I love the rain. When I was a very little girl I used to go out on our sunporch and lie on an old couch when it would rain. I would lie there all by myself and look out the windows at the muted sky and listen to the sound of the rain hitting the leaves on all the trees surrounding our house and on the roof and windows of our sunporch. It made me feel safe and surrounded by God.

As a teenager, I would sit at my bedroom window when it rained and look out over the farmland that stretched out past our house and breathe in the scent of rain on the fields–an earthy, sweet, mineral aroma that would fill me with calm and peace.

When I moved to NYC for college I loved it so much I stayed through the summers every year. And I quickly learned that summer storms in NYC are something to behold! They sweep in dramatically, darkening the sky with eggplant colored clouds and dump billions of giant raindrops all over the city. I always think God is trying to scrub the streets clean. People run for cover (because umbrellas are useless) and stand under awnings and scaffoldings forever, waiting for the rain to pass. One summer I got a job as the receptionist for a production company in Soho. And one day when I went out for lunch, a summer storm rolled in. I laughed at all the people hiding from the rain, and they rolled their eyes at me as I marched around the streets, turning my face up to the sky to get the maximum amount of wet. When I went back to work I had to sit at my desk dripping and shivering in the air conditioning, clutching a mug of hot water for warmth for the rest of the day while everyone who came in the office felt sorry for me for “getting caught” in the rain. Only after the 4th or 5th time that happened did they realize I was deliberately getting drenched. I got a stern talking to by my boss and *tried* not to do it again.

Spring rains are beautiful too. Light and misty, they soften and quiet the atmosphere. My apartment is on the ground floor of my building and has big windows that look out on a little garden. One of my favorite memories from Rahul’s early days with me was a string of rainy Saturdays we spent playing games sitting on the couch. The rain fell softly outside, hitting the leaves surrounding our building and I remember feeling really nourished. Like the rain was nourishing the ground and everything growing out if it, I felt like God was nourishing me with this amazing child, who was normally so frenetic, now sitting calmly with me playing games, listening to the rain.

It’s Spring now, and lately Rahul and I have been having these deep late-night talks about God. He is so wise and his life experiences have been so different than mine that his perspective on difficult and mysterious spiritual topics is really illuminating. He has answered a lot of the questions for himself that most people spend their whole lives wondering about and won’t flinch or hesitate if you ask him why God allows painful things to happen to us, or why some people seem to have an easier life than others. These are topics he has wrestled with in his own faith journey and has resolved with confidence. We sit together at night, often while he is giving me a foot rub or I am giving him a facial. (You have your Family Movie Nights, we have Family Spa Nights–don’t judge!) And I ask him my deep questions.

“Why is my friend, who has experienced heartbreaking and devastating loss, one of the most cheerful and grateful people I’ve ever met?” “Because when you hit the bottom of the well you can either choose to stay there and live in grief and darkness for the rest of your life or you can look up and choose to live your life grateful for every day. It’s God’s way of showing that He is in charge–by taking something devastating and transforming it into something life-affirming and hopeful.”

“Why does Jesus teach us that we only we need a mustard seed of faith to move a mountain?” “Because God already did all the work for us to be close to Him and He wanted to make it easy for us to have faith that our prayers are powerful. It’s an illustration that reminds us how little we need to do.”

Lately it feels like the battle of my life to just believe that God will give me what I’m asking for in prayer. Rahul reminded me how “easy” faith can be. Just by looking at the man he is now affirms my faith. I’ve seen him change so dramatically over the years in lots of ways, including his faith in God. He did not believe that God existed for most of his childhood. I never tried to force my beliefs on him, but by being around me all the time he did absorb a little bit of my faith. Mostly he argued with me about it. But sometimes he attempted to imitate what he saw in me. When I was sharing with him my struggle to believe that God would answer my prayer he reminded me of an experience that he had when he was little that I had forgotten about.

We were driving to Brooklyn for some neuro-psych testing he was having done and it was a long drive. It was raining and I told him one of my favorite stories in the Bible about rain. Elijah was a prophet in Israel during a particularly Godless time. He prayed earnestly that it would stop raining and lo and behold, it stopped raining and there was a drought. Then after a few years he prayed again and the heavens opened up, it rained and the drought was over. There were various reasons Elijah did this, but one was to teach us that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Rahul loved the idea that a man could control the rain and he quietly tried it out as we were driving. He would silently pray that it would rain and moments later I’d be turning on the windshield wipers. Then he’d pray it would stop and off they would go. Over and over he did this until we arrived in Brooklyn and he announced to me that he had just controlled the rain all the way there! This experience was formative for his faith as he began to understand that God hears us when we pray and loves to answer even our weird rain-based requests if it will help us believe in Him. When he reminded me of it the other day it really moved me. Here was Rahul’s mustard seed of faith that moved his mountain of doubt and anger and disbelief and created this super-deep, spiritual, faithful man.

It’s supposed to rain the rest of the week, and I’m going to try to let every raindrop that hits me on the head remind me how easy faith can be.

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Rahul running his heart out in the rain

 

Attached

March 8, 2018

I recently shared this story with my church and while I was preparing it, got a lot of great feedback and editing from Rahul. Basically, we wrote it together…

 

When I adopted my son Rahul, 10 years ago, he was 7 1/2 and living in an orphanage in India. Imagine how strange it was for him to suddenly be in a family! I had to help him to trust me and bond with me and I worked hard to create ways for him to attach to me.

One of the first things I noticed was that when I would try to pick him up to carry him, he didn’t know how to be held. His arms and legs just hung limp. He didn’t ever learn how to mold his body around an adult because he hadn’t been carried around when he was young. I couldn’t overwhelm him with bear hugs and snuggling–for a child who had rarely been touched, that would be too much. So I created games to help him get used to physical closeness. He loved to play Hide and Seek and our ritual was that he would always find his way to “home base”, then I would run over to him, swing him around and tickle him. It was always so great to hear him laugh the way a kid should be laughing. We would play that game for hours and hours. We would have pillow fights and I would swing him back and forth like he was a bell and when he wanted to look at something on the computer I would sit him on my lap, so we could look together.

I also created attachment through food. In an orphanage you don’t get to choose when or what you eat, so Rahul didn’t understand the feeling of hunger. I would put food all over the house so he never would need to panic that he couldn’t eat. And when it came time for meals, I would always prepare his food, and even if we were at someone else’s house, I would serve it to him, so he would learn that he could rely on me to take care of his needs.

One of my favorite moments from our first few days together was when we were at the airport in India, killing time while we waited for our flight to NYC. My Dad and my best friend were with us and when we adults saw a candy counter we walked over to buy some snacks. I turned to Rahul and asked him what he wanted. He looked at me like he had never been asked what he wanted before. Then he pointed to a pack of gum. Then he asked if he could have two! It was the best feeling to be able to give this child something he wanted and to see the look on his face when he got it! It is one of the joys of parenting to give your children gifts. In our early days, I would take him shopping a lot because I hadn’t bought him many clothes or toys before he came. And as we ran around the store he would point to things and I would just throw them in the cart! I wanted to let him know that I thought he was special and that he was worthy of receiving gifts and getting what he wanted. And that being in a family is good, happy thing.

When we would walk anywhere together I noticed that he hadn’t learned to walk with other people as a group. He had no sense that we were a unit and that to stay safe, he would need to walk in step with me and keep an eye on where I was leading him. So my Dad made up a game for him where he would point to a car parked further down the road and have Rahul run  to that car and wait for us. He would get so excited to run ahead and he would always wait, so that led to lots of other games where he and I would run up different sets of stairs and wait at the top for each other, or he would run through the circular driveways (on the sidewalk) all over our neighborhood and wait for me at the end. Mostly, I would just talk with him as we walked, so he had to keep his eye on me and stay within earshot.

Bedtime was hard. You can imagine how lonely and scary bedtime might be in an orphanage, and this is often a really tricky time of day for kids who have spent time in one. So we created lots of rituals around bedtime that made it fun and safe. My favorite one was our reading ritual. I would make him a snack and go sit on the couch and start reading while he was still bouncing around the house. After a chapter or two I would have him come sit on the couch with me. And he still had so much excess energy that he would sit and kick his arms and legs and roll all over the place for a few more chapters. Then I would sit closer to him and put my hand on his head or his foot or his shoulder, and I would slow my reading down while he started to settle down. And eventually he would fall asleep and I would carry him up to his loft bed. There were many nights that I would be reading for 4 hours or more!

These experiences taught me so much about how God loves me. We are all God’s adopted children!We don’t always know how to take in what He is trying to do for us. He is my parent, and whether I know it or not, He’ll always be trying to love me more than I could ever love Him.

Like I had to be careful to not overwhelm Rahul, God is careful not to overwhelm or overload us. He has given me friends to help me carry my load and He uses our relationships with each other to express His love for us.

Like I had to teach Rahul how to rely on me to provide for him, God quenches my thirst and nourishes me with His word.

Like I love to give Rahul gifts, I’m learning that God loves to give me good gifts. And He gives them just because he loves me and wants me to be happy being a part of His family!

Like I taught Rahul to walk with me, God has provided a way, through Jesus, to talk to Him directly, so He and I can walk together wherever I go.

My savior has stooped down to make me great2, He longs to gather me in His arms3, He makes me lie down in green pastures.4

Isaiah 40:11 says, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

Being Rahul’s mom has taught me that is who my Father is.

 

Leaving Rahul’s orphanage together, hand and hand…

 

 

  1. Ephesians 1:5
  2. Psalm 18:35
  3. Mathew 23:37
  4. Psalm 23:2

He Was Such a Good Sport

September 25, 2017

One day, several years ago, I opened the door to my apartment and there, perched on the top of my ladder-back dining chair was a bird. He was very still, just staring at me. Neither my cat nor my dog had attacked him or eaten him, and in fact they seemed very calm, as through this little guy was a natural part of our menagerie. My immediate thought was that someone must have broken into our apartment or smashed a window, enabling him to fly in. I felt like I was in a dream as I quietly walked around my apartment inspecting the windows. They were all in tact, closed and locked. The cat and dog followed me around the apartment as I tried to solve the puzzle. I have an air conditioning vent in the wall with tiny slats in it and I concluded that is how he must have gotten in. I was struck with an unusual blend of feelings: wonder, awe, compassion, fear. I searched for a meaning to this encounter. Did this bird have a message? Was it a sign? I felt he had come expressly to visit me. I set about releasing him from the confines of our apartment by climbing up on the window sill to open the top of the window for him. I spoke to him and pointed to the window and he flew right out, leaving me bewildered and ecstatic.

I have thought of this strange encounter several times this week, because my cat died. And the overwhelming sorrow I have felt at his loss has stunned me. I have been so profoundly changed because of relationships with my animals and I am only beginning to realize the role they have played in my life.

After 9/11, I began to long for a dog. That day was life-changing for everyone and I noticed that many of my friends reached towards marriage or having children in the aftermath. I think we all were reaching out for a tangible connection to this world. Career ambitions began to take a back seat to building relationships and creating families. As for me, I wanted a dog.

It took me about two years before my life was arranged to accommodate a pet, but I brought my dog Baby Fish Mouth home in August of 2003. I was immediately changed. Where I had once been insensitive and unfeeling, I was suddenly expressive and compassionate. My heart just melted and I began to see the world around me in a new way. A few years later I adopted my son and of course that change was even more profound. Becoming a mom changed me. Like a phoenix, I was destroyed and reborn as a Mother. And I loved it so much that I wanted to “mother” everyone. Jesus once ended a passionate sermon with, “O Jerusalem…how often I have loved to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” That is how I felt about everyone I saw. I longed to adopt more children and fantasized about having a large family of ten.

Then about two years after I brought Rahul home, my apartment became infested with mice. I battled them with every weapon I could think of, but to no avail. (I guess I didn’t have much compassion for them!)  I thought about borrowing a friend’s cat–a tactic that has brought great success at mouse elimination in the past. (I’ve heard that the scent of a cat in a home can keep mice away). Then I was struck by a new idea: I needed my own cat! I had never had much affinity for cats, but suddenly I wanted one badly. I wanted one who would keep the mice out of my home, who would be a playmate for Rahul and a companion for my dog. I wanted another creature to nurture and to love. Within days, Rahul and I set out for the ASPCA.

I was concerned about Rahul’s reaction to being in basically an orphanage for animals (since he spent some time in an orphanage himself) and tried to prepare him for the experience.  I didn’t want him to fall in love with every cat we saw, only to have to let it go. When we arrived we had to fill out reams of paperwork and I answered their questions as carefully as I could in order to streamline our process. However, the volunteer assigned to show us the cats didn’t read any of what I wrote and ended up showing us literally every adult cat in the whole joint. Rahul fell in love over and over and after being rejected as a match for every cat,  Rahul was in tears and we stormed out. On our way out the door, as I was hurling insults at their procedures they said, “Why don’t you try the kitten room?” Well, it was too late to try again that day, but I came back by myself the next day and introduced myself to every kitten they had. The volunteer and I opened each cage, one at a time, and if the kitten hissed or cowered, I knew it wouldn’t be a good fit. There were a few that allowed the volunteer to pick them up, but they wouldn’t let me hold them. Then there was a beautiful 5 month old black cat that had only recently arrived at the ASPCA. Well, he just bounded out of the cage when we opened it. We both exclaimed that here was a cat that should do well around a child and a dog! I picked him up and he purred, so I knew there was just one final test. I grabbed a toy that looked like a mouse and threw it on the ground. The cat bounded out of my arms and chased it around the room. Sold! I took him home that day.

Rahul named him Sport, and I always thought that was such a fitting name because he was such a good sport. I have never seen another mouse in my home since the day he arrived. He got along with Baby Fish Mouth and was never any trouble. I spent a few nights up with him when he first arrived, training him to sleep at night rather than bounding around the house. And after those first few nights of cuddling with him and coaxing him to snuggle with me we developed a close bond and he would find his way to my bed every night to snuggle up in an elbow or knee crevice. He was very independent and never needed too much from us. He scratched up some furniture and hissed at Rahul about once a day, but he brought us a lot of joy and comfort.

Then this past Spring he got sick. At first I thought he had a virus or food poisoning because he couldn’t hold any food down and he would hide in corners of closets. Once when I found him in my bedroom closet, he turned his face to the light and it was covered in mucus. His eyes and nose had been running and he had vomit on his chin. My heart just broke. When I took him to the vet he too thought it was a virus, so gave him some treatments and he seemed to get better. But soon enough he was sick again. More vet visits revealed kidney disease, but the treatments that should have alleviated his symptoms never really worked. Over the months that he was ill, Sport and I grew even closer. He became more still, more affectionate, more responsive to my voice and my attention. I spent the summer grieving with several friends through very difficult circumstances. The death of a parent, the death of a child, surgery, a custody battle. There were several days when every client I saw would cry over a loss or a struggle. My toilet broke. My stove broke. My father collapsed and had heart problems that led to him receiving a pacemaker. And all the while my cat was fading away. I sunk into depression and the drone of pain that lay beneath all the other pains emanated  from not being able to heal my cat. He lost weight until he was half his normal size. He would alternately become ravenously hungry then lose his appetite. By the end of the summer my vet concluded that he had intestinal cancer. I knew by that point that he was going to die, so it wasn’t a shock. We changed tactics with treatment and just flooded his body with aggressive medicines in an attempt to improve his quality of life for whatever time he had left. I learned to administer subcutaneous fluids and liquid medicines. My days became timed around all the treatments he needed, and he improved. I knew it was temporary, but I was so grateful that his last few weeks were comfortable.

I came home on the afternoon of my birthday and when I saw Sport I knew he was at the end. He hadn’t eaten in a few days and had begun to lose the ability to walk. He was curled up on a bed I had made him at the back of my closet and wasn’t very responsive. So I made myself a bed next to him and snuggled in for a few hours. When I reached my hand over to pet his head, he turned over and rested his head on my hand and reached out his paw to rest on my arm. He knew I was going to be with him on this journey. Later that night I picked him up and put him on my bed and lay next to him, keeping vigil through the night as he faded away.  He moved around a little throughout the night and in the morning he was still breathing so I lay face to face with him for a while. Then with the last of his strength, he flipped himself over so his whole body, from the tip of his head to the end of his tail was pressed up against me. My tears fell on his head while I whispered my goodbyes to him and soon he was gone.

I have thought of that bird who visited our apartment as I grieve for the loss of my dear Sport because I am realizing that I have had many strange and profound encounters with animals over the past few years. A praying mantis landed on my head in a hotel and allowed me to release it back into the wild. A baby skunk was waiting for me outside my door recently with a yogurt container stuck on his head that he allowed me remove (without spraying me) so he could go back to his home. And Sport allowed me to accompany him on his transition out of this world. It was one of the most profound things I have ever experienced. Animals are incredible beings. Many religions see animals at embodiments of their gods, spiritual guides, sacred. I have regarded my pets as angels, entering my life to comfort me, teach me and accompany me. I see the animals around me as reminders to tune into the world around me. Not to rush past God’s creation, but to see it, hear it, experience it fully. With openness of heart comes enormous joy, but also profound pain. It is easier to live with a closed heart, in numb observation of the world around us, but it is not better.

Thank you, kitty, for teaching me this. You were such a good Sport.

Purple Sky

January 12, 2013

The other night I was having trouble sleeping.  Now, normally, I sleep very soundly.  My life only accords me a few hours to sleep, so I try to make the most of it!  But I swear I’m starting “the change”, because the other night I felt like it was 90 degrees in my room and I just couldn’t cool off.  So I rolled around, changed my clothes, kicked the cat off the bed.  Nothing worked.  And as I lay there trying to cool down and fall back asleep I began to fret.  I’m not normally a worrier, but there’s something about lying alone in the dark to get one feeling anxious about all of life’s troubles.  My mind searched around for something else to think about, but I couldn’t seem to let go of troubling lines of thought.

How am I going to pay my bills?  Is my dog going to feel better? (He’s been sick.)  How am I going to send Rahul to college?  What will I do when my parents get too old to care for themselves?  Who will care for me when I’m old? 

You know the progression of anxiety.

Then a strange thought popped in my head: purple.  I saw in my mind the most vivid purple.  It was so gorgeous that I forgot about my questions for a moment.  It was an abstract thought, but it was an arresting color and I contemplated whether I had ever seen it in nature, or just material things.  I thought about the sky and and the beautiful, startling colors contained in it at times and I puzzled over whether I had ever seen that purple in the sky before.  I was sure I hadn’t.  And as I drifted back off to sleep I longed to see that purple in the sky…

A short while later my alarm was gonging and it was time to get up.  I rolled out of bed and took my dog outside for his walk.  My brain was foggy and sluggish as I led him east along our street.  He stopped to sniff something and I turned my head to stretch.  And the western sky was completely purple.  I immediately remembered my earlier thoughts and was stunned.  It was exactly the color I had pictured in my head and it wasn’t just a sliver of purple, it was the entire sky!  I stood frozen on the sidewalk staring into the sky.  And before my eyes it changed to grey.  As the sun was rising the colors were refracting differently and the purple was gone.

He made it purple for me! I thought.  God put color in the sky at the exact moment I was going to see it to show me He would take care of all the answers to my anxious questions.  To show me He loved me and He saw me. 

I know it sounds arrogant–God colored the entire sky purple just for me!!–but I do believe it.  I think He does it for all of us, all the time, whether we notice it or acknowledge or recognize it.  David wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1-2)

I’m just one, tiny insignificant person and I am mostly invisible to the people around me.  But to know that my Maker sees me is what I need to get through today.

The 39 Steps

September 18, 2010

This week I turned 39.  Whenever I write a birthday card to someone I say a prayer for something specific I wish for them in their new year.  I think for myself, I wish more of the same!  Life is good and I am incredibly blessed.  The past year has held some monumental challenges and moments of utter despair, but I am full of faith right now and am seeing good things all around me.

 

 

This morning I happened to read one of my favorite parables that struck a particular chord.  It speaks of building a foundation for your life that is deep and rests of rock, so that when floods and torrents “burst against” it you are not shaken because your life is well built.  And last night I read another parable to my son, “The Hare and the Tortoise”.  When we finished the story, Rahul said, “Yeah, but that would never happen, right?”  And I said, “Honey, it happens every day.”  And I feel like I am living proof that building one’s “house” on the rock gives you the support and foundation to survive the roughest storms.  And I have definitely become much more “tortoise” than “hare”.  When I was young I was full of hope and arrogance and absolutely sure of success.  But as one dream after another was withheld from me, I began to see the value in humility and patience.  There were years of my life I spent wondering what was going on and why I had not found the success I thought I should have.  But now, at age 39, I look back and see how God ordered my steps precisely to prepare me for some of the things He has blessed me with now.  Most especially, my son.

 

When Rahul first came home with me he was angry and confused and clearly did not want me to be his mom.  He said so all the time, saying he had wanted a mom and a dad, wanted to live in the country, etc.  And I often wondered in those first few months if he would have done better in that type of family.  But as the months have turned into years I am 100% convinced that I am the perfect, hand-picked family for him.  All of the qualities God spent years honing my character, the life lessons that dragged on over decades, the work I did in years of therapy,  the 20+ years I have spent walking with God through all kinds of crazy situations, a lifetime spent in the bosom of a loving, stable family–all these things have shaped me into a Rahul-sized mom and prepared me to handle a type of parenting that is beyond description or explanation.

 

And I know there is a lot more work to do and challenges and joys I cannot even imagine.  But right at this moment I am filled to the brim with contentment and faith.  And I trust that the Rock that carried me 39 years already can be trusted to carry me as long as I am needed here.

Little by Little

April 14, 2010

I had a dream last night that I was having a conversation with my tax preparer. (If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I had been really disappointed by the way my last preparer handled a major tax credit I am eligible for. Well, I switched to a highly recommended CPA and am confident that she knows what she is doing, but found out yesterday that I will still owe the government a little money. So much for the large tax refund I was counting on!) I haven’t actually met her in real life; because I came to her so late in the season, I had to just drop off my papers and we’ve spoken on the phone a couple of times. Anyway, in my dream, she was asking me why, since clearly I had been beaten up my life so much lately, I didn’t take that as a sign that I should move out of NYC. And I was really taken aback that she would step into my life so objectively and ask the question which I have been asking myself so often as of late. Why, when I am getting nowhere with doctors, money or Rahul’s education do I continue to stay here? Is God really directing me to leave New York and move in with my parents until I can get my family on a better track? In my dream I answered her emphatically, NO. I am sure that I should stay here. I told her that there is a big difference between God shutting doors (which to me signifies that its time to move on and change direction) and a person falling down over and over and being called to rise up again.

I woke up and lay in bed pondering this idea. Actually, I marveled at my unconscious self’s wisdom! I can’t tell you how, exactly, but there is a definite difference between a door being closed and stumbling through trials. And I know I am meant to press on in my present circumstance. There are just enough positive signs to keep me fighting. Every Wednesday morning I get to talk and pray with my dear friend Jenny, who calls me without fail at 6am. I told her about my dream and as I did, I thought of a phrase that I’ve seen in the Bible, “little by little”. I told her that I really believe that my blessings will increase little by little. I am not going to get a big tax refund this year that will cover all my outstanding bills. I will continue to work and grow my business (which is growing quickly!) and earn the money to pay things off, little by little. Rahul will learn to read little by little. We will find mental health solutions and adoptive family resources little by little. Something about that idea really comforts me.

I was curious what the context of the phrase “little by little” was, Biblically, so I looked it up. In one instance it refers to Israel’s conquest of the promised land. God told them He would drive out their enemies little by little, rather than all at once, because otherwise the wild animals would multiply around them (Deut. 7:22). In another context God states that “he who gathers money little by little makes it grow” (Prov.13:11) Something about that principal makes sense to me. Maybe we value things more when we work for them. Maybe we view God differently when He aids us in helping ourselves, rather than pouring blessings in our lap. Not sure exactly, but I think I’m about to find out!