Friday, October 31, 2014

turn the lights on...

Happy Halloween, everybody!

As many of you know, Halloween is one of our favorite days of the year (see this article why it's called the Christian's "second most important holiday") and we are ALL about celebrating it in the neighborhood!  (I love this video from Desiring God Ministries: When Halloween Demands a Gospel Explanation)

It's an amazing holiday, indeed.

This year we had Elsa, the ice queen, (from Disney's hit movie, "Frozen") and a football player.  Though Jameson is a man of few words, one thing he ALWAYS clearly communicates to us when he watches a football game on tv is how badly he wants a helmet!

So today was his lucky day.

I'd say both of them were in heaven.
playing football in the front yard
Caroline and Leah have been together every Halloween of their lives thus far, and we weren't going to let a little across-town move stop the tradition, so we headed over early to do our annual trick-or-treating down our old street.

Anna and Elsa waiting for candy

 As these girls were literally RUNNING from house to house with excitement...
 ...this guy wanted to immediately enjoy his stash of candy.  (ha!)

 It was SO sweet to see Jameson figure out the if-I-hold-out-my-bucket-they-put-candy-in-there process.  Even though he was quite a bit slower than big sis, he still loved it at his own pace!

So once our trick-or-treating was over, we headed home to experience Halloween in our new neighborhood.

And boy, can you say DISAPPOINTMENT.

Maybe it's because there aren't that many little kids around here.  Maybe it's because our neighborhood is slowly on the "up."  Maybe it's because people are poor and don't have excess money to buy candy.  Maybe it's because most of those that do participate in Halloween go to more affluent neighborhoods or alternative events.

Whatever the reason, we were sad to see our new community so dead on one of the most lively and potentially "neighborly" evenings of the year.

Less than 5 porch lights were on, and you better believe, we went to every single one of them.  (one house had it's light on accidentally, ha!)  We shook hands and met the neighbors.  We were their only trick-or-treaters of the night.  Some said we were the only trick-or-treaters they've had in YEARS.


Not acceptable, people.  This place can do so much better!

So the work is cut out for us next year.  Somehow, we've got to start bringing Halloween back to this neighborhood!

 Nevertheless, I've got two kiddos who had a great evening of fun dress-up and sugar highs.

(not to mention, they got a ton of exercise in the process!)

Seeing the joy on their faces couldn't have made me any happier.

I love Halloween.

the tradition continues...

Even though we've moved across town this Halloween, the trick-or-treating tradition with Leah HAD to go on!

 Halloween 2008: 8 months old and brand new friends

Halloween 2009: 1 year old

 Halloween 2010: 2 years old

Halloween 2011: 3 years old
Halloween 2012: 4 years old
Halloween 2013: 5 years old
And Halloween 2014: 6 years old!

(Without any planning, they were sisters Anna & Elsa from Disney's movie, "Frozen")

What a joy to see these girls grow each year!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

everybody's got somethin'...

(Quick update from the last post: our "superman," Jameson, is feeling SO much better today now that the antibiotics are in full swing!)

happy girl
We finally got the cast!  And it's pink (of course)!

Since it'll only be two weeks before the pins come out, the doctor gave us the option of wrapping her arm back up with a splint and ace bandages.

Watching Caroline's face as the doctor presented that option, I could tell there was NO WAY we were leaving that office without a pink cast.  NO WAY.

the love of Jameson's life
 There was also NO WAY Jameson was going to leave that doctor's office without his own nurse buddy, too!   (ha ha!)

 He clung SO tightly to her leg when it was time to go- must have been love at first sight.  This sweet nurse literally CARRIED HIM OUT TO OUR CAR and buckled him in before he fell into a thousand pieces when she said goodbye.

sweet friends
 Caroline's loving her pink cast!  And she's handling the challenge of living one-handed like a champ.  I'm so incredibly proud of her.  (I'd be whining up a STORM.)

Seriously, not one complaint.

I can't help but wonder if it's because her sweet friend at school lives without a hand, but still amazes everyone with all that she's able to do!

enjoying the hay ride on the class field trip
 In fact, coming home from the ER the night of the accident, Caroline insightfully said, "Now I'm going to be more like M!"

I couldn't be more grateful for my daughter to have a friend like M.  They came into kindergarten together, and they've been a beautiful encouragement to one another.

We talk alot in our family about how "everybody's got something."
God makes everybody with unique gifts and challenges.

Sometimes it's easy to see how we're different, like having alopecia or missing a hand, and sometimes people have things that aren't so easily visible, but one thing is for sure: EVERYBODY'S GOT SOMETHIN'.

 Speaking of handling our differences, 
the week after her accident, 
Caroline asked me to write out her thoughts on alopecia into a booklet.  Oh man, you can't imagine how happy it made this mama's heart to hear:  

"I like alopecia!  
But sometimes I wish I had hair.
Sometimes I have to itch my head.
"At school everybody still likes me, even with alopecia.

Sometimes I wear a wig to school or out places.  I have a brown wig.  I'm getting a blonde wig for Halloween to be with my Elsa dress.  Elsa is a character in Frozen.

Sometimes I feel fun with alopecia.  Mommy likes to feel my smooth head.  My family thinks I'm special.  Sometimes for dress up I wear my wig.  

I feel very happy with alopecia.  It doesn't matter if I have alopecia because I'm still special. 

I feel very special.
I turn my back on Satan.
My heart unfolds when I see God.
I will try to obey the Ten Commandments.
I feel wonderful.
I know I'm special.
God thinks I'm special, too."

(gotta love their train of thought!)

 Alopecia still has it's days.  It still has it's ups and downs.  At times it feels like an extra person we carry into public with us.

It's a battle we're called to normalize.  

But after my own year-long struggle to accept alopecia when Caroline was first diagnosed, I can't tell you how relieving and amazing it feels to see my daughter finding confidence, approval, and strength in her own uniqueness.

Both of my kids will face challenges in being different.  Jameson will face the unique issues of being a transracial adoptee with white parents.

We're learning to be okay with our differences 
and embrace them as who we are.

We're learning that life's not all about 
looking like we have it together,
and God uses our differences to strengthen us.

It's these differences that also help us relate to others, too.  

Because, after all,
everybody's got somethin'.

Monday, October 27, 2014

even superman...

We love the Superman in our lives.
 But even Superman falls down sometimes.
Even Superman comes down with a 104 degree fever with double ear infections.
 Even Superman needs a Daddy to hold him and make it all better.
Here's to hoping our poor, little Superman will get his strength back soon...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

why I need the 'hood more than it needs me...

I didn't move into my neighborhood (lovingly coined "the 'hood" by locals here...) because I was some kind of awesome, missional Christian.  

I wasn't thinking "these poor dears" down here just really needed me and I could move here and "be a light for Jesus."  

Sure, I'm all for bringing Christ's kingdom to places where darkness reigns.  Shouldn't that be the mission of a Christian no matter what side of town they live?  

There's an unspoken assumption that the 'hood needs rescuing.  Like, that's where all the bad stuff happens, and nothing good could possibly come from there.

Yes, there are certainly problems in the 'hood.  There is no denying that.  Drug usage, family members in jail, children who are hungry, abuse of all kinds, and sometimes crime and violence. 

But that's not all it is.  And I think we're too quick to dismiss the ways God's glory is being displayed in neighborhoods like mine.  We're so busy trying to avoid those parts of town.   But do we ever stop to consider that the 'hood might actually be more about rescuing US than us rescuing it?  

7 Reasons I Need the Hood More than the Hood Needs Me

1.  Community.  

There is a very real, active, present sense of community in the 'hood.  In our comfortable suburban lives, we pull into our remote-controlled garages after a hard day of work and quickly shut the door before anyone might dare to speak to us.  Gone are the front-porch days where neighbors were tightly involved in one another's lives.   We have retreated into our homes and chosen isolating lifestyles over communal ones.  We enjoy the "friendships" of social media, and real relationships are fine, too, just as long as they coincide with our busy schedules, right?    

The 'hood is old-school in a great way.  The houses are squeezed relatively close to one another and connected with sidewalks.  It's designed to put you in close community with one another.  ("It's not good for man to be alone." Genesis 2:18)

Everybody knows everybody here.  They go way back.  Sometimes even generations.    

At one house, people are rocking on the front porch and talking to whoever comes by.  At another house, 15 people squeeze onto their porch, swapping stories and laughing as they grill out in the front yard on a Sunday afternoon.  Another person comes by to pay a visit to the elderly woman next door.  The guys play a fun, but heated game of basketball at the park each week.  The teens congregate after school at the community center.  

They're outside.  They're together.  They know one another.  They're in no hurry.  

That's community, and I need some more of that.

2.  Solidarity.     

In the 'hood, and in black culture, there's an understanding of solidarity and unity that is largely missing in my culture.  

I've never experienced it until our family became one of color.  But now, when someone speaks about African Americans, they're talking about my family. 

Solidarity is this deep sense of looking out for one another, of backing each other up.  It's loyalty to the endth degree.  You catch each other's eyes in a store or a restaurant and there is connection.  Conversation and smiles spring up among strangers.  There's an unspoken understanding that though the journey is tough, we're in it together.  I'm not out to use you or exploit you for my own gain.  I don't have to explain the realities of living with dark skin to you.  You already know.  You stand with me and I stand with you, no questions asked. 

That's solidarity, and it amazes the bajeebers out of me.

3.  Generosity.  

I've sat across the table from a black friend in the throws of financial poverty, scratching my head as to why he wouldn't begin saving his income in order to climb his way out of his dire situation.  It seemed pretty straight-forward to me: cut down your spending, save what you make, then use that money saved to invest in a car, etc, etc.  

Well, of course he knew all that, and yet it still didn't seem to matter.  Initially that was frustrating.  Later it became eye-opening.  Because as I listened more and talked less, I came to realize there were two different value systems at play here.  My value system, though it was rational and would've potentially led him to financial "success," ultimately valued looking out for yourself above all else.  But his highest value was that it was most important to care for others than even yourself.  

You see, my friend had been taking the little change that he did have and was using it to buy groceries or gas money for his family and friends.  That's partly why he was poor.  He wasn't really all that interested in climbing out of poverty himself because "what good would it do if I 'made it' and they're still hurting."  

I see this generosity time and time again, to the point that it doesn't even make logical sense to my middle-class mind.  In my culture and class, you might give here and there to family or friends, but not certainly to the point that it would send you into financial ruin.  Alot of people here would give up anything for those they love.  Anything.

That's generosity, and regardless of it verging on irresponsibility, I need to wrestle with valuing people above profit. 

4.  Strength in weakness.  

When you live in the 'hood, it doesn't take long to see the insurmountable challenges people here face.  More than half don't own cars.  Add to that, we live in a food desert.  The nearest grocery store is over three miles away.  In the 'hood, issues like healthcare and criminal justice reform become more than political platforms.  They're people.  

The Treyvon Martin's and Mike Brown's are walking unarmed down my street.  They're suspicious until proven innocent.  

And yet, against so many odds and systemic, societal injustices, I see great strength.  As a black preacher once said about his congregation, "My people have PhD's in makin' somethin' outta nothin'!"  They are resourceful.  There is strength and determination.  There is restraint.  There is a hunger for justice.  Though things are hard, there is hope for the future and great joy in the midst of it.

That's strength, and boy, do I need some of that when I think my little problems are so hard.

5.  Blessed are the poor.  

Jesus had some pretty great things to say about the poor, and actually rather condemning things about the wealthy and the religious.  He calls the poor blessed.  They're important in His kingdom.  They have dignity and worth.  He Himself, the Savior of the world, came to the earth poor, without a place to lay his head. 

You know, maybe Jesus isn't as much interested in making the poor become more like US, but perhaps He wants us to become more like them.  And for us to be more like them, we can start by being around them and learning from them.  

"When you come upon those who are economically poor, you cannot say to them, 'Pull yourself up by your bootstraps!' because you certainly did not do that spiritually.  Jesus intervened for you.  And you cannot say, 'I won't help you because you got yourself into this mess,' since God came to earth, moved into your spiritually poor neighborhood, as it were, and helped you even though your spiritual problems were your own fault...

My experience as a pastor has been that those who are middle-class in spirit tend to be indifferent to the poor, but people who come to grasp the gospel of grace and become spiritually poor find their hearts gravitating toward the materially poor."   -Tim Keller

We don't "tolerate" our service to the poor, but we long to be near them because it's through them, we see Jesus more clearly.

6.  Diversity           

No matter how our churches look on Sunday mornings, God's family is beautifully diverse and transracial.  Diversity is His idea, and even more than that, diversity reflects who He is, since we are created corporately in His image.  When we're only around people like us, we tend to see the world identical to the culture into which we belong.  Without any diverse relationships to challenge our perspective, we can slowly and unknowingly fall into the trap of believing the way we see things and do things is "right."  We don't pause to consider another's perspective, especially if we have no other perspective around us to consider.  

I can't talk enough about how life-altering and enriching it has been to begin this lifelong journey into another culture-- to study its history, to learn from those in African American culture, and to continually incorporate it into my own family.  For us, adopting transracially wasn't the impetus of embracing Jameson's culture.  It was the RESULT of it.  God was already at work showing us the beauty of diversity before we knew His plans for our own family to be transracial. 

A diverse community gives us glimpses into the rich image of God.  Diverse relationships give us a bigger, broader perspective than that of our own.

7.  Intentionality.  

There's alot of opportunity in the evangelical Christian subculture to send money across the world to help serve those in need.  Certainly nothing wrong with that.  

But I often wonder why Christians seem more eager to throw their money at poor black kids in Africa than to wrap their arms around poor black kids just around the corner.  It's sad that it takes a unique family to move into my neighborhood.   Houses sit for sale a long, long time.  I can't help but think how much people are missing out on all the neighborhood has to offer them.   Our neighborhood rocks!   

The 'hood provides opportunities to practice faith in the places we might carry fear.  We need to trust God.  We need to confront our unfounded fears and stereotypes we have blindly believed our entire lives. The 'hood moves us outside of comfort, safety, and ease, and then beautifully shows us areas we've been misguided.    

My neighborhood doesn't need white Messiahs to come and rescue it any more than the suburbs need a complete overhaul themselves.

My neighborhood doesn't need to become gentrified in order for it to be really great (or really safe) one day.  

It needs more people to come and receive the benefits of what's already here.  Believe it or not, it's really great right now.

It needs people who recognize their own impoverishment, whether socially, relationally, spiritually, or financially, etc. 

It needs people who love it, people who want to join it.  People who see the diamond here and eagerly want to be a part of it.  People who want to work to restore and revive without displacing those who have made it what it is.

God's glory is already on full display here.  

And the neighborhood doesn't need me half as much as I need it.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

my little trooper...

Whew!  What a week!  Can we please sign up for a little "normal and boring" before any more excitement around here?

Coming home with all of these cards on Thursday was such an encouragement to Caroline as she nervously anticipated her surgery on Friday.
She was fairly calm and good natured the morning of!  We had to be AT the hospital at 5:15AM.
In God's goodness to us, one of the nurses was a mom of Caroline's school friend!  I think seeing a familiar face was calming to Caroline.... as was the chill pill they gave her, ha ha...

Pretty cool to take a ride in a moving bed, eh?

A little screen time helped keep her mind distracted.
And this girl was AMAZING for the IV!  Not a tear, not a whimper.  So proud of her.

The hardest part for all of us was the moment we had to say goodbye.  She was so afraid.  It was gut-wrenching to send her off alone to surgery.  She seemed too young.

Even though it only took an hour or so to insert three pins into her bones, it felt like an ETERNITY to this worried mom and dad!  Finally her surgeon came and told us everything had gone well, though it was a finicky procedure the way the bone had been broken.  (well, of course, because when does anything normal happen in this family?!)

We had to wait even longer to see her after talking to the doctor, and I was about to go crazy.  Minor surgery is never minor when it's your child.   When we did get to see her, she was slumped over in her hospital bed, wrapped up in blankets (including a blanket around her little bald head!) being wheeled onto the elevator.

She was crying, saying how much it hurt.  Oh, it broke my heart to see her like that.  I encouraged her to close her eyes and rest, and she didn't want to do that.  It wasn't until they got her into the recovery room and dosed up on more pain meds that she began resting peacefully.
 And then, after an hour of rest, she was well enough to take the wheelchair ride to the car and head home!

Way to go, Caroline!  You did it, girl!!

(And PRAISE GOD for the nurse who happened to hand me a puke bag on the way out of the door "just in case..."!!)

Jameson happy to see sister home!
But besides the puking, Caroline's recovery was pretty smooth!  She woke up the next day and said, "I feel better!"  You could hardly tell she'd been in surgery the day before.

So we've made it through the worst.  Now we've got another temporary cast while we wait another two weeks for the bones to heal. Pins will come out at our follow up appointment (no sedation, just pliers.... gulp!), and she'll get some type of real cast.  (She's already got her hopes on hot pink.)

I can't say enough how grateful I am for everyone who helped--- for those of you all over the country who prayed for us, for those who watched Jameson throughout the week, for those who brought a meal, for those who texted and called and sent cards and goodies, for those who "showed up" and those who loved us well.  Thank you and we love you all!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

let's show up...

It's the unexpected visit to the emergency room with a sobbing six-year-old writhing in pain.  It's the moment you say goodbye to her and turn her over to a surgeon's care.  It's the feeling that the earth has stopped spinning for this moment, and all the things you thought were important suddenly don't matter anymore.

It's in these desperate times when our hearts are perhaps the most receptive to the tender words of Jesus.  It's in these moments of crisis that we struggle to form sentences, much less prayers.  We find ourselves laid out, and completely needy, though often we don't even know what we might need.

This is the time, and this is the place we can offer one of the rarest and most treasured gifts to another person:  the gift of presence.

The gift of just sitting there.  That's it.  You may not have the perfect words to say, and you may not even know what to do.  But the point is, and that which will be remembered is: you showed up.

Sitting by my side in the moment says "I care."  It says "my schedule doesn't matter right now.  You do."  Perhaps even better than praying for someone across social media, consider coming across town to pray with them.  I fear that our technology becomes an easy substitute for real, face to face, body to body presence.  And all the facebook "likes" in the world just aren't the same as someone dropping everything to sit quietly by your side and make sure you're okay.

I'm thankful for the gift of presence through such an agonizing week.  I needed help.   I needed support, and shoulders to cry on.  I needed real, flesh-and-blood people with whom to sit and to share.  I just needed a safe place, because in isolation, I will most definitely despair.

Our bodies were created to be in community with other bodies.  When (and not if) suffering appears, let us be those that give the gift of presence in small ways and large.

Let's just come and sit, even if it's for a few minutes.
Even if it's in silence.

Let's get off our phones and our computers and be present with people.

Let's show up.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

in an instant...

It's crazy how life can change in an instant.

Like, one minute you're enjoying a Sunday afternoon family bike ride.

And the next, you're consoling your sobbing child with a broken wrist in the ER.

It's awful.  All of it.  

Watching your daughter's body slam onto pavement as she careened way-too-fast down the hill and lost control.

Untwisting her from the bike, helping her up as she's crying in deep pain, complaining that her arm hurts.

The minute we get her home, sit her in a chair to assess what's happened, and see a once-petite wrist swollen up with bones under the skin where they shouldn't be. 

The panic we feel as we rush to the emergency room, with her writhing in pain and scared to death in the back seat.

The only way to stay calm in the moment: watch a show.
The struggle to stay "strong" and "positive" in the ER while my daughter is terrified at every step, even at taking an x-ray. 

Hearing the words "fractured wrist" and "surgery" for my six year old, and watching her try to take it all in.

It's just been AWFUL.  And I feel like I'm crumbling into pieces, yet trying to hold everything "together" for my baby girl.

temporary cast and splint until surgery
 I know that breaking bones is a rite of passage for parenthood.  I know it happens ALL the time, and I know she will ultimately be fine.

But I never realized how traumatic it all was.  I never knew how fractured our hearts would be going through something as "normal" as this.

I told Caroline we'd be tough going through this together.

"Mommy, you're gentle, not tough," she replied.

She knows me too well.

As I'm praying with her in the emergency room and teaching her the truths of Scripture-- that Jesus tells us his children will face tribulation, but that He will always be with us and will not leave us--- I'm literally struggling to believe the words coming from my own lips.

waiting to see the hand surgeon
Can I trust Him?  Will He take care of us?

And then the loud, resounding "yes" comes in small doses...

My neighbor happens to be in the yard while we're rushing off to the ER and offers to keep Jameson.

The hand surgeon on-call that night happens to be the best one in our town, and the one who I saw when I accidentally cut my hand.

A friend brought us a meal the next night.

Another neighbor watched Jameson the next morning so I could care for Caroline.

A couple came over late that night just to sit alongside us in our pain.

Friends all over the country are lifting up my daughter and my family before the Lord, even when I'm too overwhelmed and anxious to do it myself.

He will care for us.  He will care for her.   And it's unfortunately through suffering that I'm able to see it more clearly.

Resting and elevating!
 But our hearts are still anxious for what lies ahead.

Friday morning before the sun rises, she'll be in surgery.  She's scared.  I'm scared.  (I'm the kind that gets queasy at just the thought of blood, people.)  We are not talking about specifics of what will happen, per orders from the doctor.  To her, a shot is the worst thing imaginable.  I do not even want to think about the moment she must get an IV.

She knows she'll get medicine to take a nap, and that they'll put in the pins while she's asleep.

"Will the pins make me bleed, Mommy?"
"What if I feel them do it?"
"How am I going to write at school?"
"I'm scared of surgery, Mama."

I know, baby.  I know.
But the worst is behind us, baby.
And everything they do is to help us.

"But I'm scared, Mama."

Me, too, baby.  Me.  Too.
camping out next to Mom & Dad's bed

Oh, God, please get us through Friday.  I simultaneously never want it to come and wish it were here already.

After that, it'll be two weeks of pins and splint-wearing.  Then pins will come out (ouch) and she'll get some type of cast to let things heal for another couple of months.  Possibly some rehab after that.

So maybe by Christmas we'll be through this?
Thankfully, today and tomorrow she's back at school (sitting out of recess, of course), and enjoying seeing her friends and keeping her mind off of everything.  The pain seems to be tolerable, and we just wait until Friday.  Marc and I are attempting to resume normal life in the meantime, but absolutely nothing feels normal right now.  

Many thanks to those of you who are praying for us, checking in with us, and offering help our way.  We love you, and appreciate you loving our little girl along with us.  

We'll keep you updated...