May 31, 2012

the glory days

In being overseas the past two years, we feared we had missed the Glory days.

We visited Glory's grave the other day, and while Zion and Brave and Jubilee ran around among the headstones, Bright stood at Glory's stone and cried.
"She was my cousin," he sobbed into my T-shirt.  I cried too, and MoMo cried, both of us moved by the way children feel so deeply; moved by the way Glory's life touched so many.

We hung out with Kerry and Philip tonight, and we laughed and ate big bowls of cereal in our pj's and talked about Glory.  Kerry and Philip see their life with Glory as the best time of their lives.

"She wasn't supposed to live a week," Kerry said, smiling, "and we got her for 16 months."

They love to talk about her.  They love to drive by the cemetery where her little pink marker stands in the ground.  They love to look at her pictures.  Glory is everywhere in their home.  She is everywhere in this town.  She is part of our lives.  Kerry aches to hold her daughter, of course.  She aches in a way that no mother, who hasn't buried a child, can possibly understand.  And yet, there is beauty here.  Beauty, the likes of which I have never seen.

The Glory days are not gone.  The Glory days are here to stay. 

May 28, 2012

A nice arrangement

Still can't show any pictures...still waiting for our American sim card to arrive, still plunking awkwardly away on my mother-in-law's iPad. Still waking up at 4:30 a.m. to put jetlagging kids on the potty and then fix them a meal. Still adjusting. Still settling. Unfortunately, by the time we are pretty much settled, it will be time to return to East Asia. But you know what? That will be wonderful, too. I like my life there. That's good. A girl should like her life, after all. It would be a sad thing to live for these times in the States. Instead, I can enjoy them tremendously, and then go back to my life. A nice arrangement, if you ask me.

May 27, 2012

U.S. soil

I watched the original wizard of oz on the plane, somewhere about hour 7, and now I feel like I am living a whirlwind has picked us up and plopped us down in another land. There are no witch feet sticking out from under our house, but there certainly are sparkling waters and brightly-colored trees and things do seem to be paved with gold. America. The whole world envies her and the whole world judges her but when the order is placed, the food comes fast and hot and just the way you ordered it. America could adapt Papa John's pizza slogan, saying, "We didn't invent civilization, we just made it better." So yes, it is good to be back, even if we are absolutely, positively, and in every way EXHAUSTED. The day after we landed, the day after Jubilee immigrated, Daniel dropped the two of us off in Little Rock for her surgery. I was jet lagged out of my mind and reverse culture shocking and if it hadn't been for my AWESOME friends there by my side, I don't think I would have made it. Darci, Candace, Korrie, and Lydia, you rock my world. And Kaylee and Phom, we were SO blessed to be able to stay in the green house! Jubilee did great, and she is now running around this farm house like she doesn't have a care in the world, let alone a scrawling incision across her chest and under her arm. That girl, she is something else. You would think she has been an Arkansas country girl her whole life. You should have seen her at cracker barrel this noon, scarfing down on pinto beans and smiling her gorgeous Chinese smile at all the ponytailed waitresses. Just as soon as our American sim card comes in, I will be back on the blogging train, and able to share some pictures. Happy times on U.S. soil!

May 17, 2012

in our last week

Bright played his first game of Scrabble this week.  I won, but it was a close race.

We finished school for the summer!  Bright is now a second-grader and Zion is some sort of kindergarten/1st grade conglomeration.  Three cheers for non-traditional education!

And finally, for a bit of comic relief, the following add appeared in our expat community bulletin this week, to which I say, "Tempting, but no thanks."

Female full sized mannequin for sale
Female full sized mannequin for sale. Just like the ones you see in the clothing stores. The neck has a crack in it, however the head still properly sits where it's supposed to. Glue or epoxy of some kind can easily fix it. She could easily be placed in the passenger seat of a car. Or made to stand in the entrance way of your home to greet people or hang coats on. What a conversation piece! Start this new chapter of your life by making an offer. Any offer!

Three more days of packing and one 5th birthday party for Zion separate us from our journey to America.  Yippee skippee!!!!

May 15, 2012

Fare thee well

Daniel isn't home.  He and Zion went to Hong Kong for Zion's regular eyeglass prescription adjustment.  We leave in four days for America, and I should be in bed resting up before the big trip.  I just never know how to go to bed when Daniel isn't home.  Do I just stand up, turn out the lights, and silently retreat to my room?  I guess that's how its done, but I hate doing it.  I would have made a horrible widow...

Anyway, I've been surprised at the things I've been doing instead of packing.  Like baking butterscotch blondies, for example.  Who bakes butterscotch blondies four days before leaving the country with four children?  And they weren't even that good!  I think I'm in denial.  I can't believe we won't be returning to this place in the fall.  I can't believe our time here is over.

Worst of all is having to say goodbye to my dear friend, Xiao Fu, who is 7 months younger than me and a thousand years wiser.  She is handling all, and I do mean ALL of our insurance claims after the wreck, and she is brilliant.  Just brilliant.  Had she been born into a different family, she could have been a lawyer, and a dang good one at that.  We tell her so and she dismisses our praises, saying, "G0D is helping me."  I can't stand the thought of hugging her goodbye this weekend.  I just can't stand it.

What G0D has next for us really excites me, but this chapter has been such an important one.  The past four years have been like that 10 minutes of the movie that you definitely don't want to take a potty break during.  More has happened than I can even recall, and I am definitely not the same chick who flew in from the U.S. in the summer of 2008, jetlagged and shellshocked and scared out of my mind.  The thing is, I truly have  fallen in love with this city and its people, local and expat alike, and its food, and its easy pace, and its unending sunshine and sprawling flowers in colors so bright they don't look real.  All I can say is, this time in my life has been an absolute gift.

Goodbye, Spring City.  You hardly knew I was here, but I knew it.  I certainly knew it. 

Fare thee well.

May 14, 2012

a child needs a mother

This was Jubilee's first mother's day, even if she was completely unaware of it.  Most folks would say, "Aww, how wonderful, the sweet thing has a mama now."

Most of the time, that's not exactly what I would say.  I tend to want to amend that statement this way, "Oh, how bittersweet, the usually-sweet thing has to put up with having a mama now."

Jubilee was raised for the first two years of her life in a wonderful orphanage, where she received excellent care.  Though I am SO grateful for this fact, sometimes I am intimidated by it.  She had a whole staff of people taking care of her, not just one bedraggled woman.  The staff members were not, as I am, knee-deep in emotional gunk, wading through the attachment woes that adoptive mothers know too well.  They were unattached and just doing their jobs, and were therefore able to put on a smile and pile on the patience.  They had made no lifetime commitments, nor would they have to deal with the long-term consequences of their decisions on behalf of the children in their care.

Jubilee was spoiled there.  That much is clear.  For example, in our first few hours with her, I put her on the bed in the hotel and she walked right off, as if she had no idea that she couldn't walk on air.  She was 25 months old at the time!  Her caretakers had obviously never allowed her to come anywhere close to harms way.  When she was naughty during her first couple of weeks at home with us, she would give us this big, heart-melting smile and, I have to say, I can see how it worked for her in the past.  You want to talk about adorable.  Oh my.  The girl knew how to work it.

But now all of that has changed. She has to deal with a tired lady who makes big mistakes and raises her voice at her for peeing all over the toilet seat - again - when Jubilee can't help it that she was created with a urethra that works like the sprayer-setting on a garden hose (I do hope she outgrows that, for her sake; and I do hope she forgives me for blogging about her urethra).  She doesn't call the shots anymore and she isn't kept completely out of harms way.  She doesn't get to bring her favorite plastic toy to bed like they let her do at the orphanage, and I don't go running in there every time she whimpers in the night.  A mother is not, after all, a nursemaid, nor is a mother a personal attendant, policewoman, or doting grandmother (not that there is anything wrong with a doting grandmother, but she has two of those already and doesn't need three).

So what is a mother, and why is having one ultimately a good thing?

We watched a movie the other night in which a boy's mother had died, leaving him reeling.  In his grief he said something to the effect of, "She was how I knew that I existed."

There is a song I sing to Jubilee before she goes to bed.  The first line of the chorus is, "I will be your home, I will be your guide.  I will be your friend, always on your side."

In my own life, whenever the world has turned its back on me, my mom has been there to wrap me up and show me the way.  As a child, she was like a mirror in front of me, reflecting my life back to me.  She is still there for me, guiding me, and in a real way, she is still my home.

Children don't need a nursemaid.  They don't need to be spoiled and doted on.  They don't need to be treated with unending patience and gentleness (though to shoot for this can only be good).  They need to get their feelings hurt in a safe environment and then learn how to communicate from their hearts.  They need to see a mother, their mother, getting down on her knees to say she's sorry.  They need to see how G0D moves in a perfect way among imperfect people, and they need to know that it isn't their parents, but G0D, who will never let them down.

A child needs to know she exists.

A child needs a mother.

May 13, 2012

a true mother's day

Life after the big wreck has returned pretty much to normal.  Very normal.  Daniel and I spent today (which was mother's day on this side of the world) cleaning up Brave's throw-up and measuring doses of fever-reducer, while helping Bright make the perfect paper airplane, addressing Zion's current issue with frustration, and reassuring a nervous Jubilee who can sense upheaval but doesn't know what to make of it.  There were carrots to be sliced for dinner, the floor to be swept for the umpteenth time, unanswered emails on account of the wreck, work to be done on breaking down the house for the move, work to be done on packing and preparing for our trip to the States, etc., etc., etc.

Daniel apologized for not having done something special for me on mother's day.  I told him not to worry about, that I understood perfectly, in light of everything that is going on.  Still, I will be glad when my daughter is old enough to make me breakfast in bed like I always did for my mom, and instigate a "Mother's Day Tree" like Candace's daughter did for her this year.

Then, when I think about it, this was a perfect mother's day.  This was a true mother's day.  Going to the spa all morning followed by lunch with my five best friends isn't a mother's day.  Its a fairytale day.  I hope to have a fairytale day, and I will come August thanks to Kathy (woot woot), but in a very real way, today celebrated all that I go through right now, all that I fight for, and all the sacrifices I make on a daily basis for the four little people who call me, "Mama."

So, whether you have your hands in warm wax today, or your toddler's puke, a happy mother's day to you!

May 10, 2012

this far, and no farther

Yesterday morning when I opened my computer I was overwhelmed and brought to tears by the love and beautiful words from friends and family about what had happened.

Thank you.

Because we stayed up late playing with daddy that first night, the kids slept in an extra hour yesterday morning, giving me a nice long time with the L0RD on the couch.  I prayed, thanking Him over and over for the gift he gave me, and the gift he gave Alisa, and the seven kids between us, and Daniel's sister and John's brother and countless others who love and need those two guys.  Using the words from Karen's comment on my blog post, I prayed to the One who said, "this far, and no farther."  I asked Him to make me worthy of the call to serve such a powerful, fearsome, and loving G0D.

I read Daniel 5 and 6, because they were next in my reading plan.  Daniel 6:26-27 is king Darius's response to having seen Daniel's G0D save Daniel from the lions in the den.  The king says, "I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the G0D of Daniel.  For he is the living G0D and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end.  He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions."

I then prayed over my children, as 8 O'clock drew near and they began to stir in their beds.  I prayed that they would make decisions in their lives out of wisdom, and not out of foolishness.  That they would not run after those things which have no power to close the mouths of the lions, which can not hold back truckloads of pain.

I prayed that they would run after the One who can.

May 09, 2012

the day I should have been widowed

At around 6 a.m. today, Daniel's strong arm slipped behind my neck and he kissed my forehead goodbye, waking me up, if only just a little.

"Goodbye," I muttered, rolling over and pulling the covers back over my shoulder.  I heard him leave the room and then the house, and I went back to sleep, sure that I would see him in three days, as planned.

About that same time, Xiao Fu and her husband were asleep across town, under the comforter that we gave them for Christmas last year.  She woke with a start, a gnawing feeling in her spirit that wouldn't go away.  Her husband laid his hand on the top of her head and they prayed against whatever evil was causing her unrest.

At just before 7 a.m., less than an hour outside of our city, Daniel and John noticed a vehicle blocking the highway ahead.  Daniel was able to come to a complete stop, glad that calamity had been avoided.

But it had not.

Two cars back, a heavy cargo truck loaded high with stacks of empty concrete bags barreled into the car directly behind Daniel, pinning that car against the guard rail, which then sent the cargo truck up and over, landing on Daniel's van, crushing every part of it but the very place where Daniel and John were sitting.  Then, our van with the cargo truck on top of it smashed into the log truck in front of Daniel, tin-canning the rest of Daniel's van.  Daniel and John looked at each other and Daniel yelled, "We've got to get out of here!", not knowing if more cars were going to pile in on them.  They tried their doors but could not open them.  Daniel kicked at the shattered windshield in an attempt to escape, and John started kicking at the passenger side door.  Someone was on the other side of John's door, pulling at it while he kicked, and eventually the door came open.  People began to gather, sure they would see dead bodies.  There were none.  Had our guys even been hurt, they could have bled to death waiting on the emergency vehicles, which took almost 2 hours to arrive. 
See that white-ish thing on top of our van that has hooked itself into the cargo truck's load?  That is our brand new dining table, just delivered last week, and it is stopping that truck from sliding over the driver's cab and killing our husbands.  Daniel and John were on their way to our new city when this happened, to tie up some loose ends and deliver our more valuable belongings, to save a little money with the moving company.  The table, which we paid for with the earnings from our moving sale and which we were thrilled to have because it was big enough for our family of six plus two guests, had been carefully wrapped (by Daniel) in cellophane and strapped to the top of the van.  Daniel didn't want it to get damaged if it were to rain on the 12-hour trip.  A bit ironic, huh?

Our new dining table was not all that was lost.  Our van is totaled, obviously, and "insurance" is a loose term over here. Daniel has been texting me all day from the "trial" in which he and John are testifying, completely in their second language, mind you, about what happened this morning.  Thankfully Xiao Fu is standing there with them, and let me tell you, she might be a sweetheart, but if someone tries to mess with her friends or family, she will throw down!

This wreck was so bad that mine and Alisa's stand mixers - which were riding in the back and were so heavy and solid that I could not lift mine by myself - were both cut in two.  When I think that Daniel's body came within a foot of being cut in two, I get goosebumps all over.  Its been coming in waves all day.  I'll be sweeping crumbs from under the highchairs or pouring juice into sippy cups and I'll just take a knee, right then and there, overcome with gratitude that my husband is alive.

It's crazy.  When we were having our moving sale last week, someone talked Daniel down to 65 kuai for our coffee maker, and I was like, "Oh, Babe, we could have SO gotten 100 kuai for that!"  It makes me feel sick to recall it now.  Gosh, it's all just stuff, and it can burn as far as I'm concerned!  Alisa and I have our husbands, and they aren't even hurt. Look at these pictures.  They should have been rendered disabled at the very least, but he and John just walked away, a bad sunburn from a day on the roadside and some flecks of glass in John's shins being their chief complaints.

Right after it happened this morning, after the kids had been fed their breakfast, we opened our devotional to none other than a teaching on Revelation 21.  Coincidence?  I think not.  No more coincidence than Xiao Fu waking up to pray for us before dawn, even if she didn't know she was praying for us exactly.  Friends, Revelation 21:1 reads, "Then I saw a new heaven, and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away..."

All of this will burn one day.  None of our dining tables nor minivans will last.  All of our money will get used up or become worthless.  All of our degrees and awards will be forgotten.  All that will pass from this world into the next are people.

Hold your people.  Look your people in the eyes.  Forget your stuff.

I should have been widowed today.  Instead, I will warm up a huge plate of leftovers for my husband when he finally gets home, holding him tight and praising G0D for one more day.
That is the cargo truck, less than 18 inches from Daniel's head.
The crush was so powerful that it lifted Daniel's corner of the vehicle that far off the ground.
This is our van, after the truck had been removed from atop of it (with a crane).  That is the roof-rack that Daniel designed, which paired with the wrapped dining table, acted like a press, turning our van into a pancake.  Daniel said the van's frame buckled just behind their heads.
The miracle seats.  Look where that roof stopped falling, literally where Daniel's head starts.
That is John and what is left of our van.
That is the crane removing the truck from the top of our van.  Daniel and John walked away from this.

May 08, 2012


Change has gone from something that was a big part of my life, to something that nearly defines my life.  Just about the time I can walk through my home in the dark without bumping into anything, it is time to move again.  Just about the time Daniel can define his job in clear terms, it is time for him to get a new position.  Just about the time I figure out what makes Brave tick, he outgrows his pants again and starts getting moody at dinnertime and I'm like, "Who are you and where did all my parenting experience go?"

Though, I'm pretty sure I know why he is getting moody at dinnertime.  It's probably for the same reason that I am having a hard time sleeping again, and Zion's nails are chewed to bleeding nubs, and Daniel's productivity is through the roof: everything is about to change, and every fiber of our beings can feel it.  Jubilee is clingier, Bright is trickier, and the very moon itself seems to be shaking nervously in the night sky.

I mean, forget the fact that we are about to move to a new apartment in a new city and Daniel is starting a new job.  Before any of that happens, we will take Jubilee to a country where she has never been, introducing her to an aunt, three uncles, and three cousins for the first time.  We will be living in a house that had Sue Sue in it when we last saw it, and two dogs running around outside of it, and MoMo sleeping in her room upstairs.

Boy, have things changed.

We will make a trip to Kansas City to see our People Group, as Bright calls them.  Two baby boys, Asher and Luke, have been born to that group since we last got together, and two little girls have been brought in via adoption, Bethany and Jubilee.  One family has converted to a vegan lifestyle, one family had to go through the tragic death of a brother, and John has started writing a book.  We always knew he would.

In St. Louis we will crash with some East Asia friends and get a short glimpse of their new life in America.  I can't believe David is done with his first year of law school, but I can believe that he knocked it out of the park.  We always knew he could.

In Michigan we will meet my brothers' new girlfriends.  It would seem they both found keepers at the same time.  When it rains it pours!  My mom says I will adore them both.  I will give my grandma a huge hug.  The last time I saw her she was recovering from cancer treatments and I honestly didn't know if she would make it until the summer of 2012.  G0D saw fit to give me more time with her, for which I am incredibly grateful.  My Uncle Dick, too, is still surviving his cancer, and will be getting a huge hug from me!  My Aunt Cindy and I have become closer over the past couple of years, bonding over email as we've swapped recipes and tales of health challenges and stories about people we both love.  I can't WAIT to see my lifelong girlfriends and hold their cute new babies!  We will laugh and eat and laugh some more.  We might cry a bit, too, of course.  We will tell each other, "You haven't aged a day!" and, "I LOVE how you're wearing your hair these days."  We will be proud of each other for the women we have become, in spite of everything, or maybe because of everything. 

Who knows what will transpire between now and our next trip to America.  Who knows the middle-of-the-night phone calls we will receive across the miles that will bring us to our knees. 

But what we do know is that we worship a G0D who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  The same G0D who created Saturn and all of its more than 22 moons (we studied Saturn today in home school), created my Uncle Dick and knew he would suffer from Leukemia.  That same G0D knew that my kids would have to wait until Heaven to play with their cousin, Glory.  Some folks take G0D's sovereignty in light of tragedy and pain as proof that He is not wholly good.  I couldn't disagree more.  I take great comfort in knowing that someone is directing the show, even if it is gritty and sad and R rated.  I respect the One who has to land this plane, while we all yell at Him about the turbulence and complain about the lack of leg room and the temperature of the chicken teryaki.

What I'm saying is, He is as ready as we are to get this thing on the ground, and leave this difficult flight behind us.  He is ready for all things to be made new - THE ULTIMATE CHANGE - and it is just a matter of time before everything is right for that to happen.  Until then, we will curse our crows feet and watch our husbands' hairlines receed (well, not mine, but he got PawPaw's hair), and we will press onward with the hope we have in the Everlasting,



G0D above all gods. 

May 01, 2012

as sweet as it gets

This week is sweet.  As sweet as it gets.

We have friends in town.  Not just any friends, and by "in town" I do mean they flew across the world to see us (and eat fried red beans and reconnect with old people and places, but mostly to see us, we like to think:)  Lance and Leah Luttrell are here, and if you've ever met them, or if you've ever heard of them, you know just how sweet this week is.

We have known Lance since he was in high school.  Those were his afro days.  He might have weighed 130 pounds soaking wet, and like the hair on his head, his heart stuck out all over the place.  He was bursting with love for his Savior, and biting at the bit to get out there and change things.  Daniel has loved Lance Luttrell longer than he has loved me.  It is a sweet thing.
Lance is all grown up now, fast approaching the end of his 20s in fact, with a closely-cropped cut and a beautiful bride on his arm who matches him wonder for wonder.  I thanked him yesterday for marrying Leah and bringing her into my life.  She is absolutely fantastic!  Her beauty is a little intimidating at first, but she is so cool and sweet and genuine, that one can't help but excuse her for it.  ;)
Lance is still bursting with love for his Savior, but marriage has changed him, or rather completed him.  He has meat on his bones now, and his eyes have a calm quality to them that wasn't there before.  It is a really sweet thing.

Last night, after the kids were snug in their beds, the four of us sat in the living room and unpacked the contents of our burdens.  Ahhh, friendship.  It is to life as coconut milk is to Thai curry, as peanut butter is to lunch; sweet and thick and essential.

After sharing, we prayed for each other until there wasn't a dry eye among us.  It was a sweet, sweet thing.

As sweet as it gets.