Monday, May 24, 2010

Bringing Out the Best

Zion is the type of guy who can walk around with a pebble in his shoe and not notice. This morning at 6 am he exuberantly downed two tangerines, half a glass of orange juice (while the other half spilled down his pajama shirt), and a sugar cube dunked in my tea. A dribble of tea mingled nicely with the orange juice stain as he climbed onto my lap, tightly holding his monster truck with both hands, content and quiet for a split second. A loud noise from outside caught his attention, he plowed straight through the block box and onto the little table to peer out the window. With furrowed brow, he said in his deepest toddler tone, "[S]cawy,cawy twuck!" For all his toughness, spiders and loud noises terrify him. On the other hand Emmaus fears neither of those things, but a spot on his clothes, wet sleeves or dirty feet are completely unacceptable. His new term is, "Aszolutely not!", which seems to apply to everything!
On Thursday afternoon during a brief pause in his tricycle riding, Emmaus suddenly became chauffeur to Zion. With a determined grip, Zion held firmly to the back of the trike while Emmaus cycled faster and faster to rid himself of his brother-baggage. As the speed increased Zion laughed wildly, finally winning over his brother's mood and the two brought out the best in eachother.
Yesterday, the happy twosome became a threesome. I ran upstairs from the back deck to grab the ever-sustaining cup of coffee. In my brief absence, all three toddlers scaled the glass table and shrieked with laughter as they tossed fistfuls of popcorn to the ever-waiting audience of open mouthed labs.
Ezra seems to bring out the best in most people. She loves to serve and in fact one day, she carefully squashed a spider with a plastic bag after seeing Zion's worried expression. Last night at Mags' violin recital, Ezzie was the only one allowed to come as ambassador for the toddlers. When Magdalene began to play, Ezra stood on my lap and silently reached out her hand in a gesture of solidarity to her sister.

Raising these three, or for that matter eight, is a challenge and a joy, but my mountain is finding the time and energy each one requires individually. I'll never forget the words of my sweet girlfriend, Jodi, "It is not how many children you have, but what you do with them that matters!" So my daily hike is making time for each one, setting up boundaries for the family and myself. This is what I do and if any outside activity takes away from this one job for which I am accountable, it must go! The life I lead "between my ears" as another girlfriend, Anne Ortlund, said, must contain right thinking, right actions, must be swept clean daily of wrong thoughts and must be filled with good things. Prayer is the tool for this!
Good friends who treasure our thoughts are the safety net for catching us when we stumble. We all need people who challenge and bring out the best in us, who will not be shaken by the difficulties of life. The sweet fellowship that comes about from reaching our goals together strengthens us daily to plow through the toughest of times.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Have you ever smelled a camelia? The fragrance is soft and almost unnoticeable unless you hold the blossom up close and breathe in deeply.

One afternoon, when I was four and a half, my mother was late coming home. I sat on the curb for a while, waiting. The world felt very big and scary in those few moments so I ran next door and slipped under the camelia hedge. Our neighbor, Uncle Gene, had pruned his beloved plants in such a way that they had formed a tunnel. Under this dark, quiet canopy of flowers I felt safe. The wide blooms hung heavily, generously blanketing my hiding place in a subtle fragrance. Childhood comforts remain strong.

We have thirty-six camelia plants along our neighbor's fence now. Last week all but three of them bloomed. The vibrant red, pink and blush-white flowers covered each bush in a lush extravagance. The branches eventually began to bend, barely able to hold the weight of their beauty. As each blossom fell to the ground it was at its loveliest. For a few days the sharp, gravel strewn pavement became a soft carpet of vibrant petals.

As I sat on the swinging bench with all three of our littlest ones sharing sips of tea, I thought of those bending camelia branches and how God designed them to hold the weight with seeming effortlessness. They remind me of the beautiful people who spend their lives selflessly for others. One woman who came to mind is Joy. She was to spend the evening with us, sharing tea and encouragement. But tragedy struck Joy's life yesterday; she lost her 27 year-old son.

As I pray and weep for my friend I know that there are three camelia bushes standing in full bloom outside our front door. It is almost 2 am. I cannot see the late bloomers or smell their fragance, I just know they are there. This is their time to bloom. Their presence and purpose are comfort to me.

Joy is an extravagant gift. She bends her life for the Lord's purposes. Our precious Zion, Emmaus and Ezra are ours through her selfless adoption work. But Joy's life is not her own, she has given it to Jesus Christ. He is her Savior, the quiet canopy of comfort in this sorrowful, gravel-strewn world. He is her blanket of love and hope. The promise of everlasting life is in Him. Yesterday, was Joy's son's day, his day to enter Eternity. Joy remains here, for a time, as do we.

Let us hold our loved ones close, breathe in deeply and spend our lives well.