Monday, May 19, 2014

these 2...

 God is always telling us in one way or another that it's good to remember...the people of israel set up stones from the jordan to remember that He made a way for them and that "the hand of the Lord is mighty".  Jesus has the bread and wine and said "do this in remembrance of me".  and when peter is encouraging the church he says he "considers it stir you up by way of reminder".

so, i've been remembering.  when i see what He has done, worries of the now turn into hopes of the yet-to-come.  lena is just 1 of a little community in northwest arkansas of amazing kiddos with special needs adopted from ukraine.  it's pretty remarkable, really.  lena and the others, each with their individual stories, all that stem from some women who fearlessly follow Jesus (the picture before you push play on the video is a little fuzzy-headed blond girl in a blue shirt, this is little lena) into places to touch the untouched and be light in the dark.

it's funny the way He weaves stories together. our friends, the brills, have had paulina as their daughter for nearly a year now. our lena has been home 2 1/2 years. 
2 girls. 
from eastern ukraine. who laid in the same room together for years. now, both in fayetteville arkansas. in forever families who love them.  in forever families who happen to be friends with one another. i think about both of these girls and remember.

this is where they used to sleep in the orphanage

outside of the orphanage

paulina and lena, in december 2011

paulina in december 2011

a few months ago i got to keep paulina while the rest of the brill crew went to a basketball game. it was surreal. we see paulina and her brothers and sisters all the time.  they are friends with the rascals and go to school together & come over.  but there was something about this night...
having just lena & paulina together at my table that was so sacred and beautiful.  
they both signed eat (amazing, amy!) and they both like yogurt and the way a wipes bag crinkles and getting tickled. they don't engage each other much, but orbit each other with ease. they are so beautiful and i am so grateful for these two beauties at home with families who treasure their everything.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

deep breaths

the air changes. the earth has a smell and the wind blows it through new buds on branches. hazel stares out the window and says "they're dancing, momma, the leaves are dancing in the wind" and they are dancing and we talk for a while in the sunshine about how the Spirit of God is like that wind that makes us dance.
when it's spring and you live where we do in arkansas, you just gotta get outside. we loaded kids up yesterday and headed to devils den state park. matt said it would be crowded but we practically had the place all to ourselves.
hiking may just be our family thing. Hazel and anders love it and lena...well, lena loves walking and loves being outside and loves being with her family. so it's her happy place.
so we just went. 
explored. played. ran free. jumped. laughed. chased. picked wild flowers. skipped rocks. touched moss. ate apples by the waterfall...
and all of us took a good deep breath.
being together out in the slow is just good for the soul. 

obviously matt was the photographer, but I promise he was there too.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

lena ballin'

march madness is over.  my bracket was horrific from the beginning.  i decided to take some risks which was apparently a horrible decision.  really though, did anyone have a good bracket?  i mean uconn?  who actually had them winning it all?

anyway, lots of basketball watching and playing around here and this girl even got in the mix.
how hilarious is this video?  who knew lena was such a baller?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


i guess if i were honest, i'd say that i really thought those snow days would swallow me up whole.
but i'm still here.
i use this space to remember and i haven't put any memories down in a while.  it's like i've skipped february and march and just went from january to april.
i want to blame this on winter, but the reality is there are just seasons of struggle regardless of the weather.  where the days blur into weeks and months and the soul is just ready for spring.
and i am ready for spring.  for something new to come on in with the sunshine.

and these kiddos, they have been my winter teachers ... when i should be the one leading and shepherding them, they are the ones instructing me in joy and contentment and laughter.  in flexibility and creativity.  they wear their hearts and emotions on their sleeves and sing at the top of their lungs.  they revel in the gifts and talents God has given them.
anders looks at the world more and more, in his own unique way each day.  he uses rubber bands in some contraption to rig the door and lock and he just wants to practice basketball.  when my mom asked him his favorite team in the tournament, he said "the presidents".  i (like the good mother that i am) dismissed this as him being goofy or confused.  then he explained he was talking about "the first president"....what?  then we pieced it all together.  george washington.  he was rooting for george washington university.
hazel is so black and white and smart and logical.  art and musicals (mainly annie) make her come alive these days. i hug her goodnight and she whispers in my ear that she wishes annie was her sister.  she wrote her first "book" the other day.  it was actually more like a poem.  unprompted, with illustrations and the last 2 lines even rhymed.  i registered her for kindergarten last week and i miss her already.  it's cliche to say that she's my friend, but she truly is my friend.  she is my baby too, but when i drop her off at that elementary school day after day, i won't miss my baby, i'll miss my friend.
lena expresses outwardly the impatience and frustration as well as excitement and happiness we all know how to socially press down.  she is learning and growing, which has been great for her mind and development and yet at the same time difficult for her to handle emotionally.  and she and i continue to wrestle to figure out day to day rhythm while living with autism.  i invite others into the wrestling, but she continues to prefers me.  she teaches me what real love is and when i kiss her goodnight at the end of a tumultuous and choatic day full of her screams and my failures, i thank her softly.  i thank her for teaching me that love doesn't mean i have to have anything figured out.

and all these lessons from them. it's more grace than i can handle.  because i have struggled through it and His gifts, they don't come when i'm enough.  when i've tried hard or picked myself up when the weight of just day to day life crushes.
they just come.
despite me.
if i were God, i would withhold all this goodness until one got their act together.  do more things that line up, worry less, read more, have more patience, get it together rather than just sitting there in a season of struggle.  but this isn't the way He works.
i don't understand it but i can't deny it.
grace. so much grace.
walking at the park, looking all beautiful as usual

sometimes you peek in the back seat and see this. a sister hugging a sister that doesn't hug back

a visit to the cabin and big creek

love her style.  hope it never changes

swinging and walking: happiness


valentines event at the library

she likes to hold hands

and she likes to read the paper with her dad

a little mother-daughter time trying on shoes...  she likes the sparkly ones, obviously

banjo...8 minutes of this followed by 22 minutes of anders rolling on the floor and not listening

Sunday, February 23, 2014

anders is 4

dear anderson...
you turned four last month.
sometimes i call you anderson, even though mostly we call you anders.  this is because i can look into your eyes and see glimpses of the man you will become.
you can be as ornery as they come, just like all of us i guess.
you love being loved and you love to love.  this is remarkable.  a tenderness and a deep kindness in you.  your dad and i are always trying to direct you in your emotions.  any conflict in any sort of story or movie, makes you uncomfortable.  you get that from me.  you can be as soft and tender towards others and then you can get hot fast.  self-control is a difficult thing when you are a rambunctious 4 year old who feels so much.  it's hard to balance all that, i know, and your dad and i are here to help, son.
you are able to not only perceive what others are feeling, but you truly care about them.  if anyone is upset for any reason, big or small, you lean in.  if someone has accomplished something, you rejoice with them.
great job with those blocks, haze.
mom, you really cooked good tonight, thanks.
wena, good job eating!
emptathy, encouragement, friendliness...these are yours.
and you, little 4 year old son, are sincere.  your honestly is a breath of fresh air...
God, today at school, i accidentally bumped into emmy at recess, i'm sorry, forgive me
God, thank you that we get to serve others
dad, when you were at work, i hit hazel
music is like a window into your soul.  you love it.  you tap your toes and remember songs more than you remember anything else.  you take banjo lessons and just started gymnastics and you love them both because you just love life.  i think we could sign you up for basket weaving and you'd be excited about it.  i love this about you.
you have a different and unique kind of creativity, you make up words and but those made up words into songs or with objects and imagine your own world with it's own set of rules.
you love getting a laugh out of others.
you have a big blue dump truck that you got when you turned two and you still love it.  you push it all around the yard, fill it up with snow or dirt or sticks or whatever is close by.

superheros, legos, bikes, dad, racecars, motorcycles, dumptrucks, music, playdough, blocks, building, running, racing, sports, holes in the knees of pants, macaroni and cheese from jasons deli, ranch, almond-shaped brown eyes, bow ties, backwards underwear and pants, mismatched socks, movies...these are things i will remember about your 4 year old self.

yeah, you are wild but i hope you are always wild in your love for life and love for people.  i know the reality of things in life that could crush that, but i pray over you, child.  that all your wild will be protected and entrusted in the arms of Christ.  that the One who is love will be your source of love.

Friday, February 7, 2014

grandma's griddle

in 2013, around the new year, my hope was for more simplicity.  in possessions, in schedule, in how i keep my home, in friendships and kids activities.  
clear out some of the noise of life in order to better hear the beautiful things that can lose their voice. 

this sounds real intense but it was really just changing up some little things like where i buy groceries and cleaning out things from cabinets that we don't use.  in cleaning out cabinets, i found a griddle my mom gave me that used to be my grandma's.  it's straight out of the 50s, just like the little ranch house where it now lives with us.  every time i pull it out of the box (the same exact one my grandma bought it in) i love the feeling of nostalgia.  in my grandmother's handwriting, on a piece of masking tape on the outside of the frayed cardboard box is "tom and edna".  my parents.  at some point in her life with this particular griddle, she wanted my mom and dad to have and somewhere in that shuffle it ended up with it.  it's called a presto automatic electric griddle with glass warming tray and it's in perfect condition.  i wonder if grandma ever even used the thing.  the tray will sit right on top of the silver griddle if you want it to & i have to be careful which plug-in i use though, because it's been known to blow a fuse. 
with all these snow days, it's been put to a lot of use lately and with all these snow days, a mom's gotta just keep flipping the pancakes and enjoy the simplicity of an old griddle...  

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

flywheel, week 3: honesty

so, the 3rd assignment is the most difficult so far. 
as soon as i read it, i knew what i was gonna write on and just not quite how to do it.  but the whole point of this stinkin' group that my wonderful husband has put together is to just really sit down and write.
i'm much better at thinking about all these things than actually getting them out.


honesty: i love her and it's hard

she planks out, standing tall and thin and gangly in the kitchen.  all her joints tighten and she a way that you've probably never heard a seven year old scream.  tears are falling, so she is crying, but i guess it's more of a wail.  she's blazing mad.  and in the past 2 years, i've learned the hard way that that kind of anger can be contagious.  if i don't want to catch it, i can't act like her.  if i act like her, how can i ever teach her.

i hold her at the elbows, not too tight because i don't want to hurt her bony arms and she does bruise easy, but just tight enough to keep her from hurting herself because she can hit her head with more force than one would think possible of a girl her size and she sometimes bites her hand.  i am squatting down right in front of her torso but my eyes are cast down.  i see the drips of saliva pooling between us on the floor.  it's too hard for her to swallow and scream at the same time.  i keep looking down and i keep holding her arms, preventing her from hurting herself, but giving her no attention.  the focus of a world-class athlete, yet just a mom and her child with autism in the kitchen.  just another day, really.

i asked a simple thing of lena.  one that she is capable of.  she didn't want to shut the drawer that she had opened and thrown the contents onto the floor.  she's a tall 7 year old, but a lot like an exploring toddler.  at this point if i don't make her close the drawer, she will think it is okay to not listen to me.  if she doesn't learn to listen to me, then she won't turn around when i am telling her to not run into a wall or the street or any other danger.  and if she can't do that, then she can't walk around independently and that sweet, playful, fragile, bad-ass, fighter daughter of mine...well, she intensely wants to be independent to say the least.

i let her know she had to shut the drawer she opened, despite her protest.  still, she didn't want to shut the drawer.  she's a very smart girl who is non-verbal and when you don't have words, you have actions.  when you can't shout "no!" like other kids can and when you're brain doesn't work like other kids and when you body doesn't do the same things as other have actions.  like hitting your head.
and you have screaming.
blood-curdling screaming.

so i keep looking at the tile below.  no attention or acknowledging of her unless she stops screaming. even through hazel asking a question from the next room, ignoring the sister screams; and anders trying to console lena, completely engaged in the sister screams, i focus on the grey kitchen tile.  i seem calm and cool and if you took my blood pressure it would probably be through the roof.

it's a scene you'd really have to believe to see.  i later explain to anders, help him to see more of who lena is, how she works.  help him to understand all the differences.  as i talk to him, i talk to myself too. it's just another day, ya know.  i don't talk much about the day to day with lena.
and i rarely say the honest truth.
it's really hard.
i think that for a long time, i just couldn't come out and say that.  i knew it somewhere inside to be true, but i feared saying that out loud would negate the depth of love i have for her.  as if saying it meant that i didn't like or love her or cherish every detail of her.  i also care too much what people think & that sounds like a martyr and oh, i am no martyr.

but i guess somewhere along the way i have begun to glimpse what truly is...the both/and of this life with a daughter with special needs.  they say multiple disabilities because well, she can be lumped into any category you'd like.  cognitive, behavioral, physical, visual.

a few hours after the kitchen screaming situation, i am giving lena a bath.  she now knows how to lay herself back into the tub from a sitting position then back up.  she goes down and up as she pleases, and oh the joy of that independence.  i wish the world could see her smile in those moments.  it's glorious.  and just like the screaming and all the layers of hard that comes with it, is really just for me... in that moment in the tub, i'm the only one seeing that smile. 
that smile and those long blond waves.  
she is spectacular.  she is so gorgeous and wonderful, i can hardly breathe when i explain her to people. she is my daughter and i get to be her mom.  i don't deserve it, i know that full well.  
i also know full well that nothing can touch the depths of love i have for her.
not even the reality of how difficult it all can be.