Wednesday, July 27, 2016
It's time for me to move on from here. This little space has fulfilled its job for its season, and it will now be silent. Please come find me still doing what I love - chasing words. I am right here now, and I would love to have you.
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
I was never one to dream big dreams. Oh, I am a dreamer, but the storyboard for my dreams were all sweet and safe. They really were such good dreams about loving Jesus well by raising babies and loving my husband and making a home and filling bellies and always writing in between. I was never called brave. I was just normal, and I was really content and really happy right in the middle of that normal life.
But adoption took me places that I never dreamed of going.
Five years ago we walked off of an airplane dazed and naïve and stood in a country that was so far away and so different from the one that we called home. We left two beautiful blonde babies with grandparents and embarked on a journey that would change everything about our entire lives for our entire lives. And as dramatic as that sounds, it is entirely true. It would change us, our family, and the ripples would impact everyone who loved us. Looking back I really did not know that this would be the case. I didn’t know so much. I did not know that five years ago was the end of the life I once knew and the beginning of the life I now live.
I didn’t know how hard this journey would be or the toll that it would take. I thought I was getting off of that plane to meet my baby. And I was doing that, but I didn’t know that my baby was coming to me with so many special needs and diagnoses that five years ago I had never even heard of. I didn’t know that we would also meet our older son, and that we would soon disrupt the birth order of our family and jump headfirst into parenting an older child, with no prior experience or foundation with this child. I didn’t know that I was preparing to enter a few years of desert wandering as we wrestled through things I never knew existed until I was strangled in it - things like post adoption depression. I didn’t know the darkness and isolation that I would feel in the midst of the joy of building this family. I didn’t know trauma and heartache and sadness, or the way it can wrap around one’s heart and whisper all of my parenting failures every time my eyes opened in the morning. I didn’t know that love is not enough to fix all of those broken hurt places and cover all of those stories that I not only wish I could unhear, but even more so wish I could unwrite. I didn’t know that truly only Jesus is enough, and that I would grasp and claw after Him like never before. I didn’t know accusations would arise simply because we were giving this our all, and sometimes that looks so, so different from normal.
I also didn’t know just how strong our marriage was and how united we really were as a team. I didn’t know the intense love I would feel as I looked across a room and saw my husband tangled in the arms of a sobbing teenager, or cupping his chin while speaking truth against the lies he fights against, or the way my heart would feel out of control as he cleaned up vomit for the thousandth time, or fought on the phone with doctors and lawyers, and stood in front of person after person demanding this child be made his son, and that child receive the proper treatment, and all the while loving the other two just as he did when there were only two. I didn’t know how brave my blonde babies were or how enormous their hearts were until I saw them make room for their brothers and embrace them with everything inside their little bodies. Or how proud I would be when the tears and rages come, and they quietly move out of the way and pray for Jesus to heal the hurt, and rub backs with their little hands, and whisper wise words, and forgive and give grace and remind me of what it means to love. I didn’t know how much they would understand this journey and teach us along the way. I didn’t understand how courageous two boys were who folded themselves into our family and learned what it meant to be a son. I didn’t know how much I would enjoy a family spread out in ages, how much a teenager can love the baby of the family, and how fun our lives have become with littles and a big, and all of the good that comes with having both.
Five years ago, I embraced a thirteen month old baby, and collided with a ten year old boy, and everything changed. I could not have known what was to come, the depth of pain, the unspeakable joy, the stories we would share, the places we would go, the tears we would sob, the laughs that we would exchange, the millions of I love yous and I am sorry; please forgive me’s that would need to be said and resaid, the thousands of photos to prove to him that yes, we are family and no, we are not going anywhere without you, the memories that we have forged and fought for, the wounds HE would heal, the lessons we had to learn, the hard we had to endure, and the life we get to live.
I didn’t know that leaving behind normal would be this good.
Five years ago we flew across the ocean, landed in a strange world, met two little boys and everything changed.
Happy Meetcha Day Jameson Yonas Byron and Habtamu Theo Byron.
Now we know that you were exactly who we were waiting for.
Saturday, January 9, 2016
It was months ago that I first noticed him, sitting in a make-shift wheel chair on the corner, a blanket draped over the bottom half of his tunic wearing body, and a small khoffia (Muslim hat) on his head. He is elderly and frail, and it is obvious that he is crippled. When I first saw him, I thought his legs had been amputated, but have since learned that they are just withered and deformed. My home culture has taught me that a man of his religion is to be feared, but every time I walk by this man, I don’t feel fear, instead I feel curious joy.
It wasn’t the wheelchair, or his crippled legs that I first noticed, and neither was it his religious attire, but rather the smile that lit up his whole face day after day after day that he sits at the corner. He radiates joy and peace. He is crippled and obviously poor, but he smiles with such authenticity. There is something different about this old Muslim man. He is opposite of and doesn’t match the rhetoric that I so often hear about people who believe the way that he does. He is not the same as other beggars here either. Most, sit outside, asking for money, or jiggling their cupped hand with a few coins clanging together to solicit a few more from passerbys. But this man, he just sits still in his wheelchair and smiles at the people who walk past him. I don’t know if he receives much money. I have never seen anyone stop for him.
For months I passed him by too, but he would always catch my eye and smile, and I could not help but return that smile. It was involuntary. Since there are so few ferinji (white foreigners) in our community, I know that he quickly began to recognize me on my daily walks. As I left my gate, I began to look forward to walking by this man. There is so much need that surrounds me everyday. It is suffocating at times. I always pray that God will not let me grow hardened or used to the need here, and so far my bleeding heart has not allowed that to happen. My eyes will still burn with tears as we drive and encounter poverty around the city. Sometimes it is exhausting, and feels hopeless; but I would rather hurt than not feel anything at all.
There are so many conversations about how to best help the poor and needy. The conversations are so good and wise, and I never want to do more harm than good. I know that can often times happen with soft hearts and good intentions. There are so many great arguments as to why one should never give money to a beggar. Sometimes I really do follow that practice, but sometimes there is no doubt that the Spirit moves me to break those rules. It is a fuzzy balance, and is one that I have written of before. My very own child was once a beggar on the street, and although the few coins that he received did not save his life or ultimately help him out of his situation, they did preserve his life until God’s timing for change took place. I cannot forget that, and it impacts how I daily live here. So, admittedly, I probably walk out a posture that some would think was wrong.
As the months added up, and I continued to exchange smiles with that old, kind Muslim man, I felt more and more convicted that I needed to drop just a few coins into his hand. And one day I did. As I bent over his chair, looked into his bright, brown eyes, and as our smiles matched, I gently dropped a few coins into his warm hand. He grabbed my hand, and covered it with both of his wrinkled with paper thin, chocolate skinned hands. His touch was so grandfatherly, and his eyes held a story, a story of life lived and wisdom and love, and I so badly wanted the Amharic to bend down next to him and hear his story. Instead my eyes held his just for a moment, and the twinkle and joy in his eyes pierced my heart.
The very next day he was gone. He had disappeared from his corner spot. My heart flip-flopped. My immediate thoughts were drawn to Hebrews 13:2 “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!” Now my fundamental, black and white background would have squirmed at this thought, but I have seen things here that cannot be put into that box. I casually mentioned the verse to my husband and oldest son, and they smiled at me sideways. Habi joked about a “Muslim angel”. I even began imagining things, maybe God was testing me, like in the parable of “the good Samaritan”, maybe He wanted to see if I would stop and pay attention to this man who practices a religion that I am supposed to fear. I was hoping maybe I passed the test. But day after day there was no sign of my sweet Muslim old man. After awhile I began to worry that something tragic had happened to him. Then just as quickly as he had disappeared, he reappeared. And I once again started stopping by his chair for a moment to drop a few coins into his lap, and to see that smile up close.
I don’t have a pretty end to this story. I have not done the “missionary thing” and shared Jesus with him. My Amharic is far from able to do that, and translating on the side of the road is not really feasible. I don’t know his story, but I want to. I want to know why this crippled Muslim man sits in a wheelchair smiling that gigantic smile. I want to know where he disappeared to, and whom he calls family. Where does he sleep at night? What are his fears? What has he lived? I don’t know if I will ever find out, but I am going to try. Right now that trying starts with exchanging smiles, gifting a few coins, and whispering some Amharic greetings. Maybe I can convince my husband to push him home for a meal.
By the way, yesterday he added some big, flashy sunglasses to his ensemble, and I literally laughed out loud. I guess I am learning to look and find joy in the most unexpected places - like in the smile of a kind old, sunglass wearing, Muslim man.
Friday, January 8, 2016
Stories are so precious. They connect us, they inspire us, they embolden us, and warn us. It is in a story that we find solidarity and so often find ourselves nodding along thinking, yes, me too. Humanity is found within the pages. There is a desire inside of us, no matter our temperaments, to know and be known, and stories foster this. This is one of the main reasons that I have been feeling the desire to come back to this little space and share again. I miss what happens in the sharing. I need what happens to me in the sharing. There is no better way to point to Jesus then for me to bare my story.
And that but makes me hesitant, and question and sometimes it makes me stuck staring at a blank screen. Because the truth is, the story is not always easy. It is not always easy to tell, and it is most definitely not always easy to live. I want to write transparently, but I also really desire for it to be tidy. Tidy, however, is seldom authentic. Because this one wild life that makes up our one wild story is messy. Honestly, every great story has a mess, but think about the greatest stories, that mess is sometimes what leads to the most beautiful ending, those endings that take our breath away and make us feel alive. The tension is what makes us keep reading. It is what keeps us interested. I think maybe it is because the tension is something so many of us can relate to. It might look differently for you, than it does for me, but humans understand tension.
I really want a lovely story. I am a simple girl, and would like a simple story, but God has some crazy ideas about my story. So, here I am in Ethiopia, and the story is anything but simple, and many times far from lovely, and honestly, a lot lonely. 2016 started ugly and pregnant with tension. Hours into this clean slate, this beautiful brand new chapter and fresh start, the enemy came back with his old tricks and snuck in with things that we thought had already been dealt with and stamped out. I am learning that parenting really “messies” the story. It also refines and chisels. I made some very intentional parenting goals for this next year, and held onto that goal as a bomb was dropped in front of us. But then six days in, I had already failed miserably, and the goal was nowhere to be found. Oftentimes in these failures, I recognize how much I am trying to do this alone, and am brought back to my knees again to face my failure head on and acknowledge my need for Jesus. And so the story goes - messy and full of chances to try again on the next page and in the next chapter. I suppose that is a beautiful way to describe grace – all these second chances to rewrite the narrative.
So, as we press into this new year, here is to our stories, our collective ones that collide and intertwine, and our individual ones that illustrate our unique plot. May we be brave in the telling, gentle in the living, and open to the hearing of the stories around us. The gospel was based upon the greatest story ever told, and its main character was the greatest storyteller who ever lived. May this example guide us to be courageous with our own stories.
And that bruise under my eye? It has a story. A story involving a water balloon. Sometimes the story is different than it appears on the surface, or that we create in our mind. Might we also be gracious and tender as we wait and listen for the truth of the stories bravely shared with us, because not every story is as it may first seem.