Link Love

Every month or so, I update the box to my right that says "I Love This." Eventually, I hope to turn that into a feed, so I can share my favorite links in a more timely manner. (Also? So I can keep talking about me. Me, me, me. Good gravy, this blogging hobby is narcissism at its shiniest, isn't it?)

In the meantime, will you allow me to share my favorite links today in this space?

The Unseen Sea: Watching this beautiful montage of the clouds and fog dancing over the hills of Northern California captured my heart. I felt like I should take off my shoes; God's creation is majestic. (If you click through only one link, make it this one.)

Movement to Restore Children's Play Gains Momentum: Great story. Even greater movement.

Why Minnesota Mothers are Worse than Chinese Mothers: A hysterical and very Minnesotan response to Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.

The Garden of Your Mind: "No culture in history has been more distracted. If you are wondering why there are no more C.S. Lewis’ in the world, no more stories as good as Tolkien’s, no cathedrals as great as the gothic’s, no music as moving as Pachelbel’s, it may be because the writers of these books, the tellers of these stories, the architects of these buildings and the composers of these symphonies are sitting on their couches watching television." I'm still pondering this post, weeks after I read it.

10 Reasons why the BMI is Bogus: This is an old story from NPR, but I stumbled across is lately and felt like shouting, "Hallelujah!" I hate the BMI. It's such bad science. I can't wait until it's thrown out.

What have you read or watched lately that made an impression?

The Other Side of Adoption

Lora Lynn and her husband leave for Uganda tomorrow, the final leg of a quest to enfold a new baby girl into their family. I am thrilled, both because I believe in adoption with every mitochondria in my being and because I buy Hope Suds from Lora Lynn, which helps fund their adoption. (Which means my laundry not only smells fantastic, but it’s slightly-more-holy than ordinary laundry.)

You better believe I’ll be following her journey online. And I’ll be whispering prayers over the other friends I have traveling the adoption road.

As the wife of an adopted orphan, I am blessed beyond expression when I watch a family adopt. It seems like the Holy Spirit is moving today’s generation to live out James 1:27. Everywhere I turn, Christians are talking about orphan care and foster parenting and rescuing children out of poverty. My soul swells with encouragement.

But you know what else is encouraging? The fact that the Church is starting to be honest about the difficulties adopting families can face, especially when adopting a child from hard places. Because while adoption is a holy calling, and there is a side to it that thrills with hope and love and anticipation, it is also hard, unspeakably hard and filled with grief, especially if you adopt a child like my husband.

Many of you know Corey’s story. He is the son of an American GI, born to a Korean woman, deserted at an early age, left to survive on the streets or, worse, be abused in various foster homes. Through a series of God-moments, he was adopted by an American family, a couple who had adopted a Korean baby a few years earlier. This time, they hoped to adopt a Korean boy, an older brother for their bouncy baby girl, a son who would complete their family.

Suffice it to say, they had no idea what they were getting into. The boy they picked up at the Minneapolis airport was probably close to seven years old (no birth certificate, so we don’t know his age), a child who was riddled with disease and parasites (on a doctor’s advice, they burned everything he brought with him from Korea), a boy who had never known love or stability or family.

He didn’t speak a word of English. He didn’t know how to eat the split pea soup they fed him for his first meal. (Poor choice, perhaps.) Once he did understand they had food for him in the house, he hoarded it and hid it in his room. He tried to run away when they took him to school, because he thought he was being left at another orphanage.

He didn’t attach easily (or at all), preferring instead to stay safely withdrawn. He had frequent nightmares that he never explained. He didn’t trust. He didn’t cuddle. He didn’t tell his parents anything about his past. He mocked therapy.

Corey was not the sweet little boy his parents expected. He was streetwise, scared and suspicious, even years after his adoption was finalized. I know his parents struggled. How do you love a boy who won’t let himself be loved? Did they do the right thing by adopting him? Would he have been better off in his own country?

To their credit and because of God’s great mercy, they persevered. They didn’t send him back. They kept loving him, kept feeding him, kept clothing him. I’m sure adoptive parents today, armed with volumes of knowledge about orphan psychology, would view their actions as clumsy and sometimes misguided. But back then, knowledge about children coming from hard places was nil. They had no choice but to grope through the dark and do the best they could.

That is why I am so heartened to see a honest discussion today about how we can support families who adopt kids from hard places. Jedd Medefind, president of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, says it best:
We have every reason to celebrate the wonder of adoption, explore its theological and earthly significance, and highlight the blessing it can be to both child and parent. We must keep the Gospel always at the very center, as both our motivation and the wellspring of perseverance in difficulty. But we must also increasingly place a strong accent on both preparation for potential challenges of adoption and provision of support when challenges do arise. We must not only affirm this need, but also lead in helping to meet it.

Perhaps it may sound overblown, but I believe there is no single factor with greater potential to derail the growing Christian commitment to adoption and foster care than failure in this point. This is especially true as Christian families increasingly open themselves to the adoption of older and special needs children. In short, for every enthusiastic but ill-prepared and poorly-supported adoptive family that crashes on the rocks of unanticipated challenges, dozens of others will permanently write off the call to adopt.
- from The Most Significant Challenge Facing Adoption in America

I am so glad Corey’s parents didn’t permanently shipwreck on those rocks. And in a twist of fate only God can orchestrate, today Corey is on the board of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, raising awareness of the plight of orphans around the world.

The discussion will continue at The Idea Camp: Orphan Care conference next month in Arkansas. If you aren’t aware of The Idea Camp yet – I tell people it’s like a Christian TED, only the participants are the idea gurus, not necessarily the speakers. But don’t take my word for it; click through and check it out.

And if you don’t make it to The Idea Camp in February, you might consider attending the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit in Louisville, Kentucky in May with me and Corey. Just don’t try to hug Corey when you see him. He’s an orphan adopted from a hard place. He has issues.

How to Blog with Four Kids*

I don’t have much time to write this, because Kieran is crawling toward the box of Legos right now.

That’s right – CRAWLING. I regret that I’ve neglected to blog more about this final baby, because he is a complete delight, and like all babies, he doesn’t just grow, he leaps….

Oops! He passed the Legos, now he’s in the dog’s water dish! Hang on!

This crawling thing and this standing thing (oh yes, he can pull to a stand on anything, including but not limited to my leg, the dog, the couch, the fireplace and the kitchen cabinets), it’s incredibly cute, but it’s stolen the precious few remaining moments I had. (And possibly, the precious few remaining bits of sanity.)

How do moms of 4 (or more) blog? It's not a rhetorical question. Give me some ideas. Someone needs me from 6:30 AM, when Kieran wakes up, until 10:30 at night, when I fall into bed. Kieran doesn't nap for more than 25 minutes right now, and Teyla only naps on the afternoon drive to school. I can't seem to find a time to blog when I'm not stealing time from one of these little (or big) people who love me and want my attention.

If I don’t write for the public right now, maybe that’s OK. Maybe it’s good.

But I see other moms doing it, so I can’t help but wonder…

(He even pulls himself up in the bathtub, which means we even have adventure during our nighttime period of calm. But dang it, he's so cute. Who needs to blog, anyway?)

*For the record: I don't have a clue how to blog with four kids. But you knew that by now, right?

To Love Well Every Day

This morning, after Teyla and Kieran and I had dropped the older kids at school, a blur of quick hugs and brittle air and rushed squeaky footsteps through fresh snow, we drove straight home to enjoy the morning.

It was good to be home, toy-strewn and warm. Kieran had fallen asleep snuggled in his parka, so I wore his chubby face on my shoulder as Teyla and I carried upstairs supplies to play restaurant.

I grabbed my laptop, mostly so I could email Corey, en route to Orlando. But then I started replying to a few other emails. And I opened Twitter and clicked through to a few blogs. And in-between the bits and bytes, my daughter stood next to me, wearing make-believe headphones, and asking me what I would like for breakfast.

“Do you want caw-key, Mama?” she asked.

“Yes, Teyla. I would love coffee,” I answered distractedly, my eyes barely leaving the keyboard. I only had a few more sentences to type to wrap up that email and then I would pay attention.

“Which ones do you want, Mama?” she asked, holding out identical sets of plastic pickles.

“These ones,” I pointed vaguely, aware that she would give me the pickles she wanted me to have regardless of which ones I chose.

The baby slept, the toddler kept chattering to herself and to me.

I never stopped typing.

And then, the baby woke up. And I looked up. And the toddler, she had gone on to another toy, another game of make-believe because I wasn’t paying attention to the one she was playing with me.

I had missed it.

I had missed it.

How often do I do that? How often do I live with blinders on, distracted and preoccupied? I live life as if it were a giant To Do List, as if my efficiency and organization will follow me into eternity. How often do I parent on auto-pilot, caring more for my chidren's needs than their hearts?

My soul throbbed at the realization of what I had casually thrown away.

My gifts. Each day.

Lord, teach me to treasure them. Teach me to see eternity. This year, this year of Sabbath, teach me a new habit. Slowly, falteringly, open my eyes to the real. Every day. Every moment.

Teach me to love well.


Surely, if you are online, you know Ann Voskamp's much-anticipated book "One Thousand Gifts" was released yesterday. (And quickly shot to #7 on Amazon's best seller list; watch the video for a perfect description of her work.)

Maybe, like me, you would like company on this walk of grace, this discovery of God's gifts in the everyday? There is a community for this journey. I would love to see you there.

Stealth Birthday

Next year, I am having a stealth birthday.

I’m going to pick a great day – maybe a sunny day in mid-May, when the lilacs are blooming and the trees are wearing brand new baby leaves and the air hints of summer to come. And then, I’m going to take a leisurely walk through the woods while the older kids are at school, and I’m going to nap with the younger ones, and I’m going to take everyone for ice cream in the afternoon just because I can, and I’m going to enjoy our first grilled carne asada of the season. And then – when we are all lingering at the table and laughing – I will announce, “Today is my birthday! Let’s have cake!”

And it will be perfect.

And necessary.

Because lately? My birthday, it conspires against me. It’s like the antithesis of a good day, the opposite of “how to celebrate Kelly.”

Case in point? Last Thursday, my 39th birthday. My day started at 3:00 AM, when Natalie stumbled into my room (after I had gotten up with a crying Kieran) and said, “I don’t feed good. My tummy hurts and I can’t get back to sleep.”

I did what all good mothers do – I mumbled something like, “You’ll be fine,” and I waved the air in her direction and she went back to bed.

I woke up a few hours later, with a toddler on one side and a baby (in soaking wet pajamas) on the other. Corey wasn’t around because he was on a business trip, but he was coming home that afternoon. All in all, not a bad start.

Then Natalie came in, looking somewhat ashen. “I still don’t feel good, Mom,” she said.

I could detail the rest of the day, but I bet you know where this is going. Let’s just say: My birthday lunch at a friend’s house was canceled. The rest of my plans to have a productive day at home went out the window. I spent most of my time trying to get a cranky baby to sleep in his own home (15-minute naps were all the rage that day) while Natalie and Teyla sat transfixed in front of the TV forwait for iteight hours straight.

Corey got home (the best birthday gift I could imagine, believe me), we ordered dinner from Outback, I only got to eat a few bites before the incredibly overtired baby demanded to be put to bed. Connor, who was fine all day, threw up in my bedroom after his shower. (Birthday aromatherapy: vomit.) And Teyla went to bed with a fever. (Oh look! I detailed it for you anyway!)

And so the day ended. I ate a piece of cake from Teyla’s birthday party, just five days before, and called it a night.

Here's the thing: I wasn’t upset. In fact, it made me giggle a little. My kids rarely get sick. I don't believe we've had a sick day yet this school year. What are the odds all this would happen on my birthday?

Apparently, pretty good. Turns out, last year, on my birthday, Natalie got sick. (I am totally serious! Go read it for yourself!)

And the year before that? I was in a foul mood, possibly because my Mom was having surgery that very day to discover if she had a very serious form of cancer. (She didn’t, which totally redeemed the day. But before we knew the news? It was dicey.)

So next year? I turn 40. I need to have a good birthday to kick off a new decade. So I’m not announcing when it will be.

(But I’m thinking May. Just don’t tell my children.)

2011 : The Year of Sabbath

Silence is not my thing.

If you know me in real life, you already know this.

I am a talker. I love conversation. I always have music on. (Hello Pandora. How did I live without you?) I thrive on chaos, and I actually function better in a noisy environment (such as a newsroom) than I do in a quiet one (such as my radio-free bedroom where my parents insisted I do my algebra homework, which completely explains that C).

So the fact that my blog has been silent for two weeks now is uncharacteristic, to say the least.

But in a twist I couldn’t have anticipated, it’s also a fitting start for 2011.

A few years ago, I saw a pattern emerge among writers I respect. Many of them prayed about a word or theme for each calendar year, a spiritual focal point that would direct their annual journey. I liked the idea. It would help the sanguine side of my brain stay focused and give the organized side of my brain an objective.

So last month, I started asking God if there was a subject He would like me to concentrate on this coming year.

I got an answer almost immediately, and I was simultaneously so shocked and excited about it, I kept it a secret for a good long while. (Another uncharacteristic action.)

My word for 2011 is Sabbath. The seed for this particular concept was planted by my MOPS Bible study last fall. Together, we studied "The Life You've Always Wanted"by John Ortberg, a book about the spiritual disciplines (and NOT the prosperity gospel as the horrible title might suggest).

Ironically, the concept of Sabbath is not a spiritual discipline. It’s a spiritual command. (Gulp.) But it’s heartbeat pulses through the disciplines – especially in practices like silence, slowing, having a well-ordered heart, even celebration. (Surprised by that last one? So was I.)

So this year, I embark on a journey of discovery. I suspect learning about the Sabbath – the why, what, when, where, who and how, to use journalism slang – will have trickle-down effects in every area of my life.

And so, I let my blog (and Twitter and Facebook account) lie mostly fallow these past two weeks. I refused to listen to the oily, whiny voice that tries to tell me I’m losing relevance by staying offline, as if my value is summed up by the number of comments I get. I wanted to walk away from the self-imposed burden that says my public voice matters more than my private one.

It stung to do it – like the pulling of a scab that has practically become a part of my body. But I can already feel the healing taking place.

In 2006, I read an interview with Eugene Peterson that has haunted me ever since. In it, Peterson is asked, “What spiritual practice has most shaped your walk with God?”

He answers:
Keeping a weekly Sabbath – a day my wife and I define as “praying and laying.” A day we don’t do anything that has to be done.

When we realized that the command and to keep a Sabbath is one of the most repeated in Scripture and yet the most ignored in our culture, we had to readjust radically the way we were living. No other decision has made as much difference to our lives across the board. It has impacted our marriage, children, church life, friendships, writing … the works.

Sabbath-keeping shifted our attention away from what we were doing for God to what God was doing for us. Our work became subsumed in His.
That’s what I want. That’s what I’m after.

May the Lord of the Sabbath be loud in the silence this coming year.

If you're interested in what words other bloggers have chosen for 2011:
SortaCrunchy : Give
Emerging Mummy : Enough
Holy Experience : Here
Laura Parker : NOT Cynical

Also, to clarify, I'm not going to be completely silent in 2011. (Sorry Corey.) It was just a healthy and necessary start for me as I contemplate what Sabbath might look like in my life.