Archive | hardship

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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a week since molly

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(sigh)

A week ago today, our beloved poodle breathed her last. It was not. a. good. day.

She was fifteen, we had had her since I was seven. It was an agonizing little funeral. I still cannot really write about it, but I will say that our family and friends have been so sweet and sensitive about our loss and we appreciate that very much. Also, God orchestrated things to be as good as they can be on this broken earth. We were almost all home when she went, Joey was able to get off of work early (when he’s usually swamped) to be with us and she never seemed to be in pain. Still, WE are in pain. Just today, I cried my eyes out driving to the grocery store. She was a dog…but she was not a dog.

So, let’s get back to the part where I’m crying my eyes out. My only hope was that some handsome guy would see me and show some concern/marry me, but alas. I wiped my eyes with my palms like a two-year-old, pulled my cap over my face and jumped out of the suburban. There were groceries to be purchased. Before going in, I remembered to walk around to the back door and slam the sliding seat (you know the one?) back into it’s place. My tearful journey had only been made more nauseating by the fact that at every red light and stop sign, the gigantic middle seat had slammed into the front seats with the force of a torpedo. I gently pulled it forward and then, with all my might, taught it a lesson. I bet that’s the last time that seat interrupts my snotty blubber-fests.

Sloshing through the parking lot, I commandeered a basket and then did my shopping. People were probably friendly, but I don’t remember. I was too busy having a crummy day.

Through the remainder of the day I parked diagonally, squirted soap up my arm, spilled several things, forgot how to do laundry, picked dandruff out of my hair, filled out an application incorrectly, served myself a rotten potato, said angry words to my internet connection, ate potato chips and thought about what I a failure I am. If there were check lists for crummy days, I would be an over-achiever.

It had been a week since Molly died, over a month since Meggie left, a day since I found out a didn’t get the job. Wah.

And then my little sister bought me a ticket to see The Vespers in concert. And a children’s book arrived in the mail. And I ate a Creme Saver. And read my Bible. And prayed. And  listened to music. And (finally) put my laundry away. Maybe this day was redeemable after all.

As I was making my chocolate milk to go along with my peanut butter and jelly sandwich (no cooking today) my older siblings discovered the pile of mail that has been discarded disinterestedly on the entry way table. And there’s a letter. And it’s from Meggie.

We have never received a letter from her before. We had heard nothing from her. And then this-a letter on purple paper! “I love femaly” she writes. And “happy valentine’s day” and “xoxo.” There’s a picture of each of us with our names and then a tiny little picture of herself. The littlest one with the big dreams of coming home to a “femaly” someday.

Though the adoption process is barely moving forward at all, we still hope to see her this summer. God orchestrates everything, even on this broken earth. Come home soon, Meggie. That will redeem every crummy day.

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dear meggie

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Dear Meggie,

I am sorry that you’ve never known what it is to have an older sister. Mothers and fathers and grandparents may have failed you in your short nine years, but an older sister never even got a chance to do that. I’m sorry that you’ve never been in on the tradition of watching Little Women when it gets cold or passing each other notes between our rooms or secret codes for knocking on the door. I’m sorry that there haven’t been sororal piggy-back rides or late night talks or tickle fights. I’m sorry that you’ve been so solitary while we’ve been so together.

Can you believe that I already miss you and you’re just in the next room? It’s after midnight, but I bet you’re still listening to my keys clacking. I just tucked you into your covers to next to Jubilee (tonight is the kind of night that calls for doubling up next to someone warm) and you asked me to sing for you. Meggie, a big sister is someone who sings you lullabies on nights when Mommy is crying. We miss you already.

You’ve been through more in the past nine years than I might go through in my whole life, yet I see you smiling through the tears. I see you forgiving and learning to hold your own temper. I see you coping like a pro. You astound me.

You have this tender heart and strong moral compass and I wonder who in the world ever pointed you North in your life? Every Christmas when you get a year older, you’ve looked back on a year of chaos and turmoil. Role models seem to be scarce and yet your heart is so strong. You are something I never thought I’d see and you’ve singlehandedly restored my hope in humanity.

I sometimes wish you were born into my family and I could’ve known you and loved you your whole life, but then you wouldn’t be Meggie. And we wouldn’t be us. I wish I could see the front of this embroidery work the Lord is stitching, because from under here, everything looks like chance and loose ends. From under here I cannot fathom why you would need to go through what you have, but God knows.

I told you today while we both cried at the kitchen table that someday we’ll look back and hardly be able to remember this sad time. Before I know it, you’ll be a lovely American lady and I will wrack my brain for the feeling of your soft skin and the smell of your shiny hair. I want us both to remember that you call your freckles “sparkles” and say that they’re a gift from the sun who loves you. You have a little up-turned nose and clear hazel eyes and the shiniest hair I ever saw. You have little square hands and feet and a gap between your two front teeth that makes you smile with your mouth closed, but we sometimes catch your real smile and it’s electric. Oh, how we love you.

I feel fear grip my heart because I think I’m about to push fast-forward on the best movie I’ve ever watched and next time I see you, the credits will be rolling on your childhood. I pray it’s not long until you’re here for good, part of the family, safe.

Stay small, Meggie. Stay small and sweet and soft. Stay silly and bright and brave. Be just like this when you come  home and be just like this the rest of your life, because I think you’re positively perfect just the way you are.

Tomorrow you and Mommy and Daddy will fly out. You will spend one more night together in Chicago and then you’re off. Across the sea, the miles, the barrier between us. You’ll be back to the orphanage and the boarding school, life without a family. That’s what feels like sand paper going down my throat. You could’ve lived your whole life without knowing the love we cannot help but lavish on you. How many more Meggies are out there tonight, just praying that someone would stroke their hair and sing “I see the moon” before drifting off to sleep?

I didn’t know I wanted another sister. I didn’t know I could love another the way I love the ones I already had. But oh how I do. You’re like a dream of  a girl from a book. You are the flourish at the end of our family name. I love you, Meggie-Moo. Hurry home.

7

in my father’s footsteps

father's footsteps

“So, will any of your kids follow in your footsteps? Will any of them be doctors?” Several people have posed the question over the years. “Not if I can help it.” My dad responds.

As a matter of fact, my dad has been so open about the pitfalls of becoming a medical doctor that he has talked many students out of going to medical school (so many, in fact, that there was a Facebook group for all of the converts!) Many nurses and physicians’s assistants do what they do because my dad convinced them that becoming a doctor isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Obviously, the world needs doctors, just as the world needs fighter pilots and miners and astronauts, but none of us have turned out to be any of those either. My dad works as an emergency room physician in a busy college town and he is amazing at what he does. His schedule is never the same, sometimes days, sometimes nights, without so much as a cubicle to take a break in. He has to be a leader, a thinker, a calm presence at all times to perform well. He sets bones and prescribes medicine and comes home sore from CPR and yes, he has to watch people die. He has to tell parents that their child didn’t make it. He stops and prays with the family and sometimes, around the advent wreath, we all cry as he tells the story.

Because yes, your doctor goes home and cries. He goes home and kisses his wife and prays with his kids and falls asleep wondering if he should have done anything differently. He spends his days with runny noses and contagious disease, his nights with drunks and suicide victims. He restarts hearts, sews up wounds and delivers babies in the ambulance bay. His job is anything but easy.

Like I said, none of his kids will be MDs, and yet we do follow in his footsteps. You see, I might have a little more medical knowledge than the next girl, but the main thing my dad taught me was to love Jesus and to depend on Him at all times. God is often called “The Great Physician.” Jesus said he came to heal the sick. These days I hear people calling the church a hospital. We are the church and we make house calls.

Just like my dad gets weary and we all wish he could catch a break or make a breakthrough that would allow him to do something else before he does break, my siblings and I come home and we are weary. We wonder how many more of our friends we will talk through divorce? How many more friends will leave the faith? How many more times we’ll sit at Starbucks and listen someone say that they just can’t hold on any longer?

We have no briefcase, no scrubs, no diploma on the wall, and yet God continually sends us to the sick and needy. He continually puts the medicine in our hands and says, “Go and minister.”

I think of an ordinary day and my older sister is texting the single mom and my brother is on the phone with a friend whose marriage is on the fritz, my little siblings are all praying at dinner for the man in the coma and I’m penning letters to the lost and lonely. Where was the sign up sheet? Are we qualified for this job? Will we be paid?

When I see what my dad does, day after day, I think he doesn’t get paid nearly enough. And I think the same about anyone who does their job to the glory of God. We put in more than we’ll get out on this earth. Going the extra mile can make you sweat and being somebody’s only friend can exhaust you and praying with the dying can drain you, but it can also come back around and bless you. God works in mysterious ways, they say. Man, that’s true.

The stuff we never would’ve signed up for had there been a sign up sheet, the stuff we never would’ve felt qualified for had our calling been on the phone, the stuff no amount of money could ever pay for, it is the most valuable kind of work. You don’t get paid for it because you can’t get paid for it. There is no method of payment for compassion. No fund or grant for empathy. It’s a different line of work that didn’t originate here and you can’t go to school for it. People think you’re weird for doing it and they probably tell you to just stop. You wouldn’t know it by your bank account, but it pays better than the NFL. You pay in your time, your blood, sweat and tears, your comfort and blissful ignorance, but at the end of the day you don’t regret it.

I may be squeamish around blood and disinterested in a degree much less medical school, but I do follow in my father’s footsteps. My dad’s money goes many ways, but he seems okay with that. After all, we can’t take it with us, he says. Our eyes are on a different goal.

3

gather up the fragments

all that is ever ours

This post is the second in a series. Read part one here.

Some of you know better than others that the past couple of years have had some really painful chapters for me. My little sister moved out under less than ideal circumstances, I wrote a book and faced rejection, I lost some dear friends to various enemies and even called off a relationship I planned on keeping forever. The golden light has spilled out of all these holes and I have seen God glorified, my heart has grown wiser and the lose ends are tying new knots, stronger than old ones. And yet, I still cry myself to sleep sometimes, just missing someone (or wondering what I’m missing.) I still have letters I’ll never be able to read again sitting in a box under my bed. I still skip certain songs.

Something that I’ve learned over and over again for the past few, bumpy years is that God wastes absolutely nothing. He wastes nothing and especially not our pain. Pain is perhaps what, in the end, bears the greatest fruit.

I couldn’t agree more with C.S. Lewis who said,

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

 

Isn’t that just the undeniable truth? When do we cry out to the Lord? When we see a beautiful sunset? At most that makes us say a short prayer of praise. When do we cry out to God? When we realize that we can’t live with the pain that only He can relieve.

Sometimes I think that I’ve wasted a lot of my life worrying about petty things, but I find comfort in the fact that I’m not sovereign and that the God who is wastes nothing. I can learn from those years and grow out of them and I can see reasons for everything that has happened to me. I don’t have the option of becoming a victim because I’ve been a willing character in an epic story.
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The term, “gather up the fragments” comes from a story of Jesus’ ministry that has recently mesmerized me. Matthew 14 tells us about Jesus speaking to well over 5,000 people when they become hungry. The disciples urge Him to send them away to find their own food, but He said, “They need not depart.” Bewildered by this, the disciples reminded Jesus that they only had five loaves and two fishes, but He seemed to think that this was enough. Then, as the King James Version reads, “…he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.”
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gather up the fragments
But the miracle is in this line: “And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.”
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God multiplies what we offer to Him and uses it to fill us. I love how John notes:  “When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.”
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Just as God wastes nothing and allows nothing to return void, Jesus refuses to waste  the food that He’s just produced by miracle. At first, it seems kind of odd. After all, if that bread and fish was left on the grass and went bad, couldn’t He just make some more when they needed it? Why doesn’t He just “bless and brake” again?

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Because, for some reason (probably propelled by the same incomprehensible love that sent Him to this earth in the first place,) every creature and part of creation matters to Him. There are lots of babies, but every one is a miracle (as Marilla Cuthbert says) and there are lots of moms and lots of singles and lots of retirees but you are unique to God. You will never be created again. Your children may be like you but they can’t be you. You were handcrafted, one-of-a-kind. I can’t help but think that it would please God if we adopted a similar code for creation. Creation is under our feet, for our use and pleasure, but it is also His creation. My mother just joyfully shared this G.K. Chesterton quote with us at the dinner table:

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

You may look just like your Aunt Monique, but you couldn’t be more unique and when God created you, He thought, “Aha! I have made something completely knew and I love it.” 1 Corinthians 3:22-23 says: “…whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” Because when everything belongs to your father, it comes to you in the form of an inheritance. In a way, all is ours, but in a greater way, all is God’s and so when He says that we must “gather up the fragments that nothing be lost” and when He reminds us that He used knitting needles, not factory machines and conveyer belts to create us, we have a new perspective on creation. It is ours, but it’s also His and we must care for it as if every blade of grass, every cricket, every sunset is unique. To God, it’s personal.

If Jesus ate leftovers and God wastes nothing, if everything is handcrafted and unique to The Creator, perhaps recycling isn’t just for hippies and reducing waste isn’t just for Earth Day. Perhaps that is another reflection of The Gospel and our commitment to our father, just like adoption and fidelity and evangelism and generosity.

As Christians, we never actually lose anything. Like the loaves and the fishes, the small things we offer up are always multiplied by our miracle-working God. Just like the eco-friendly folks say, there is no “away” that we can throw things too. The same goes for this whole universe. When we give something to God, it is truly safe. Amy Carmichael said,

“All that is ever ours is ours forever.”

When Jesus was anointed at Bethany, His disciples had a pretty good point. After all, the expensive perfume in the woman’s alabaster case could never be sopped up again and that money could have gone to the poor. But was it wasted? Jesus replied:

“Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.  For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

For someone who felt strongly about caring for the poor, Jesus gave this “extravagant” woman high praise, much like he did for His friend Martha who was “wasting” her sister’s precious time.

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays upon us and all of the pressures and stressors of ordinary life, I hope to be like Martha who chose “the one thing that will not be taken from her.”

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