5/3/17

Pulling up a seat in the smoking section


Parents are responsible for their kids. A kid's behaviors often reflect their home lives. The kid must've learned these behaviors at home. 

I've heard these claims spoken by daycare providers, teachers, parents, and (gasp) these are beliefs I once held. ...Then I became a parent to two kids who experienced physical and psychological trauma during pivotal developmental years.

Suddenly, these statements no longer felt true. Even though my kids have been adopted for three and almost two years, they still struggle (and will always struggle) with trauma. Often they still feel threatened in situations that an outsider would not perceive as threatening. Sometimes they still eat as if food may not grace our dinner table again. Many times they still melt down when they receive even the tiniest of consequences. Are these behaviors a reflection of our home lives? I don't think so. Our home is far from perfect, but generally speaking, my husband and I work hard to maintain a consistent and loving home where curiosity is encouraged, mistakes can be learned from, a home where our kids can be kids with room to play and explore. We try to help our kids identify big feelings, and we give them tools to help them work through these. But, as is the habit of trauma, sometimes our kids' pasts seep through the cracks in their lives that we have desperately tried to repair.

Yesterday, my phone rang at 10:30 AM; it was my kids' principal. She replayed an outburst my son had in his classroom; he was unable to be redirected and had to spend the rest of the morning in the principal's office. I hung up the phone feeling overwhelmed and mortified about my son's behaviors. In fact, my first response was to email J's teacher to apologize for his behaviors. I spent the rest of the day beneath a dark cloud of shame.
Not a real cloud of shame, but it's pretty damn close. 

My brain knows that J's outburst was likely from a perceived threat and not an act of defiance, but I couldn't convince my heart and gut to agree with my brain. I felt responsible for my son's behavior. I wasn't home enough, I yell too much, I don't hug him enough. I worried about what the teacher thought of our home life, what J's classmates would tell their parents about the scenario, and what those parents would think of us. I was in a downward spiral of shame when I finally texted one of my best friends who also is a foster-adoptive mama and is familiar with parenting kids from hard places. I asked her when I would stop feeling so ashamed for my kids' behaviors. My friend is wise and kind and calm. She talked to me about losing my reputation to reach others...she reminded me that my reputation is eternal, and directed me to a sermon she recently heard on Luke 15: Love Can Unbind Us from Pastor Myron Pierce. 

3/27/17

Aging Happens

When it comes to outward appearance, I’m pretty low maintenance. I’ve never had my eyebrows done (I don’t even know what that means). I don’t know how to apply eye-shadow. Anything requiring wax on my body terrifies me to the core. I don’t even wear makeup most days.

An actual picture of all my cosmetics in a super fancy container. 
Nobody told me, though, that when I turned 30, I’d be entering a new era of face maintenance. Perhaps the most annoying body change I’ve seen in my thirties has been a development of dry flaky skin on my face that makes me feel like a snake awkwardly shedding its skin. Last week, after my seventh application of Vitamin E oil on the pesky unscathed dry patches, I remembered hearing about a face scrubbing device with a catchy name. The device was only $10 at Sephora and was cleverly named Cleaning Me Softly...a play on the classic Fugees song, “Killing Me Softly.”

We don’t have a Sephora where I live, but lucky for me, we were heading to a town with a Sephora that weekend so I could run a half-marathon. I had only walked through a Sephora once before a few years earlier. Honestly, I just hung on the outskirts examining the rhetoric of the advertisements on the wall while I waited for my friends to buy an assortment of makeup brushes.

So, before we returned home from our weekend away, I dragged my family to the mall. I left my husband and kids in the car promising to be swift. Malls always make me a little nervous; they’re filled with people, things, loud noises, and smells. They take me back to my middle school days when I begged my parents to drop me off at the mall so I could eat soft pretzels and flirt (unsuccessfully) with boys way too old for me at the Sunglass Hut.

3/8/17

Why I don't choose joy in tough situations

It's been a good while since I've written anything here. In my defense, I had a post due for another site that I procrastinated like a good writer does, and it left me zapped. Actually, winter has a way of dragging me down. It's dark and cold and keeps people indoors; it drives an active, outdoorsy person like me a bit bananas. On top of this, our dog died, our kitchen appliances went on strike, and my husband's work schedule feels relentless. I've found myself wallowing in the muck this winter, trying to climb out but slipping each time I get a strong footing.
What a sad sight. 
Currently, I'm reading Tish Harrison Warren's Liturgy of the Ordinary, and it's been so thought-provoking. Essentially, the book is about embracing the ordinary moments in our lives and finding God in something as mundane as brushing our teeth. Chapter four explores the everyday moments of chaos that we encounter and encourages readers to view these as opportunities to see how much grace we need. Harrison Warren writes about the conundrum of finding more peace while she lived in a conflict zone than while living in her safe, middle-class life in the States:
"I had a theology of suffering that allowed me to pay attention in crisis, to seek small flickers of mercy in profound darkness. But my theology was too big to touch a typical day in my life. I'd developed the habit of ignoring God in the midst of the daily grind" (55). 
I can relate. It's easy for me to see glimmers of God at work in big, chaotic situations--especially when they're not directly impacting me. But when my dog dies and all my appliances quit and it's cold and my husband is gone on the weekends---I don't see glimmers of God. Instead, I see endless chaos. This begs the question: how do we see God in the everyday chaos?