Archive | sisters

choosing to love {already}

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Last Wednesday, my sister and her husband took my family and I completely by surprise and announced that they’re expecting their first child this summer! I was astonished that I hadn’t already caught on, seeing as they currently live with us and “sister vibes” are totally scientific. The family erupted in tears of joy, shouts of excitement, hugs and questions. It was a truly wonderful day.

I can hardly express how excited I am! For one thing, I get to become an aunt. It’s not every day you get a new title. I can’t wait to dote on a baby in our own family! I don’t remember any of  my siblings’ births (weird, right?) so I’m still intrigued by the process. I am also thrilled for the expectant parents who have wanted to start a family for a while now. When the baby is born, four people will become grandparents. Three people will become uncles and five people will become aunts. Two people will become parents. Wow.

It feels kind of crazy to already love the baby so much. I mean, Caitlin’s not even showing yet. Though I know the baby’s DNA is already determined, we don’t yet know it’s sex. We don’t know if he or she will have brown hair or blond…or red! We don’t know much about the baby at all. And yet I love it.

Funny thing is, there’s only one thing we can really know about Wee One: we will all love it and we will love it until it hurts. And he or she will hurt us. Will will call him or her “perfect,” but they will make mistakes. We talk about spoiling and coddling the baby-and we will!-but the baby will at some point fall and scrape a knee or bust a lip or make a choice that makes us cringe. We know that, and yet we choose to love. Already.

This morning while I read in The Book of James, something triggered a thought about an old friend. It hurts my heart to remember her because I thought I’d have her forever, but I don’t. I sometimes wonder if there a lot of people I was supposed to grieve for a long time ago, but moved on instead. Why do we have to lose people? Why do we all hurt each other so much? I ask God. For a moment, I don’t ever want to introduce myself to someone again. That could lead to a relationship and a relationship could lead to more pain.

There was the baby who was meant to be my sister and was taken way too early. My friend’s little one who never left the hospital. The painful memories and awful possibilities are endless. However, there is no doubt in my mind that love is worth it. That’s all I came here to say today. Whether your loving a person who hasn’t even been born or a child who was born to someone else and now needs you to parent them, LOVE. Whether it’s your spouse who isn’t quite as charming as the day you wed or the sister whose words sting worse than the words of an enemy ever could, LOVE. Whether they’re in a womb at 8 weeks old or on their deathbed at 104, today is a great day to start loving and never stopping.

That’s what God does for us, right? Loves us starting before time, knowing how much we will hurt Him, and prepares a place in eternity to continue loving, loving, loving us.

Come on, Wee One! We’re all ready to welcome you with open arms, no matter what you look like, no matter what you do. See you this summer!

-Aunt Everly

 

 

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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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a shift to september

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photo credit: jeweliet.com

Well! After a long wait, change has finally graced us with her presence. As the first flurries of snow fall on the stone streets of Riga, beauty berries appear on the cusp of our woods here at Eyrie Park. A new semester begins and college students flood back into town, children pose for back-to-school photos for Instagram and teachers gird up their loins for another year of backbreaking, rewarding toil.

This morning, my parents and Jeweliet settled into their new apartment and unpacked their month’s worth of necessities. They’re asleep right now, as I type in this sunny bedroom filled with the sound of dinner being prepared. In a couple of days, they’ll appear before court and received custody of Meggie and see her and squeeze her and start to love her in a way we love things we’re never going to lose.

Meanwhile, my oldest brother heads back to Dallas where he’s recently moved in hopes of starting a business with some friends, and brothers #2 and #3 drop their duffle bags in Mema and Papa’s south Houston living room and make themselves comfortable. If you’re counting, that leaves me with the married sister, the brother-in-law and the loud and lovely Jubilee, age eleven. This has got to be the weirdest September ever.

But it’s also wonderful, because things are actually progressing. We’re following a bend in the river, hopeful and trusting and a bit afraid.

I always feel a deep sadness when I realize Summer is slipping through my grasp, because I can never feel I’ve had enough of sunshine, freckles, jumping into the deep end, cicada songs and the leisure of long, long days. Summer in Texas is so hot, many people don’t believe they could stand it and even I complain about the heat from time to time, and yet I adore it. It’s homey and it makes me feel alive and adventurous to squint and breathe in fresh steam.

I always mourn Summer, and yet September has her own magic. September is like a grandmother you’ve always known, but didn’t know was an undefeated basketball champion in 1944. Around here, September is much like Summer. Hot, humid and still as a gargoyle, but it isn’t quite. It is quite anything. Not Summer, not Autumn, just it’s own, mysterious middle-month. September helps ease into the end of the year, whispering, “Don’t forget, Christmas is coming! And–before you know it? A new year.”

September is the mother who holds your hand on the sidewalk all the way up to the big door and tells you to obey your teacher and have fun. It’s a transitional month, a gentle month, an important month.

The sun dangles golden in my windowpane, Jubilee’s voice reverberating through my sliding door with calls for the wandering pup. The married couple works culinary magic and makes plans for their third anniversary. Brothers work and play and text and call and somewhere in Eastern Europe, Meggie lies her head not far from her new “mama” and “tētis” and her wait is nearly over.

Thank you, God, for good changes.

We are a bit excited...

We are a bit excited…

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