Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Couple of Links to Share

I wanted to share a couple of links with you all that someone out there might like to learn about. The first is a link to a terrific book adoption journey journal, "Your Sacred Adoption" by Kevin Quirk. You can find it at www.memoirsforlife.com. This is really a unique tool for those of you who want to share your feelings about your adoption journey, and yet have a difficult time knowing where and how to begin. This journal guides you through the entire process with very specific statements for you to address, prompting you to do far more than record the facts of your child's adoption but through probing statements and open ended starters it encourages you to share your feelings about the deeper meaning of the process. Starter statements such as "What most captured your attention in your new surroundings was..." and "If my child's caregivers or others were there, I tried to communicate my feelings toward them by..." really get you to think about the little details and to commit them to paper. Those are the things your child might very well treasure when they are older. For those of you who are not techies or bloggers, this can be a wonderful memento for you child. It is appropriate for either domestic or international adoption and is not a short pamphlet but a 73 page book in which you can record every single thought and emotion. After reading it myself, I thought it would be something most parents would love to do and would be very helpful to those who need a push to get started or who don't have confidence in their own writing abilities. Kevin is an adoptive father himself, with a son from Matthew's orphanage in Aktobe, Kazakhstan. He has written a memoir himself of his adoption journey titled "Hello Aibek!".

Another web site I wanted to share with you was one that one of my readers was surprised to find Josh on, and I had actually totally forgotten about. When we came home with Josh, friends of ours...a family who traveled to adopt with us as we brought Matthew home, treated us to a gift certificate to get adoption announcements printed. These were no ordinary announcements, these were works of art as you will see from the web site. Check them out at www.photoinnovations.com/adoption.htm . The talented artist has a real knack for taking your photos and turning them into something really unique and special. If you scroll down the page you will find Josh's announcement, which is actually one of the simpler designs but perfect with the photo I provided. The term "photo innovation" really fits her work, and I think you'll agree when you see them.

And no, I am not getting a "kick back" from either of the above parties...just enjoyed their product, thought it was unique and wanted to share it with you all.

Monday, April 28, 2008

"What are Birdies???"

I am still giggling as I type this, and had to share it with you all. Kenny came home from school today and over snack was asking me "Momma...what are birdies?" and, thinking to myself he already knew this I replied "You know Kenny, they are birds..with wings...they fly." and he said "No mamma, not birdies...BIRDIES" as he gets louder assuming as we all do that if someone doesn't understand you that they suddenly are half deaf and simply can't hear what you are saying. His speech is usually pretty clear, or at least clear enough that I only have to ask once in a while what he is saying. I responded "Kenny, describe it to me." and he said "XXXX and I on playground today and we found Barbie doll and he called these (and then he offered a visual of squeezing a certain part of a females upper anatomy) birdies!...I not know what he mean...birdies fly, right mama?". His perplexed look and incorrect pronunciation of the slang word for chest protrusions had me laughing so hard I thought I would die. So, we had a quick biology course about breasts, what terms are not appropriate to use when referring to them (boobies is DEFINITELY on the list) and what their purpose is :-)

On another happy note, Kenny's friend Amir is now listed as available for adoption on http://www.rainbowkids.com/ ! He is number adoptall118. Someone emailed me today to let me know, and we will continue to pray that someones heart is touched, and that Amir finds his forever family very soon. If you know of anyone who is considering him, please feel free to have them contact me and maybe we can help.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

RAD Rears It's Ugly Head

We are in the midst of a quiet little challenge this past couple of weeks with Joshua. You know, if anyone looked at Josh today, they would laugh in complete and utter disbelief that he was such an incredibly damaged Reactive Attachment Disorder kiddo. He is the most empathetic 5 year old I have ever met, he is warm and loving, he is able to express his emotions and form very strong attachments with others. I say this not in any way at all to garner praise for myself for being some kind of "super Mom", but because he appears so healed that at times it is easy to forget that there is a soul inside there that still has scars that occasionally become irritated by life's events and need to be cared for.

The past two weeks Joshie has woken up with nightmares almost every night, crying out "Where are you momma?" or naming any other member of our family. This came out of the blue as we hadn't had that for a looooong time, so as usual we bring him into our bed to spend the remainder of the night, but even then he has woken up a few times and had to be gently soothed back to sleep. One night last week it was real terror that woke us up with a blood curdling scream...Dominick shot out of bed as we both thought something had hurt him.

As we thought and thought about what could be the cause, as we gently questioned him during his daytime hours, we think we found the raw and exposed nerve...our friends are leaving, and he is once again feeling he is losing someone he loves dearly.

Part of their family is departing this next week, as they move in stages. Now it is real...now he won't see them all the time...now he will once again feel "alone" in some way regardless of whether or not he still has us. Loss affects him differently, it is not just tears and sadness, it is abandonment all over again, it is internalized differently than for you and I. He doesn't yet have the ability to work it out in his mind, to talk about it and draw comfort from others around him. I doubt he could name what he is feeling, but I can see it in his face the past few nights and I could hear it in his panicked cries.

This is not just the departure of "friends", this is our family leaving. I give huge credit to every member of their family for helping Josh heal in the first place. They smothered him in love from day one, they were as nurturing as we were, they added 5 more people to his "love list". They stepped up willingly to have him spend his first nights away from home at their house, even as I was feeling guilty to do so because of his issues. I knew that if he woke up with nightmares he would be loved as if it were us holding him, and that they would not feel "put upon" by being awakened. It is because of those tentative first steps that Josh gained confidence knowing we really would come back for him, and that he was safe and loved when we were not around.

Now we take another step towards healing, as he experiences his first real loss post-adoption and sees that we continue our friendship long distance...that he is really not being left "all alone" as he has so often described his feelings about being in the orphanage. I know people who have totally scoffed at me when I have explained how young Josh was when we adopted him and what he voices about his experiences, thinking we are somehow making it up...that a child that young certainly could not have any real recall of life at 6 months of age or at 11 months of age. How wrong they are. Sure, it is not a real memory...it is an impression that was formed that continues to affect him to this day and likely always will.

It is so easy to see RAD as a thing of the past when I live with the wonderful, emotionally healthy little boy I live with day in and day out now. But RAD is there, lurking under the surface, just waiting for a vulnerable moment to rear it's ugly head. I feel like the Centurian guarding the gates of his emotions, ever vigilant and prepared to fight, if necessary, to keep him stable and moving forward with life and loving relationships. Luckily, we have been blessed with loving friends in many directions that help us in that battle, who understand and love him too.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Momma Bear

Today we had yet another vaccination appointment, and this time both Joshua and Kenny needed shots. So off we go to the County Public Health office, all 3 kids in tow. The last episode there was actually surprisingly good, with Kenny being very brave and having no fear at all.

Not today...

Today it was a new nurse, and as soon as Kenny realized this it seemed to throw him into a tailspin. We hadn't even sat down yet and he was whimpering, and said "I want my old doctor!!" thinking that the nurses are actually doctors. This nurse was fairly new, and she was unfamiliar with Kenny's chart for catching up his vaccinations and took about 10 minutes to figure out what to give him. She kept asking me stupid questions and I was getting more and more irritated as Kenny was getting more and more upset. "Does he have any allergies?"...which I answered twice "None that we know of but we are not sure". "Why not??" she bluntly asked and I replied "Because he has only been in our family for 10 months.". She then asked me three times as she was looking at some sort of reference chart "So he is 7 years old?"..."No, he is 9". "But you said he is in 2nd grade", losing my patience I said "I told you he is 9, do you need a birth certificate?".

Kenny is meanwhile getting more and more agitated over all of this, watching as they finally draw the vaccine into the syringe and starting to cry already. This woman then really brought out the Momma Bear in me when she said to me "Oh it's not a big deal..." as she then tried to grab his arm and pull him toward her as he is clinging to me and the panic rises in his eyes. I then told her quite firmly "Stop...you will stop right now. You do not know his history and I will not have you rush this, I need to talk to him.". I got a disgusted look from her as she backed off.

I had Kenny on my lap and I made him turn around and look at me, and I spoke softly to him telling him to remember his bravery last time, to remember that it didn't hurt that much, telling him that Joshie was watching him and I hoped he could show Josh that there was no reason to worry. After a couple of deep breaths he hopped back on my lap, and trembling he gave her his arm. He was really sobbing as she had to do each one, but was so relieved when it was over.

I was uncertain at that moment what was the best course of action...do I take them and walk out of there, knowing we still had to do it and he would then continue to worry about it? Or just get it over with? I chose to stay but am not sure tonight that it was the best course of action. We have so much ahead of us with Kenny, and he has such an overwhelming fear of all things medical that I wish I knew what was the best way to handle all of this. He is literally terrified every time we go to the doctor, although he seems to have calmed down about the orthodontist. Several trips with no pain have helped that a lot.

And I struggled with the insensitivity of the nurse, who thinks I am an overprotective mother rather than a parent with real life concerns about her child's psychological well being. She was so dense, and kept asking questions about his history that were obviously unanswerable by me...I had made it clear with the first question that he was adopted and we had no health history whatsoever. I haven't really run into this kind of blatant insensitivity to adoption issues before, and it was maddening. The funny thing was that by the 3rd time she asked mindlessly if Kenny was 7 years old, even he glanced at me and rolled his eyes!

Later in the day I had the honor of having an intense conversation with Kenny, as we talked about what we might say tomorrow at an adoption presentation we are going to. We were at Matt's soccer game and it seen became so cold that Kenny and I went back to watch from the car rather than freeze our booties off on the field. We jump in the car, settle in, and Kenny turns to me and says "Momma, you wanna talk?" and I say "Sure! Whatcha want to talk about?" and he hems and haws for a couple of minutes and says "I don't know...my operation?" and so I ask him if he is scared, and he admits he is very, very scared. I reassured him once again that our appointment in June at Shriners would be painless, that it was only for pictures and so the doctors could examine him, and I let him know we had awhile before surgery was to start so he could relax about it and not worry for now.

Conversation then switched gears a little and he started talking about how he wasn't very handsome, that his nose wasn't "pretty", that his mouth was "bad", that "my talking ugly", that "I too white", that his hair "not nice". All the while he is saying this, he is looking in the side mirror, carefully examining himself, making observations as if he was a clinical scientist remarking on a test subject. I took his hands in mine and told him that was simply not true, that he was a very attractive little boy, both inside and out. He said he thought he was handsome on the inside but not on the outside. We talked about character and kindness, about all the things that really make someone attractive, but it didn't seem to sway him at all. Then he said with a gentle smile "You only say I handsome because you love me...you think I handsome because you my mommy.". I said that was partly true, that mommies all think their children re the prettiest and handsomest, but that even before I was his mom and I showed others his picture and everyone thought he was handsome. I then made a strong point of telling him that we were NOT getting surgery for him so he could look better as we thought he looked terrific right now, but so he could talk and eat better.

We talked a bit more about all of that, then he got quiet, turned to me and I suddenly saw a 20 year old man sitting next to me, with such sincerity in his face. He then says "Can I ask you an important question?" and I said "Of course!", he got quiet and then looked up at me and asked "Why you want to adopt me? Why you want more kids? It not easy to adopt, why you want to bring me home? Why me?".

Now how can I explain to an 8 year old that sense of tucking my kids in bed every night and feeling that someone was missing? That my heart didn't feel full enough yet?

So I tried, I told him that I felt we had a lot more love to give and that someone out there was missing and not home. I said it was a lot like we all feel right now about the girls. He said "But you not know me, how you know I missing?". And I said honestly that I didn't know how I knew, but that I was obviously right because look how well we all fit together, how perfect we were as a family. He got quiet and with big grin he then said "I know, God told you about me". And I thought to myself "Duh...that's the truth, why didn't I just say that?".

He then got quiet again and with a very sad look on his face said "At Detsky Dom no one say they love me, no one say I handsome. They just get mad if I bad and that all. I like being in family, it super nice.". I then asked him a question of my own "Kenny, what if you could have been adopted by a family in Kyrgyzstan and stayed there? Would you have liked that better? Speaking Russian still? Eating the same foods?"...wow, the silence on that one was very interesting, and he looked quite puzzled as he pondered that one. With a far away look he said "Maybe Momma, that a hard question. But I so scared when I come here, I not speak English,I not know anyone. And I very, very afraid you not keep me, that you get mad at me and send me back and I not want to go back to Detsky Dom. I think I wish you and Daddy and Matthew and Joshie live in Kyrgyzstan and I live with you there, but now it ok and I like here very much."

We talked about how he would never, ever go back....and he said he wasn't afraid of that now but he was very afraid for a long time. And he added, almost casually in a way that almost broke my heart "I afraid that you come see me and think I not handsome like Matthew and Josh and then not want me go home with you and Daddy.".

Oh, what our older adopted children go through...the fears, the transitions, the years long struggle to catch up. Throw in a special need and how can you not walk away from meeting a child like this and be filled with admiration for them? There are so many people in our lives who think it is we, the parents, who are to be commended and admired. What misplaced admiration that is, for that is due our children who are at the mercy of a system and new people that they have no choice but to trust.

I have no doubt that Kenny will lead a successful life, that he will achieve a great many things in this world. I also happen to find him to be a very, very handsome little boy.

My challenge for now is to make HIM believe all of these things.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Day I Can Not Ignore

I have often said that this blog is a love letter to my family...and I am happy that there are those of you who read it and can glean something from it that is helpful, but that is simply a happy and unexpected byproduct of the process. Today, I am writing a post that is for someone else, not for all of you. I doubt you will get anything out of it, but that's OK. So you can simply close the blog window if you'd like, or you can be a voyeur into the world of a yearning mom.

My Dearest Angela,

Today is your birthday, and more than anything I want you to know that you are not forgotten. I woke up this morning thinking about you, and you have not left my mind all day. This year, it is ever more present in my mind because our long distance relationship has grown, and the memory of holding you in my arms for the first time this year still lingers.

I have watched you grow during the past three years through photographs, and you have changed from an adorable little imp to a beautiful and vivacious little lady...you have yet to loose the sparkle and vibrancy that first drew me to you, your "imprisonment" has yet to destroy your spirit. Maybe that is a harsh word to us when describing your life in an orphanage, but I have no doubt that you would agree even if others don't fully understand.

How I wish this birthday was different for you! As I look at the photos of Kenny's first birthday at home and I recall his joy at being special for a day, I want that for you as well. I held hope that maybe it WOULD be different this year, but it seems that patience is something we both need to have right now and maybe...just maybe...next year will find you in different circumstances.

I was going to do for you what we did for Kenny last year when his birthday passed and he was not yet home...we had a cake for him and sang "Happy Birthday" even though he wasn't yet here, as it helped us mark the special ocassion. But for some reason, I just can't bring myself to do it, to let go of that much of my heart for fear of being bitterly disappointed should you be unable to come home some day.

But sweetheart, in some ways it is already too late and I am simply fooling myself. The other day I caught myself as I spoke about you and your sister to someone, and I referred to you as my daughters. For you see, the barriers I have placed around my heart to protect it aren't strong enough to hold back the onslaught of love. I can not deny that in every possible way, you and your sister are my children, my beloved daughters. And today especially, it really, really hurts not to hold you, to sing to you, to spend my morning making a perfect chocolate cake with sprinkles on it and the Roehrman tradition of "magic" toothpicks in it to hold the layers together and to wish upon once we find them in our slice. Tonight I can't tuck you in bed and whisper "Happy Birthday, my Big Girl" in your ear.

I am comforted knowing that at least you and your sister are finally together and not living a very lonely existence separated by the long miles between orphanages. I also know that both of you feel cared for by us, as evidenced by your sister running up to our friend yesterday and telling him to please "Tell MY Cindy I love her!".

Whether you one day live within the fold of your family, or if God has other plans for all of our lives, never forget that we ARE your forever family. We carry you in our hearts every single day, all of us. You are both spoken of with great affection around here, just as if you were spending the night at a friends house rather than never having yet spent a night here in our home. We are yours and you are ours, forever.

There is something very special between you and I, a quiet confidence that we both seem to have that we are mother and daughter. We are very much alike, you and I, and I laugh at the descriptions of your sports skills, knowing that I would be gaining the daughter I dreamed of...not a "girlie girl" but a tomboy through and through. I am very proud of your accomplishments, of hearing about your successes.

I am most proud of your ability to have faith and hope in the future, in an environment that saps all the hope out of most kids.

So on this special day, turn to your sister and have her give you a bear hug, and hear my voice inside your head singing to you, see in your minds eye your brothers giggling and goofing around a table full of cake, presents and the warmth of love we all feel for you.

Happy 10th Birthday, my daughter. May every year bring you more joy and happiness, may this next year bring you your hearts desire.

Love Always and Forever,

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sunday Surprise!!!!

We had a very busy weekend, with painting projects, soccer games, church and time spent with our friends. The painting is moving along quite nicely, with one bedroom, bathroom and closet almost completely finished. We had plenty of ...ahem...helpers as you can see from the photos below. We are painting a room that will become our master bedroom, and it is little girlie yellow and pale blue. I tried to go more "adult" with my colors this time around, but it seems both Dominick and I are stuck in the teenage girl phase as we both really liked this color combination, so we decided that since we have to live with it, we simply wouldn't care what others thought and would have our cheery, sunny bedroom to wake up to every morning and leave the more sophisticated, classy look to others. Those that know me wouldn't put it past me to paint a broad "Happy Face" on my walls, and there are moments when I wonder if I don't have just a touch of Hippie tie dye in my past :-) While I will forgo the Happy Face for now, I am quite pleased with the end results and after cleaning our carpets and finishing the trim we will be ready to move our furniture in and then it is on to the boys' new room.

Today was a special day for a couple of reasons. One of our dearest young friends had her Confirmation today at church, and I'll admit to shedding a few tears myself. I swear, it seems like I am ALWAYS doing that lately. I used to be far better able to control my emotions, and there are moments when I admit to feeling like a total idiot...and then there are other times when I feel so fortunate that instead of life turning me harder, it has somehow managed to soften me and I am actually glad that the blessings of life can touch me so deeply...even if I do look like an idiot! We have had the pleasure of being a part of her life the past 3 years and she is a wonderful young lady whom I love very, very much and we will miss her beyond words when her family moves soon. Is there any greater joy than standing on the sidelines watching as right before your eyes a child grows into a young adult?

As we came home from church today we stopped at the mailbox to retrieve yesterday's mail. As I got into the car I saw a large envelope from Shriner's Children's Hospital, and we all held our breath as I opened it...and then we hooped and hollered as we read that Kenny had been scheduled for an initial evaluation in Chicago for June 25th!!!

Can I tell you what an incredible blessing this is for us? Before making the decision to move forward with Kenny's adoption, we really talked long and hard about adopting a special needs child for many reasons...we live in rural Colorado without access to major hospitals and specialists which means a 5 hour drive one way to Denver for us, and although we have health insurance we have a high deductible plan which means $8000 per year out of pocket for us before we receive any benefits.

We really prayed about it a lot, feeling in our hearts that Kenny was definitely ours, but being admittedly filled with fear at how we might handle the anticipated medical costs. I made calls to Shriner's prior to even committing to adopt Kenny, but felt it wouldn't work out because the distance and cost of staying somewhere might cancel out any overall savings we might enjoy. It just seemed beyond reach, and then there was the challenge of being accepted, which there were no guarantees. So, ultimately we made the decision to adopt Kenny solely on faith. We felt God was speaking to us, telling us firmly he was our son, and we figured if that were true then someway, somehow, we would be able to handle it. Our plan was to borrow more against our house to cover the cost of the multiple surgeries we have, get second jobs if necessary, and just carry a huge debt load (like we don't already do...hahahaha!).

When we learned recently that our best friends would be moving to the Chicago area, I remembered that one of Shriner's 3 hospitals that treat cleft/craniofacial cases was in Chicago. At the urging of our friends who offered to help us in any way they could with local transportation there and a place to stay, we decided it might be worth giving it a try. It just so happens that our long time employee and close friend had a connection to Shriner's through her father-in-law, and she obtained the applications for us, and her father-in-law hand carried the applications to a Shriner's meeting a few days later. And here we are, a month later and our entire future has changed thanks to the kindness of so many others.

You see, Shriner's will cover all of Kenny's cleft related surgeries, etc at no cost to us. None. Zilch. And they even will help us with transportation costs to and from Chicago. If they find they can help us at our day long examination in June, then they will even cover him until he is 18 years old which means ALL of his future surgeries will be covered. Dominick and I were so thrilled about this that once again, we were in tears this afternoon. If all goes well, this is an enormous financial burden being lifted from us...years long repayment of loans that we might be saved from.

Our gratitude knows no bounds right now, we are profoundly appreciative of our friends' offer to take us in and help make it even possible to consider applying, we feel so blessed that Shriner's Hospital exists to help kids like Kenny and we might be the beneficiaries of their generosity, we are so fortunate to have friends who helped push it along for us, made contact and gathered applications. To us, this is just beyond anything we could have ever hoped for.

Mostly though, we are eternally thankful to God for placing Kenny in our family, for giving us the courage to move forward and trust that He had it all under control.

You know, God really does speak to us. Sometimes it takes awhile to hear Him, to see or understand His reasons. As our friends and we were talking about this evening, they could have moved to anyplace else in the US, and yet they ended up in a place where God could use them to help us. Although the financial benefits are overwhelming, one of the more personal benefits is that this will allow us to remain more closely connected to this beloved family. All of us are cheering over that, and I have no doubt that God is looking at all of us with a big smile on His face, having known all along that our sorrow at the news of their leaving would eventually be seen by all of us as a blessing in disguise. While the next week will be one which will have me trying to let go of the ache in my heart as part of their family leaves, the sobs that will never be held in check will also be accompanied by the joy of knowing that God has not only watched over both of our families financially, but that He is protecting our blessed friendship as well.

And once again I am left at a loss...how in the world can I ever repay the blessings in our life? How can I pay it forward or backward? I see my beautiful, wonderful family which He created, I feel the love of those around us who have carried us in so many ways, and I just can't see how to balance it out, how to make it fair. We don't deserve this, what we have received is so far and away beyond what we have ever offered. How can we repay our friends for their generosity, encouragement and friendship? They have always done far more for us than we have for them. How can we repay Shriner's for the gift of financial stability they handed us today in a large white envelope? How can we adequately EVER repay the kindness of another family who are standing firm beside as with financial support in the hopes that we can one day add to our family again? Then there are the smaller but equally wonderful kindnesses of others...boxes of clothing shipped to us from loved ones who have always shown their support, strangers who offer a magical trip to Disneyland, unexpected emails from unexpected places asking "what can I do to help?" so that two little girls far away might one day come home, envelopes discreetly handed to us at church to help as yet others walk up and say "If your girls come home, we will cover their first set of clothing and shoes".

It is too much, it is like walking around covered in His love. But there are times when it feels wrong, when you look and try your hardest to pay it back in the ways you can and it feels so insignificant in comparison to what you have received and you wonder to yourself "What am I doing wrong? What more can I do that I am not seeing? Why do we deserve this?". To whom much is given, much is required. But what do you do when you can't possibly repay because SO much has been given that it is beyond your ability to possibly come close to balancing the scale?

As I looked in the eyes of my three little guys today as they each presented me with gifts of dandelions that they proudly stuck in cups and in the side of our pantry cupboard, a cupboard which was covered in the growth charts of all the wonderful children who have thus far crossed our paths, I felt even more humbled at the joy and innocence reflected in their faces, the pure love and trust that they offer up to us as their parents. Such a responsibility it is, to parent any child. Of all the gifts we have been given, of all the blessings bestowed, those three faces smiling back at me are the biggest by far.

Thank you to all who are there for us, if our children grow up to be healthy, successful, kind, productive men it will be due to many factors...personality, parenting, and participation of every single person who has contributed to their lives in untold ways.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Remember Them

One of the really touching things about older child adoption is something I have written about a couple of times here in the blog...and that is the friends left behind. These "friends" are really siblings in every sense of the word, the often have been together since birth, they went to school together, played side by side, ate meals at the same tables. They have a shared history and are denied a future by the adults and governmental systems that control their every waking moment. They can be separated at a moments notice, never to see one another again after spending years in one anothers company. I can not imagine one day having someone walk up while I was a child and yanking my brother from me. Yet this little mini-drama takes place over and over again on a daily basis in foster homes and orphanages around the world. Is it any wonder at all that then these children sometimes have problems forming attachments? I think it is miraculous that after birth parents have abandoned them (and not always in infancy), friends have been taken from them once they have let go and trusted again, caretakers have quit jobs and left them, these children still have a modicum of trust on which to build a bridge of love with their new families. When you really consider it, how incredible is that?

We had a magical moment this morning, thank to our internet buddy John Wright over at http://www.actofkindness.blogspot.com/ . His link has been tops on my list over on the right for a long time, and you can see why. This week, not more than a day after I made a request, he was able to fulfill it and he connected two "brothers" each living halfway around the world from one another, each obviously missing one another deeply.

John is a Canadian missionary working in Kyrgyzstan for 6 months this year, and he is an incredible man with an awesome family who all "get it" in a way many of us never will. He is being used by God in extraordinary ways to reach out to others...not to merely evangelize but to show the world how it is really done...Actions Speak Louder Than Words. I have enormous respect for John as he sees beyond his own limitations and lets God use him however He might choose...and his life is a reflection of just how much God is using him. Despite his self-admitted challenges with writing, his blog makes an incredible impact. He knows which stories to tell, how to tell them how to help others visualize what he is experiencing overseas.

Today, he told a little part of our story. Previously on the blog I have spoken about Kenny's buddies left behind...Turat, Askar and Amir. Turat and Askar were pictured on the blog during our trip, as we met them at the orphanage and my heart broke at leaving them behind. Little did I know that the day we attended the international church service in Bishkek I met the man and woman who would later become Turat and Askar's mom and dad. What a blessing it was to have that encounter and not know at the moment what God had in store.

Sadly, we were unable to meet Amir, as he had been moved earlier to another orphanage and Kenny spoke of him even as we left the orphanage that day for the last time, wistfully wishing he could say good bye to his younger friend. Since learning of Turat and Askar's adoption and speaking with them on the phone, he has fervently prayed every night for Amir to find a family (as well as for our girls), for God to keep him safe. Can there be anything more touching than for a former orphan to pray for the future of a current one?

I spoke with Karen at our agency and she had a family going to the orphanage she was told Amir was at, but we were never able to connect in time to get a package sent to Amir and were going to try before the family left on their second trip. In the meantime, I read John's blog earlier this week and read that he was in and out of Tokmok, where we were told Amir was, so I decided to ask him if he could find Amir and tell him Kenny/Toktogul loved him and thought of him all the time. John kindly even offered to take along a photo of Kenny so Amir could see him with his new family.

God bless John, for he went to Tokmok and couldn't find Amir, he was not there after all. He then decided to check at another orphanage nearby, and there he was! John has blogged about meeting Amir, and even has a video of him posted so Kenny could see it...John, from the bottom of my heart thanks for your kindness in doing this. Your blog is aptly named. Go to John's blog RIGHT NOW to see little Amir as he actually sees Kenny's photo for the first time.

It is short, 57 second short...but it was impossible for me to watch without crying. This was my son's brother...no, not biological but still every much his brother just as Josh and Matt are...and this little child is still alone in the world, still not held in the loving arms of his family. Can I possibly express how much I HATE THIS?????? Why??? I don't get it and never, ever will. I know we don't have to "get it", that questioning God about such things is pointless and faithless, but as I sit here with tears in my eyes I still will question it. I wanted to reach through the screen, grab him up in my arms and never let him go. How can anyone not want to do that?

I called Kenny in to the room and told him I had a small surprise for him, and he got a big grin on his face and said "What momma?". I pointed to the computer and said "Watch"...and he yelled out "Amir!!!". I sat there, watching the emotions as they played across Kenny's face...the grin quickly left, the brow furrowed, another quick smile, a poignant look of sadness crept in...and then it was over. We watched it 3 or 4 times without saying much. Amir is also a cleft kiddo, and the lip has been repaired but his speech is far, far worse than Kenny's. It was obvious that Kenny was only catching a little of what he said and his Russian has almost completely disappeared although I suspect he understands much of it still, at least for now, but can not find the words to speak it. Kenny then asked a lot of questions, how did we get this video of Amir? Where was he? Did our friend talk to him much? After the questions came a steady stream of conversation about Amir...what a good boy he was, how he talked a lot about having a family, how lonely he was and how he didn't have any friends now that Turat, Askar and Kenny were gone. Kenny thinks Amir is about 7 years old, as he remembers him being about 2 years younger than he and the other boys but due to their clefts they all formed a sort of "Cleft Club" from the sounds of it :-) and a strong friendship was formed between them all.

We know from John that Amir is in an orphanage where the Director really cares about the kids, that they do the best they can with what they have. He has clothing and food, the quality of which can not be assumed to be very good. As always, the orphanage really struggles to make ends meet, and they can only do so much with what they have. But although Amir's most basic of needs are being met, the most important one is not. He is not hugged every day and tucked into bed every night by someone who dearly loves him. He doesn't have parents to push for language services, to protect him, to swipe away the loneliness and replace it with a sense of belonging. Amir has never had that. His orphanage Director thinks he is a great candidate for adoption and Kenny said he thinks Amir would do very well in a family, that he is a loving little boy who is kind and "he try really really hard momma, all the time he try hard". I don't know for certain at the moment if Amir is even legally free for adoption, but legalities aside I sure know he deserves what all the children deserve, a family of their own.

It is interesting to me that just yesterday I remembered to post about Tilek and Everest, and today I get this information about Amir. The timing of it all, a reminder to me I think from Him that there are more children who need homes, and of course most of them will never get them, they will age out of the orphanage to look forward to a life of poverty, crime, and very likely an early death. All because no one loved them, no one cared. I care, I know so many of you care, and yet we can not adopt them all. What else are we being challenged to do? Help John establish more programs for assistance? What a terrific network he already has. Go over as missionaries ourselves? You don't have to be affiliated with a church to roll up your sleeves and get to work holding an orphan, feeding an older person, cleaning and building a bathroom. Pray for those who have no one? Oh, how prayer works! We all can do something and it doesn't always involve cash...we can send letters and cards with pictures and drawings from our kids to be distributed to children there letting them know they are not forgotten, we can talk to others about kids who need homes in the hope that someone somewhere is listening who needs to hear it, we can encourage people like John and his family with comments on his blog and links from our own.

We can remember them.

Thanks John, for helping Amir and Kenny reach out to one another, for letting Amir know he is remembered, and for letting Kenny know he too is remembered. The look on each of their faces as they connected long distance will not soon be forgotten.

Please folks, remember them.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

At the risk of starting it up again...

At the risk of starting it all up again, I am going to advocate for 2 older Kyrgyz boys who need a loving family. I received permission from Karen at Adoption Alliance to post a little information here on the blog about two little guys, Tilek and Everest. Tilek is 9 years old and has a correctible eye problem. It seems that there was a mix up in his documents and he had actually been legally available for adoption for years but his paperwork was misread and he had been listed as unavailable. He is an adorable little guy and I have Kenny sitting here next to me and he says that Tilek is a really nice boy, that Tilek talked a lot about wanting a family and leaving the orphanage. Kenny thought Tilek tried hard at schoolwork and did pretty well, as he remembers. He also said that Tilek loved to show everyone all the things he could do, "Like someone in the movies!". Kenny just said "I bet he do good in a family like me! He care a lot about people in orphanage who take care of him.".

The other child, Everest, has a real sparkle to him. Sadly, Everest is HIV positive and this severely limits the potential families who would consider adopting him. Everest is 4 years old and at the moment he is very healthy and doing well. My heart really goes out to this particular little boy, as a child who is HIV positive has very little chance of being adopted...and yet you know that somewhere out there has to be a family who is willing to step forward and assume that kind of challenge. Seeing his face smiling back at me in his photo, you can see the hope and bright future he might have if only he ends up in the right circumstances with a family who can provide him with the kind of health care available here in the US and the support he needs to grow into the man he can become. HIV is no longer the death sentance it once was, and there is a chance the Everest can live a productive and relatively healthy life if only given the opportunity.

So...anyone out there willing to even consider either of these beautiful boys? Anyone who perhaps has a wider vision of the child they might bring home and can see the possibilities? You can see Everest at www.rainbowkids.com and his child ID number is adoptall114, and Tilek is also listed and his ID is adoptall115. Sad to think that perhaps Tilek could have had a family when he was in his "prime" adoption ages if only someone had not misread his paperwork, and now he is much older and odds are very slim someone will want a 9 year old boy, regardless of his eye problem. I can say thought that I know of 3 nine year old Kyrgyz boys from this exact background who have slipped beautifully into the fabric of their families lives and are doing very, very well...if that offers any encouragement to someone who might be hearing a small voice about checking into this further.

If interested, please contact Karen at Adoption Allliance in Denver...their link is on the side of this blog.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Winds of Change

We have had a busy few days here, and I have had little time for blogging...baptisms and field trips and meetings and TaeKwonDo and soccer and other events have kept us on the run. In addition chaos reigns as we have begun moving things around to start tackling our painting projects.

Kenny's baptism was beautiful, and very meaningful for him as well as the rest of our family. I was asked by a couple of people if Kenny understood the significance of his baptism. I was so pleased to be able to respond that yes, he really did understand and already has his own relationship with God. This was due in large part to the missionaries that worked within his orphanage, and we are grateful to them for all they did. The things that come out of Kenny's mouth at unexpected moments concerning God and His love for us are quite surprising. The slide show I spoke of in my previous post turned out ok, and hopefully those present better understood what Kenny's life was like before he became a part of our family...and it was also my intent to thank all of those who have been so supportive and understanding of the ups and downs that we have experienced over the past couple of years. We had our friend Joan present as well, who drove over an hour to be with us, which was wonderful and made the day that much more special. There were other events that happened that day which are not mine to share, but which touched me to the core and on many levels. Overall, it was a pretty emotional day for our family.

Yesterday was spent on a field trip with Matthew's class, and visiting in the classrooms for both he and Kenny afterward. At 8 years old I would thoroughly expect that mom might be the last one desired in class, and yet Matthew quietly begged me to stay as long as I could. I love spending one on one time with each of the boys and whispering to Matthew as I sat next to him in class as they were discussing France was...well...fun. I love his insights, his depth, and I can easily see that were I his age he would be one of the kids I gravitated towards as he is easy to be with, non-judgmental, and very calm. It is also a joy to see his friends whom I have been working with on and off while volunteering, and to see how much they have matured and grown.

I was able to visit with Kenny while he was in his speech class, and I was so glad to have had the chance to do that...it was very obvious how much his speech has improved, however in every day conversation it is not as easy to discern. He tends to blend sounds and drop them as he concentrates on what he wants to say, but in speech therapy when sounds are isolated and tackeled one at a time it was quickly apparent that great progress has been made. It will be years before his speech is considered "normal", and much work needs to be done surgically before certain gains will even be possible. Overall though, I doubt anyone could have predicted just how well he has done in such a short period of time, and his pride was obvious as he kept looking at me while working with his teacher, an enormous "Kenny Grin" spread across his face.

There is so much going on right now, and along with our usual spring winds my soul feels disquieted. Perhaps it is all the changes going on around me, the uncertainty, the unknowns. One moment I am riding on a moment of joy and the next I am plodding through a field riddled with land mines, each with labels such as "Doubt", "Self-Pity", "Fear", "Isolation" and the ever present "Unworthy". It is stupid, I know, and yet I seem to find myself mired in muck more than usual lately, feeling unloved and unlovable at moments and not really sure where all of that is coming from. I have learned over the past few years to push through those feelings, to try and reach out to others, to not make assumptions about how others feel about me...and to not place too much importance on it at all in the first place. But I tend to be a people pleaser, and this is one of the hardest things of all for me to push aside. My feelings are hurt too easily sometimes, I take things too personally. I think I need a good dose of Grace at the moment, it is something I strive for and almost never achieve.

So I guess instead of wasting my day sitting here blogging, I had better get to work. We have Scouts and soccer on the agenda for today, and a gazillion pounds of laundry facing me!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Telling A Story Even I Don't Know

I am faced with a daunting task this evening, I am trying to tell Kenny's story in photos in a brief 2-3 minute slide show...and I have to tell a story that even I don't fully know. The slide show will be shown at Kenny's baptism this Sunday, and we are so fortunate to have a few photos of Kenny at various ages thanks to our friend Tami. However, I can not begin to accurately portray the life of Toktogul Mursaev, a child I never knew. There is an 8 1/2 year gap that leaves us totally in the dark, they are the "Unknown Years". I know people will see his bright, smiling little face staring back at them, and they will see a relatively clean and decent living area...but how can one express the loneliness, the despair, the lack of decent food, the narrow "jail-like" existence he lived? It simply can not be done.

What I'd love to be able to depict are his shallow little breaths during the first few moments we met him, the look in his eyes when he received his first praise from us, the courage it took for him to grab our hand and walk out the door of the only home he had ever known, never to return. But perhaps those moments are meant only for us to hold near to our hearts.

As I looked through the many photos I have taken over the course of the last 10 months it is amazing all that Kenny has experienced, the sheer number of photos taken of a child once they are in a family and their history is recorded by a loved one versus the long years pre-family when that history still existed yet there was no one who cared enough to capture it so it could be relived over and over again. But that lack of recording doesn't change the fact that events did occur, that our sons' lives began long before we walked through the orphanage door. It is easier to put aside when adopting an infant, it is impossible to deny when adopting an older child. All of who they are is cloaked in that history and every once in awhile the cloak is drawn aside so you, the parent, can peek inside and capture a glimpse. It sometimes offers an explanation for certain behaviors or attitudes, but often I find it simply leads to more unanswered questions.

As much as we often ignore it, that history also includes birth families, which for most of our children are impossible to trace and for which they have absolutely no information. They are left wondering what their birth mothers and birth fathers looked like, the even larger question of why they were abandoned lingers forever...and believe me that comes up more often than you might think as they grow older, at least for some children.

Matthew and I had a conversation in the car yesterday evening during which he stated he wished he could be white for just a little while, because then he wouldn't be teased as much. As I gently drew out of him what he meant, he realized that he wasn't really teased that much but that he just grew tired sometimes of having to offer an explanation for why he and I look different from one another...he wished he could be anonymous sometimes like everyone else rather than being "that adopted kid from China", as everyone mistakenly assumes. I asked him to stop for a minute and think about things as if he were me, to put himself in my shoes...then I queried "Do you think that I get the same thing all the time? Or is it only you?". A slow grin spread across his face he seemed for the first time to recognize that he is not alone in this and he drew comfort from it, then he said "Yea, but you get it 3 times as much! Do you sometimes wish you were born Kazakh?". I replied that I didn't wish to be anything other than who I was, and he shouldn't either because I thought we were both pretty cool...but that I had moments when I wish I had been his birth mommy because then I wouldn't have missed being there when he was born, wouldn't have missed his first smile. I told him how sweet it was at the hospital holding our friend's new baby and that I wish I had been there for all three of them from the very beginning. He got quiet for a moment, mulling that one over and that led to him asking "Do you think my birth mommy or daddy ever thinks about me? Do you think they wonder what my life is like?". I told him I was 100% sure they did, that a parent always holds their child in their heart even if they can't be with them. He didn't say much else but I have no doubt that this conversation will be continued soon.

But it made me realize that as much as I may have missed with the boys, I have gained far, far more and there are 3 others mommies halfway across the world who are missing so much...and whose children have a story that they too can not tell either. While we are building a history, their history was oh so brief...a mere 9 months or in Joshie's case maybe 10 months, plus a few hours post-delivery. Did they stare into their child's face trying to sear their features into their memory forever? Did they cry as they relinquished them? Do they think of them on their birthdays...dates that they know for certain but that I have only an estimate of guessed at by a hospital worker or policeman? Do they yearn to hold the child that I get to hug and kiss every single day? It seems the more one ponders this, the more one recognizes that both moms...biological and adoptive...end up knowing part of an incomplete story. Somehow though, I think that I come out the lucky one, and as incredibly grateful as I am for that, there is a part of me that knows what each of their moms is missing and feels deeply saddened that they will never have the day to day joy that I have. And my sons as well will never have the mother and father that they look like, that they no doubt have personality traits and quirks that they inherited from them.

So Sunday I will tell the parts of the story I know, we will celebrate that Kenny is part of our family and is welcomed into God's family as well, which is far more important than being a LaJoy. But the truth is that God held him long before we arrived, He nurtured Kenny when there was no one to nurture him, He loved him when no one was around to love him, He cared for his spirit when no one was there to guard it. And I will be reminded that although I nor Kenny's birth mother know his full story, God does. And that is what is important.

Monday, April 07, 2008

New Life

Sitting in a hospital room today with the late afternoon sun casting a golden yellow glow on the budding leaves outside, I held a new life in my arms. Our friends had a special delivery today, their long awaited daughter. She was a mere 3 hours old...or should I perhaps say 3 hours new...she was swaddled in flannel and I had the honor of having her take her first nap while I was staring down into that tiny little face.

What perfection. Her features lovely in miniature. For a moment, for the first time actually, I wondered in a very concrete way what my beloved sons might have looked like...felt like...smelled like...at 3 hours old. Alas, that is a pleasure I have been denied, those first hours of holding them as they adjust to their new surroundings. Would I have sat there in awe and wonder at what Dominick and I, with God's help, had created? Would I have been grieving a bit at Kenny's cleft? Would I have marveled at Matthew's beautiful eyes? Would Joshie's high cheeked dimples have been present? I'll never know what I might have felt, I'll never have those kinds of images imbedded on my personal hard drive.

Instead, I have traded those memories for others...first photos appearing on a computer screen with wide grins staring back at me, heart pounding moments just prior to passing through doorways of orphanages half way around the world, I have had scents of a different kind envelope me...not of sterile hospital corridors but of the terry cloth shirt Matthew was wearing the first moment I met him which is now sealed in a zip lock bag in the hope chest at the foot of my bed. These moments, although very different from the norm, are equally precious...equally delightful...equally wonder-filled. For us, they are also equally normal and in sharp contrast, today felt oddly unusual to me. I chuckled at that as I drove away, comparing our friends' experience today with our own adoption journeys and recognizing that the hows and the wheres don't matter at all, it is the love that matters...it is the forevers that matter.

It was a year ago this past week that I had the thrill of announcing on our blog that Kenny was legally ours and was able to display his picture for all the world to see. I remember contemplating all of this as I wrote my posts that week, thinking that here I was...the mother to a child that bore our family name and whom I had yet to even meet. It is a very strange and almost inexplicable feeling.

I never imagined a year ago that Kenny would have lost all Russian by now, that the language acquisition would be so easy. I never could have dreamed that this little boy would have a deep loyal streak for his family and that his compassion and innocence would touch so many other hearts. We were just looking for our son, for one of the missing pieces of our family. We ended up with an extraordinary child and a perfect match for all of us, even if at the time of that post last year I questioned continually what he would be like, if he would fit us and if we would fit him. Thankfully, the answer to those questions were resolved in about the first 10 minutes with him, he was surely a LaJoy and our fears were allayed.

One thing I never could have imagined in a MILLION YEARS was that one year later, I would find myself once again filled with questions about 2 other children, wondering if there would indeed come a day when I would one last time have the thrill of posting their photos for the world to see. It was unfathomable that we might ever adopt again. And yet, here we are, walking a path never on our radar. One last time we might just find ourselves becoming parents without the pleasure of others able to wish us immediate congratulations and hold our "newborns". But that is the way we do things in our family, we are unconventional in many, many ways...and I grin as I write that.

This past week was a busy one, as the boys had Spring Break and it was the last week of ski season....Hurray! As of today I am back at home with work completed until next ski season rolls around. What a gift it is to be a stay-at-home mom for part of the year. The sacrifices are worth it, and that was brought home sharply today as I picked Matthew up from class and he handed me his field trip permission slip and while I was in conversation with his teacher he grabbed a pen, put it in my hand and told me where to sign. As I took a moment to read it I realized he was pointing to the line where parents volunteered to chaperon and he grinned at me and asked "Mom, you'll go...won't you? Please?" knowing full well the entire time that wild horses couldn't stop me if he wanted me there.

We spent Spring Break doing nothing much that was earth-shattering. Thanks to the great crew I had at work I was able to take 3 days off during the week and spend it with the boys. Dominick was off 2 of those days as well, so we tried to think of what we could do to make one of the days special. We can't afford to take off for Spring Break and have a great vacation, so we decided to take a "Budget Vacation" which really wasn't even an overnighter but a day trip. We took the boys to Grand Junction, which is the nearest "big city" and an hour and 15 minutes away. We started with sleeping in late which around our place is a luxury and means 7:30 AM versus 5:00 AM for mom and dad...ok...maybe dad and mom dragging her heels by 6:15 AM. After a later breakfast/early lunch at Taco Bell where we all ate from the dollar menu and got out for barely $20 for 5 of us we then moved on to KidsPlex which is terrific, cheap entertainment for the kids and has a huge indoor climbing wall for the older kids and a decent sized indoor playground, probably twice the size of a McDonald's one. After a couple of hours there, it was a visit to the Mall for new Spiderman Shoes for Kenny and to the specialized shoe store for Matthew's new orthopedic shoes which had arrived that day. After 5 of us sharing a treat of 2 cups of Dippin' Dots ice cream (Totally the BEST but super expensive...hence only 2 small cups for 5) we then wandered over to the new bowling alley where Kenny bowled for the first time and somehow managed to beat both Matthew and Joshie as he excitedly declared "I LOVE this game!". Then it was dinner for all as we splurged for the Golden Corral, and 3 little boys feel quickly asleep on the long drive home.

The remainder of Spring Break was spent hanging out at home, going to a birthday party overnighter for all 3 boys, having a friend of a friend let the boys ride mini-ATV's for the first time which all agreed was one of the highlights of their entire lives, staying up late, and playing Legos until all hours...and suddenly I have 2 Lego fanatics instead of just 1 as Kenny discovered the Joy of Lego'ing.

We now look forward to spring, if it ever really arrives. We even had light snow flurries around mid-morning today, if you can believe that. Projects on our immediate "to do" list are to switch bedrooms in our house and repaint bedrooms and bathrooms as we move the boys to our master bedroom to provide them with more space while we move to another room. We asked if they wanted to have separate rooms at this time, but all 3 gave a resounding "No Way!" so we need to get them into more spacious digs rather than having all 3 crammed into a 10x12 room. So during the next few weeks we have lots of furniture to move and paint to apply. And then there is one bedroom that will remain empty yet filled with hope that girlie giggles may one day be bouncing off those walls.

Hopefully, after a few more days at home the laundry will all be caught up, the cupboards will be back in order, the items for the annual church rummage sale will be sorted and stacked, and we will all get back in the groove. I have an adoption presentation to give at the end of this month in Grand Junction along with my friend Joan, and just gave one a week ago to a group of about twenty women which I really enjoyed. I received what has to be the single kindest Thank You card I have ever been given from that group, and it is nice to know that they enjoyed it so much. When I do these things, which is really not all that frequently, I always feel like I am just standing there, blabbing on about my kids...sort of like I feel about this blog...and that nothing of any relavance actually comes out. I always am surprised that anyone finds it interesting!

I then have another task to get serious about, and that is to write a sermon I was asked to present (I have a hard time attaching the word "preach" to myself) as our Congregation works on filling the pulpit until we hire an interim Pastor to take over while we begin our search for a permanent one. There are several other far more logical candidates for this task in our Congregation and I look forward to hearing them far more than I am sure anyone will look forward to hearing from me. But when I was told which weekend it was that needed filling, I realized that God was talking to me so I had better take Him up on the request...it is for May 11th, Mother's Day, which also happens to be the date that Matthew's adoption was finalized...and Mother's Day 3 years ago was the first day we attended what has now become our church home. Lots of significance for our family with this date, so I'll gamely step up and do what I can, despite my reticince about the whole thing.

So, much going on both now and in the near future at the LaJoy house. And across town in our friend's home, there will be midnight feedings, full Diaper Genie's, and pink frilly clothing scattered about. A new life has arrived!! Is anything as wonderful as that?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Wearing the Mantle and Others Taking it Off

There was a time, not that many years ago, when I held a grudge against the world. I tended to only see the negative in others, to wallow in my chosen self-pity and completely believed in the fallacy that everyone was out to get me, that there was very little goodness left in the world. I also held myself in much higher esteem than I ever should have, thinking that I alone had all the answers and I believed quite strongly that people would always fail you. I expected far too much of others and failed to see how I had in turn failed others myself. I can't blame it on youth, I was in my early 30's and far too old to lay it all off on lack of maturity. I closed myself off to others in so many ways, cracking the door open just a wee bit once in awhile for fear of being hurt. I suppose, as I reflect on it now, that events that occured in my teens and 20's led me to this self-protective place. I also believe quite strongly that my lack of connection with God led me there as well, I flat out turned my back on Him. It is easier to remain filled with hopelessness when one is not connecting with that part of ourselves that He fills up...when we allow Him to.

The past few years have been an extraordinary journey, a journey of faith and a journey to motherhood. The long and winding path that is my life has, like all of us, taken twists and turns that sometimes I wish it hadn't and other times I am profoundly grateful for even if at the moment I felt all was lost. But somewhere along the line, I gradually came to appreciate in a very deep and real way the connection we all have with one another in our humanity. It really is easier at times to wear the Mantle of Misunderstanding, assuming in our arrogance that we are the only ones going through a given experience and therefore others can't possibly offer comfort...they don't really understand, after all. It makes us martyrs that we can then hold high above ourselves, offering up our suffering as if it is something to be proud of. And yet it is that very assumption that keeps us from those who care, who could offer support, who could wrap their arms around us in love. As you can tell from my writings, I ocassionally slip and fall, and drape that Mantle of Misunderstanding around my own shoulders from time to time...choosing to isolate myself because it is a comfortable place to visit, having lived there for quite a long time. It is not something of which I am proud.

But once you have opened your heart up to God's goodness, once you have had your eyes opened to how He can work through others, it is hard to close back up and shut Him out...and to shut out others whom He is working through. You may be able to visit that "place" where you wallow in your aloneness but you find it is tough to remain there.

That is because He is just so good.

This week I was reminded of all of this in many ways and forms. His goodness came at me like a freight train as others whom He worked through yanked that Mantle off my shoulders. We can go through the hard times with more grace if we don't slam those doors shut, if we choose...for it is a choice...to see the warmth and concern of others, if we choose to overlook the failings...if we choose to see ourselves as part of humanity rather than holding ourselves above it.

I received an email on Saturday from a reader of our blog. This is not a person that I know well, although I do know her a little through the magic of the internet and it's interconnected resources. This woman read one of my posts last week, and was writing to make an incredible offer. She wanted to help our family go to Disneyland when we go to California at the end of the school year! I will not reveal too much of the details in order to keep her privacy, but she is a regular reader and realized there was something she could do to make our lives brighter...so she reached out and made the offer. I will add that this will require some effort on her part, and we recognize that for the gift it is...and it makes it that much more meaningful for the gift of time is so valuable and precious. We had quite quickly pushed aside any thought of being able to ever take the entire family to Disneyland, as the cost is exhorbitant and I often wonder how in the world so many families can do it. Now, through the kindness of a stranger, we are going to be able to have a special day as a family that we would otherwise not have ever been able to have. And the Mantle of Misunderstanding slipped off one shoulder...not because of the cash value of the offer but because of the humanity of it.

And again, I am reminded that God is good.

Yesterday I received an email from someone closer to home, someone I see often. It was a short email, merely 1 sentance. And yet the emotional impact it had on me could not be overstated. It reminded me that there are people in our lives who creep up on us and surprise us, whose hearts are so much fuller and so much larger than you ever would have imagined. It let me know that someone DOES understand and cares very much...enough to take action if something could be done. It comes from a quiet little corner of my life, a corner that would surprise others very much if it was revealed. And the Mantle gently slipped off the other shoulder and silkily slipped to the floor, not to be picked up again for good long time.

Once again, God showed Himself to me through the words and actions of others. He shows himself to me through this particular person very often, but this was in a different way.

God is good. People are good. Life is good.

For every person that hurts us, for every sorrowful thing that happens in our lives, for all the injustices...both real and perceived...there is an equal and opposite experience waiting for us. Perhaps we don't see it because our eyes are taped firmly shut, glued by our own unwillingness to open up another part of ourselves, our hearts and our minds.

It makes me wonder, how many times over the years have I missed out on the goodness of others? How many times have I denied others the joy that comes from the opportunity to offer themselves up in friendship and kindness?

And how many times have I neglected to offer that encouragement at just the right time, how many times have I been so self-absorbed that I failed to see the pain someone else was in, how many times have I assumed it was someone else's job to step forward...that someone was better equipped or prepared than I was to offer assistance.

If one owes God and humanity for all the goodness that has come their way, surely my account is well in arrears.