Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Best Revenge

I felt the brush of something past my forehead. By the time I stopped in my blind dash for second base, the field around me erupted in shouting. My husband, who'd been running beside me to ensure I landed on the bag and stopped before ending up in left field, was screaming at someone. Other players were shouting, their voices gathering around. "What happened?" i asked my husband, who stood quivering beside me.
"Are you Okay?" he growled from between his teeth. "Did the ball hit you?"
As the clamour began to die down, I picked up bits and pieces of the conversations around me. "The short stop threw the ball at your head." someone said.
"If he'd hit her she wouldn't be conscious," said another. "That ball was probably 90 miles an hour.
"What's your problem, man?" I hear my husband shout over my head.
I know what his problem was. We were playing in a co-ed softball league and it bothered this guy that they'd let the blind lady play. I'd heard nasty comments slip from this dude's mouth a couple of times. "What is this the special Olympics?"
"Why don't we all just sit down and let her run around the bases until the other team wins."
"I didn't come to hold hands, I came to compete.
At the time his attitude bothered me. I hit the ball on my own. Erik told me to swing or not, but I had to listen, ignore him, and actually make contact by myself. The pitcher was awesome. He'd give me a verbal cue when he threw the ball like "Here it comes.", but I still had to find the pitch. I ran myself, Erik just told me where to stop...
Its actually sort of funny as I picture it now. Blind baseball. Once I even ran toward the pitcher's mound instead of second base. I got out of course. I told you the story about the ball dropping behind me while I stood oblivious.No one decided we'd pretend I caught the ball because I was in the general area.  All of it was a ton of fun and the attitude's of the people I played with went a long way to make softball some of my best times.
I can, however, understand this short stop's frustration. He wanted to win through competition and dominance. The other team was winning, but with me on the field this poor guy felt like he might as well have been playing T-ball with his kids.
My husband Erik later told me if the guy had hit me he'd have beat the pulp out of him. He was lucky he'd missed. I'm glad it was only a close call, for my benefit, but also for Erik's. This guy wouldn't have enjoyed the experience either, but I really don't care about  him. I mean, I don't want him to get hit by a truck or anything, but getting revenge for me, or even because this guy deserved a good beat down would only have scarred my husband.
Perhaps not physically, but definitely emotionally and spiritually. He says it wouldn't but I know him. Revenge would've left him angry and empty. He hates conflict and he loves sports. It would have left a bitter taste in his soul.
Often we want an apology, or at least an acknowledgement of wrong doing before we forgive.
"You were wrong and I was hurt I don't owe you anything, certainly not forgiveness.
However if you're sorry, or at least chagrined, I'll consider giving forgiveness to you. You might deserve it then."
Isn't that our attitude sometimes?None of us deserve forgiveness. The  Savior was perfect and he forgives everyone. We are all less than he is. None of us deserve his condescension to our level.
Here's the thing though. Forgiveness isn't a gift we give others. Its the gift we give ourselves. Without forgiveness, we're left with anger, betrayal, hurt and revenge. Filling your heart and mind with those emotions is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.
You don't forgive someone to make their life better and their conscious easier. You do it so you can prosper, be full of happiness, and live well.
After all, isn't that the best revenge?"

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Today In History

Today is my mother's birthday. As I was looking for her street address to mail a birthday card to her, I thought about everything I have learned from her over they years. My mother and I are quite a bit alike. We are both strong, opinionated, outspoken and stubborn women. There have been times when are similarities have made it difficult for us to get along. We like to argue in which we say the same things but come at each other from opposite points of view. When I was a much younger, more obnoxious, know-it-all, I drove her crazy, and vice-avers. We still have times when I'm sure she rolls her eyes at the stupid things I do., I still grit my teeth and wonder if she remembers what life was like when she was my age.
Those are the moments when I'm especially grateful to her for the beautiful lady she is.
When my mother was 'my age' she'd been a widow with six children below the age of 20. The love of her life, her best friend, and the light at the end of her tunnel was gone. Her parents were both gone as well, and she was alone.
For my brothers and sisters and I, the years following my father's death were dark and difficult. For my mother they were crippling. Yet, she didn't let the worst decade of her life strip her of her faith. No matter what happened to us, debt, disaster, disease, or doubt; My mother never faltered in her faith.
When most of us are asked to step forward one day at a time when life is too harsh,, she was asked to walk off a cliff. When most of us must stiffen our spine, straighten our shoulders and stand up to trials, she had to tie herself to the burning pyre and stand amidst the flames to protect us. She didn't always do it perfectly, but she always did it. She never left her God when at times it seemed he abandoned her. She never thought she was perfect, but she always knew the perfect love of her Savior. My Dad was her life line in a lot of things, but her love of her God, her family, and her faith in forever bound her together when everything else fell apart.
My mother was the person who taught me there isn't anything I can't do if The Lord is on my side. It is my favorite thing She and I have in common..
Someday the 19 th day of August will be a day my grandchildren or great grandchildren will not remember even though it's my mother's birthday. However, the generations of my family will always carry my mother with them. Her courage. Her strength, and her great faith. It has made me the woman I am, the wife, the mother, and the disciple of Christ that I strive to be everyday.
Thanks Mom, for the greatest gift of all, for your life, your sacrifices, and your desire to be a righteous woman of God.
I love you. Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What Were You Expecting?

At the end of April, 2003, my husband Erik stepped off an airplane in Dakar, Senegal. The farthest from home he'd ever gone before? A distant corner of Florida. Now he stood in a foreign country a white guy who stood literally head and shoulders taller than the locals. A sea of ebony-skinned men and women in colorful tunics, camouflage uniforms, and tattered jeans. The armed guards at the arrival gate asked him, "Where are you staying?"
He didn't know. "Who are you meeting?"
A man from Sierra Leone named Samuel. He would have our four year old son with him so we could finalize his adoption.
"What is Samuel's last name? What does he look like? Where is he meeting you?"
Erik didn't know the answers to any of these questions either.We had spent the last year and a half focused on filling out adoption papers-in triplicate-to finalize the U.S. side of our international adoption. We spent days standing in line at immigration offices. Hours in Doctors offices getting physicals and letters attesting to my abilities as a blind person to also be a parent. Months gathering together back ground checks, references, fingerprints, passports, and letters of recommendation from three non-related people. All in Triplicate. Our home had to be visited for safety measures. We were interviewed by social workers, Child and Family Services, and U.S. Immigration to assure we were mentally, physically, and financially capable of adopting.
We then had to take 60 hours of Foster parent training, mortgage our home for the cash, and  buy plane tickets to bring our son home.
Interestingly enough, this wasn't the hardest part. As the armed guard led Erik toward the baggage claim , there was a short, black man holding a cardboard sign that said McDonald in one hand, and a little black eyed boy in the other. Up on leaving the airport, Erik discovered the best Hotels were the safest and cost 170$ a night for what we in the U.S. would pay your average 29.99$ 'we'll leave the lights on for you' kind of place. The water wasn't drinkable so they stocked up on Coke. The food smelled like fish and garbage. All of it. The meat, the fruit, the bread, everything. The country smelled like fish and garbage. Samuel, the man facilitating the adoption, left Sieirra Leone three days earlier with a baby wipes box holding a chunk of bread and some raw fish. They still had some left when Erik checked them all into the Hotel. He exchanged his american dollars for Cephas, the currency in Senegal. He did this by meeting a man in a dark alley. Yes, a real dark alley, and following him through a shanty town of shacks to trade his cash.
If all that wasn't scary enough...My son's birth certificate had been filled out wrong. His passport said he was born on May 6 but his Visa said he was born on June 5. Evidently 5/6 in some countries means May 6 and in others it means June 5. The U.S. Consulate told us we couldn't get him out of Senegal in the three days before the return flight unless we went to Gambia, a country north of Senegal, to the Sierra Leoneon Consulate. At this point Samuel, and the man he traveled with were gone. We had no one in Africa who could help us. Erik made a lot of international phone calls, taxi rides all over Dakar, and said a ton of prayers. He ran into Samuel's traveling companion on the street that day. Paying for this man to fly to Gambia, Erik waited and hoped for a miracle. The Gambian consulate was closed and the consular out of town. I called the airlines and changed Erik's return tickets to the next departing flight. Back in 2003, there were four flights from Dakar. One Monday morning flying out, one Monday night flying in, one Wednesday morning flying out and one Wednesday afternoon flying in. We were booked on the Monday morning out flight. I changed it to the Wednesday morning out flight. If he couldn't catch that one he'd have to spend another week in Africa.
Tuesday, Erik went to the U.S. Consulate and asked what we could do. The consular, Andy, said there was nothing. They could issue the boy's Visa with the wrong date, but when the immigration officials in the airport saw it they'd send Erik and the child back. Erik could go on to the U.S., but the boy couldn't leave. If they made it through security in Dakar, the U.S. officials would see the same problem and send the boy back to Africa, alone. We had 4 hours to decide what to do. After teary phone calls, numerous prayers, and a divine message to come home, Erik called his Dad. When he explained the situation, his dad only asked one question, "Is it just a paperwork problem?"
When Erik assured him it was, his dad told him to get on the plane.
Those last few hours waiting for a phone call after their departure time to tell me they hadn't gotten through were excruciating. Notice...I was expecting to hear more problems. Erik called me at 7 a.m. the next morning. They were in immigration in New York. The officials took the little boy's papers, which no  one in the African airport, uniforms, or on the plane noticed was wrong,and disappeared into their offices. A half hour later, they came back with the forms, shook my son's hand and said, "Welcome to The United States."
That was 11 years ago. The trials, joys, heartache and love we enjoy in our family have grown from this experience. Looking back, I think we were too young, or stupid, or insane to realize what danger Erik, our son, and our family were in if God hadn't known the answers. We expected to go to Africa, pick up our son and come home again. That's exactly what we got.
How often do we complain that life, or our health, or our happiness haven't turned out the way we were expecting? Really?
Break down your true expectations to their core and see if God hasn't given you what you wanted.
Children, a family? Look around do you have people who love you? The chance to be in the presence of children? The love of those who know you?
Fame, Riches, power? You have no idea how many people will remember your kindness, your smile, or your attitude. When all things disappear because of global warming or an apocalyptic event, will you be rich in love, memory, experiences? The greatest power there is is love, are you working on gaining it?
Maybe your expectations are for pain, doubt, and misery? You'll find that too. Don't focus on what is going wrong because you're not getting what you want. Focus on what you're expecting and see if you really want it. Your Father in Heaven will answer your prayers and fill your expectations. The question is: What are you expecting?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Stroke Of Bad Luck?

"you see all these white dots on your brain scan? Those are mini-strokes. Over your lifetime you've had dozens."
I couldn't see any details of the MRI. To me it was a gray blur with white dots scattered in no distinct pattern. My neurologist explained to me that the gray blur was a shot from above looking down at a thin slice of my brain. The dots were actually just one spot which represented an area that went through about a thousand layers where a small section of my brain matter died. "I've had more than a dozen strokes? Why hasn't it killed me?"
Interestingly enough, these small episodes Known as TIA's orTranscient Ischemic Attacks can be quite serious. When a blood vessel in your brain bursts from too much pressure or blocked passages, they can cause paralyzation, speech impediments, loss of function and even death. A history of these attacks can indicate an upcoming larger episode. So they are little warning flags. Mine were due to low blood sugars and had been happening most of my life. Seeing the mottled landscape of my brain with these tiny warning flags all over was a little sobering, too say the least. The more I talked to the doctor and the more I asked God what it all meant though, the more I saw the beauty in the pictures. I wasn't alone. My body was screaming for relief from a condition I was trying to control and My Father in Heaven was answering the call.Despite losing a significant number of these little sections of my brain, God had not allowed them to cripple my mind or body. I could still function, love, speak, and hold my children. There was so much more I could have lost.  Sometimes we look at a narrow slice of our lives and shake our fists at the sky for bad luck, crappy family, or the mistakes others have cursed us with. Do we ever step back and look at the whole. Yes, there are hindrances to my life, even now with my transplants. Does that mean the ability to laugh, to wrestle with my sons, to walk up the street, or to write using my talking computer are less valuable? If I focus in on the scars and marks that cover my body I look like a road map of tragedy. If I look at my family, friends, blessings, and beauty which God gives me every moment of each day, then I am the luckiest woman alive.
It's up to us to decide who and what we're going to be. Tiny sections of disaster warning of worse things to come, or children of God standing as a tribute to his immense power and love?I realize my story of mini-strokes is nothing in comparison to the stories of people who suffer much more devastating results. My father-in-Law had brain surgery, a  near death experience and months if not years of trying to recover his body. My mother-in-law lost her life because of what started as TIA's. There is nothing we can change about what was or what is life after.
What ever your TIA's are or have left you with is in the past. Don't waste your energy wishing you could change it. You are so much more than your scars. Figure out what they left you with for a bright future.