Monday, June 28, 2010

Bible Meets Black History

I'm a library fanatic. I've been there at least twice a week (sometimes more) this summer. My favorite activity is scanning the New Arrival shelves and loading my bag with anything and everything.

Recently our library acquired several black history and civil rights hardcover books, and I eagerly snatched up all of them. I'm very proud of my toddler who will sit quietly and flip through hardcover books while carefully turning the pages and examining the pictures.

One evening after she went to bed, I pulled out my new stack of books and began reading each, eagerly hoping to find some treasures to later purchase and add to our book collection. But what I found was enlightening, depressing, and thought-provoking. Some of these books were incredibly raw about the hardships blacks faced. There were photographs of hangings and lynchings, stories about children separated from parents in slavery days, and poems about the evil acts of white people.

These weren't bedtime stories for a toddler.

I did find one book, The Beatitudes: From Slavery to Civil Rights, that I would consider purchasing now. With each page I turned, more tears filled my eyes.

"I am the Lord your God. I was with the Africans who were torn from the Motherland and cramped in holds of ships on the Middle Passage from Africa to the Americas. I heard them chant: Kum ba ya, kum by ya."
(At the bottom of the page: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs in the kingdom of heaven.")

"I was with Harriet Tubman when she fled slavery. As she led others out of bondage, I was the start guiding them north."
(At the bottom of the page: "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.")

"I was with Marian Anderson when she sang spirituals on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial after the Daughters of the American Revolution barred her from performing in their concert hall. I was the microphone."
(At the bottom: "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.")

"I was with six-year-old Ruby Bridges when angry whites heckled her as she entered an all-whit elementary school to become its first black student. I held her hand."
("Rejoice and be exceeding glad.")

On the last page:
"I am holy water in the stream of humanity. Drink, bathe, and be free."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Baby No More


Miss E is growing up, too quickly, as veteran parents told me she would. I'm not clinging to her baby clothes and sobbing, but I am missing the sweet smell of a newborn. Because we'll adopt again, I'll get my baby fix now by borrowing someone else's. :) (Thankfully I have a few friends due this summer).


One example of how quickly E is growing up is her ability to do chores. And she doing chores. It started with the dishwasher (she put a fork in one day and the rest is history) and a washcloth in the dryer (and now tossing the clothes in and then playing mercilessly with the light). Then we progressed to dusting. A few weeks ago, I handed E the cloth napkins (we are going green!) and the dinner forks, and as you can see in the photo, we had successful results!


Simple, ordinary days can be beautiful. My daughter reminds me of this as she reaches new heights (literally) and looks at me with her big, brown eyes, waiting for me to cheer and clap and do silly dances in celebration. She's speaking several new words every day. She's not a baby anymore, but she hasn't yet lost that wonder and amazement when something new crosses her path---her own shadow, a cloth napkin and fork, a bug.


Her smile says it all. "See, mom? Life is pretty cool."


I'm honored that she daily invites me to walk this journey with her.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Back Burner

We did it. We became THAT couple. The one who focused all their attention on their child. And thus, the marriage fell by the wayside.

It's hard not to focus on Miss E. She's charming, she's hilarious, she's adorable. Everything she does has us grabbing the camera (Lord knows I spend a lot of money on photo albums, scrapbooking supplies, and photo printing). She's. Just. So. Amazing.

Furthermore, for 14 months before we had Miss E, much of our time together focused on the topic of adoption. We talked about openness, transracial issues, questions, comments, resources, nursery furniture, opinions, thoughts, formula, fears. Oh, and my favorite topic---baby names. (I can see my husband rolling his eyes now. He was such a trooper during those numerous discussions). We were parents, it seemed, long before our baby arrived.

But what about the US that happened before the US + 1?

I really appreciate this recent post by one of my favorite bloggers. She offers readers ways to "nourish" their marriages via cheap or free date ideas.

This post was quite encouraging. And stirred my heart. I knew something needed to change. We needed to "step it up." So we had a talk.

We struggle with the same things other parents do. We both work, we have commitments to our community (church, a local hospital, committees), we have chores (me=indoor, him=outdoor), we have personal desires (me=read yet another adoption or going green book, husband=watch another episode of Swamp Loggers or Pawn Stars), obstacles (me=low or high blood sugar, him=tired after working 8-9 hour day followed by daughter and wife maintenance, followed by a mental and physical crash). At the end of the day, without any dedication, commitment, or effort, we find ourselves sitting like lumps on the couch, eating ice cream, and getting glassy eyed as 10:30 p.m. approaches. At the end of the day, neither of us had any energy left.

It's easy to let that which take for granted move to the back burner. It's a slow fade, a gradual move. And one day you wake up and think, "Wow. What happened? When? How?"

We hit that moment where we both realized that even though we weren't outright unhappy, we were both dissatisfied, and it was time to buck up and do something about it.

There's so much competing for our time and energy, so we would have to commit, firmly, to our time together.

For me personally, it means not grabbing my cell phone every time it rings or texting people back right away. It also means avoiding spending all evening, after my daughter is in bed, at the computer (revising articles, checking Facebook, blogging....). It means putting forth more effort (and certainly a better attitude) toward the little things that might make my husband's day easier or better. This might mean an "I love you" e-mail, preparing a favorite meal, making sure a certain load of needed laundry gets done, etc. What makes me happy is my husband taking care of our daughter for an evening so I can head out with girlfriends or him doing the dishes just because he knows how much I appreciate having a clean kitchen when I get up in the morning.

I believe in the power of small, simple acts.

We discussed how serving our daughter (changing her diaper, playing with her, feeding her, reading her a book, etc.) is meeting HER needs, not OUR needs. When we serve our child, we aren't necessarily serving one another, though the occasional break for either of us, while the other occupies the babe, does provide some relief and relaxation.

We discussed how it's crucial that we treat one another well so that our daughter knows what a healthy, whole, God-minded relationship looks like. We want her to use this as her standard for when she seeks relationships in her life. Negative comments, a snippy tone, or a grumpy face speak volumes.

We discussed what we each need in various areas of our lives...and provided one another with some concrete suggestions. For me, it's a foot rub (darn diabetes has my feet tingling after a long day of chasing a toddler). For him, it's time to sit and veg. Time to just BE.

We both mentioned how we need to feel appreciated. My argument is that my job as a mostly SAHM never ends. I don't have set hours, lunch breaks, etc. I'm on call all the time. My husband goes to work at a demanding and busy job for eight hours a day, and then comes home to more "work" (a family who has needs and craves his attention and care). So really, his job doesn't end either. We both need to take time to appreciate (and verbalize that appreciation) the other. This isn't a competition. This is LIFE full of compromise and cooperation in the hope that the greater good will be met for each of us.

Both of us know we'd be lost without the other. We have so much give and take in our relationship, and our routine seems to flow organically. We've been married for almost seven years, and we dated for five years prior to that. We know one another. And though there is comfort and security and commitment in those twelve years, the downfall is that getting too used to the other can lead to a slippery slope of neglect, lack of motivation, and loss of energy and excitement.

A good marriage takes work---just like everything else in life. But as Dr. Phil (love him!) says, the best parents are the ones who make their marriage a priority. We can't give what we do not have. And we must model for our children that which we want them to pursue and have in their futures. For us, that means love, respect, generosity, unselfishness, compromise, commitment, dedication, and laughter.

What do your choices say about your marriage? What is lacking in the relationship? What can you do, right now, to make your spouse's day better? What are your needs, and how can you best present them to your spouse? What qualities of a good relationship would you like to model for your children?

I hope that each person reading this decides that he or she is worth the effort and time it takes to fight for a good marriage. The decisions you make will trickle down---good or bad. Choose love and relish in the abundant blessings that come with it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rights




Recently, we had the opportunity to visit the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN. The experience was enlightening, disturbing, and emotional. To learn about civil rights in a history book is far different than standing there, breathing it, and taking it into one's mind and heart.




First, the museum is inside the Lorraine Hotel (where Dr. King was assassinated). The simple yet evident memorial, a wreath which hangs near Dr. King's hotel room door, set the tone for the entire experience. Civil rights for black people came at a price---a great price.




We were invited to view a thirty minute film upon entering the museum; however, that was about twenty-nine minutes longer than my toddler's attention span, so we moved on to the exhibits. Unfortunately, cameras are not allowed inside the museum, or I would have been able to share the haunting displays with my readers.




I say haunting for several reasons. One of the first artifacts on the wall was a sign with the words "colored" (arrow going one direction) and "white" (arrow another direction) indicating where people should go to get a drink. (One thing we learned is that the "colored" water fountains were warm while the white people's water fountains were nice and cool). To think that my daughter and I wouldn't have been able to share the same bathroom stall is shocking.




Next on display was a KKK uniform. Pure evil, readers. The uniform's mask was eerie beyond belief----with the eye slits hollow.




As we moved from display to display, I felt embarrassed to be a white person. I was sickened thinking about what people of my same color did to people who were of a darker completion. I felt guilty by racial association.




Another compelling display was the sit-in. There was video playing of sit-ins along with a counter and models sitting at the swivel seats. Hanging nearby were handwritten music and lyric sheets of sit in songs. (After we left the museum, we went to The Arcade, the oldest cafe in the area, and sat alongside interracial couples, white families, black families, etc.---and to think this wasn't allowed fifty-five years ago! And there I shared a glass of water, gasp, with my daughter).




We got to see footage of the march on Washington, protest signs, buses (yep--whole big buses), and so much more.




The museum had a replica of Dr. King's hotel room. Then, right next to it, a museum guide had us look out the window to a building across the street and pointed out a window saying that it's believed that is about where Dr. King's assassin stood when he shot Dr. King.




A second building, across the street, concluded the tour. There we were shown "where we are now" types of displays. I breathed a sigh of relief---reflecting on the fact that my family is safe, my daughter is allowed to be our daughter, because of what others sacrificed for her.




Normally my writing is more fluid, confident, and detailed. However, I find myself at a loss here. The evil that seemingly hung in the air was nearly tangible as we walked from exhibit to exhibit.




But I wouldn't be doing the experience justice if I say that I am very happy we went as a family. I was able to say to my daughter (yes, she's only 18 months), that there were people who did very bad things to other people, but that there were some very strong people who stood up for what was right so that all people could have freedoms and a good life. (She just munched on her cracker and ran off to look out a window).




I don't know exactly how I'll explain to her the history of civil rights as she gets older. But I know I will try my best to be honest, to give honor to those who sacrificed, and above all, to teacher my child to respect all people, even if they are different.

Friday, June 11, 2010

An Inspirational Read (Loss and Love)

Angie Smith, a popular blogger, has released her book I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy which focuses on the life and death of her infant daughter Audrey Caroline and how Audrey has impacted her family and the world.

I've had many friends choose to build their families through adoption as a result of unsuccessful battles with infertility, miscarriage, and disease/disability. The beauty of Angie's book is that she speaks to these friends, as if they are HER friends, with honesty and grace. Angie doesn't discount the losses women have faced, and she offers her readers prayers, encouragement, advice, and inspiration.

Here are a few excerpts from the book:

Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. Psalm 119:49-50 (p.48)

I want you to know, especially if you do not know the Lord, that He is real. This is not a fairy-tale, coping mechanism that I rely on when I need to escape form reality. It is not something I do because it's nice to have a place to dress up for on Sunday mornings. [. . .] It's just that I don't know how people get through things like this without Him. (p. 81)

I know there are people reading who are where I was, and I don't want you to think that you need to have all the answers. your God is perfectly capable of revealing Himself. You don't have to feel like you need to fill the gaps. he has put the gaps there sot hat you will press into Him despite them. (p. 107)

Suddenly, here it is again. The chain of suggestion can begin almost anywhere: a phrase heard in a lecture, an unpainted board on a house, a lamp pole, a stone. Form such innocuous things my imagination winds its sure way to my wound. Everything is charged with he potential of a reminder. There is no forgetting. ~Nicolas Wolterstorff (p. 129)

I also love that Angie has sections in her book for helping children grieve, for how friends of those who have experienced loss can help, and a section of resources. Additionally, Angie's husband, Todd Smith, lead singer of Selah, a Christian band, contributes a chapter from his point of view. Click here to watch the music video to I Will Carry You: Audrey's Song. (Keep your tissues handy! Warning: The video contains sensitive photographs.)

The beauty of this book is that even though it focuses on Angie's perspective and her loss of Audrey, Angie maintains her strong faith in God and addresses the "sacred dance of grief and joy" in a way that pertains to all people, not just those who have lost a child.

Because many of my readers are adoptive parents, birth parents, and people interested in adoption, I can safely say that many of these readers have experienced deep loss in their lives---either by giving their child to another family, by losing a child through miscarriage, by saying goodbye to the dream of having a biological child, and more. Angie's book helped me gain perspective on how deep this loss is for some of my dear friends. I was blessed to have stumbled upon this read at my local library, and I pray that if you are struggling, have struggled, or know someone who is struggling with the grief that comes from dreams deterred, that you'll give Angie a chance to open your mind and heart.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Color

A bench at the Memphis Botanical Garden.
Our elderly neighbor gave Miss E this "antique" box of Crayons which she loved dumping out.

Two chickens at our local petting zoo (and their Saltines we brought them)


I love seeing colors together that remind me of the beauty of contrast and diversity. These pictures, seemingly random, bring me joy.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

DADA

Miss E watching DADA mow.
Holding hands in the swimming pool.

Exploring a giant tree house at the Memphis Botanical Garden.



Miss E LOVES her dada.






Each day when she hears the garage door go up, she rushes to the entryway to wait for her dada to walk in the door. Then she clings to him, kisses him, and play punches him (WRESTLE TIME!). She giggles. She doesn't quit smiling. She follows him into our bedroom as he changes out of his work clothes, grabbing at his bare legs. She can't get enough.






I'm honored to have a spouse who is not only the kind of husband a girl dreams of (helpful, considerate, hardworking, dedicated) but the kind of dad a child needs. My daughter is blessed to have her dad. And I am blessed watching the two of them interact.






I grew up with an amazing father. He went to work and came straight home---no long hunting trips or golf games all weekend or stops at a bar with the guys after a long day at the office. My father was present in my life, and I truly believe that has had a huge hand in keeping me grounded. I didn't need attention from guys who weren't good for me because when I walked down the stairs in a new dress, it was my father who was waiting for me and telling me I was beautiful, I was the very best, I was a good writer, I was passionate, and I had purpose. My dad is THE best, and now to see that best being played out in my adult life through my husband interacting with our daughter, has my cup running over.






Remember the men in your life as Father's Day approaches. Make a point to compliment them, give them a meaningful gift or card or moment (homemade dinner, for example). Take a moment to thank God for His careful placement of those men in the lives of women and precious children.
 
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