Saturday, October 30, 2010

Little Curls and Tears

I woke up the other morning to pounding on my door. It was a friend. To be honest, she had told me she would bring them by, but I had forgotten, and we don't usually wake that early.

I know these kids of my friend's. We watch them every now and then. I don't know what is going on in my friend's life. I know that she and her husband are separated. Why, I don't know exactly. I've heard rumors. I've heard accusations hurled at her by the husband. I've even heard some of the official word that the church is putting out. But I haven't heard from her.

So I withhold judgment. I've seen what rumors are like. I've experienced what accusations can be hurled. I've even known how a church can evaluate a situation.

So I wait. I grabbed her one day last spring when our life was still too involved in recovering from trauma to be able to be there for her, but I grabbed her, looked in her eyes, and said, "Hey, I want you to know that I have heard things going around, but I am not going to believe anything about you until I hear it from you."

She looked up quickly then, her eyes filling with tears, and whispered a quick "thank-you'. My goal is to be there for her. She doesn't yet share, but she knows I am there for her, ready to listen if she wants, but not demanding it.

That morning's knock brought three little kids to my door. I let them in and settled them down with blankets in front of a video. It was a special day at school that day, so I wanted to get up in about an hour so I had time to do my daughter's hair. I wanted to do it up in a pile of curls on the top of her head. She would look gorgeous.

An hour later, I stood at a table with seven heads bent over their breakfasts and mentally evaluated what my daughter's hair would require. My gaze scanned the other heads and paused.

Two other little girls sat at my table, their beautiful hair in rat's nests. I, like others, have grown used to them like this. Unkempt, uncared for. The mother too run down herself to put effort into beauty for the girls. The father unable and unseeing of the damage he does. The grandmother's eyes fill quickly with tears as she sees her grandchildren.

I sighed. I guess I could settle for a nicely brushed out hair and a little bow for my daughter. So I called the girls up.

Their eyes danced with the thought of being beautiful for the special day. Their grandparents would be coming, and they could look beautiful. It took about half an hour of combing and detangling, but we got the hair glistening. I asked each one if thy wanted braids, pony tails, or curls. Their eyes lit up and they whispered "Can I have curls?" So I put half their hair on the top of their head, curled that portion into ringlets that cascaded down over their smoothly brushed hair, and put a bow on each.

Then I quickly pulled my daughter's hair to the side and put a bow in it, too.

We were a little late to school, but they looked lovely.

That afternoon at the program, I was rewarded with happy tears in their grandma's eyes when she saw them. They no longer looked like the unkempt kids in the middle of a divorce, but like loved and cherished girls made beautiful for this day. They looked up and smiled, knowing they were done up like princesses.

It was worth it. My daughter did not look as drop dead gorgeous like she could have if I spent half an hour on her hair, but she looked fine. True beauty comes from the joy you give others, not shining above those around you.

It was worth it, even when after the program, I stopped in the class that was filled with grandparents, aunts, and uncles oohing and aahing over student's work, and my son was sitting bent over his desk with hot tears running down his face. "How come I never have grandparents here on this day? I don't have any family that ever comes!" There was nothing to say. My daughter had made a special card for the substitute family that had come to her performance, but they had left early and had not stayed to go into her class, so she sat there with her special thank-you card and no one to give it to. Tears poured down her face, too.

We packed up early and headed home. It was a good night for popcorn, a movie, and doing nothing as a family together.

Little curls, little tears, little hearts that suffer for adult's decisions, and little minds that try to wrap around big questions.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Something About Me

I'm learning things about myself and how that affects what I do.

I am a fiercely loyal person. Intensely loyal.

To the point that if someone criticizes someone I love, even if the criticism is valid, even if it is needed, I struggle not to go into attack mode.

We had to have some honest discussions tonight about some people in some situations, and it was hard for me to objectively evaluate people's performance and abilities because some of those people are people high up on my list of people I love and would defend.

I suppose it is useful information to know about myself - if only to be able to stop myself from the fierceness of a tiger defending her own. Back down... it is only a performance evaluation....!

I guess you can relax if I love you - you can be sure I won't be listening to comments about you behind your back!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Quick Question

I am speaking in a few days, and working on that, I wonder something...

What are the biggest issues women in your area of the world face?

I asked that question of many people when I traveled this past spring and was interested in the answers. But now I wonder about other areas of the world. What are the biggest issues where you live? Be as brief or as long as you want... but would you answer that? Even if you live in the US, go ahead and answer.

I have to speak on the topic of women's needs around the world, and while I think I have some ideas, I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ministry Around Us

I'm seeing something interesting happening over the last year or two. Now that life inside our home is more stable and peaceful (and wonderful!), new things are happening outside.

I live here, minister to over there, and my home church is back there. Yeah, confusing. So while we live here, most of our ministry is not happening here. Yet we live here. Daily rubbing shoulders with and involved in the lives of people here. Of course, our lives would mostly consist of church, school (which is highly multicultural!), and the office. The only exception is my work. It is a very part-time thing. I'm not qualified enough according the the rules of this country to work as a nurse, and honestly not sure I want the headache, so I simply work as what you would call an aide. I only work a few shifts a month, but enough to keep my foot in the door and do something. Besides that, I love old people.

The last new months, I've been noticing that there have been doors opening for quiet ministry here - where we are. Not a full-time job. Just being friends with, being involved in the lives I come in contact with. Dealing with abortion, abusive marriages, tired moms, friendly neighbors... I'm enjoying it... I guess... I mean, I enjoy being able to minister and comfort those around me, yet my heart breaks with their burdens, too.

The village I work in is mostly Catholic. Interesting to me, an American, because we don't naturally think of a village being anything. People are... but a village? Yet, it should be obvious. Tiny village of only a few houses and a huge steeple of a church towering over the village. The nun's home is beside the church, the school is right across the street, and the old people's home is sandwiched between the school and the graveyard. (I always thought that a bit odd - the view from the old people's living room window is the graveyard!) We've had a few real believers come in to the home, but most of our people would be Catholic or nothing. We've had a high number of nuns, priests, and now a um.. a... a monk? He is not a priest, yet not a nun (obviously!) He's a "brother".

But as I have cared for the nuns, priests, and brothers with Alzheimer's, questions go through my head.... the nun who always wanted to shut the door and make sure it was "just us girls" when she had a bath... once told me, "I don't like it when Father so and so comes in our room at night." .... "I told him no, but..." and she mumbles... Last night I had the "brother" say something very odd, too, in the shower room. Is it only Alzheimer's or has more been going on in that impressive stone building than we think?

I don't know. I only attempt to deal with the nightmares of Alzheimer's patients who have lost the ability to sort out the difference between the past and the present. Abuse, war, trauma, death... all these experiences tumble together in their minds and emotions while their coping strategies fail.

And in between that, I listen to the lives of my coworkers. Then I come home exhausted - at times not because of the work, but because of helping carry some burdens.

Then I come home, back home. I won't work for a few weeks again, and my mind switches to the needs of over there... to a different work. Yet the needs of a hurting world are so much the same. Different causes, same heartache... same emptiness seeking an answer.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Right Response to Abortion?

It was an interesting conversation around the nursing station late this evening. My coworker in tears on and off throughout the evening.

Her daughter is pregnant.

The daughter who uses drugs, whose boyfriend is a drug dealer. The daughter who has been trouble for years, but whom the mother loves dearly.

The nurse at the desk was the one who had the conversation with me weeks ago about abortion. She's had two.

My friend has been raised in the church. She has her problems and faults, but she believes in God... and in life.

And me.

An interesting mix.

My coworker in tears because her 18 year old daughter has decided to have an abortion. And there is nothing the mother can do. So she cries at work because she is not home and she can.

What do you say? I'm sorry? It seems so little.

The boyfriend's mom is pushing the abortion. Saying that it is the "only option". My friend cries. Her first daughter and her second, the one who is pregnant, were both conceived outside of a marriage, but she chose life, and has tried her best at the responsibility that was given to her. She's done well, really.

But my friend cries. "How can that mom say it is the only choice? How can she say that to me?! I know, she knows, my daughter knows there are other choices!"

But what can you do? You can not force someone.

So she cried. It will be next week or the next. There are laws in this country that will take awhile to get some hoops jumped through first. Then the daughter asked her mother to drive her there. She said she hopes it is in the morning, or she will have to get a day off work (there are no extras at work so that would be tough). She says even if it is in the morning, she will not be able to work. She will be bawling.

I said to phone me. Right now, I am not taking more shifts, but phone me. Just tell my you need to take your daughter to the doctor, and I will take your shift.

On the way home, I felt odd. I just volunteered to cover for someone for an abortion. Is that the right response to abortion? But what else could I do? My coworker is sick over it. She was heaving and threw up in the garbage can over the thought of her daughter killing her baby. But she can not stop it. My response is the only one I have - to show love to my friend. To cry with her. To pray.

Right now, that is all I can do. Pray that she will change her mind, and be there for my friend if her daughter goes through with her plan.

It's sad. Very, very sad.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Only on a Sunday - They are at it Again

My husband is gone traveling and I am home with the troops alone. We went to church today, and the kids were extra wiggly. Perhaps getting up early and making french toast and syrup is not the best thing before church...

They wiggled and squirmed throughout the service and I tried to hush them. Then for some reason, in the squirming, the head of my oldest son connected with the mouth of my daughter, and it was a pretty hard blow.

Next came, of course, the blood. It wasn't bad, but her tooth was bleeding. (It should come out soon, so no serious damage, but blood.) Blood freaks her out, so there came a stage whisper, "Ooh, is there blood, is there blood?!" to which I had to answer with a positive. This led to somewhat hushed squeal, and she ran from the service to the bathroom.

My only consolation in the entire event was that the pastor's wife was sitting in front of us, and her preteen son let go one of the loudest passing of gas one has heard in a church, which led to her and the rest of her family struggling unsuccessfully to regain control of a horrendous case of the giggles.

A Hairy Compromise

I've got beautiful kids. Of course, my boys might not be so delighted to hear me call them that, and my girl would roll her eyes and make a face, but they are beautiful.

My daughter has long dark hair down past her waist. She refuses to let me cut it, which means long combing sessions every day. I just learned this summer from Lilly that if I put oil on her hair after I wash it, it is so much more manageable! My in-laws don't use oil, so I hadn't thought of it, but they don't have long hair, either. Putting oil on my hair would have been the last thing I would do to my hair! But it has helped tame the tangles on my daughter's head.

Usually, my daughter wears her hair in braids. We get the option of one braid or two, and on rare occasions a pony tail. Her hair looks absolutely gorgeous in a bun, but she hates buns. She says it feels like a bump nailed on the top of her head.

I seriously hope when she gets older that she is willing to try some of these styles that are options with her hair (mine is too thin to ever grow long), but in the meantime, we have come to a workable compromise. She gets to wear her hair any way she likes Monday to Saturday, and I get to play with it on Sundays (if I have time!).

A few Sundays ago, I did this:

I loved it; she hated it, but she wore it for one day.

Friday, October 15, 2010

What I Have Been Up To

Wow, I've been busy! Four kids with four different schedules keep me busy. I've gone with them on various events and trips this last week.

A Conference on World Issues
This was heartbreakingly sad as our kids were inadvertently exposed to some disrespectful and horrific images of aborted babies. Now while I am adamantly opposed to abortion, I do not condone everything done in the name of pro-life. This was gruesome, horrific, and highly disrespectful. We had invited someone to speak, and did not expect this. They knew they were speaking to younger children - ages 11-13, so we were completely horrified by what was before our eyes.

They showed a video of moving parts of ripped apart babies around. While a still photo would have captured the image for these little minds, the video went farther. They picked up a piece of a baby's face - without the skull, and with forceps squeezed the face so the mouth opened and closed. Then they posed a dead baby on a dollar bill and in a few other places. It was horrific, gross, and highly disrespectful, and I am ashamed to say that we adults in the room reacted too slowly to march our kids out in protest. We were in absolute shock!

Then it turned personal when a kid raised their hand at the end of the video and asked, "What do they do with the body parts?" The speaker said, "Well, they throw them in medical waste and they are incinerated." She continued very derogatorily, "So they basically throw their baby in the garbage, and what type of a person would throw their baby in the garbage?"

That was when I lost it, and tears began to pour down my cheeks. The problem was, I was at the far end of the room, and the only way out was through the presentation, so I stayed with tears pouring down my face.

You see, my daughter was thrown in the garbage.

Not because I did it. Only because the nurses caring for me after she died did not consider her human. She was three days short of the "magical" twenty weeks.

We strongly objected, but the group laughed at us and told us that if kids are old enough to think about abortion, they are old enough to see this. They thought it was not offensive.

Needless to say, we will be very careful next time about who we allow to speak to our kids - even if they call themselves a Christian group!

When we walked out, my friend caught me and held me and let me cry. She did not attempt to correct my pain or tell me that since I didn't do it that it didn't matter. She only let me cry and said, "I know. I'm so sorry."

A Cross Country Run
What a relief to be outdoors today watching my younger two run. It was a beautiful day, and they ran well. Thankfully this year, the people watching the course allowed me to be on it with the request that I stay out of the way. Of course. But I have a child with asthma and heart murmur. A long run pushes him a little hard, and I need to keep my eye on him.

One year, I could see him running tipped back with his hands above his head struggling to breathe well, and the officials would not let me go to him. "No parents in the course area!" I was furious and waited only a minute before shoving the over zealous official out of the way and heading out with his inhaler at a jog to my son. I'm not a crazy sports mom out to knock down other players or swear at my child for not running harder. I simply want to make sure he is able to keep breathing!

A Moving Experience
What would life be if we didn't rearrange furniture? We have new people coming next year likely. We got a phone call from some friends who are moving to a smaller home now that they are older. "We have a nice table and chairs and a whole bedroom set from our guest room. Would you want it for your new couple?"

Of course we want it. Just where to put it?

We figured it out. But it meant shuffling things around a little. On the plus side, we now have a double bed in a kid's room, so when we do have guests, we can put them in there!

Now that I've learned to spell it, it was time to take the next step. Well, I did do a jog around a cross country track to keep an eye on my son. But, I cleaned out the one place I have in the house to work out and got my equipment laid out. I gave it a few tries, too, but moving the furniture around has been pretty good for cardio and weight lifting for today! :)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Hardest Part

I worked today. Back to caring for the elderly.

Oh, someone asked me the other day what I job do... um... well.. I do several. I teach. I work with the elderly. I write and edit. I do occasional office work. I cook at times. I really wasn't sure how to answer them. I think I simply am. Here I am - and I do what needs doing.

But I was at work today with the elderly. One of my patients is a sweet lady who is at times confused, but not always. She is almost completely blind, and as a result needs quite a bit of help. Today was her birthday, and her family had gathered. At the end of the evening, her son was telling her goodbye. She held his hand and happily talked about how wonderful it was here, how we always took such good care of her, and how she was so happy that they were leaving her here where she would be cared for. He took his time saying goodbye, and she kept telling him how happy she was to be in our home.

Then he finally walked away, and I stepped into his place to take her to her room. She looked towards her son's retreating back and sighed. Then she said, "Of the whole day, that was the hardest part right there."

My eyes filled up with tears. She is so lonely here. She misses her family so much. But her thoughts were with her son - making it easier for him to walk away. Taking his guilt away.

When he was out of sight, her body sagged with tiredness. "Can I go to bed right now? I've had a really long day."

We tucked her in early. It is true - we do take good care of her. But saying goodbye is still the hardest thing.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Bits and Pieces of Mostly Good News

Bits and pieces...

1. Great weather meant I got needed stuff done in my yard. Yay!

2. Decent day at work.... which is a huge blessing since my tummy hurts.

3. Got home to good news of hope... one is a friend of mine who today after six months has been taken off the ventilator and is breathing on his own! I'm sitting here in tears..

4. There is also hope for another man... one whose story I can not share with you... but these two news coming in one night is amazing... interestingly their stories have paralleled each other - totally different, yet so much the same.

5. My husband's packed suitcases sit at the end of our bed. He's leaving tomorrow - to a perfectly safe place... but... he's leaving. I still haven't been able to cope with the leaving part well... not without fighting panic and tears. It is one thing to tell your head that he is going to a safe place. It is a completely different thing to tell your emotions.

6. There are other good things in my life, but I will have to grab some time here soon and sit and write.

Friday, October 8, 2010


I am making a commitment to exercise.

Not to make any huge steps too soon, I am first committing to learn how to spell it correctly. Somehow, it seems to be one of those words that I just can't get right. I keep throwing in an extra c or mixing up the c and s. But I will plug away at it and get it right.

I've been getting lazy. I am an odd person, and almost a complete opposite to most. I tend to eat very little or none at all under stress, and lose weight. When life is going well, I gain weight. That's worked fine for me when I lived with stress with a few fine periods thrown in.

My problem is that life has been pretty good recently.

Ok, I've had some issues with friends, with tragedies, with other things - but they are more remote stress. Life at home is good.

And I am showing the results of that. Add in the fact that this summer, which is when I am typically more active, I had two with their arms in casts or bandages so no swimming or biking for months. I seriously need to get moving.

I went to the doctor with my daughter recently. On her weigh in, the doctor just mentioned that she is in the 90th percentile for her weight and encouraged me to get her more active.

Now, my daughter is not fat. She is not even really chubby. She is, perhaps, like me - a little dense. I and others noticed when they picked up my babies - they were heavy! Not chubby - just heavy. But my daughter is a little rounder than her scrawny brothers who are built of sheer muscle packed in a tiny frame.

I want to be a responsible mom. I don't want her to grow up to be chubby and struggle with feelings or inferiority. She already eats fairly healthily - whole grains, fresh foods, etc. She just needs to be more active.

So today, I pulled out the bikes. The weather picked up, and we are back to biking back and forth to school. I want to take them on a hike over the weekend. Gently including her in family activities that are active instead of passive.

I'm doing this for her.

But I am also doing it for me. When I hit 35, I told myself that I wanted to get myself in shape before I hit 40. I did well enough, but now I am losing ground. I wanted to be able to keep up with my boys.... well... my son is now running 5K two or three times a week as well as two other practices for cross-country. He can run 5K in 24 minutes. I don't think keeping up with him is an option anymore! (However, I can borrow his shoes and fit into his swimtrunks - with a little wiggling - so I may have to be happy with that.)

I'm still getting closer to 40, but farther away from my goal. Stress used to push me. Now I need to push myself - for my sake and for my daughter's.

Monday, I meet up with a friend to work out. Hoping this develops into a stronger me and a stronger relationship with this friend.

Lacing up my runners... tennis shoes... trainers.... boots....

ever marveled at the wide variety of names for our exercise shoes?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Getting Back in the Saddle

Well, I must say I am a little disappointed in the lack of response to my invitation to introduce yourself, but life goes on. Maybe it is just the two reading this blog an awfully lot! :)

But I have a question for you today. How do you make yourself do something you do not really want to do?

You see, summer is over, the crazy month of September is over, and it is time to get into routines and patterns, settle down in some sort of way. October is always a month that my husband travels in. I thought perhaps this year would be different since he is not going back "over there" for awhile, but nope - he's off to another end of the world doing something else. So October is gearing up to be what it has always been for our family - a month to settle down, to find routines and patterns, and to set the tone for the rest of the school year.

The problem is that I am running low on the ability to make myself step into things I should be doing.

I need to clean out the fridge.

I need to cover the gardens.

I need to clean out cupboards and go through winter clothes.

I need to simply clean this house!

I need to organize my kids so they get up on time, go to bed on time, make their beds, eat their breakfasts, finish their homework.

But it goes deeper than that. I need to again make time for regularly sitting down to read, pray, and study God's word. It is amazing how easy it is to break a habit and how difficult it is to regain a habit.

How do you go about starting up routines in life when you've fallen out of doing them? When all you feel like is sitting and staring off into space? How do you get back in the saddle again?

Ever been there? What got you through it?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

How About Tea?

I guess we only have two coffee drinkers on here. I can make a decent cup of tea, too. Or hot chocolate?

Pull up a chair, grab a drink - even koolaid will do - and tell me something about yourself.

Come on.... it is not that hard is it?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Since We Are Here.....

.... let's all have a cup of coffee.

I know that some people read this blog - or perhaps a few people read it a lot. My little music counter at the bottom reads 918, so I think there are a few readers. I know a few of you because you have commented, and you have blogs. Others I don't know. I know that some of you are overseas, and it has been fun to interact with you and hear about where you are from. Some of you aren't. Don't feel unwelcome just because you aren't. Some of you have served in another country and are now home. Some haven't. That's fine. This is not a blog reserved for those who are in missions. This is just a blog - of someone who is, and who is not perfect. Struggling, but surviving. A place to be honest, and a place to talk in a life where I do not always get the chance to share how I feel.

But I'm curious - who are you? Let's sit down with a cup of coffee and introduce ourselves. If you are in the US, welcome - don't feel like you have to be a fly on the wall. Tell me about yourself. If you are in a place that you can't share freely where you are - hey, I get that. Just grab an unmarked cup and join the table! Tell me something about you.

You're next - go!

Like a Warm Cup of Coffee

We've had some rough days here. Not only are we exhausted from three weeks of guests and meetings, school started and my oldest is in a new school requiring a whole new set of rules and requirements and relationships. In the little school that the other three are in, we have new staff which means a little more work in orienting them and helping them settle in.

The meetings this year were different. There are changes on the horizon - good changes, but definite changes. We are going to expand our focus which will also mean expanding our numbers. In the end, it will mean less work - or perhaps more focused work - for my husband, but until then, it will mean more work. I am thrilled about the changes, but change... it brings stress. Good stress even, but stress.

Then on top of all that, we have a member of our church who overheard something we said and blew it way out of proportion and came to a ridiculous conclusion and followed that with an outlandish accusation. It is all stupid, and it would be hilarious if it wasn't such a serious accusation, but it brings more stress.

Part of me wants to go knock their head in. Part of me wants to rant and rage at them. Part of me wants to sit down and give in to a fit of giggles. Part of me wants to sit down and cry. I'm so tired that I can cycle through all of those feelings in under three minutes.

But I wrote one of my friends with the situation we are in now, just needing to blow off some steam and also to explain an action we had to take. She wrote back with a quick letter saying that some people are stupid and she is sorry we are going through this. I sat there after reading her letter, slowly calming down to quieter tears. Just sad.

And then my e-mail buzzed again, another letter from her, "I miss you terribly, love you a ton."

Then I finally dissolved into tears. It's been a rough time, and everyone is blaming me for the mistake and the false accusations. I could be blamed for what I did say, but no one can blame me for the conclusion someone jumped to - that was their own idiocy, and not mine to take responsibility for.

But people pin that blame on me, too, and now we live in a fishbowl of stress with more added in.

Then came my friend's words. "I miss you terribly, love you a ton!"

Ah... like a warm cup of coffee on a cold day. Like a hug in the middle of pain...

This is one who has known me since my second child was born, and we are friends. They are not perfect, and they have been through accusations both true and false, but we have remained friends through it. And her love was just the comfort I needed to stop feeling like no one cared and everyone was out to get us.

I am loved. I am missed.

I needed that, especially after a few months of changing and rearranging friendships and relationships, after a time where I have wondered if I am really wanted at all. If I really do have any friends. They move, they change, their lives go on... But I am loved and I am missed. There is a place for me that has not been filled in with another.

That was a blessing.