6/13/2013 1 Comment
One of the surprises as I've been writing about adoption in my family and throughout our extended family is how family members' perspectives and experiences are impacting me. My cousin Sommer told me she was praying God would start showing me threads that weave through all the stories and while I'm still struggling to have overall vision, I've decided even for my own experience I'm thankful to be the listener to stories, to Truth revealed, to the hurts, healing, and miracles within my family. I believe God will answer Sommer's prayer and in the meantime I'm looking at many little pieces.
My cousin Tyler and his wife Ruth adopted two boys from Eastern Europe just over one year ago. Then within two months Tyler and Ruth's first biological son was born. Over the summer they went from zero to three boys, two of whom were learning English and adjusting to a new culture. The learning curve into parenting feels steep regardless of how you happen into it. Compile sleepless newborn nights with attaching to elementary age boys who have already lived through more circumstances than most adults have, teaching English, and getting their heads around the fact that this is now a full blown family, and you'll be as impressed as I am that they are still standing... and even occasionally smiling.
Tyler and I started talking adoption. Then we started talking about kids, parenting, and how God is using parenting to transform us. I'm sharing excerpts of what Tyler shared because it hit home, then bounced around, then simmered in my mind. Naturally, after that much thought it tumbled out into this blog. I couldn't hog all of his thoughts to myself. You all deserve to have it simmer in your minds, too:
Anyway, I've been thinking more about being a "good" parent, and find that I cannot. Before starting this book I was determined to change my thinking. Instead of constantly reminding myself of my short-comings in my parenting, I would pep myself up. Become better by claiming it. Speak a prophecy over myself and then fulfill it. Tell myself that I can be good, and then be it.
It wasn't going to work.
This book reminds me that I'm not good... but God is. And do I really want kids that are good for goodness sake? (Um, actually yes. I would settle for that). But do I really, really want it? I mean, if it meant raising kids who were no better off than I? A rule abider, hell-bent on making my children follow the arbitrary rules (Don't talk with your mouth full, and sit on your bottom at the table. It doesn't mean your justification, but it helps my sanity... or does it?).
Do I want my children to show the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control? Or am I willing to settle for having them "do the right thing simply because I have told you it's the right thing to do."
I really prefer being a Christian dad, but there are times that I slip out of the armor of God and settle for my own flesh, lusting for vengeance and the rod of correction. I like it when things go well and we are all being silly together, laughing and having a good time. But then there are other times when that power-hungry side of me rises up and demands submission at the expense of love.
I guess what I'm learning in all of this, is that instead of producing right-ness (different than righteousness) in my children, I should be focusing on my own desperate need for grace and spend way more time praying for me.
(Then I responded with some not-as-profound thoughts and Tyler ended with this:)
What's really troubling to me is that no matter what kind of parent I am, no matter how faithfully I proclaim Jesus, it's all up to God whether they accept His grace or not. I cannot force it upon them. It's almost like God is working on each of us on separate journeys. He wants to use parenting to mold me, and teach me about his love, about obedience and faithfulness, but even if I get it perfectly right, He's working on the boys separately, and unconditional of my contribution. How disheartening. And at the same time, what a relief! Because I won't get it perfectly right. And I can trust Him in full confidence that whatever his plan is will come to be.
Consider this illustration: I’d like to think of myself as a coach. Some coaches are very successful in that they consistently have winning teams. (Sometimes it feels like I just have a whining team). These “good” coaches train their teams to function well, know what to do in a variety of situations, and how to respond to the opposing team. They run both good defenses and offenses. Good coaches instruct their players in proper behavior.
Here’s the problem: I’m not the coach. I’m the cheerleader.
Cheerleaders, no matter how well they do what they are supposed to do, have no bearing on the outcome of the contest. I can be the most attractive, most glamorous, most athletic cheerleader, with the most creative, technical, and daring routines. It won’t amount to a hill of beans.
God is the coach of the athletes. He is also the coach of the cheerleader, and he wants both to achieve their highest potential. He wants the athletes and the cheerleader to be their very best. When they each function at their best, they make the other look better too. It is more difficult to cheer well for a poor team. Likewise, it is more encouraging to play for good cheerleaders. Their relationship is a direct one. That is why it is so important that they each listen to the Coach and abide in His instructions.
Now I need to repent to the coach and let him do his job, put on some polyester, and cheer for my kids.
An altar-memorial-monument of praise06/06/2013
I love in the Old Testament when God does a work and His people recognize and remember it by building altars or memorials. We don't often enough go out back, erect a big pile of rocks and say "Look what God did!" There is significance in tangible markers for us and our children to remember God's faithfulness and character.
I considered creating a large rock monument in my backyard this week but settled on this blog as a reminder and proclamation of God's faithfulness instead (I'm sure my landlords would thank me).
A year ago I knew what my choice was for my kids' education. I had home schooled for two years and while it suited our family in that season, I was asking God for a new season. With two little ones underfoot (one being a very busy two year old that had with her a social worker, mountain of paperwork, and pending adoption to focus on), with Sean's ministry and a lot of my own things to sort through, I knew I wouldn't be teaching well this year.
A Passion Not of My Choosing06/02/2013
I was loading produce onto the conveyer belt when the checker asked, "How is your day going?"
"Good. Finished a Wal-Mart trip and other errands. This is our last stop and we're all in one piece."
Everett, who was eye level to the conveyer belt, looked up at the checker and informed her, "We had to get stuff to make our house safe 'cuz we're going to adopt more kids. Only we aren't keeping these ones. We're sending them back to their moms."
I barely held back my laughter as I explained, "I'm updating my foster care license. We have no plans for adding more kids. We're just available for emergencies or to help other foster parents...."
I trailed off realizing that maybe Everett's over-sharing with strangers habit may have been acquired from me.
This spring I took a class for six hours every Friday for six weeks to update my foster license. It crossed my mind to let the license expire. Our adoption is complete, we have no plans to add to our family, and I am very much enjoying (for the first time in eight years) being a diaper free family. When Sean is gone for a few consecutive nights or planning his next adventure, when I look at our lifestyle and full time ministry demands, when I think about the roller coaster the last few years have been, when I'm scrubbing crayon off the wall or listening to four little competing voices escalate in the car I can very clearly tell you, "I love my four kids. I am great with four kids. There's still a chance I'll need to be locked in a padded room with my current life so I'm certainly not going to increase those chances by adding to it."
The New Look05/28/2013
Thank you to Sean who surprised me by giving the blog a face lift. I'm a little giddy about it. It is resulting in a little more work than either of us anticipated (but worth it)! I'm working on moving over the old blogs to this one so if you were dying to read something from 2010 you'll have to wait. (Kidding. I don't expect you're that die hard about my blog.) I'm not able to move old comments over so feel free to add your comments to this blog. Let me know if you have trouble with anything as we work out any kinks.
Written by Sean Aaron -I believe in what God is doing through my wife with her blog. I have known for so many years that her quiet contemplation and personal disciplines would someday be rewarded by the kind of fruit I am seeing from her writing this blog. So I surprised her this week with a new blog layout and design that I made for her to better showcase her wisdom and stories. I know you are blessed by her and I hope that her words (which is truly backed up by her life) would bring change, conviction, and encouragement for years and years to come. I love you Shilo :)
Joseph & the Pits05/25/2013
We’ve been up to our ears in the Genesis story of Joseph this month. I just finished my fifth year of Bible Study Fellowship (shameless plug: www.bsfinternational.org. They have classes for all ages and in most cities. Life changing.) and this year’s study was Genesis. Our church has gone through a sermon series on Joseph and my husband is preaching on Joseph this weekend.
Last weekend we watched an animated Joseph movie with our kids. Everett has been loving the stories of Joseph from his kid’s class at BSF. At the beginning of the movie the kids were mesmerized as Joseph’s brothers circled around him, taunting him and threatening. They dumped him in the pit and Haley’s chubby toddler hands covered her eyes. ”Cary! Cary” (“Scary” in Haley speak.)
“They’re the meanest brothers ever!” My older kids proclaimed.
Then Everett chimed in. ”No guys! It’s okay. God wantsJoseph to go to that other country. It’s not scary. Watch. Watch. It’s supposed to go this way.”
The Kelly Ripa Illusion04/25/2013
It took me four days to paint a bunk bed. It would be one thing if I could say “to paint a bunk bed well” but I can’t quite claim that. On day three I was surly, feeling like there was no reason this project should be consuming my week. How did all afternoon only produce a few white boards?
There was that quick interruption when I had to change sheets (twice) on account of a two year old having a rough day and wetting them. Also on the subject of potty troubles, I plunged the toilet twice on account of a four year old who believes one roll of toilet paper per sitting should do the job. It would have been quick clean up if he had thought to get me instead of flushing again…and again… and again until the floor and rugs were sopping wet with dirty water. Oops. That load of laundry included five towels and two rugs.
Then “I just need to switch laundry real quick” turned into “How did the mudroom get this muddy?” which turned into a quick vacuum, dumping muddy pants into the washer, and of course returning to the paint project.
About that time I heard a bus and two more heads appeared with, “Where’s our snack?” ”Here’s my homework.” ”Don’t forget to sign this.” ”I’m still hungry.” ”When’s dinner?”
Dinner it was and well after that before I found the paint smudge on my nose.
After all was quiet and four little eyes were closed in sleep I went to switch the laundry again. Hanging over my old, breaking dryer I recalled my first sobering “I can only do so much!” moment as a parent and how it was ironically spurred by a laundry commercial.
It was the middle of the night and I was nursing a baby in the dark living room with the TV on in miserable attempt to keep my eyes open. I’m certain there was yet more laundry piled on the floor, dried spit up on the couch armrest, and a pile of toys I couldn’t summon energy to clean before bed. I do remember it had been a day similar to the painting day- full of interruptions and good intentions derailed. One of those days you can’t recall what you did, but wow- was it ever hectic.
On came an Electrolux commercial with Kelly Ripa.
Nothing like a tan, perky, put together woman grinning her way through a demonstration of an amazing washer and dryer while I’m curled up on the couch with a nursing baby, bed head, retainers in, to make me feel… un-perky. I’m sorry Kelly, I’m trying to hear what you’re saying but your amazing biceps are distracting me. Will the washer and dryer make my hair silky and flippable like that? I think I may be drooling. (Oh, nope- that was the baby.) Good NIGHT woman how do you get those teeth so white?! Did you pick that outfit? The color is fabulous… how old are these pajama pants I’m wearing?
For a past midnight, delirious moment I believed. I believed when Kelly flicks her wrist full of bouncy, clean laundry, it folds itself. I believed she can pull a tablecloth out from a full table setting without rocking the vase of fresh flowers. She convinced me that every closet is organized, every baby book up to date, and there probably aren’t even crumbs in her car. Does she even know what rotten milk in a lost sippy cup smells like? She probably wakes up and has a good workout before making a hearty breakfast for her family, arrives at the studio for makeup and is professionally stunning by 8am. When was the last time I was stunning by 8am? Thus was born The Kelly Ripa Illusion.
“Okay that’s extreme.” I laughed at myself but as I was burping the baby I stopped, mid-burp. ”Wait. Kelly Ripa has three kids like I have three kids. Sure, she probably has an unorganized closet somewhere but she looks incredible. Wait. How does she work, manage three kids, have calves like that, and do commercials like this? A grocery store trip takes my whole day!” My eyes narrowed. ”Ripa- what’s your secret?” I fought the wave of overwhelmed desperation and grasped for a rational thought. It came.
Kelly Ripa has 24 hours in her day just like I do.
The struggle is universal and though I’ve never discussed it with Kelly I’m convinced she experiences the same battle of expectations; of others expecting her to be larger than life when she sometimes wants to dissolve into a puddle and let someone else mop her up. She may have even suffered a moment of Mom guilt from not enough stories read, not a long enough tuck in, or a snack not homemade enough (but it probably was still organic. Come on, she’s Kelly freaking Ripa.)
I felt myself being pulled by what I hope of myself, what my husband wants, what my kids need, what my church expects, and should I be bringing in some income? Why didn’t I get my master’s when I had the chance? Wasn’t there someone I should have brought dinner to? Oh no, I’ve never even exposed my kids to classical music!
That is how an Elextrolux commercial caused me to cry out to God. “Lord- I will never be put together enough, will never do enough, never have energy enough, never will have a clean car, clean bathrooms, and clean kids on the same day…”
I was reassured. I was reassured that there are enough hours in my day to do what God has placed in front of me. It might not mean Kelly Ripa biceps (but some days and some seasons, it might). It doesn’t mean leisurely quiet time all morning but it does mean I wake before my family to use some moments for prayer and study. It means saying no to perfectly good things when they don’t line up with the very important things. It means being intentional with the time I do have, and constantly asking the Lord what it should look like.
My wise grandmother once told me that I don’t need to chase every passion, every desire, every gift from God in one swoop. She told me to let God dictate which ones get used in which seasons and let go of the rest. (Clearly I’m in a raising kids season so I’m foregoing Today Show appearances and learning that laundry folding/wrist flicking trick… you know… for the kids.)
For the first time in eight years I have a two year old without a baby close behind. I regularly sleep decent stretches and can do more than a grocery store trip in a day. It’s easy to give in to The Kelly Ripa Illusion and overshoot. ”I’ll run a marathon! I’ll write a book! I’ll get a job! I’ll take in another foster child! I’ll travel! I’ll eliminate poverty!”
Then I remember a glowing Kelly, Electrolux, and that I need to ask the Lord “what for this season?”
Apparently this season was a bunk bed. Anything else was overshooting. In fact, my idea to write this “quick fluffy little blog” may have been an overshot. In the previous paragraph alone I was interrupted no less than four times for help on the toilet (what is with these kids!?), for a bike crash, for mud in the eyes, and to reheat my coffee because this is taking altogether too long.
In Honor of National Sibling Day (and really? That's a thing?)04/11/2013
One of the greatest things my parents ever did for me was give me a best friend 19 months after I was born. I called her “Baby Jazz” and over the years came up with a dozen other great nicknames, none of which she appreciated because she unfortunately isn’t much of a nickname person.
She also isn’t generally sentimental or overly expressive like I am. She carries her intensity and passion in discipline, perfectionism, and challenges… none of which I relate to naturally. When we were young I used to look at her incredulously, “Are we really sisters?”
My mom always told me, “She will be your irreplaceable friend. Others will come and go. Youalways have siblings.”
No matter how much you don’t identify with someone, how much you roll your eyes, borrow their clothes without asking, and insist your way is better… something happens when you’re constantly pushed together. Be it bunk beds, rallying against little brothers, commiserating about mandatory piano lessons, or going through your awkward phase simultaneously,
one day you’ll wake up next to that same little sister you can’t keep a secret from to save your life and realize that… huh… maybe you are kinda, sorta, in a weird way, irreplaceable friends.
For us it was more extreme than most because we moved a lot. I attended five elementary schools and three high schools. I was blessed to make some amazing friends along the way, a handful remain close today. But the bouncing around can be lonely… unless you come home to the same little sister. She knew the same friends at every school and each new neighborhood along with me. Out of necessity we had each other, even on the days we might not have chosen each other.
When we fought over differences (okay, let’s be honest- when we fought over my lack of responsibility) we had plenty to fall back on. We had code words for everything and a secret sign language we used so Dad and Mom wouldn’t know we were still up past lights out. We both took way too long to outgrow barbies. We could go from dirt bikes to sunbathing to talking over a carton of ice cream within an afternoon.
Somewhere along the line some of our goofy pastimes started evolving. My willingness to let Jasmine pluck my eyebrows and play with my hair turned into a real profession. I would have paid her to not do the things to me that she now gets paid for.
We were known to make up dances. Thank you Paula Abdul and Amy Grant (but…ahem… if you’re looking for a certain music video of us circa 1994- I know nothing about it). Years later we laughed about our knobby kneed dances as we coached high school cheer and started a dance team/small group for middle and high school students at our church.
We had a Baby Sitter’s Club in middle school. We now have the grown up, full time version…
Our first long stint apart was when I moved to Whitworth University for college. Later she had a lonely year at George Fox and we ran up a long distance bill.
We got used to splitting our wardrobe up each fall and mastered a system. ”If you get that hoodie then I get that jacket.” ”Fine but then I get the favorite black boots and you get the sub-par pair.”
After our first year of marriage, Sean and I ran out of money and job options in Spokane. Jasmine, who had just moved back to Lynden, called. ”You guys should come work here for the summer. It’d be like old times. We can work berries, rollerblade, and share clothes.” (Okay, maybe the sharing clothes part was my idea.)
A summer of berries turned into a year of ministry… and over a decade of living within an hour of each other.
That decade brought a depth that life brings when you walk through fire, flood, and garden together. From marriages, miscarriages, careers, adoptions, heartbreaks, moves, to me pushing her to think hard and act gently, her pushing me to challenge myself and think rationally, and yes- lots of coffee.
Last fall Lance & Jasmine moved to southern California. To which I numbly replied, “Really? Of all the years?”
But really… would there have been a good year?
Kind people ask me all the time how it’s been without my sister. I’m not quite sure what I say. I think my mouth moves and sound comes out, but I’m not quite sure what I say.
We went to California for Spring Break last week and fit in all the sun, coffee, talks, runs, ice cream and t-ball-with-the-kids moments possible. Ultimately I’ve decided we might as well get this season of distance over with because my rollerblades from 1997 still have a little tread on them. I’m also holding a few choice pieces of jewelry and one pair of jeans hostage.
A Mile & a Chapter at a Time03/14/2013
I am not a runner.
When I was in middle school my deepest anxiety was saved for the day we were required to run the mile in P.E. I was an active kid who spent a lot of time outside, on the trampoline, riding bikes. However, any organized sport or running caused a strange reaction I liken to hyperventilating.
You may laugh and have in mind that I’m exaggerating. Stop imagining 32yr old Shilo. Picture with me 12yr old Shilo with braces, perm, and a decently round face that caused my eyes to disappear when I smiled… oh wait. That may happen regardless of cheek size.
I was last in the mile. Maybe you’re rolling your eyes thinking, “I’m sure it wasn’t that bad” but let me tell you- my fear over failing would turn into a side ache by lap one. By lap two I was dreaming up excuses I could use. By lap three every cute guy in the class was lapping me and I was praying they didn’t notice it was my frizzy hair and neatly folded socks falling behind. By lap four the rest of the class was waiting… and waiting… and dear God, am ISTILL doing this?! My run turned into a walk and I resigned myself to acting like I don’t care.
“Your time was 12 min and 45 sec.”
I shrugged. ”I had a side ache. My knees are bothering me. I’ve had this headache. I stayed behind with that slow kid so he wouldn’t feel bad. I ate too much for breakfast.”
Inwardly, “12:45? Sweet! My best time ever!”
The same year I discovered that I’m amazing at the high jump. Best girl in the class. Who knew?! The P.E. teacher said, “We’d love to have you join track.”
“I’m sorry… I feel hives coming on. I can’t breathe. Don’t you have to run in track?” No way. I had resigned myself to not being a runner.
Three months before my wedding my sister assumed the role of personal trainer and got me into the best shape of my life. Still- I made her promise no long distances. I got up to 2 miles of interval running but even in great shape dismissed the running option. ”I suck at running.” I refused to set goals in this area and when I hoped to break through a plateau, I certainly wouldn’t dare say it out loud.
I always told myself, “I’m comfortable not being a runner. So what? I do what I can do. What is safe to do… what I won’t fail to do. Two miles on the treadmill in the quiet of the morning. Done.”
I’ve been realizing running isn’t the only area of my life that this thinking of being safe and sticking to what I know has permeated. Apparently “good enough” sneaks in when anything more risks failure or uncomfortable vulnerability.
I am not a writer.
Since I could form letters I loved writing stories. They were in private notebooks because I knew they probably weren’t great. I threw them away when the notebook was full but it was therapeutic for me.
When I was ten years old I discovered the youngest published author was nine years old. I was crushed even though I had never told a soul my dream to be the youngest published author. I had convinced the “rational” part of myself that I wasn’t a writer but that rational part failed to convince a passionate (yet fearful) kid.
In 8th grade my best friend presented me with a journal. I filled it in a matter of months. I got another one. And another. In 19 years this “non-writer” managed to fill 42 journals.
Wrinkly, Exposed, and Three Sheets to the Wind… Not the Story Usually Told of this Faith Hero02/09/2013
There’s a fascinating little story tucked into the book of Genesis that I keep coming back to. It follows the incredible story of the flood and grand verses of God’s promises to Noah, who must have been feeling pretty good about his life, his standing with God, and the re-building to come.
There’s farming going on in chapter 9, a successful vineyard, and… wine. Our faith giant Noah has a few too many. Noah doesn’t need tequila to make his clothes fall off… evidently wine will do it. There he is fallen from grace; naked in his tent.
Noah’s son Ham discovers his hammered father sprawled out in the buff and his immediate response is, “Wait ’til I tell the guys!” We’re all familiar with the Hams of the world, gleefully grabbing the phone (or ram’s horn) to pass on today’s humiliation and sin. (It’s okay, Ham- I’m sure you added the Christian, “we should be praying for him” disclaimer at the end. Smooth.)
Shem and Japheth don’t respond as Ham anticipated. They “took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away and they did not see their father’s nakedness.” Genesis 9:23. It brings tears every time I read they went backwards, indicating how far above and beyond they went to cover their father in love.
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Just throwing myself out there a bit...