Oceans

March 28, 2019

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Sur la plage

Lately I feel swept away. Like I can’t find my footing and the current is pulling me all over the ocean. Like my throat keeps filling with water and I can’t quite breathe. I know God has hold of me and He won’t let me drown, that He’s spreading Himself out beneath me like a net, like a floor, like a foundation. I feel Him urging me deeper into Him. Urging me to dig down with my hands until my knuckles bleed, to stretch my toes all the way down into Him until I find true footing. Until I grip the bottom and the waves can threaten and shake me, but they won’t sweep me away.

I didn’t grow up with an open heart. I was a fearful child who became a hardened young women with a tight wall around my heart. It wasn’t until I was about to adopt my son that my heart truly opened. God had been working on me for years, chipping away at the death grip I had around my emotions, my vulnerabilities. As I prepared to become a mother all the walls just broke away and I was reborn with a soft heart. Raising Rahul was harrowing, and God kept me strong and tough skinned. But the new, soft heart He created within me was a wonder to me. I couldn’t believe all that I was feeling. I couldn’t believe how much I loved this child. I felt like I was truly living life for the first time.

And I loved mothering so much that I began to open my arms and my heart to other people around me. I cultivated a beautiful group of friends and have learned over and over again how to open my heart to the people God has put in my life. As a hairdresser I have the opportunity to connect with people on a deeply personal level, and I truly love my clients. I love learning about them and listening to their stories, their experiences. I love that they trust me and listen to my stories, too.

But one of the consequences of living life with an open heart is that it gets broken over and over again. I never want to go back to living with closed-off emotions, but sometimes the heartbreak is overwhelming. And lately it feels like wave after wave of pain. Oceans of pain. As I hold on to people I love while they are drowning in depression I feel myself being pulled under, too. As I hear them pour out their hearts in grief and remorse, I feel those waves knocking me around. As I give my heart to people who don’t want it, I feel myself sinking deep below the surface. Oceans of unrequited love, behind and afore, overwhelm and horrify me. Waves of humiliation break over me as I give my heart where it’s not wanted. I’m stretching myself as wide as I can, reaching out my arms, but they can’t steady me.

So I am trying to dig down. I’m searching for footing. Stretching vertically, not just horizontally. I’m pressing my toes down to the mud and reaching my eyes up to the heavens. A favorite song rings through my soul. I will call upon Your Name, and keep my eyes above the waves when oceans rise…Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior. Going deeper is finding surrender. Digging deeper is something I can DO. It is not passive. Deeper is safer. Deeper is grounded. Deeper is less me, more God. Going deeper allows me to stretch my arms out as far as I want to without toppling over. And God is there in the deep, calling out to me. “Deep calls to deep, in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” Psalm 42:7

You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown, where feet may fail. And there I find you in the mystery.

In oceans deep my faith will stand.

 

(Here’s the song. Oceans by Hillsong UNITED)

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Healing

December 14, 2018

When I woke up one morning 7 years ago, I knew something was wrong. My neck ached, but in a different way than I had ever felt before. By the time I stepped out of the shower, my pain was gone, but the next morning it returned. Each day it stayed a little longer and strangely, it moved around my body. One day my neck would ache, the next day it was my left knee. Then the next day the bottom of my foot, followed my my right shoulder blade. I have a very high pain tolerance, so it didn’t slow me down at all, but it was beginning to worry me. After a few weeks the pain was widespread and never dulled. I would wake up in the middle of the night because both my arms were inflamed with pain. I would feel vomit rise to my throat as I worked, the pain washing over me in waves that made me nauseous and breathless. I thought about my life: I’m a single mom who only sleeps a few hours a night as it is. Losing any of that sleep could break me. And I’m a hairdresser. Without the use of my hands I can’t make a living. I worried that the extreme stress of raising my special needs son on my own had created a crisis in my body that I wouldn’t be able to outrun.

I went to see my doctor, an amazing woman who really listens to me. She tested me for all the suspected culprits of this type of pain, but found nothing. She continued to think about my case and would check in with me every few days, letting me know she hadn’t given up on me and was committed to figuring out what was wrong. One day after driving for a few hours I looked down at my ankles and they were swollen to twice their size. I stopped by my doctor’s office and drew her a picture of what my ankles looked like and the next day she called me with her diagnosis. After looking at my picture she had me tested for sarcoidosis and the test was positive. It’s an auto-immune disease that can be deadly, but can also go away in a short time. I went to 3 or 4 rheumatologists in the next year to seek treatment, with varied results. One told me I was perfectly healthy. “Good news!” she said. “I’ve tested you for several things and there’s nothing wrong with you!” Another sent me away with a prescription for steroids, which did wonders for my pain and enabled me to keep working and sleep through the night. And one walked with me through the illness, teaching me how to step down slowly off the steroids, advising me that one auto-immune disease can easily morph into another. (He was sure I was developing Lupus).

After several years I had still not been able to ween myself from the steroids and I was gaining a lot of weight. My face had the tell-tale moon shape that prednisone gives you and my body was lumpy and swollen. I still had pain–enough that exercise was excruciating–but could manage to sleep and work. I felt like I was always bracing myself. I was afraid to turn my head too fast or run or put too much weight on my ankles or wrists. I felt fragile and puffy and tentative.

Two years ago I lost my health insurance for good and at the same time I began to notice the tell-tale butterfly rash on my face that indicates Lupus. I started getting sores around my hairline and on my wrists and when I Googled them, I saw they were also symptoms of Lupus. I knew I had to do something about my health and I decided to reach out to a client of mine who is an acupuncturist. I have known him and his family for many years and I trusted his expertise. We decided to barter acupuncture treatment for haircuts and I resolved that even though I knew very little about Chinese medicine, I would do whatever he advised me and I would trust him.

I faithfully followed his dietary suggestions and saw him every few weeks for 3 months and I noticed that I was beginning to really feel better. I felt like energy was moving through my body again, I wasn’t always bracing for injury. My daily pain level had been cut in half. We decided I would try again to slowly step down off my steroids, and in another 3 months I was feeling even better. My acupuncture treatments were really painful and I had no idea what he was talking about when he described the energy channels and yin and yang and all the other Chinese medicine stuff he tried so carefully to explain to me. I really didn’t care. It seemed to be working, so I was like, I’ll do whatever you tell me to do! And if you need to twist that hot needle around in my leg until I scream in pain, carry on!  As long as I keep feeling better, do whatever you need to do!

Then last December, a year ago, he suggested that I try intermittent fasting. I had no idea that it would do me any good, but he advised me to drink only water or plain tea all day, except for 3 hours in the afternoon, when I could eat and drink whatever I wanted. For 3 days. I hated it, but I did it. And for the first two days I felt horrible. Then halfway through the third day I began to feel better than I had in years! It was amazing. It really felt like my body was healing itself, becoming whole again. Energy was flowing through me and I felt very alive. I began to make it a regular practice to fast intermittently several days a week, and I was quickly able to completely stop taking prednisone. I dropped dozens of pounds and began to practice yoga again. I would stare at myself in the mirror in yoga class and couldn’t believe that I could bend and stretch and stand on one foot–all my weight on one ankle–with no pain. My body got stronger and leaner. By the summer I added running to my routine, something I hadn’t been able to do in years.

When people noticed my weight loss, they would ask me my secret. Was I dieting? Oh, I was fasting? Maybe they should try that, too! Acupuncture? Did that help you lose weight? I had no idea. I really could care less about my weight. How could I explain the gratitude and the relief I felt at not being in pain all the time? At not constantly worrying that I would only get worse and worse, compounding illnesses until my body wore away? I have no idea how to help anyone lose weight. I have no idea how to explain why acupuncture and fasting have worked for me. I don’t know how to help anyone heal. I don’t understand why it worked for me. But I do know one thing: I have never been so grateful for this amazing, energy-filled, yoga-praciticing, regenerating, shrinking body of mine! I don’t know why I healed, but I know that I did. And I am beyond grateful for what I consider a second chance at life. I feel blessed and I feel lucky.

If you ask me to explain sarcoidosis or fasting or acupuncture I can’t. If you ask me why I healed when so many others only fade away, I definitely can’t. I know it’s not because I am more faithful or more good or more blessed that I have found healing and renewal. It’s not because I found the best acupuncturist in the world or because fasting is a cure-all. I can’t explain what has happened to me, I can only tell you how I feel. When I work a 14-hour day and have no pain in my hands or cramping in my feet or swelling in my ankles if feels amazing! When I practice yoga and watch my body bend and stretch and strengthen I can barely contain my surprise and awe! As I run around my neighborhood in the middle of the night or through the woods in the middle of the day I literally hold my hands up in the air in praise to God because I can’t believe how alive I feel. I appreciate my health every day. I do everything I can think of to maintain it and celebrate it. As I pray for my friends who have lost their loved ones to terrible disease and for my friends who’s bodies are wasting away from illness, I also thank God for the gift of health.

I didn’t earn it and don’t deserve it, but I will appreciate it every single pain-free, healthy day.

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Me and George Bailey

November 29, 2018

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

George Bailey is my hero. He is my favorite fictional character (followed by Jean Valjean and Lorelei Gilmore). Every time I watch It’s a Wonderful Life I discover a new part of his story that resonates with mine.

When I created this blog, many years ago, I had just adopted my son and I was looking for some medium where I could tell my story. I was learning so much and I wanted to share my experiences and reach out for support at the same time. When I was trying to encapsulate what the theme of my life was, I kept thinking of George Bailey. The journey I had taken to motherhood was not what I planned at all. I had a completely different life envisioned for myself! But God determined my steps and gave me things I didn’t even know I wanted or needed. I was full of gratitude for my unexpectedly wonderful life!

George Bailey is a man who knows what he wants from a young age: he wants to travel and explore and see all the things he reads about in magazines. But each time he is about to set off on a journey, a crisis occurs that presents him with a choice. Each time he can either choose to follow his heart and go traveling or he can stay home and take care of his family and his community in some way. He always chooses the unselfish path, but he pays the price by becoming bitter. When he finally becomes so discouraged that he wants to die–when he sees no other way out than to kill himself–an angel intervenes and shows him the magnitude of all the difficult choices he made in his life. He gets to see what the world would be like if he had never existed. And it’s pretty bleak. It turns out that even though he felt like his life was small, he had an enormous impact on his community. Seeing this helps him to be grateful for the life he has and stop yearning for the one he thought he wanted. He understands that he has lived exactly the life that God wanted him to live, and it’s actually been pretty wonderful.

I knew from the time I was very young that I wanted to leave my hometown, move to NYC and become a Broadway actress. I had a clear path to those goals and no one ever stood in my way. I moved to NYC when I was 17 to go to NYU and found a lot of success in the musical theater department. My senior year I held the lead role in both the school opera and the musical and by the time I graduated I had sung for top casting directors in the city and had an agent who was submitting me for Broadway productions. I started getting job offers in theater, and I began to be overwhelmed by the choices I was being asked to make. Each job took me away from home for months and over the years I turned down work because the jobs were too small to warrant leaving home, or they didn’t pay enough. Twice I turned down good jobs to stay in NYC and be the Maid of Honor at friends’ weddings. I didn’t know how to choose work over friends or responsibilities and after a few years I had turned down more jobs than I had accepted. Eventually, the job offers dwindled and I pursued a different career altogether. God opened the door so wide to my hairdressing career that I ran through it and have never looked back. I have found success and happiness and every corner of the business. I had never seriously considered doing any other kind of work than performing and was so surprised and grateful to love my work and have success come so easily to me.

I had always intended to get married. My parents got married when they were 22 years old and that seemed like a good plan to me. I did have a serious boyfriend at that age, but at just the time when we would probably have begun thinking about getting married he went through a very difficult crisis and I saw clearly that I needed to give him space. I couldn’t explain to him why I was breaking up with him, but I was 100% sure it was what I was supposed to do, not for my sake, but for his. And he did recover and flourish. And move on without me. The same thing happened again and again with other men until I began to realize that maybe I was supposed to be single. I didn’t stop dating, but I did start to really appreciate all the awesome things about being single. I had intended to marry, but I loved my independence more than I loved any of those men. (To be honest, there has been one man I really wanted to marry. But that’s a whole other story…) Looking back on my life now I can see that God knew exactly what would be make me really happy and fulfilled. He created me and He knew how much I would love adopting and raising a child on my own, owning my own home, owning and running my own business. I have had a really wonderful life and I’m grateful that God wrote a special story just for me. I know He is still writing my story and believe me, He constantly surprises me.

Becoming a mother was never a dream of mine. Until it was. And then I adopted Rahul! And being his mom has been the most unexpected, wonderful blessing of my life. Who knew I would love mothering so much? I dream of adopting 10 more children and who knows? Maybe God has that in store for me as well.

Some people may watch It’s a Wonderful Life and wonder why someone would make the choices George Bailey did. It might seem like he chose his own failures by not following his dreams. He always had them in his reach, but he constantly makes decisions that he knows are the right thing to do, but probably couldn’t explain them to other people. I know what it’s like to be a disappointment to people who shared your big dreams. I know what’s it’s like to be so boxed in and lost that you want to give up your life. But I also know what it’s like to find contentment by following unexpected paths and to be fueled my a greater gratitude than you even knew existed.

Basically, I’ve given up trying to write my own story. God has such better ones written for me! I’ll just document what I learn along the way, through this wonderful, George Bailey life.

 

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Ms. Dressup

October 31, 2018

I grew up so close to the Canadian border that my family was only able to tune into Canadian tv stations for most of the 70’s. And one of Canada’s hit shows was called Mr. Dressup. Don’t believe me? Google it. It’s a real thing. And he was super cool. He had a Tickle Trunk that he would open on every episode to reveal some amazing costume he would wear around his living room, where his “friends” Casey (small boy) and Finnegan (dog) would appear from behind the couch (they were puppets) to talk to him. I think they may have lived in a treehouse in Mr. Dressup’s backyard…

Anyway, my love for dressing up started early, thanks to Mr. Dressup. My sister and I and our friends would always be wearing clown makeup or flowing dresses or wigs or tutus and prancing around our living room, putting on “shows” or just lost in some imaginary world. My sister and I especially liked accessories and props. We didn’t need braces or glasses in real life, but we would fashion braces out of tin foil or paper clips and wear sunglasses with the lenses poked out. At a certain point we asked our dad to make us crutches (we had never needed those either) and that was super fun. We would hobble around the house with our crutches and glasses, lisping through our tin foil braces…it was endless fun!

So, of course, Halloween was always a big deal. We grew up before there were many pre-made options for costumes, so our parents always made them. My sister was Betsy Ross once, with a red, white and blue hoop skirt (our hula hoop) and a flag she carried with needle and thread. My dad made me a costume one year that incorporated the crutches: Man Who Has Just Been In A Car Accident. I had bloody bandages all over me and my arm in a sling. And a fake broken leg, of course.

I worked and studied as an actor for a number of years, so always had lots of opportunities to dress up there. But it was the impromptu costuming that was the most fun. One evening, my neighbor Lea knocked on my door in a panic because she was throwing a Murder Mystery Dinner Party and 2 of her guests didn’t show up. And if you’ve never been to one of these parties, each guest plays a role and has a script, which gradually reveals who the killer is. So she really needed 2 more guests and wondered if I could come. Yes! I said. As long as I can bring my other 2 roommates and we could all dress up! Done and done.

No one who attended that party will ever forget it. The 3 of us came in ridiculous costumes (A turban! A flamingo pink disco dress! Curlers in our hair!) and entered in character, complete with accents, ticks, and attitude. The very conservative party guests had no idea what to make of us. Halfway through the script I guess my roommate Kara realized that she was the killer, so she made the character choice to reapply her bright pink lipstick often, each time going a little more outside the lines. And when we got to the last part of the script, where she confessed her guilt, she uncovered her face to reveal a giant painted mouth that spread from ear to ear! As she relayed with a straight face how she had done it, the rest of of fell off our chairs laughing.

Like any decent NYC actor, I spent several years waitressing. And like any decent NYC restaurant, all the servers at Sambuca’s were creatives of some sort, so our manager encouraged us to dress in costume for Halloween. My best friend and I worked there together, so we would compare notes on our costumes, then share a cab to work, rather than take the subway or rollerblade (my favorite mode of transportation in the 90’s) so as not to embarrass ourselves too much. The first year we worked there she dressed as Hester Prynne (from The Scarlet Letter. Google it!), complete with a red “A” on her bodice and a fake baby Pearl. I had gone a slightly different direction with my costume–I was a Beauty Queen Gone Bad. Here we are:

R&L Halloween1

On our way to work that night, we were in the taxi, still 10 blocks away from work, when our driver pulls over and tells us to get out of the car. I’ve forgotten why. Maybe his cab broke down? Anyway, we were stranded and there were no cabs around. We saw one down the block that was off duty and Libby took control of the situation and told me to “hide” behind a tree on the sidewalk that was literally 4 inches in diameter. I obeyed, knowing no cab would pick me up in my weird outfit, and did my best to blend into the tree, while wearing my pink satin gown and leather dog collar. Libby took off her cap and started franticly rocking Pearl, desperately waving down the off-duty cab. He pulled right over and she commanded me to jump in quickly before the cab driver noticed me. As he was pulling away from the curb he stared at us in complete confusion. Where did that crazy blonde chick come from? Is that really a baby? That second question he asked out loud, to which Libby replied she’d tell him once we got to our destination.

The following year, she dressed as Ophelia. (From Hamlet. Google it.) She learned her speech about the flowers and recited it to ALL of her tables that night, before allowing them to order. And when they asked her who in the heck she was, she made them guess. The whole night the only person who answered correctly was a man who later that night called the restaurant, announcing himself as Hamlet wishing to speak to Ophelia and he asked her on a date. I, on the other hand, did NOT get asked on any dates that night. Because I dressed as Medusa (From Greek mythology. Google it.), complete with green snakes in my hair. I didn’t make my tables guess my costume. I announced to each of them in a loud, angry voice that I was going to turn them to stone if they didn’t order from me right away. They would all nervously giggle and try to ignore me, but I insisted and never broke character, snarling and frowning at everyone all night . It was the best night of waitressing I ever experienced.

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One is mad…

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and the other is MAD!

I don’t dress up too much anymore. I think I’m just too exhausted. And my son is not that into Halloween. But as soon as I recover from single parenting, I’m totally pulling out that red wig and tiara I’ve got in a box in the closet and coming up with some awesome props to create an obscure, insane costume.

Ooo! Maybe my dad can make me some crutches!

 

Happy Unbirthday

October 24, 2018

Today my son turned 18, but it wasn’t his birthday. He most likely wasn’t born on October 23rd, but he has no idea when he was born. He began living in an orphanage when he was about five years old and we don’t know very much about his life before that time. What we do know, we mostly keep to ourselves because it’s sensitive, treasured, highly personal information. Suffice it to say, a stranger brought him to the orphanage where he lived for the next 2 1/2 years before I adopted him. And the date Rahul arrived in the orphanage was October 23rd, so that was assigned to him as his birthday.

The first year he was my son, I planned a very small, simple birthday party for him on October 23rd. He was still very suspicious of me at that time and did not believe he was turning 8. He remembered being told at the orphanage when he turned 6 years old, but no one over told him that he turned 7, so for the first few months he was with me he didn’t believe his age. But once he had his first birthday party, on his 8th birthday, he finally became convinced of it.

I didn’t grow up dreaming of becoming a mother, and until I decided to adopt a child at age 35 I hadn’t planned on having children. It just wasn’t something I desired, as much as I have always loved children. But then God led me down that path and He completely changed my heart. I am sure I was born to be Rahul’s mom. But because I hadn’t spent a lifetime dreaming of it I hadn’t anticipated how much I would love certain things about motherhood. And celebrating his birthday was one of those things. I didn’t ever plan elaborate parties for him, but I loved to buy him gifts and plan special surprises for him. There is something so special about celebrating the person you love more than any other in the world. I loved bringing cupcakes into school so his classmates could sing him Happy Birthday. I loved having my parents and my sister’s family come visit so we could celebrate all together. We had costume parties for several years, then one year we went to Coney Island and rode rollercoasters, and once we went to this crazy place in the woods and had a paintball party! Then a couple years ago he stopped wanting to celebrate his birthday. He didn’t like the attention anymore. And that date, October 23rd, was becoming problematic.

It was starting to really bother him that he didn’t know which day he was born and that the date that was chosen for him was actually anniversarying a difficult day in his life. He no longer wanted to celebrate the day he entered his orphanage and pretend that it was his birthday. So we stopped having parties, then we stopped inviting family over, and this year we stopped saying “Happy Birthday” or buying presents or making anything special out of the day. I bought him a few candies that he likes, but that was it.

And Rahul had a really great day today. He and I talked and prayed about how this date is very bittersweet for him, because if he hadn’t ever made it to that orphanage, he never would have made it here, to me. He doesn’t like to commemorate the date, but tonight he acknowledged what an important milestone it was in his life. It was a crossroads, and the road that was chosen for him led him to me.

I’m so proud of him and so grateful that today was good for him. But all day I have been so, so sad. I have watched Rahul pass up so many joys that other kids so easily embrace because his early trauma robbed him of his ability to celebrate and receive loving attention. And all I want for him is for him to be able to be happy and to live life to the full. These are daily struggles for him. And he is a rock star, constantly pushing himself to engage and participate and connect with people. But sometimes it just breaks my heart that he can’t blow out candles on his birthday cake. All day my heart has been grieving that child he briefly was, the date we’ll never know, the story of his birth, all the things I can never give him. And I grieved for myself that one of the beautiful surprises about being a mom, one of the things I have really loved–celebrating my child’s birthday– has disappeared from my life.

This year we started commemorating his adoption day in special ways, and when he got his tattoo this summer, in honor of our ten years as family, he had that date etched into his skin. April 17, 2008, the day he became my son. That’s the date he wants to remember and celebrate.

So I thinking that maybe next April I can get him to blow out some candles:)

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Opening presents at his first birthday party

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My Midlife Crisis

July 24, 2018

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When I told Rahul that I wanted to get a tattoo, the first thing he thought was, “O jeez. My mom is having a midlife crisis.” Perhaps. Then I convinced him to get one too. We decided we would get them in honor of our ten year anniversary of being a family. I knew exactly what I wanted mine to say, and so did Rahul.

When I adopted him 10 years ago, I made him a little movie, and in it I dedicated a scripture to him: “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” He loves that movie more than any other one I’ve made him and keeps it on his phone to watch it all the time. If he really likes someone, he will make them saddle up to the computer and screen it. And Jeremiah 29:11 is his favorite scripture. It’s now written forever on his back, along with the date I brought him home, 4.17.08.

When I decided to adopt a child, I was in a really good place in life. I had just come through a time of great healing and was feeling especially blessed. I had been sad about a relationship that hadn’t materialized, but was realizing that I was ready to open my heart and my life to someone. One deep prayer later and I realized that someone was not a man, but a child. One that was living somewhere out there in the world, longing to belong to someone. The calling to adopt was so strong that I could not ignore it. I spent several weeks in prayer and fasting, but I knew. I was meant to adopt a child.

In my effort to prepare my heart to become a mom, I discovered what became my adoption theme scripture, Isaiah 58. It talks about how when we act religious we only please ourselves, but when we take care of our fellow man–when we spend ourselves on behalf of the hungry and poor–these are the things that truly please God. And when we lose ourselves in the giving, God will fill us back up. And He promises that our people will rebuild the ancient ruins and raise up the age-old foundations, and that we will be called Repairer of Broken Walls and Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. I just love that language. I love the idea of God renaming us, and recognizing us for our giving. I love the picture of man helping man and together rebuilding things. I read this scripture every day for the year leading up to Rahul’s adoption, and continue to read it regularly. It has reshaped how I see God and how I see myself.

So this Spring, when I suppose I was going through a bit of midlife crisis, I had the overwhelming urge to etch these words on myself. To get a tattoo, not for decoration, but for the reminder of what I have suffered and what I have accomplished. I wanted it in a place where I could look at it every day and remember. Remember the intention I had when I received the calling to adopt. Remember the incredible pain and desperation I felt throughout Rahul’s first few years with me. Those years were full of joy and wonder, but they were also a constant life and death struggle. Truly, no one except Rahul and I and God know how harrowing those years were. And no one besides God knows how much I sacrificed and how much I lost as I spent myself on repairing Rahul. The pain he had experienced was so deep and he was so broken. And he trusted me to fix him. He brought his pain to me over and over and I took it on. Together we wrestled the demons that threatened to undo him. The experience was stunning and horrifying and miraculous. Most days I focused exclusively on putting one foot in front of the other, not worrying about next month or next week, just Today. Each night I lay in bed and stared at the ceiling in stunned silence, not beleiving we had made it through another day.

And now I look at my son and I can’t believe he was once the broken, hurting child I had to devote every waking hour to keeping alive. He is strong and full of life. He helps me every day. He encourages me and teaches me.

And every day when I look at my arm, and see God’s words written in my best friend’s handwriting–the friend who flew across the world with me to go and get Rahul and who has been a constant source of strength and support to us–and I see the Hindi word for “family” entwined in God’s name for me in Rahul’s original language, I will remember. I will remember what I’ve done.

And when you tell me that I’m too independent, aggressive, forgettable, stoic, unworthy, or ugly, I will look at my arm and words etched on it, and remember that although I may be all of those things, God tells me that I am a Repairer of Broken Walls. I healed someone! I repaired a broken person!

And when I think of all the dreams I let go and all the things I didn’t accomplish. When I begin to compare myself to people who have more money than me, or have achieved incredible success in their careers, who have found true love or have won the admiration of many, I will look at the words written forever on my arm and remember that although I haven’t accomplished those things, I did lay down my life and sell my possessions and fly to the other side of the world to get this amazing boy and bring him to me so he could have a family and be loved and have a hope and a future.

And when I look at half of my life behind me and start thinking of the things that could have been and that I should have done, I will glance down at the midlife crisis carved forever into my flesh, and remember that I did at least one thing right.

I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands, your walls are ever before me.

Isaiah 49:15-16

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Signs of Spring

March 23, 2018

When I was a child, my mother would send me outside at the end of winter to look for signs of spring. She would give me a notebook and a pencil and I’d roam around our property looking for any hint that there was a new season on its way, then report back to her. I grew up outside of Buffalo, so winters were especially harsh. I can remember when I was about 5 years old we had a season of blizzards so intense that schools were closed for weeks and we measured the snowfall against our swing set in the backyard until the snow nearly covered it. Maybe it was that year that my mom first had the idea to get me looking for spring.

Inevitably, the first signs I always noticed were the purple crocuses that would pop up while the last of snow was still on the ground. They grew around my favorite tree–the one that held our tire swing, another wooden swing and our tree house. Of course, it might snow a few more times after they popped up, but they always seemed to persist. And they always came back the next year.

The thing I most enjoyed about early spring were the streams all around our house that would fill with melted snow and bubble with clear, fresh water. I can remember spending hours dragging sticks through the streams, just watching the water flow. Behind our house was a large field and behind that were the woods. There was a waterfall deep in the woods that ran down to a big stream that then ran off into all the little streams I would play in. Every Easter afternoon our family would hike all the way back through the woods to that waterfall, climb up to the top, then march around our neighbor’s property as if we owned it.

Spring is nice. But I can’t say that I love one season more than another. I feel like each one has its beauty and each one brings with it echoes and anniversaries of wonderful and also painful memories. So I don’t usually look forward to spring any more than the other seasons. And this year in particular, I have been resistant to its charms. Winter has been especially wonderful, and I haven’t wanted to see it end. It has been a season of calm and renewal and hope and beauty, and I wish all of that would continue. I fear that with spring’s arrival winter’s joys will disappear.

But despite the nor’easter we got hit with this week, spring has officially arrived and there’s nothing I can do to stop it! And I’m already beginning to fall prey to its charms. The light is so clear and bright! There is a smell of freshness in the air. There is a feeling of coming to life all around me, like nature is quivering with excitement and about to burst open.

And I have to wonder. Maybe all the peace and calm I experienced over the winter was simply preparation to a great blooming that is coming in spring! In a few days I know I will start seeing the bright green of new buds on the trees. The ground will thaw and soak up all the melting snow. We will shed our heavy coats and our socks (always the first to go for New Yorkers–we love to show off a good pedicure) and hopefully a few pounds. Many of us will start sneezing and itching and losing our voices. (I’ve been taking allergy medicine for weeks already.) The baby birds and squirrels and skunks and (please God, NO!) mice will emerge as the world springs to life all around me. And then the flowering trees will burst to fullness and hang heavy with colorful, fragrant blossoms.

And maybe then I will join them, and all the peace and joy I’ve cultivated over the winter will blossom into fullness and blessings and happiness…

I don’t know. But I’m already looking for the signs.

 

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Purple crocuses at my parents’ house

 

 

 

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