I am sorry I haven't written that much this week, and I have no real excuse other than I didn't have the energy to do it. My mind has been filled with many tasks, many thoughts, many emotions and I tried to sit down and write a couple of times but the words didn't come and I ended up staring at a blank screen, so I threw in the towel and went on with my life. I've also had well over a hundred emails about various topics in the past 6 or 7 days which has kept me busy as well, with a few still left to answer.
I have been in a very strange place, spiritually and emotionally speaking, and it is a time of profound growth for me. I have leaned on and learned from close friends, but have been surprised at how I forgot to lean on the One whom I most should be turning to for guidance. How does that happen? How do we lose our way sometimes so quickly and easily? It was funny, and maybe it was Him working through others, but the minute I got some things off my chest I felt relieved and renewed. I am in a better place than I was two weeks ago when all of this started and I began to feel everything closing in on me, that I was way over-committed and sinking fast. I know that realistically, the truth is we do have an inordinate amount of stress in our lives right now, and it isn't going to get any better so I need to get a handle on how to walk around with a cloud of peace surrounding me rather than a smoky cloud of frenzy trailing along.
I have read a couple of books this past week (one while in Chicago and in and out of airline gates!!), one that was motivating and the other I found definitely worthwhile reading but disturbing and sad.
The first book was one popular right now with lots of book clubs "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson. I can't recall who left it for me in my tray at church, but it was incredible...a story that speaks theme I have written about in my blog in the past about the power of one person to change the world in some way. The author is a unique "Do'er", he is a man who saw a need, felt a call, and acted on it. Although this is not a Christian oriented book, Greg's honesty, integrity and deep sense of following a path laid out before him by a Higher Power really sets a remarkable example. His understanding that education can change a nation and his desire to set out to do just that...educate the masses in Pakistan and then Afghanistan one school at a time is thought provoking, and you can see how God moved in his life to allow him to achieve things well beyond anything he might have initially dreamed possible. But, the thing I loved about his life story is he DID dream big dreams, and you begin to realize that by dreaming big dreams much more can happen than if you only dream small ones...even if the original end goal is not achieved.
And what would happen if all of us dreamed just one big dream and believed in it with all our heart and soul?
The second book was one I picked up at the airport after realizing I had a loooonnnggg day ahead of me. "The Women Who Raised Me" is the autobiography of Victoria Rowell, who succeeded in ballet and then moved on to TV starring in "The Young and the Restless" and "Diagnosis Murder". This book was written as she traced the roots of her life, from being removed from the care of her schizophrenic mother when a toddler and wanders through the paths that carried her to each of the women who had an impact on her life as she gratefully and graciously acknowledges the value of their input. Intended in many ways to be a celebration of the love and care shown her by a variety of talented, loving women...I came away from the experience of reading this book recognizing the damage that can be done to children that lasts a lifetime when they are placed multiple times in homes, and when they have no "real" family to connect with that grounds them. It left me wondering if there will always be a gaping hole in Kenny and the girls' lives because of what they didn't have...and if there is anything at all that I will ever be able to do to fill the hole up that I know exists within each of them.
Sometimes I think we are getting there with Kenny, and other times there are subtle little things that make me wonder. I don't know if I can even articulate it here, it's just a gut feeling...a neediness despite his independence...a yearning to almost crawl inside of me that I feel from him sometimes that can not easily be explained to someone who has not adopted an older child who really wants to bond with their new family and yet has sooooo much that is empty inside of them. I know it is early in our relationship, a mere year old, but I know I have half the time to help him become whole versus a biological child or Matt and Josh who came to us as infants. Thinking of the girls and the job I have ahead of me there, after reading this book, makes it feel almost an impossible task. For most of us recognize there is far more to adopting an older child than making certain their educational needs are met, or that their food, clothing and shelter needs are met. It is about meeting their soul needs, and most often those souls are badly damaged, sometimes beyond repair. Perhaps that is why I feel at a much deeper place in my faith right now as I know the task before me is virtually impossible be it not for having Him running the show. I need to recognize that He is working through Dominick and I, and we have to let Him come through or we will not be able to help our children become all that He intends for them to be.
I found myself picking the book up and down, reading it in spurts as I digested the pain described, the strength revealed, and the loneliness of the human soul...a loneliness a child or teen should never have to feel. And I wondered as I read it why these things were the things that came through for me, rather than what I know the author's intention was of paying tribute to the difference other can make in a life. I did see the powerful impact others made in shaping and forming her, and I know that she could have ended up in remarkably different and much more troubling circumstances without the presence of these women, these surrogate mothers, aunties and sisters. But it was hard to ignore that she had two children with two different men in two very troubled relationships. It is hard to ignore that there was expressed within her writing a lifelong searching that I hope was satisfied as she completed the book, for we are really taken along on the journey with her to discover herself and the end of the journey was the end of the book, so it could be it had the cathartic effect one would hope it would have.
It also made me ask myself...what impact am I having on others' lives? Aside from my husband and children, am I making a difference? Am I missing opportunities to show God's love and light to others? Am I walking past someone every day who is
hurting and am I too callous to see it?
And maybe the bigger question for me right now is, what is my real purpose here? Where am I being led and am I fighting it, not recognizing the truth of what it should be, or imagining something totally off base? I know, of course, that one of my main reasons for being here is to nurture my family the best I can, which I often fail at but strive to do as well as I can. But we all have other reasons for our existence here...lives other than our family's which we are to be intertwined with. Figuring it all out is so hard.
On to another smattering thought...we went to a Christian concert featuring several artists last night. It was called "Night Vision" and was a two day event in Olathe, Colorado which is the next town over where our kids go to school...a tiny little town which is known mainly for it's world famous Olathe Sweet Corn and the festival of the same name to celebrate the harvest. Now I am totally not in to Christian music. I am an odd little duck and don't fit the mold of the suburban Christian soccer mom very well...it rankles against me and doesn't feel comfortable. Don't know why, I'm just cut from a different cloth I guess. But the concerts were free, some friends were going and I knew we would see others there we care about, so why not? But mainly, Matthew begged to go to see Mandisa, who was a contestant a couple of years ago on American Idol which we watched avidly that year as we loved her. She really made an impression on all of us as she kindly, gently put Simon Cowell in his place and really won him over with her honest and heartfelt direct conversations. She was all class, and was a shining example of what being a Christian should be all about in terms of forgiveness, turning the other cheek, doing what God wants for you to do in spite of what others think you ought to do. Matthew really connected with that, although I doubt he would be able to explain it. So off we went to see Mandisa and a group called Mercy Me, who I think I know one song of and didn't care much for their harder edged style, and another guy who I had never heard of DeWayne Woods (I know some of you out there are probably shaking your heads in dismay that I don't know any of these people). I loved DeWayne Woods and would gladly attend another concert of his...his backup singers were awesome and I tend to lean more towards that gospel oriented sound.
When it was time for Mandisa to come on stage, Matthew and a couple of other younger kids we were with asked if we could go down to the front to watch her right in front of the stage. Against my better judgment I and 5 little kids trudged down to make our way to the front in a crowd of s few thousand people. It was a stormy afternoon and evening, and the air had the smell of rain to it, and the sunset through the storm clouds and the resulting beams of light cast across the sky were enough right there to bring you closer to God. A stunning show in and of itself.
So we get to the front, which is not that full yet but does have mostly older teens and older folks there, and they all made room as it grew more crowded for my short little crew. We were joined by a few middle school girls who I know a little, and we all joked and had fun that I needed to be with them so I could scream and yell and not feel weird about it...they thought that was hilarious and encouraged me to yell along with them and not worry what anyone else thought. Matthew stood there silently waiting while alongside a young female friend while Kenny, Josh and another little boy played in the dirt at my feet. Finally it was time for Mandisa to go on stage, and there she was in all her buxom glory, worrying not a whit what others thought of her size or shape. And she started belting it out, from start to finish going full bore.
I am often moved by music. Being in our choir singing certain pieces it will get me every time, even though they are not at all contemporary. Good music, well written music has tremendous power. But I have not felt what I felt last night in years and years...probably since my teens when music was so important to most of us. She was singing about my joys, my sorrows, my struggles...and God was included in it all. She was rockin' the house and yet it didn't feel phony. It was real, it wasn't like an act replayed night after night. You could literally feel God's presence there and I was reminded of why He is in my life, because He brings me peace, joy, answers to my questions, and I guess my life is simply better with Him than it was without Him.
I was encouraged to quit worrying about the things that don't matter as much as I make them matter...my weight which keeps me from feeling free in many ways, my lack of understanding of so many things, my failings. I had never really felt encouraged in that way before...to just stop worrying about the things that don't matter or fretting over the mistakes I have made and just move on, keep on, dream on...and believe.
One of my greatest Kodak moments came in watching Matthew's face from a few feet away as I got pushed a bit to the back and he was entranced watching everything on stage. His uplifted face lit by the stage lights, as usual not showing much emotion but his off-key voice carrying as he sang "Our God, is an awesome God..." as she jazzed it up a bit. It is his favorite Christian song that he came home singing constantly after his first year of church camp, and having her sing it there in an even more upbeat style obviously touched him. At one point he looked over at me, and then the grin came...ear to ear...and my quieter son and I connected in a crowd of thousands knowing we each were going to take away something from this night that might be on different levels but would be equally valuable. I am so glad I share this thing called music with Matthew, who although not necessarily musically inclined has a sense of the Divine in it.
We are getting ready to go to Cub Scout day camp at the end of this week, and then on Sunday I drive the boys over to Colorado Springs for week long church camp. Unlike last year, I will not be staying with Kenny so they will both be on their own as I have Joshie all to myself for the week. La Foret is a very special and sacred place, and having not been to summer camp myself ever when I was a kid I feel so blessed that we have the chance to have our children go...they talk about it for months afterwards and eagerly await the next summer when the can once again attend. For Kenny, this will be his first time really on his own this long away from home, and I hope he does well with it. A friend at church has thoughtfully asked people at church to write the kids so they are not only hearing from their parents, but from other who care about them as well. I am sure they will be excited when the mail comes and they receive notes from others.
I will have the chance to see a friend of ours in Denver when I am over there, and am looking forward to spending a few hours immersed in "girl talk" with someone whose opinion I value and whose heart knows mine.
After that, on our return trip to pick up the boys from camp we meet up with our Wichita adopted family and they will then follow us on in to Montrose after an overnighter in Colorado Springs. What great anticipation we hold for their visit after 5 years and the addition of 2 children on each side since we have last seen one another. There is no doubt how God blessed us with this unique friendship that has somehow held together despite distance and busy lives and lack of communication as often as we'd like. It is one of those where you leave off and jump right back in whenever you can, with no grudges and yet an immediate desire to share the big stuff with them as it comes along. We all understand one another and our lives...that we do the best we can and sometimes we have more to offer than others. I can not begin to emphasize just how much they have meant to us over the years, and what a joy it is to watch all of our children grow up in photos sent often (or blogs read! hahahaha!). I know we have prayed for one another through hard times on both sides, and now we get to spend a whole week together just hanging out...yeee haaww!
I am also knee deep in planning our church retreat, which was a real struggle at first and something I was sort of bucking against but has started to fall into place. We have a fairly small church by today's standards, and I have to move past thinking of the amount of participation equalling success. I am working on that a lot in my mind, coming to realize that if 5 people or 50 people are involved, it doesn't matter and all need to be nurtured and fed the same. If 5 people walk away having their lives touched it is far better than having 50 who walk away unchanged. Not sure how many we will have in attendance, but it will be a fum event either way. I was very frustrated trying to come up with programming, as I am the world's least creative thinker for stuff like that...not my "gig" at all. But I think I stumbled upon some ideas and have even more ideas, thanks to others, tucked away for future events and maybe it will all turn out ok.
We had a funny little emergency the other night. Just as I was about to yell out to ask the boys to stop running in the house Matthew and one of his buddies explained to me that Joshie needed me right away. I walk into their bedroom and there he is, sobbing...with a round Lego stuck up his nose. Yes, my brilliant child had somehow decided that cramming two red Legos up his nose was somehow a good idea. He quickly informed me that one of them had come out, but the other was stuck. After my immediate thought of "I can't believe this...an ER bill for a Lego removal!!" I decided it was a tad bit funny so I loaded him up in the car for the ER after having determined it was really too far up there for us to safely remove. I walked a trembling little boy in to the hospital as he told me over and over again that he was really, really scared and I tried to reassure him that it was all going to be ok and nothing would hurt, other than my wallet...hahahaha! As we checked in at the desk and I struggled to get out the explanation without bursting out laughing, the nurses, MD's and staff all within earshot all started explaining "My kid did that!", "Mine did it too!", and "Mine was a bean up the nose!" so I guess it is more common than I thought. After having it safely removed without a wince or a cry, we were handed the red Lego to hang on to for posterity and Josh finally smiled saying "Thank you mommy for helping me get the Lego out. I'll never do THAT again!". And at the moment all I could think was how glad I was that this going to leave us with a funny story to re-tell and that being at the ER was not for a more serious injury.
And to end my pointless ramblings here, we are almost finished with Stage 1 of our adoption paperwork and ready to get it all in the mail. It moved along a bit more slowly than I had anticipated as we had a lot more to do than we expected, but we are trudging along and getting things accomplished. One thing that held us up was the need for a family photo, as I realized we don't have a current one with all of us in it as I am always (by design) behind the camera myself rather than in front of it. Taking care of that this weekend I'll get it printed and we are done!
I warned with the title to this post that it was nothing more than a mere smattering of thoughts, so I hope the rambling and jumping hasn't been too boring!