Which three words would you choose?

FriReunion (17)

Recently the adoption community was rocked by the news that an adoptive mother of many children was killed in a car accident.  It is so hard to process news like this.  That’s when faith has to come in, I guess– faith that the God who knows everything knows better than we do.  But oh, it’s hard to trust that God really does have a good plan for those precious children.

My friend Carrien recently wrestled with a similar issue when friends of theirs died, also in a car accident.  She talked about how a lot of times no matter how hard we try, we can’t change everything we’d like to change in this world, and how futile that can sometimes feel.  When she shared those feelings with her husband, here’s what he said:  “You are a very minor drop in the bucket, just as I am, just as we all are. We have no ability to predict the outcome of our actions, positive or negative. We do what we do, because it is who we are, not because we are changing the world.”

She said that for a long time she’s made choices in life in this way:  “I ask myself who I want to be, and then I act the way that person would act.”

Isn’t that a great thought??  I love it.  It’s taken me years to truly understand that I can’t really change other folks. I can’t solve all the problems I want to solve. But I can work on myself.

Who do I want to be?

My friend Tisha, a fellow adoptive mom, has also been doing some thinking about life-legacy.  When she heard about that adoptive mom who died, who left a tremendous legacy of love to her family, Tisha decided on three words that she most wants to represent her.  She chose brave, reflective, and impactful.  Aren’t those great words? She even asked her children to choose words of their own– you really ought to go read the whole post for a fuller picture of her thoughts about all this.

After reading her words, I just had to choose some words of my own.  I hyphenated to get a bit more in there, but here’s my three.  Joyous. Grace-filled. Giving.

Oh, I want to be all that to the ones around me. What about you? How would you like to be remembered when the time comes for you to leave this world?

“…being confident in this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” Philippians 1:6

Down by the river side

This past weekend we took some of the kids camping in the mountains. ‘Some’ because with three teens working and one taking a summer class, it’s becoming just about impossible to find a time everyone can get away. This weekend we left two teens home with my folks, and took four kids with us, which felt like a ridiculously small number of kids in our big ol’ van. We missed the ones who couldn’t come, but we had fun with the ones we brought, and ended up feeling like it was still worth going. My mom and dad had fun visiting with the other kids, and then they were able to go to work and school as they needed to do. Still, it felt sad to think we’re past the era of being able to easily pack everyone up and take off on an adventure together.

In the summertime we almost always camp on John’s mom’s land, which has been John’s family’s summer gathering place since the 1970′s.  It’s along the edge of a sweet little river where we go fishing and swimming. Both John’s parents and his grandparents have owned land along that river.
John’s granddad built a a big open shed to shelter their travel trailer so they could leave it there on his land year round.  For years after he died, that old trailer stayed there under the shed.  Then a couple years ago someone outside the family expressed an interest in the trailer, and so off it went to a new home, leaving the shed empty.

But not for long.  We discovered the space was just right for our own travel trailer, so for the past couple summers we’ve parked under the shelter for the summer. Parking is tricky–we (meaning, John) have to get everything lined up exactly straight, because there are literally only inches to spare on each side.  But once it’s in, it’s like the shed was made for our trailer.  The most delightful bit of the shed is the little deck that granddad built along one edge, with its perfect view of our beloved river. 

Our family place

Our trailer is few feet shorter than grandma and granddad’s, leaving a bit of unused shade under the cover behind our travel trailer. This year, at the tail end of our stay, we decided on the spur of the moment to get some lumber and add just a bit more deck in that empty space behind the trailer.  John built the framework, then set the kids to pounding nails.  Within a couple hours, we had a whole new addition to the space that has been so very well loved for so many years.

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Always, whenever we stay here, I think of the previous owners and creators of that space.  How Granddad lovingly thought of every little detail to make his beautiful bride comfortable when they came to the mountains to rest and relax and visit. How Granddad would zip around on his motorcycle, and Grandma would sit fishing at her favorite little fishing hole.  How John as a little boy would walk through the woods from his parent’s cabin to visit the grandparents and to play with them.  How they’d all gather together around the campfire in the evenings and laugh and swap stories. How one year just before we were married, John brought me along and showed me around the place too. How we’ve come all these years too, first with tiny babies and toddlers, then with school kids and teens.

Even in this busy phase of our life, it is precious to me to think that our children all have sweet memories of this place, of spending time with us and with siblings and grandparents and cousins. Of riding motorbikes and carrying fishing poles and splashing in the river and occasionally chopping trees or hammering nails to keep everything together and functioning well. I can only imagine that Grandma and Granddad would smile to see us here.

Maybe that river of ours does too– that ever-changing but also somehow changeless river– trickling along, watching our family growing and living and loving our time together here.

Splash

Splash

The Pharisee in me

On the water

Funny thing about life before parenting, and even life before you’ve had the chance to parent a challenging child. You can be really smug thinking you’re a pretty decent person, that you’re good at loving and good at forgiving. You may glimpse a bit of less-than-awesome lurking in there, but it’s still possible to fool yourself that most of the time all is fairly decent inside that heart of yours.

And then. Challenge comes.

Maybe it’s a defiant kid. Or a wounded one. One who struggles with anxiety, and shows it by trying to control everything, including you. Or maybe it’s not even a child. Maybe it’s a teen. Maybe it’s a spouse who hurts you, challenges you to the core. And you find yourself looking at a person in your life whom you’ve promised to love, whom you’ve been called to love, whom you desperately WANT to love.

But instead of love, if you’re being honest, you sometimes feeling pretty much the opposite. Sometimes you’re even acting pretty much the opposite.

And all of a sudden you’re face to face with just how bankrupt that heart of yours can be, when you’re running on your own power.

Because real love isn’t the kind that only loves someone who’s smiling sweetly back at you and agreeing that all your ideas are stellar. Real love carries on, reaches out, gently directs, shows kindness, even in the face of rejection. Yes, there is a place for limit-setting too– some situations where you legitimately need to say, ‘No more’.  But real love keeps seeing the struggling soul inside that person who’s hurt you.  Real love keeps being willing to go to the cross daily for that person.

I can’t love like that on my own.  I can only do it with the power of Jesus in my life.  And even then, imperfectly.

In the past, there were times I judged people who were struggling to love those around them. It seemed so obvious to me what they should be doing.  Lose that grudge. Love your kid.  Love your spouse. Forgive your friend.

Except, wow, that job is exhausting some days.

These days, thanks to the hard bits of my own life, there’s a new compassion in me for folks struggling to love well. Life is hard.  Relationships are hard.  We’d all be better off if we judged less and forgave more.  Offered grace more freely, especially when folks don’t deserve it. We’re all going to hit those hard moments when we need someone else to reach out with more grace than we deserve, and love us in spite of ourselves.

And sometimes the person I most need to forgive is myself. Yes, I can do all things, but ONLY through Christ who strengthens me.  And the wonderful thing about Jesus is that He’s always there to pick me up when I get foolish and try to walk on that water all by myself.

Thoughts on a life lived looking down

Texting

When our oldest daughters became teens a decade or so ago, none of their friends had cell phones. Since then electronic communication has exploded.  These days most young teens have cell phones, along with many elementary school kids.  And most of these phones have internet access built in right along with calling and texting. Everywhere I go, I see kids looking down at screens.  Walking down the road.  At stop lights. In restaurants. Even tiny children clutching screens sitting in shopping carts as their mothers shop. This is one trend we’re trying hard not to encourage with our kids.

Our 18 year old waited til 18 to get her first ‘dumb’ phone, and til high school graduation for a smart phone.  Our two 16 year old sons would love phones, and when they get their driver’s licenses in September, it would probably be really convenient.  But we really, really don’t want them to have the terrible temptation of internet any time, anywhere.  And we really don’t want them to live the last years of their childhood looking down at screens.  We’ve opted to charge one old ‘dumb’ tracfone with minutes, to be shared by both of them at times when it would be good for us to easily communicate with them.  Other communication can happen, in moderation, on our home phone and on facebook for 15 minutes or so most days. But not constantly.

As you might guess, some of our kids don’t love it.  They’re itching for more access, more ability to communicate with friends. And yes, we’re fully aware that once they’re out on their own, they’ll be making their own choices. When that time comes they may live for awhile constantly connected, heads down, tapping away at screens, forgetting to look up. But I don’t want that time to come just yet.  I want them to have a few more years to facing up and out, looking the ones around them in the eye, and sharing thoughts face to face.

Our hope is that more time in real life as kids will make it easier  for them to find a good and healthy balance later as adults.  To be the type of person who can use tools as they were intended, but also be able to set gadgets aside, maybe even for hours at a time, so that they can really live and breathe and inhabit the one precious, wild wonderful life that is theirs.

Other writing on this topic

The real reason I say no to electronics

What that ipad is doing to your kid

Are we starving the hearts of our children?

 

family time

Family time

I’m still here, kinda.  On Tuesday we got home from a really nice family vacation at the beach with all our kids, my parents, and my sister.  Lovely fun.  I’ll post more of the pictures below in a sec.  At the moment, however, I’m propped up on pillows in bed with quite a nasty flu, one that one of the grandbabies had on the trip, but that most of our kids haven’t gotten.  Yet.  Might be a bilious next week at the Owlhaven.

Before I post pictures and lie back down for another nap, I wanted to announce the winner of that lovely book The Nesting Place.  It is commenter #43 Tina who blogs at the Miles Clan.  Congrats, Tina!

And photos.  It truly was a precious week with all our kids around us. We took close to 1000 pictures, but here are 40 of my favorite.

Yachats (6) Yachats (2) Yachats (9) Yachats (38) Yachats (16) My momma Clamming Yachats (36) Yachats (15) Yachats (19) Yachats (10) Loving the water Yachats (17) With my sister Sophie Ben Yachats (25) Yachats (14)  Stories and naps Keisha Yachats (24) Yachats (5) Heceta Head lighthouse My baby Yachats (3) Emily Yachats (13) Yachats (11) My dad Moody models- and a photobomber Everyone was there, from A and Z Your face is MINE Yachats (31) Yachats (12) Yachats (28) Yachats (26) Yum Doing their best modeling poses

All 21 of us

grace, guidance, and grudge-holding

parenting during frustrating moments
I’ve been hashing over a dilemma that has plagued me to a degree ever since my first kid told me no, and continues to challenge me these days as we parent many teens.  In nearly every parenting journey, there’ll be times when a kiddo looks you in the face and blows a big fat raspberry, whether you’re asking him to pick up his blocks off the floor or reign in a sassy tongue or walk upstairs to get something.  Obviously that kid is immature and needs some re-directing. Usually the first time or two it’s not too hard to look him in the face and say, “Answer me with respect, please.” But along about the 4th or 14th or 44th time that the same old junk rears its nasty head, it can be darned hard to keep the tone even yet firm, with eyes that are loving instead of flashing your own personal brand of flames.

Kids can be relentless.  And some are just plain more hard-headed than others. How do you act in love toward them when they are choosing wrong? How do you keep your own frustration from clouding your judgement (not forgetting that ALL of us have a great need for grace and love exactly in our hard moments) while also lovingly addressing the very real issues that parents are called to address?

I do it so imperfectly. But one of the things that I was reminded of recently in Bible study is this: though God calls me to guide and direct and speak truth to my kids, He doesn’t call me to sanctify them. I can’t stop them from sinning, or from struggling with their fallen human nature. All true growth and change is between them and God. And even when I handle things well, there will be times when the middle of their struggle can look really messy. My job is to be faithful to the best of my ability. But the outcome belongs to God.

Another thing that I was reminded of by a friend is that God’s grace is there for me too, even as it is there for my kids. Yes, even when I get impatient and zip out angry words I instantly regret. That very forgiveness that I’m so grateful to have myself is also the forgiveness I need to keep offering my kids. We all need grace.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about balancing grace and guidance, and avoiding frustration when a child is being hard-headed. How do you encourage stubborn kids in a better direction?

Summer projects for outdoor fun

Recently while thinking about the summery fun I’m hoping to have with my family, I came across several ideas that I thought would be fun to try.
Firepit-in-15-MinutesEasy DIY Firepit — John got me one of these metal firepits for my birthday last summer, and we’re thinking it would be really fun to jazz it up with a rock surround like this one.  The one shown here takes 44 stones and about 15 minutes to put together– practically instant gratification!  Probably the most time consuming part of the project is making sure you begin with a level surface. Click on the photo to go to the blog and read the instructions.

Water BlobMake a Water Blob — I’d never even seen one of these until recently, but it looks like a fabulous way to entertain little ones who might be too small to play safely and happily in a swimming pool.  (All my grandbabies!)  Basically you seal the edges of a large painter’s tarp using an iron. (While ironing you use a layer of parchment paper between the iron and the tarp.)

sponge bombsSponge Bombs– This idea is something I might try for our annual 4th of July bash.  Filling water balloons takes SO much time, and these sponges can be filled and tossed over and over again.  I’m thinking about ten per person would keep a water fight good and lively, especially if you had buckets of water stashed all over the play area. Click on the photo to visit InnerChildFun and read the direct4th of July Flag Palletions.

Raise the Flag- Here’s a great use for an old pallet.  I think my 11 year old daughter and I would have fun painting this, and it would look awesome in the corner on our front porch.

Do you have any projects you’d like to try this summer?  Pinned anything interesting lately?

A happy weekend

Jared's graduationHappy weekend for us– Jared, our third born and oldest son, graduated from college with a degree in computer science!  He starts a new job in June. So proud of him!

Finding time for rest

We are in our last push to get school done for the year.  Half the kids have already finished their math.  All but one are done writing.  My two high-schoolers taking college classes are finishing up last projects and gearing up for finals. The teens are down to their last two chapters of chemistry, and because I’m feeling tired, I’ve decreed we will be reading and answering the review questions, but won’t take those last two chapter tests.  They’re delighted.

It is a busy time, but one where a slower pace is just around the corner. I am so looking forward to it.  We’ve had a good productive year, one where in wanting to get things finished with my senior who’s graduating, we’ve all worked harder than usual.  I’ve especially seen gains in writing skills, which is a great thing.

Some of our precious Sunday visitors

Though productivity is a great thing, it can also be overdone.  This year I’ve felt the need for more rest than we tend to get on the weekend.  Saturdays are often slower-paced.  But Sundays are very busy — filled with grandbabies and visiting kids.  It is a wonderful kind of busy –  I am so very blessed.  But it isn’t quite rest.  Two year old boys move fast, ya know!  And feeding two meals to a crowd is busy even when I do a lot of the cooking on Saturday, and have kids doing the cleanup after meals.

So this summer and continuing into the next school year  we’re trying something new.  We are making Monday a day of rest.  No agenda, no activities.  The kids can sleep in  –that’s one of the things they want more of — and we can all have time just to hang out, read and relax and maybe even play games.

Thanks to homeschooling, we have the flexibility to give this a try, and I’m hoping it’s just what we need.  How does the pace of life feel in your family right now?  Do you feel like you get enough down time?  What do you do for rest when things get busy?

that adoption video going around on facebook

So there’s a PSA-style video that’s been going around on facebook talking about the intrusive questions that adoptive families get about their families out in public.   The video suggested that those types of questions are akin to asking a female if she’s had surgery to augment a part of her body– totally inappropriate and invasive of a family’s privacy.

I saw the video all over my news feed last week. My very first reaction, to be honest, was an uncomfiness with the word used to describe female anatomy.  (I grew up with a daddy who had a Puritanical streak– he wouldn’t even say the word underwear in public, lol.  And right or wrong, his sensibilities still live on in my first gut reactions to things at times.)

I know the video creator’s intent was simply to educate people– to help them think about why these types of questions feel intrusive to adoptive families.  And he’s right– we do get tired of explaining our families over and over in the midst of buying eggs and milk and jeans in Wal-Mart. (My personal most-hated question is: ‘are they real siblings?’  Ugh. Yes, they’re real.  Yes, they’re siblings.  But is their particular DNA a Wal-Mart Stranger’s business?  Didn’t think so.) A lot of my discomfort with such questions is how those questions feel to my kids– like we’re constantly needing to say what they have is real– a real mom, a real dad, real siblings. No, not the first, but real nonetheless. Does that question always have to be there, needing addressed over and over?

I’m guessing the video creator was hoping that making people think about this might inform the public in a way that could spare all our kids pain and discomfort.  But there are two things that the video overlooks.  Comparing a child to a part of the female anatomy doesn’t feel so comfy to adoptees.  Here’s an article on Lost Daughters that makes that point much better than I can.   Particularly searing is the comment from Samantha about the way the video objectifies adopted people, comparing them to objects to be purchased. Though I can’t ever fully understand the adoptee experience, I do NOT want to be a clueless momma who never imagines life through my child’s eyes. It’s vitally important that we seek out the viewpoint of adult adoptees.  Adoption has a much greater (and often more painful) impact on people’s lives than I ever understood when I was a brand new adoptive momma. Oh, I pray that I can always be a listener, even when (or especially when) someone’s thoughts feel uncomfortable to me.

The second thing that the video doesn’t quite address is the amazing opportunity we adoptive families have to engage the public in a child-honoring, God-honoring way in those exact moments of questioning.  We don’t have to go into depth about our kids’ DNA or past story, nor should we.  And the occasional person approaches questions so ham-handedly we may at times just need to shut ‘em down and walk away.  But the majority of the time folks are honestly curious.

My first responsibility, always, is to my children– to answer in a way that protects their privacy while also affirming their priceless worth and their legitimate place in our family. Sometimes I do a little debrief after a nosy stranger walks away, to talk about how I answered, why a person might ask such questions, and how the child might respond when he gets a similar question.

But as a redeemed child of God, I want to extend grace to the people around me too.  Some folks may be considering adoption themselves.  Others might be trying to better understand the adoptees in their own lives. If we can be grace-filled and God-honoring in our responses to those questions, while also affirming the precious value of our children to those people — right in front of our children– we might just be planting a seed, or watering a sprout, or helping to advocate for another child who needs a family.

So often in life our attitude powerfully influences our effectiveness in a situation. Though I still inwardly wince when I get a silly question, these days I also try to see those questions as opportunities to speak for my children, and to advocate for children elsewhere who are voiceless and in need.