January 10, 2017

my portion

October 16, 2016

I am writing hunched over in the shadows. 
Sleeping babes next to me.
The moon is a spotlight, dazzling, radiant, outside my window.
I notice the moon, I pay attention to it.
It's light in the darkness.
One of my three-year-olds says, "Mom! The circle moon is back!!! I see it. It sees me."

I have a new son. He is smart, tender, funny, sweet. When he cries, it fills me with fear. 
I try not to be afraid of his grief.

I pull him close and pray for gentleness when I want to run.
Sometimes I am grumpy and tense and not gentle at all.
But I try. I keep trying.
It's draining to fight your inadequacies and imperfection and gear up for battle anyway. 
To say, "I am his mother. I am all he has and it has to be good enough."
I rub his head while I talk and he acts as though he hasn't been comforted in a long, long time.
It's probably true.
Who has noticed this little boy? Who has loved him?
Sometimes he soaks it up like a kitten.
Sometimes he is shut down and resigned to his loneliness. 
He closes his eyes and pretends to be asleep.
I know soon he will start understanding he isn't alone.
He smiles more every. single. day.
He is awakening to life.
It's beautiful to watch.

But...when he is throwing a fit, or one of the twins is crying (or both!), or when anyone is sad:  it's hard not to panic. It feels like my heart is already overflowing, and I'm not sure how much sadness it can hold.

I want to be brave enough to write or talk about our time in China. I get sick to my stomach when I think about it. I have let our last bit of packed odds and ends sit in purses and backpacks for months. I hate the smell of jasmine. 

One moment I find myself herding children and animals through fairgrounds, dusty and full. Squeezing and squeezing and squeezing down the grip of terror in my neck. The constant awareness of the clip-clopping of my heart that speeds up to a gallop and never seems to slow down. Ignoring the fire and tumult in my belly. Mechanical smiles. Holding hands. Putting kids in cars seats. Just get through. There’s no way out but through.

The next moment I am sitting on the ground in the Walmart parking lot. Sobbing and sobbing and sobbing: feeling like this can’t go on. I can’t get through.  I go to a room in a hospital with no personal belongings; I’m handed paper scrubs.  I'm very embarrassed that it has come to this. One of my younger brothers is making small talk, and sitting next to me, swinging his legs. Kind and gentle. The nurse is nice and knows me from my many trips to the E.R. with one child or the other. Then I talk to the social worker and we make a, "safety plan."

She tells me I am lucky to have so many supportive family members. I agree.

I was not making plans for something permanent. But when your mind, body, heart are all pain, and the pain doesn't go away...you think things you never thought you would think. I am so tired. It is a terrifying feeling to feel like you are cracking and may not be put back together. Tired of the mutiny of my body and mind. Tired of the sadness that follows the days of jittery, anxious, terror-filled hours. It's a sad thing to have life not turn out how you planned– to not be as strong, or good, or kind or capable as you thought.  To not have a body that's as healthy as you expected it to be. But, it's a normal thing, and that's what I am wrapping my brain around now.

My soul is exhausted for searching for hope. God has never felt so far away.
I see him all around. But I can't feel him. I'm trying to honor him. To praise him.
I know he is good.

My body hurts. My mind doesn’t feel the same as before.

"Why won't you take this?"

"When will it stop?"

"It's too much, Lord. You ask too much."

Paul said his thorn in the flesh was left lest he become prideful. That thought keeps ringing in my heart. Maybe I have been prideful. I know I have.  I am gaining empathy and understanding that I never wanted, but that I'm thankful for.  I truly didn't understand heartache and anguish before.

I go to my counselor. I go to a prescriber.  
I even talk to our adoption agency...the scariest thing of all.   It all takes time. 
There's no magic with things like this. Everything seems louder now. Music can be just noise.
Life can be just noise. There's a lot of little people touching me.  It feels like I have three toddlers who have BIG love tanks in need of filling. They need me. It overwhelms me. Because I forget that they need God and other humans, too.

That I’m not the only commodity that is able to provide. 

It seems as though my heart never stops racing. My stomach hurts ALL the time. It pisses me off every time I notice the burning above my belly button. Sometimes I throw up after all the kids are tucked in and sleeping.  I want to be around people I love and never leave. I dread waiting for night to come.  Evening and nighttime are so hard for me.  I'll do almost anything to put off that feeling of waiting. Waiting for something bad to happen. For a call from a doctor or a family member that something terrible has happened. A cough from a little one that means a week or a month in the hospital. A fever. A rash. An accident.  I am expectant of all the hard things.

I have the most responsibility I've ever had, yet I’m totally the most needy and vulnerable.

I cry.

A lot.

I cry on the way into town.

I cry on the way back home.

I cry when I listen to happy music.

I cry when I listen to sad music.

I sob in church.

I can't stop.

My kids ask me, "You okay, mom?"

I joke and say, "Oh, yes. It's just my 2 o'clock crying time."

My older brother says sobbing is just God's way of making you grieve.

But what am I grieving?  Being alive? Why NOW, and not before when the hurt was happening?

It's like all the sad and scary things in human existence hit me. Like I wasn't really paying attention before.

My older brother is an angel.

He tells me things like, "It's just your mind f***ing with you, Sarah. But, that's okay, we're all f***ed-up." 
"Breathe. Go on walks to breathe—not to run away. " 
"Touch something real. Tell yourself all the real things." 
 "You aren't alone.” 

I tell him I'm afraid of the devil. I'm afraid of everything, but most afraid of that dark thing. He says, "No sh*t Sherlock. What else is there to afraid of?"

My younger brother, who knows grief so well. He tells me not to give God ultimatums. 
Just ask him to get you through today.
And today. 
And today.

I find myself telling people I'm not okay
Blurting it out on the soccer field. 
Crying in front of strangers.
I see an acquaintance at Starbucks and when she asks me how I’m doing I say, “Oh. Not good. Not good. Have you ever been depressed?!” Just like that. Very awkward.

When I'm weepy, I feel like I have slain so many dragons alone. The deployment. The babies. This last trip. There’s that pride. It’s not true. But that's how it feels.  Lonely. I'm so done. I hate being alone. I never want to be alone again. (Said the woman who bore or crossed oceans for eight children. ha!)

I text people and ask for prayer. They all say, "Call anytime. We are here for you."

Some of the most precious gifts I’ve ever been given, are now texts. Texts that people sent while I was in China. Texts that they’ve sent recently. People boldly pushing past the awkwardness of texting someone they may not even know very well, to say, “We’re thinking of you," or “Praying for you today,” or "Here’s a poem that made me think of you.”

That all feels like love to me. 

I feel embarrassed and guilty.
But I shove those feelings away because I want to get better. 
And...I can't do it by myself.

When it feels really dark and scary inside my soul, and Jason is working out of town, I've called my mom or dad. 

"I'm having a hard time. Can you come sit with me?"

Always, "I'll be right over."

Hours into the night. 
My mom read scripture and played lullaby music. 
I eventually stop shivering and relax. 
My dad came over and I watch the meteor shower through his car windows. He speaks truth and makes plans with me. I like plans. "Do all the hard things in the morning," he says.  

With this: my husband has nothing but grace, grace, grace and healing for me. He never judges me. 
He knows what it's like.

Some have said, “Don't worrying so much." Or, "You need to take control of your thoughts." Why didn't I think of that!? I honestly pray that they never have to know what this feels like. And, that it's not so much your thoughts that are rebelling with panic attacks or PTSD or things like that. Although they are, too. It’s your body. Your body is remembering the wrong things. Your body is afraid of the wrong things. Your body is telling you, "RUN!!!" Your body is telling you, "YOU WILL DIE.” And, the trigger might be a smell, a sound, a feeling, a sunset, or something that you aren't even registering. Many, many times, I don't even realize I'm thinking a scary thought, before my body starts telling me I'm thinking it. Many, many times I have anxiety attacks as I'm falling asleep; it's a cruel, cruel irony that when I am most tired and most needing sleep–my body is afraid to give it to me. I think somewhere deep down,  I think that someone will die or something terrible will happen if I fall asleep at that moment. So fight or flight kicks in at 11:30 at night...and it's just as fun as it sounds.

It would be nice if you could just say, "Hey body (and Amygdala). Remember me? I'm the prefrontal cortex. Can we have a talk?" 

My body doesn't listen for awhile at least. I feel like I am going to die, or would rather die than crawl out of my skin for one more minute. It feels like an invasion. It takes anywhere from 2 hours to 8 hours  (or days and days when I was in China!) until my body really believes I'm safe. Sometimes a hug, or a walk make everything okay.

Sometimes I just freak out no matter what. 
It just runs its course and leaves me in ruins in its wake.

So we go one more day and one more day, and wait for joy and dancing.

I look for my portion around me, and in God's words and his people.

He prepares a banquet for me. I know it is coming. Better is one day in his courts than thousands elsewhere. I'm banking on that. I'm learning to play the long game. I'm growing up I hope.

Also. I look for ways to be hands and feet, too. Sometimes I am little and selfish and I hide. Other times I realize there is no point to any of this if it doesn't bring good into the world somehow. Is it possible to bring glory to God in so weak a vessel?

Theres no way to repay all the goodness or badness in the world. 
We just have to look in our circle and find the broken hearts, find joy, search for the God of the universe and let him speak. And be brave.

Very, very brave. 

November 19, 2012

enough time

Today is Lincoln's eleventh birthday.

 I should say that, "time flies," and wasn't it just yesterday that I labored this plump little eskimo baby into the world? One hour and forty-five minutes in all. From turkey dinner to baby. Jason didn't even make it to the delivery. Our midwife had 15 minutes to spare.  Or wasn't it just yesterday that I was: rocking him to sleep, going on late-night drives to get him to sleep, walking up and down and up and down the hallway in our apartment to get him to sleep, nursing him to sleep, singing him to sleep. (Please baby--sleep!) Cleaning baby throw up. Smelling like sour milk. Waking to his gummy, drooly, s0-hapy-to-be-here smile every morning. Getting him to giggle for the first time. Letting my younger brother feed him ice cream and sour cream alternately--watching him shiver and pucker with the sour cream, but innocently asking for more. Blowing raspberries on his belly. Worrying over his first fever. Fighting over who changed his next diaper. Listening to him wail during the four-hour drive back and forth between Portland and eastern Oregon. Tickling his rolly, soft neck. Listening to him say his first words: ball, Booth (our dog) and dada. Falling asleep with him in our bed, with one little leg and one little arm draped over my huge pregnant belly (hello Jack!). Sometimes feeling totally claustrophobic when his body would marsupial-cling to me, heart thumping against mine, sweaty, sleeping head on my neck--and yet feeling in my gut and bones that this was one of the most important things I would ever do. Watching him sleep.  Watching him sleep-- long eyelashes touching his round chipmunk cheeks,  floppy ears getting squished and red, chubby hands twitching and unclenched, belly full and perfect. Every day filled to the brink with our love, frustration, surprise, weariness and delight over our firstborn son. 

And...it does feel like yesterday. 

However, with every day that goes by, and every birthday that he gets to check off as a milestone in his life. I'm a mess.  I am aware. Ideally? I know he is going to grow up and leave our home.  With every milestone there is a grumbling of sadness. I know that this is part of life. I do want to raise a son who is not afraid of standing alone. 

Jason laughed at me when I cried in our bed after Lincoln's second birthday. "It's going too fast!" He didn't understand. He was so excited with every marker in time. "One step closer to manhood!"  

Then we had our first daughter.  Now, he clenches his jaw when we talk about having teenage girls. Now, he grieves when our girls grow through another shoe size. Now, he feels time passing with a tiny bit of pain.

Consequently, I've been thinking about time a lot lately. 
Instead of, 
"This is your life, it's ending one minute at a time. "
 (Chuck Palahniuk.) 

I'm trying to remember this:
"That in Christ, urgent means slow.
That in Christ, the most urgent necessitates a slow and steady reverence.
That in Christ, time is not running out. This day is not a sieve, losing time.
In Christ, we fill – gaining time.
We stand on the brink of eternity.
So there is enough time."
( Ann Voskamp.)

There is enough time for our children to grow older. There is enough time for their mistakes and mine. There is enough time to be slow. There is enough time to enjoy. There is enough time for him to turn eleven, to sigh and slurp up who he is today, and be fiercely and determinedly loyal to who he will be tomorrow.

"So I am proud only of those days that we pass in undivided
when you sit drawing, or making books, stapled, with
messages to the world...
or coloring a man with fire coming out of his hair.
Or we sit at a table, with small tea carefully poured;
so we pass our time together, calm and delighted." 

My Son Noah, Ten Years Old  by, Robert Bly.

November 5, 2012


Fifteen years ago, in the very beginning of the day, in a room crowded with pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, diapers, wipes, bottles, cozy soft baby clothes, sleeping, messy-haired, drowsy, weepy, expectant brothers and sisters, one beautiful, tiny, snoozing infant twin boy, and two beyond exhausted, loving, shattered and grieving parents–we said goodbye to the tiniest members of our family. 

There was a crystallization of the intrinsic value of human life. Holding her. Experiencing her. Smelling her new baby smell, feeling her heart beat against my palm, her ribs expanding oh-just-slightly as she inhaled and exhaled– lungs and diaphragm working with each breath, touching her soft, translucent cheeks. Watching my parents rock her and will a longer life into her veins. Holding her adorable, tiny, tiny bottom in one hand, and her back in the other, the way you do with all babies. Looking in her eyes and wanting more than anything for her to understand one thing in that moment. 
That she was loved
Cherished. Precious.  Known. Seeing her entry and exit in the world. Ruth, with her pale, pale skin. Her sweet, quiet voice. Her broken heart. Her light-as-air frame. Her incredibly delicate, long arms, legs, fingers and toes. Her little rosebud mouth. Her tiny elf ears. Her funny, sparse, sticking-up-all-over, dark hair. 

 It has never been more obvious that behind all our randomly joining, "complex as a baked potato" cells and biological coincidences–that there is a process, a purpose, something more that far exceeds our knowledge of conception, embryonic development and personhood. So much so–that even when our definition of what is valuable or needed in the world, is so woefully not met. When someone is born broken or seemingly useless to society. Oh-such-a-burden. 

That, when we are forced stop,  see, experience, know that person; we cannot help but be silenced by our arrogance.

 Cannot help but be quiet, quiet in awe.