When you live far from family or find yourself in the position of not having much in the way of immediate family in the first place, you do the best you can to ignore that fact. We don't have grandparents at the kids events as so many of their friends do, we don't have someone to call on a moments notice and ask them if they could watch the kids for an hour or two will we go shopping, we rarely go out for a "date" because the cost of the date plus a sitter makes the evening too expensive. However, when you are in these shoes you honestly don't think much about it because that's just the way it is...you muddle through the best way you can, you improvise, you haul kids to work with you, you plop them in front of a TV with a video when you are feeling sick yourself. You don't know any better because that is the way it has always been, and you take it for granted that no one in their right mind wants to be bothered with your children. When the total eventually reaches 5 kids, it will really be ridiculous to expect anyone to handle them all! Just because we are nuts doesn't mean others are :-)
Somehow though, in the midst of need, there is "family". It may not be family by the Webster's definition, but it is certainly family by God's definition. While there is no biological tie to many of those we consider our "family", we don't seem to put much stock in that in the first place around the LaJoy household!
The past couple of months have really had others reaching out to offer their support of us, to show us their love for our family in the best way possible...the gift of time. They have watched our children while we were in Chicago for Kenny's surgery, allowing Dominick to be able to be there too rather than worrying about having him stay home to be with Matthew and Joshua. Our adopted family again stepped in when Kenny and I had our sudden and unexpected trip to Washington, DC, making it much easier for us to leave knowing that the burden wouldn't all be on Dominick to figure it out.
The past couple of days have shown that as well. I am sick. I am not at death's door or anything but I have a nasty cold that I tried to shake off but hit full force a couple of days ago, leaving me drained and feverish with a husky voice that might be nice if I was trying to be Lauren Bacall, but alas, I am not. We have Matthew's birthday party tomorrow and our trip to Salt Lake City on Saturday, and I am trying hard to cut back and take it easy in an effort to shake this thing...all in the midst of our usual busy schedule.
Yesterday, the boys were supposed to go pull weeds at our adopted Grandpa's house. He "won" them at our church's "time and talent" auction a few weeks ago, and we had settled on yesterday to get the job done before he had guests showing up from out of town. We were going to make a fun afternoon out of it, including weed pulling, pizza and a game of Scrabble between he and I. I called to beg off on my part early in the day, explaining I was feeling under the weather. What happens? Not only do the kids end up at his house to complete the task, but he watches a movie with them and then takes them all out for dinner! This thoughtful gesture allowed me the entire afternoon and early evening to "veg out" with a book and some cough drops with no responsibilities or guilt about not doing anything with the boys. It was a real gift, and not something I anticipated or even knew how to ask for.
Today, our dear Mr. Steve called and offered to pick the boys up from swimming lessons tomorrow, which is very much out of his way and not near his home at all, then feed them lunch and begin "Mr. Steve's Summer Woodworking Academy" with them, as he is going to kindly work with them on woodworking projects over the summer. This will give me time to get things ready for Matt's party and maybe even relax a little in between. Again, something that never would have occured to me to ask for, and yet someone anticipated a need and stepped forward.
There are times when I wonder what we have ever done to deserve this kind of thoughtfulness from others. I also wonder if those who make a point of being involved with our sons realize how precious their presence in the LaJoy Boy's life really is, if they see how they are filling gaps for them that could never be filled. Sadly, we may not have living grandpa's for our sons, but they are under the care of many loving men, young and old, who are contributing in so many ways to who they will become. We may not live near grandma's and aunties, but we have so many wonderful women who step in and out of our lives as needed, offering love and tenderness when mommy is not there. Friends grandma's who willingly take on 3 more kids saying "Why not? I'd love to have them!", or combo auntie-grandma's who share with delight in all the silly things they do when there is no one else to share it with.
As I sit back and think about it, I hope I too have been that person in someone else's life from time to time. I have had to learn some really big lessons about receiving in the past couple of years, and they have not been easy to accept. Receiving graciously the gifts of others that are offered us can be a real challenge, especially when you are not used to it being offered so freely. I used to be fiercely independent, grew up in a family where you never took anything from anyone...you could do it yourself or you didn't do it at all. It was all about that "rugged individualism" that is so often spouted on talk radio. Those lessons were not at all bad ones to learn either, as you learned to stand on your own two feet, to take care of yourself and yours, and to rely on yourself.
Oh, I was halfway decent at reaching out to others...I delivered Meals on Wheels in high school, volunteered here and there for various things, and I think I did it with the right spirit...not trying to say "look how good I am" but because I truly wanted to help others. What I never learned in all of that was that there comes a time when others want and even need to do for you, and your rejection of their offers of assistance...no matter what the reason...can be hurtful and damage relationships. It makes relationships one sided. It took me awhile to see this on a deeper level, and even longer to begin to practice accepting love and care from others without feeling like a "sponge" myself (OK, so maybe I am not really there yet but I am trying!). I also learned that we may never be able to help those in concrete ways who have helped us, as that may not be where God wants to use us, but if we remain open to the Holy Spirit working through us we find many, many other ways in which we can "repay" our debt of gratitude. I will readily admit our Adoption Angel has done enormous teaching in this area, and I am slowly getting it through my thick head.
So I sit here tonight, blogging and hacking away with a pack of Hall's drops near my side, and I am decidedly giving up guilt over the love shown us and am actively saying prayers of thanks for care in even the littlest of things. I am grateful to everyone...our blog readers included...who show such love and care for our family. Your ongoing prayers, your kindness, your words of support are just as meaningful, whether it be for a measly cold or for the quick processing of adoption documents. We need you, and I hope that somehow you need us too.
:::cough cough::: :::hack hack::: :::blow blow::: ::: sneeze sneeze::: Good Night!