Thursday, April 25, 2013

TBT: I think we'd be friends

I wrote this post two years ago. Thought it'd be fun to post again (Throwback Thursday for those of you still wondering what "TBT" meant.  LOL, guys.  LYLAS) 

I've updated in red.  
I think we'd be friends in real life. 

That's what I often imagine as I read blogs of women I've never met from all over the country.  

So in case you ever have considered that about me, I think there are some things you need to know: 

1.) I drink large quantities of UNsweet tea with extra lemons.  I'm usually seen carrying a Chick-fil-a cup full of it on a daily basis.  This causes many southerners to look at me with distaste and call me a Yankee. (Still true. Will never change. Ever. I can drink two sips of sweet tea and then my tongue stops working.) 

2.) I'm not creative. This is not a statement of humility.  It's fact. In my elementary school, students had the opportunity to be invited on a yearly basis to try and "test" into the "Talented and Gifted" program.

That was never me.  In fact, in the fifth grade, I was one of four kids in my class who were not invited to take the test while the other twenty kids in our class were.  I can still remember sitting in the classroom just waiting for the rest of the class to get back.  Bless my heart. (Sidenote: My best friend shared with me a few weeks ago how she was in the "Talented and Gifted" Program in elementary school and was so embarrassed to be in it, she purposely failed the test so they would kick her out. Despite the differences in our IQ's, the common bond of Rap Music is ultimately what brought us together 13 years ago. True story.) 

3.) To further prove number #2, I can honestly say that I never think of my day in terms doing crafts, painting, or sewing.  I can guarantee that I will never attempt to show you how to refinish furniture,  paint a mural, or embroider a onesie on this blog.  I prefer, instead, to surround myself with very talented people to do those things for me. (Due to the emergence of Pinterest in the past two years, I found my crafty nitch, friends, and that means I focused completely on making wreaths.  Since becoming the parent of two boys under two, the thought of DOING a craft makes me tired. These wreaths are going to have to last for the next ten years.)

4.) Once I find a fashion piece I like, it becomes my "thing." (Probably that creative issue again.)
  • I rocked the colored jean my senior year of high school.  If it came in a color, I owned it.  Mauve jean? Check.  Dark green jeans?  Check.  They're coming back in style soon.  Trust me.  (Y'all. I was RIGHT.  They are BACK in style! Sadly, I'm so out of style, I haven't even bought any yet.)
  • For a few years I owned the tailored blazer.  Literally and figuratively.  In fact, I still actually own them; in navy, brown, mustard, cream, green, black...   Let me know if you need to borrow one.  (Still have them . . . in case anyone was interested. . . )

  • My current obsession are sweater coats and scarves.  I own a lot.  In fact, there's a good chance that on any given day, I'll be wearing one or the other.  Or both.  I need an intervention.     (I am just adding these pictures.  Bless. My. Heart.  Embarrassing.  Clearly, this is still a problem.) 

5.) I can't do a cartwheel.  (Still true. I can promise you this ain't changing.) 

So what do you think? Would we be real-life friends?  

Friday, April 19, 2013

Are We Practicing What We Post?

As details from the Gosnell trial started leaking out last week, the outcry from the nation, especially the Christian community, has been huge.

I tried to ignore the facebook links to the story for a while, but I eventually gave in and read the court proceedings.

With my eyes welling with tears and stomach turning, I read the details.  It was horrific.  Human depravity at its worst.

Whatever your views on abortion, the fact remains that this was a degradation of human rights not only for the babies, but also for their mothers.

I am a mother today because three women chose life.  I am honored and humbled to have been given the opportunity to call these boys my sons.  Reading what was done to women and children in that clinic absolutely appalls me and breaks my heart.

Honestly, friends, I have no desire to stir the debate over abortion.  The fact of the matter is that women are going to continue to have them, whether legally or illegally.

Instead, I want to speak to my Christian community today, to those holding tightly to the mantle of the right to life for everyone.

As I scroll through my newsfeed on Facebook and my Twitter updates, the cry against abortion rings loudly from my friends and acquaintances.  We weep at the horrors of Gosnell and his clinic, post pictures of babies that have been aborted to prove their pre-natal development, and rail against our legislators for not doing more to stop abortions nationwide.

Typing a facebook status, sharing a link to an article, posting a picture is pretty easy.  Heck, standing in front of a clinic, asking women to reconsider their choice is fairly easy.

Christian community, if we are serious about lowering the rate of abortions in this country are we ready to care for the babies that are born to mothers who may not be able to adequately care for them?

Studies have shown that the face of women choosing abortion is changing.  It's no longer the unwed, teenage girl getting forced to give up the baby by her parents.  Research has shown that the growing percentage of women choosing abortion are single, african-american women in their 20's, with more than one child, and living below the poverty line.  A report from the Guttmacher organization states: 

“The proportion of abortion patients who were poor increased by almost 60%—from 27% in 2000 to 42% in 2008.” As you might expect, the profile of the abortion patient is disproportionately poor, as well as disproportionately Black or Latina.
In the study, poor women's “relative abortion rate was more than twice that of all women in 2008... and more than five times that of women at 200% or more of the poverty level.” 

From an NBC News Report:
"In fact, the women come from virtually every demographic sector. But year after year the statistics reveal that black women and economically struggling women — who have above-average rates of unintended pregnancies — are far more likely than others to have abortions. About 13 percent of American women are black, yet new figures from the Centers for Disease Control show they account for 35 percent of the abortions."

The pro-life movement, interestingly enough, has continued to grow, with the Gallup poll indicating that 47% of Americans in 2010 considered themselves "pro-life" versus 45% as "pro-choice." 

More and more Americans are defining their stance on the issue, with the Christian community of "pro-lifers," seemingly taking on the most vocal role. 

So, as the demographic of women choosing abortion continues to trend toward minority and lower-income women and the American population seems slowly be heading more in the direction of a pro-life stance, what does that mean? 

It means that there should be help on the way for these women. 

The cycle of poverty is entangling and overbearing.  As we have watched personally in some of the precious lives around us, it is a heavy-handed oppressor often making an individual feel as though there is no way out. 

As a Christian community, are we willing to invest in the life of a mother who chooses life? Are we willing to spend time with these women, helping them to step out of the cycle of poverty? 

Getting a child through the first nine months in their mother's womb CANNOT be enough.  Mothers who are considering abortion but decide instead to carry the child are most likely already facing a myriad of stresses in their daily life. That's why they are considering abortion in the first place.  

My prayer is that we, as a Christian community, would become a support system for those women.  I pray that we would leave the comfort of our middle-income existence and step into the lives of women trying to make it one day to the next.  

Please hear me that I'm not suggesting that all middle-income (majority white) pro-life advocates march into the inner city and start telling people how to live.  What I envision are relationships, real friendships, developed over the common thread of life and children and hope.  Because when you have people in your life that are walking through difficulties with you, offering support and encouragement, you start to realize that you can thrive, and not just survive.  

Investing takes effort and patience.  It takes a committed desire to be intentional with your time and a willingness to care for others when it's difficult and messy.  Investing in the life of a mother in poverty means working with her in how to save money, how to interview for jobs and write a resume. It means putting aside your socioeconomic world-view and being willing to step into her life.  It means loving radically, deeply, and without judgement.  

If we are going to make a stand against abortion, then we have to BE THERE when women choose life for their child.  When we plead with women not to end their pregnancies, we must then, in turn, help them when they have the baby.  

Intentional, committed, and in it for the long run.   

We can spout statistics, talk about the gestational development of a baby, and list the emotional and physical risks all day long.  That's easy.  But are we really willing to do more than vocalize our beliefs? 

What about the 400,000 children in foster care across our country? Their parents choose life for them, but couldn't provide a safe place for them to grow and thrive.  

We asked them to give them life.  Now, are we going to help them LIVE? 

Or the 100,000 children in the United States that are waiting to be adopted?  Their parents chose life for them, but because of addiction, neglect, or other factors, could not continue to raise them.  These children have spent years in the foster care system and they are READY for a family. 

Christian community, if we are serious about fighting for the right to life, then we need to be serious about being a part of the rest of their life.  

There should NOT be a waiting child adoption list in this country.  Plain and simple.  If the Christian community is going to fight for the right to life, then we need to fight for a healthy and safe life for them as they grow into adulthood.  We need to step up and provide that for them. 

The abortion discussion MUST NOT end at birth.  If we truly believe every child is precious and wanted, then we have to act like it. 

I'm challenging us to move from behind our computer screens and into action.  Rather than point fingers, let's get to know some women in need of a support network and start investing in their life.  Let's move the number of waiting children in our country to zero.  Let's make sure that the hundreds of thousands of children in foster care are in safe, stable homes of refuge.  If we make the right to life our battle cry, then these children and these women are not someone else's problem.  

May our facebook statuses, our tweets, and our blog posts be overshadowed and overpowered by the way we are spending our time and investing in others.   

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Letting Today Be Enough

I'm a horrible waiter.

And I don't mean the restaurant kind.

I'm notoriously impatient behind slow drivers, I occasionally interrupt folks taking too long to get to their point, and I read books quickly so that I can find out what happens at the end.

If you've ever taken a personality profile test, this is me in nutshell.

As you can see, I'm a do-er, results oriented, and pretty darn self-sufficient.

(Reading that profile also makes me out to be an incredibly boring human.)

Basically, I love to do things myself and I stink at waiting.

Enter the past few years, where ironically, waiting has pretty much become the story of my life.

Waiting on our international adoption to be completed.

Waiting on our J-man's future to be determined.

Waiting on biological children.

Waiting for the day when I finally feel adjusted in Montgomery.

Waiting, waiting and more waiting.

So many aspects of our life are unfinished and messy.  Exactly the kind of thing that drives me cuh-razy.

It's as if I'm supposed to be learning life lesson through all this or something...

In early February, I headed with Tyson to the local Social Security office to get him his very own social security number.  It didn't go so well, and we left with our paperwork and the words "Homeland Security verification needed" and "3-4 weeks wait time."

Four weeks later, I called back, hoping to hear something positive.  Nope.  Our case was still being verified.

Fast forward to this past Monday, which was an additional four weeks later, and another phone call to the Social Security office.  This time, I'm told there is no record of our paperwork that is supposedly being verified by Homeland Security.  I would need to come in again and resubmit our documents. Could I be there the next morning?


Next day, I'm there bright and early as the doors open, hoping to get this cleared up.  Again, they can't figure out how to code his documents correctly to garner a Social Security number for our boy.  Homeland Security verification, here we go again.  Four more weeks.

On top of that, because there are some discrepancies on Tyson's name on his Green Card and Visa, the officer at Social Security told me we'd have to resubmit everything to Homeland Security for a correct green card, then change his name in our state court, and then reapply for a Social Security number with his corrected name.  All of it would take months to finish and loads more paperwork.

Tired of filling out paperwork and on the verge of tears, I left and further fumed about it on my car ride home.

Waiting and waiting and waiting.

In frustration, I called Brian to vent.

His response: "The good news is that Tyson is in our home, not across the ocean.  He's home, Les, we'll work the rest out in time."

The nerve of that man.

I'm trying to have a pity party over here and he is ruining it.

And then there is our J-man's story, which is still unfolding.  Things are moving very slowly in his case due to a backlog in the court system and so we wait and wait and wait for the next step in his future.

We have an amazing array of social workers, resource workers, and a guardian ad liteum that are fighting for the best and safest permanency for J-man. But even they can't move things along any quicker.

I get pretty frustrated as each day passes and we have no word of our next court hearing. In another conversation this week with Brian, I was lamenting on the snail's pace that J-man's case was taking. I want it finished, I want a happy ending, and I want it now.

Brian's response: "He's still in our home, Les, and we need to celebrate that.  He's with us today, let's focus on that."

How dare he bring gratefulness into the conversation when I am clearly trying to whine.

In all honesty, there doesn't seem to be a part in our lives right now where we are not being asked to wait.

We are waiting on answers that have been a long time coming.  It's been years for some, months for others, and all of them are completely out of my control.

Frankly, I don't like it.

Despite my distaste for waiting, the fact of the matter is, the wait still exists.

So, thanks to some gentle reminders from my husband, I'm working on my focus.

When I spend my time thinking and stewing over what I'm still waiting for. . .

          ~Tyson's U.S. documentation finalized

          ~J-man's permanency plan

          ~Our inability to have a biological child

          ~Life in Montgomery to be easy as I'd like it to be

. . .then I am missing out on my life.  My one life.  The one that's flying by at a rapid rate of speed.

I don't want to live in such a way where I am always pining for future wants, needs, or events. That is a slippery slope of envy, bitterness and ingratitude.

Spending my time focused on what I'm waiting for means is that I live like today isn't enough.

Today, with it's frustrations, laughter, mistakes, and joy has to be enough.  Brian and I have already missed out on years with TD, five months with Tyson, and potentially years with J-man if he leaves our home.  For that simple reason, each and every day is a treasured gift for our family.  I need to be IN IT,  instead of continually dreaming about what things will look like when all my waiting is finally over.

I have been entrusted with the care of three beautiful lives, a wonderful man, a home with ample room, and a job that allows me to be home at an integral part of the boys lives. I want my family, Brian and the boys, to know and truly believe that they are enough.  Who they are today will be celebrated, loved, and appreciated.   

Admittedly, I have spent too much of my time waiting for an outcome, (preferably MY outcome), to the unanswered questions in our life.

No longer.

Today has to be enough.  

Some of you are right there with me.

Waiting on that job.

Waiting on him.

Waiting on a child.

Waiting on a cure.

Waiting on that raise.

Waiting for them to change.

Waiting for this season to end.

There are many of you who have been waiting a long time too.  I'm walking this road with you. The fact is, there will always be something we can wait for in this life.

Let's allow our today to be enough.

It has to be, my friends.  It's all we have.