February 28, 2010

Does A Body Good

When I was a kid, I was all muscles. I kind of prided myself in it. I would beat the boys in arm wrestling on the playground, sending them away in shame (not the best way to win a date, but I wasn't after a date in the 3rd grade so it didn't matter). My first job was dipping candles at the Holland House Candle shop, where I wore a Dutch costume and plunked 5 lb candles in and out of vats of hot wax for groups of tired, retiree tourists with entirely too much time on their hands. If the crowd looked bored, my boss would have me flex my muscles and when everyone oohhed and ahhed, she would give herself and her candle shop credit for them (which I just let her believe).

Now my arms look like they belong to a gal who will be 30 this fall, but my little boy is here to carry on the family bulge.

(Of course, his dad is no stick-figure himself, but lets just let this post be about Bright and me, shall we?)

Bright, in general, favors my side of the family. But with Daniel's smooth, olive skin and cute behind, our little muscle man is quite a cutie pie, if I do say so myself.

But Bright's real strength lies within. I see it in his dark, wet-stone eyes. He is fit on the inside; solid, strong, and powerful. I want him to know that who he is will always trump what he looks like or how much he can lift in the gym. It won't get flabby with age, it can't bulk up when fed protein, and it could never be accredited to candle-dipping or genes.

Bright, if you are reading this years from now and you are believing lies about who you are or what you are worth, remember the truth. Remember you are a treasure. There is only one of you. You mean more to your Maker than all of the stars in the sky, and you are more valuable to your Redeemer than his own life.

None of that has to do with your looks or performance.

That said, there is no harm in snapping a few pictures like this from time to time, now is there?

February 25, 2010

Uncle Kody's Wisdom

My big brother is a great guy. He is a son, and friend, and brother, and uncle like no other. Big-hearted, devoted, resilient, and lots of fun.

He is a horseman. He has lived in a barn (literally) for years now, getting up early (usually from the couch where he fell asleep watching Nascar the night before) to eat a Twinkie and drink a Mountain Dew and pull on his boots and head into the stalls, where he cares for the horses he knows and loves. Now that's not entirely true, sometimes he eats real food:), but it is a good picture of my bachelor big brother and his modern-day cowboy life. His living room window looks out onto hoof-beaten dirt. His poetry (which he writes, and well) never fails to include a bit of wisdom about horses, and what knowing them has taught him about life.

A few days ago he sent me this picture. I assume he knows this mother horse and her newborn. Every time a new foal comes along, it gets him right in his big, tough-guy heart. The thing is, he said he was sending it to some of his horsemen friends and, I quote, "to a couple great moms, my mom and my sister. These pics will help explain and remind us why we do what we do and why we love doing it." I am the sister he is referring to. He called me a "great mom," and put me in the same category as our own mom. I was so moved that I had to blog about it so I would never forget.

He's right. This beautiful picture does remind me of why I do what I do and why I love doing it.

Years ago there was a mother bird sitting on her nest in a shrubby tree beside my parents' house. There was a terrible rain storm one night that ripped through town for hours. My mom watched as that bird clung to her nest, protecting her eggs, as the rain beat down on her and the winds tossed her branch from side to side relentlessly. In the calm of the morning, my mom looked out and there was that mother bird. She had made it through the night.

So I think about my sweet big brother, and my wise mom, and my own little "foals," and I look at this picture and I remember that bird and I think about my little daughter, who could be 4 days old somewhere right now, sitting on a train in a basket for someone to find her...

...and I remember why I fold Lightning McQueen underwear and scrub cooked-on spaghetti sauce from my stove range until my hands ache.

Thank you, Uncle Kody, for reminding me.

February 22, 2010

Just a visit.

In answer to a question, our trip to America will be just a visit. We will be living in East Asia for a while.

And for hanging out purposes, we will be in Arkansas April 12-June 26, and Michigan June 27-August 6. For the kids' sake, we will try to stay put (to give them as much stability as possible) but our doors are open!

Ruined forever

In 1 1/2 months we will get on a plane bound for America. I don't know quite what to think about that. It has been so long that the potential is there for me to have a complete nervous breakdown.

I have heard it said to me that once a person "does something like this" they are ruined forever. Laura P., you would know, is that true? "Ruined" in this case is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can be quite good. It simply means that I will never again be fully American, at least not the kind of American who has an American perspective, but at the same time I will never be fully any other kind of person, either. I will be like one who is always 1/2 inch off the ground, hovering, in a sense, between Earth and Heaven.

That doesn't sound too bad?

Talk to me in June. I might be a total wreck. On second thought, perhaps you shouldn't talk to me in June:)

February 13, 2010

Year of the Tiger

The fireworks are exploding all around me, pulsating the concrete building we live in, shirring up past the window panes of our 12th-story apartment, filling the sky of this entire city with a haze of smoke such that I have never seen.

We tried to go to bed around 10, knowing that millions of fireworks would wake us up at the stroke of midnight, the turn of their new year. Daniel slept right through it. I did not. First I buried my head under my pillow and wondered why we did not flee to Thailand during this time like so many of our friends. Then I got up, put on my Crocs, grabbed my keys, and slipped out into the stairwell and up to the roof. I was not prepared for what I would see.

All around this city, this city that is home to more people than the state of Arkansas, fireworks, HUGE, real-deal fireworks, were going off simultaneously. Car alarms screamed in all directions. The skyline of the mountains were seen through the smoky haze in the red and blue and green and purple light. The sound was like, perhaps, a city being bombed at night, over and over. And this will last for two straight days, letting up only between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m., give or take.

Now it is 12:40 a.m., and I am up with the bangs and the booms and twitter-tats. I will not sleep tonight. My husband and children are snoozing peacefully. At least I can be thankful for that. I might throw some brownies in the oven and open the book I am reading. I might search the internet for girl baby bedding. What I am really in the mood for is dying my hair. Good thing I don't have any hair dye or Daniel might wake up to a redhead. Happy New Year, honey!

And then I glance out the window and, honestly, it is beautiful. It gets a little old, but it is beautiful. The Year of the Tiger. Errrr...

February 10, 2010

No more tears

Last night I wept. No one has died. I wasn't thinking about Haiti (though I did just finish looking at Haiti pictures in the People magazine my mom just sent me). I wept because someone, who I don't know, left an anonymous comment on my last blog post that cut me down.

I of course hit "reject," but I could not do that with my heart. He or she was clearly offended by what I wrote, took it personally, and decided to personally attack me, anonymously. It's like playing ding-dong-ditch-it. I'll never know who rang the bell. I'll never be able to tell him or her how what he or she wrote made me feel.

After the first few moments of tears about my anonymous commenter, I began to feel the pain from other times I have been verbally attacked (we all have). Those wounds have healed, but jagged scars remain, reminding me of how far short I fall. Then I began to cry even harder over the countless times I have, undoubtedly, scarred someone with my words - words that might be causing them pain even today, in their bedroom, late at night.

But then, my sweet husband, holding me as I wept, offered the voice of hope once again. As I cried, "One day I will account for all the things I've ever said! How will I ever be let in???!!!!", Daniel explained that to give account is like showing receipts of our transactions (or in this case transgressions). All of our receipts will be counted, added up, piled together, and put before us. We will be stunned by the weight of our sin. We will be sickened by the look of them. Then, all at once, they will be paid. Boom. Zero balance. Paper copies burned. Ashes laid all around the cross. Gone forever. He also said that just like when we get our new bodies which will no longer have old football scars, acne scars, or surgery scars, we will no longer have scars on our hearts. We will feel no more pain.

There will be no more tears.


February 09, 2010

Help, I'm being attacked by soap boxes!

If I did all the "right" things that are out there to do, I would eat only organic, free-range meet, I would eat no meat at all, I would eat only vegetables, I would eat only vegetables that have been prepared without exposure to light or water (thus preserving more of their food value), I would eat only RAW vegetables (thus preserving all of their food value), I would use only BPA-free plastics, I would live in another country (where nothing is BPA-free and they laugh at paranoid Americans) to share my faith, I would stay in my home country and reach "my own" first, I would forget trying to reach citizens of any country because they are ultimately controlled by their governments and I would strive to reach only heads of state and other major culturally influential folks, I would throw away my microwave because it causes cancer, I would not use aluminum or Teflon-coated cooking pots, I would not use fluoride toothpaste, I would not use anti-perspirant because it causes cancer, I would get regular mammograms, I would never get a mammogram because THEY cause cancer, I would not buy diamonds because they come at too high of a price (human life in some cases), I would home school my children to shepherd them adequately, I would put them in traditional education for the sake of not sheltering them and making sure they are not dorky (because everyone wants "hip" and "cool" kids who hate themselves and do drugs), I would use cloth diapers to save on landfill space and resources, I would not use cloth diapers because it uses too much water to wash them, I would whistle-train my kids over a toilet at 7 months old (that solves that problem) because I have nothing else to do but hold my baby over a toilet seat all day long and chirp like a bird, I would use birth control at some point out of regard for the earth's limited resources and out of a desire to heavily invest myself in the children I do have, I would not use birth control because who am I to reject the blessings that my Creator has in store for us and who am I to play creator, I would use birth control so that I could get myself back in shape and have more sleep and be more available and desirable for my husband because a healthy marriage is the foundation of the family, I would use birth control just during the process of adopting a child that would not otherwise have a home, I would adopt from another country where orphans are less adequately taken care of, I would adopt only from America because we must first take care of "our own," I would get up at 5 a.m. every morning and do a long quiet time and catch up on email and exercise and shower so that I could be generally together for the kids during the day (a practice which requires going to bed at 9 p.m.), I would let my babies cry it out so that they would get on a schedule and our family would have more structure and freedom, I would sleep with my children so that they won't get brain damage from high blood pressure induced by crying it out, etc. etc. etc.

NOTE: All of the above persuasions are actually in actual books.

So what ON EARTH is a girl to do? Particularly at 1:30 in the morning when all of these voices are swirling in her head and there is no way to put all of them to rest simultaneously?

I really would like your input.

February 07, 2010

Goodbye home

There is a house on West 34th Street in Holland, MI, that today stands full of boxes and scrubbed base boards. For almost 25 years, the mail delivered to that house has been addressed to The Rademakers. That's my family. The poor mail man might fall over dead next month when the mail for that house is in someone else's name. He might be thrilled, however, if the new owner replaces the mail box, which has been rusting away for years:)

My mom and dad raised three kids, one obese cat, and two neurotic dogs in that house. They watched Leno every night for two decades in that stuffy living room. My dad frowned over thousands of bills at the kitchen table. My mom washed thousands of loads of laundry in the breezy room at the top of the stairs. I slept for years in the yellow corner bedroom, just at the end of the hall. I can still tell you which floor boards to avoid when trying to sneak in past curfew (did I say that out loud?) We wore out countless bathing suits, summer after summer, in the backyard pool. We built snowmen in the front yard, had camp outs in the back yard, and built, fought over, and eventually tore down a clubhouse behind the barn. The tree I planted under the clothes line in seventh grade is now three times taller than the light post. I can point to the exact spot on the back patio where I tried, and then violently threw up, cherry flavored chewing tobacco (these things happen when your older brother is a complete redneck:) In fact, there are few inches, if any, on that entire property that are not tied to one or more memories.

And I will never see it again, at least not the way that I remember it. When we moved overseas in the fall of 2008, I did not know that my parents would move out of their house before I got back. The last time I pulled myself up out of that swimming pool and dried off to go in for a grilled steak or whatever, I had no idea that I would never pull myself up out of that pool again. And I'm sure I never even looked back.

It is very strange how much of what makes a person who they are is wrapped up in their childhood home. I was not prepared for the tears I would shed over this, or the sense of uneasiness that it would bring. My parents are moving to a condo now. Old people move to condos. It's the last step before the nursing home. A young family is moving in to 44 W. 34th Street. Their children will camp in the back yard, vomit Skoal on the worn cement slab next to the screened-in porch, and have their first kiss under the yellowing light on the front doorstep. They will lock themselves in the outdated bathroom and cry for hours for no other reason than they are fourteen and they are confused by the world at large. They will slam the cheap doors and apologize for it later, over chicken salad, on the pool deck with their mom who they now appreciate more than ever.

Meanwhile, I think I will stay away. I don't think I could see the house with strangers living in it. This summer, when we are in Holland for a visit, I might send Daniel on an errand to the back yard to steal a few pine needles from my tree. I will dry them and put them in my treasure box for safe keeping, and I will remember 44 W. 34th Street until the day that I die.

p.s. The picture is my dad, shirtless, eating his second dinner (during Leno) out of a 9x13. Yes, that is all for him. And honestly, there couldn't be a better picture of the house.

February 05, 2010

Our daughter to come

We can now say, with near certainty, that we are "expecting" our fourth child. I am not, however, pregnant, nor shall ever be again most likely. We are standing at the starting block of the great journey of adoption.

Many of our friends have gone before us, and many will go after us. It is common for those of us who are called children of the Most High, co-heirs with his Son, to adopt children. For a long time we were waiting on some kind of supernatural confirmation to do this, but anymore the big question before us is, "Why not?"

So, as you can well guess, we would like a little girl, under two years old, if possible, from here in the country where we reside. (The little girl pictured is our neighbor, not our future daughter:) We are going to try to have our home study completed before we leave for America in April. The boys are THRILLED and their dad and I couldn't be more elated. We are already planning how we are going to rearrange our 12th story apartment to allow for a beautiful pink room. I am having visions of baby dolls and play kitchens and dress-up clothes (of course she might be more interested in her brothers' Transformers, which would be just fine, too:)

Much more to come as we journey, but I wanted to get the word out so you will be ready to receive our daughter into your hearts along with us.