Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Why Manifest Destiny(s)?

About the time America was annexing the Republic of Texas a journalist by the name of John O'Sullivan coined the term Manifest Destiny to describe the providence with which our young nation would spread from one ocean to another. He believed that it was not the purposeful actions of armies and governments that led us forward, but instead, a divine destiny carried by horseback and covered wagon across the great expanses of the continent.

Each day I am compelled forward by a force I neither see nor fully understand. I feel the pull of places unknown that lie just beyond the horizon. So, here on this block, in my comfortable suburaban home, I am a pioneer.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Blogging (or) A Shiny New Endeavor

The requests have come frequent enough that I've finally given in. I am a Blogger. It took two years of coercion to get me on Facebook (which is now the main time-thief in my life). I still don't own a BluRay or have a Twitter account... but who knows what tomorrow holds? Maybe I'll even invest in an answering machine or pager*. For lack of a better subject, my first blog will serve as a quick introduction to myself and my wonderful, colorful, sometimes chaotic family and life.

* The disadvantage of blogging is the lack in intonation. If you know me, you can probably sense the sarcasm in my voice as though I was reading the paragraph above, aloud. If you don't know me... welcome! You should know that I am a sarcastic person. If I make a statement that sounds somewhat incongruous with what you have learned about my point of view by following this blog... I may in fact be using sarcasm. I just looked up the meaning of the word Sarcasm in the dictionary and found this explanation: Sarcasm: a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain, a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual. Bitter? To cut or give pain? Hmmm. That was unexpected. Moving forward I will attempt to be less sarcastic. And I will no longer describe myself as "Tall, athletic, funny & sarcastic redhead" on Match.com.

Moving on.

My life begins deep in the heart of Texas. I had a charming childhood full of trampolining, running through sprinklers, skinned knees, sidewalk chalk and starting fires with a magnifying glass.

I met my husband, Bruce, on a blind date when we were 16 & 15. We fell in love (because when you're 16 you really know what love is), and dated for the rest of high school. My dad asked Bruce to wait until we were out of high school to get engaged... so a week after graduation he popped the question!

6 months after our engagement, in a whirlwind of cake tastings, bridesmaids gowns and floral decor I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer called Synovial Cell Sarcoma. Our June wedding suddenly seemed like a distant fairy tale. We began to schedule surgeries and scans instead of dress fittings and photo sessions. I became the subject of email forwards and prayer chains. The invitations arrived from the printer and we began to dutifully address them, unsure of what would happen next. There are many more medical, frightening details I could fill in here, but in the interest of time: A miracle happened. 7 months after a grim diagnosis I was healed. I walked down the aisle on our originally scheduled wedding date healthy, and cancer free. And 10 years later I'm still that way... a blushing bride thankful for every moment with my beloved.

This section is called: Feeling Grown-Up

So the newlyweds rented a 500 sq ft. apartment and went to college and worked 2 jobs and made ends meet. And in the midst of all this, the timing seemed perfect, so we brought a little girl into the world named Macy. She is my exact clone. I revel in moments we say the same thing at the same time. She has a vast rock collection and catches bugs in shoeboxes. She is artistic and loves to read. Life was filled with wonderful distractions like student teaching, Bruce's college basketball career, and our new bundle of joy.

Background: I have a vivid memory of doing homework while my mother browned a pan of hamburger meat on the stove for tacos. I was about 9 years old and Wheel of Fortune was showing on a black and white TV on the kitchen counter. About the time dinner was ready an episode of "Wednesday's Child" came on. A sibling group of three children wandered around Chuck E. Cheese with a journalist. I remember asking my mom "Why don't we adopt them?" We didn't, but I think this was the beginning of something.

After college Bruce and I moved into a small 3-bedroom home in the country. We'd discussed foster parenting, and I told him it felt like a clear calling from God. We began training with a local agency and became licensed to foster parent.

A week after I found out we were expecting another child, our case manager called us about our first placement. He was the same age as our daughter and would come into our lives like a hurricane. He bit and hit. He shredded books and threw food. But he gave the tightest hugs I've ever felt, and slowly began to settle in. He came to the hospital the day our daughter Kate was born wearing an "I'm the Big Brother" shirt and I have pictures of he and Macy holding a swaddled Kate in their arms. Two months later his aunt was granted custody and he was gone.

In the winter of 2006 we brought home our son Shepherd (a brawny little redhead weighing in at just over 9lbs). We told our foster care agency we would be taking a break from fostering "indefinitely". "Indefinitely" turned out to be about 3 months. We fostered three rambunctious boys who had been found fending for themselves in an abandoned trailer. We fostered a newborn who was born addicted to cocaine. We fostered one little girl for less than 24 hours.

After years of loving on teens and leading youth ministry we were called to change paths, and begin a foster and adoption ministry with our dear friend Cindy Coffman. What began as a few volunteer hours a week has now blossomed into full time ministry for both of us. Oddly enough, in the year we left student ministry, our "teen years" were just beginning.

As we delved into the world of foster care and adoption we were faced with many heartbreaking truths about children languishing in foster care. Most of these "waiting children" are teens, many of minority background, and some with intense special needs. Suddenly, like a light switch being flipped, like the curtains being drawn back, it became clear why we had spent so many years loving other peoples' teens. God was preparing us for a teenager of our very own. We would adopt a teen.

One week after we called our agency to inquire about adopting a boy between the ages of 10 and 15 we met our son Brandan for the first time (a brawny 15 year old weighing in at 195 lbs). Brandan had already spent many years in foster care, and was excited at the prospect of being adopted. We hosted a Rock-Band 16th Birthday Bash for him two weeks after he moved in. At 28 and 29, we were the parents of a driving, dating, texting teen.

So our life is full, and wonderful.

Our little family of 9 lives across the street from the high school in our small town. I can watch my 18 year old son practice football from my front porch (and his sisters cheer him on from the top floor of the treehouse in the back yard). I have 1st and 2nd grade daughters who are as fun as they are helpful. My brawny baby boy is now a bruiser of a 5-year-old. I am always on the hunt for a new crock pot recipe or a piece of abandoned furniture that needs to be stripped and painted. My husband and I work side by side in our home office 5 days a week and haven't killed each other yet. We just finalized the adoption of our youngest three in June of 2011 and flooded Facebook with images of their beautiful faces.

I'm glad you kept reading, and I hope this blog inspires/challenges/humors/interests you.