Sunday, July 17, 2011

Old Friends and New

We wander through this world, our lives intersecting with others.  Sometimes those connections are momentary, others are more lasting.  This weekend has been a rich reminder of how linked we all are in ways that at first may not be apparent, and how relationship awaits around every corner, if only we remain open hearted and receptive.

When we left Montrose for Denver Thursday, I expected nothing more than a somewhat pleasant weekend spent in a homeschoolingt booth, talking to others about elementary science curriculum.  What occurred instead was an unexpected crossing of paths with old friends, and encountering wonderful new folks with whom I hope a future friendship develops.

This blog is a place where others come to know us and our family, and through your comments and emails I sometimes get to know you all just a little as well.  Once in awhile we are presented with the opportunity and blessing to meet our readers face to face, and to get to know them and their families too.  When this happens, it is a unique experience, for seldom do we meet someone for the first time with the kind of background knowledge that allows that encounter to feel as if it is old friends meeting.  Although sometimes it is one sided, with the other person knowing us very well while we know very little about them, it still creates an experience that is very different from the norm, and a warmth exists as strangers reach out to hug one another.

I awoke Friday morning to a blog comment from Teresea, a years long blog reader and adoptive mom from Kazakhtsan.  She too is a homeschooler and occasionally works for a vendor as I am doing, and we discovered we would both be working at this very small conference here in Denver.  We had all met Teresea once, very briefly, at a larger conference last year, but had only spoken for a few minutes and had not met her family.  We arrived at the church where the conference was being held, and as only could happen in this special world of adoption that we have been blessed to walk in, within 5 minutes (literally) her sons were fast friends with Matthew and Joshua, and Dominick was making plans with Teresa to take all the boys back to the hotel and entertain them at the pool. 

We were all staying at the same hotel, and this began a weekend which eventually ended with TEN kids and FOUR adults all gathered in our hotel room visiting and wishing we had just a little longer to spend time together.  Somehow, in a couple short days over a swimming pool, an enormous chocolate cake, the discovery that Teresa and I grew up within 15 minutes drive of each other in California, too many Legos to count, and the shared names of Dominick between my husband and one of their sons, a dear friendship was created.

This may have been the biggest surprise this weekend, but it certainly was not solitary.  Many other moments of heart connection happened as well!  I love serendipity!  Another blog reader unexpectedly arrived at our booth, having recognized Matthew sitting with me for a few minutes.  She was as surprised as I was to stumble upon one another in "real life" and we later had the chance to speak in quiet tones about those things that adoptive Mom's find we need to speak of only with someone who will really understand.  What a gift that conversation was to me.

I was fortunate enough to work with and across from some wonderful folks who kept the weekend moving along during the slow times, and who unknowingly provided me with an example of what homeschooling can really do for a family.  Watching Brenda and her young adult son David who will soon be graduating, was a complete joy.  Their relationship was so warm and playful (sounds a little LaJoy like, huh?) and hearing David speak of his sister as someone whom he really loves was almost a balm as I contrasted it with the usual comments young men his age and younger would make about their siblings.  As you all know from years of reading, our kids are the oddballs in that they love each other, and thoroughly enjoy each other's company.  All week I heard from Matt and Josh "Man, the house is too quiet!" and "I like it better when we are all together." or "I wonder what they are doing right now...maybe the Talent Show" as our other 3 were away at camp.  To see in someone like David that this might no be a temporary state, that we just might be able to see our kids through to adulthood with this closeness remaining intact was just what I needed to see. 

Carrie was a mom who spent Friday afternoon working with me in our booth who also uses the curriculum with her kids, who are younger than ours.  She was the sweetest person and I feel like we both got ripped off a bit by having only Friday afternoon to get to know one another!  Hopefully, thanks to the wonders of Facebook, we might find we know one another better over the next few months. 

The girls left camp having even a better time than last year, if that was possible.  Olesya had barely made it back to the hotel room before she was writing letters to a couple of her new friends, whose nicknames were unexpectedly "Camo" (or is that "Camel"???) and "Spaghetti" or some such silliness.  Angela talked non-stop about things that happened, and how she enjoyed getting to know the kids there even better this year because she had enough language to understand and participate fully.

Sadly, Kenny's camp experience this year was not as rewarding as my weekend was.  Dominick drove to pick them up on Saturday morning while I was working, and I got some mixed messages about what all had happened and decided to let it go until we were finished for the day and settled back at the hotel room.  I am still not sure I have it all sorted out, but the facts as I learned them from the kids were that there were 16 girls and 8 boys at camp, and Kenny didn't make any friends at all this year other than with one of the counselors.  It seems he was left behind often despite attempts to engage others, and that one boy even made an upsetting comment to him, calling him "brown rice" in a purposeful attempt to insult him which the counselors jumped on right away.  Evidently Kenny didn't understand what this meant and that it was derogatory until it was explained to him.  This is the story I heard. 

The underlying story which was not relayed, but which I have warned Kenny is perhaps going to begin happening is that Kenny, at close to 13 years old, is being left behind by even his younger-than-age peers dye to his lack of maturity.  Truly, it is more likely "mixed maturity", which makes it even more difficult to be in Kenny's skin, for he was at one point upset that kids were going to a church camp and didn't even really want to "talk about God", and yet Kenny also found that even among these 9-11 year old kids most have left behind play about superheros and dramatic re-enactments of Star Wars scenes.  He and I have had conversations about this very thing recently, as I warned him that it was likely that soon he was going to be left behind even by Josh and his buddy Zack, who are both gradually maturing into older boys while Kenny seems to be somewhat at a standstill in his developmental growth.  I suspect that some of that was played out this week at camp.  While he said he still had a good time, and I believe he did, I think we are beginning another painful stage of Kenny's journey to adulthood.   Any prayers any of you would offer up for this situation would certainly be appreciated.

The redemptive quality of God's presence in our life always pulls out the goodness in any situation though, and spending the evening with Teresa's family was healing.  They left us last night with her son Nicholas's address tucked in Kenny's hand and a plea from Nicholas and Dominick (hers not ours) for the boys to be pen pals.  Kenny discovered that friendship often isn't found in expected places, but always awaits us if we remain open. 

I love the way our life works, and sometimes I wonder why it seems that no matter how mundane the moment, there is something of great meaning underneath it all.  We somehow seem to find ourselves unexpectedly walking down the most interesting paths...or maybe it is that those paths are interesting only to us!  Regardless, the people we meet, the Spirit encounters we have daily, both are what make for an extraordinary life filled with love, sorrow, warmth and pain.  Allowing ourselves to walk fully in the midst of it all and not numb ourselves to the depth of all that exists is what creates a life which speaks and is spoken to.  It's a life where old friends are valued beyond measure, and new friends are appreciated for the joy they bring. 

It's a beautiful life.


Tammy said...

I know the feeling of seeing that your child is different than others. Although my son is only 2.5, I already see differences in him, due to both his trauma and his sensory issues. At home, his quirks and extra needs are not a big deal. However, when I see him with his peers at the various classes he is in, it is painfully obvious that he is different. It is something I am still coming to terms with myself. Good luck and prayers going out to you guys.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry that Kenny has to go through these things. And I know it's hard as a parent to watch your child be left out or teased, etc. I know you remind Kenny that he is just the person God created Him to be. Some of that might be confusing, when we look at it from the world's standpoint, but God had His own purposes for Kenny...and those go way beyond the surface issues that kids (or adults) can focus on.

What a blessing Kenny has such a wonderful family to love him and cheer him on in his own endeavors. I think of how adding your two daughters gives Kenny in particular two more on his "team".

Our younger four were certainly blessed when God gave them four older were they, as were hubby and me for the example the older ones set for these four still at home and the love and support they give their younger siblings. I love the blessings of a large family for all the love and support each one gets.

Your family is a haven for your kids, as should everyone's family be. I will pray for Kenny to be encouraged and strong because of how much he has gone through. If those other kids were even half as tough as Kenny for having gone through what he has, they would be fortunate!

Nancy in the Midwest

Anonymous said...

That should read "has" His own purposes for Kenny...not past tense! That's a typo. God created one amazing person in Kenny, and He's not finished working out His plans for him!

Nancy in the Midwest

Anonymous said...

The decision to home school has opened amazing vistas for you, your talents, your opportunities for friendship and wisdom exchange. Delighted that you have had more opportunities this weekend to explore those vistas and expand your friendships. Your new friends will be blessed with your friendship as you are with theirs.

Hemingway wrote (paraphrase) "strong in the broken places". Kenny has deep strength that he is developing, but he, as your other children, also has broken places. His are much more visible but there are also hidden places. He has come to a home where he is surrounded by love and strength and help in growing stronger, wiser, and more compassionate. Thank God for your family.

May God bless you and your family, your ministry to us. May God guide us to be your cheerleaders, your supporting strength, your love also.

Love you,

Anonymous said...

It was so awesome to spend time with you and your wonderful family! My kids are still talking about it.

Nancy Larson Science said...

God's presence was certainly with you this weekend. It must have been guiding me in making the hotel reservations for you. How else would you explain that your family and Theresa's were both staying there. So much goodness, gladness and grace came from that conference. I feel blessed to be a small part of it.
Thank you for sharing the wonderful joys of a beautiful (everyday) life with us. Your writing always makes be warm to be alive and glad to know you. God bless and take care.