11.6.15

Ordinary Miracles - Where I praise my friends

I'm sitting on my friend Cindy's couch when Sam comes in. He's sad because of something that happened while playing, he got hurt, or his feelings were hurt, he needs some comfort. He lays down on the couch, head in Cindy's lap, and she rubs his back and comforts him while we keep talking. She reminds one of the kids to do their chore, she sends another to time out on the stairs for a few minutes for whispering mean things to someone else. She asks another to pick up the rest of the Lego after a child who can barely see had done her best to pick it all up.



By the end of 30 minutes, Sam still lays with his head in her lap, and 5-6 children have congregated around the couch.
"Mommy, look at this."
"Mommy, so and so said..."
"I'm going to sew something." Proceeds to sit down on the floor in front of the couch to do this.

It's all so beautifully normal, and home like and mundane.

Except...

Almost all these kids are foster kids, placed in this home from other orphanages around Thailand. These boys, all in the same 3 year age range, came to live with Cindy and Adam when they were 3 or 4. Asia, their little girl who is seeing impaired, severely, lived in an institution for the first few years of her life. All she could do when she first came to live with them was lay on the floor and scream. Now she picks up Legos, speaks English, and Thai, in full sentences, and takes time outs without complaining.

Asia, when she was still learning to communicate.


This is family made by love and intent.

These are my friends who thought they were moving to Thailand to start an orphanage until they realized that what children need is a family instead.

There is an official certificate on the wall, stating that they operate a "children's home" under the supervision and with the permission of the Thai government. But this isn't an institution.

This is a family, with movie nights and game nights, pancake breakfast on Saturdays, home made cakes on birthdays, chores, a meal schedule, and help with homework. These are kids who call the people who take care of them mom and dad, and know that they will always have a home, even if it does take 5 years or more, each, to finally adopt each one of them.

pancake flippin'

Sam's turn to clean the bathroom



school pick up

packed into the back after church (Some of these pictures are so old.)

Cindy's cakes are amazing

Adam has a really cool job as a game designer, that he somehow gets done surrounded by children. He also writes books.

This, my friends, is what children need, and I am in awe of my friends and how well they are providing it for the 10 kids in their care.

I told them one day I would embarrass them by writing a blog post about them. It's taken a long time to find the words.

I wanted to tell you about the day I found Cindy crying and asked how I could pray, and she answered,  "Just pray for my kids."

I wanted to tell you how hard it is to parent children with deep attachment disorders because of mothers who abandoned them, and then picked them up, and then abandoned them again, over and over, before the age of 2.

I wanted to tell you about Adam's quiet persistence in loving the teenage daughter who hates that she can't live with her own mother in the village, for very serious reasons, and takes it out on him.

I wanted to tell you about the trials, and failures, how steep the learning curve is, parenting teenagers while having your first baby.

But I couldn't put it into words, though I tried many times, until I realized that what I want to show you is how beautifully normal, and messy, and absolutely extraordinary this little slice of family life on a lazy Saturday afternoon is. In a few hours, we all went swimming together at a nearby pool, and after Cindy played water games with them until the kids were worn out, Adam managed a few minutes reading his kindle poolside before he got dragged in again by his youngest child, we all went home. It was Lu's turn to make dinner, the kids played outside in the yard, and then it was time to go in for chores, and showers, and then bedtime.




How very, beautifully, ordinary.

If you want to know more about the Heines here is their blog. Adam has a blog too, he mostly talks about writing, and the cool game he's on the design team for, and other geeky stuff. Which is pretty fun.

25.3.15

Together



She sits across from me at my kitchen table, an untouched cup of tea in front of her, and speaks out the details of the very worst moment of her life. Her eyes pour out her pain, and her voice breaks and everything, every hurt, every hard thing in her life since then, it leads back to this one terrifying, shattering moment, this moment she can't forget, and can't move past.

There is counsel, and there is a time for that.

But better, sometimes;

-to hold the hand of a hurting friend, enter into her pain, and grieve with her for the evil she has endured.

-to pray there is comfort in grieving together,

-to let her know that even though she feels alone, she doesn't have to move forward on her own,


We walk on together, hand in hand. One small step at a time.

18.2.15

Holding The Pieces



I sat on a pile of concrete fence posts across from her. She juggles her baby, almost a year old now, she says. She doesn't really know because the baby's father has taken all of her birth records.

I ask her to tell me how she came to be "married".

"I was 12," she says, "I had only had my period 3 times. He called me to come in and lay down with him. I thought he just meant to lay together like children do. But he had sex with me. I bled a lot, it really hurt. The next day I couldn't even sit down. But didn't take me to the doctor or anything."

Her parents didn't know at first, because this happened far away at a cousin's house. But then they sent her to live with him because sex equals marriage around here, or at least, an obligation on the part of the man to care for the girl.

This is how she ended up married to a man twice her age and living at his house. His mother called her a prostitute when first she met her. He beat her, didn't feed her, and eventually she ended up pregnant. When he threatened to hurt the baby she left. Now she lives with her parents, who welcomed her back.

I go from this conversation, next to a row of one room wooden shacks near a construction yard, to the shopping mall to pay some bills, and pick up a few last minute gifts for my oldest daughter. I buy her a dress, reflecting that this may be my last year shopping for her in the girls section. I saw a hint of a developing waist and hips when she was in the bath the other day.

I go home, and my husband and I cook a birthday feast for this girl who is now 11. We visit with our guests, celebrate our daughter, and go to bed.

My heart feels like it lives in separate pieces. One piece is laying on the floor weeping for the girl who was raped when she was still a child, and then endured living with and being beaten by her rapist, giving birth to a child, becoming a mother, when she was way too young. I try to resist the urge to insulate myself against this tragedy, to keep it at a distance.

Another piece is celebrating my lovely daughter growing older. She's a wonderful, clever, inventive, brave child.



While watching her laugh and eat cake, part of my brain is busy thinking of all the ways that I would exact justice, or at least revenge, from the body of a man who dared to touch her, the way I want to do for the the girl I sat with that morning. That's the part that's fighting back the fear caused by the inescapable knowledge of what a vulnerable thing it is to be a girl, a young woman, here, there, anywhere.

I don't want her to become a woman. I know girlhood doesn't stop some men, but it feels like a defense to me nonetheless.

I've watched men leer at her already, as she rides shotgun in the car with me. She's obliviously telling me some story about her cat, and I have to swallow down the rage I feel to answer her lightly, to listen to her story.

My heart is keeping all these pieces separate. I'm trying to hold them all together.

I'm afraid, and sad, and angry, and joyful and even thankful. These feelings, they don't fit together. They bang against each other and make me uneasy. And yet, my heart has room for them all.


*Note:

I wrote this 2 months ago. I didn't publish it, as I don't publish many things these days. I wasn't sure if I should. Ijust had to write it down to get it out of my heart. But here it is. This was a hard day, and a happy day, all at once and jumbled up together. Somehow, I live with that tension. 

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