Archive | children

how deep the father’s love

sisters forever

I have been trying to write this post for more than an hour, but I am continually interrupted. I keep finding myself singing the song “Little Girls” from Annie. Whenever I walk into my room, I either find small shoes spread across my room, or that my own shoes have been marched to a new location. Fuzzy ponytail holders and geography books and neon fake nails turn up everywhere. I’ve been invaded.

In the past hour, Jubilee and Meggie have been “sitting” on my bed squealing and talking about boys, diamond rings, marriage, babies with cheeks like squirrels, and how old everyone will be when everyone else reaches these milestones. Meggie is set on having at least one baby as brown as Jubilee. Jubilee wants “chocolate milk babies” (biracial!) and they both agree on the squirrel cheeks. Just now, from their room, I heard Meggie saying her prayers with my parents. She prayed I find a job and get a boyfriend soon, because I am so old. (Update—I did get a job! No news on a boyfriend, yet.)

It feels somewhat ethereal to have Meggie’s face so close to mine as I sit in my usual spot on the bed, laptop open and pillows strewn about. She is here, in moving, living action. She is Meggie and she is home. She is Meggie and she is ours. It’s like a little miracle every time she smiles.

When we lived in Haiti, there was a time I wanted us to all be home together so badly, it was like looking forward to heaven. I cannot help but relate adoption to our true homecoming once again. It feels as if all is right in the world when I see Jubilee and Meggie playing together and hear them giggling down the hall. It seems like this is the happily ever after, the climax, the victorious justice that triumphs over all the pain in her early life and in the long wait. There are rough moments, and the good moments are often the product of lots of hard, loving work, and yet it amazes me to see two girls adopted from opposite sides of the globe, mesh together in sisterly affection. That is the product of God’s grace!

I know this is only the beginning of a new chapter for my family, but I’m so very happy in this moment that it’s hard to see beyond it. Watching Meggie interact with my dad has had me thinking about this especially. The love of a father is something every little girl should have, but the joy is still brand new for her. Their sweet relationship has taught me a lot about our heavenly father’s love for us. The Bible call us God’s adopted children and that analogy works in so many ways…

1. He chooses us

God the Father “chose us before the foundation of the world” and “predestined us for adoption” (Ephesians 1:4-5.) That means that before we were born, He had a plan and began reaching for us. It’s like a prospective parent waiting to hear from the agency. When the baby’s born, the parents are already putting the finishing touches on the nursery. He loved you before you knew Him. When parents are blessed with biological children, we somehow trust God to make the child turn out “alright” and expect him or her to fit into her family perfectly. When you adopt, you’re saying, “this child comes with baggage, pain, a sad story, but I’m choosing all of that, I’m choosing her.” That’s how God’s love works.

2. He seeks us and waits for us

When my parents adopted four of my siblings from Haiti, they spent three years working tirelessly on paperwork, traveling back and forth countless times, bonding and then having to part, and finally moving down there to run the orphanage and complete the adoptions by hand after everything had crumbled beneath our feet. That’s a passionate pursuit if I ever heard of one. I was so afraid the babies wouldn’t remember us when they finally came home, wouldn’t speak English anymore. I was afraid our love would never be reciprocated. God often has to wait for us with just as few reassuring gestures from us. The pain of our wait was severe. The stress and burden of the work was immense. The result was worthwhile.

3. He sacrifices for us

Do you know what an adoption costs? I cannot begin to fathom the amount of my dad’s earnings that have gone into adoption related travel, fees, paperwork, agencies and then the provision for the children once they come home. Adoption can be financially expensive, but the emotional expense is greater. Have you ever dropped of your own child at an orphanage when you would gladly care for them yourself? It’s not easy.  Have you ever received an email saying your little girl was crying herself to sleep every night and wondering if you’d ever come back? If waiting families ever feel alone in this, they can surely look to Jesus. “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize” (Hebrews 4:15.) Did not God send His own son into a dangerous, hateful world to be abused and laughed at and murdered? Does He not see His children aimlessly wandering every day, like so many orphans? His arms are open so wide, and we run to other “parents.” He would do anything for you. He did everything for you. He paid the cost, He’s just waiting for us to come home.

4. He adores us

How deep the father’s love! Or grandfather’s, for that matter. I’m going to switch allegories for a moment and speak about my grandfather. This would definitely apply to my dad, who is head-over-heels for Meggie, but you probably knew that already. Did you know that my mom’s dad, Papa, is equally smitten? This man who was born in a time when adoption was almost unheard of and always shameful, when ethnicities were separated by peaceful but very defined lines, opened his heart up to my little siblings like almost no one else has. He loves my adoptive brothers and sisters just like he loves me, and that’s always been a lot. He inspires me by lying down the picture of his descendants he imagined long ago and embracing a new, colorful version of our family. I would imagine he had to swallow some pride in the beginning, but now he proudly shows photos of his “grand babies” to his brothers and buddies. Meggie and my other siblings couldn’t ask for more than a grandfather who shamelessly adores them. What a Godly example he is. “As the father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love.” John 15:19

5. He raises us

We get very focused on the homecoming of our new kiddos, and for good reason. That’s a huge moment, changing the trajectory of our lives forever. Poor Meggie, who is highly intuitive for her age, went through every emotion on the spectrum as she flew home, bawling and laughing in one moment. Homecomings are huge for adopted kids, but it’s really just the beginning. The “gotcha day” is Day One of their new life. We’ve made the orphan a son or daughter and now the real work begins, bringing them up to be healthy, strong adults. As for you and me? God will bring His good work in us to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6.)

6. He keeps us close

When we think of death, we think of taking last breaths and being buried, but when the Bible talks about death, it is referring to a tragic separation not from our bodies, but from our Father. When you take your last breath, you’re actually more alive than ever. You’re back to perfect harmony with God, closer than you have ever been. At last in your true home with your true family! God’s whole plan (yes–I mean the whole grand thing,) is about keeping YOU close to HIM. Everything He does or allows to be done in your life is for this purpose. Your creation and adoption, the pursuit and sacrifice–all of this is spurned on by a deep and passionate love of your Father. He can’t wait to right the wrongs and take you into His arms at last. Picture the emotional airport moment times a billion.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

I set my computer aside and peek into girls’ room. My parents are sitting on the edge of their beds, saying prayers. My dad gives Meggie a kiss and a squeeze and tucks the quilt around her shoulders. She’ll have no trouble drifting off to sleep, warm, safe and loved.

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of ladies and flower girls

My little sister Jubilee is eleven years and she loves all things old fashioned. She obsesses over the Little House on the Prairie books, dresses up in a colonial maid’s costume to do her chores and love-love-loves classic musicals. Her favorite actress is Leslie Caron, and who can blame her? Leslie was (and is) elegant, talented and endearing. We also adore the accent, of course.

Since my mother and sisters and I have always had an affinity for old movies ourselves, we are constantly introducing her to “new” films that peak her interest. We’ve watched her light up in the glow of An American in Paris and The Sound of Music. Two movies she had never seen, however, were Gigi and the very famous, My Fair Lady. Jubilee was starting to get upset when she heard her younger friends quote the movies. Why couldn’t she watch them? Did they have bad words? She insisted on knowing.

Leslie_Caron-publicity

Well, yes, actually. IMDB tells us that there are twenty-six uses of mild expletives in My Fair Lady, but no, that’s not why I always put my foot down when she asked to watch it. I personally prevented her from watching those two movies (which we had on DVD in our own cabinet) because I wanted to wait until she was old enough to understand my disclaimers.

Yes, even movies from the 50’s and 60’s need disclaimers sometimes, and especially when it comes to this issue. The issue of the portrayal of women may seem petty or whiny to some. Maybe it sounds like I’m trying to be political or popular. It’s nothing of the sort. The more I think about it, the more I read, the more I simply practice paying attention, the more appalled I am at the media’s portrayal of The Female and the more convinced I am that it affects nearly everything we do.

For example, the classic broadway-turned-movie starring the lovely Audrey Hepburn, My Fair Lady, is the tale of Eliza Dolittle; a poor, illegitimate English girl who survives by selling violets in the square, and is picked up by a cold and arrogant Mr. Higgins who prides himself in being a bachelor sociolinguist. From day one he is rude, degrading, disrespectful, harsh and heartless toward Eliza, who in turn is hateful toward him. However, as movies tend to go, she begins to fall in love with him in a Stockholm Syndrome sort of way. As part of an experimental bet, Higgins trains Eliza to walk, act, dress and-most importantly-speak like an upper-class Englishwoman. In the end (spoiler alert!) she comes running back to him and, in a final act of submission, allows him to demand she bring him her slippers. After all, she loves him, and we can stretch our imaginations enough to believe that, deep down, he loves her too.

audrey hepburn-my fair lady

Yes, I’m serious.

The thing is, I love this movie in a way. It has excellent writing, good humor and music and, my favorite actress in the world-Audrey Hepburn. But I don’t like the message one smidge and I let Jubilee know that before I ever opened the DVD case.

We had a similar discussion before watching Gigi, a movie I love even more. Gigi too is being groomed, only this time with the specific intention of becoming mistress to a wealthy, French playboy. Jubilee and I talked about what a “mistress” is and why Gigi may or may not want to become one. We talked about respecting women (women have to respect women too!) and marrying for love and standing up for ourselves. And then we popped the movie in and had a jolly time.

You see, I’m not going to keep Jubilee from watching anything and everything I disagree with, but I’m also not going to accidentally endorse something I am staunchly against. Much to my heart’s delight, Gigi has a wonderful ending. Everyone learns something and an entire family line is altered. Love wins.

In the words of Eliza Dolittle, “The difference in a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated.”

Oh Eliza, how true that is.

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12 Book-Inspired Movies for Girls

12 Book-Inspired Movies for Girls

Any day now, my littlest sister should get her travel dates to come home permanently! I’m super excited to have four younger sisters at last. Having little girls in the house (the youngest being nine and eleven) gives me a very heightened sense when it comes to books and movies. I always have my eye out for a good book to read to or recommend to them and the same goes for movies. Not only do I look for good, clean entertainment, but I also try to read the message of the story before tossing it in their direction. Almost every book and movie has some sort of agenda, good or bad, and I want to know what that agenda is before introducing them to a new philosophy!

Though Meggie is only just learning to read English, Jubilee has become quite the bookworm and, consequently, some of their favorite movies are based on books. I’ve composed a list of twelve book-inspired movies for courageous, kind-hearted, young ladies.

1. Nancy Drew (2007)

Though this may come as quite a blow for diehard Nancy Drew fans, this modernized version of her character and new spin on an old story is cute, funny and inspiring. My sister (now nineteen) definitely “channeled Nancy” for a while after this came out, complete with the super blunt haircut! Nancy is fearless, polite, tenderhearted and definitely true to herself. Of course, she completely disobeys her father, but it kind of turns out to be in the name of the greater good? Don’t think too hard on that.

2. Madeline (1998)

This is a classic in my family! When this came out, we recorded it on a tape and kept it at my grandparents’ house next door. I think it was the only movie we watched there for a couple of years and we still love it! Madeline is closely based on the picture books by Ludwig Behelmans and follows the tale of a young, French orphan (with a British accent) who laughs at the face of danger, makes friends, and goes on a thrilling adventure. Madeline really shows some strong character traits, especially in regard to a dying elderly woman and her bitter husband. This movie is both light and sweet with a good message. Leaves you feeling happy. “I see trees of green, red roses too…”

3. A Little Princess (1995)

Based on the classic Frances Hodgson Burnett book, A Little Princess follows young Sara Crewe who is left in at an upstanding boarding school while her single father fights for the Queen. Though she starts off very wealthy and naive, she learns that there is more to life than pretty things when her father is reported MIA and her funds run out. Sara exhibits a wonderful imagination, a strong sense of friendship and above all else, hope.

4. Ramona and Beezus (2010)

I was very pleasantly surprised by this movie! John Corbett as Mr. Quimby has to be one of my favorite TV/Movie-dads ever. I enjoyed watching this right along with my little siblings. Ramona’s antics are hilarious, horrible and completely well-intended. She deals with feeling left out, trying to get along with an almost-grown up Beezus, “losing” her dear aunt to romance and loving her enemies. Great flick.

5. Kit Kitteredge (2008)

Again-I was surprised by how good this one is. Based on the American Girl series, Kit Kitteredge follows the story of a young, depression-era heroine who wants to be a journalist. The cast of character is marvelous, along with the big names chosen to play them (including Joan Cusack, Julia Ormond, Stanely Tucci, Willow Smith, Colin Mochrie, Wallace Shawn and more!) When times get tough, Mr. Kitteredge goes to Chicago to look for work and Kit and her mom open up their home to boarders. The adventure, mystery and comedy that ensue is worth watching! So adorable.

6. Anne of Green Gables (1985)  (and “The Sequel” 1987)

You saw this coming, didn’t you? The first two movies are sublime. Cheesy? Yes. Sentimental? For sure. Required? Oh yeah. I love the classic series by L. M. Montgomery and the movies do not disappoint. These are great for adolescents (may lose the attention of wee ones) and deal gently with “coming of age” issues. These are so funny and always make me choke up. I want to be Anne.

7. Ella Enchanted (2004)

Anne Hathaway rocks the princess thing, yes? This is a retelling of Cinderella…with a big twist. And a touch of 70’s flair too! Ella is cursed with the inability to disobey, even when she’s told, for example, to “hop along”! I love this movie because it’s still funny now that I’m an adult and ends in a dance party. Not to spoil anything, but Ella bravely breaks her own curse and saves the kingdom. It rocks.

8. National Velvet (1944)

This may be slightly lesser known to today’s young movie watchers, but it’s a classic here. Elizabeth Taylor debuts alongside Mickey Rooney in this adaptation of the classic book. Young Velvet is obsessed with horses and dreams of having one of her own. When, by chance, she wins the frisky troublemaker dubbed “Pie” in a raffle, she is determined to have it race. Rooney plays a tramp with a mysterious past who reluctantly helps Velvet train Pie for the races while her English Channel-swimming mother inspires her to pursue her biggest dreams. You’ll be rooting for Velvet and Pie all the way through!

9. Little Women (1994)

Based on my all-time favorite novel, this movie attempts to tell the story of Louisa May Alcott’s famous March sisters…and does a pretty good job of it! My sisters and I traditionally watch this every winter (AFTER it gets cold) and laugh and cry along with Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. Nothing beats this real-life-inspired story of family, courage, growing up, poverty, dreams, romance, disappointment and perseverance. Enough said.

10. Pollyanna (1960)

First of all, if you haven’t read the book, it was much better than I expected it to be. Well-written and interesting. Of course, the Hayley Mills adaptation is a classic in it’s own right. I haven’t seen this in a long time because we only have it on VHS (or, as Jubilee would say, “fat movie”,) but I’ve always loved it. Pollyanna hasn’t had an easy life, but she has a cheerful disposition that cannot be snuffed out! She goes to show that our attitudes change everything, including the people around us.

11. Felicity (2005)

Another movie based on an American Girl series (and my favorite one, at that,) Felicity is the story of a Revolutionary War-era young patriot. Felicity has an awesome adventure (you will have an urge to sneak out in britches to care for an abused horse after you watch it) and learns so much about friendship, loyalty, selflessness and courage. This film isn’t made in the same quality as Kit Kitteredge, but you’ll get to see a young Shailene Woodley show of her budding acting skills and, if you’re like me, feel your heart burst a little as the credits roll.

12. The Secret Garden (1993)

Another movie based on a Burnett novel, this is a strange and wonderful movie. Maggie Smith plays the uptight head of housekeeping at the gloomy mansion where the recently orphaned Mary is sent to stay in the care of her distant uncle. The unique thing about this story is that Mary does not start of charming and delightful…at all. She is spoiled and lonely and angry and dull. But the transformation of the neglected garden she discovers is reflected in her very heart, and the unusual friendships she develops along the way are magnificent. The feeling of the movie is somewhat reminiscent of Jane Eyre for children. Very English and suspicious. The story itself is wonderful for anyone who will take the time to really listen to it.

That’s 12 Book-Inspired Movies for Girls! What would add to the list?

-Everly

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imagining meggie

 

EP-imagining meggie

When Meggie was here, it was Christmas.

Ah-of course it was! It will feel like Christmas when she returns again. And now, six long months have passed. We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of first laying eyes on her. We are so anxious for this adoption to be done at last. Other families whiz by and we wait, and wait.

It’s hard to imagine Meggie sleeping in an orphanage or boarding school while I go about my day. Children were not meant to sleep in orphanages. I know, because I’ve met her. I couldn’t know just by reading the facts. The facts make orphans sound like some other species, quite un-human. Children sleep in warm beds where parents watch them breathe. Orphans live in orphanages just like foxes live in foxholes.

But Meggie isn’t an orphan, she’s a girl. She has soft skin and shiny hair and an affinity for fake nails. She has a bright mind and a soft heart and wit. She isn’t statistical, she’s delightful. She cannot be an orphan.

And yet, legally, she is. And she will be until this boatload of paperwork is done with. It’s hard to imagine her in an orphanage because she’s Meggie. I have seen many orphans in my day. Some of them give you the idea that they aren’t quite human, I’ll admit. They fall asleep in dog piles of unkempt bedmates, slurp down the same gruel every day without a thought, fight to survive with little sympathy for others and seem to take little note of the outside world. These are children who have been made prisoner. They are worrying about things only parents should be worrying about. They are unable to have a childhood because they are so constantly fighting for survival.

And then there’s Meggie. Perhaps she has never been in danger of starvation or been involved in a civil war, but her life has been a series of sad stories. She really does live in an orphanage in a remote part of Eastern Europe. She really is bussed to a boarding school during the weekdays. She really comes to us wearing a bright red cap, identifying her as one of the many orphans on the plane.

She really does write us the occasional letter or email, the most recent stating that she is crying and needs to come home.

She is not a dog in the pound or a face on a commercial, tricking you into donating your money. She is not the star of a moving music video about some Christian band doing good deeds. She is not a mindless, heartless drone in the shape of a child. Most of all, she is not a number.

It is hard imagining Meggie in an orphanage, because it feels like imagining myself in an orphanage. If, by some tragedy, I had been orphaned and wound up in her country, under her circumstances, that’s how I would feel. I would actually lie in bed and imagine an adoptive family somewhere. I’d cry for my Mommy and pray that she’d come find me. I would enjoy reading and drawing and dress up, just as Meggie does. And I’d know I was an orphan. And I’d hate that.

I do hate it. I hate that Meggie has lost a family and still waits to gain another. I hate that she is at school right now and will go back to the orphanage for another lonely night tomorrow. I hate that she doesn’t know how hard we are trying to get there or why other children are leaving and yet, day after day, we do not come.

I hate that Meggie is one of 153 million children in the world right now who have lost one or both of their parents. As I imagine Meggie in her little bed, with the few belongings to her name, looking just as sweet and precious as the day she left, yet being classified as just another orphan, I try to remind myself: there are millions of “Meggies” out there. Their childhoods are passing quickly under their tired feet. They are walking from one foster home to another, from the boarding school and back to the orphanage. From tragedy to pain to hopeless future.

There is no time to waste. As Meggie anxiously anticipates my parents coming to bring her home, millions of other children only dream of having such a dream.

EP-153 million

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