Sunday, April 26, 2015

Letters and legacies

Recently, my husband's backpacking supplies have gotten out of control in the office.

In the effort to reorganize, and clean up our office, Ryan started emptying all the boxes in Maddy's closet. (In hopes of using the freed-up storage for his goods.)

 He unearthed a simply awful pair of neon red (yes, there is such a thing) seventies bell bottoms I bought for Tacky Day in high school. All my maternity clothes (debating whether I should just get rid of those). And my cap and gown from high school -- not to mention every prom dress and bridesmaid dress I've ever worn.

(Have I mentioned to you yet that I am a bit of a pack rat?)

Some of the boxes in her room I had already gone through. I found the earrings that I had my ears pierced with when I was 5. Maddy proudly wears those now. I found a box of notes from Jr. High. A snowglobe picture frame from one of my five proms.

But today, he uncovered a few boxes I hadn't seen in many, many years.

Yearbooks from 3-4 grade.

My sticker book I started when I was Maddy's age.

The diary I got on my 8th birthday.

A letter signed by Bill Clinton on my academic achievement from Junior High. (Of course, I know enough about signatures these days to know it wasn't really signed by him! Just an image of his signature. But the stationary DOES say the White House!)

Writing awards, and my anthology from 7th grade English with Mrs. McAdams -- the teacher that instilled in me the love of writing and drama that I have today.

Photos of my siblings.

A 3-page birthday letter from my dear, oh-so-tactful oldest sister begging me to be more mature so I can just be more like them.

My Brazil mission trip letter where I recount the food, the culture, and the drama we performed there. I had forgotten that we performed for a crowd of over 1,300 people. Some memories seem so faint, almost like forgotten dreams, until some evidence comes up that YES, that thing really did happen. That performance was one of the shadow memories.

My college essay application to Multnomah.

The obituary in the newspaper from when my then-boyfriend 's 16-year-old brother was killed. Photos of our prom together. Life as it was. Life snuffed out.

And letters, letters, letters, letters, letters.

The letters from my late grandparents were the hardest to read through.

Their handwriting so clear, so distinct. Just looking at their handwriting feels like going home. I want to cling to their words. I want them just to come back to me. I want to will my past self to write to them more. To tell them over, and over, how much I love them.

But I can't.

I just have their letters to remember their love by. The memories of Grandma Fulner's soft hands as she stroked my hair and back. How she always made us think we were the best kids ever. Creamed corn, the candy dish hidden from sight, Entenmann's chocolate covered donuts, tea with the pink packets of fake sugar. Popcorn in tupperware bowls, served on tin trays on Sunday nights.

I remember Grandma Enyeart's soft, round waist and brown hair turned gray. The way she made us chocolate pudding for breakfast. The Archer's raspberry cookies and vanilla ice cream we got as a bedtime treat. The big green ball with a handle I rolled down their steep stairs -- when I was on it.

The pink polka-dot dress my Grandpa Enyeart bought me. I've never felt like such a princess as I did that day. The smell of his pipe. The sound of his voice calling me a ding-a-ling.

There were other letters.

Letters from teachers. From my sister Sarah when she lived in Argentina and I had moved to Portland. Letters from my mom in college care packages. A card from a boy I can't remember his name (nor can I read his signature) from college -- thanking me for visiting him in the hospital. Letters from boys that probably liked me, but I was too naive to figure that out at the time. Letters from best friends in elementary school and cards from college roommates.

 It seems so strange that so much of my life -- kindergarten through college -- could be summed up in these two big boxes.

How has life gone so quickly? Wasn't it just yesterday I was living in Hawaii, picking out a seashell magnet to give to my grandparents for Christmas when I was around 10 from the PX? How has 20 years passed since I met my (still) best friends Stevie and Robin in Cheyenne, Wyoming? When did the dreams of the kindergarten Rachel make way for the dreams of my own kindergarten daughter?

When did life happen, happen so fast, and pass?

As I pour through my boxes of memories, often through tears . .  I am struck by 2 thoughts.

First -- I have always been a writer. It's at the core of me. As I used to lay on the sunny Hawaiian beach, I wrote poems in my head, until I could make it home and pour them out on paper. I wrote anthologies and short stories and songs and prayers and journals and dramas. I entered writing contests. I won writing awards. As soon as I learned how to spell, I was writing. And I've never really stopped.

Maybe my work isn't all good -- but it shows me that I have always had a voice that is just trying to come out. No matter my situation or my education -- writing helps me make sense of my world.

Second -- other people's words are also so important. I'm not sure I ever threw a card away judging by the overflowing bags of notes, cards and letters I have toted around through the years.

People who you have long forgotten reminding you that you made a difference in their life. That you somehow brought them joy, hope or comfort. That you brightened their day. That you lived out God to them.

Words written one or two decades ago -- still making an impact on my heart today.

When life goes so quickly, what is there left? Just photos, words and memories. These are our legacies.

As as I think about the fact that my words one day will be left behind me. They will be read by my children and grandchildren.

What words do I want to leave for them? What memories do I need to capture in photographs? What legacy will I leave those I will leave behind?

My hope, as it always has been, is to leave a legacy of love. Of pure, unadulterated, self-less love. A God-kind-of love that far surpasses anything I could muster in myself.

What legacy do you hope to leave? And what memories do you cling to from your childhood?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

This is the face

This is the face of secondary infertility.

This is the face of recurrent pregnancy loss.

This is the face of a foster and adoptive mom.

And now . . .

This is the face of ADD.

I received my official diagnosis today. And will start medicine soon (which I will take as needed.)

Even as I've suspected things weren't quite right -- my high marks on the test surprised me. And it just feels weird to have it be so official.

So, I'm not quite sure how I feel about it all.

But one thing I do know . . .

This is the face of a girl who will overcome any obstacle, persevere with heart, and will not let any diagnosis (no matter what it is) define her.

Whether it's official or not . . . I'm still just as me as I was before today. (I now will just have another tool in my toolbox to help me on the busy, "I have to make it through" days.)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Microblog Monday: Tight ponytail hair day

It a feeling of overwhelming. A tightness in your chest. It is being completely undone. Fingernails on chalkboards everywhere you turn.

It is illogical. Unreasonable. Inconvenient. 

And you know that.

But no matter how much you apologize, no matter how much you try not to complain, no matter how irrational you know you are being, it's still there.

It claws. It suffocates. It python-squeezes.

It is quicksand. It shifts quickly. It engulfs.

You try to escape, but thoughts trigger just like reality does. Thoughts and reality blur. What is real? What am I afraid of?

It is a pile of laundry. Is is a big crowd. It is a fast-approaching deadline. It is never life-threatening. But I can't tell that to my body.

It is slowly becoming unglued. Unraveling, like yarn. It is the boiling pot that is ready to spill.

It demands action. Immediate, fast, reckless action. The trigger has to be dealt with and dealt with now.

 But it is also paralyzing. Quadriplegic. Just get away. Escape. Close your eyes. Ignore it. Breathe. Just breathe. Just breathe.

Maybe that's a good thing. On a tight-ponytail hair day, I am reckless. I push too hard, throw too often, toss away without thought. I am a wind-up toy wound far too far past my limit.

I am now an adult. I have grown-up words to put my experience into context. Fight or flight. Sensory input. Meditation.

But as a kid, I had no words. Just shrieks when my blinds were opened when I got home from school. (I kept them closed.) Fits when my bed covers got out of place. A rush of chaos when my closet doors were cracked open. 

My logical response ... Put that hair back into the tightest ponytail until your eyebrows have been relocated to the base of your scalp.

It wasn't long before the whole family knew these days as "tight ponytail hair days."

But most people just call it anxiety.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Why I regret sharing my photo with Ellen DeGeneres

Dear Ellen,

I like you a lot. I really do.

But I have to be super honest with you. I kinda regret sending you a photo recently.

 Maybe you saw it, but chances are -- you never will. (Chances are you'll never read this blog either. But maybe I just really need to write it for me.)

When I posted my Easter photo flop on Facebook, all my friends and family thought it was funny. And it is funny. Especially when you know the backstory to my girls.

And in good humor and fun they suggested I share my photo with you. And in good humor and fun, I shared it on your wall.

And as soon as I posted it . . . I noticed something. Honestly, something that disturbed me a little.

It turns out that everyone under the moon wanted to share something with you.

Now obviously, that they want to share with YOU is not bad. You've built a reputation and career on being completely personable. You are as comfortable with celebrities as you are with the every day mom as you are in your own skin. You draw people in. And that's an amazing gift.

But as I scrolled through the posts on your wall, I got a feeling that many were sharing not because they just wanted to share with you -- but because they wanted something from you.

And that's when I got this icky feeling inside after posting.

You see, people began liking my post on your wall. And for a few minutes, I went there. I day dreamed about meeting you. About sharing the story of my two miracle girls. About having the opportunity to share on national TV why foster care is so important.

In truth -- for a few minutes, I did want something from you.

I wanted your platform.

I wanted to use something that you, YOU (not me), have invested countless years, emotions and dollars into. You laid all the groundwork. And like all the other posters on your wall, I started the think that maybe I was special. That maybe a silly picture of two (adorable yet silly) girls might be enough to earn me a spot in YOUR limelight.

And you know what? I'm not OK with that.

Not only am I not OK with feeling like I wanted to use you . . . I'm also not OK at the quick greed I felt in my heart.

I became greedy for likes. I become greedy for validation that, yes, my girls are cute. I became greedy for attention.

Why do I feel that I need the universe to like what I like?

Does 100, or 1,000, or 10,000 likes change the fact that I had a really horrible photo shoot for Easter that resulted in both massive meltdowns for all my kids -- and an epic photo that I'll treasure forever?


You see, Ellen, whether you see my picture or don't -- I'm still the lucky one. I'm still the one that gets to carry my story that God gave me. I still get to create more pictures and memories with my two girls and with my little boy for as long as we get him. The road we've been on and continue to travel has not been easy -- but it's my road. And I'm honestly blessed I get to be on it.

So Ellen, if you saw my picture -- I'm glad. If it gave you a little chuckle or brightened your day just a bit -- I'm super happy for you.

But I just want to be clear. I don't need anything from you in return. And I hope you'll forgive me for thinking, even just for a just a moment, that maybe I did need something from you.

[And for all of you non-Ellen readers (which I have a feeling is all of you), I want you to know that I'm using MY platform -- the one I've invested countless years and tears into -- to tell you that foster kids are important. Not everyone can be a foster parent -- but I challenge you to really pray about it, and do due diligence to see if maybe, just maybe, you can take in a needy child. I can't promise you anything -- but I can tell you that there are two children so far that have brought a whole lot of love and healing into my heart.]



Wednesday, April 8, 2015

My game

Dearest readers,

A friend and I recently met up and she shared this story with me. I knew in my heart that her story had to be told. (I also wished I could write like her!) She was told by her abuser that she needed to be quiet. She has broken her silence. I'm so proud of this woman, proud to call her a friend, and proud to share her story with you.

I encourage you to comment -- but if you do, please post on this blog and not on Facebook so she can see your comments. 

To my friend -- You know who you are. You know that every day Jesus is fighting right alongside of us. He gives us purpose, and strength and dignity. Thanks for letting me in. Thanks for sharing not only for you -- but for all those who need to know that they are not alone in their struggle.



There was an unmistakable chill in the air this morning, although not able to penetrate the light sweaters we were wearing, but it was sure trying.  The sun glimmered off of the mud outside our front door.  I thought it looked like Spring for a moment. Not quite yet, right?

The tulips and crocuses have stretched out their green necks towards the warmth we are all hoping for daily.  Their red, yellow, and pink colors just leap out of the dingy earth, winning over my attention -- these firsts of spring have given me a sip of peace. Cherry blossoms ring white and pink against morning grey skies.  Everywhere the renewal of life seems to ring in with the chirps of birds, the buzz of bees that are supposed to be asleep, and the patter of little feet outside my bedroom door. 

My eyes drift to my cell phone in the blank space before I have to push back the covers, feel the sting of inside cold morning air, and check what time the 3-year-old feet and hands push me around in my own bed.  Those little hands wave around, a voice calls to me, "Mommy, wake up!"  

I smile at the 6:38 am time, and receive my morning hugs and kisses. Our little man reports, "I dreamed of sky." Only a kid born and raised in rainy Washington state dreams of sky.  

It's that time. Push back the covers. Legs hit the carpeted floor. Time to get up. I hear two girls approach and hop in my shower. I send Little man off with his older brother to the other bathroom. They shower too. 

Morning routine has began. 

It's a Friday. It's the week before a game of chess with an old evil.  This is the kind of evil that has been practicing for years.  It's not unimaginable or unthinkable that being born into sin is a good qualification to predict what old evil will do or say; but it cannot. It's not enough. It's not enough to know the crooked business that you were hooked into.  It's not enough to know the men that charge ahead, channeled as warriors on behalf of old evil. It is just not enough.

As I sip a coffee and stare out at evergreen trees, I see the shadows creeping in on our home. The wind picks up leftover leaves and scatters them so randomly.  My brain feels like those leaves- stretched beyond and scattered beyond . . . beyond my control and the powerful gusts of negative, positive, depressed, oppressed, hopeful, joyful, and sad unknowns scatter at the same time. I do not know how they will land today.  

Breath. In. Out. In. Out. 

I am not 19. I am not 13. I am not 7. I am not. 

I am a woman. I believe in Jesus. I belong to Jesus. I am loved. 

I live now. It is March 2015.  I have a husband. I have four children. I am called mother, mommy or just, "hey!"

I am loved.

I was 7. I was 9. The ride back from Sacramento was conveniently on Interstate 80. It's a straight shot -- headed to the midwest.  Passing through Truckee, California, and the Sierra Nevada mountain range, I looked out my window at trees so large. The trees were tall. The trees were big. The trees looked like refuge. I imagined rolling out of my car, escaping with my backpack and ducking under a tree.  Under that tree I closed my eyes. I hummed a song because I couldn't speak.  The green needles of the evergreens didn't prick my skin, but their sharp smell calmed my hollow inside. I rested there. I wasn't cold. I wasn't alone. I saw Jesus come lay under the tree as well. He rested too. He could smell the sharp needles.  Jesus knew that they were the fragrance of freedom. 

Mom yells at our driver: "Stop driving so fast through the curves!" 

I am still 7. I am still 9. I am still in the car. 

The experts say that my uncle looked for opportunity. He saw opportunity. The experts say my uncle looked for childish charm and a potentially intelligent child. My uncle saw that in me. The experts say my uncle used his physical advantage to press for financial gain in the world of old evil.  Old evil gladly accepted my uncle's availability to work for its old cause. This old evil and its old cause (slavery of a child) is nothing new. 

There were warnings! Neon signs flashing 'STOP'! These signs were flashing before my birth. They have been flashing for over 2000 years. Men and women have bought and sold slaves for more than the last 100 years. And the fight against old evil was birthed since the beginnings.  It wasn't always a trendy fight.

The warnings have evolved as the trickery and conception of new devices of entrapment have emerged.  Jesus sees.

 It is March 2015.  I am a grown woman. Am I free?

The uncle who fights for old evil, is a double agent.  He's longing for church respect, love and dignity. He sent me a letter to say: "Stop telling your story.  Stop saying everything."

Husband and I responded in cries. The cries were answered by sending in the soldiers. The soldiers were in their stations -- fighting old evil already.  We just didn't know Jesus told them it was time to fight His battle from our small home in a small town . We prayed, begged and asked for mercy. We asked for grace. We begged for love. 

Jesus whispered to our hearts, "Your friends are with you." 

He whispered it in the shower. He whispered in the car. He whispered in the early sun of Spring. He didn't stop whispering. 

The reality of life does not stop. When you are fighting, you fight in the reality of life. You eat real food. Drink water. Struggle with sugar, alcohol and other dirty demons. Argue about money for field trips. Compromise on dinner plans. In reality, your sweat is still salty, your muscles ache when pushed, your husband snores when you're tired, and  the car gets a flat tire. It's real. 

It's real too when your Mexican three-year-old proclaims he's 'Black', your kindergartner explains gravity, your 9-year-old boy plants tomato seeds, and all four sing 'Let It Go'. 

On Saturday, my seven-year-old girl leaped for the basketball, missed it completely and smiled back at me. What an effort. She ran to me during the game, as if I'm distracted by three other kids to check and make sure I'm taking pictures. She's right. I don't want to miss a moment here. It is Saturday morning at the YMCA. Nothing better in our world this morning. 

Then my mind snaps back to our task.  It's never far away. It is not done. The fight is now.

Gandalf said; "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

The battle is raging. We want zero contact.

There is pre-game bluffing, fights over calendar dates, arguments over admissible evidence, jostling over personnel (which side people will land on), and last minute bullets shot/aimed like daggers towards innocence.

My declaration is over 25 numbered points. 

My declaration says I will not be quiet. I cannot stay silent. I am obligated to tell the truth. I am a mother of four beautiful children who God has given me to nurture , protect and defend. If I cannot battle my own self- contempt, I cannot be free. Everyday, I have to get down on my knees, ask God for the strength to stay sober and tell the truth. Every night I return to my knees to thank God for my life and another day. 

An uncle (by marriage) and aunt and their attorney stroll into district court in our local county --hundreds of miles away from the uncle's place of residence, to dispute harassment. 

The enemy sits on the left side of the court. Snickering and giggling and joking this uncle and aunt relax in court. I stare at my hands: no sweat. I listen to my heart: regular beat. I feel my husband beside me: we are strong together. I know our friends are praying. The density of evil can be felt -- it envelopes all of the unaware. And yet, the light on our side is blinding. There is a chase going on that stops here for the day as Jesus continues his pursuits in our courtroom as well: pursuit of our lives, pursuit of justice, pursuit of love. 

I repeat internally:

"Working in our waiting
You're sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding
You're teaching us to trust."

It's time to speak. I wasn't going to speak -- I thought I'd lost my voice. Maybe I had. Maybe it was damaged. Not this Friday. The voice that came out was steady, yet full of complex emotions -- the words were easy to say despite their fight and pain.

I told the truth without exaggerations and resisting (supernaturally) any embellishments that could promise false relief. Just Basics. The judge listened and ruled the letter was harassment. Step one. Done. 

My husband puts his head in his hands to rest for a minute. I squeeze his waste with my arms and rest in our friendship.  I felt Gregory Boyle's words acutely then, in total truth: " Kinship -- not serving the other, but being one with the other. Jesus was not 'a man for others' -- he was one with them. There is a world of difference in that.”  We have that -- it is a miracle and dream we are living. 

Our hearts still hurt. An adrenaline that has been coursing through our veins keeps up the defenses until we are in bed Friday night. I have cried out so many nights, 'take me with you, Jesus,' only to realize he is taking me with him. Everyday. On His path.

I believe in Jesus. I am not alone. It is March 2015. 

I hear Jesus whisper:

"My plans are still to prosper
I have not forgotten you
I am with you in the fire and the flood
I am faithful forever
Perfect in love
I am sovereign over you"

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Pursuit of Purpose: Session 5

Hey pursuit of purposers... Can I just tell you that I was just working on my fifth edit on my next PoP installment when my phone (which was plugged in btw) died and I lost my work. 

I need to tell you this because my fear is that you think I have forgotten or don't care, or that I've asked you to join me on something that I don't intend to finish. 

Which is so not the case.

So, here's how we're doing today's post.

I'm going to give you some resources, and I want you to follow up on one. Pick one, read it, listen to it or sign up for it ... And learn with me. 

"I pursue knowledge like others pursue success." -- Keith Kochner

I am convinced that we will never discover, or be equipped to pursue our purpose, on our own.

We will always need the knowledge and mentorship others.

Here are some of my recent favorites:

"The Dream Giver" -- book by Bruce Wilkinson

"Make It Happen" -- book by Lara Casey

"Mentorfish" -- a personal development and mentoring subscription bringing knowledge and insight to you in 15 minute segments every day. Totally worth 
the $9.90 a month subscription cost

Go for the Gold call with Sarah  Wilson

(Ok, this was created for people in Arbonne, but trust me when I stay this is an amazing call that you just need to listen to. She covers so much about purpose in this 30-minute recorded call ... You'll want to listen again and again.)

After listening, reading, subscribing, or whatever you decide ... Go ahead and blog or journal through these questions:

If I could describe my most purposeful year, what would it look like?

What is one thing I can do differently every day to move me closer to my purpose?

If I had all the money in the world to give away, what cause or organization would I give it to?

What is my "why" that makes me cry? What gets me out of bed, breathing in, breathing out, moving forward, and something I couldn't live without?

Last, but not least... Create your mission statement... A one-sentence directive of your life's purpose. Write your mission statement on your mirror, the refrigerator, steering wheel of your car... Anywhere your eyes fall to remind you of your goals. (They must be specific ... Not "my mission is to change the world.") 

That's it. Can't wait to see what you all come up with!