Thursday, December 13, 2012

Throwing Thoughts in the Garbage

I phoned a friend today.  I needed to talk.  But they were busy.  It's ok.  I'm fine with that.

Usually.  Not saying there are times tears might not fall.  Especially when my heart is bruised and I need a shoulder to lean on.

But I'm ok with it.  I am a realist.  Life happens.  Like Forest Gump said.

Instead I sat here with my good headphones on, the ones I use for calling, and turned on music.  These headphones are good!  Music sounds fuller in them.  I haven't just sat and listened to music for a long time.  I used to more often. It's good to do.  Especially when my heart is bruised and I need a shoulder to lean on.

I clicked on a new cd someone put on my computer.  I like this group, but had just never gotten around to listening to this album.  (Like I said, haven't been listening to music that often.  Sometimes it is hard to do.  Especially when my heart is bruised.)

It is Phillips, Craig, & Dean's album "Let the Worshipers Arise".  Nothing new.  But these are voices I am used to, and with my personality and history, I push people away easily and am wary, hesitant to trust.  So voices I am used to, that have history with me, I listen to easier.

The first song is "I am a Friend of God."  I just sat back and listened and let it wash over my hurting heart.  And then I smiled.  You see, I come from and at times still function in, a conservative background - varied, but conservative.  While being raised rubbing shoulders with all other varieties of believers.  And I remember distinctly the voice of one of my friends, older than me, criticizing this song.

"We are NOT all friends of God. God doesn't call all friends.  He says only that 'if you obey my commands you are My friends'!"

There is always that, isn't there?  A sort of two-tiered Christianity.  The carnal Christians and the devout Christians.  The "friends of God" who obey Him and the "others".  The "disciples" and the "just Christians".

I work in the guidance room of a highschool with my new student.  I am there to attend to physical needs, but in all my copious spare time that my student doesn't need a book handed to him or to use the bathroom, I help out where I can.  I tutor, help crowd control, circulate, encourage, provide supervision so over-worked teachers can walk to the bathroom and re-gather their wits.

Last week, we had a student in the English class go off on a verbal rampage.  We were talking about parents and writing an essay titled "Raising Teens - Difficult or A Piece of Cake".  They were to pick a answer and write about it.  This one boy started off in answer to a prompting question on how if a mom had more than one kid and one kid always obeyed and was good, she'd love that one the most.  If she had one kid that was not easy, she would love that one less.  He would not stop, he would not listen, and he just kept going.

The teacher and I are both moms.  I have teens.  Hers are grown.

The kid can't even imagine how wrong he is.

I told him so.  We both did.  We told him that he doesn't understand the heart of a mother.  While a child's behavior can and does make our job easier or harder and a difficult child can tire us out and leave us less energy and we might snap at him, he doesn't understand our hearts.

It is the love of the misbehaved one that keeps us awake at night praying and crying.  Our heart's are tuned to the struggling one perhaps even more than the obedient one and we spend hours thinking, praying, and trying.

Love does not depend on or change because of behavior.

He just didn't know how wrong he was.

And today when I heard my friend's voice mocking this song and saying we are not all friends of God - only if we are obedient.... I picked up her words, walked over to the garbage bin, lifted the lid, threw them in, and slammed the lid back down.


My behavior does not in any way change my status with God.

It might break His heart.  It might cause Him pain.  He might wish better for me.  He will work in my life.  But


The next song was "Because I am forgiven".  I had just sat down and read Nehemiah.  I was struck by their commitment to "forgo the exacting of every debt".  It just seemed not a big deal - not something that needed to be in that commitment they made to God after seeing their sin.  But there it is.

God's been talking to me very gently about forgiveness.  I say gently because that is how He is doing it.  Quietly.  Asking questions.  Waiting.  Gently because He's not saying, "you sinner!  you need to forgive!"  Gently because He's not saying, "It wasn't really that important, just forgive!"  Gently because He sees and knows these are real offenses, difficult and painful ones, and old wounds.  Times where I have done everything right as much as I knew how, and still was wounded.  So gently, He's been asking me questions.  Laying this topic on the table. Let's talk forgiveness.

I've learned not to rush God nor run from Him.  To let Him ask and talk to me.  To not say, "Oh, God is talking to me about forgiveness, ok, let me say the words and just do it!"  God is not after my words or even my will. He's not after me forcing myself to conform to what I think His will is.  He's after my heart, and He's more interested that I learn what His forgiveness is, what it means, before I substitute my own version.  Letting me see Him, so I can follow.

And His people felt it was important to commit to not seeking to exact every debt from people.  If we think only of money, that is an easy one.  Ok, so they won't pay back... ok... well... life happens.  But what if we set that truth in a different setting?  What if we talk about offenses and not money?  It is a question, among others, that I am pondering today.  Even today, when my heart is freshly bruised.

Music is good.  I still sit, letting it wash over me.  Wishing my friend was free to talk to, but realizing that this is also good.  Listening to "You Are God Alone"....  "in the good times and the bad, You are God alone".  Even now, even here, God is still on His throne, unshaken by the events in my life, not loving me less, not tired of me, and still working in the situation.

And still quietly asking me questions.

I think, coming from my background, that is one thing I appreciate the most about God - His quiet way of asking questions, of letting me respond, instead of forcing me.  It was also what I appreciated most from the one who took me by the hand and led me back to sit with God without fear.  To look up and see love, not judgement, in His eyes.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Is Creationism THAT Important?!

I had people stay recently.  They brought a dvd for my kids to watch.  About creationism.

Fine.  My kids love science and we strongly believe in creationism.

I didn't see the beginning of the film, but came down about a third of the way through.

I had a hard time not shutting the video off.  It was only respect for my guests that let me leave it on, but I had to have a heart to heart talk with my kids afterwards.

It wasn't the message.  It was how it was portrayed.  I had never seen such a mocking, degrading way of portraying truth.  It caricatured non-believers as idiots, liars, and stupid. Even made science teacher's voices sound like a dumb man on cartoons.

I was horrified!

I'd far rather my kids sit in a class on evolution than they watch this movie!!!

What is worse - a unbeliever who believes evolution or a believer who mocks unbelievers?  Aren't we called to love?!

I told my kids that if I ever heard them ever speaking to a non-believer in that tone of voice or that way that.... that... that I'd knock their heads together!  We have the truth - we can afford to be merciful and kind!  We can treat others with respect.  We MUST treat others with respect.

I still hold firmly to my belief that no one has ever been won to Christ by being laughed at by Christians.

As far as I can see, the only people Jesus was rude to was not the lost, but the spiritual leaders who pretended to be righteous when they really were lost.

Thankfully, my kids were just as horrified as I was, but they were uncomfortable and unsure what to do since guests had asked them to watch this film, and they did not want to appear rude by walking away.

wow.  Give me an unsaved person any day over a Christian who mocks unbelievers.  At least we can have a sensible discussion then.  In the end, it is not the person's view of creation that will matter - it is their view of Jesus.  And if they get that right, the rest will fall into place.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Internal Workings of a MK

The life of a MK has a uniqueness to it that is not visible.  An invisible other.  A world within worlds.  In my case, worlds within worlds.  Various cultures from various places.  I react at different times differently.  I react in many ways.  In silence.  Inside my head.  From these feelings and reactions, I chose which is appropriate to the situation, to the event, to the people involved.  Chosing to show one does not negate the others exist.

Generations of cultures live in my head, some so distant that they are vague, unidentified.  Recently I said to someone that, "oh that is my Hispanic background."  They gave me a blank stare and said, "you are a little dark, but I never knew you were Hispanic."  I smiled.  I didn't stop to explain that it is my white side that is Hispanic.  My dark side is German and Native American.  But I am Hispanic by culture from three generations.  My father was raised there.  My cousins are all partially Hispanic.  I grew some years there also.

I did not confuse the questioner by explaining that my white Chinese grandmother went to Mexico and that is why we are now Hispanic by culture, too.  Too much explanation.

My white, Chinese grandmother was by genetics Canadian, although she did not go there until she was more than half grown.  Her trip there was sudden.  War and uprisings came, and they evacuated.  She grew up Chinese and was suddenly Canadian.  Later she immigrated to America for a time.

Today I finished reading the book Obasan by Joy Kogawa.  I set it down and stared off into space.

 Thinking of my grandmother.

Japanese were treated horrifically on both sides of the border, for sure, but it seems that in Canada, the treatment was worse.  They were stripped of their possessions which were then sold at auction, sent to work camps, separated from each other, and forbidden to re-enter BC for several years after the war.  Not until 1949 were they permitted to return to BC.  Four years after the end of the war.  Four years.  For citizens of their own country.

It is the rhetoric of the government that amazed me.  The angry talk about eliminating the "Japs" and making BC only for the "whites".  This was not in the 1800s.  This was recently.  It was while my father toddled around in diapers.  While my Chinese born grandma lived in BC.

I wonder about her.

Years later, I watched her be a tireless advocate for the Vietnamese boat people and other refugees from East Asia.  She did not simply raise money or speak.  She took them into her home, gave them the furniture and blankets, dishes, and food she had when they were able to get apartments.  She was their family as long as her memory lasted, visiting, eating with them, being a grandma to their children and their children's children.  And when she died, her service was attended by a sea of Asian faces.
I wonder about her during these war years when a war was being waged in Canada against Japanese.  A different country, but faces so similar to the land of her birth - her identity.

I wonder then if this passion to welcome and care for those who arrived on her shores came from those years.  If that passion was born out of pain.

 My grandparents took in people.  One day my grandpa made a quick run across the border to buy milk and gas, and came home with a woman from Guatemala.  My grandma made a fuss over her and moved a bed in my room where she stayed for nine months.  She was caught up in someone else's crime, attempted the cross the border (but she didn't even know she was), and was arrested.  My tall, Swedish/Irish grandfather saw her and offered to translate for the bewildered border guards.  Somehow, somehow, he convinced them that it served no one any good purpose to put her in jail for months until her hearing, and talked them into releasing her into his care.  And he brought her home.  At that time, I was living with my grandparents for a year, so we became room-mates. She and I picked blueberries side by side that summer.  She could not work, but I could, so we worked together.  When her deportation came, my grandparents and their church filled her bags with gifts for her two sons, linens, towels, clothes, and the church took a collection and sent her home with an envelope full of money.

Whatever you think of illegal immigration is irrelevant to me.  She was a mother, a widow.  Her crime?  Wanting to make enough money to send her sons to a Christian school.  A more honest, respectful, and fun roommate would be hard to find.  And she returned my grandparents love with delight.  Together we worked in their garden, cleaned the house, and cooked for them.  We laughed and talked many happy hours in Spanish.  I so enjoyed her warmth after my sudden introduction back to a province that was so cold and segregated.

Perhaps I could have just ignored it.  I fit in.  I could walk the streets and not be noticed.  Even my background was partially German, so I could be accepted if I said that... at least pegged.  You should be either German or Dutch.  And you should not be American.  And strangely, even those groups remained at a slight distance from each other.

I did not want to fit in to that isolation.

The other group were the "East Indians".  Indians from India, and opposed to "Indians" who were really Canadians... the Canadians to whom that land belonged before the British, French, German, and Dutch moved in.

(It has never ceased to amaze me how people immigrating from one continent to another and totally taking over the land can be so opposed to immigrants from other countries doing exactly what they did - only not so bad... they are only moving here, not slaughtering and rounding up and relocating those who were already here.)

But at that time, the East Indians were the unspeakables.  They did not mix.  They passed each other in the streets, in the stores, at at the same McDonalds, but they did not mix.  They did not greet.  They did not know each other's names.

I had grown up, not in India, but in Central Asia.  Who was I?  Was I the priviledged or the unspeakable?  I did not yet know.  At times, I was accepted as long as I did not open my mouth or speak of my history.  If I did, I was an "other".  At times called racial slurs.  "You dirty paki".  I stared back silent.  How blind can people be?  My skin is as white as theirs.  Yet I was glad I was not them, for to be the racists would be far worse than being the oppressed.  I was shyly smiled at by East Asians, but their eyes would watch me confused.  Why does this white girl talk to them?  Never completely accepted either. Only with one close friend who knew my history was I accepted.  But I paid a price for my friendship with her.  I chose to sit with her, to eat with her, to study with her.  And I was isolated for that decision.  "She stinks, why would you sit near her?"

So during that time of living in racism, I was thankful for my Guatemalan friend and the open warmth, laughter, and fun of our relationship - a relationship untouched by the world of strict racial lines outside the door.  She and I fit neither group, so together, we could step outside this odd culture and into our Hispanic sides.

Perhaps this is how my grandmother felt living here.  By culture Chinese, by skin white, watching mass hysteria and hatred against Japanese, and by default anyone who looked Asian.  Those people were not "other" to her.  Their faces looked like her auntie's, her friends', her countrymen.

My grandmother never recovered in one way from living in China so long.  She was utterly untouched by the "normals" of western culture, of what was "proper" to wear.  She happily wore her orange and pink flowered shirt with her green and red striped skirt, and threw a blue checked blazer over that.  If we protested and tried to get her to wear matching clothes, she'd look puzzled and say, "Matching?  This shirt is so cheerful, and the skirt is cheerful, too.  So colorful, so cheerful.  Cheerful matches cheerful."  We groaned and gave in.  But it was simply her Asian side.

This is also a part of my heritage.  My Asian side.  My Hispanic side.  My Central Asian side.....  oh, I have so many other sides, too.... places I have lived since childhood, where I am now, where we work...

I have not yet decided what shape I am.  It is not so easy, like a bi-racial child to say "I am Irish/Swedish".  Two sides of a coin.  Perhaps I am like a dice, but even that does not cover all sides.  Yet, like a dice, I am thrown - each side spinning and flipping, now seen, now not.  Which will win this toss?  How will I react?  I wait till the dice lands, look at the reaction, and smile inwardly.  Perhaps it is not the appropriate answer.  So like someone peering into a magic eight ball, smiling at the answer, and going on to do what they think is best, I see the reaction that comes, smile, shake my head, and try to act ....... it depends on who I am with and what they expect out of me.

Hidden behind my appropriate-I-hope response lies a world hidden within a world, something unique and wholly other.  Not only my history, but the rich and varied history of my parents, grand-parents, and great grandparents stretching behind me.  So many cultures woven together into a tapestry that shimmers as one holds it to the light.  Is that blue?  No, purple.  No, look there is some yellow threads; oh, look some greens!  Every way you turn it, it looks different.  Dupioni silk woven with the warp and the weft in different colors. Oil spilt in a rain puddle. A kaleidescope on constant rotation.

I will watch you talk and have six to eight different reactions to what you say.  I am not a multiple-personality disorder off drugs.  I am a MK.  If you see a tiny smile flit across my face, don't assume I'm laughing at you.  I may be laughing at me - at one of my reactions and realizing it is so totally inappropriate to the situation.  I smile, and shake my magic eight ball again searching for the response that fits in your culture.  The color that you live in.  The kaleidoscope piece that fits you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


My life feels disjointed right now.  Not chaotic, but disjointed.

My husband is still gone.  We keep praying for him.  In a relationship sense, we've made steps closer... but not heart level steps.  Not what my heart longs for - assurance that he's changing.  Just steps to coexist smoother.  I learn to set it down.  God will work in him when he and God are ready.  It's not my burden.  So I love and wait.

I'm breathing a little easier now with the introduction of steroids to my inhaling regime.  So thankful for that.

Kid's lives are busy.  I've got a room remodel I'm doing for a birthday gift for my daughter.  We have a party coming up in two days and a bunch of giggly girls excited about it. I bought three more chickens for my coop and am hoping for eggs next week.  I butchered my ducks.  Ducks are just too messy and noisy.

I'm learning to live with a new type of sadness.  I've worked in dementia care for years and am used to death and dying.  But now, working with two boys, one with Spinal Muscle Atrophy and another with Duchenne's muscle dystrophy, means I am again working with people approaching death... but these are the ages of my older two sons.  And they are the only remaining children of their parents.  It is a new type of sadness.  Once took a turn for the worse last week and lost one more ability.  More privacy lost, more freedom.  And I had to introduce him to more medical equipment and more care done to him.  We managed.  I'm good at what I do.  We even managed to share a few laughs during the whole process.

And I went home and cried.

Death should not be nipping at the heels of two boys, barely teens.  I should not be seeing fear, panic, and revulsion in the eyes of a mother watching her son.  (Revulsion at the whole idea of death, not of her son!)  Death is such an unnatural visitor in a highschool. Especially a slow, wasting death. I should not be using words like contractures and range of motion in these halls.  Death belongs by the bedside of a 97 year old with her family gathered around her.  There it is a solemn visitor, unwelcome, but expected... even quietly welcomed at times by those who it has come for.

Yet it is here.  A quiet presence in the rooms, not ready yet to take the child, but to slowly take his abilities and bide his time.

I go from that to the busy activity of my own children.  It can be a disjointing switch.
Pray for me as I minister to both mother and child.

And I am physically still weak.  Still recovering slowly. I'm tired.

Friday, November 9, 2012


My husband will leave again soon.  Another trip. Our lives punctuated by when Daddy is here and when he is gone.  The kids are older.  Their needs are not so difficult as when they were toddlers.  They are old enough not only to assume responsibilities, but to care for me when I need it.  Even the little ones know that right now mommy needs them to step up, to use their energy where I don't have much.  So we manage well.

How are we doing?  It is a hard question to answer.  I pray, I pray, I pray, and I wait.  And there is silence. Both from God and from my husband.  He's cordial now, talking in the family.  We discuss kid's schedules, grocery lists, and other mundane things.  That is an improvement from his month of silence.

His indifference to any assistance in the house has been hard for me this last month as I've struggled with sickness and trouble breathing.  I wish for a husband who would say a few simple words: "How can I help?" or who would simply pick up the iron instead of saying, "I need more shirts".  He knows how to do all housework and I'm struggling to breathe.  But I'm not willing to face an argument, so I silently struggle on.

But he has not exploded in anger for a few weeks.  There is some good in that, and collectively, the kids and I slowly let out our held breath.  (Except for me.. breathing out is still tough to do without Ventolin!)  We enjoy the lull and pray it lasts.

This is how I feel.  It is as if he is trying to hold two very large, heavy balls.  Balls too big to be held with one hand.  Both his family and his anger.  And he can't.  We've helped him before by propping him up, by living in reaction to him.  We aren't any longer.  We aren't against him at all.  We just have decided to be stable.  Both balls are too big to hold without dropping one.  I hope and pray he makes the right choice and chooses to drop the anger.

Having been through my own struggles to be free from the past which can burden our present too much, I am very aware that it is not so simple as "dropping the anger".  We are willing to help.  Part of that willingness is the willingness not to be part of the problem.  Not to add to the anger.  Not to get involved in it.  Also the difficult and often misunderstood decision not to ignore it, not to prop him up, not to pacify, not to allow the anger to dictate our lives.  By stepping out of the circle, I have opened myself up to harsh criticism that I am "abandoning my husband" or "taking over the reins of the family".  I haven't.  I am here.  Praying for change.  Hoping.  But choosing not to be an enabler of anger.  I chose to be an enabler of healing.  That choice is painful.  I have to endure loneliness.  I have to wait for his timing, not demanding my own.  I have to ignore anger thrown in my direction.  I have to forgive the pain, choosing to say that my pain is not as important as his healing.  I have to stay.  Stay here, stay stable, stay loving... in a relationship where I am getting nothing in return. I have to stay strong... allowing him to feel the consequences of his choices rather than to rescue him and brush the problem under the table.

He will only deal with his problems when he wants to.  I have to trust God that God will ultimately speak to His child and deal with him in His way.  I have to trust that as God's child, my husband will respond to the discipline of His Father.  I have to trust enough to step out of the way and quit demanding that He do it in my way or in my time table.  It's been a long wait, and the wait is lonely and hard.  I really have no clue as to what is going on in his heart and what God is doing.  I wait and I watch.  I think I may sense a softening, but I don't know. Perhaps it is only wishful thinking.  Perhaps it isn't.

Yesterday, I crumpled to the ground and sobbed.  I let myself for two minutes.  Then got up, wiped the tears, squared my shoulders, and went on cleaning my house.  I have to be able to go on.  To chose stability in a life of unstability.  To pray and hope.  If I give in to my own feelings and try to dump those on my husband now - my needs, my pain, my wants - he can't face himself.  I feel God is telling me to leave him to Him.  To leave myself in the hands of God, and let my husband be first of all a child of God, and then a husband.  Let him deal with God face to face and deal with whatever the root of this anger is - whether it is wounds, pain, or feelings he hasn't yet been able to hand over to God.  Only then will he be able to be a husband.  If he can't carry his own pain right now, he can't carry mine, too.  Especially when he knows he is causing my pain.... and he isn't even able to stop that since he can't even carry his own yet.  Leave him to heal with God and then he will be able to heal in our relationship.

It isn't an easy position.  There is something in each of us that wants to say, "hey, what about me?!"  To demand our needs be filled.  To insist on our rights.  To say that this is not fair.  It isn't.  I've fought for my rights long enough.  Demanded that he stop being angry.  That he become a good husband.

I don't know if he can be.

At least not until he becomes a good child.  Not until he is secure as a child of God.  Able to open the wounds of his heart to God and find healing there.

I feel if I fight now for "a good relationship" that I will lose everything.  He isn't capable of it now.  So I am not "fighting for my marriage".  I'm fighting for my husband.  By being stable and uninvolved.

Even Jesus went off a distance to struggle with God alone.  There are some battles that must be fought first with God.  All others stand by watching and praying.

That is all we can do.

For me, it is hard.  I am a communicator.  A talker.  I love conversation - not the shallow group conversation of a party, but the heart to heart of a friend over coffee.  Right now, I'm carrying pain - yet unable to express it much.  I'm lonely, deeply lonely, yet unable to reach out much.  After awhile, what is there to say?  We just wait.  Wait, watch, and pray.

I have faith in God's ability to deal with His own. That holds me on dark days.  I've seen Him deal with me.  I also know that God does not force His children.  He wants their hearts, not their fear.  So He waits.  He calls gently.  And He allows them to go further until they realize how much they need Him.  And then He is right there.

So while I have faith.... I have no assurance that the end is around the corner.  I wait, hoping, but knowing I need the strength to endure with patience.

I was thankful God never forced me to heal on His time, but waited for my heart.  Now I need to chose to be thankful that He will not force my husband, either.

Wait with me.

Each Breath

Breath.  Something we need.  We never even think about it.  We just breathe.

I got a cold a few weeks ago.  Strange as I rarely get sick, but I rested, drank hot tea, and waited.  I felt better in three days.... except I couldn't breathe well.  My chest felt tight.

I rested more.  I drank more tea.  I held hot drinks against my chest trying to relieve the pain in the muscles.  Wondered about pneumonia... but I didn't feel sick enough.  I just couldn't breathe well.

I decided to just go on with my life.  See if the "mom immunity" that tells our bodies that we are just too busy to be sick would kick in and I'd feel better.  I managed fine... as long as I didn't do anything strenuous that required a need for increased breathing.  Breathing was hard.

Then I went back to work.  I took the shift easy, but I couldn't keep up with the need to breathe, walk, and talk all at the same time.  Halfway through, I was struggling.  As the last hours ticked by, I was audibly wheezing and having to force to exhale with little grunts.  But I was the only nurses aide on that late at night and thirty one patients depended on me.  I struggled on.

Immediately after the night shift came on, I drove myself straight to the emergency room.  Amazingly, in a system that usually take four to six hours to get in to the ER, I was ushered in within twenty minutes.  (I must have looked bad!)  It still took them three hours to actually get a doctor to me and begin treatment, but at least I had a bed and an eye on me.

It wasn't pneumonia.  I have asthma.  Why at age forty am I just now coming down with asthma, I do not know, but I have it.  They gave me an inhalation and sent me home with puffers.  I feel... slightly better.  The asthma is by no means controlled and I am still waiting to see my doctor next week and see what can be done about it.  It still hurts to breathe, but at least I have the inhalers for when it gets tough.  I'm managing.  But I have limited endurance.  Singing, walking, working for more than an hour on my feet - this all takes more air than I currently can get.  I tire easily.

I know asthma can be controlled.  I have hope that mine will be once I get to see a doctor.  But for now, during the wait, I treasure breath.  Each one is precious.  With each exhale is the quiet reminder of pain.  A reminder not to push it.  Not to do more activity than my lungs can keep up with.

This is not what I wanted now.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Little Minds, Big Questions

My kids have curious minds. They think deeply.  The ponder life, watch, evaluate, question, and come to conclusions.... or they come to more questions.  They talk openly with me easily about any subject whether it be a typical "red-faced" health issue or anything else.  They talk over behaviors of other kids and stories they hear about in school.  They thrill in their science lessons and come bounding to tell me endless facts and the possibilities of exploring or creating things in the world.  They absorb their history lessons and question me on other events happening in the world at the time.  Their world view is larger than one country, so they are interested in what was occurring in the rest of the world and why one country reacted as it did.  They also discuss their teacher's viewpoint and biases and wonder how that affects they way they teach a particular historical incident.  They discuss plots and feelings in the books they read.  Math excites them (all but the youngest who is quite capable but laboring under the impression that she hates math) and they loudly chatter about different ways to solve problems and get to the same conclusions.  Geography thoroughly interests them as they talk happily about the "oh, I've been there!" or "oh, I'd love to go there!" of each place they study.  If there is one thing my kids can not be accused of, it is of being uninterested or uncurious!

They question.  They ponder.  They wonder.  They ask. 

They feel free to do this also as they struggle to cope with their father.  Sometimes, he is a great dad.  Sometimes, he's angry and silent.  Other times, he explodes for no reason.  Often he is just hyper-critical.  Other times, he makes up explanations for things he doesn't know and tells the kids as if it were true.  Their faces wrinkle up in a confused questioning, but they are silent.  They have learned not to question their dad - to watch for the signs of anger about to erupt.

Over the years as they've struggled to cope with his anger and unpredictability, they go about it in their typical way - they come to me with questions, with ideas, with their thoughts.  Tonight from my two older boys, "What's wrong with Dad tonight?"  I don't know exactly.  I think he is more tense than usual.  They nod and look around to make sure they weren't overheard.  They duck their heads and work on their homework more studiously.  When I call them to help with chores, they work well, and away from his immediate presence, they become children again - those half children, half adults that teens are.  They work hard and well and laugh as they work, but they also goof off with each other, teasing and talking non-stop.

My daughter went shopping with me.  "Mom, why is daddy always so angry?"  I take a breath and pause, thinking.  How much will she be able to grasp?  I've always believed in talking honestly, but simply to my kids.  "Well, I really don't think it has much to do with you or me or the brothers at all.  I think he has a lot of anger he hasn't dealt with, and because it isn't dealt with, it erupts a lot like a volcano when anything makes him annoyed.  Maybe something little like might make another person just annoyed or a little upset, but because he has this anger in him, he explodes."

She thought and then asked, "What is he angry about mommy?"  I told her the truth, that I do not know.  I said I don't believe it is anything we do.  I think it has been there a long time.  I said that perhaps it is not because of anger, but it is because of hurt.  I explained some things that had happened in her daddy's life when he was a boy with some wars and tragedies and changes he had to go through.  I told her that people tend to respond to hurt in two ways - either they cry and feel weak and unable to go on or they get angry.  The anger is only to push away the hurt so they don't feel it as much.

She nodded and said, "Like G_____ at recess.  If people are hurt his feelings, he gets angry.  Then he gets in trouble.  But A_____ cries if people hurt her."  I agreed and told her that typically, but not always, boys tend to get angry as a response to hurt more than girls do.  Part of it is because "big boys don't cry".  I told her that perhaps it is not even that daddy is such an angry man, but it is perhaps that he is angry because he has wounds that he hasn't allowed to be healed yet. 

She pondered that one for awhile.  "But remember when you went away for a course, and it was to help to learn how to deal with people and conflict.  Why didn't that help?  It seemed like it helped for a little while, but it didn't stick."

I explained that the course taught people skills on how to deal with people and conflicts better, but in order to use those skills, you had to be in control of yourself.  Those skills won't work if the anger controls you.  I told her that the problem with choosing anger for a long time is that anything that you allow to control you will begin to control you.  That you actually allow the anger to be in control.

She interrupted me with a child's simple wisdom.  "But, mommy, it would be silly to say anger controls you.  It is more real to say that Satan controls you."

The wisdom and simplicity of children!  I had never discussed this with her before.

I told her that she was right and explained that that is why it is such a problem and why we need to be sure that we do not give sins control of ourselves.  I asked her if she remembered what the gospels said about Satan - that he came to steal, kill, and destroy.  I told her that I doubt her daddy would really want to hurt us with what he says if he was in control of himself, because I believe that he really loves us, but when he is not in control, but allows Satan control.... well, Satan wants to destroy.  So he doesn't care about what destruction he creates in the relationships or what wounds he makes in us.

She nodded and was silent thinking.  Then she asked, "Mommy, how long do you think he will stay angry like this?"  Ah, child.... if only you did not have to carry this weight!  I told her that I hope not long.  I told her that I think God will let him get to a place that he really sees that he needs help, and I think that he is getting closer and closer to that point.  That is why we see things getting worse and worse.  But that we can hope and pray for daddy that he will be willing to take God's help soon.

Then we walked in the store, and her attention went to choosing which fruit she wanted for the next week.  Little mind, big thoughts, and the capacity to understand more than I ever wanted her to ever have to understand.  She's only nine, but she easily grasps and grapples with what she sees.

But they come to me with their questions and their pain.  I've told them that we will get through this together.  We will stick together - them and me, and we will be honest with each other.

At the table this evening, when their dad stopped a child praying to yell at him as to how he was praying, they all were silent.  No one reacted.  No one cried.  We have decided that we will not cower.  If someone begins to, the others will step in to defend.  But the best policy for now is to go on living.  To live and to chose joy where we can.  To stick together.  And in that moment, eyes quickly went from one to the other to me and back to each other.  Quiet, still, bodies quiet, eyes seeking other eyes, supporting, willing strength not to answer back and cause more anger, willing strength not to crumble. 

And then in the busy-ness of cleaning up the meal, each one comes to me, "Why is Dad angry?"  "What is going on?"  I don't know.  It came with no warning.  Slight warning yesterday that he seemed grouchy, but no warning.  They draw a breath, and go on.  We will stick together and we will live our lives.  They search my eyes to see if I need support, and I meet theirs reassuring them that I am fine - sad, but fine, and we go on.  We clean up the kitchen and empty the fridge and the garbage, working together with the practiced ease of five who often do tasks together, and as we work, we begin again to talk and laugh.  Life goes on.  Life of the five of us who chose joy in the midst of the pain we live in.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Singing My Song

I have a hard time with singing.  My parents I guess wanted us to learn to sing, but they only contributed to a deep shame and fear of singing that I carry to some degree to this day.  They would liberally criticize our singing and if we were off tune, would have us sing solo at family devotions "so we would learn it".

Now I've never really noticed that having to sing solo helped.  We learn by singing along with.

Anyway, I was most often ridiculed and even disciplined for my lack of singing ability.  One time sticks in my head.  My husband was in our house - now he was a just a teen that I was really, really interested in at that time - and we were singing.  I had messed up (again), so they told me to stand up and sing it solo so I would learn to do it right.

Ok, there only is one thing more embarrassing than having to sing a solo when you can't sing, and that is to have to sing it in front of your boyfriend while people either glared or laughed at you.  By this time I was thirteen, and I had had enough!  Really enough.

I decided that I was going to stop this here and now.  I gambled that they would not spank me here - not in front of this teen they were discipling.... and if they did, it wouldn't be that bad of a spanking.... so I was going to say no.  I simply said no.  I was threatened, but I said no again.  Quietly.  I didn't want to defy authority really, but I was simply done being belittled that I couldn't sing.  I said no.

I was right - they didn't spank me in front of guests for that, and I had won my freedom.  Never again was I publicly asked to sing solo because I couldn't sing.  I was still ridiculed but only in comments.  "You can't carry a tune in a bucket."  "If you sang, people would pay you to stop."

At some point, I decided to stop singing.  If I was so bad that people would run screaming, I just was not going to sing.  I began to only mouth words in church and never sing.  I went through three years of Bible school like that.  I got asked to leave a mandatory choir when I simply would not open my mouth to sing for the choir director.  (I babysat for the choir instead.  I am good at babysitting.)  My friends told me I can't go through life without singing, but I was determined.  I would not be ridiculed again.

Years later, God asked me when I was going to sing to Him, and I told Him when I have my first child, I will begin to sing.  Later, after my first daughter died and I had more boys and never another girl, I told God that if I had a daughter, I would even sing when I taught kids Sunday school.  I would even sing in public.

My first son was born.... he was perfect.  And I opened my mouth and began to sing to him.  I even opened my mouth and began to sing in church because God reminded me of my promise.  I still couldn't sing and tried to maneuver in church to sit in front of a strong singer so I could follow along and behind an empty space so no one would have to suffer for hearing me. But I sang.

The years went by and I grew more confident, but never relaxed about singing.  Only in the car with only my kids would I sing loudly and fearlessly.  I figured I was off key, but I gave birth to them - they have to endure me.  They sang loudly and cheerfully alongside of me.  In fact, they thought I sounded great!  But what would they know.

Then my son, the one like me, joined choir in high school.  Choir?!  As in sing in public?  I wanted to tell him that he can't sing - we're no good at that, don't you know?  But I was silent.  I told him to go ahead. He did.  He sings ok.  Even decent.

Today, in church, I stood there happily singing.  Next to me was my son with his deep strong voice singing with all his heart.  And I sang along.  As I sang, I thought something.

He's easy to sing with.  His voice is like mine.

You see, my mom sings with a warbling soprano.  My voice is a low alto.  All these years, she had been trying to get me to sing like her.  I will never sing soprano, let alone a warbling one!  I am the deep voice, the shadow, the quiet pool, not the bubbling brook.  It was a friend who let me understand that.  I told her I don't sing because I sing horribly.  She teaches music, and she said, "you don't sing badly - you just sing a low alto.  You just have to learn to sing your own song."

I can't say that I believed her.  Not totally.  But I thought about it.  I stopped trying to sing the high part.  I don't sing the ladies section of songs anymore.  I can't. But it wasn't until I heard my son's voice that I understood.  He's got a beautiful voice.  But it is deep.  He can sing his section - deep and strong.  When he giggles and tries to sing the other parts, he sounds horrible.

I just needed to learn to sing my song, not someone else's.

And you know what - I actually can sing.  I sing ok.  My son and I sing together, and I smile.  This is what I was created to do - sing low and deep, and I like singing now.  Once in a blue moon, you'll even catch me singing all alone, quietly, in public while I work.

I promised God that I would sing when my son was born.  I didn't know that it was my son who would give me my voice back.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Re-Telling Our Stories

I've had an interesting path recovering from a trauma a few years ago.  It's been a fairly solitary path - not by choice at all, but by neglect of others.  It wasn't at all what I expected to happen after a trauma like that, and the very neglect itself became a sort of secondary trauma that I had to (and still at times have to) sort through.  Added to that, just to make things more interesting, was an event that was almost an attack on us in the middle of the immediate recovery.  From a distance, I can see that it was the result of putting too many freshly hurt people in a room together with no competent guidance or leadership.  But it deeply hurt.

I think one of the difficulties about working in some areas of the world is that everyone is so closely connected to everyone - wanted or not.  One person's mistakes can cost another person's visa, career, or life's work.  Or life.  So tensions tend to run high when things go wrong.  And working in an area of the world that sees as many deaths of workers as this area of the world means that many workers are working with wounds.  Many of us have lost friends.  Some died, some were killed, and some simply disappeared and that awful unknown haunts us.  People like that should never, ever attempt any type of team debrief of any situation without competent guidance and leadership that is NOT involved in the situation.  What happens then is that the wounded attack the weakest - not perhaps because they want to, but because they are wounded and can't even cope with their own wounds.

But we did not know that then.

Others neglected us simply because they were ignorant.  They thought that narrowly averting a tragedy was good news.  That's great, praise God, all is well.  But they put no thought into the effect of the days of trauma.  They were just ignorant, focused on the end result and not on the journey.  Perhaps even thinking that because we coped well in a trauma that "they must be strong".  We are.  But even the strong need to bandage their wounds or they will not any longer be strong.  Often those who stay strong during a crisis need the most care afterwards.  They save all the emotions for dealing with when it is safe.  We've been able to communicate this to our leadership now.

But they did not know that then.

Today I was at work in the old folks home, my part-time side job.  We had some new health information posters put up, and I read one today.  It said that people who have experienced a traumatic event need to tell their story about eight or nine times to listening ears before they are able to begin to come to grips with it.

Eight or nine times.

  Hear that.

I stared at that poster and my eyes filled up until I blinked and turned away.  Eight or nine times.  All I wanted that first week was to talk, to tell my story, and I was told to be quiet, not to talk.  Then I was told to listen to other's stories, but not talk.  "It was their trauma, not yours."  I understand that. They went through what we didn't.  But I needed them to understand that we went through what they didn't.  Don't leave the family out.

The first time I told my story was all alone in a room.  Out of desperation, I grabbed a cup of tea and spoke into empty space, asking God to sit and listen to a story He already knew simply to let me tell it.  The second time was to someone I've never met.  Out of desperation, I wrote my story out to a blogger friend who volunteered her strong shoulders and listening ear.  For the first time, except for the empty room, I felt like someone listened.  What a relief!

Eventually, as best as I could without specifics, I blogged about it, and many of you listened.  That helped.

Later I wanted to talk, and finally, weeks later, someone listened.  But it was the weirdest experience I had ever had in talking to this person.  It was as if he was listening because he had to do a duty, to check it off his list, and wasn't listening with his heart.  It was hard for me.  Really hard.  Perhaps he couldn't.  Perhaps he was too close.  But it just intensified the loneliness.

But I still needed to talk.  And I felt bad about it.  I had talked.  Why still need to?  Even a few times, someone suggested that maybe I was just "stuck" and needed to put it down.  So I felt guilty about it.

When we went home, I was blessed by two groups that heard my story.  Not in all the detail - there was no time, but they HEARD, and that was what I needed.  Then I was really blessed by a friend and a coffee date.... and her poor sister who ended up babysitting for four hours!  I got to tell it again - for the first time face to face with a friend who listened and heard my feelings.

Shortly after that, I was able to spend a week at my Bible school.  I got suddenly dumped with a missions class to teach when there was a family emergency in a teacher's life.  I talked to them simply about what I wished someone had told me when I was sitting behind those desks.  Perhaps they had told me, but I hadn't listened.  I talked to them about the realities of life in missions, and simply listed the events we had been having to deal with as a community over the last year.

I was sitting eating lunch when the dean of woman came and grabbed me.  She stole my food and dumped it and took me out.  We ordered Chinese at a quiet place and when the appetizers came, she said, "now.  Talk!"  So I did.  This time was to an older woman who I respect, but who has also known me since I was 16 years old.

I slowly began to feel more normal, but this year a suggestion by leadership sent me back into a tailspin.  I was on my way to a friend's house - a retired worker who knew our field well.  She also listens well, and she listened as I shared the story.  By this time, I was moving on from the trauma of the actual trauma and starting to process the trauma of the neglected recovery.

But before this, we had a group here for a training session, and one of them who should know better said to me again that maybe I just need to move on and get over it.  I felt bad - both angry and hurt.  Why would people who did such a bad job caring for me in the first place get upset that the wound hadn't healed well?  I started to doubt myself - am I just a mess, not dealing with this well?  Am I just weak, not cut out for this type of work?

Today, I stood there reading our "mental health" poster of the month. My eyes filled up with tears.  They were both tears of pain and tears of relief.  Validation that I am not crazy or weak to still have needed to tell my story.  Relief that I now begin to feel whole.  Whole enough to be able to examine the reasons behind the failures and neglect at the beginning.  The best way to prevent it happening to someone else is to understand why it happened here.  Then to fix it.

I've told my story eight times.  I don't count the time telling it to the person who really only listened out of duty - that actually ached more than silence.... which ached enough on its own!   Eight times now, and I'm feeling better.  But, it's nice to have that ninth time in my back pocket in case I need it! ;-)

I may need to tell my story again.  And if I do, I will not cringe and think I am weak for needing to.  I will stand strong and realize that I AM healing.  I can tell.  I am re-telling when I need to.  Those are the steps to recovery, not the signs of weakness.

I could have just been silent because people told me to be at first or because people didn't care when they should have.  Then I would have been still wounded, and I wouldn't have understood what was needed to heal.  I wouldn't have felt the anger that I feel over a system that let down its workers so badly, and I wouldn't have fought to understand the reasons well enough to stop it from happening again.

Next time someone tells you the same story again, LISTEN AGAIN!  But as you listen, pay attention to listen carefully.  Hear.  Let it touch your heart.  And as you listen again, ask yourself, what are they telling this time?  Are they this time able to identify feelings along with actions?  Which feelings?  From what events?  And respond to those. It takes awhile to work your way through all that a trauma sends your way, and people need each other to hear those feelings.  This week it might be the fear.  Next month, it might be the confusion.  Please, please, don't say, "you told me that already, why are you telling it again?" The why may be different this time, so listen again.  Respond with questions.  Don't be afraid to let your heart show.  How does the story affect you?  How do you feel about the actions and feelings expressed?  It isn't all about you, but some of your reaction helps me feel heard.

Don't worry - we won't tell the story forever.  But we will keep telling it until we've sorted it out enough.  Or until we've been heard.  Please keep listening.

And if you haven't been heard yet from your trauma, please keep talking.  Some will not listen to you, but keep talking.  There are ears out there, keep looking.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Take a Hike

Sometimes its the best thing you can do.  Today we took a long hike.  Not all that long, but long enough to be a good way to wear out a day.  We hiked 14.4 km on a trail up through a ravine.  Being a mountain girl living in a flat land, I am always disappointed when people say "go see the cliffs".  It was a pretty ravine, and the trees were gorgeous, but it was not mountains.  Still there were a few feet where our path led through a stand of pines, and for those moments, we could close our eyes, breathe deeply, and smell home.

We came back tired and happy.  Feeling better after being in the sun again.  The adrenaline of the last weeks of insane busy-ness under a load of relational stress worn off.  We love hiking - well, all but my daughter who doesn't really love activity.... but we ignore that and bring her anyway.  The boys and I were dreaming of training for a big hike.  There is a hike near us that could take about a week to complete.  We'd love to do it.  Really love to.  We hiked the Grand Canyon on our last home leave - all the way down to the bottom and spent two nights there.  It only whet our appetite to do more big overnight hikes.  So now we dream.  We'll spend a few more weekends doing some small hikes before the weather turns, and then perhaps, perhaps we'll be ready.

Questions with No Answers

My husband is gone now traveling.  He's got visits to do and some work in another country he's overseeing.  To be honest, we enjoy him gone.  It's a breath of fresh air, a chance to recover, a time that laughter seeps back into our home and no one looks over their shoulder anymore.  We plan tomorrow to go explore a ravine hike nearby and spend time outside.  We'll stop by and visit some friends on the way home.  We'll smile, we'll laugh, and we'll take photos of us goofing off outside.

It's telling how relaxed the kids are, how peaceful.  Even my daughter who is so tense usually is calm.  She had a meltdown the day before he left, partly because he chose to get angry and not come home that last evening until very late.

(It was also my 40th birthday which he ruined by getting mad at me.  He also ruined it the day before by asking "So what do you want me to do for your birthday?  Do you want to go out?"  When I said no because we had visitors and we had meals planned already, he said, "good, so then I don't need to feel guilty for doing nothing for your birthday" and walked away.  No. He doesn't need to feel guilty.  In one sentence he made me feel as unloved as one could on that day.)

But my daughter had a meltdown that night, and I spent about an hour with a sobbing child on my lap in the hallway.  Sometimes you just sit down where the meltdown occurs.  She cried and talked for a long time, and then she said, "Mommy, will you all get old, you and brothers, and die before I do, and I will be alone?"  How to answer?  Very likely she will be the last living one of our immediate family, yes, but she shouldn't be alone.  I told her that we may die before her, but she'll be praying she gets a few minutes alone since she'll have a husband and somewhere around eight kids and 17 grandchildren and maybe a few great grandchildren not to mention dozens of nieces and nephews.... so alone will not exactly describe what she'll be.  She settled some and giggled and told me she might not have exactly eight children.  I told her that I also expect her to take care of me when I'm old and drooling on her table, so she'll probably be relieved when I am gone anyway.  She giggled again.  We had a long talk sitting in the hall.  She's been peaceful ever since.

I did take her with me when I went to the birth.  I pulled her out of school for three days and took her with me.  Some people are horrified that I would take my daughter out of school, but I just told the school that I gave birth to her, not them, so I will make the decisions.  I figure she learned more in three days with a woman in labor and a newborn than she would have in three days learning spelling and math.  (I did find a friend to keep her for the 8 hours of the active labor and delivery.)

We have a week of peace left before he returns.  He's writing some now.  He's tired and not sleeping.  I'm not saying anything, but I think "guilty conscience".  I'm really not sure what God is doing or will be doing or anything.  All I know is that I am done "catching" him and "fixing things".  Sometimes I think you have to fall hard before you get any sense knocked into you.  Perhaps this means he will crash and not be able to work as he is.  Perhaps not.  I don't know.  He is not my responsibility. 

My older two are disappointed that there is only a week left.  They had plans to do some things.  With me gone for three days with the birth, we didn't get the chance to do all they wanted.  I told them there is another trip planned in about a month, and they were happier.  "Maybe we can do it then."

It's telling that the kids plan for and look forward to when their father is gone.  That says a lot.  It makes me sad.  I worry about them.  My biggest worry is that my kids will have their view of God the Father clouded by what their father is like.  My next worry - that they will grow up to be like him.  If anything keeps me up at night, it is these worries.

If anything makes me sad, it is that I wanted to love and be loved.  I really wanted to have a good relationship with my husband, to be friends, to talk, laugh, and love.  There are brief moments when we laugh, but those are interspersed between the anger, the angry silences, and the simple too busy-ness of his life.  I am not loved, yet I am married.... so I am here.  I will not be loved in a relationship like I wanted.  And that is at times hard.  This is no little girl's dream.  No one says, "When I grow up, I want to marry a man who is angry at me or doesn't talk to me at least half of the time."  No one says that.  No one even imagines it.

And yet, he's such a wonderful person in public.  So much so that people say, "I can't imagine him angry."  "He's such a people person.  So sensitive to people's needs."

The struggle for me is that my husband is a extremely valuable person.  He has giftings and skills that few have. Missions leaders literally drool over him.  He has potential, and even I, with all my doubts about why God uses such a messed up creature, can see that he is doing stuff that few others could do.  To be honest, I really struggle with this concept.  It is one of the things I look up at God in hurt confusion the most about.  Do I matter?  Or is he so valuable that my pain is not worth hearing in the situation?  Am I the more expendable one?

They are tough questions.  Tough with no good answers.  The problem is that I am deeply committed to the people and country we work with. It is a place with little happening.  A place generations have worked and prayed for with little result.  And my husband, as awful as a husband as he is at home, seems to be a good missionary.

He's not the first, you know.  Good missionary, bad husband and father.  There have been many others.  Even some of the "heroes of the faith".  Even Abraham was a bit of a selfish, mean husband in twice letting someone take his wife before he would risk his own skin.

I discuss this with God often.  Wondering how He can build straight on a crooked foundation.  Wondering when He will step in for me, for my kids, and right our wrongs.  But the truth is that I will sacrifice for this country.  That is why we all left our countries and went out.  I just didn't expect the sacrifice to be here - in the home.  In another situation, I may have walked away from this marriage.  Not divorced perhaps, but walked away.  Not needing to live under anger.  But if I walk away, much of this work comes falling down, and people get hurt.  So I survive.  I ask God to act.  And I wait.  I ask God why He allows this to go on, and why He seems to continue to bless the fruit of one who is not a blessing in any stretch of the word to his family.

God is silent still.  If He answers, I'll let you know.  Now, He is silent.  Except to tell me that we are valuable to Him.  But sometimes, that is hard to hear when I am in meetings and everyone tells me how wonderful my husband is and how great a work he does.... I know all that... but I want God to step in and say, "enough.  You can't treat my daughter like that."

I wait.  I wait and I watch God, waiting for an answer, for strength, for the ability to continue to love.  I don't have a clue what He's up to, but He's the only thing that is stable, so I wait.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Promise I'm Sure to Keep

I worked tonight in the old folks home.  One lady was exceptionally agitated.  She didn't want her shower because she had to put her jacket on and walk down the street to her parents.  She wanted to visit her dad in bed 325. We convinced her to shower first so she'd look nice.  As the other aide wheeled her away, she told me, "Promise you won't talk to my dad, ok?  I don't want him to know that I'm here yet."

I promised.  I had no problems with that one.  It's a promise I'm sure to keep!

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Stranger in a Strange Land

This birth I was just at was a friends.  They are immigrants here, but settled and with papers.  The worry behind them.

They have two other children.  As we worked through the preparations for this baby, I asked her to tell me about those births.  I thought I would have little teaching to do - after all, this is a third baby.

The first was in her first country she fled to out of her own country.  She grew up there, knew the language, and was comfortable.  But am immigrant still.  Her labor started and she was alone, the family gone to a wedding.  Girls are never given teaching, so she was hours into the labor and had no clue what was wrong.  Not until bleeding began did she wake her husband and ask to go to the doctor thinking she was dying.  First they had to go to neighbors and beg for a loan of money so they could be seen.  When they arrived at the hospital, the doctor yelled at her for waiting so long and told her the baby probably had died and it was all her fault.  Her husband was left outside and she went in alone.  Then they tied her down to the bed and pushed pitocin into her to rush the labor and two nurses pushed on her belly to "help" the contractions.  (I've seen it done, believe me.)  Her belly was bruised black and blue for two weeks after the birth.  The child was born, and taken straight out of the room.  She only saw it hours later.

( I also saw this happen once , and actually stopped the doctor and told her to show the baby to the mom.  I remember her look of confusion as she asked me, "Why?" and then took the baby to the relatives.  I followed, took the baby away from the aunts and uncles, and walked it right back in the room and showed the mom and let her kiss it before it was taken away again.  The baby belongs to the family in that culture, not the mom.)

 For hours, my friend didn't know if her baby was alive or dead.  After they returned the baby to her, no one helped her. She was sore after 23 hours of labor and asked a nurse to help her with a diaper change.  The nurse looked at her and said, "What?  Do you expect me to go home with you, too, and do this?  Get up and do it yourself, no one is going to do your work for you!"

The second birth was in a transient country.  But they were refugees with no papers.  Her labor started and they rushed to the hospital after dropping their child with a friend.  Again the husband was not allowed in the door.  She was put in a ward with twenty other women in labor, no curtains or anything between them.  A room full of yelling women all alone in pain.  She delivered there, and again they took the baby away.  After an hour, they brought the baby back, handed him to her and told her the baby was fine and she needed to leave.  She had no money, no papers; and she needed to get out.  She phoned her husband, but he was not home, so they handed her her bag and told her to go downstairs and call a taxi.  The elevator was broken, so one hour after she gave birth, she struggled down two flights of stairs carrying her baby and her bag.  Halfway down, she started to pass out and fall, so she grabbed the rail and yelled.  A helpful security guard came and half carried her down the rest of the way and called a taxi.

When she got home, the door was locked and her husband gone and she had no key.  She sat on the step and phoned him.  Now, forgive him - the man had never seen labor or delivery before nor been taught about it.  He was happy she was back and told her he'd been home in an hour or so, so why didn't she go get their daughter.  So carrying her bag and baby, she walked over to the friends and picked up her daughter and walked back.  Then she sat on the step and waiting for another hour before her husband got home.  Mind you, this was after a delivery that took 25 stitches to repair a tear.  It was a big baby.

I sat stunned.  Then I opened my books and began teaching at the beginning - this is what is happening in labor.  These are the stages.  This is what we will do in each one to help you out.  I reassured her about the hospital and the nurses.  Told her I would be with her every step of the way.

When we went in, I told her nurses about her other deliveries.  Their eyes went wide.  I told them that this birth, we were going to spoil her rotten.  Everything she wanted, she got.  She kept asking, "what do you want me to do?" and "Am I allowed to go to the toilet?" and "Am I allowed to walk?"  We just repeated, "don't ask permission.  You are the boss right now.  You can do anything you want."

When the baby was born, they put her immediately on her belly.  She looked down at her baby and began to cry.  Her husband was there, and he cried too - hugging his wife and crying.

Later she talked on and on about the baby's first minutes.  "She looked so funny."  "She looked at me"  "I never saw my babies when they were like that"  "I never knew they were even alive or not at first."

I stayed for two days.  I changed diapers.  I rocked the baby.  I helped her nurse.  I supported her to the toilet and taught her how to care for herself.  I helped her take a shower, wash her back, and dry her hair.  I stayed with the two other kids so the husband could have the first night alone with them.  The baby slept that first night.  The next night, the dad wanted to go home and sleep.  The baby cried all that second night.  She and I walked and walked so the mom could get a little sleep.

In the morning, we sat and ate breakfast and talked over the birth.  We laughed and laughed at what people had said.  She said she wanted to hit me if I told her to breathe one more time.  I laughed and said that is why I stayed behind her!  She wanted to hold her breath through the pain because making noise is not ok in her culture.  We held our sides and howled at my "translation" of what she was saying during transition.  She reverted to her mother tongue and was yelling.  The nurse looked at me several times and said, "What is she saying?"  I said, "um, nothing really... her back is sore."  I thought she hadn't heard me, but she did, and we giggled through our morning tea and bread.

It was special to see the love and care of her husband towards her.  All of a sudden, he had an understanding of what birthing takes, and with that a strong desire to do everything for his wife.  No more, "why don't you go pick up the kid?" but a "sit, and let me do that for you".

It was so good to be there.  To leave her with one birth where her memories are not of being alone in pain and treated with contempt.  To not be a "refugee" and given no care.  Her stories really made me think....  God chose to send His Son to be born of a refugee in a much less than ideal setting.  At least there was room in the hospital for my friend at least for the birth, even if she was kicked out one hour later...  Mary had no room at all.  Really made me think.

But it was good to be there.  To be able to love in the way I do best - by serving.  They were in tears when I left, so thankful to have had someone there.  To not be frightened, to not be alone.

Tonight, I soak my sore muscles in the tub and sleep.  But I'm happy.

I delivered my second baby, my daughter who had died, alone in a strange land.  You can't change the past, but you can change the future, and being able to change it for this special family was worth every aching muscle I own.

Blood, Sweat, and Tears

It's a phrase people use for hard work.  For settling a land.  For cutting a trail.  For starting a new work.

When I see that phrase, I think of birthing.  Blood, sweat, and tears.  Physical.  Bodies in close spaces.  Normal set aside.  Indecency a thing of yesterday.  Personal space something we left at the door.

I've been through five of my own births.  Each one its own story.  Every mom has her stories of her births - remembered, treasured, stored, told and re-told. 

I've been privileged to attend the births of about 20 others.  A few were just as an onlooker and occasional support in nursing school.  A few were friends.  I'm training officially as a doula now.  Getting a certification for what I have been doing for years - helping with birthing, helping with breast-feeding, infant care, sharing and supporting mothers.

(I work with old people and they dying too.  At times I joke that I can bring them in and take them out!  Birth and death are similar.... both intensely personal, intimate, and emotional.)

This last week, I labored with a woman.  A friend.  In a culture where men do not attend births, I convinced her husband to come.  He was nervous, as others have been.  But he agreed.  I knew what he would do - he loves his wife dearly, and he would step in.  He did.  How sweet to see this big man kneeling on the bathroom floor, arms around his wife holding her and telling her she was doing well.  She did not see his eyes behind her back flitting to mine nervous and seeking affirmation that all was well.  She only felt his arms.  The mom, the dad, and I working together, bodies tangled and sweaty, holding her weight when she collapsed on us, murmuring assurances, breathing in each other's faces, breaking every cultural norm there was.  We believe that as believers we are creating a new culture.  In this culture, men care for their wives.... and what a joy it has been to see it worked out in practical ways like this - a man with his arm around his wife supporting her through a contraction.

And then to see and step back when this new life came into the world, and for the first time be put on the mom's chest.  To see their faces as a couple as they welcomed their child.  The tears of joy, the tears of being together.  It is a privilege to be there, but every good doula knows when to step back and let it be a new threesome - mom, dad, and baby.  I'll be called in after a time - to help with latching on, to console and comfort for the stitching, to listen and tell her she did well.  To laugh at the apologies for the yelling during transition, to tell her that she was no where as loud as I was!  But this is their time, a couple welcoming their baby.

Blood, sweat, and tears - it's the stuff life is made of.

Oh, and sore muscles.  My whole side is sore today.  Four hours of contractions meant four hours of holding her up, letting my arm be squeezed, of bending around into odd shapes to push on her back to relieve pain.  As I helped her shower yesterday, she looked over my arms for bruises.  There are a few, but no one cares.

The baby is adorable.  Snuffly and sweet, puckering up her face to eat or loudly protest my attempts to dress her in pink.  No hospital whites for this baby!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Four Weeks

Four weeks almost to the day.

Several times, I thought it is a lot like dealing with a child.  When you have a toddler throwing a fit, sometimes you spank.  Sometimes you don't.  Sometimes, you put them somewhere and go on life without them until they stop.  Part of that mentality is to teach them that throwing fits will not get them what they want whether it be attention or control of a situation.  It always works.  Some tantrum throwing toddlers take longer than others, but they all learn.

It was a lot like dealing with a child throwing a fit.  And we just went on with our lives, calmly, without fear, without attention, without trying to placate.... nothing.  As if we were saying, "You're welcome to throw a fit if you want, but it will get you nowhere besides wearing yourself out."

It worked.

And in the meantime - four weeks is a long time.... but at least during those four weeks we had what we usually do not have - calmness and control.  We did not live in fear.  We had the energy to survive and the strength to support each other.  The kids and I survived without taking it out on each other or cracking under the stress of it.

It may have worked, and it did, but it is not without cost.  To be married to a man who will blow over really nothing and who will remain angry for four weeks of not talking except for snide comments is tough.  The repeated cycles of extreme irritation and sullen depression take a toll.  The cost is that we, the kids and I, have less to invest each time around when we get to the "good" part of the cycle.  We invest less of our lives and hearts.... we know that whatever we invest into this relationship will get damaged again on the next cycle 'round.

So I am quietly relieved that he is apologizing slightly and ready to move on, but I am not jumping for joy.  I'm relieved, but not ready to invest my heart deeply.  There is less and less of me available to give.

That is the cost of anger.  It's sad, but it is reality.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

In the Shadow of a Coaster Ride

 I got the job!  YAY!  I absolutely absolutely love it!  I get to work with kids, get to work with someone with health problems (who won't live much beyond high school.... :(  so in some ways similar to nursing home care in that these are the last years, let's make'm good), get to work with people I like, get to be around my kids, and get paid for it!  I'm "taking" applied courses instead of academic, so I'm in classes with kids who need tutoring, and I've done tutoring, so there are a few classes where I get pulled in to help with that, and I love that, too.

Life on the home front is about the same. Well sort of.  I'm beginning to realize something important, I think.  I think I began to realize it awhile ago, but not applied here in this realm.  I think I began to realize that I am not responsible for my husband's choices awhile ago.  I'm not responsible if he chooses to be angry or depressed, or silent.  I think I got that.  The part that I don't think I got the last few times around the roller coaster is that I can chose. 

I'm choosing now.  I'm choosing to be me, to not be controlled by how he is.  No longer needing to check in with him before I can say I am ok or not ok.  No longer, he is angry, so we are cautious; he is depressed, so we are quiet; he is ________ so we are ________ .  I am who I am.  I choose to be happy, to live life, to be me, to be calm, to be confident, to go on.  To not allow him so much control over my life.

Interestingly, I felt guilty at first from distancing myself thinking it might not be a caring thing to do.  I found out, though, that it is more caring.  In distancing myself and refusing to ride the coaster through the ups and downs, I am limiting the emotional toll it takes on me.  I am limiting the wounding that I allow for my heart.  I'm beginning to think that by keeping myself whole, when he finishes his ride, he will step off to a whole wife who will be able to accept positive steps towards healing the relationship.  If you ride with him, you end up looking for the closest bucket to hurl into when you step off and are in no shape to assist in building wholeness in the relationship.

So I'm choosing to live.  To live with both feet on the ground.  To choose joy.  To choose to smile.  To choose to love - but with borders that keep me whole.  A whole person is more able to love wholly anyway.

I'm watching this coaster out of the corner of my eye while I enjoy life. I refuse to be miserable just because someone else is.  I am enjoying my life.  But watching it, I see signs that it might be on the last few loops.  We can hope.  Until then, I chose life and joy.

We can continue to hope and pray that his rides 'round will get fewer and fewer and less and less in intensity, and that perhaps some help in that might be accepted, but I have decided that the kids and I will not live in the shadow of a coaster ride.  We will not allow that that much control over our lives.  We will survive, grow, laugh, and be happy, and we will survive together.  Since that talk, they've been more relaxed, too.

In fact, I have two high school boys who are delighted to have their mom in their school and who beg me to come on class trips.  Yet they are not clingy and timid.  They are fine without me, but love to have me with them.  Some days when I see that, I smile.  We are going to be ok.  And we will survive.  Whether he stops riding the ups and downs of a roller coaster or not, the kids and I will stick together and thrive together.

Monday, September 3, 2012

An Old Ride and New News

I seem to live on a roller coaster.  True, this one's ups and down's are gentler than a few years ago, but the ups and downs have not stopped.  Some things make improvements and things go well for awhile, but there are inevitable slips back on to the cycle.

It is such a predictable cycle that I could write it out.  So predictable.  First this, and then this, and then this.  So predictable that we even begin to tense at the "happy stage".  We know it is coming.  We see him and know.  First happy, then not sleeping as much, then irritability, then the inevitable blow up at something trivial or just the deepening grouchiness, then settles into a silent withdrawenness for a few weeks.  Round and round we go.  Sometimes there is a season of normal that occurs to give us a break before we go back to the no-sleeping and irritability.  We enjoy life in that normal pause - but honestly, that pause is not normal; the roller coaster is.

I've begun to ask myself different questions.  Wondering perhaps if looking for a "solution" may not be even a possibility.  If instead, we ought to turn our attention on how to survive and be whole.  On how the kids and I will manage.  Things like order and routine may help lesson the roller coaster.  Managing and keeping stress away.  Teaching the kids to pause and bring conflict to me later to solve instead of their dad if he is in the irritability or withdrawn part of the coaster ride.  To let me carry their load when possible.  On how to take it less personally, get less emotionally involved, and learn to sit it out.  We do not all have to ride the coaster just because it exists.

The sort of good news of the week is that the planned travel plans have been delayed.  I am not sure why they are delayed or what is going on as we are now on the "silent" part of the coaster ride, but I have been told by others that they are delayed.  I'm thankful.  Dealing with that and all right at the beginning of school was not going to be fun.  I am thankful for the schools my kids are in and the support they get from there.  I had meetings with teachers, principals, and guidance counselors to be prepared for the inevitable stress the travel would cause.  We can push pause on those plans for awhile - maybe a month or two.  We will still need them, and I am thankful for the understanding we have at the schools.

Speaking of schools - I'm applying tomorrow for a small job there.  Being where we are, we just don't raise enough support to survive, so I work outside the home for one or two days a week.  I have been working in an old folk's home, which I love.  But it's rough work.  I was injured twice this last year by an male patient.  He slammed me into a wall and then body checked me.  My hip hit the corner of a bookshelf and bruised.  Now I have bursitis on the hip.  He also dislocated my wrist.  It is an old injury, so it popped back in again, but my wrist which had been stable for seven years is now weak again.  I'm seriously wondering about my ability to keep going at that place and allow healing.  Last week I heard about a position open at the school to assist with a student with serious medical issues.  There is another mother and I who both can not work full time due to our lives, but we can job-share.  We go for an interview tomorrow.  I'm hoping to get the job.  My husband had been telling me and telling me to get in the school and volunteer so we get to know people and are involved and know what is going on.  This may be better.  I'll be there one day a week, and I will get paid for it!  So I am hoping.  We'll see.  My son tells me that during class time, the nurse's aide simply sits and reads and is there if needed.  Hmm... with a small computer and internet, I could actually get work done while working.  Hmm.... prayer letters done, address changes made..... do I dare hope?

Then, if I can get work as a doula, too, perhaps I could quit at the old folks home, or at least take a few months off and allow my hip to heal.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I Hate Fall

Fall is always our busy season.  It is travel season, meeting season, and the start of a new school year all rolled into one.  Added in this year, is that I am training as a doula, and have two births I am assisting with in September, too.  (Not at all stressed about the births - I've been to over 20, but finally decided to get certified.  But they add in some busy-ness.)

I want to write more about the decency thoughts.  I have a story about an amazing MK from Columbia who lived a life of integrity in front of me in such a way that it caused me to think.  I have more to say, and hate to leave the topic here as it could look like I think decency is not important.  If you're new to my blog, just take my word that that's not true, and suspend judgement for a time.

But with busy season and travel season, there is talk on my horizon about travel that is a big step, and I feel like someone just hit the pause button on my world.  I'm not sure how I am responding or what I am thinking.  So it's been hard to blog.  It's hard to think about.  I'm not sure about this step.  No one told me it was coming.  No one told me or warned me it would be this soon.  I feel blindsided by people who knew it for a long time and chose not to tell me, and those same people are asking me to trust them that it will be ok.  I'm finding that hard.

And yet, I know I don't really have an option in it.  I can't really say no.

I'm not sure if I would have said no if I had been asked, either, but I feel betrayed that I wasn't asked about it a long time ago, back when it was only a thought.

I'm also struggling right now from another type of fear.  There is the fear that something could happen, but there is another fear.... during the last crisis, we were abandoned, uncared for.... by our team, by our mission, .... both during and after the crisis.  Even by people who had been our "support people" just weren't there.  Some had reasons that they couldn't be and others just failed miserably.  Now, these same people are asking me to walk through that possibility again.  Yeah.... and if something goes wrong, not only do I have to deal with the crisis, but with being abandoned in it.

I just don't really know if I can go through that again.

It's making me angry.  Grouchy.  I'm not so angry about the risk or the choice - this is the life we went into with our eyes open.  I'm angry because I feel pushed and half deceived by people who already failed my family in a crisis.  Grouchy because I feel so alone right now.  There is no one near me who gets what we are asked to do.  Part of the oddities of the type of cross-cultural marriage that I have is that we live with different scenarios than other workers, and I feel alone.  There is no one to talk to who understands.

I'm also deeply concerned about the effect this will have on my daughter who still has not completely recovered.  In the middle of our handling it, I am going to have to find a way to be extra strong for her.

So I live on pause right now.

One of the things I learned in my doula training is that when I have taken on the responsibility to support a mom for a birth, I need to be there.  If something comes up or some emergency in my family happens, or I am sick, so I can not fulfill my chosen responsibility, I am responsible for arranging a back up doula.  I think as I heard that, a light went on in my head.  This last crisis greatly changed some key relationships in my life.  There is an element of guardedness and disconnect that wasn't there.  I hold myself at a bit of a distance.  I can get close to people, but I don't stay close.  I distrust more.  I pull away faster.  I've tried arguing it my head that "ok, it was a crisis, people couldn't function in the normal way", but it didn't remove that niggling wariness.

They couldn't be there.... but they didn't arrange back up, either.

And telling me to "just get over it" doesn't work either.  One of them tried it recently, and it hurt.  However, another met me with a "I'm really sorry.  We really messed up.  Can you help us learn how to handle this to do better?"  That was a great response, and I felt comforted.... able to put down some pain and go on.

But then came this talk of travel again, and I'm jittery.  I don't like doing this.  I know I have to say yes, and I am saying yes in faith.... but I have faith in a God who sometimes protects us in this life and sometimes chooses to allow evil to happen while saving us in eternity.  I'm in no pollyanna bubble that assumes that only good will happen.  So I say yes because I have no other choice, but it is not a carefree yes.  I don't think God is any less happy with me because my yes knows what a yes can mean and is said in a whisper, not a smile.  And through the pain of knowing what it feels like to be abandoned in a crisis, I hang on to the truth that God did not leave me alone in it.  His people did.  And that hurt.  But He was there.  So while I may be isolating from people because I don't want them to hurt me again, I'm hanging on to God.  He's really all I feel comfortable with trusting at this point.

But that's all I have.  That's all the trust and all the faith I have.

So, if anyone is reading this anymore, hang in with me and remember my family.  It's going to be a rough month ahead, and I'm already feeling isolated.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Things They Say.... It's in the Cup

We drove recently on a windy road since the highway was blocked.  We had recently been to McDonalds, and thankfully has saved money by buying one extra large drink to share.  At the road got more windy, I heard that ominous sound, "Mooommm, I feel sick!"

Great...  I looked down, and saw the empty cup (thank God for the large size!)  I passed it back to my daughter just in time, and being the neat little girl she is, she was able to um, empty her stomach contents into the cup. 

Now what?  There wasn't room to pull over right away, so I told her to put the lid back on the cup - cut the smell down some, I hoped.  She did.

As I looked for a place to pull over, I heard her quietly talking to herself, and what she said cracked me up.  She was looking down at the buttons on top of the cup that McDonalds uses to identify what type of a drink it is. 

And I heard a quiet, "I guess this would qualify as a diet drink."


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Moral Purity - Modesty is What We Wear, Right?

I read a blog recently about modesty.  I wasn't too surprised by this blog as I had seen these thoughts elsewhere, but I was surprised still.  Surprised that it is still out there and that women are still buying it hook, line, and sinker.  The blog post included a long checklist for dressing modestly.

I want to approach this carefully so that no one stops listening before they hear what I want to say.  This post will only have part of what I believe, so hang in there before you object.  I believe in modesty.  You may not believe I do by the end of this post, but let me assure you that I do.  But I think there is a lie hidden in posts like the one I read that is damaging to us women.  My husband firmly agrees with me - he's more adamant about it than I am.

The post talked about the typical things - hem length, skirt tightness, neck length, fabric choice, slits pinned shut, attention drawing colors, etc.  Near the end was a point to double check that your purse wasn't making you immodest by the strap lying across your chest and "accentuating your breasts".

Sigh.  I guess if I wore a purse with a strap, and it lies between my breasts and shows that indeed I have two breasts...instead....  instead of what?  An inner-tube wrapped around my chest?  I do have two breasts, as well as two ears, two kidneys, two arms, two eyes, two ovaries, two lungs.... basic biology 101.

I think women have swallowed the lie that they are responsible for the thoughts in men's minds.  With that comes a deep shame for our bodies.... because we believe that if men have a wrong thought, we (our bodies) caused that.... and we caused men to sin.

I used to believe that.  Wouldn't have put it in so many words.  Didn't completely know I believed that since I didn't think through it, but I did.

I've said before that I have lived all over the world in different cultures.  That has given me a unique ability to see different things.  Let me share some of that.

If you carry the "dress decently, and you won't cause men to sin" theology to its extreme, you will get something similar to a religion that completely covers women - so that only the eyes, or at times not even the eyes show.  I've lived in that.  I lived in it for years, and I dressed decently to their standards.  I acted decently, too - eyes down, no smiling, no contact or conversation with men.  You'd think in that situation, men's minds would be completely controlled - nothing causing them to sin.

(To all those working in those cultures, believe me, I can hear your snorts!)

I also lived in an almost opposite culture.  (My parents likely didn't know about this, so don't blame them.... ) but when my mother was sick in bed for several months, I was often cared for by the mother of my best friend in the village.  A wonderful family who took good care of me.  On bath days, she would take me to the river with her daughter.  Many families marched single file to the river.  My friend's mom stripped us down, scrubbed us with rough soap and then a rock to get all the dead skin cells off us, washed our hair and tied it in a knot on the top of our heads, smacked us playfully on our butts and told us to go play while she washed our clothes.  We played all morning in the beautiful sunshine and nothing else while our clothes dried, and then she brushed out our hair and redressed us for the trip home.  We weren't the only naked kids playing in the river.  Several families washed together, men gathered at one end of the river clearing and women at the other, neither troubled at all by the sight (from a slight distance) of naked people of the opposite gender washing.

I have both been wearing nothing but sunshine and been covered from head to toe with only my eyes peeping out.  I have been both only two short years apart (and no great change in body shape between to blame the difference on.)  If the "if we cover, we don't cause men to sin" train of thought was correct, men would have been struggling at the river bathing time and not one man would have taken a second look when I was covered to the eyeballs.

The opposite was true.  No one bothered us, no one stared, no one said anything at the river.  And I spend my whole "covered" life enduring the pinches, comments, and dirty stares of men whose thoughts were not the slightest bit controlled by what I was wearing. 

I felt more decent naked than I felt covered.

Ok, I'm not endorsing nudity, really.  :-)

But I am saying we need to stop and think what we believe.  Anytime we take responsibility for another human's thoughts, we are taking more weight than we were ever asked to carry.  And we ignore truth - that God created man - male and female - and blessed us and called us good.  I - yes, me, my body with two of many things - is good.  I've carried the shame of taking responsibility for men's thoughts long enough.  That is not my weight to carry.

What is mine to carry is my own thoughts.  They are enough to be responsible for.