Saturday, January 28, 2012

Redeeming Not-Perfect

There is so  much more to say on the subject every time I blog.
It doesn't matter what the subject is,
I always feel like I want to put more meat on each idea and serve it up better.

In my last post I used the phrase "Maybe I don't want [a world that is] perfect."
Doesn't that create a whole bunch of weird in your head? 

It does mine.

Looking at my world through God's eyes, maybe I do want perfect.
I want Perfect, but have lived with so much 
Not Perfect 
that I forget Perfect is possible.
I want "my perfect" on my terms.

I know He created Eden and He will recreate Perfection again in the future.
We all ache for "Eden" in some way, I believe 
-even before we know what the ache is.

I know it's my sin that separates me from His Perfection 
and that every single particle on earth has been affected 
by our rejection of God's design.
We're messed up, and we can't fix it.

The unfathomable beauty of the situation 
is that He can fix it.
He takes Not Perfect, and makes it into something else.

We describe His fixing work in a word I love:
God, with His Amazing Grace, (ah, another word that wraps me with His love!)
takes what is broken and makes it not only whole, but perfect.
He buys back the things we've done and had done to us, 
creating the new thing that is Redeemed.

In my own life, the grief of losing a daughter 
has opened my heart to birth parents in a way 
I don't think I would have without the loss: redemption.

 The difficult times when I couldn't deal with the unbelievable pressure 
of raising three children (way back then...!) gives me sympathy for 
the young momma and her rough day: redemption.

A mother who knows she can't raise another child in her already difficult life 
gave that child a family and "a goodly heritage:" redemption.

Any grief, any happiness, any pain, any hard thing
 can be given into His hands, and He does His miracle: redemption.

So, when I look at our world that is truly messed up 
and children who ache for 
What Should Be, not What Is
I have hope.
Sometimes, I ache and am a little confused how I can best impact 
One More.

I want to experience the thing God does when He fixes our messes.
I want to be a part of His plan to take the broken and offer them 
His Love and 
Grace and 

And The Million Dollar Question still stands,
"What else does He want me to do?"

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Million Dollar Question

Dear Ones, I don't do guilt well. 

I truly try to avoid creating it as I blog:
you don't need my good days making your day seem bad, 
and I don't need my bad days making you all smug. 

I make a smashing attempt at keeping guilt out of my wifing.
I am becoming more sensitive about not using guilt in my parenting.
Some of you may disagree, but I don't think I use guilt in my friending, either. 
.at least, not often. at least, not intentionally.

So I guess this preface is just to say, work with me on this one.
Creating action based in guilt, especially stemming from someone else's passion,
 is NOT my agenda.
 And this post may create more Angst than Answers, but it's where I am.

I'm still struggling to find my place regarding this "Issue:"

Why does our world, our country, 
still have children without forever parents?

...and what can I do?

I recognize there are other truly devastating social issues 
that abound in our society,
but, you understand, that this one 
has my heart.

And I don't know what to do.
I can't fix it.

I sit at my almost new Mac near a pantry full of food,
with a bag of clothes nearby that my children are discarding. 
Each child asleep under this roof has more toothbrushes in their 
bathroom drawer than their dental check up would have you believe.
We drive to Grandma's (a mere two doors away) if it's raining,
in the van we can keep filled with gas easier than we can 
keep clean--often because we left our excess behind us.

This post isn't about our wastefulness, or our consumerism. It isn't about whether we love Jesus enough to use fewer squares of toilet paper with each flush so we can send $10 more each year to an under privileged country to put a band-aid on human suffering.
(That's another post...wait, that's someone's whole book...)

I recently read a blogger who stated that in a perfect world, 
                                                  all children would stay with their birth parents. 

That sat very hard on me. for a long time.
I still flinch as I type it.

No, in a perfect world, I'd still have my Beth. Right? 
In a perfect world, Ben and Matthew are still Derschs and Maylin comes home.
In a perfect world, maybe she was not discarded for her imperfection,
  but still, somehow, she's ours.
She is OURS, she is US, so how could there be a different plan and it be perfect?

And in a perfect world, our daughter, Ashley, arrived right on time with a completely whole body
...which means Anne was never born.
Maybe I don't want perfect.
But the blogger was right: God's intention wasn't for children to
grow up without direction, love, and care
from the persons who birthed them.

The sin issues of my world have created a void in our families 
as disease and 
self-centeredness and
a multitude of other issues that are sometimes out of one's control
shift the value of family far off course.

We're broken.
We didn't start here.
And I know I cannot fix it.

It takes very little time to Google search
orphan care
children's homes
parentless children

Try an image search of the same topics,
and see faces instead of numbers.

I can't make it go away.
Taking another Dear One into our arms leaves at least 
147 million

And while I repeat, I don't know the right thing to do,
I'm certain that doing is the right thing.

The book of James lets me know that my Faith will naturally put shoes on, and go do

When I look at my options, I don't want the financial resources
entrusted to our family to feed a child so he or she can be healthy
yet leave him or her still unreached with God's Truth.
I am interested in helping provide physical needs like health care,
and clean water, and school supplies to orphans, but the thought
 of only delaying their Christless death horrifies me.

Humanitarian efforts are, ironically, Human.
I want to join a God Thing.

Hmmm...actually, I want to BE a God Thing.

In being good stewards of God's earthly "treasure," I am seeking ways to impact need
while giving opportunity for planting the seed of the Good News
that Christ died to bring us life.
I  am seeking ways I can impact need while being
the Messenger of Hope with my time and God's love.

I am certain that God doesn't look at the Children of His World and say, "Uhhhm , that one doesn't really need a parent. I think I'll leave that one to fend for himself."
 He does, apparently, allow us that grim possibility. Which child should we leave
without care.
without direction.
without correction.
without hope.
without parents.
without Him.

The options are endless in how we can affect our country's orphans foster children.
The possibilities in helping to bring a kid into her forever family gives me a thrill,
but it isn't the only way I might be called to nurture her, protect her, love her.
The need is staggering when you look at the numbers.
The need is heart-breaking when you look at the faces.
Domestically and internationally (that's "here" and "there" for those of you who hate big words)
I can choose to impact ONE. Just one more.

"If we don't take him, Mom, how will he learn about Jesus?"
Jonathan, in answer to my question whether he thought 
this baby we were being asked to adopt was his brother,  October 2000

"Old parents are better than no parents."
A frequent saying on adoption groups electronic boards.

"You can't bring them all home with you."
Who hasn't heard that one before leaving on a m*sson trip?

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”
         Helen Keller

My question for me (directed at God) is 
"What else does He want me to do?"

A quick disclaimer: This post is in no way preparing you 
for the announcement that we're bringing home another child. I don't see that in our future. 
Believe it or not, I don't even consider this post as an ad specifically for adoption.
I just want to impact one more. 
I'd love for you to drop a line with what He is showing you regarding where You get to join Him in the work He is doing. I'd love a quick word in the comment box to stretch us all into thinking 
outside the box and into His glory...
and a prayer for me as I continue to be open to where and when He says, 
"Jump in, Girl. You won't be perfect, but I will."

Finishing a post about a topic dear to my heart may be my one weakness.

Monday, January 23, 2012

It Really is the Best

Young Love is The Best.

It's full of inexperience longing to become savvy. 
It's vibrant, and dynamic 
and demanding of time and energy. It's new and  inquisitive and sometimes, a little arrogant. 
Young love thinks it has it (mostly) all together. 
It thinks it's the only Love that has really ever truly mattered, anywhere, anytime. 
It flaunts it's newness in exotic colors and knows you are just a little j.e.a.l.o.u.s. 
although you are too kind to admit it.

It really is The Best.

Well, until it's just a little more mature and then Young Love looks like 
a lot of craziness to it's new, more grown-up self. 
Stable and secure, Mature Love appreciates the fervor that came with Young Love, 
but doesn't really miss the roller coaster ride it sometimes produced. 
At least, it doesn't miss it often. 
Maturing Love now thrives in the comfort and familiarity that time has given it. 
It recognizes that the Passion of recklessly diving into Adventures has it's dividends, 
but it prefers 
the gifts of stability, and knowledge
Precarious moments result more often from inattentiveness than misplaced passion, 
but Mature Love choses to feed itself a healthy diet of 
Forgiveness and 
Grace and 
There are good things to be found in predictability, 
and Mature Love abounds with routine.

It really is The Best.

Well, it's the best until something more firm and thoughtful and dependable 
arrives in a somewhat solid package of Old Love. 
It has a few scars and the edges might be fraying a little, but it's 
True to the Core. 
There really isn't any shaking it. 
Old Love has the best of every part of itself wrapped in a slightly wrinkled, ever-so-gently mended garment of colors so intricate and rich that it often denies description.
 It has seen the salty tears of joys too deep to share with those outside itself. 
It's borne the pains of loss and sometimes betrayal, 
but always of healing. It's interesting that healing sometimes hurts.
Old Love knows it has grown far enough outside of itself that it will never be alone, 
even on the hollow nights when it can't touch another. 
It has fewer expectations, 
but it's graced with gifts Young Love never even heard whispering it's name. 

It really is The Best.

I had the great fun to share some thoughts at a Bridal Shower today. In a cross-cultural marriage like we celebrated, it's interesting to realize that 
Healthy Marriages
contain very common requirements regardless of the culture.

I shared what God's Word tells us about Love as a married woman. The first way God instructs us to love our husbands is through obedience: the dreaded "S" word of submission. Honestly, submission to our husband can be (excruciatingly)  difficult for us at times, yet obedience is really the base, the foundation, of what God expects from us. God doesn't promise mutual submission (of hubby to her and her to hubby) although that is His intent. 
He simply instructs the woman to obey. 
Feelings don't necessarily even have to come into the equation: many an arranged marriage through the ages proved that you don't even have to know him, much less like him, to simply obey him. It's the easiest...and the hardest...part of being married.

We most often think of Love as the basis for a successful marriage. Love comes in three intertwined packages in the Bible. 

God's Word celebrates the physical passion that married couples get to enjoy. (Check out the Song of Songs, written by that hot-boy, Solomon.) 

It also beautifies the kindred-spirit type of friendship that a healthy marriage needs. (Often called "brotherly love") 

His Word reveals the love that only God can give us to love selflessly, and completely without expecting a return. (The Greek word, agape, sounds like something Dory would say as she looked for Nemo...just keep swimming...)

If those two things (1. submission and 2. all three parts of love) exist in a marriage, I'd say it's a healthy marriage. It would be an enviable marriage. But like all good, God-things, 
marriage has true satisfaction hidden in one more spot: reverence. 

Reverence? really? Like the fear kind of reverence?
When you chose each other, God chose to place Him over you in a protective position. That knowledge ought to keep your heart sober toward your husband. He gave your man the responsibility for your well-being and your nurturing. God deals with the husband that doesn't fill his role as God designed it. Reverence means we, as wives, need to be serious about keeping our guy in the best possible light as we can. For us funny-girls, it means not making jokes (no matter how gut-splittingly clever the joke may be!) at his expense. For you mean-girls, (see how carefully I worded that to exclude myself? aren't I clever?) it means corking it even when he is stupid in public. or in private. or anywhere. 

I want the Best of all Loves. 
I want my marriage to be 
Our Own Little Love Affair
that makes the kids blush and our parents roll their eyes.

I want to know that he knows that I know He's 
The Best Thing that ever Happened to Me.
Because he is.

Time with Mark might be my one weakness.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Five Months in Derschdom

How could I not write a quick something about 
Life in Derschdom 
when Maylin has been home for 5 months?

I would love to recap the month in some tidy little capsules for you to ingest, and let you get a feel for what life is like in Maylin's world--Our world. 

I had an appreciation tonight, while I wrote the name of each family member in her little pink notebook ("my book. not Beff. Grammaaaaaa, give Beff book. Mama, Maylin book") that Maylin is (and will be) who she is (and will be) because of all those names we were practicing.

I alluded in an earlier post that it is fun to watch the personalities that God put together in our family help Maylin grow in various ways. Tonight I wrote each name and we compared 

M-m-m-m-Maylin and M-m-m-m-Mama. SAME!
B-e-th is like B-e-n. Buh-eh,  Buh-eh, Beth. Buh-eh,  Buh-eh, Ben. SAME!

When the line-up of names have a pattern, like ours do,
it makes for some built-in phonics lessons.
Look carefully for the stocking on the "stairs"
 I confidently bought "our final and forever" Christmas stockings in 2009 
and had them monogrammed:

Conveniently, Mark was okay with giving up his stocking, so the M that used to mean Mark now represents Maylin. Mark and I will get new ones that don't "match-match" the rest.  It's all good.

I must admit in the quietest corners of my Mother-heart, I wondered back in 2006, with the adoption of Matthew, if  one day, we'd have another M coming.  

My hat is off to those who bring home an older child as an "only." I am not sure Maylin or I could handle that kind of pressure. I like her. I love her. I enjoy her. And after a school day alone with her, I quietly breathe a tiny sigh of relief when she heads off to interact with someone other than me.

But there's also a down-side to those taking the pressure off me.
She is like most six year olds: a sponge.
She is learning English at a staggeringly quick pace (of which our friends learning Czech were jealous) and she is beginning to share some Chinese words for items in our daily life and she is 
Americanizing in remarkable ways, including the intonation of 

Taunting a sibling, just like she'd been taught: by that same sibling.

The youngest three are at difficult ages in the maturation process, regardless of any other curve balls they might experience: 6, 9, and 10. The 11 year old doesn't factor into this particular discussion because he has a whole different set of dynamics at work in his relationships with the other Littles. From 9-12 are the years that I have found my kids need more assistance in learning what 
kindness means in day-to-day life. They have gained the independence of having their own extensive interactions, well outside of adult earshot at times, while not having an fully developed sense of self-control when it comes to handling (or avoiding) conflict.

What that looks like for this season in our home is that two of the kids gang up on the third by being unkind, or exclusive, and just plain mean. And tomorrow, the dice are rolled again, and a different two kids turn on the third. What one used as a taunt yesterday is turned back on their tender feelings today...and it isn't nearly as fun to receive as it was to give! 
(See? Your mom was right: "It IS better to give than receive." But not in ways I'd prefer...)

When I'm not over-tired, I actually think it's a great thing that we're at this annoying spot. It helps me know that Maylin's emotional age is pretty close to her chronological age, and that she is right about where my other kids have been developmentally at 6 years old. While I don't enjoy the discomfort of dealing with the issues, it gives me very concrete examples for us to consider how we feel when we are treated "that way." 

A character issue that dove-tails with this is the sibling who assumes the authority of the parent over their sibs. Every kid is susceptible. I don't think we parents sound as bossy as they sound when they try it.

 (ha! as if I ever sound like that....uh, only occasionally...maybe...)

A friend with kids of similar ages to ours has instituted a delightful thing in her home. If a child wants to exert parental authority over a brother or sister, they pay by getting parental responsibilities. She starts with the especially fun ones:  like toilet cleaning. They have more than one toilet in the house, so she can add to the list if the child choses to not respond quickly, sweetly and completely. Isn't that a clever training tool? She's proving to be a resourceful mom and great friend in my life.

It helps to have a good sleep, and remember that I'm in this training thing because God has put it all together in this way, for this time. I'll embrace it, as much as possible.

So, now I owe you an update on Maylin, specifically.

She is amazing in the most amazing ways. Her Chenglish continues to add vocabulary and speed. She is more comfortable, or her brain is more accepting, of using both English and Chinese. She'll correct our pronunciation when we ask her about words/items. (So, we'll probably sound like fluent 6 year olds when we use Mandarin!) She can count up to 60 almost independently and then tires out (it is boring...) but makes it to 100 with few mistakes when we count along. Maylin recognizes the written and oral numbers 1-10 and can put them in proper order. She enjoys doing household tasks, and forks are never lined up neater than when she helps me unload the dishwasher. She plays favorites between Mark and I. We don't let it faze us, and she switches randomly. She's still pretty impressed with the size of the family. "Many, many. Beeg." was repeated several times as she looked over the list of family names we wrote in her prized notebook this evening.

The highlight of the month for me was the Children's Christmas Musical at church. Maylin glowed as she dressed in her new clothes. She sparkled as she took the stage with the other kids. She radiated pure happiness for 45 minutes while she stood and sang (and occasionally bellowed) the songs she had practiced daily for the past 4 months. Her lip sync was off a little on some of the trickier lyrics, but her heart never missed a beat of the music. Pure joy. It makes me cry again as I remember it. She was the happiest she's been since she came home.

I probably have hardships coming this year, and maybe some things I'd consider unbearable. I'm pretty certain I have great joys headed my way, also. But regardless of the circumstances, whether I'm refereeing round 6 of Childhood Squabbles, or wallowing in sweet hugs and Christmas performances,

I want to take joy in it.
Be intentional.
Smell the roses.
Remember to make memories.
Do my best to make Derschdom Home Base,
where they can run back to when they need to be safe.
Or if they need ice cream.

Our Pigs' Trough of ice cream. Oh, yeah.