Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mother May I...

Mother may I, please pretty please...take 5 large steps toward Africa?  The answer this week was YES!  2012 has been marked by loads of paperwork.  That stack of documents needing notary and state seals had me jumping up and down impatiently itchy for it to be my turn to stretch my legs toward the finish line.

Our state sealing was done a week ago Friday.  Scott and I used his day off for a big "Secretary of State" date.  State sealing is only done at some of the bigger branches so we headed out of suburbia to a large, diverse waiting room.  This seemed a likely opportunity to broaden my horizons and meet someone outside of my nice little bubble world.  I was ready to reach out to someone on the margins....so I prayed all the way there for eyes that would be open to the right empty seat for while I was waiting.  For more on that tension that I've been processing lately, read here.

Here's how it went...  When we arrived, clutching our precious papers, we got in line to get our number ticket.  We were directed to a sign-in sheet for document sealing.  All but two of the previously filled in lines were crossed out and finished.  Only one person was waiting before us.  I started filling in the boxes...name, number of documents, country the documents will be going to, etc.  As I wrote "Ethiopia", my eyes were drawn to the glowing word in the line above mine..."Ethiopia" was written there too.  Along with my sharp intake of breath came the realization that there must be another person in the full waiting room doing exactly the same thing we were.  I turned around, scanning the crowd, and my eyes were instantly drawn to a wide-eyed couple CLUTCHING A FILE FOLDER!!  And one of the few sets of two empty seats in the room WAS RIGHT BESIDE THEM!  I didn't even have a flicker of my normal cautious, "wouldn't want to embarrass myself" self. I bee-lined straight into their business and asked them if they were her because they were adopting from Ethiopia too!  What an awkward moment it would have been if they had said, "No, what's wrong with you woman?"  But, of course, they are...and they are adopting through...wait for it.......BETHANY!  (Sorry about all the capitals....just don't know how else to convey my eyebrows raised in awe!)

We compared stats just like two pregnant women in the ultrasound waiting room.....how long have you been working on your dossier, what's your story, how many children do you already have, how'd you pick Ethiopia....?  And then we realized that God had orchestrated all the detours and delays of each of our days to plop us next to each other in this very space at this very time.  More awe.  Then, after all the papers bore the coveted gold seal, we parted ways with the thought that it sure would be nice to see each other again in the delivery room, er, I mean, airplane to Ethiopia!

I was looking for someone to reach out to, a person who might need a friend.  Instead God reached out to me and gave me a friend...icing on the cake of a good, good day.

We left the Secretary of State office with 22 documents bearing the seal of the great state of Michigan and the feeling that we had experienced a successful adoption ultrasound.



Over the weekend we burned through a ream of paper and 2 full cartridges of black ink.  The next item on the "dossier to-do" list was to make 3 copies of each of the precious pieces of our paper ransom.

If you saw a huge glowing check mark in the sky on Tuesday - that was us.  The checklist I've been living and breathing for the past two months, the 1 step forward 1/2 a step back "Mother May I" dance, got it's FINAL check.  Just to be safe, I double checked a few more thousand times before I packed it all up in a folder.  I imagine that normal people would stamp the package at this point and drop it in the mail.  Not me. There was too much of my own paper cut blood, sweat and tears (I'm for real, people) to not get a climactic moment out of the finish.  I felt compelled to make a memory....an event.

So, I gathered up everybody in my house - whether they were related to me or not, the camera, the precious file and money for post-event celebratory Shamrock shakes.  (We have a long history of celebrating every momentous occasion in the Florida family with ice cream.  We've also been known to make up events to go with our ice cream...)  We headed across town to Bethany.  On the way there I imagined the moment, how life would fade into slow motion as we all wiped a tear from our eyes and spoke a benediction send-off over our papers as I placed them in our social worker's hands.  I couldn't wait for the moment of blessing that would wing our dossier on it's noble way and cement the solemn occasion in our collective family psyche.

We got there, took the elevator up to the 2nd floor and waited for social worker, Kim to show up in the waiting room.  The slow motion didn't happen.  Instead of the organic words of wisdom I thought would flow from my mouth, we made a memory of a slightly awkward, decidedly dorky moment.  I handed the papers to Kim....and then had nothing to say.  She looked at me, I looked at her, my teenage sons averted their eyes and Kim finally said, "Okay...well, thanks for bringing it down."  I made weird, nervous small talk for a bit, trying to drag it out long enough for "the moment" to emerge and then I finally just blurted, "So, can we, like, take a picture?  Cuz, you know, we want to make this into a moment, something to remember, you know....and I'm just kinda dorky like that."  Yes, I really did say that to our social worker, the one who wrote the document recommending us to the country of Ethiopia as adoptive parents.  "I'm a dork."  Ah me, I need a script writer.

By now, one son couldn't stand the dork factor of his mom and had disappeared into the bathroom.  Instead of snapping a quick pic and high-tailing it out of there, we stood around, hemming and hawing until he moseyed back on out.  Then we did snap a quick picture, high-tailed it out of there straight to McDonald's for some awkward-free deliciousness.



Now it's done.  It's out of my hands.  The papers I have lost sleep over and protected from chocolate milk spills as ferociously as a Momma bear, aren't mine anymore.  If I wasn't so excited, I would feel nostalgic...I've come to love those papers, or at least their purpose.  They've sprouted wings and are carrying our cause to Ethiopia.  Upon arrival in Addis Ababa, our family life in paper form will be translated into Amharic.  Our papers will get in line.  When the powers that be across the ocean announce that they've a couple little brothers (or sisters) that need a home, a family and a name... our papers will raise their hands and jump up and down with itchy impatience as they ask, "Mother may I take 5 large steps toward those babies?  Pick us! Please pick us!"  They will explain that we are the Floridas.  We're often dorkey, but we have room, we have love and we have strength to offer.   Our papers will shed tears and the game will fade into slow motion as a moment happens and we ask, "Please pick us for this treasure and let us sprint toward the finish line."



Thursday, March 1, 2012

I Smell Smoke

I'm not totally sure what's burning yet, but something is.  I can smell it in the wind, it's making my throat scratchy.  Our house is surrounded by woods, tall trees that attract wild turkey, deer and opossums o'plenty.  Our back yard also attracts the neighbor's run away Eskimo dog.  I think he thinks our dog is cute.  I know when there's a presence in our woods.  I know, because she knows, Moxie our dog.  Her body language changes....ears perk up, tail stiffens, and she gets that far-away focused look in her eyes.  Well,  there's a rustling in the forest, friends.  I know something's out there, smokin'....just haven't been able to stare it straight in the face yet.

I spent Sunday nauseous, physically nauseous people.  I was sick to my stomach all day because of what I've been reading.  My heart's churning and my head's on overdrive.  I feel something coming, sense the winds of God moving, fanning this fire He's starting inside of me.  It could be coincidence that every book I'm reading is speaking the same words to me.  Could be coincidence..... it could also be true that I am related to the real Dr. Spock who was on the real Enterprise.

I've felt a vague tension for a while now.  It's because of the knowing.  It's so much easier to live in the nice little bubble of fake and think that life really does revolve around me.  Easier, until I'm not satisfied and life gets too hard, even in my nice little fake bubble.  Living life in the bubble, breathing air that's anesthetizing....it's great, it's like being on drugs.  Real life is so much harder, so much more real, has so many more sharp edges.  But real life is the only thing that's. ...real....really satisfying. If a drug addict wants true satisfaction that lasts, the only option is detox.  I'm a drug addict.  I think I'm ready to check myself into detox.  My drug of choice?  God's blessing.  Did I just hear all the good Christians across the Bible belt suck in their collective breath in shock and dismay?  I would have too, not too long ago.  Before my eyes were slowly pried open to the real world.

I'm uncomfortable in my own skin right now, snuggled up with the contents of my 4 walls....or actually my 52 walls, 3 car garage and storage room for the things that won't fit.  The blessings are starting to chafe.  I've been toying with solutions around the edges of my mind for a couple of years.  I perk up when I hear about someone having to limit their household to 4 barrels because of a military move or nod my head when reading about a radical housewife who reclaimed hours of her week in laundry time by reducing her family members to 7 outfits each.  "What a freeing idea!"  I marvel.  "Wish I could do that.....kinda.  Ok, not really."

Really, I've been pretending that the stuff spilling out of my cupboards and stacked on my shelves is evidence of God's favor.  I look at it, and admire it, and organize it, and clean it, and re-stack it, and collect more of it, especially when it's on sale!  The irony is, while I'm collecting and adoring, I'm also feeling smothered.

I've tried all the magic programs to clean my house better and cleaner.  I tried to emulate my MOPS mentor's calm and measured approach to housework....apparently I'm not as calm and measured as her.  I've still got sticky notes on the inside of my cupboard doors slathered with Sparkly FlyLady mantras and checklists.  I like checklists and mantras.....and sparkles.....but not enough to earn my wings.  There's a clipboard with Ann Voscamp's free printable daily housework planner collecting dust in my dining room where I dropped it about 3 weeks ago.  I had visions of a happy haze of gratitude accompany me as I cared for my stuff.....but I found out I'm no Farmer's wife.  I've jumped on and off bandwagons, each time thinking that my laziness and lack of willpower were the failing link to quick and efficient housework perfection.  I value a clean house....it's important....but it takes so much darn time to take care of all this stuff!!

And that's the key, me thinks.  "All this stuff...."

We take a canoeing and hiking trip every couple of years with our high school group.  We head out into the wilderness and beauty of Algonquin with only what we can carry on our backs.  For a week.  This means a tent, sleeping back, cooking gear, food, bug spray, toilet paper, everything is on my back, which leaves very little room for clothes.  This is true roughing it where luxury is your one (that was not a typo...) one change of clothes that you dream about changing into each night after the day's sweaty adventure is done. This outfit... comfy sweatpants, dry socks and underwear and a fleece that I still feel permanent feelings for love for, are guarded from sweat and river water all day long and preserved for that divine end of the day moment.  And it is enough.  In fact, it's one of the best parts of the whole trip....the "there's only room in the pack for 2 sets of clothes" part.  The meaning of my possessions, on a trip like that, is reduced to how useful they are to me.  Bug spray, useful.  Toilet paper, definitely useful.  Mac & cheese out of a box, made group style over a fire we built ourselves, positively delightful....and useful. ("Food is fuel," they say out in the wilderness.)  Two set of clothes, a relief at the end of the day, a luxury of warmth and decent smells....use to the ful.  More sets of clothes... a burden that would sap my strength and distract my focus.

Hmmmm....

I've been searching for the perfect system because I'm mad and frustrated that I spend so much time cleaning, organizing, restacking the stuff, er, I mean, the blessings.  There's a little annoying bird singing a song in my ear that says I'm wasting my life doing laundry.  SCC helps me drown her out and I "do every little thing we do for the glory of the One who made you."   I play worship music while I fold and pray over the owner of the item while I organize.  I'm working HARD at being good people!!!  After all, I don't have any choice about doing laundry, right?  My family is very favorably disposed toward not smelling like old bacon and onions and I don't foresee a maid in my future.  So there's no way out.....unless..... I go Waaaaaay out.  Canada style.  Maybe, just maybe, I don't need to do so much laundry.

Truth is....if I catch up and we experience that golden moment when the only dirty clothes are being worn on bodies....we run out of hangers and drawer space before it can all find a home.  More hangers, new dressers, maybe under the bed storage.....that could be a solution.  Truth is....it's not hard at all for my family to never crack the door of the laundry room for 2 weeks.  Even then, if people were happy turning their undies inside out and we didn't have any necessary jerseys to be washed, it feels like we could last indefinitely.  (Just to clarify....I've never forced the inside out underwear solution, never even suggested it,  I'm a good Momma.)

I know you saw this coming a long way off, my friends, but sometimes I'm a slow learner....especially when the lesson's connected to my comfort.  The thought's been there for a long time....but now, it's starting to smoke.  The sticks that God's been dropping on this fire have been coming from far and wide.  Many are Ethiopian, or African in variety or connected to the poor and needy somehow.  Having children who are right now living in poverty I can't fix, children who have gone to bed hungry....changes everything.  My eyes see the half eaten food in our garbage and my skin crawls.  I want to be mad and force someone to come back and eat it, but what good will that do?  We all knew when we were little that finishing our plates and eating our vegetables didn't logically lead to helping the starving boys and girls in China.  Us Moms say it, because we feel it.....and we just don't know what to do.  If boxing up my leftovers would feed my Ethiopian baby, you know I'd do it in a minute....I'd probably not even eat at all and box the whole plateful up.  If not having 6 pairs of jeans to chose from....you know, in case your shoes require a slightly more flared or pegged leg.....would seriously meet a need on the other side of the world, I would be happy with less.  For goodness sakes, my jeans are mostly hand-me-downs and Goodwill treasures anyways - what good will giving up those do?

But it just doesn't feel like it matters, or can help.

Except, that it's starting to feel like it does matter....and that even though I don't really get how, that reducing and simplifying can help.

I'm feeling sick about how much I have, and how much it might be costing me.  I'm starting to think this stuff is costing me space and time.

I'm also getting the "deep thoughts but shallow action" hives.  That's costing me too.  I read about, hear about or see something that tugs at my heart....I well-up, cry a few tears, nod my head and feel that something really needs to be done about this.  But every time I think that and I feel that and I don't do something.......I'm starting to think that I've done some serious damage to my heart.

I usually wait until I've got a well-formulated plan, something with a checklist that's been responsibly researched and given the head-nod by mentors.

Today though, as part of my detox....I'm gonna say out loud that there's a fire burning inside me.  I don't know what I'm going to do about it yet.....but I'm going to do something.....and that something started by opening my mouth.  They say that the first step toward wholeness is to admit you have a problem....Well, I have a problem, a problem with too much stuff and a butt that stays seated on the couch when the Spirit prompts.

There, I said it.  That's the first step....I'm still working on what tomorrow's will be.  I cleaned out a show closet and have a bag of good stuff to give to the poor and needy.  Which is a great idea.....except that I don't know any poor and needy, not in my real (fake bubble) life.  That's another stick to add to the fire....it's flaming up!  Burn, baby, burn!



Need some sticks for your own fire??  Read some of these...