Sunday, February 12, 2017

Dee Dee

I pull the warm clothes out of the laundry--a menial, routine task.  My hand reaches in and I feel the soft, silky blanket affectionately referred to by my youngest as, "Dee Dee," and my breath catches unexpectedly in my throat as my body freezes as if suspended in time.  I recall yesterday's conversation with James.

"James, will you please throw me one of your Dee Dee's so I can wash it?" I asked the nine year old who was thoughtfully constructing a blanket fort.  He has two identical blankets who have worked tireless shifts comforting their blonde, blue-eyed little boy.

James was reluctant to let go of the blanket-wall he was trying to secure and said,  "Oh, I don't sleep with those anymore.  You can just pack them away."

I was caught off guard.  I couldn't bear to have Dee Dee filed away in the basement maze of plastic containers that contain seasonal items, clothes that are waiting for another growing body, and a few special toys and clothes that I just cannot part with.

"Oh.  How about I wash them and then put them in your dresser in case you change your mind and need one of them?"

James hesitated, perhaps considering if indeed he is ready to part with Dee Dee.  Then, seeing my troubled eyes, he concedes, "Okay, you can put them in my dresser, but I won't need them anymore."

Now stroking the surprisingly unworn blanket in my hands, memories flip through like catalog pages.  Baptism.  The ER visit when he burned his hand on the fireplace as a toddler.  Rocking my sick little boy in the sleepy early morning hours.  Reading stories.  Pretending to make Dee Dee kiss his giggling face.  I'm overcome and for a moment, I cannot let go.

The title of a friend's recently written article stands boldly in my mind, The Brevity of Childhood.  The days seem countless and unending.  And then one day, life shifts as if shaken a bit by an earthquake tremor.  I look around and nobody seems to notice but me.  My child needs me a little less.  But how is today really all that different than yesterday?  It isn't.  But I know where all of this is headed.

The oldest of mine is twenty.  He's incredible: independent, talented, hard working, godly, wise, and  independent.  Did I say that already?  This is what we all want for our children.  This is truly an abundantly blessed answer to thousands of prayers spoken boldly and whispered desperately.

Christian doesn't really need me anymore, at least, not the way he once did.  Sure, he needs money, he needs to discuss his plans for the future, and he still wants my affirmation and approval as a sign that he is indeed plotting a good course.  But he can navigate by himself and I deeply respect that.  Every once in awhile, our paths meet up, but even then, I see my little boy is now a man and my role is drastically different than it once was.

I fervently believe that each one of my four children are given to me as tiny baby birds.  I hold them tenderly and securely in my hand.  As they grow, I gradually open my hand a little at a time until all my hand does is provide a platform where upon the chick can rest.  When they are strong enough, each will launch and fly.  This is the goal to which I purposely work as I teach them Scripture and how to be kind and merciful, how to resolve conflict, how to figure fractions and detect incongruity and when to hold on and when to let go.

I return to the moment that has caused this storm within me.  I affectionately stroke Dee Dee and take a deep breath to steady my soul.

All that I am is temporary.  I am working myself out of an identity, if my identity is based on what I do and how people see me.  This very thought causes despair.  I remind myself that I am a child of God set upon this earth to love, to bring healing, relief, and to care for His children.  This is my identity, and it is secure.

It is time.  I take out the blankets and fold them gently and hug them to my chest.  I realize that this moment is sacred.  I place it gently in my heart next to the very last time I nursed my baby, the day Em and I packed away her baby dolls, the sunny summer afternoon when I let go of Timothy's wobbling bicycle and watched him pedal away, the cloudy spring I stood helplessly in the driveway watching Christian drive away in his car, alone for the first time.

Nobody else felt the ground shake, but I did.  I steady myself and feel the ache in my hand that happens every time I open it a bit more, further exposing the growing chick resting there.  "Thank you, Dee Dee, for being there when he needed you," I say aloud.  I blink away a tear and boldly make the decent into the cellar to help the loved blankets find their place among other carefully tucked away memories.

I remind myself that today really isn't all that different than yesterday.  This is my consolation, and it's enough to help me move on.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Haiti 2015 Through My Eyes

This video needs some work.  I want to stretch out some of the frames, but since I am still fairly new to the video editing program, it takes me forever.  For what it's worth, I hope you can catch glimpses of Christ at work in Haiti when you watch this.

Friday, July 24, 2015

An Open Letter to my College-bound Eldest Son

Dear Christian,

I'm sitting in a tea shop right now as you get your ID and prepare for life on campus.  They are playing some weird new age music here that is reminiscent of doped up music on a Richard Simmons exercise video.  As I stare through the couple sitting in front of me, I wonder with great shock, how we have so suddenly arrived at this moment.

Just a bit ago, I was concerned about developmentally appropriate milestones and homemade baby food.  I was just coaching you on how to get along with your friends in preschool so that poor, sweet, Mrs. Wetzel would not have to send another note home about how you need to include all friends in your dramatic re-creation of Davy Crockett adventures.  You came out of Grammy and Papa's spare bedroom not so long ago and announced you had written a song called Chicken in a Tree.  I was just shuffling you to baseball, flag football, basketball and taekwondo and telling you to turn down the volume on your ipod.  I was just pushing you to get your driver's license, bugging you about your grades and taking prom photos.

What has happened to all the time that seemed to stretch endlessly before me on this journey of motherhood?  I'm sitting here recalling snapshot memories and sound bytes of your sweet newborn cry, your serious little boy voice and your enthusiastic sports announcer imitations, and I swear I see ashes in my open hands, blowing slowly away in a warm afternoon breeze.

Independence Day is rapidly approaching despite all my efforts to shove it farther away.  The time is here when I have to quit trying to hold on and I have to let you go.  Nothing, not even the words of those sagely moms who have forged the path before me, has prepared me for this.  One month from today, I will drive you 234 miles from home, our refuge and fortress, where I have nurtured and loved you, and I will leave you there amongst the most derelict, wayward people on earth.  (Okay, maybe they are decent people, but how can I be sure of this?!)

I have to let you go-- you, who sits at the kitchen table and talks to me about your life and your friends, politics, the future, Jesus, your worries, joys and decisions.  One month from now, I'll walk in the back door without you and sit down at the kitchen table and stare at that empty chair--your chair.  You, who has been with me nearly my entire adult life, will be elsewhere, doing other things with other people.

All I can see in this strange paradoxical grief, is that your path which has run parallel to mine for the past 18 years now turns away from me and heads in a different direction.  I've paused at the fork and am watching you.  For a moment you appear as that 10 month old ginger, intense and unswayed, cautiously taking those first steps.  I want so badly to follow behind and to catch you when you start to fall.  But then you come into focus and I see you for the man you are, and I know you are going to be just fine.

This step is all about you, bud.  I stand in awe of this amazing guy with the million dollar smile, who was once my little boy.  I am so proud of how you walk in faith, in Christ.  I am so proud of how thoroughly you think and consider things.  I'm so proud of how you can sincerely make anyone feel valued and important.  I'm so proud of the musician you have become.  The truth is, I cannot imagine being any more proud of you than I am today.  My heart could explode with the gratitude and love I have for you.  Moms across the world pray they can be this richly blessed--and you were mine, given to me!

Now I give you completely back to God.  It is the most difficult thing for me, but this is exactly what I have been preparing you for all these years.  It's just that as I was preparing you, I forgot to prepare myself.  I am staggering along here a bit right now, but I promise I will be okay--for you.  I will be here to help you, to pick you up, and to cheer you on.  I will always be the refuge you can return to for strength, love, encouragement and renewal.

So go!  Go in joy and excitement!  Go with that little bit of fear that will keep you sensible!  Go enjoy your freedom!  Go and launch your life!  Go and be awesome!  These tears in my eyes are only temporary.  Look beyond them at the confidence I have in you, and the pride I have because for at least a little while, I got to call you my little boy.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Meditations of Our Hearts

Thursday morning came all too quickly.  We awoke in darkness again because Jose` was unable to get the power restored before it got dark last night.  By the light of a lantern Armando, a couple of his friends, and a couple boys prepared for breakfast club by cutting potatoes, cracking eggs, sweeping, and setting up tables.

Armando is a work in progress as far as accepting help from his guests.  He always tells me no.  However, when I find something I can help with, I just ignore him and help, and then pretend I don't understand him when he tells me to stop.  This morning, though, I spent some time just sitting with the kids who arrived early.  There is little we can say to each other, but we study one another and occasionally smile.

It makes me nervous watching the children carry the toddlers up the concrete steps, but the all manage just fine.  I think about all the ways we protect our children in my community and how these resilient little people here in Tj manage to survive some pretty scary things!

They are each so beautiful--vessels of God's spirit carried into the streets and schools and modest homes of the city.  Many have been cautious around me, the foreigner in their neighborhood.  However, today the walls seem to be coming down.  I wish I could stay longer so they would KNOW that I treasure each of them, that I wish I could learn each of their hearts--their hurts and joys.  I HAVE to learn Spanish.  It will be a focus when I finish grad school, because this is a ministry in which I will continue to invest in every way I can.  God is using Megan and Armando in humble, yet powerful ways to transform lives in their neighborhood in Tijuana.

The children who have to go to school in the morning get served breakfast first so that they can make it to class on time.  In Tijuana, children go to school either in the morning or the afternoon.  Most who attend breakfast club must go in the afternoon.
 Megan takes attendance each day to keep track of who comes and how many attend.

 This is a family who faithfully attends.

I love this boy's Spiderman sombrero, especially how it is worn with his pajamas.  Too many of us must have complimented him on it, though, because pretty soon he got a pouty face and took it off.

Christian again led us in How Great is Our God.  Megan helped them with the English words, and we sang it in Spanish too.  By the end most were singing along.  How wonderful it was to praise God with our brothers and sisters in Christ!

Then Eliana helped me teach the lesson on Psalm 19:14.  A kind helper emptied a tube of Armando's toothpaste onto a plate for me--because it was fun!  However, nobody would help me put it back in the tube, because that was impossible.  So it is with our words.  We should be careful to speak words that glorify God and give life and encouragement others and not speak words that hurt others or cause spiritual death, because we cannot take back our words once they are out there.

Thankfully, we worship a loving God who forgives us when we mess up--even when we say words that do not glorify him.  We can come to him anytime and ask for forgiveness.  I, too, had to ask for forgiveness from Armando for taking his toothpaste and wasting it all...

He was not happy at first, but thankfully he forgave me for my foolishness.  I was so grateful to have his forgiveness, just as I am grateful our loving Father forgives us when we fall short of speaking life-giving words.
 We served breakfast, first to the children in the order in which they arrived--to encourage promptness and helpfulness, and then to the adults.

Christian and I enjoyed one last doughnut made by Armando.  How sad we were!

Then the families, as they finished their breakfasts and conversations, headed back to their homes.

It was time for us also to pack up the car and head to the airport.  Megan and Eliana were coming knowing that Grandma Riggott was in her final days on earth.  I felt empty as I watched everybody leave, realizing that many days will pass before I spend time again with Megan, Armando and Eliana in their home, standing with them in their ministry.

Once we were on our way, we were able to charge our dead phones.  It was then that we got the message that Grandma Riggott had passed away on Wednesday night.  We wept.  She was relieved of her suffering and had received the perfect healing she had longed for and is now in the presence of our King, whom we worshiped with our Tijuana family in Christ just an hour before.  But we were sad that we didn't get one more moment to tell her we loved her, that she didn't get the chance to meet Eliana.  I was struck by how resilient life is, that she lived 93 years, yet how fragile, that she didn't make it two more days--just two more days.  The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord!

We did great crossing the border only waiting one hour and 45 minutes in the line.  I drove so Eliana could sit with Megan and nurse while we waited.  This kept our sweet baby happy!

Since we had extra time, we went to the Polzin/Martindale home to get our bearings and print our tickets.  We were so happy to see them again!

 Christian liked the view and the eucalyptus trees.

That's Jenna's dad, Tom, holding Eliana.  

Camille showed me her cool door frame-climbing trick.  I told her that my son, Timothy, likes to do that too.  Levi was disappointed that he hasn't quite grown tall enough to try it.  "I'll bet by Christmas you will have grown big enough to try it, Levi," I assured him.  I absolutely LOVE my California kids!

I did not want  to leave the warm sunshine.  This is ridiculous me, sprawled out in the driveway, soaking up the last rays of sunshine.

Tom took us all to the airport.  Christian and I were flying to LA out of the commuter terminal and Megan and Eliana were flying out of the main terminal with a layover in Phoenix.  We were to both arrive in Minneapolis around midnight.  Eliana rested peacefully as we made the half hour trek.

Good bye, San Diego!

Due to a snow/ice storm, the main runway at MSP was closed for a half hour, forcing us to circle and wait our turn to land once it opened.  Once we got on the ground, I discovered that Megan's plane had the same experience, so we were still arriving at about the same time, at opposite ends of the terminal.  Still, we all met up at the stairs to baggage claim, so we were able to help Megan and Eliana get situated and sent off in a cab before we finally got our cab (driven by a suicidal terrorist, who obviously did not get the memo that the driving conditions were ominous, as we rode in much fear and trembling) to the hotel where we waited out the storm before coming home on Friday.
Bringing Megan and Eliana home with us definitely made departure from Tijuana and the news of Grandma much more bearable.  We will get to see them this week as we prepare for Grandma's memorial service.  I have to say, this is definitely the best souvenir I have ever brought back from my travels!  God is so good. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Light, Darkness, Laughter and Tears

It rained hard last night.  The chill of the air and the sound of the rain made it difficult for all of us, even Armando, to get up until 8:00.  When we did, we saw how the rain washed mud into the living room, but Armando already had boys cleaning it all up by the time we came downstairs.

Brayan brought us Mexican hot chocolate for breakfast.  It was leftover from last night and every bit as good as it was the night before.

The power is out, probably because of the rain.  Jose` will work to fix it.  I wish I would have taken a picture of his hands.  I've never seen such worn, calloused, hands--evidence of the hard work he does.

He is one of Armando's good friends, along with Paco and Julio.  They are quite the motley crew, but good men.  They make me smile.  I can talk to Jose` easily because he knows English from when he worked stateside.

We needed to take Eliana's 2 month pictures.  Megan is such a wonderful mother.  She is relaxed and loving.  She talks to Eliana all the time.  I catch her savoring the touch of her baby, the smell of her sweet hair, and her expressions--all the time.  I love watching Megan with Eliana because it is a picture of perfect love.  Eliana is the most cheerful in the morning when she first wakes up, so we took advantage of that.  

Yes, I'm pretty sure she is the most adorable little thing I have ever seen.  
She makes my heart happy, but even more, she has captured the heart of Christian, who cannot stand the idea of not seeing her again until summer.

Today we decided to go to the markets and run a few errands.  

Eliana loved the company in the back seat!

We took Brayan and Chico to Brayan's mom's house so they could pick up some stuff.  They decided to walk straight up the hill to the house, after crossing a busy road.  Crazy boys!

We stopped at Nana Kathy's favorite taco stand, but they had JUST sold out.

 But we found another wonderful taco stand where we enjoyed a delicious lunch.  I told Megan it may be my favorite taco stand in Tijuana, but I feel this may be a premature conclusion since it is only the second one at which I've ever eaten.

Next we went to the open air market.  I have been there before, and I love the complete sensory experience.

We sampled some Jack fruit.  They are massive melon-type things with a flavor that is a cross between honeydew and...oh, I can't remember!  It had a unique texture.  Have you ever heard of it?

 I got a kilo of chia seeds here for $8.  I was so excited!  This is also where we bought dried fruit and ground flax.  It was such an interesting place.

We then picked up Brayan, Chico and Pricila.  Brayan and Chico showed us their bike tricks.

 After we got back, Armando made us supper.  He makes the best guacamole in the world!  This is Armando grilling the meat for our tacos.

And this is Gordo.  I think his name is Jonathan, but I'm not sure.  Something that is hard to get used to for me is that the terms of endearment in Tijuana seem so insulting to me, but they are not insulting to them at all.  For instance, they essentially call this guy "Fat".  Other nick names I remember are Windows (for a kid who was missing teeth), and Baldy.  There are lots more that I cannot remember right now.  We laughed at the cultural contrast.

Armando's kids went back to their mother's house this evening.  Christian was pretty lonely without them.

 By the way, this is Solo Vino.  His name means, "I Come Alone".  He was just a pup when I came in October, 2012.  He guards and protects the home and is the nicest looking dog in the city.

Christian and I were feeling a bit melancholy this evening.  We leave tomorrow.  Christian, who is forever changed by this visit, does not want to come home.  We have so many thoughts and emotions that simply cannot be expressed except in songs of worship to God.  The power is still out, so that is just what we did.  Christian played guitar in the dark and we sang as Megan rocked Eliana to sleep.