Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Changing Out the Flag

Last night there was a bat in my ceiling, a spider in my bath, and I may have given my boyfriend food poisoning. Not the best Monday I’ve ever had. But hey, you win some, you lose some. And let’s be honest, it probably wasn’t my beautifully homemade and delicious meal that poisoned him, right? (At least I sure hope not. . .) 

Anyways. All that drama brought me to some deep thought (that happens when my boyfriend is indisposed and I don’t have someone to chatter at. . . I mean chat with). So in lieu of the usual chatter I settled into thoughts of independence. Yup, here we are again. You guys know I’ve always been one for independence. I used to thrive off of it, or the idea of it I suppose. If I was going to be single then gosh darn it I was going to be the best independent single person the world has ever seen! Look at me hang up these decorations on my own! Look at me get this couch on my own (and coerce the IKEA workers with frantic looks to do all the work for me)! Look at me be awesome because I don't need no man! 

Yea. Not really the coolest thing I’ve ever done. But really my bend towards independence wasn't all that legitimate. If I was honest with myself I was always secretly dependent on those around me. Different people have always helped me along the way and I recognize that I couldn’t have done life without them. Sure, I waved my flag of independence, but really it was the community that helped me along while silently shaking their heads at my determination and sweet flag-waving skills. 

But oh how times have changed- there is no denying it now. I can’t even pretend to deny my dependence. The other night before I poisoned my boyfriend you could have found him walking around my house with a knife because I thought I heard a creepy noise (turns out it was the dryer. . . ). What did I do before I had a pocketknife wielding man to save me? Who knows. Nowadays I still pretend I want independence and control but really I find myself saying things like, “babe, why did you have to get sick on the same day the bat goes crazy in the ceiling? I need you to save me. . .oh and can you fix the picture that broke on the wall?” *Sigh* Independence is a fleeting and silly thing. 

I guess it comes down to this: I strived for so long to be what I thought I needed to be. I fought for control by denying my need for others. But in reality, life is all about the people that walk alongside you to help you out. It’s the people that help you move, that catch you fish for dinner, that come over when you hear a bat and take your trash out when they leave. Life is about how we depend on others and in turn how they depend on us. And it is so much more beautiful than standing alone on a hill with a flag of independence wondering when someone is going to come up and ask how you got to be so awesome. 

In fact I think I’m switching out my flag. This one is going to say, “Help wanted. . . and no my cooking doesn’t poison.” 

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Joy of Family

Today a phrase popped into mind that epitomizes the past week: “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” 

Goodness, what truth that is. 

I was feeling a little burnt out and cynical as the school year came to an end when like a fairy godmother new life came and turned the pumpkin into a coach! With two new volunteers from North Carolina who throughly embody the joy of the Lord and 15 (yes, FIFTEEN) kids coming to the Kennel this past week, things have gone from blah to ta-da! Gosh, God is good. 

It has been in the midst of this joy of the Lord that another important word has popped up: Family

We have always called our Kennel staff and kids a family, but this past week it has truly felt that way. Cameron has been coming to the Kennel most days (the only perk of his frustrating and lack-thereof work schedule) and the kids have taken to continuing the “daughter/son” phrasing. Cameron takes to the role with gusto. He loves being dad as much as I love being mom/auntie/sister. And in a community where good “dads” are hard to come by, I love watching him interact with the kids in such a way. Plus he is a big muscly dude so he takes the commanding stance well!

So yesterday we were at the church picnic and we just had five of the kids with us, but they are circling around Cam and I pretending we are their parents as they get introduced to Cam’s family, who they immediately call their grandparents. They just assumed that his family is now their family, a characteristic that I love about them. And they stall as Cam and I try to take them home, working to convince us that we should take them on our date, and stopping to check out the ins and outs of my house as they choose the rooms that they want to live in. I don’t mind that they are trekking through my place and checking everything out, I love having them around. And we talk about our next adventures and when they can stay over and no, you teenage girls cannot housesit while I am on vacation but thanks for the offer. 

And I realize that this is what I want my life to forever be. I know that wherever I live I want my house to be full of a bunch of kids that call us family, that come in and out and are related to us or not. I know that I want my household to be full of love and laughter and fun. .  an unconventional family with a ton of crazy kids. 

This is actually the most family I have had around in a lot of years, since I moved to the West Coast and left the family on the East. My heart bursts with joy as the love between the kids and us grown-ups continues to deepen, and the trust increases, and we know that we would do anything for each other. It is new life after a lull of exhaustion and cynicism. In with the wind is joy, such joy, and it all comes from the Lord. 

I will end with this: One of our youngest "kids" (who always asks where her "dad" is when Cam isn’t around) was hanging out with me at the Kennel the other night. They had all been tattooing me with washable marker so I decided to share the love and write a “tattoo” on her hand. I AM LOVED is what I chose. It was what I wanted her to know and what I hope each of these kids gets tattooed on their hearts as they continue hanging around the Kennel and becoming family with us. I am loved. The knowledge of this truth changes everything. Indeed, it has for me. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Adopting Daughters

It all started with one ninth grader. 

She joined a group hug with me and Cam and the rest was history. Within minutes she claimed herself adopted and started play calling us "mom" and "dad." When we saw her at the Kennel yesterday she jokingly started singing, "Reunited and it feeeeeels so goooood!" Cameron had willingly and lovingly accepted this first newfound daughter, but little did he know it was just the beginning.

We had spent the past weekend at the bi-annual Rising youth retreat. 28 middle school and high school students from our Thursday night youth service and it was awesome. 

From almost the moment of our arrival four of the middle school girls had attached themselves to my hip. It all started with a comment of, “Is that your brother?” and the response of, “No, he is my boyfriend!” and the jokes and bonding was well on its way. At one point I asked them, "Do you want me to kiss him to show you he isn’t my brother??" To which they said, "YES!" I was so surprised at that answer that I replied maturely with. . . "Ew! Gross! No!" 

Later Cam slammed one of the quiet ones in the face with a dodgeball so hard it left a mark. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. 

The 7th grade girls were mostly interested in me and Cameron as a dating entity. Most of these students have never seen a healthy dating relationship or an example of healthy affection, so it was cool seeing the platform he and I were able to have with them. On the first day I was so excited to be able to have conversations with some of the girls about why I don't live with him and what God intended for relationships, both physically and emotionally. It was a joy to be able to speak into their lives in such a way. 

But it was the last night that I loved the most. After a bonfire with all the students I gathered my middle school girls to help me make french toast casserole for the next morning. Cameron decided to walk with us and before you knew it we were all linked arms and holding hands in a line up the hill. It was only minutes before they started calling us the Apache words for "mom" and "dad" and it felt for that moment like we were a little makeshift family, full of laughter and love and health. 

And I was so impressed because Cameron took to his newfound “daughters” with such goodness (yes, I am going to brag about him for a minute). In this moment he was able to show them what a good man, a really good man is like. He took to these girls like they were his own, without question or complaint. He showed them love, a good healthy kind of love. He told us all that we were beautiful and gave the girls strict instructions not to date. He let them call him dad and the girls noticed the way that he treated me. “We saw him help you put your jacket on in the session.” “He takes your tray after you eat.” The little things make the biggest impact. 

As we all linked arms up the hill he showed these little girls the love of a father, and by loving me well in front of them he showed them the kind of man that they deserve. As middle school girls living in a culture where men will use them and abuse them, I knew that this moment could be life-changing for them and I couldn’t have been more grateful that God chose to use us to show them what a healthy relationship can look like. 

We walked away from the weekend with five new daughters. And I walked away with a rich appreciation for the man that is willing to jump with both feet into this crazy thing I call my life, to love these kids with the heart of Christ, and to be a shining example of God’s love for me and others. 

I couldn’t have been more happy.