Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Ministry of Mothering

Hey Peeps—

People often ask me, in a roundabout way, if I feel the same way about my adopted kids as I do about my biological kids.  I can't blame them for asking.  Sometimes, just to mess with them, I explain that we give the adopted kids more chores on Saturday, and that the biological kids get larger portions of dessert.  This always ends with an uncomfortable moment of silence, averted eyes, and instant regret on my part.  Sort of like right now. 

Anyway,  the most recent addition to our family came at 2 years old, about 6 months ago.  At this point we are still "foster" parents, but the minute she entered our home, we have known she is our daughter.   I don't want to ever pretend that the unfolding story is easy, but it is a miracle.   From day one, we hoped and prayed that she would bond and attach to us.  This is a long process, and while we see so much growth, we know we have much work ahead.   We are always questioning if we are doing everything we can to ensure our Little Sass knows through and through that she belongs.   

Today I had that moment when I knew I loved her as much as any of my children.  We were sitting waiting for Will, when a little girl, maybe 2 years old came running up to Little Sass.  Little Sass thought it was her lucky day and that she was going to have a new bestie!  She held her arms out to hug the kindred stranger and as the little girl approached, she put her arms out directly in front of her, and pushed Little Sass square in the chest, causing her to fall to the ground.  I was there in an instant, but not before the little girl grabbed my baby on the arms and started pinching. 

Oh my goodness the feelings of rage that I stifled…

Then the mother decided to come over with her little girl to make things right.  I was thinking, "Okay, she's doing the right thing.  Let her help her daughter make this a teachable moment.  Don't go crazy and say things that you will regret.  Seriously, Lisa.  Lock it down".  Little Sass sat as close to me as she possibly could, leery of the intentions of her new best friend.  The little girl came right up to us with her mother, and hit my daughter.  Then she pinched her arms.  At that point I was done.  D.O.N.E.  I put my hands out to block the little monster child and her mother said, "Okay, I think we'll go away now".   There was not even an apology.  Nor was there any acknowledgement that she is raising a strong willed child who sometimes makes bad choices.  Nothing.  Just walked off and left us both feeling completely shocked at the previous couple of minutes.

Two other parents were standing nearby and looked on in amazement, which made me feel a little less crazy.  We all laughed that awkward sort of,  "Ha ha, can you believe that?  Boy I sure didn't see that coming".  In reality, I wanted to walk over to the lady and say something to the effect of, "Hey I get it.  I am raising a strong willed child too, but rather than pretend she is perfect, I actually work very hard to discipline her with love and healthy boundaries.".  And then in my imaginary confrontation I accidentally call her a jerk.  But I feel bad about even imagining that. 

I'm so flawed.  Right about the time I got all high and mighty about how Little Sass was treated, she decided to hate the dinner I served her.  Her rejection was akin to the previous scene of a little girl putting both arms up to knock over everything in her path.  We went on to battle for about an hour, she and I, while the other children watched in amazement at the strength of wills.  At one point, I thanked them all for being compliant toddlers, but did say, even with all Little Sass is putting me through, her strong spirit and challenging times are part of who God has made her to be.  

By the end of our battle, she was crying in my arms, head on my chest, with quite a bit of snot pouring out on my white shirt.  She knew she was loved and her needs would be met.  But she also verbalized her apologies.  I may be na├»ve, but I think she even learned a lesson.  However don't hold me to that tomorrow night when I offer quinoa with chicken again. 

Isn't it ironic it takes your very own child to teach you that judging others might not be such a good idea?  Who knows what that mom was dealing with today, when her child acted out on Little Sass.  Maybe she was at her wits end, just like I was after dinner tonight.  Maybe she feels alone and doesn't have any support.  Maybe she feels like it’s a lost cause.  Maybe she was just simply embarrassed.  Whatever it was doesn't even matter now.  The take away for me today was how happy I felt about how protective and angry I felt when my little girl was bullied.  That mother instinct was as real today as it ever has been, and I am so grateful to be able to not just SAY I love her.  But I KNOW I love her. 

Love means you take action to protect.  Love is putting someone else's needs before your own.  Love is sacrifice.  Love is laying down your own life for another.  Some times love really hurts.  What a gift to be called to relinquish this kind of love.  I am humbled by this job title, "Mom" because there has been nothing else on the earth that could teach me as much as it has.  Oddly it's a ministry of sorts, but one that leaves me the blessed, the transformed, the forgiven, and always covered in grace. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tough Mudder...God's grace!

Hey Peeps—

I hate when I have to wear long underwear before September 15th.  I also hate using my furnace one day, and then AC the next.  You would think as a native of Colorado I would have come to terms with all this.  I guess that's how we roll here in the Centennial State, is it not?

Just curious, have you ever heard of The Tough Mudder?   It's a crazy 11 mile race, full of obstacles meant to make you weep like a tiny helpless baby.  All proceeds go to the Wounded Warrior Project, and has contributed over 6 million dollars, according to  The values of the Tough Mudder focus on conquering challenges, and teamwork, not just running a race getting and achieving a new PR.

For some odd reason, Billy got it in his head to try and run the Mudder.  Our good friend Grace had already done one a couple years ago, so Billy enlisted she and Josh to join him in the "fun".  I knew I would not be running alongside them in the actual race, but I wasn’t' about to let Billy go and get in shape without me. 

For several months leading up to the Mudder, we trained in a variety of ways…swimming, running, lifting weights, hiking, and best of all… running the stairs.  Billy, Grace, Josh, and I decided the stairs would be a great way to get in shape.  Three of us regretted our decision the first time we ran the stairs with Grace.  If you have ever worked out with my friend Grace, you know what I'm talking about.  The woman is strong, able, determined, and not easily startled.  She could literally carry another adult up and down the Grand Canyon on her back if she wanted to.  So once we hit the stairs with Grace, we knew it was time to get serious.  She had us skipping stairs, running them sideways, doing squats on them, near, them, and over them.  One time she caught Billy and Josh quoting funny movie lines, so she made them run up backwards, blindfolded, while holding hands.  By the end of August all four of us were skilled stair runners, blowing away all the other pseudo athletes in their fancy active gear, as we glistened by them like young gazelles prancing across the African Savannah.  (This is all mostly lies, but we did manage to get in shape, thanks to Grace).

Finally the big day was almost here!  We dropped 3 of the 4 kids off at friends, and made our way up the mountain with Little Miss Sassy Pants in the backseat.  I drove as Billy tried to sleep in order to prepare for the big race less than 24 hours away.  Little Sass took this time to sing, kick the back of my seat, and scream for us to acknowledge her.  Needless to say, his nap turned into a lengthy discussion entitled, "Compliancy in a 2 year old: Darn near impossible".

Hey, did you know Snowmass is five hours from Denver?  We sure didn't.  But boy after driving 5 hours, it makes you appreciate the mountains right on the edge of town.  Grace and Josh arrived at the same time, and we all stumbled around in the dark trying to find our condo.  Grace used her key in the wrong door, and after some large, possibly inebriated men opened the door to four road weary travelers, and one perky 2 year old, they decided to not kill us, but rather redirected us to our door.  Finally we arrived, and although we were excited, we hit the hay as our racers were starting in one of the first heats.

The next morning all 3 of them were keyed up and ready to go. They had coordinated shirts, and gloves for all the obstacles their bodies were about to endure.  Billy's knees were wrapped and ready to go.  They ate just enough to not throw up, and made their way down the hill to Snowmass Village while Little Sass and I took our time getting down to the spectator section to take it all in. 

The Tough Mudder race was completely packed.  Thousands of people were there to  participate.  Little Sass and I found a map and went to the first obstacle where we could observe the racers.  It was called, "Balls to the Walls".  We sat there for an hour watching people scramble up a rope and over a wall.  Some had mad skills, and some needed help from their team.  We got restless there so we made our way to the gondola to another event and with hopes to spot our crew.  Side note:  have you ever tried to take a 2 year old in a jogging stroller up a mountain?  You should.  It's super fun.

As Little Sass and I got off the gondola, I prayed that we could just enjoy the day, whether or not we ever saw Billy, Grace, and Josh.  I'd wanted to see them so much, but there were so many people, and I was dealing with a toddler who happens to be very much in touch with her superego.   Right about the time I'd resigned myself to not seeing them, we spotted our racers!  They were still upright, cheerful, and none of them were on a stretcher.  They were halfway done and in great spirits!  We watched them climb over and under huge tubes, called "Ram's Horn".  When they made their way up the mountainside, we headed to "Everest"— a warped wall about 15 feet high meant to destroy all knee ligaments and twist unsupported ankles.  We saw several folks call for a medic, and others sprinted up as if they'd been running up warped walls in their sleep.  Little Sass decided it was boring so we headed down the hill to the last event, "Electroshock Therapy".  As you can imagine, it was entertaining.  We saw quite a few folks fall over each other, as the electrical shocks ran through their fatigued bodies.  Much to my delight, our bone-tired, and somewhat drooping racers showed up at the finish line.  Little Sass watched her dad run through a field of electrodes like a real man, and stood to receive his headband that declared him a "Tough Mudder".  Billy, Grace, and Josh had done it!  All three were exhausted but elated to be done.  I was so excited to see them alive, and loved hearing all the details of their day from climbing over muddy walls, to jumping into ice water (aka "the Arctic Enema").  Billy said it was one of the happiest days of his life.  I was so proud that he'd finished, and so happy that it was such a fun experience with our friends. 

It was an amazing experience, and Billy has set the goal to conquer it again!  For me, it was more than just a fun time away with friends.  I enjoyed God's amazing creation, my one on one time with Little Sass, and relished the time to be present in the moment.   Like my friend Chris said today in church, our lives are saturated with grace.  Tomorrow might not be as exciting as yesterday, but nonetheless, we are blessed by grace.  Saved by grace.  Evidence of grace.  And God is always good.