little nit picking to me, honestly.  People were touching my newborn's hair right and left and it didn't bother me in the least.

But as Jameson's growing, things are different now.  I get it.  Hair touching is becoming more awkward the older he gets. Somebody came up to him at church this morning (I don't even remember who it was) and ran all five of their lanky, fingers through his hair and to my own surprise, I cringed inside and wanted to pull Jameson away.

I'm that person now!  Leave my kid's hair alone!

You can think I'm crazy, but I think it bothers me more now because of all the effort I am trying to put into understanding and styling his hair!  When you grow up in the black community, you're naturally around black hair.  It's part of your culture.

Not so for this white mama.  This past trip to the salon left me hanging my head.  I'm trying, really I am.  But from figuring out moisturizing to detangling to washing to styling to creams vs. butters,  and so on, I've got so much to learn.  I thank Jesus for my black friends, students, and youtube videos that are helping me learn how to care for kinky curly hair.

So when you approach my son and immediately take your fingers haphazardly to Jameson's hair, as in the motion of scratching his scalp, do you realize you are literally UN-DOING everything that I just worked SO hard to moisturize, detangle, define, and tame down!

Now don't get me wrong.  I'm still not bent out of shape about this that I'm going to confront you or cast heaping coals of judgment upon you if you touch my son's hair. :)   (The advice given on the podcast was to politely ask the people in the moment not to touch his hair.  I'm not ready to go that far.  Yet.)  I'm going to give you credit-- you most likely don't even know what you're doing.  You probably don't think twice about it- you see a kid, you touch their hair, no matter who it is.

But I would like to use this post as somewhat of a public service announcement to inform the world that my son's hair, as exotic as it may seem, is not public property to satisfy one's curiosity.  It's ridiculously difficult to manage as it is, so leaving it alone is definitely the best and most respectful decision you can make.

If this is news to you... like it was news to me!... now you know.  :)  Please know you're obviously welcome to touch my child appropriately in other ways: rub or pat his back, give a high five, ask to hold him, etc.

But I ask that you leave his mini fro to me and his hairdresser, please.  :)

Friday, March 7, 2014

all cracked up...

Laughter is the best medicine.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

you've been warned...


This post may not be suitable for those with heart conditions due to the nature of this content.  

This post contains ridiculous amounts of cuteness, and your heart just might skip a beat or two.

So browse at your own risk,

lest the cuteness slay you, too.

(This pic should really impress all the future girlfriends, don't you think?)

Those eyes.

We're in for big trouble with the ladies, folks...
 He loved the slide.

Watch here...

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

a belated birthday...

And while we're on the theme of Frozen, Nanny made one of the greatest Frozen-themed birthday cakes!
 Our snow a few weeks ago kept us from going to celebrate with the whole family in South Carolina.

But at least we were able to meet up halfway with Nanny, Papa, and Uncle Johnny for some cake just before a memorial service for Marc's uncle.

"Happy birthday to you...."
 And after the cake, it was playground time...
and a chance to snuggle.  :)

We love you, Nanny & Papa!

Monday, March 3, 2014

the cold never bothered me anyway...

Like all the little girls across America, my daughter is completely obsessed with the soundtrack to Disney's new movie, Frozen.  The song "Let it Go" won an Oscar last night!

So after hearing "Let it Go" a hundred times today, I honestly think I might die if I hear it again.  Surely it is permanently burned somewhere onto my brain.

But that doesn't mean that YOU can't listen to it!  This is what we did for fun with our snow day.  :)

You've heard Idina Menzel sing it.  (or ahem, "Adele Dazeem" as John Travolta called her...)

But may I present to you my Caroline...  he he!

 (Go Caroline!)

snow days 2014...

Ready to go!
As we're enjoying a relaxing snow day here today, I thought I'd share pictures from our last round of snow a few weeks ago.

It was Jameson's first time out,
and this boy loved it!

snow angels

eating snow cream

The second snow day was gorgeous, and we made it to the park for some sledding fun.

Caroline's friends happened to be there sledding, too, so the girls had a blast together.

Happy snow days!  

(now let's get on with it, Spring!)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

shovel it in...

Watch out, this little guy's itching to get started with a fork. 

(It's probably about time he uses something
since he shovels in SOOO much food in with his fingers already!...)

Seriously, it is unreal how much food
Jameson can pack away in that tiny little body.
He's eating more than Caroline... at 15 months!!

I should start setting grocery money aside now...

 Trying to get that food!  (Go, Jameson, go!)

Missed it that time, but this is too fun!

Now serious this time.

Aaaand, got it!

(And he couldn't be more proud!)