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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Happy holidays.

We drove through Roy Rogers one Christmas Eve after worship to get our then kindergartner some sustenance for the journey south to Mimi and Poppy's.  I paid at the window with a "Merry Christmas!" to the poor soul working that night, and a sweet little voice from the back seat fussed at me.  "Try Happy Holidays, Mommy.  He might not be Christmas.  He might be Hanukah."

This little love is still speaking her mind.  I don't want to shut her down but I sure do wish I could shut her up sometimes.  

Parenting *teens* is not for the faint of heart.  They see through all of the labels and masks and they speak their truth.  I saw/see through the labels and masks but I have never, ever felt comfortable speaking my truth.  And really, should one speak every truth one intuitively understands?  I mean isn't truth for me different at a certain level from truth for you?  Unless we are accepting certain universal truths.  And if we are, then respect for others must be high on that list.  Ain't no way back talk is going to be tolerated in this house.

Are you confused?  Because I am.  And exhausted.  Parenting *teens* is not for the faint of heart.  

Kevin Leman has convinced me that raising this species, *teens*, is pretty much like raising toddlers.    <<And yes, it does help to have both in the household at the same time.  The similarities are striking.>>  Don't get emotionally involved.  It's not about you.  It's about raising decent human beings.  Taking away cell phones works almost all of the time.  More yoga for mama is a very good thing.  

So, pardon me while I go pour (another) glass of wine.  It's been a long weekend.  Don't judge.  

Happy holidays, y'all.  

Saturday, May 11, 2013

it wasn't always a happy mother's day

I'm feeling a bit Debbie Downer as I write this post.  Really, it's not about you.  It's about me.  

Mother's Day from about 1994 to 1998 was one of the saddest days for me.  We were deep in the bowels of infertility and every day felt like a stab to my heart.  A heart that longed with infinity for infinity numbers of babies.  I remember literally weeping in the back pew of First Presbyterian Church in Wichita Falls, Texas, unable to hide my pain.  

It's a period of my life that I would love to forget.  To cover over.  To ignore.  Birth announcements arriving often from precious friends who had been married for a far shorter time than my sweet husband and me.  Jealous, angry tears and a general sense of the unfairness of life plaguing my soul.  I wasn't who I wanted to be to my pregnant friends.  I was envious.  I was really sad.  I was bereft. 

I didn't think I would ever have children and I knew I wouldn't bear them in my body.  It is still hard for me to see the swollen belly of strangers and not feel a piercing stab to my heart. 

Fast forward to February of 1998, and a picture of a 5 month old Chinese orphan who is being fast-tracked to our family.  Bliss.  And again in 2002, this time a chubby cheeked 10 month old.  And really, a third?  Our sweet boy with just as chubby cheeks and superpower fleeing skills with his chubby legs.  I am blessed.

And yes, the pain was worth it.  Infertility was a part of my labor, I think.  And yes, I wouldn't change a thing.  And yes, it still hurts. 

So I'm sending out this Mother's Day prayer to those who are longing.  This world is full of babies who need mamas.  I pray that the two of you find each other.  

And tomorrow morning this PW (pastor's wife, silly) will be sitting in the front row, scolding sisters for stirring up their brother and smoothing down Asian hair that grows straight out from its roots and smiling.  

"You didn't grow under my heart, but in it."


she's a good mother

Married at the ripe age of 19.  Baby almost right away (it was me, though, so I know it was all bliss!).  Ten family moves from my birth to age 17.  My mama stayed in school and got her degree and promptly set to work on the hardest job, raising 3 bouncing babies while Daddy worked it.  He was promoted and transferred and climbing the corporate ladder and she held it all together.  

She must have questioned each move.  She must have felt lonely and depressed and desperately needed time away.  I never knew it.  She made a new city our home from the beginning.  We set down roots.  We found a church and we saw the sights and we glued together.  

She grew up in the south with deep tradition and love, and she married a country boy and figured out how to muck out stalls and handle horses.  She started her own business (with a jigsaw!) to help pay for a fabulous wardrobe for her budding fashionista.  She helped to found an outreach for women who had recently moved, turning difficult transitions into blessing. My mama brought warmth and sunshine to Greenville, South Carolina; and Lincoln, Nebraska; and Sarasota, Florida; and Scottsdale, Arizona.   

She didn't try to build a perfect marriage or raise perfect kids (well, most of the time).  She fought hard to stay together.  She leaned in to mothering.  She kept her standards high and her arms open.  She didn't let the sun settle on anger.  She wiped tears from a teenage girl's broken heart, time after time.  She was home almost when I got home from school, and she sat at the kitchen table with me and told me I could learn algebra and that boy wasn't worth my time and for goodness' sake could I clean my room.  

What I love the most about my mama is that she chose to be a mother.  She could have done a million other things.  She's talented and beautiful and smart and sought after.  She picked us.  She came to our games and she sent care packages in college and she still plans Camp Mimi and Poppy for her grandchildren--there is space in her life for her babies.   I didn't really get what that means to me until I was 40.  Or until I had 3 kids.  

And also, what I love the most about my mama is that she is real.  She is grounded and sharp witted and sometimes sharp tongued (I come by it honestly) and she is solid in her love and faith and belief in me.  My mama loves her children.  She loves us when we succeed, but what matters more is that she stretches her heart out wide when we fail and scoops us up and urges us on and holds our feet to the fire and always, always, always her love abides.  

I love her smile (I came by that honestly too!).  I love her laugh that you can hear a mile away.  I love that she can whistle with her fingers and call a whole neighborhood in to dinner.  I love that she loves my daddy  with a fierce and unyielding strength.  I love that she loves my brown skinned, almond eyed, children and takes them as her own.  I love that her eyes light up with joy when she sees me.  I love that she remembers the smell of my baby head resting on her shoulder and that she's seen me at my worst, at the lowest of lows not knowing if I would get to one day be a mother, and that she lifted me up.  

She's a good mother.  

"I've got a good mother, 
and her voice is what keeps me here.

Feet on ground,
Heart in hand,
Facing forward,
Be yourself. "
from "She's a Good Mother" by Jann Arden

Thursday, March 21, 2013

You are the best thing

That ever happened to me.

I married young, y'all, real young.  Dan jokes with friends that he married me fast before anyone else could sweep in.  Ha!  I was head over heels from the first ice cream cone we shared at 17, socializing in the cafeteria with a bunch of eager freshmen, along with their supreme sophomore mentors, looking for extracurricular activities at Furman U.  My extracurricular was d.a.n.  Well, in between studying and reaching out to high school kids and, you know, socializing.

I knew after he walked me to my dorm and we stayed up till 2am talking about life and Jesus and what it meant to really follow Him.  I knew that this guy had vision and faith and that he was funny...the funny is what really stole my heart.

And we've been together for going on 25 years.

This man lost his father when he was 12 years old.  His mom was about my age when she put one foot in front of the other, went to work, and made life happen for a boy and his sister.  He has known pain and loss.  He awoke to sirens and a dad leaving home on a stretcher, never to return.  How do you do that?

Here's how.  You cling to God, like this boy did.  You choose to risk it all in loving a reckless and silly 17 year old girl.  You walk out on a limb and adopt not one, not two, but three lovely little ones from a communist country.  You put it all out there.  You live big.

This man doesn't cash in his chips when the odds are stacked against him.  He doesn't fold.

He paraded through the living room in nothing but tightie whities on a steamy southern California evening in seminary days, a tall cold Bud in his hand, without a word, just to get me to smile when I was a super stressed out first year teacher working on report cards.  And it worked.

He army crawled around our bed (after we viewed The Bodyguard together and I was freaked out by the stalker scenes).  Why?  To solidify my paranoia.  Yeah.  He likes to keep me on my toes.

He's earnest and loyal and faithful.  He protects and provides for his girls and boy.  He anticipates our needs.  He stresses over writing big checks.  He makes sure we have enough.

He doesn't complete me.  He complements me.  He compliments me too.  That's the secret to a long and happy marriage in case you were wondering.

He's 43 tomorrow, and to me he's just now hitting his stride.  He shepherds our planted body of believers , ushering us into a soon to be finished building to call home while admonishing that the building doesn't define us.  He studies ancient medicine with zeal because we saw its healing power when we held our eldest and tiniest daughter in China.  She was brand new to us and all 10 pounds of her were riddled with fever, gasping for breath.  One tube of truly "ancient Chinese secret" medicine and she was healed.

So happy birthday to this man who cajoles me out of my moods, who holds me in high esteem, who
believes in me and makes room for my hopes and dreams...I love you DM.  You really are the best thing that ever happened to me.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Life Lessons Learned Along the Adoption Path

Even the worst part of your life can come together for good.

We are all overcoming something.  

In Romans 8:28, Paul writes, "God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose."  

The truth about us is we are fragile and broken and often riddled with regret.  God takes it all and turns it into something good.  We are called to persevere, to live with authenticity, to embrace our wounds with patience, and to look for His plan.


How do we live with authenticity?  Maybe it begins by realizing that God isn’t looking for the cleaned up version of our lives.

This sounds basic and like something we all would agree with, but we are immersed in a culture that is consumed with perfection.  The perfect soul mate who completes us (doesn’t exist and if you think he/she does I do not predict a long and happy marriage for you).  The perfect job.  The perfect kids.  The perfect pair of shoes...well, I think I may have stumbled on a few pairs of those.  But the point is, everything has a downside.  And if we spend all of our time pursuing this nonexistent state of perfection that we have dreamed up we are going to be a) not fun to be around because you’re really never satisfied and b) depressed because perfect isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  The truth is, it is countercultural to let our imperfections show.  But that’s the place where true happiness and contentment can be found.  Until we accept that our spouse, our kids, our job, our house, our yard, our shoes are flawed and love them the way they are, even embrace the stuff that drives us crazy, we will be living an inauthentic life. 

The paradox is that imperfect is actually perfect. 

What is perfection?  Perfect is the fullness of who we are, embracing the things we like and the things we don’t like and trusting that if we had it all together there wouldn’t be any room for God to do what he does.

You’re perfect the way you are. 

Psalm 139 speaks to this.  "You are fearfully and wonderfully made."  So starting from within, accepting that you are accepted.  Believing that God put you together in an amazing way and that the party wouldn’t be complete without you. 

“The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It's for you I created the universe. I love you. There's only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you'll reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.”  ~Frederick Buechner

So our story of adoption taught this lesson of the perfect within the imperfect to me from the very beginning.  Perfect for me as a 19 year old bride meant baby 1, baby 2, baby 3...boom. boom. boom.  

Alas, it did not go as planned.  A young bride, dreaming of being a young mother and then 6 months go by, no baby.  A year.  Medical tests.  A grim diagnosis in terms of the ability to have a biological child.  Weeping.  Utter despair.  It was hard on our marriage and it was hard on my faith and it was hard on me.  How could this be part of God’s plan to do good in my life?  If he really did miracles, why couldn’t he just do this one for me?  And then some moments happened, and I made a choice.  First, Dan and I turned to each other and I’m not sure if we said this, but I know I thought it.  Stronger marriages than ours had imploded over smaller issues than what we were going through.  We decided to be there for each other instead of each being alone in our own pain.  We held hands and set our faces toward living the life we were given.  I made a choice to accept this painful path, to walk right into the center of the storm and not see a way out but to see God.  And I told him that I did not agree with Him in this plan right now, and it completely sucked from my point of view, but through gritted teeth and a clenched fist I was trusting Him to do what he said he would.  To do something good.  So I didn’t know then what would happen, but you all can see the rest of the story. 

 It’s not how I would have written it, but it’s a pretty good story (most days, anyway). 

Without authenticity in imperfection God could not have done his good work.  What are you looking to overcome?  Could you ask God to be there with you?  

Embracing the Wounds

There is a certain hand that we have all been dealt in life, like our story of infertility.  There are things beyond our control, circumstances that we can do nothing about, our basic temperament, other people in our lives.  The only thing that we do have power of is our response. Circumstances aren’t good or bad; they just are.  The good or bad or whatever comes in how we choose to respond.  So a huge part of the lessons that adoption has lived for me is this whole area of woundedness.  My kids experienced a painful abandonment very early in their precious lives.  At a time when they should have been completely protected and cared for and nurtured, they were left sometimes somewhere public that was on the usual route for the police in China who find abandoned babies routinely and deliver them to the local orphanage; or sometimes totally discarded, literally on the side of the road with a damaged mouth that makes feeding almost impossible, left to die.  I almost can’t even let my mind go there.  And, it’s not my story to tell for my kids.  It’s their story.  But, when we talk about these hard things with the older two, the conversation goes something like this.  “How could a mom do that?”  Me:  “It’s really hard to understand isn’t it?  China is so different than our life here.  They have a law that you are only allowed to have one baby.”  Her:  “But still.  I would break the law.”  Me:  “ Me too, honey, but it’s not that way for them.  So the truth is we don’t really know what happens, and that is so hard for you.  I wish that I could write your story so it didn’t have this really, really sad beginning.  Babies shouldn’t be away from their mommies.  I’m sorry that’s your beginning, but I’m also thankful because that’s how God put our family together.”
It’s simplistic, I know.  And it doesn’t take the hurt away.  But it’s the truth.  God takes really hard things and turns them into things of beauty.  Listen to these words from Ecclesiastes 3:11.  

"He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end."

And then along comes Levi.  This little boy who literally wears his wound.  I wrote this about how he is teaching me. 

I wonder if one of the ways God is working in us through Levi’s story is in the wearing of the wound.  His is on the outside.  He doesn’t have a choice about that.  I wear my wounds on the inside.  Sometimes I imagine that I build a guard around these scars, covering over them with jokes or sarcasm or irritability.  We all need surgery to be whole.  We all need the Great Physician to come in and clean out the bad stuff and build up the good stuff and make it all into something beautiful.  He’s really good at that.

So continuing that thread of authenticity being the beginning point for true transformation, and then in that very real space, being honest about the wounds in our own lives.  We all have them and some are much more serious than others.  

Whatever that means for each one of us, the sweetness of the Gospel, the good news of Jesus, is that God sent his son to live and dwell and make his home among us.  He chose the path of suffering, he chose the cross, and in that moment he purified--made it clean-- and sanctified--set it apart-- our suffering

I look at Levi’s little scar above his lip and I see the countenance of Christ.  And we can invite Him into our own pain, making room for his healing.  With that choice, the wounds become a part of ALL things working together for good.  Do you have an identified wound, hiding on the inside?  What if that very place is the place where the seed of transformation is formed?  


Can you see that this isn’t a quick fix Gospel?  Can you see how the virtue of patience is absolutely essential in living an authentic, beautifully healed and redeemed life?  Our culture works against us here too.  We live in a world where speed is literally measured by nanoseconds of difference in internet search abilities.  Right?  I can totally illustrate this because my tech-devoted to all things Mac husband bought me an ipad mini as a belated Christmas gift (and also because I have a creaky old dinosaur laptop that we are trying not to replace!).  And that little baby is soooooo much faster than our super old ipad2.  Do you hear how crazy that is?  We’ve been raised on sit coms where problems are solved neatly in 30 minutes (unless it’s the season finale).  Patience is just not a valued commodity in American life today.  But it is absolutely essential for the spiritual life. 

It's an art, too.  Finding that sweet spot in the journey and then pushing through.  Our adoption story lives out patience.  I wanted to be *done* with birthing our 3-4 kids by age 30.  Instead, here we are, 42 ++ with a sweet little boy who took 6 years to make his way to us!  Patience.  

As we live out authentic lives, being present to our woundedness rather than running away, we cultivate patience to wait on God's plan to work ALL things for GOOD.

Look for God’s Plan
Our culture lifts up self-reliance as the ultimate virtue.  

Parker Palmer defines functional atheism as the myth that we have absolute control over our lives and therefore no real need for God. 

And it may be that even in especially in churches there is a good bit of functional atheism.  In many ways, that is easier than waiting on God's plan for us.  Why would one bother to pursue Christ if we can get to God on our own with clean living and good behavior and a round of “Jesus loves me” for good measure?

And yet, this is the opportunity, to invite God into the mess, He lives and breathes and makes his home and straightens things out, but not the way I might do it, to His liking.

Nic V. doesn't have limbs.  I would argue he is happier and more successful and full of joy than most people who do.  Dan and I didn't plan to adopt.  But the joy that it has brought to our lives is full and complete.  

So where in your life might there be a wound--something you view as a shortcoming--and how might God be using that very place, that very situation, to plant a seed so that the flaw becomes a flourishing victory.  

Psalm 27:13-14  "I remain confident of this.  I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."

Friday, January 11, 2013

There's a little my neighborhood

Do you know the rest of this song?  If you do, then you know that we've been just a swingin' with our little Emma Hope for going on 11 years.  This little girl who is getting ready to turn 11 rocked our world--literally--around Thanksgiving of 2002.  We did the usual  Melton adoption shuffle of praying and paperchasing and waiting and waiting and waiting.  The SARS epidemic held us back. but finally, finally we were matched with a sweet little nugget, Wuo Chao Wei (little dancing bird), in  Anhui, China.  And we packed our bags and left her big sister in the loving arms of Mimi and Poppy and were on our way to claim her as our own.  Oh, we did not know that she would claim us first.

She staked her claim with many, many, much tears.  And a binky.  That girl must have cried for 2 weeks straight, except when she was in her mama's arms with said binky.  She was scared of her daddy (took her a while to figure out he was her best ally), and only mommy would do.  The part of our babies' stories that just tears me up is the part about the mommy.  There's a wound, a hole, that only God can fill, and thank you Lord for choosing me as your vessel.

This little spitfire made her way into our hearts with wails and laughter.  She's a firecracker, full of quickfire love and light and just as quick piss and vinegar (I'm not kidding).  She cannot hide her feelings.  One look at her lovely face and you know just what she is thinking.  She's got a will of steel, which I know will serve her well one day, but Lord help me in the meantime.

She's full of ideas--building Lego skyscrapers and filming epic movies with matchbox cars.  She prefers to spend her days in her hand me down camouflage pants from her uncles or dressed to the nines in fancy shoes and skirts.  She's the best kind of contradiction.

I try to inspire her to love learning, and she does, but on her own terms.  Did I mention Lord help me?

This girl who went from baby to middle in the family constellation this year is rallying.  She looks up to her big sister and imitates everything that 14 year old first born does.  She plays trains and dinosaurs and tractors with the baby boy and delights in every moment.  Her loyalty and spunk inspire me.

Happy birthday to my sweet Emma Hope.  You make every day full of adventure.  I never know where we are going to end up.  You light up my life.  I am forever in awe of you, my beautiful, willful girl.  I want to be like you when I grow up!

Love you to infinity (I win!),  Mommy