A Footnote

The traditional Easter greeting took on a footnote for me this year.

Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.

The phrase, known as the Paschal Greeting, has its origins in the ancient church. In fact, the custom emulates the first disciples who said, “It is true! The Lord has risen,” (Luke 24:34) after recognizing the risen Savior. It is a phrase bubbling over with joy, relief, comfort, and hope. Nothing can overshadow the meaning of this phrase, yet when I saw it spelled out this Easter season, I couldn’t help but also think of our own little Christ.

And that leads me to the footnote …

At just 3 weeks after his bilateral amputation, Christ has indeed risen. I am amazed at the resilience of kids! I complain of a hang nail or a stubbed toe for days, but Christ was smiling the evening of his surgery. Dr. Abbott said everything went as planned and confirmed his satisfaction with Christ’s healing at his two-week post-op appointment last week, when we left the hospital with nothing but a single bandaid over a tiny portion of one incision that was still a little raw.

If you would have told me that a child would be released from the hospital just 24 hours after a double amputation, I would have met that statement with a significant amount of skepticism. Yet, that’s what happened! He slept much of the first day and night, then eased back into his usual routine over the following few days. We used the stroller in the house for several days until it was clear he wasn’t having it any more. On day 5 post-surgery, we gave in. He was not going to be kept down.

His bandages were to remain on his stumps until his two-week follow-up appointment, but he decided to take them off around day 10. I had a bit of a flashback panic moment … the time when Ma took out her prosthetic eye for the first time. Like then, I just started screeching, “Don’t panic. Nobody panic. It’s totally fine. We’re not panicking,” as I obviously panicked. But like then, there was no need to panic. I whisked him to the first aid kit only to observe a very clean and boring-looking sewed-up incision. Boring is good. We like boring when it comes to medical stuff.

Christ’s attitude throughout all of this has been amazing. Generally speaking, he is easy-going and pleasant and seems mostly unfazed by his surgery … except for the day last week when his bandages came off for good. He kept pulling up his shorts and looking for the rest of his legs, then looking at me for answers. This is where the communication barrier grows taller than Trump’s proposed wall.

Just as I was feeling terrible about his predicament, I was reminded by a friend that this is why he came. His parents knew why they were sending him. And his doctor knew that this was the best course of action, his best chance at future mobility. And if that reassurance wasn’t enough, I had three different people share personal stories with me about how the choice to amputate a limb was the best choice they or their loved-one ever made … easing them of pain and frustration, and opening the doors to mobility and a normal life.

It is my understanding that Christ will go home in another month or so with compression sleeves for his stumps. They like to wait several months after surgery to ensure healing is complete, swelling has subsided, and pain is absent before moving onto prosthetics. In the meantime, he will work on gaining strength and motion … something that was previously hindered by his lower limbs.

Our little Christ is rising strong. He is rising strong indeed.

One. Two. Three.

You have until the count of three.

I said I’d never do it. I would train my kids to listen and obey the instant they were asked to put on their coats, or to leave the playground, or to stop throwing food across the table.

I was so naive.

My parents used this tactic. Yours probably did too. And if you are so blessed to be a parent yourself, you most likely have found yourself walking down that same path … even adding the fractions … 2 and a half … 2 and three-quarters. You know when you’ve gotten to 2 and 77/100, you’ve already lost, right?!?

One. Two. Three.

Three moments to choose whether or not to listen and trust your parent, your teacher, your coach, your guide. Three moments of uncertainty, not knowing whether it’s worth continuing on your own path, or believe in the guidance to another path. Three moments also to consider the consequences of your actions.

It’s not long. Three moments. Yet, I imagine to the disciples on this day nearly 2 thousand years ago, 3 moments seemed like an eternity.

For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. – Matthew 12:40

Jesus warned them he would endure unimaginable pain and suffering. He told them about his impending torture and execution. He also made it clear that on the third day, he would rise again. Yet, the disciples struggled to understand how the prophecies would be fulfilled. They had heard what he said, but failed to fully grasp its significance. I can relate.

Every year on Good Friday, heaven starts to count to three. We are offered three moments to focus solely on Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Three moments to weigh the event’s significance on our lives. Three moments to decide whether to take God at his word … that his Son’s sacrifice paid the ultimate price for our lives.

Today, Heaven has started to count. God is patient. I’m sure he’ll even get into the fractions while counting. But it’s up to us to decide. Will you follow him when he gets to the count of three?

Prayer: Today, I solemnly remember your sacrifice and eagerly anticipate getting to the count of three.

Darkness fell, his friends scattered, hope seemed lost; but heaven just started counting to three. – Bob Goff

Bananas

Bananas. Just bananas. This perfectly describes life at our house recently.

Christ joined our family two weeks ago. He is absolutely the sweetest, most chill little boy you’ll ever meet. Seriously. And the cutest. I just wish I knew what was running through his sweet little head. Let’s review: 1) he bid goodbye to his mom, dad, and sister; 2) boarded a plane from Burkina Faso, Africa, to Paris, then to the States, escorted by lovely American Airline workers who donate their days off (bless their souls); 3) was met by our family in Columbus, OH; 4) driven to Ann Arbor, MI; then, 5) met at our house by an overly excited dog.

No wonder he shut his eyes and fell asleep for 12 hours! Isn’t that what you would have done?

Shut. Out. The. World.

When he woke up the first day, he just covered his dark brown eyes with his arms. His bottom lip quivered. Our hearts just melted. He didn’t know if he wanted to be held or left alone. Could he trust us or not? It’s heartbreaking to witness. Yet, these kids are resilient.

So, so resilient.

Over the first week, we saw him open up. Make eye contact. Even smile. A few words in French helped, though it appears he only understands Moore, his local language. Once in school, he will learn French, the official language of Burkina Faso, but for now, only Moore. The only word he’s spoken in the last two weeks is “Mama”. And it wasn’t for me … though I responded as though it was.

Sweet little man.

He sleeps now right beside me on the couch … next to the fluffy dog who cleans up his Cheerios and chicken and rice. Eating. We’ve branched out. This first few days it was only bananas. Just bananas. Now it’s yogurt, and chicken (bone-in, of course, because that’s the only way), guacamole, peanut butter … on bread or off … doesn’t matter. He’s a messy eater. Probably used to eating outside and spitting gristle from the chicken and seeds from the fruit on the ground. But that’s ok. We have a dog who is happy to clean up. (And I’m currently monitoring the dumb dog for any adverse affects of eating a whole chicken drumstick).

Christ had an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon last week. It was determined that he has caudal regression syndrome. You can look it up, but there’s not much info. It’s pretty rare. It’s a congenital disorder that impairs the development of the lower half of the body. As a result, his best option for future mobility is to amputate his lower legs.

Bummer, I know.

But I get it. And I’m confident it’s the right decision after discussing all options with his doctor. His lower legs are “just getting in the way,” as his doctor stated. Once they are removed, he’ll be able to walk on his stumps, gain hip and upper leg strength, then be fitted for prosthetics. No more needing his hands for mobility.

So when’s the date? Tomorrow!! His doctor is going on a missions trip to Kenya later this week, so he wanted to fit Christ’s surgery in before he left. They say it’s a pretty straight forward surgery … though I questioned that as well. Barring any complications, he will spend a night or two in the hospital. Once his incisions heal properly (about 6 weeks), he will most likely go home to his family for they typically wait 6 months before fitting for prosthetics. And he needs to be with them. Not us.

Christ and his big sis.

A complete whirlwind! Right?

Please pray for comfort for Christ. For wisdom for his medical team. For peace for his family. And ours. We are grateful for the team of people who are lined up to help us this week in running the girls, feeding us, and filling in for our normal responsibilities. We couldn’t do this without our people. We so appreciate all of you sending your love and prayers.

Cover Each Other In Love

In a nation that has, at best, lost its civility, and, at worst, become a caustic environment, never before have we needed to shroud ourselves in compassion and cover each other in love.

Hatred starts fights, but love pulls a quilt over the bickering. – Proverbs 10:12

Nothing says warmth and love like a quilt. My husband may be partial to afghans, my kids to fuzzy fleece blankets, but I will always snuggle under my tattered quilt. Pieced together with time, effort, expense, care, and thought – quilts contain all the ingredients it takes to truly love a person well. The opposite then – laziness, neglect, disregard, indifference, and ignorance – must be a recipe for hatred.

When I enter the world of social media, I do so with trepidation, for I am most certain to find myself gawking at clashes between two friends, acquaintances, or even strangers. The most heart-breaking is when the argument is between two people claiming to follow Christ. Sure, no one is physically hurt, but they’ve come to virtual fisticuffs, blaming the other and claiming no responsibility for the incident themselves. Bystanders pick sides, lobbing insults at the other. Feelings are hurt. Walls are built. Lines are drawn. And all involved move further away from each other and closer to isolation.

If we can’t model love and acceptance amongst ourselves, how can we be a light unto the world?

Last week, we lost America’s pastor. Rev. Billy Graham modeled for us what it looks like to cross political lines and join together under one agenda – love. He famously quoted,

It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love.

While we witness some Christians getting snagged by politics, partisanship, and power, Mr. Graham managed to stay true to himself and his calling to preach the Gospel without polarizing parties. He know when to pull a quilt over the bickering.

You know what’s beautiful about a quilt? It’s sewn together with a variety of fabrics. Interest is made by using pieces of different shapes and sizes. Textiles of varying colors and patterns add a kaleidoscope quality. The middle layer provides warmth. The backing provides stability. If any piece is missing, the quilt loses its beauty … and its function.

Christ brought us together through his death on the cross. He repealed petty rules and strangling regulations that hindered more than they helped. We need not bring them back. He brought together people once at odds with one another. He gave a fresh start for everyone.

Shouldn’t we then find every opportunity to live at peace with one another?

Let us bring out the quilt. Mend what is torn. Patch what is missing. And pull it over our bickering. Let us model Christ’s love for one another so that the world can see light in the darkness. Let us make time for one another. Care for each other. Listen and strive to understand one another.

The world needs us to bind together. They need to see Christ in our actions. We may have lost a great role model this week, but each and everyone of us can continue to learn from him, to carry on his legacy, to stand in the middle … showing love and respect to all.

(First published on the 2|42 blog.)

More Than Halfway

If things aren’t going well, hear this and be happy: … God met me more than halfway. – Psalm 34:2-4

I remember being in a hotel pool with my dad back in the day. I was at the stage in my swimming my career that I looked more like one of those floppy balloon guys one sees at car dealerships than I did a swimmer. My dad was patiently trying to teach me how to move my arms and legs properly so as to get from point A to point B. He would set me on the edge of the pool and give instructions. I would then jump in, eager to put into practice what he’d just taught me. But learning to swim is hard work!

My goal was to reach him at the other side of the tiny hotel pool … which was probably about 10 feet across. I’d start to flail my arms and legs, gulp some water, and look up to see my dad’s reassuring face. He’d say, “You’ve got this,” as he would inch closer to me realizing I didn’t actually have it. When I would finally reach my dad after what seemed like 5 hours and 18 miles, I’d throw my scrawny arms around his neck, wipe the heavily-chlorinated water from my eyes, and realize I never even made it halfway across the pool.

I’m so glad we have a God who will meet us more than halfway … who will pull us out of a tight spot … who will pluck us out of quicksand … who will pick us up when we fall.

Blessed are those who run to him – Psalm 34:8

And if I could, I would like to add these words to that verse: and blessed are those who walk, limp, crawl, and/or flail like a wacky, waving tube man. I believe he will bless any movement towards him 10-fold and run to us with open arms.

Prayer: Thank you for pulling me out of the muck and mire and setting my feet on solid ground. Though my legs still wobble and my body still sways, I know you will be there to steady me.

Most of us, swimming against the tides of trouble the world knows nothing about, need only a bit of praise or encouragement – and we will make the goal. – Jerome P. Fleishman

Oops! We Did It Again

To quell the rumors that may be circulating after two boxes were spotted on our front doorstep – one containing a stroller, the other a carseat – Imma gonna let you in on a little secret …

Nope.

I am most definitely NOT pregnant. This body decided it was done with that process years ago.

No way.

But … we are hosting again!

Most of you know all about little Ma, who joined our family for a time about 4.5 years ago when she came to the States for treatment for retinoblastoma. Well. We’re doing it again for another child. Here are the details:

A week from today (2/24), a 3.5-year-old little boy from Burkina Faso will be joining us. Burkina Faso is a West African country that borders Ivory Coast, where Ma is from. He will be treated for clubfeet. His name is Christ … pronounced like Chris … with a “t” at the end.

I’m considering changing his name on the hospital records to just “Chris” without the “t”, but there’s a large part of me that wants the nurses to come to the waiting room and say, “Um. Is there … Is Christ here?”. Then I want to say in a sweet, angelic voice, “Honey, Christ is always here if you just call his name. But if you’re looking for ‘Christ’ pronounced with a short ‘i’, he’s right here.”

Can you tell I grew up in an evangelical church in the 80’s? I’m pretty sure God rolls his eyes at my behavior a lot, then yells at the group of angels attending their weekly bowling league, “Hey! Which one of you is assigned to Nicole? Will you get down there before she truly messes things up!”

Anyways, while the excitement in our household is the same as the last, this time has a different feel. First off, he’s a boy! So there’s that. Secondly, while Ma’s trip to the States was a life-saving necessity, Christ’s trip is life-enhancing. Hugely life-enhancing, we hope, but thankfully his life is not on the line.

Also, we feel more prepared. We know that a 2 month commitment can turn into 2 years. We know that it will be hard and often times lonely. We know the challenges of the language barrier, cultural differences, and most importantly, the trauma these kids face as they are separated from their families. We know they can exhibit similar emotional distresses as adopted and foster children, even if they understand they will return to their families once their treatment is complete. We also know our hearts will be captured by another child, and our lives will forever be entwined with another family in Africa.

If you are the praying type, please join us in praying for Christ and his family. Generally speaking, these families are excited and so grateful for this rare opportunity, but they are still saying goodbye to their little boy for an unspecified amount of time and sending him to the care of a crazy family like ours. There’s a lot of trust happening there. Also, pray for Christ … for his heart that will most certainly be aching for his family. And pray for his health. There is talk that he may need amputations, but we’re hoping for alternatives.

For Parkland

A Lament*

 

My heart is broken for the broken.

Again.

How long, O Lord?

How long will you forget your children?

At least 17 dead. Another mass shooting.

When will the suffering end?

You did not leave Israel under the oppression of Egypt forever.

You remembered them.

Please remember us.

 

Comfort the hurting.

Bring peace into our violence.

And Lord. O, Lord! Protect your children!

Hide them beneath your wings.

 

I know our time on this earth is but a drop in the ocean,

yet some drops can be toxic –

contaminating the whole of it.

Evil seeps into all aspects of it.

Please come.

Please cleanse it. Purify it.

Make it so we can drink of life again.

 

Enlighten us on how we should act so we can unite against evil,

not heap more hate onto the pile of pain and suffering.

When the Egyptians caught up to the Israelites by the Red Sea,

Moses cried out to you.

Your reply?

“Why cry out to me? Speak to the Israelites. Order them to get moving.”

I will get moving.

I will move mountains to love and protect our children.

I will not stop.

 

Now show us the way forward in times of great tragedy.

Show us how we can better protect our children.

Bring those with the power to protect under scrutiny.

Bring them to their knees in prayer.

Give them wisdom.

Help them to see others as you see them – worth saving.

 

 

I know you haven’t forgotten your children.

You will not abandon us.

Your strength and love will be seen in this generation and the next.

As it has in the past.

Those who seek our harm will be disgraced.

Hope will be restored.

We are people who are drawn towards the light.

You are Light.

 

*A Lament is an expression of grief or sorrow. I began writing them the summer my father went through a major surgery for cancer at the same time my mother was dying. I studied the Psalmic laments and their structures. Writing them for me is healing and cathartic. I just have way too many of them about mass shootings. I thought I’d share the one I wrote this morning trying to process the latest tragedy.