Sunday, September 05, 2010

In the Presence

We pulled into our driveway this evening at almost 8:00 PM, and I was more exhausted than I have been since Kazakhstan. Wow, what an incredibly long drive home...and what an action packed 3 weeks it has been! We crammed in so much, both physically and emotionally, that I think we are all wrung out. But lots and lots of good stuff happened, we are all bringing a lot away with us from this experience.

Our last few days in California were spent with grandma's, visiting the beach, and getting packed and ready to hit the road once again.
At the last minute I decided firmly on going home a different route, to visit the Grand Canyon which I had never seen nor had the kids. We also decided to visit Hoover Dam as well, so we added to our non-existent itinerary and were off!

We stayed with our adopted family friends in Vegas, gratefully accepting their offer to crash at their house and fit in one last chance to visit before parting and not seeing one another again for several months. How wonderful it is to have friends who accept us as a larger group and don't stop inviting us! We owe so much to so many, and as we look to spending time in Chicago with our friends who so graciously put us up for Kenny's surgeries and visits there, we are reminded over and over again of God's generosity and wish we had ways to repay all of those whose kindness has touched our lives in a million ways, both big and small. It is even nicer to have those kinds of friends with whom you can put your feet up, relax and feel right at home instantly, just as we did in Vegas. After an evening of visiting and a Jackie Chan flick (complete with action moves by the kids) we got up and going the next morning to see Hoover Dam.

What can I say about Hoover Dam? Hmmm...big concrete wall, so expensive we didn't have enough cash to pay to see the VISITOR'S CENTER, for goodness sake! It was $7 for parking, then $8 each just to see the Visitor's Center, not even a tour. That would have been more money. So we opted to pay to park, walk around and view it from the top, then leave. It was hilarious to hear the kids almost shriek out in dismay as they read the fees before I even did...we have trained them well to look for value and the biggest bang for the buck! What really irked me is that they didn't have a single thing that was informative around, blocking all information about the dam if you didn't pay to get into the Visitor's Center. However, we all agreed that it was still worth the stop as it was kind of cool to see it, and the new bridge they have created over the top of it was actually more impressive than the dam itself.

Then it was on to the Main Event, God's Masterpiece...the Grand Canyon.

We were running late and arrived at sunset, which turned out to be an unexpected blessing as it was cooler, and the light...oh wow oh wow oh wow oh wow...that beautiful cast of evening glow made for a spectacular show.

Imagine coming up over a rise where we had walked on a paved pathway, and having this be your first view of the grandest of them all...

It was one of the coolest moments if my life, to have this revealed behind the trees lining the path and hear the collective sucking in of breaths of all 5 kids, then softly uttered "Wow!" by all of them. Matthew adequately described it as magnificent.

And we all, without speaking, recognized we were in the presence of God. More than anything, I love that our children see the spiritual and are occasionally as spellbound by it as we are. We walked along speaking in hushed tones, almost as if we were in a great cathedral...which I guess we really were.

We hiked a couple of miles along the easy trail and I was totally shocked to be surrounded by people from all over the world. Literally we heard more foreign languages than we did English, it was awesome to think of others from outside our country appreciating the beauty we have to offer.

It was kind of funny that twice I was asked if this was my "class" I was taking to see the Grand Canyon by others who were there visiting as well. Even funnier is that I can actually answer "yes" although it is not a "class" in the sense they are thinking it is!

At one of the Visitor's Centers we checked out Josh was enthralled with the maps and samples. He examined everything carefully, exploring it as he found where we were and where we had been. He explained to me how canyons are formed and showed me pathways water and snow would take to meet up with rivers. Olesya was excited to discover that a "point" overlooking the canyon was the same as a "point" on an island, which we had learned about earlier on our trip as we explored the Channel Islands exhibits. Seeing her learn to apply learning to new situations is a huge leap, and signals her development in logic which is a great sign.

Kenny loved using the binoculars to look out over the Canyon. My only regret is that we had such little time to see it, and I hope we can one day return to spend more time there.

We ended the evening with the IMAX movie, which was a favorite of every single one of them. None had ever seen an IMAX film before, so it was quite dramatic for them and allowed us all to catch a glimpse of the Canyon from a totally different and powerful perspective, as well as learn a little more about the history of the exploration of the Canyon. As we were waiting in line we hit the snack shop and there was the nicest young man working there. He overheard the kids all talking amongst themselves about sharing money to get snacks and 2 drinks for the 6 of us to share, and he came over to me and asked if he could give them each a small treat for free, saying it was such a pleasure to see siblings be so kind and generous with one another. The kids' faces all lit up as he handed them each a package of Mike and Ike's and the chorus of thank you's brought a big smile to his face.

It was in the dark, on the road leading back to our hotel from the Canyon where the conversation turned more serious. Kenny, Angela and Olesya were all in the 3 closest seats to me up front, and somehow we got on the subject of whether all moms love all their kids the same. I responded honestly that some moms do seem to have favorites, which was not right but it did happen sometimes. I was then asked if I would have preferred having a baby to adopting, if I ever worried about loving Matthew and Joshua more because I had them as babies, if I ever wondered what a baby made by us would look like, and many, many more questions. Each of them talked openly and shared honestly about their fears that maybe they wouldn't be loved as much when they were first adopted, and about how they now see that they didn't need to worry about that.

We talked about how scary it is for kids AND parents when adopting, how we are all strangers at first and that it takes time for real love to grow. They were all 3 very surprised to learn Dominick and I were scared at all, as they never saw the fear. Matthew laughed from the back seat as he overheard us and said "Mom and Dad were always scared every time...even with me! But they're LaJoy's, they don't let fear stop 'em" and we all chuckled over that one. I was asked what exactly I was scared of before adopting each of them, and I was honest as I talked about issues older children often face and how hard it can be to help them, I shared about my own insecurities prior to bringing each of them home, and we all said how lucky we are that it worked out so beautifully. In his usual declarative spiritual fashion, Kenny said "But God knew what was best, and put us all together with the perfect family for each of us!". Angela sitting next to me quietly added "Thank you Mom for you not be too scared to bring me home. One girl at internat (orphanage) had family come visit and left her and not take her home, she so so sad. I'm so happy you so strong and not too scared."

We then talked about God's Bigness, how God is bigger than all of us, Creator of Canyons, Freelance Artist with families. I once recall saying to a close friend that I would feel I had succeeded as a parent if my children took away just one single thing from their encounters with me as their mom. That would be if they could recognize that there is something in this world far greater than themselves, and it should be acknowledged and appreciated.

That day we saw the "bigness" that man can create in the Hoover Dam. Standing alone it is an impressive work of man's ability to mold concrete and steel to hold back the forces of water and nature.

But compared to God's Bigness as reflected in the beauty and grandeur of the Grand Canyon, anything mankind can create seems puny and relatively insignificant standing side by side.

Each of our children left that night with an understanding that God creates and man imitates.

That was enough of a lesson for one day.


Anonymous said...

God's artistic creative wonders--Grand Canyon, Matthew, Josh, Kenny, Angela, Oleysa, Cindy--all in one place at the same time. God must have been delightfully tickled to be watching.


Christina said...

Beautiful ;)