Our Family

Our Family
Our Family: Pops, Me, The Teenager, The Boy, The Freckle Faced Ninja, Miss Priss, Miss Sassy Pants, Madi-Lou-Who, & Dora the Explorer

Friday, May 25, 2012

The stranger

So a week ago, some strange man walks into my backyard and invites my 3 youngest children to "come off the porch and go play with my kids."  There were no children in sight.  I was right there.  Looking out the living room window.  And I could not see where he stood, carefully out of my line of sight.  It still gives me chills to think about the might have beens. 

Not 12 hours before that, God had prompted Tony in the middle of the night to pray for protection over his family.  Right before they went outside, we had the "what do you do if a stranger comes in the yard talk". 

I truly believe God sent angels in response to Tony's prayer, to prompt me to have that talk, to prompt Lydia to say, "I think we should go inside", to prompt Will to take Madi by the hand and say, "Yes, we have to go inside."  That man ran away like he was being chased when they came inside.  Pretty sure he was. 

In the days afterwards, my concern was warning people in the area that a "predator" was out there, lurking.  I was ready to take a baseball bat to him if he ever came back in our yard.  We called the police, checked websites for registered child sex offenders in our area, showed the kids pictures to see if they recognized any of them...We were prepared to fight.

But this little thought began working it's way into my brain.  Who was this man?  Not just who was he so I can keep my children away from him, but who IS he?  And why?  What had created this compulsion in him?  What had been done to him?  He was a child once.  As a matter of fact, he still is.  God's child.  Here I am, a professed follower of Christ, passing judgement on this man because his intentions scared me. 

I had done everything but what I should have done.  I should have prayed for him. 

I cannot imagine the depths of sorrow a parent goes through whose child suffers at the hands of someone else.  And yet I can. 

One of my children almost died of malnutrition because a birth parent did not feed them.  Yet I pray for the salvation of that woman because I know she is a precious child of God, who loves her. 

One of my children still struggles to trust that there will always be food in front of them after having to forage for food in trash cans at age 3.   Yet I pray that God will keep those parents off the streets and safe. 

Several of our children fear that one day they will wake up and we will not be there.  And I pray for those birth parents.  I pray that God will make them hate rather than desire drugs.  I pray that He will bring their hearts close to him.   

But I pray for them because I know them.  Not personally, but I know their story.  Sexually abused as young children by family members.  Verbally abused by parents.  Physically abused.  I hate what my children have experienced but I understand why it happened.  Because it was done before.  The cycle continued.  I can pray and love them and understand.

But this stranger.  This man who invaded my world.  I do not know his story.  I never even saw his face.  It is easy to hate him.  It is easy to judge.  But that's not my job.  No one elected me God.  I don't get to judge him.  Yes, I should protect my children from harm, but that doesn't give me the right to hate. 

That's really hard though.  Love someone who had ill intentions towards me or mine?  I still really would like to hit him with a stick. 

I've always been in awe of people who can forgive huge crimes against them.  The parents of a slain child, while they want the perpetrator to go to jail to protect others, turn to God to help them forgive.  Man, I don't know if I could be that big.  I know, hate is really poison and forgiveness heals you know the other person.  I can see that because I began to see every strange man as a possible predator.  I saw dark everywhere.  I still don't know how I could have found forgiveness if he had actually gotten one of my kids.  Certainly not on my own.  Only with God. 

In the book, The Shack**,  the main character has suffered the loss of his youngest child in a violent way.  Since then he has turned his back on all happiness and lived this sort of half life, eaten up by hate for this person.  He has this sort of dream where he meets God.  The part of it that struck me is when he is asked to sit in the judgement seat for God and judge others, including the man who killed his child, he finds that God loves that killer.  He loves His child, despite the horrendous sin they committed.   

**Note: I'm not telling you to read it or saying I agree with the theology in The Shack - I don't.  Just a story with a fitting example.

Just as God loved the Egyptians that he washed away in the Red Sea to protect the Israelites.  Just as He loves the man who robbed some local banks recently.  Just as he loved the prostitute, Haggar, in spite of her running back to prostitution over and over.  Just as he loves the man who hurt his children in a rage.  Just as he loves the meth addicted birth parents.  Just as he loves my neighbor, who in her elderly years drives her car through my yard to say hello, almost running Madi over.  Just as he loves me when I yell at my children, don't follow through on what I will say I do, or one of a million other sins I've committed.  He loves the grocery store cashier who was rude and looks as if she's worked longer than she should, for more years than she should.  The one I judged because I wanted her to hurry up. 

And he loves that strange man who came into my yard. 

I asked God a while back to help me see people as He sees them; Love them as He loves them. 

But that was before this man.  I'm not sure I'm ready for that.  Because while I can try to love the grocery cashier, can I love a thief who steals from me?  Can I love an abuser who hurts a child?  Can I love a molester who steals into my yard with the intent to steal my child?  Can I look at them with love, not judgement?  Can I see inside to what has been done to them? 

Maybe they were the abused child that no one ever rescued. 

Maybe they were my son or daughter a couple decades ago and there was not social worker or foster family or adoptive home to find refuge in. 

I wrote the other day about not judging ourselves against others.  Not assuming too much about the perfection we see in someone else.  That's a lot easier than not judging someone we see as "the bad guy". 

I know I will protect my children to my last breath.  And most of me still wants to run into that man while I have a bat in hand.  But with all of my heart I will pray for him, that God will heal whatever has been done to him to set him on this road.  A road I am sure he does not want to travel, but may not know another path.  And I will TRY to leave the judging to God. 

For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one my receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 2:12

Thursday, May 24, 2012


I can't go on Pinterest any more.  It stresses me beyond belief.  I see all these "easy, DIY" projects that I "pin", then go buy the materials for, then they sit half done in a closet.  I even had to ask someone what DIY meant because I thought it was a company!  Does anyone's house really look like the ones on Pinterest?  If yours does, I can not come visit you.  I can only go visit people who have crumbs on their table, dishes in the sink, and mismatched decor!  :) 

I read an article about feeling the need to 'keep up with the Jones's' in the mom world.  Pinning, couponing, parenting the best, dressing our kids in adorable outfits, homeschooling while doing 40 loads of laundry or being the room mom every year and sending in the best cupcakes, super mom in heels and a dress while working full-time...

We look in disbelief at Susie "Homemaker" who bakes all her own bread while raising 12 kids who all say "yes ma'am" or Joni "Works Full-Time" who has a perfect house and coaches all 5 of her kids sports teams.  And we wonder how they do it.  And why can't we.

Now, to add that insanity "Attachment Parenting".  Seriously?  Like I want my child "attached" to me.  I want to raise children who one day want to go out into the world and be the salt and the light.  They start sleeping with me now and what happens when they're 17?  Frankly my bedroom is my sanctuary and I love that my kids go to be somewhere else.  I love them but I love my peaceful place where I can read until 1 am and sleep without getting whacked in the mouth (Tony only rarely does that!). 

You know I've never had to make the choice to breast feed/formula, cloth/disposable diapers, and the tons of other things parents of infants have to choose, because my kids were past that when we adopted them.  But we've had to make (and defend) other choices: Preschool versus home daycare versus stay at home mom.  Dietary choices (we don't eat sugar 95% of the time so most of the free world thinks we're nuts right there).  Then there's the schooling choice...public school, private school, home school, unschool...critics abound.  Judgement surrounds.   No matter which one seems right to you, there is someone judging if it was the right choice and we are feeling guilty for not doing "enough", whatever that is. 

Can't we keep the house clean while doing all the other 50 things expected of us in a day?  Just drink more coffee, you can do it!  I look down at my floor that needs mopping over my sweat shirt with coffee and applesauce stains and wonder why I'm exhausted when I haven't left the house today!  I go to the park and marvel at the mom in her cute outfit, who obviously works out AND had time (and forethought) to apply make up, while I'm wearing a jogging suit for the 15th day in a row, not because I just came from the gym, but because the elastic waist is comfy! 

We watch the children at the park and judge our parenting based on the best behaved kids there.  Little Mary Jane plays like a lady, doesn't scuff her patent-leather shoes, and still has her bow in her hair when she goes home.  My 3 year old has pulled one pig-tail out before we even get to the park and we can't find her shoe in the car.  Little Johnny runs and plays nicely, sticks up for the little guy, and NEVER argues when mom says, "Time to go!".  Ever had your child hole up in the top of the slide and blow a raspberry at you when you say that phrase?  Lots of fun!

We judge ourselves when the other ladies we talk with at church talk about their "walk" and you realize that they get up at 5 am every day to read the Bible and spend an hour with God.  You were happy to get a 5 minute prayer in while you showered and that you read 2 pages of the chapter for your small group book study.  You swallow and decide you need friends with less ambition about them.  Or more reality!

Our husbands judge their value by how well they provide for their family.  Compared to Joe down the street.  Compared to a brother or dad.  They look at the neighbor's yard and judge the greenness of their grass as better than their own.  They look at their car, size of the house, career path....

Is that not what we all do?  Judge ourselves by our neighbor's measuring stick?  We judge others we see as less by looking down at them.  And we judge ourselves by those we see as better than us. 

I recently had someone tell me that they stay away from people who others lift up and praise.  At first they it sounded like they had disdain but as we talk further, we both realized it was an insecurity that kept me from speaking to or even developing friendships with those people.  Someone who could be a huge influence in our lives, we avoid out of fear of being judged.  Exposed. 

I think it might be time for us to ask God for His eyes when we look at those people around us.  Then I think our judgement yardstick would be turned upside down.  The mother whose house looks perfect, children act perfect, who we think is perfect, is dealing with a struggling marriage or a prodigal teenager.  The father with the perfect lawn is escaping  from an overwhelming problem at work or an seriously ill family member.  The jet setting single whose lifestyle we envy, laments that they may never find a soul mate to share their life with, or children to love beyond belief.  The strong couple whose kids are the delight of their lives have an estranged parent or one of them has gotten a cancer diagnosis. 

We have no idea of the challenges others around us are holding in their hearts.  We're too busy seeing the outside.  Looking each other over to see how everyone else is more perfect than us so we'd better shore up our wall around us.  Got to buff up the image of perfection.

But what about Christ's image?  Do we look for His image in those around us?  Look in their eyes, not at their clothes?  Do we buff up His image in and on us so others see His love for them reflected?  Pull down the wall and let others see we aren't perfect but we are loved, just as they are?

Not an easy thing.  To put aside our fears and doubts and love others as Christ loves us.  Sacrifice our pride as He sacrificed His life, maybe.  I hope that if you see me looking dressed up, on the one day that I have to be dressed up for something, that you will look past the ironed clothes into my heart and see that I think you are precious.  That when I look at you, I see a creation that God lovingly planned and sculpted long before he created the foundations of the earth.  And if you see me nervously approaching some perfectly manicured, in shape, woman who is dressed like she just stepped out of a magazine, know that I am hoping she will see my heart for her and ignore the stains on my jogging suit! 

Be blessed and know that you are loved.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Always Late

Trauma in the making right there, folks! 
Lifelong fear of bunnies started at age 2! 
Is there a term for 'a phobia of large bunny
costumed person'?
 I'm perpetually late.  It's common knowledge among all family and friends.  I'm late to meetings, late to play dates, late for lunch, late for doctor appointments.  It began with my birth coming 8 days late and has continued as a trend in my adult life.  Now I've never been 8 DAYS late for something... OK, that's not true.  I have.  More than once.

It all began with the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.  I have come to view these fictional characters as my nemesis in life.  When Gabby lost her first couple teeth, I remember waking up and hearing, "Mom, the tooth fairy forgot to come!"  Tony and I would look at each other with that deer in headlights look (not a great way to wake up)! 

That was when I began my lying habit...see how one sin just leads right to another?  :)  We told Gabby we were sure the Tooth Fairy just had too many teeth to collect and would be here tomorrow night.  Next morning?  Second verse, same as the first! 

So once when she was really late, about the 3rd tooth or so, she left a note in minuscule handwriting about what happened.  Now it totally worked.  The problem is, Gabby kept the note.  Remembered exactly what was said.  Next time we forgot, she brought up the note and we looked at her blankly.  Oh what a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive (always keep copies of fictional correspondence you give your kids!!).

So then comes Easter.  Gabby was about 8 or 9.  Easter had been a beautiful day.  We go to a friends house for dinner that night and they hand Gabby an Easter gift.  I broke out in a cold sweat as I realized, about 10 seconds before Gabby, that we had completely forgotten the Easter Bunny!  Now how in the world do you forget that, you ask?  No idea.  But we did!  I consider the day a success because Gabby didn't realize it until about 7:00 that night. ;)  So a week later, when the Easter Bunny finally made an appearance, he/she (not really sure about that one!) left a note describing how an unnamed bandit kidnapped him and he had to be rescued by Santa and the Tooth Fairy.  Once again we high fived each other when she bought it! 

At some point you'd think we'd have devised some sort of alarm system to remind us.  Do not ask me why it's those 2 that are so hard!  We never forget to prepare for a birthday or Christmas!  Can you picture us on Christmas morning..."Hey kids, we're guessing Santa got held up.  I'm sure he'll bring your gifts tomorrow.  C'mon, let's go eat breakfast."  Pretty sure we'd have a riot!

"Dear Tooth fairy, 
How are you?  We haven't heard from each other in a couple of years!!  Will you give me proof that you're the tooth fairy?  Like one of your shoes or something?  Can you give me lots of money too?  Thanks!
from, Gabby
It was almost a relief when Gabby realized that there was no Tooth Fairy or Easter Bunny.  We got one whole year of reprieve.  Then came our little people. 

Between them, Will and Lydia have lost 18 teeth this year alone!  I mean really, for the love of Pete, give us a break!  Now I don't even bat an eyelash when I hear, "MOOOOM, the tooth fairy forgot to come!  Again!"  If I've had a cup of caffeine I answer sweetly to just be patient, she's very busy.  If not, I tell them to go back to bed, they must be dreaming. 

 Tony on the other hand has gotten very smooth.  With Will's last tooth, he said, "Are you sure?  You should look again." while leaning down, swiping the tooth from under the pillow, and depositing a quarter.  "Wow!  She is so fast!  She came while I was in the bathroom!" was Will's response when he looked and found the quarter 10 seconds later.  Yeah, Tony about dislocated something patting himself on the back with that one! 

When Easter rolled around this year, we pondered just telling the kids there was no Easter Bunny.  I mean really, we don't eat sugar so they don't get candy in their baskets.  We want them to focus on the actual meaning of Easter which is Christ, not on getting gifts in a basket from a large bunny.  But we remembered eating peeps, hunting for eggs as kids, and pondering the make-up of that goop inside of Cadbury Eggs; and decided to just go with it.  We were leaving town for Savannah the Friday before Easter, so my brilliant plan was to have it all ready and hidden for when we came on Easter night.  And then I forgot all about it. 

Easter Bunny attacks children for jelly beans!  News at 11!
Yep, you know where this is going.  So we're halfway to Savannah when I remember.  Easter baskets in some box in the basement.  Easter goodies still at the store waiting for me to purchase them.  Hmmm.  So I figure I'll get something while we're in Savannah and have Easter in the hotel room.  Nope.  Forgot about that too. 

Sooo, we arrive home a bit late.  Kids all wake up as soon as we pull in the driveway and immediately start looking for Easter baskets in the house.  Will decides they must be hidden somewhere.  Gabby replays the Easter Bunny kidnapping incidence with such brilliance that Lydia spends the next week worried about the Easter Bunny's safety! 

Everyday that week they got up and hunted all over for their baskets.  And every day I woke up and remembered that we'd forgotten to get them.  ARGH!!  So finally Tony stopped on his way home one night and hit the end of season Easter section of Walmart.  He only spent about $10-$15 on all 3 kids baskets and toys to put in them.  After that I've decided that all future Easter Bunnies are coming a week late!  ;)  Of course we had to hide them in places they hadn't looked yet to maintain the story!    

All I have to say, is the next time I'm late to meet you for coffee, just be glad you aren't one of my kids.  You could be waiting for the Easter Bunny a long time! :)