September 15, 2012

Dead Leaves and Wool Blankets

Posted in Blogging, Books, England, Just Life at 12:14 pm by catsinboxes

If you have followed this blog, one thing you probably have noticed is that my posts are not predictable.  My blog is eclectic, and my posts timing is equally eclectic.  Part of me would love to be an official blogger with a following and daily posts.  The other part of me, the stubborn independent part, realizes that I could quickly become a slave to my own blog.  I have yet to find the perfect balance, but it is safe to say that you can expect weekly posts from me in the coming months, and don’t be surprised if a couple more posts are slipped in each week.  That said, or rather ‘written’, on to my post!

I love fall, to the point that it is probably my favorite season.  I love spring, but I think anyone would welcome spring after having to live through a Wisconsin winter!  Years ago, I read something very interesting in my British literature textbook. There’s actually a neat story behind that textbook.  Well over a decade ago, I bought this book at our local library.  I was probably about eight, I hadn’t traveled to England, but I already loved England.  And, this book was about ‘English Literature.’

I thought it was wonderful.    Throughout the years, and through two moves, I held on to the book.  Occasionally, Mom would suggest that I probably didn’t need that book, but each time I would beg and plead and manage to keep it.  I reached high school, and mid-way through high school it came the time to study British literature.  We evaluated many textbooks, and guess which one was unquestionably, hands-down, the best?  My trustworthy old textbook!  It was interesting, it was well-written, it was just what I needed.  And, reading that textbook, I was intrigued by the parallel that it drew between Britain’s climate and its literature.  Somewhere else (and I can’t remember where, it’s bothering me!) I read that fall, with its brisk nights, misty mornings, and sunshine in between is the ideal temperature for optimal creativity due to how the brain works.  Interestingly, Britain sees a lot of that sort of weather, and British literature would indicate that creativity has always thrived in England.  In my opinion, it still does, whether from an unfair climate advantage, or a superior literary heritage, British children’s literature beats American children’s literature any day.

If you can’t tell, I love books in general and British books in particular!  And I love fall, and dead leaves.  After this hot, dry summer I even love rainy days.  As a writer, I would say that this weather is perfect for encouraging creativity.  It’s just the weather for brisk walks, cups of tea, horseback rides, and writing or reading anything (within reason of course, there are of course books that just shouldn’t be read).  And as the nighttime temperature drops into the 40s and upper 30s, it is the perfect weather for sleeping with the window open and a pile of blankets (preferably at least one that is wool) on your bed.  My feet are getting cold at the thought of it, but that’s the challenge!  And there’s nothing like finding the perfect amount of blankets (and socks, they’re a crucial component, too), when the general temperature in your room is borderline frigid.  So much fun!

There are so many other things I could write about, but this post is long enough already.  Besides, it is Saturday, and a perfect fall day is calling me outside.  

September 9, 2012

Not an Easy Post

Posted in Adoption, Blogging, Faith, Favorite Quotes at 6:26 pm by catsinboxes

Up front I’m going to admit something; this is not an easy post to write.  I’ve been struggling with this post because to write anything else, no matter how easy or readable or enjoyable it might be, would be a cop-out.  I’ve thought about different approaches, different tactics, but ultimately it doesn’t matter what I do because the only way this post is going to make a difference is by God’s grace.  I can only write, but God can change hearts, and it is my prayer that He uses my weak, mortal pen to make a difference.

 Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’  Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’  Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’  ~Matthew 25:41-45

Hearing this, I used to have a mental picture.  There’s a picture, a famous picture, of German civilians walking through a concentration camp.  The Americans forced them to see the images, the stacked bodies.  The civilians are walking and one woman is turning away from the bodies, covering her face, possibly retching.

I used to think of that picture, case in point.  I knew there was resistance among German civilians, but there was also ignorance, many times willful ignorance, at the atrocities being committed.

But that was then, and this is now.  Surely we’re not that bad, surely 21st century Americans will never have to answer for such a blind complacency to evil.  Surely, my friends, some will.

Salvation is not based on works.  Do not mistake me; I believe that we are saved, as my pastor so aptly puts it, “by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.”  But show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  A living faith is an active faith, and fellow Christian, we are called to action!

 “Is not this the fast I choose:

to loose the bonds of wickedness,

to undo the straps of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free,

and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry

and bring the homeless poor into your house:

when you see the naked, to cover him,

and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”  ~Isaiah 58:6-7

Externally the Israelites seemed to be obeying God, they were fasting and paying lip service to Him, but speaking through Isaiah, God shows them the fast that He desires, the fast that He chooses.  Is this fast easy?  No, it is not.  Could it mean getting hurt?  Yes, it could.  But Christian, we are not called to an easy life!

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  (Matthew 16:24b-25)

Do you want to find your life, and find fulfillment and purpose?  Follow Christ.  And if you are following Him, can you say with Paul that “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”?  (Philippians 1:21)

That’s something I still struggle to say, but it is my desire!  I don’t want to live a complacent life.  I want to live a life that is marked by a radical difference, a dependence upon God, a desire to glorify Him alone.   And by grace, I can live like that, and so can you if you are in Christ.  What does this difference look like?  It is marked by courage.

Russell Moore puts it very well:

 As the Spirit of Christ forms the kingdom and clears away the strongholds in your life, you’ll find yourself drawn toward courage over against fearful self-protection . . .

Risk is inherent in every kind of other-directed life.  Marriage could result in infidelity.  Having children means you may well experience the anguish of seeing one of those children killed in a car accident or shipped home in a casket from a foreign war or sentence to life without parole in a federal penitentiary.  Courage isn’t protecting yourself in a cocoon from these possibilities.  Courage is walking forward and embracing others in love even though you may suffer greatly in ways you could never imagine now.  Jesus walked that way before you, and he walks that way now with you.  That’s the way of the cross.”  (Tempted and Tried, pg. 114 & 115)

What does courage look like for you?  How will you act?  How will you live this?  For me, courage is to write.  To write about the need, the desperate need of so many children.  Children who because of their disabilities are orphans.  Children who are shut away on separate floors because Down Syndrome is misunderstood.  Children who because of their age are sent to institutions.  Children who are starving, who are neglected, who are abused.  Children who are dying.

Surely you say, surely it can’t be that bad.  Oh yes, it can.  Don’t take my word for it, listen to this, written yesterday by an adoptive mom.

Sadly we’ve spent the last day since arriving in the hospital with Joey. The doctors at the Children’s Hospital said that it was a miracle that he made it home alive and that his case of malnutrition, dehydration, and physical abuse was horrendous. And this is five days after he last saw that evil group of caretakers at his orphanage. Even now, he has bruises all over him, what appears to be cigar burn scar, many scars and knots on his skull.

Between the existing malnutrition and dehydration state he was in when we got him Monday, his stomach had shrunk to the point that he can only consume about 5-10 small bites of food and a few ounces of liquid at a time- and immediately is besieged by stomach cramps and diarhhea. The runny nose, shakes, muscles jerks and aching body causing him to cry nearly all the flight home and for the past several days is part of the detox, which is almost over. But that complicated it and made him not want food either or liquid. He was in bad shape when we finally cleared Customs Thursday afternoon, but by Friday morning when we woke up (after him being awake every 20-30 minutes all night moaning and crying), we knew he was in bad shape. . . .

You think that is bad?  That’s not the worst of it.  Because there is another little boy, a little boy left behind in the same institution.  A little boy who has a family who wants him, who loves him and is right now racing through paperwork to adopt him.  Listen to this:

 But I need you to pray for Everett. Hard. Because he was in worse condition than my Joey- and every sign that the doctors told us last night was indications that Joey was nearing DEATH- the jerky, unstable walk, the pitching forward like a drunk, the confusion and limited speech, the apparent withdrawal- those were all signs of the high levels of electrolyte instability in his body due to starvation and dehydration. Everett had all of those- even worse than Joey at times. I am absolutely terrified for him- and yes, please continue to give to the Enskat FSP [family sponsorship program] -they need to get over there asap to get him, but more importantly, I need you all PRAY PRAY PRAY- that he survives until they can.

We had no idea that Joey was this bad off. We knew he was malnourished- and suspected he was drugged- but did not realize he was dying.

Please, pray for Everett- Joey is here, safe, with a medical team alert to his every change in status. Everett is in hell on earth- and I am scared.

Please pray; pray for Everett.  Only God knows how his story and the story of so many children like him will end.

For me, courage is sharing this story with you.  Courage is speaking up, even though my words might not make a difference.  Reader, I do not know what your background is, but what does courage mean for you?

So often courage is eclipsed and drowned by fear.  God realizes this, and hear His words, fellow Christian, as I close:

Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.  ~Joshua 1:19b