Pining

The good news is that I am now successfully streaming American TV in Rwanda. So long books! *For those of you concerned about the legality of such an endeavor. I’ve made a determination that it’s my constitutional right as an American citizen to watch America TV anywhere in the world. End of story.*

It’s apparently some sort of twisted compliment to tell people that they look fat here. Yesterday, one of my Rwandan friends said I looked like I gained “about 2 kilos.” For the record, I did not. But even if I had, I tried to explain to him that as an American woman, that’s the meanest thing you could possibly say. While I appreciate the fact that skinny woman are not as desirable here, my American brain can’t be ok with looking fat. Alas.

It’s impossible for me to grasp that it’s freezing cold in Chicago and that Christmas is a week away. I feel completely cut off from the holiday. There are a few decorations around town, and we have stockings hung. I listen to Christmas music. There’s a bit of a time warp here with the lack of seasons and weather change (to my vantage).

BB is returning from Tanzania this afternoon. Freddy and I made it through our first time without him here in Rwanda. We did pretty well until yesterday. After two trips to two different bank branches to be told the network was down, another power outage, no water, an inability to light these terrible wax matches, Freddy getting into absolutely everything, and finally, a cockroach crawling up my leg, I was a bit cranky (read: crying and yelling at no one). Luckily, my fits don’t seem to bother Freddy. He was laughing at my while I was crying. Like father, like son.

Am I a terrible mother since I don’t have a single Christmas gift for Freddy? I mean, it was one thing to skip Halloween, but shouldn’t I have something for his first Christmas? Maybe I’ll just wrap one of his toys and books so we can get a photo.

In other news, I’ve run into some issues with my work permit, thus promoting me to the status of stay at home mom with full-time help. It’s nice in many ways, but it is a bit boring. I’m over the initial frustration with realizing that I sold all our stuff and moved halfway around the world for no apparent reason (at the moment). Trusting in the Lord, waiting on Him…again. I keep wanting my life to be clear, but I think the only clear thing is that this is life, and it’s unclear.

I’m very thankful for my life. It’s so extremely obvious living here how privileged I am (and always have been). I’ve never wanted food, shelter, health care, a loving home. I already *knew* that, but I am continually reminded in this setting.

I am also a lot more sympathetic to people who don’t really want to know about the great need and suffering in the world. I have historically been quite judgmental (still am, unfortunately) and wanted people to really see and understand the needs of the world. (As if I had it all figured out!)

Now I see that it’s not about seeing the needs of the world, necessarily. It’s really about seeing the answer to the needs of the world. As a Christian, I have a paradigm to see the world – it’s broken and in need of a savior, one who will come to fully redeem the earth. It’s not a perfectly understandable picture, but it is a picture. But without that, how could one possibly begin to understand this level of evil and suffering? What other choice does a person have but to just live the best life he can and try to insulate himself from this reality? If you don’t have an answer for the suffering, then you are just making yourself miserable for no reason.

This time of year, we groan for the Savior. We remember the Israelites who were waiting for a King – a King who came and will come again. We see that the needs of the earth are so incredibly great, and we call the Lord to come again. “Long lay the world. In sin and error pining. Till he appeared, and the soul felt its worth.” My prayer for you this Christmas is that your soul knows its worth – knows that the Savior has come and will come again to make you whole.

Christmas 2012

I so wanted to post a Merry Christmas picture from us, but we can’t seem to ever remember to charge the camera battery.

We had a really nice Christmas with my family this past weekend filled with food, laughs, more food, some drama, and a home movie.  This year, since we were foregoing gifts, my sister and I suggested that we do something fun together instead.  I was thinking – go see a movie.  My dad decided – make our own movie.  Complete with scripts, props, and sets we acted out the movie It’s A Wonderful Life.  Yes, it’s recorded.  It will be hilarious in about 10 years.  For now, it’s slightly embarrassing.

We had a lot of fun doing it, and by the end, we threw out the scripts and were improvising scenes based on memory.  My dad hung up floodlights from the roof so that we could shoot scenes outside and hand-painted a grave for Harry Bailey.  We don’t mess around.

BB was a great sport after he was cast in the demanding role of George Bailey.  He was amazingly wonderful at impersonating Jimmy Stewart.  My mom gave an Oscar-winning performance as Ma Bailey, and my sister added some much needed sound effects.

The no gifts for Baby Bean rule turned out it’s fair share of drama on Christmas morning, but we came home relatively unscathed.

I’m not sad the holidays are over.  While we did our best to put on smiling faces, I think these were by far the hardest set of holidays we have ever experienced.  Three years ago I had a miscarriage a few weeks before Christmas, and while that was not fun, this was so much worse.  Earlier this year I swore I would boycott the holidays if I was still childless, and I sort of regret going back on my word.

The holidays are always rough because expectations are so high.  You are supposed to be happy!  It’s the hap happiest time of the year!  You’re not allowed to be sad.  If you are sad or grumpy, you ruin it for everyone.  You’re a grinch.

This year, I felt an extreme amount of pressure from everyone around me to be happy and excited about the baby.  To get over the sadness.  People are uncomfortable with continuing sadness and grief.  We don’t like those negative emotions.  Think positive.  Think positive.  A silver lining must be found.  As soon as this baby comes, all will be well.

Why are we so uncomfortable with these feelings of sadness, anger, grief, fear?  It can’t be because they are unfamiliar.  Everyone I know has something to grieve over.

The fact is that we are still grieving.  No disrespect to Baby Bean, but 2012 will always be about those three babies that we didn’t get to bring home.  This Christmas, for us, was a time of mourning.  We were supposed to be home with our family of 5.  There were three missing cousins at Thanksgiving, and there are empty stockings over our fireplace.

I know that people want us to be happy.  They want us to look forward, accept their gifts, talk about how fun it will be next Christmas, but we aren’t there yet.   And frankly, I don’t really want to be there.  I want it to be ok to be sad.  I want people to respect that our broken hearts are still in Congo.

People were upset with us this Christmas because we didn’t want gifts for Baby Bean.  I get it.  We are weird and not doing things in the way that everyone wants and expects.  I get that it’s annoying when people make weird choices that you don’t agree with – I spend most of my life bossing people around.

The fact of the matter is that I just donated the last items of clothing that we had for the kids.  We still have bunk beds up because I can’t quite give up the dream that there will be bodies to fill them someday.  The room isn’t decorated for a baby.  We still call it “the kids’ room.”  I just finally worked up the nerve to sort through the photos that my friend took down before we got back from DRC.

The tears are still flowing over here in 2012.  2013 may be different.  I can’t say for sure.  Does anyone ever really get over a broken heart?

BB memorized Rev. 21:1-4 this year.  I love it.  I could hear him recite it every day.

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.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.  Come!

Christmas Preparations

How is it possible to be hungry every minute of every day?

BB has just 1.5 days of work left for 2012, and I am so ready for him to be on vacation!  [I’m sure this sentence fills him with terror and worry that I have “plans” for him.  Don’t worry honey….just a few.] 

On Monday, Lord willing, I will technically be full-term in my pregnancy, meaning Baby Bean can come.  Baby Bean and I have agreed that he will stay put until January…at least until January 7.   We don’t need anymore surprises around this house.  Can one thing go as planned, please?  Just one thing!  Great, now I’ve certainly jinxed myself.

We are spending Christmas with my family.  I’m looking forward to baking all day on Sunday and then eating all day on Monday and Tuesday.  No gifts this year, but we have a special surprise project.  I’m sure I’ll have some good stories for you next week about how it goes.  

What am I baking?

For Christmas Eve dessert – Marbled Pumpkin Gingersnap Tart (Smitten Kitchen)

For Christmas morning – Blueberry Cornmeal Butter Cake (Smitten Kitchen) and Chocolate Coffee Cardomom Bread (http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/2012/12/04/chocolate-coffee-cardamom-bread-and-a-contest-giveaway)

Jealous?

I’ve been trying to make some plans for January so I don’t just sit on the couch wondering when Baby Bean will come for the entire month.  I’ve also been saving a few fun projects and just got a copy of Rachel Held Evans’ Year of Biblical Womanhood (http://www.amazon.com/Year-Biblical-Womanhood-Liberated-Covering/dp/1595553673/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1356033400&sr=8-1&keywords=year+of+biblical+womanhood), which I cannot wait to read!!!

We still have to decide Baby Bean’s name.  I have a feeling we will be discussing that in between contractions since we can’t seem to want to commit right now.  We are pretty aligned on a girl name, which can only mean that Baby Bean is a boy after all.

Hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!

 

The Evil in My Heart

I’ve had about 10 different types of blog posts in my head since last week’s shooting tragedy.  The internet has been on fire with everyone’s thoughts that part of me wants to stay out of it because so many beautiful and thought-provoking things have already been said.  What can I possibly add?  But on the other had, this is where I process, and since I can’t stop thinking about it.  I need to process. 

I have particular selfish reasons for hating when these things happen.  Immediately, my brain thinks about the horrible person who committed the crime, which then triggers in me a righteousness.  Who would do such a thing?  What kind of messed up person has such disregard for human life?

It only takes moments for the Holy Spirit to softly whisper (sometimes not so softly) the answer.  You. 

No, I don’t have any propensity to shoot up a school.  I don’t harbor murderous thoughts about innocent people.  But in my heart lies the same utter disregard for human life that lay in the killer’s heart.  I need look no further than my own apartment to see someone who couldn’t care less about dying children.

You see, I don’t pull the trigger, but I make the choices and turn my eye.  I cozily slink into my warm bed at night, stressing about what gourmet meal to make for dinner tomorrow night with nary a thought for the 25,000 people who will die of starvation today.  I step over a homeless veteran on my way to buy a $5 latte because it’s delicious.  I agonize over which designer diaper bag would go best with my wardrobe instead of spending $10 on a bed net that would actually save one of the children who will die every 60 seconds from malaria – a preventable and treatable disease.

It’s not guilt.  It’s conviction.  Guilt is worthless.  There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  It’s not my fault that evil exists in the world, but if I can do something to stop it, shouldn’t I?  Conviction moves us to action.  Knowing that my actions are wrong, repenting and trusting in the Holy Spirit to reform my ways makes real change.

You will say, cut yourself a break.  God wants you to enjoy life and have fun.  We can’t spend all our energy on serving others.  I’m not so sure.  Yes, there’s a time for celebrating, but haven’t I celebrated enough?  Haven’t I had 30 years of feasting? Didn’t my Year of Jubilee end many years ago? When is the time that I start to say no?  When will I truly begin to change my ways and live for Christ instead of myself?  What will it take?  How many more people will die while waiting?

If it’s real, then what do I have to lose?  If I worship a God who came as a man to save the world from sin, who raised people from the dead and calmed the sea, and it’s all true, what am I so afraid of?  If paradise waits for me, then why do I care so much about making this life paradise?  Kay Arthur tells a story of a Christian man in prison.  The prison was cold, but he had a blanket.  Another man, badly beaten, was placed in his cell, but he didn’t have a blanket.  The Christian man knew that without the blanket, the man would die (just as he would die if he gave it up).  The Holy Spirit spoke to him, saying that if he died, he would be with Jesus, while if the other man died, he would go to hell since he did not yet know Christ.  The Christian man gave up his blanket and died.  The other man survived and lived to tell the tale of his sacrifice. 

I am holding onto my blankets while people are dying because I want to live another day.  Not only do I just want to live, but I want to live in all the comfort that I possibly can.  Once I have it all, once I have everything I could possibly need, then maybe I will spare a blanket, but only if it’s easy.

I want to be Esther, saying If I perish, I perish. 

The truth is that I my heart is so much closer to Hitler’s, Bin Laden’s and Adam Lanza’s than it is to Christ’s.  It’s not even a contest. 

This is Christmas.  This is why Christ came as a baby in a manger.  To save me from my sin.  He knows my heart and knows that without him, I am doomed to death.  He came that I might have life and have it more abundantly.  He came to set me free from sin so that I can love others freely.  Through his birth, death and resurrection, I can have a new life that’s not marked by this evil.  Thank you Jesus for coming and saving me from myself. 

 

 

Unto Us a Child is Born

I finally figured it out.  Apparently I must have eaten some sort of small alien super-mouse, who is now grown to be about 6 pounds and is trying to claw his way out.  This makes a lot more sense than me being pregnant and explains a lot of what’s been going on.  I’ll let you know when he escapes.

Who’s ready for Christmas?  We watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation last week so I am.  Since we are going gift-free, this is basically a stress-free holiday full of lots of cookies and Christmas music.  Highly recommended.

Speaking of Christmas music, apparently BB was not actually born in this country or somehow grew up somewhere Christmas music is hated.  He’s supposed to sing Christmas music at an event on Saturday, and this morning he asked me to teach him the melody of the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”  I am still flabbergasted.  Whoever is waging that War on Christmas must be quite proud of himself!

I’m looking forward to the holiday distraction myself.  Getting a little restless over here.  In some ways, I’m in the home stretch of meeting this little peanut and yet at the same time, it is still a far way away.  I need a deadline to work.  Not that I want him to come any sooner because we all know what happens when a baby comes – everything is awful.  There’s crying and pooping and crying and no sleeping.  Lord help me.  This baby better be darn cute.  I’m really counting on being able to keep my daily nap schedule and to watch The Wire.  Apparently this makes me mildly delusional.

Thus, I have started my “to do before baby” list, which so far includes:  hair cut, be extra nice to BB, pedicure, see Les Mis, clean apartment.  To be fair, clean apartment has been on every to do list I’ve ever made. 

I need a few good fiction books to read during this last push, so feel free to send me your recommendations.  I just returned “Lionheart” by Sharon Kay Penman to the library having only read 2/3 of it over the past month and a half.  I usually devour her books, but this one just didn’t capture my attention.  I have a number of non-fiction books on adoption, sex trafficking, the Holy Spirit, and marriage on my shelf, but none of those are drawing me in at the moment either.  I need fiction.  Yummy, colorful, fanciful fiction.

Leaving you with my Advent meditation verse for the day:

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince Of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his Kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with Judgment and with Justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Love that it’s “unto US.”  Jesus is God’s gift to us.

Also love that Jesus came to establish judgment and justice.  Feeling a real need for that in 2012.  I keep hearing more stories from other One World Adoption families about trials they are facing in their adoptions, and it just makes me so angry.  It’s so heart-breaking for the children and families.  God’s justice will be done, and I have to take comfort in that.  No one gets away with anything even if we don’t see the justice done.

Hope your holiday preparations are going well.

 

 

 

Comfort Ye

This Christmas, BB is singing two Messiah concerts.  As I listened this past weekend, I pulled out the Bible to follow along with Isaiah 40 as he sang:

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

One of my favorite prophecies of Advent. There’s no way that the Isrealites could have really understood what God was promising them.  Nor could they have known how long it would be before that voice cried out from the wilderness.

Yesterday I decorated the Christmas tree.  I love decorating the tree.  Put on my Bing Crosby Holiday Pandora station and pulled out the bins from the basement.  It’s such a Christmas tradition – transforming our residences into a festive celebration.  I loved doing this as a family when we were kids.  We would pull out the old ornaments, trying to remember who made which ones.  There’s this Christmas tree ornament that my parents still hang that I made in preschool.  It’s just construction paper with a few crayon scribbles.  My sisters try and convince my parents to throw it away, but it keeps surviving each year.  [I’m watching you girls.]

The holidays for me are a time to remember.  I remember leaving out cookies for Santa, and in the morning, there would be crumbs and a thank you note.  I remember waking up really early one year when Santa decided to save money on wrapping paper (I think my baby sister was about 6 weeks old at Christmas), so all the gifts were laid out under the tree unwrapped.  I was able to play with my new Barbie and swimming pool before anyone else awoke.

This year I found the Christmas ornaments that my mom made last year for Freddy and Carolyn.  I found the stockings my Grandmother made for them.  I remember.  Last Christmas, we were sure that it would be our last Christmas without them.  They had a few gifts under the tree, lovingly selected and wrapped by their soon-to-be new grandparents, aunts and uncles.  It felt slightly risky, but we were confident that God was bringing them home to us in 2012.  We were filled with anticipation and excitement for the next Christmas when we could share with them our holiday traditions.

A friend of mine is in China right now picking up her son.  Another friend is returning from Uganda tomorrow with her son.  We were all in the adoption process together – supporting each other, praying for each other.  While I am so happy for them, I am jealous.  So very jealous.

People always ask us if we are relieved that the adoption didn’t work out since we are pregnant, and four kids would have been too many.  Meaning well and admittedly, we were quite overwhelmed with the idea of four kids at once, the answer is a resounding no.  We are gladdened that the children have been reunited with their family – it’s where they should be.  But we do not feel relieved of the burden.  We feel cheated.  We are still grieving this loss.  It was a burden we wanted.  It was a burden we prayed for, hoped for, longed for.

Unlike the Isrealites, I am blessed to know exactly how the story ends.  I know that God is not promising me an earthly victory.  There’s no promise that next Christmas we will be parents.  But I have promises that are much bigger than parenthood. I will take comfort in those promises knowing that God will supply all my needs.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

We had a great Thanksgiving in Cincinnati with my in-laws.  It was the first time we’ve all been together in five years, and it was a lot of fun.  We have five nephews ages 3-10, and they played together so well.  Reminds me of holidays growing up, playing with my cousins.  It felt like a real holiday. 

The only real downside was that so many people were sick.  It will be a real Thanksgiving miracle if I don’t get deathly ill this week.  Kids are little germ machines.  Not sure I will ever be able to get over that.

I love the holiday season.  I cooked all afternoon today listening to my Neil Diamond Christmas Pandora station.  We haven’t put up our tree yet, but hope to this week.  BB is singing a Messiah concert on Saturday and a Christmas concert on Sunday.  I plan to make cookies tomorrow.  The holiday traditions are so cheery. 

I love the anticipation of Christmas.  Yesterday’s sermon was called The Awaited Son.  The idea of the Jews, angels, shepherds, Magi, Mary all waiting for this cosmic miracle fills me with wonder and joy.  What a day.  The birth of Jesus is the most important moment in human history.

I feel some extra anticipation this year with the birth of our child expected in January.  While not a cosmic miracle with all the ramifications, it’s certainly a miracle we’ve waited for for many years.  I have all the fears and expectations you would expect.  

Spending Thanksgiving with our family really made me feel loved.  We have had so much love and support from everyone in our family through infertility, IVF, adoption and now pregnancy.  It’s quite encouraging that everyone has stuck with us from the beginning.  I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed.  There’s such anticipation with this baby, and I can’t help but worry that I will let everyone down again.  I know it’s out of my control, but when it’s your body, you can’t help but feel responsible.  So many people are counting on this joy.  I must turn it over to Him.  It’s a good reminder of my weakness.  My lack of trust.  Makes me extra thankful for Jesus’ coming.

Being with family always leads to good discussion about our sin.  It’s so easy to see where our weaknesses are when we are with people related to us and people who challenge us.  We spent a lot of time discussing how it would be so nice if we could really conquer our sin – we know what it is.  We know how to stop it.  But our flesh is so weak.  So much so that God had to orchestrate a supernatural occurrence to save us.  No amount of our efforts will ever make a dent in our sin.  It’s discouraging, but a message of hope.  Jesus conquered our sin for us.  We will continue to struggle until our own death, but the real battle was won in the days that followed the birth of the Savior.