Sunday, February 21, 2010

My Love Story

Elias taught Emmaus to say good bye using the phrase,"I love you, Ciao!"

So yesterday Zion, not to be outdone, exuberantly ran out the door yelling, "Bye! I yuv you Cow!"

A few mornings before, equally adamant about expressing himself, Zion raced after me as I zipped around intent on completing my chores. I hurried through my shower and it felt more like a bath our labs would get, hose them off and let them shake dry. Zion would not be deterred from getting my attention. Finally, as I was in the process of making a bed, he burrowed under the covers, grabbed the front of my shirt, drew me so close to him that our for-heads touched and he proclaimed in his husky voice, "__top!!!!!" So finally, stop, I did!

The gift of time is certainly a treasure, but the intimate knowledge we get from taking time with that person is the way we learn how to love them. Zion loves to be touched. He is tough as nails, but a kiss on the nose or drawing him close, will calm his feisty mood immediately. A few months ago I heard Elias tell someone that time and touch matter most to him. I try to honor our big kids by giving them the space they need. Once spoken, I understood my mistake, I was trying to respect our 16 year old, but I had forgotten his love language.

With our teenagers, sometimes the door to their heart is wide open, other times it is locked. To carefully tap on that door and receive no response means we wait for an invitation from them. The love response to their needs means that when they are ready to talk, perhaps at midnight, we drop everything to listen.

Sometimes, when the chaos of the household feels consuming and anywhere but here would be lovely, the staying is the 'I love you' of responsibility, and the eventual peace is the blessing for having done so. Our family must love as a team, which isn't always easy. Jim and Rochelle Fleming are friends whose wisdom has guided both our marriage and our parenting. They used the phrase, "Speaking life or death." So it is with our crew that the constant encouragement is that all words, even tough ones to hear must be life-giving. Our middle-littles can be fierce competitors with each other. When my reaction to their arguing is harsh, I ask for forgiveness because harshness is never justifiable. Asking for and giving forgiveness are the deepest words of healing and life we can offer.

In our marriage Dennis' daily love letter to me is his faithfulness, love and devotion. I am his number one girl, and his actions for 20 years have proven that I can trust the man I love. The kind of heart surgeon he is means time together is not our luxury, however, because of the way he loves me, I will never stop waiting for him to come home. My gift to him is also faithfulness, respect and a clean house! It is important to him, so I love to serve him in this way. Now, I must say, he can't come home without a warning! If you happen to step into our house during the critical - "Daddy is coming home... clean your battle stations!"- time, either help, or move to the side!

I think loving each other also means that there are some days when you will be giving everything you have AND everything your spouse doesn't. Sometimes in a partnership you must bear not only your own burdens, but also those of your loved one. Dennis and I each have experienced seasons of struggle when the other has had to be more than just one half of the sweet wholeness of marriage. If we did not give grace and live under God's merciful love, I can't imagine where we'd be.

The greatest outpouring of love I've ever known is from God, and his resources never run dry. In Love, he is the expert and I am constantly learning the nuances of his language.


Sunday, February 14, 2010


Last night Gabe and Elias laughed heartily as Dennis broke into song, "Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset, simply go the years..." The boys' choir will be performing "Fiddler on the Roof" and Dennis couldn't resist that marvelous piece.

Emmaus lit up. Bright-eyed and encouraged by Daddy's bold rendition, he called, "Mamma! Mamma! Watch!" Sitting up straight and tall with eyes fixed forward, he began to sing a gentle song in Amharic, his Ethiopian language. In his four months with us, we have only heard him trill his tongue while humming softly, never had he sung for us. His sweet voice brought tears to my eyes; for the joy and pleasure singing to us gave him, and also for the sadness over our inability to understand his song.

A kind stranger once told me to "sing over my children".
The idea is powerful. It reminds me of Aslan in the C.S. Lewis' story, "The Magician's Nephew". As the characters stood in the darkness of a world that had died, the lion Aslan began to sing. His intricate song brought in light and then all of creation formed through the richness of his joyous melody.

To sing over Emmaus is not always easy.
On our most difficult days, his exacting demands, calculated unkindness and tempest like responses wear on my spirit.

Yet in a fresh moment, as in yesterday afternoon, I may find him sitting on the floor flanked by Zion and Ezra meticulously cutting Norwegian cheese in thin slices, carefully serving in equitable portions.
I am encouraged to believe that perhaps he is becoming a gatherer who attempts complicated things beyond the capacity of some, to share with many. His brilliant mind misses nothing, except perhaps compassion. We are daily pursuing our little boy's heart through love and consistent, healthy boundaries. As with the new song of last night, we see beautiful glimpses of gentlenss and joy.

One afternoon, a week or so ago, I found myself in silent conversation with the Lord. I felt that I needed some encouragment and expressed my happy anticipation over the future result of the hard work of raising our boy. Yes, it will certainly be worth it when we see the amazing man Emmaus will become! I felt the Lord's silence weigh heavily on my heart.

The truth is there is no promise of greatness, nor should there be. I do not love my child because of who he will become. There are no conditions on love. I have benefited immeasurably from the unconditional love of my parents, my husband and many in my life. Who am I to be fueled by the future accomplishments of this unique boy who deeply deserves my unconditional love. He is who he is. Is it not enough that he has been given to us? We have this precious day to fill with the melody of the moment, not to cloud with fear or fantasy of the days to come.

If Emmaus' life is simple, with no great accomplishments or worldly acclaim, and If his story is not in the headlines of the front page, will his have been a valuable life?
If my precious boy belongs in the last line of the last story, then that is where he should be.
And that is where I will be, and I will be singing.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

trying to write a story

I finally found a moment to write.

Four sentences seemed to formulate themselves as I sat amidst a busy household of teenagers with homework.

The littles and middle-littles were sound asleep.

As I struggled with sentence number 5, distinctly aware of my insistent inclination to accentuate alliteration and overuse excessive, unnecessary adjectives; I heard Dennis walk through the door.
It was 11:00 p.m. He gave me a kiss and grabbed some supper, then disappeared to patrol the house, checking on everyone and everything, to see that all was in order.

Unfortunately, an ill placed plastic container of puzzles lay toppled in the toy cabinet down stairs.

For 40 minutes I fussed with figurative language, which grew so flowery, I was forced to delete it all.
I then realized Dennis was nowhere to be seen.

I found him downstairs in the middle of 10 puzzles and many card games trying diligently to make order.

He encouraged me to continue writing as he slowly sipped wine and studied mounds of unmatched puzzle pieces.

At midnight Mags yawned and slipped up to bed, bypassing a distraught Emmaus hollering for Daddy. His request led me to deposit him in Dennis' arms while I took over the mess.
Five minutes later with my sweet husband asleep, Emmaus crept down the stairs and into my arms and the mess appeared even more daunting.

Finally, back at the computer, with my main character on my lap, words began again to flow.
Emmaus, my exacting little boy, did not appreciate the story competing with him for my attention.
By 1:50 a.m. he finally fell asleep and I thought that I could work until 2.
Ten more minutes to write I thought, or edit, or delete since my original idea seemed lost in a sea of words.

"Maaaaaammmmaaaa", came Zion's raspy low voice from the top of the stairs, followed by a bewildered Salome' asking, why I wasn't in bed. Yes, why?
I am likely the most stubborn of the whole clan, so I carried the two down to the couch beside me, reticent to release my precious 9 remaining minutes.

After a hopeless time of fluffing couch pillows and finding blankets, both the 4 year-old and 2 year-old were vying for a spot on my lap.

I often feel as if I am corraling a litter of puppies and indeed if computers could laugh, this one would have been in hysterics.

The 9 minutes became 2 1/2 more hours of wrangling sleepless children. My unfinished story sadly sat in the draft section of my email.

I shuffled down the hall at 4:30 a.m. and grabbed whatever toothbrush I could find on my way to bed, just in time to hear Gabe's alarm.
"Good Morning Mom...what are you doing up?"
'Well", I answered sleepily, "I am trying to write a story."

Monday, February 8, 2010

Life's Punctuation

Last night we shared a Turkish meal amidst a fascinating circle of friends.
I met two unique women, each of whom is an oncologist.
As they described their professional relationship of mutual respect and dependence, I commented that it seems as if
one is the period to the other's sentence.

Later as I recounted the lovely evening, I contemplated the simple idea of punctuation.

Who, for example, are the exclamation points in our lives?
Who spurs our spirits to the greater heights of joy, excitement, passion, anger?

Who is the question mark to challenge an idea,
or cause us to reexamine ourselves and embrace new insights?
Are there some who remind us of fresh possibilities around the bend,
as in the sweet pause of parentheses.

And are there semicolons who stop us for a moment then move us forward,
or the colons who just give a simple list.

What of the friends who speak into our lives and impart strength with their voices, they are the quotation marks.

The ellipsis to keep us wondering...
And the beloved comas, saying: take a moment, breath deeply, and stop running so fast.

Yet the most precious of all must be the apostrophe, symbolizing to whom we belong.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

48 minutes...

Ashley is a stranger to me, except for the 48 minutes in which our lives intertwined.

It all began with her torn satin slippers.

The errand had to be efficient. Shoes for Zion, that was it! As I entered the mall parking lot, I noticed a young woman sloshing through the wet crosswalk leading from the bus stop to the shopping center. She wore red satin beaded slippers - torn, flat and soggy. She walked in a weary manner and my conscience stung me as I turned away to focus on my own child's lesser need.

I swung the car around to face the obvious and asked awkwardly, "Excuse me, I was noticing that perhaps you might need some new shoes. I am headed to buy my son a pair. May I also buy some for you?"

I was surprised by her immediate and simple, "yes."

And so, she climbed into the front seat beside me, while I found a parking place. I chatted about the parking lot landscaping, which suddenly seemed so fascinating. Ashley said nothing except to answer my question of her name. We arrived at the department store and easily found Zion a pair of sandals. I noticed that our clerk looked only at me, rather stiffly in fact.

The women's shoe department seemed to display even more beautiful things than usual and I felt a bit excited wondering what Ashley might choose. She looked blankly about as I sought to catch eyes with one of the many clerks, but no one would help us. Finally I touched the arm of an employee. She looked at me and Ashley in an almost embarrassed way, then bustled us over to the running shoe section. Ashley picked up a brightly colored canvas shoe, but our sales woman immediately redirected her to a more durable type. I felt an odd sensation at the sudden practicality of our clerk. Ashley obediently chose a simple blue running shoe, much more suited to walking the streets.

After purchasing the shoes I asked Ashley if she would like to slip them on. She declined. A coffee shop stood conveniently just outside the shoe section. The inviting aroma gave me a good excuse to spend just a bit more time with this young woman. As I asked her wishes she gazed hungrily at the sandwiches and baked goods. With coffee and a small feast in hand we found a quiet table.

Ashley ate and then to my astonishment began to tell me the painful story of her life. Her descriptions were simple unburdened by blame or detail. Her unguarded transparency stood in stark contrast to the unspoken condemnation of strangers around us. Their silence seemed to say," Don't you know that you do not belong together!" Brave and strong, her hard life had not hardened her.

There was something sweet between us as she hugged me goodbye, gave me a gentle smile, and slowly trudged away. Perhaps she would sell the shoes. But then again, perhaps our 48 minutes had nothing to do with shoes?