Friday, March 28, 2014

My Children

I am still suffering the effects of vestibular neuritis, which, while improving to the point I can now walk, drive and pretend some semblance of functionality, still leaves me feeling as if I just stepped off the Mad Hatter's Tea Cup ride ALL OF THE TIME. (And I always hated that ride.) Reading and writing take considerable effort because - guess what - the vestibular system and the visual system and the auditory system and the vagus nerve are all connected in earth-rocking ways.

So I'm not going to write much. I'm going to tell one Paul story and then show you some pictures. Yesterday, Paul asked, "Mom, 'member those kids we help?"

For the record, Paul remembers EVERYTHING about EVERYONE we have EVER met. EVER. (Except, of course, minor details like their names.) And he expects me to read his mind about WHO THE HECK HE'S TALKING ABOUT. Which I cannot. Especially when all of my current concentration is focused on remaining upright without swaying too visibly.

He is learning I need clarification. "Those kids? They weren't homeless but we help them and their famb'ly. Remember? From Africa?"

Me: "The Somali kids? That you helped tutor?"

Paul: "No! They live in Africa NOW. In MY country. WE MET THEM! REMEMBER?" (Sometimes I think he thinks I'm an idiot with the memory of a flea. Sometimes he's right.)

Me, thinking, thinking: "Oh! Our World Vision kids? Tokiso and Mohaila?"

Paul, sighing with the satisfaction of finally being understood: "Yes. I was trying to tell my teacher about them. Cause they's kind of like our family too, right?"

Me: "Yes. They are exactly like our family, too."

I haven't been able to read but a couple of the blogs and posts and who-ha-ha about World Vision and the latest homosexual controversy. Because I Just. Cannot. Even. It makes me nauseous. Everything makes me nauseous, but this especially.

We have sponsored children through Compassion and through World Vision for many years. (World Vision introduced us to the country and the children of Lesotho, which in turn introduced us to Paul.) When we traveled to Lesotho in May 2012 we were able to meet our children. Julius, the Lesotho World Vision representative, drove us to meet Tokiso on Monday, along with her ENTIRE family, her ENTIRE school, and about three-quarters of the ENTIRE village. On Tuesday Julius drove us to meet Mohaila, his family, his schoolmates and his teachers.

We write letters back and forth - Mohaila doesn't much like to write, but he does it anyway. I think his mama makes him. She's that kind of mama - and we watch them grow and love them from afar.

I read that World Vision lost close to 5,000 sponsors when they announced they would allow those in legal same-sex marriages to work for their organization. FIVE THOUSAND. Those numbers represent real children, y'all. Real families. Real communities. In a moment of outrage, of disagreement, children became pawns. Children just like MY children.

Mohaila's mama shared that he's still in school because of our sponsorship. School isn't easy for him. Sponsorship provides him with the support he needs to get an education - an education that is essential to his future.

Tokiso's local ADP (area development program) representative shared that our sponsorship enabled Tokiso's mother to visit a doctor. A visit that saved her life. A visit that meant Tokiso and her siblings still have a mother. World Vision provides hope; preserves families.

Paul is still learning what it means to be family. He is still learning that we are family NO MATTER WHAT. We are family EVEN IF we disagree. Family sticks together. Family loves each other. Nobody walks away. Nobody flakes out when it gets tough - because it will get tough. This family will NEVER give up on our kids. Not the ones who live in my house, and not the ones who live half-a-world away. Don't nobody mess with MY CHILDREN.
A calvary of children riding donkeys led us up a mountain
to a rousing welcome from Tokiso (in yellow) and her schoolmates.
A World Vision sponsorship helps the entire community. Our sponsorship
assisted in building a clean-water-well for the school. Which is pumped via a
MERRY GO ROUND! Just look at these babies!
I was somehow conscripted into participating in a traditional women's dance.
Yes, they are laughing at me. And I think the teacher in white might
have posted to YouTubes Funniest Videos or something.
Both families cooked us an amazing lunch! 
World Vision supports the entire family.
Our family is forever linked with Mohaila's family.
Forever. No matter what.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

What Doesn't Kill You

You know that saying, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger?" Based on recent happenings, which I am unable to clarify in a public blog BECAUSE OF ALL THE THINGS, I find it necessary to clear up a few misconceptions about this particular phrase.

1. What doesn't kill you MAY make you stronger IF this thing that does not kill you is a moderate and predictable and developmentally appropriate stress and IF you have the blessing of having been loved and cared for and supported by the adults in your life. Things like failing a test because you didn't study and consequently having TV-time replaced with STUDY time. Things like not making the cut because you didn't practice or don't put forth effort and realizing that if you want it you're going to have to bust your butt. Things like falling off your bike and scraping your knee and getting it all bandaged up and loved on so you can go try again. Even things like learning to confront meanness or unfairness in an assertive, dignity-protecting way. I'm quite a fan of these "isn't killing you" experiences, which is why my son was breaking down and hauling boxes with his dad before dawn instead of watching television.

But, and here's the tricky bit, these love-and-logic "not killing you" experiences work best in the context of safe and fair and loving relationships. These love-and-logic "not killing you" experiences work only if the child's dignity and spirit are valued. Parents, teachers and coaches of highly sensitive people or of children from hard places must walk a fine line between correcting versus humiliating, between instructing versus devaluing. Otherwise we move into items #2 or #3, see below.

2. Even if what does not kill you IS a significant or unpredictable stressor, like slicing open your knee in the middle of rural Mexico or public humiliation or surviving a natural disaster or coping with a chronic illness or even the death a loved one, IF the child has a reliable adult or adults to help buffer the stress this thing may, with support and God's great healing, make them stronger. "Because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope." (Romans 5:4). But to realize this hope takes time, sometimes therapy, the support of loving relationships, and always the comfort and power of God.

3. If what does not kill you is severe, unpredictable and prolonged, it may in fact cause changes in the wiring of the brain that completely overwhelms the ability to cope and, rather than making you stronger, can make you enraged, anxious, antisocial, depressed, even suicidal. There is healing and strength, but it requires all of God's strength, power and comfort, and all of the hands-and-feet love of His people. This healing may not look like we want it to look. It may not look stronger. It may be messy and filled with hurt. It is all the cracks and brokenness and weakness through which only God's strength can shine.