Sunday, December 29, 2013

Not Taking on a Lot - I Serve with Joy

"You're taking on a lot, having two of them," she said in that matter-of-fact, almost accusatory way school teachers sometimes have. 

One of the things I love most about my job as an occupational therapist in sub-acute rehab is the opportunity to build rapport and share life with my patients. 

In between exercises, Mary*, a retired high school math teacher, and I were chatting about the holidays. I had just shared about how my emotions ran high over Christmas as it was Bo's first with us. She had a lot of questions about our adoption of him and even more when she found that he is not the only child we have with Down syndrome. That's when she said it:
You're taking on a lot, having two of them.
The sentiment is not new to me. We heard it a lot when we were in process to bring Bo home, and at that time, I was pretty good at deflecting the skepticism, so sure was I in our mission. But that was a long time ago. I am out of practice. I mumbled something unconvincing and introduced the next set of exercises. 

I couldn't get it out of my mind and in the middle of the night when Bo woke me with his nightly thumping to stim himself back to sleep, I stayed awake. You're taking on a lot...You're taking on a lot...You're taking on a lot. It was a relentless refrain, one that seemed eerily familiar.

And then I realized.

Back when I heard the sentiment frequently, before we met our favorite orphan, I began to believe it was true. The seed was planted. This is going to be hard. I'm not sure we're up for this. We're taking on a lot.

After meeting him and realizing just how developmentally delayed he was, the idea grew. He is more like an infant than a three-year-old. We will need to do everything for him. We're taking on a lot.

Coming home and experiencing the sudden impact of three in diapers, all of which enjoying a strange urge to paint with poo, and it was no longer an idea. It was a fact. We have taken on a lot. 

Every doctor appointment that led to another specialist that led to another test, interspersed with the needs of our other seven kids, was a greater solidification of that fact. I began to believe it with every fiber of my being. We are in over our heads. It is so much. I'm not sure I can do this. We have taken on a lot. 

I wore it as a cloak. I wrapped myself in it and found comfort in the self pity it afforded and resigned myself to my fate. So when I was confronted with it in the subtle accusation of my patient, I had no answer. Deep down, I had been agreeing with her for the last ten months. 

My middle of the night realization made me see it for what it is. It's a lie. "We have taken on a lot," and every discouraging thought that goes along with it, is a lie. 

The truth is simple:
Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. Deuteronomy 30:11 
I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 
This is not too much. We did not take on some big burden by adopting Bo into this family or even having a family this size. The evidence I used to convince myself otherwise simply boils down to my own inflexibility, and lofty, and therefore unmet, expectations for myself and others. 

I'm ashamed of myself. I'm ashamed that I so quickly bought the lie and that I wallowed in it for so long. But with the recognition of truth comes a heart change. Too long I've been kicking against the goads. This is not who I want to be or how I want to view my world. 

I need a new mantra. I refuse to don the cloak of self pity anymore. Upon prayer and reflection, one thought kept repeating. 

I serve with joy.

That's what I want my response to be. That's the refrain I want to have coursing through my veins. More prayer than statement of faith, more plea than testimony at this point, I serve with joy is a perfect resolve for the new year. When people ask me how I do it, I want to honestly answer by year's end, I serve with joy. 

Of course, I've already had opportunity to try it out. The other night I left my sick husband and spent the night in the ER with an even sicker Bo who was having some signs of respiratory distress. After a dose of oral steroids, we were released and crept back into the house at 4:30 hoping to get at least a few hours of sleep. As I was putting Bo back in his bed, Eon sat up, looked at me, and proceeded to vomit all over himself and his blanket. I'm not sure I'd call it serving with joy exactly, but I did find myself laughing at the absurdity of the situation. 

Baby steps.

*Not her real name.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Two Worlds

It's the middle of December and I find myself on the ride that has no working brakes. Careening along from one festive event to the next harried shopping trip with no time to reflect in between. 

I do my best thinking while driving. While logistically it's a pain in the behind, I'm happy that we chose to move Bogdan's care to the much farther away Peyton Manning Children's Hospital if for no other reason than the chance to reflect during the drive. Earlier in the week was an appointment day to follow up on his recent ear surgery. Once we received a good report, my mind was able to wander peacefully on the drive home.

When did we allow ourselves to become so busy with things that don't really matter? Better question: At what point does a country become so affluent it convinces its citizens that wants are really needs? 

I thought about the things I need to do in the next few days. One of the things on my list is, "buy tape." I need to spend my time and gas going to a store to pick up some tape so that I can then take that tape and use it to wrap up gifts in paper, paper I already spent money on specifically so it can be ripped up and thrown away. 

Does anyone else see the lunacy in that? Or are we all so brainwashed by the norm that we fail to see the folly in our daily routine?

They made a mistake on the radio, this morning. They played this song twice within minutes of each other. 

Once was enough to punch me in the gut. Twice was my undoing. So again, I find myself caught between two worlds. 

There is the world I live in here, in the land of plenty and pretend, where tape and wrapping paper are needs and I must battle crowds and traffic, dip into my bank account to purchase them, and keep myself away from my family while doing so. 

And then there is the world that seems to be a universe apart from this one, but is actually so close I can almost touch it. 

The world in which children are alone. 

The world in which they have no mamas and no papas to keep them safe from the older kids in the institution who abuse them as they themselves were once abused. The world in which it is thought, no assumed, that children with cognitive disabilities cannot feel pain so they are slung around by one arm and thrown into their cribs, if they leave their cribs, at all. The world in which children can be so starved and so neglected they can weigh a measly ten pounds at nine-years-old.

The fact that I cannot reconcile these worlds may one day drive me mad. 

I choose to believe that the latter world is closer to the heart of Christmas than the former. The glimmering world of tinsel and bows, where tape is a need, seems far removed from the humble stable where my Savior was born. He cares about these orphans, too. 
But Jesus said, "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14
So on my trip to buy the oh-so-necessary tape, I cry. I cry and I pray that He will draw near to them and keep them safe. I pray that He will open eyes and move hearts in this land of pretend and plenty; that others will see with His eyes and let the children come. And I pray that I will find a way to meld my worlds; that while my feet must stay in this one, my heart will stay soft and very much connected to the other, that has nothing whatsoever to do with tape and tinsel, but so much more to do with Christmas.