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Posts Tagged ‘love’

A Longing Resurfaces

Intimate

Photo credit: Sona Psotova

I’m a dreamer. I’ve finally come to realize that about myself. Dreamers aren’t known for being practical.

My latest dream isn’t new at all. It’s been at—or just below—the surface for 20 years. All those years I’ve had a hunger to foster and adopt children.

There are times when that hunger buries itself in my chest, and I can think of little else—like after Haiti was ripped apart by the earthquake in 2010. “Can we please go to Haiti and look after the orphans,” I begged my husband. But Kevin is the practical one. He sees the consequences and obstacles with clarity while I only see the need and feel the pain.

I’ve tried to be more practical over the years. When I hear of suffering children—of orphans and foster children who never find a forever family—my heart squeezes with the desire to help them, but I remind myself that I’m raising six children in an unfinished house. “It’s not real,” I tell myself. “It’s just a dream.”

But last week, as I watched a friend snuggling her baby girl, I felt the desire to care for hurting children resurface. Maybe it’s time, I found myself wondering. Our house could be finished this summer. My youngest is four, and I have more time now. Kevin might even be semi-retired.

The next day, at an archery meeting, I overheard a woman talk about her experiences as a foster mother. I unabashedly drew near. “I’ve always wanted to foster or adopt,” I said.

“Really?” She seemed surprised. Maybe the idea to foster children crept up on her instead of being the culmination of decades of desire. She talked about some of the joy and pain she and her husband have experienced on their journey.

Over the years I’ve read dozens of books related to fostering children. Knowing that many children in care have special needs led me to studying about Down’s syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, and autism. I’ve also looked into caring for drug addicted babies.

But what is it like to love a child and then lose them? What if we did decide to foster children, but the pain eroded our family like a sand castle caught in the tide?

There have been times in the past when my dreaming and scheming have gotten us into trouble. Maybe I’m finally learning. Maybe that’s why I don’t want to rush into anything this time.

I found a book titled A Baby’s Cry by a foster mother about her experience with fostering a newborn. She and her two children form a deep bod of love for the baby, and then they must let him go when he is returned to his birth mother less than a year later. It’s helping me to understand what it’s really like to willingly suffer pain to offer a child a home and love—for a time.

I started reading A Baby’s Cry to my whole family a couple days ago. I don’t know if I’ll ever be a foster mom, but I need to believe that the ache that lives in my heart is there for a reason. Maybe some of my children will remember reading this book and decide to one day foster and adopt children themselves.

Maybe the time will be right one day for Kevin and I to welcome some of these little ones into our own hearts. I don’t know, and I’ve come to realize that I don’t have to know. I accept the pain and pray that one day I’ll have the chance to alleviate some of the pain of a hurting child.

 

A Baby`s Cry at Amazon.com

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Goodbye Grandpa

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On March 6th—the day after Melanie’s birthday and two days before Joel’s—my grandpa passed away. Nothing can prepare you for that moment suspended in time, that moment of loss that changes your life.

Most painful was being separate from my mom, my grandma, my brother, my sister. My heart yearned to be with them as they remembered Grandpa together and shed tears together.

Tonight, what really hit me, is that I’ll never see him again in this life. There is a hole left in my heart that can never be filled. Grandpa was special.

Grandpa was gentle. One of the deepest memories I have of Grandpa was of him as a shepherd. As far back as I can remember, my grandparents had sheep. The sheep would sometimes graze on a neighbour’s property up the hill and across the road.

I remember walking with him as he led the sheep down the lane. The shadows were long as the sun sank below the treeline. Any other time the sheep would run away from me, but they trusted Grandpa and they meekly followed him home. Sheep have always reminded me of Grandpa. They’ve always made me feel peaceful.

Grandpa was young at heart. I can hear his laughter now! Grandpa loved to tease and we loved to hate it. He had a song for each one of us grandchildren when we were little. Mine was “Rachel Dawn what’s that diaper you have on” sung to the tune of Delta Dawn.

“Grandpa!” I’d yell and then I’d stomp to show my disapproval. Grandpa’s eyes would twinkle, and his laugh would make me laugh too.

Grandpa was devoted. Grandpa was always there for his family and friends. Twice a year, while their health permitted it, my grandparents would make the two-day journey to see us. Nothing made Grandpa happier than being put to work. He grabbed a hammer and banged the trusses of our house together in the hot sun. He helped to wire our house, or he’d grab a shovel and work the garden.

Grandpa was a great teacher. My love of learning came from my Grandpa. It was his gift to me. When I struggled with math, he showed me the joy of numbers. He knew the balance of showing by example and encouraging. He lovingly tended his garden and taught my brother and me to grow massive pumpkins by nicking the vine and placing it in sugar water. In a moment I’m back there—the black, moist earth. The lush, green vines.

The memory that keeps coming back to me is one of walking with my grandpa. I loved to go with him when I was small.

“You walk so fast, Grandpa,” I said.

He chuckled. “One day you’ll walk faster than me.”

I couldn’t imagine that day. My feet crunched, crunched in the gravel as I took two steps for every one that he took. Maybe if I took big steps like Grandpa, I’ll be able to walk as fast as him, I thought. I stretched my legs and took great strides and we laughed together.

I’ll spend the rest of my life doing that—trying to walk like Grandpa did.

Grandpa

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Loving the Birds

Photo credit: BrandyCorc

Photo credit: BrandyCorc

It’s been a joy to watch my oldest daughter’s love of birds blossom over the years. Every day, she counts the minutes until she can get outside.

In the fall and winter, Myra stands by her feeder holding birdseed, and the little chickadees swoop down and eat from her outstretched hands. It took amazing perseverance and patience to earn their trust—but she did. One sweet little bird would recognize her away from the feeder and land on her shoulder as she walked through the forest.

In the spring and summer, Myra scours the forest for nests. She checks on them daily and quietly observes the chicks’ growth. One day, as I was walking on the driveway, Myra waved me over. “Do you see the baby?” she asked with glowing eyes. A puffed up, nearly mature chick, bumbled around while the mother watched from a nearby tree. “There are three chicks, and their mother calls to them so she knows where they are.”

As much as Myra rejoiced over the chicks that matured and flew away, she mourned over the ones that didn’t. We learned that a third of wild birds die within their first year, and most of those die within the first few weeks.

Sometimes she was able to give a little help. One evening, our cat caught a young, new-to-flying bird. Myra was able to rescue it unharmed, but the little guy was in shock, so she kept it in a dark box overnight and then set it free in the morning.

Later that day, Myra found a robin chick that had fallen from its nest. We talked about putting it back in the nest, but the nest was too high, and the tree too narrow for us to put a ladder against it. Myra and Melanie watched the bird for several hours to see if the parents would care for it on the ground. But the parents didn’t, and the bird was getting weak.

She brought the bird in and then began the work of keeping it warm and fed. The little guy needed to be fed every couple of hours throughout the day. We’ve raised chicks successfully in the past, but this little one died after two days.

“Myra,” I said as I held her, “I’m sorry that it died, but I’m proud of you for all the hard work you’ve done to care for this chick. It definitely would have died if you had left it on the ground, and you gave it a chance. It just wasn’t meant to be, honey.”

I realized that I could learn for Myra’s perseverance. It takes strength  and courage to keep on loving and being vulnerable after experiencing hurt. But love…is always worth it.

 Myra

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Breathe.

Sometimes you need a little fire under your britches to get you moving. My husband and I haven’t been away overnight together since our oldest was born—fourteen years ago! The fire that got us away from home was an invitation to a destination wedding in California.

I was both excited and nervous at the thought of being away, and it was hard for me to ask for help. At one point I panicked and wrote to a friend: “It’s kind of crazy to be leaving 6 kids with a girl who doesn’t have any children. What kind of friend am I?!” The email I got in reply was: “Take a deep breath. The trip will be fine. Really. Your friend will survive and you’ll have a wonderful time.”

It was wonderful.

The wedding was beautiful, and the ceremony and vows were touching. For me, the most memorable part was giving the blessing. The wedding party circled the bride and groom and everyone said one line of the blessing. We witnessed their commitment, but also promised support on the journey. Beautiful.

I’m so thankful for how everything worked out. Even though we haven’t travelled in decades, the flights, hotels, tours, rental car and wedding all fell into place. But I’m even more thankful to the beautiful people who watched our children and drove them around as well as the friends and family we reconnected with at the wedding.

I’m also deeply grateful for my children.

Yes, I cried as we drove away from the house—and my children. And I was overwhelmed with emotion as I talked to my two year old on the phone a couple of days later. I was the proud mama that probably drove everyone nuts with stories of my kids.

Can you imagine my joy when we discovered little love notes from the children hidden in our luggage? There were heart shaped cards tucked in our Bibles, or a note would pop out when I reached into my purse or unzipped my suitcase. I was touched that they planned this out to show us love throughout the trip. We even found a well-hidden note today—almost two weeks after getting home!

What I will remember most from this trip was the love that we received.

Have a wonderful week!

Love,

Rachel

 

P.S. ~ I’m excited to share a guest post with you by my dear friend Miriam—the girl who survived watching my children for four days! Look for her post on Thursday.

The bride and groom

The bride and groom

 

The wedding reception

The wedding reception

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In Sonoma

Kevin at Muir Woods

Kevin at Muir Woods

The Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco

San Francisco

On our way to Alcatraz

On our way to Alcatraz

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Some of the notes and cards we found

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Plink

Photo credit: Ilco

Photo credit: Ilco

A stone drops. It plinks in the water and leaves tiny ripples that are swallowed by the next wave. Steadily sinking, the stone enters the darkness of the abyss. The water is frigid here—the pressure suffocating.

Creatures blind and grotesque guard these forgotten waters. In blackness inconceivable, the stone silently hits bottom, and an invisible cloud of silt rises. The stone—small, round, and indistinguishable save for its smoothness—remains forever lost.

~

When did I begin to sink? As a little girl shattered by a family divided? Yes, that’s when I let the bitterness stretch its arms around my soul.

Still sinking, the light faded from view as I realized God and evolution cannot coexist. There is no God, I lied to myself. In that vacuum where God was figment, sin ceased to be. I plunged through bitter cold into the darkness of drugs and promiscuity.

I sought to fill the void where God had reigned by embracing the occult. Candles burning, I chanted incantations that joined me to witches throughout time. I couldn’t see the gnashing creatures that swam circles around me.

Choosing to deny my God did nothing to deliver me from the wretched chains of guilt. Self-inflicted wound oozing, I wrote in my diary, “She punishes herself and bleeds.” Striking bottom, I sought death.

How could light reach through fathoms of water darker than blindness? And yet the light of hope pierced through the waters and made me want to live. I should have been that stone lost forever—save for love so powerful it conquered death.

~

I am on a boat, the Fisherman with me. A stone falls into the water—plinking. “Go after her,” says the Master.

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Here is an excerpt from a story I wrote for tonihammer.com:

 

I can’t believe I said that! Why am I so stupid?

These used to be the words that I berated myself with every time I was in public. Is it any wonder that I suffered from chronic headaches and anxiety attacks? It took me a long time to realize that these self-deprecating thoughts were actually a symptom of selfishness. My focus was on me.

Though the key to overcoming my depression and anxiety was simple—it wasn’t easy. I needed to stop focusing on myself and live for others.

The ugly thoughts still came: You’re so fat! You’re just an accident waiting to happen! But instead of giving into those condemning words, I fought back with truth: You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are a temple of the Holy Spirit. And then I would seek out someone to bless.

Click here to continue reading.

 

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Last night as my husband blew up the birthday balloons, I pulled out the gifts to wrap for my oldest daughter. Groan. The children had beat me to the wrapping paper, and there were only a few shreds left. There was a time when this situation would have left my sick with stress…

My mother used to make us beautiful birthday cakes in the shapes of animals. I think that I got it into my head that being a good mom meant that everything had to be just perfect for a birthday.

I am someone who wings everything, so the combination of perfectionism and me is just a disaster waiting to happen. My children’s first few birthdays were pretty miserable. I was worried about the presents not being good enough and about the cake not being pretty enough and about there not being enough people at the party.

One year I put too much cake batter in the pans, and the batter overflowed and burned in the bottom of the oven. It was a laugh or cry moment as I sat looking at the ugliest cake imaginable with the acrid smoke burning my eyes.

I realized then the birthday wasn’t ruined because the cake was. The birthday was never about the cake—it was about celebrating my daughter.

IMG_1914[1]Soon after that, I read a magazine article that talked about the importance of traditions that made the birthday child feel special. We began to implement some traditions on the next birthday—all of them to let the birthday child know that they are loved.

One fun tradition that we have is the Fruit Face. I arrange fruit in a bowl in the shape of a face and place it in front of the birthday child at breakfast. These aren’t works of art; they’re just silly and fun, and they make everyone laugh. It’s just one of the little ways that I say, “I love you.”

As I reflected on my daughter’s fourteenth birthday and the presents wrapped in flyers, I realized that it wasn’t at all stressful like birthdays used to be. I have learned that birthdays aren’t about having everything perfect; they’re about showing love—and that’s something we have an abundance of.
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