under His wings

I woke up on January 1st at 8:45am after having slept a solid 15 hours. All of us, even our 18 month old had slept all night and even then some. We’d arrived the afternoon before after 26 hours of travel; Texas to Switzerland. What a relief to be home. None of us had slept on the flight, and hardly any during our layover in Paris. All four of us were nearly catatonic by the time we got home to our cozy little apartment, our beds, our sounds and smells and toys. We arrived home, I think we ate, we bathed, put on our pi’s and went to bed before the sun went down. I suppose snow had fallen all night, because when I woke there was a silence — that soft, peaceful silence that follows a heavy snow. Even the foggy, greyish light coming through our windows was soft and quiet. Our youngest had slept in our bed, now she was nuzzled up under Daddy’s chin, both their mouths hung open and their heavy breathing reminded me of bears hibernating. I peeked out the curtains; no sounds, no movement outside. Maybe the whole city was sleeping. I turned the rusty knob to our radiator all the way up to 5 and put on my house boots. Our oldest was curled into a chilly ball so I straightened her legs and pulled the covers up over her, then went to make myself some tea. These quiet moments are rare, and I have a feeling will become even rarer in the months and years to come. “Good morning Lord,” my soul whispered as I looked out over the snowy cargo train loading docks that is our front yard. “I have loved this home. Thank you Lord. But help us find a new place soon, so we can welcome our new little girl.”

After a wonderful month of vacation in America, it was time to get back to life in Switzerland. We had more forms to write, more visits with our social worker, and clutter to de-clutter as we prepare to move…once we find a place.
We are eagerly awaiting the new life that our future holds. We have been told by our social worker that we need a bigger apartment before we can proceed with our adoption. We’ve also been told we fall “too near” the recommended income level for adopting a 3rd child in Switzerland. We have been questioned about our faith, our motives, about the “most unusual situation” that we are “on purpose” requesting a child with Down Syndrome, about “why we would adopt if we can have children of our own naturally.” And yet we are joyful, giddy in fact, knowing that God is weaving a tapestry of patience, wisdom, faith, love, and peace. How great is our God? So great.
A few days ago, sitting at a bus stop in the snow, with our 3 year old and almost 2 year old, freezing and singing “Only a boy named David” my husband and I realized, “How lucky are we? How Blessed! That we get called by God to do something that we already love to do. We love to be a family, we love kids, we love chaos. And God goes and says, “Love the unloved. Be a father to the fatherless. Children are a blessing. Care for the orphans.” And we said, “Yes. Yes of course.” Since the day that we began seeing ourselves and our lives, as not our own, but His to build, to use, and to fill, we have rested peacefully in the shadow of His great wings. We just keep saying “yes, Lord” and His work just becomes all the more beautiful.
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sisters

Lately I have begun to see characteristics developing in each of my children that have given me pause for thought on God’s goodness and omniscience.

When we had our first daughter we gave her the middle name “Joy” because she was, at that moment, the greatest joy we had ever known. To our 2nd daughter we gave the middle name “Grace” because we couldn’t believe the grace we had been shown to be blessed as parents a second time. But yesterday a thought stood out so clearly and suddenly in my mind that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before. These two girls, and their already very distinct personalities, do not necessarily exude those attributes of joy and grace, but rather, these girls will need to pursue them.

Our oldest daughter (Joy) is introverted and sometimes shy. She thinks and thinks long and hard. She is troubled when things are wrong and it will weigh heavy on her heart. She is a wise soul, that little one, and I see now that there will be many times in her life when she will need joy. She will need her tank re-fueled by the Giver of all joy and peace.

Our 2nd daughter… Oh Lord, give her grace, and give it to her in abundance. She will test it, and try it, and try it again. She will need to be shown the grace of God that forgives…hopefully not 70 times 7 times, though. She is bold and determined, tough and stubborn. Doesn’t that sound like a good mix for an evangelist; fearless and covered in grace?

I pray that by having named them these names, that it will some how bring those attributes to them more swiftly in their moments of need, and that it will come in the over-flowing sort of way that only Christ can give it.

But even after that thought was yet another thought. The relationship between these two sweet sisters and the way they love each other is already one of the ways that they will be given and shown joy and grace. Grace brings joy to Joy everyday, and Joy shows so much grace to Grace all day. And isn’t God good in that! Isn’t His craftsmanship already seen, woven in beautiful detail through every fiber and thread of their lives? He knew, He knows, He made them that way. God is so good.

Colosians 2:2-3 “My goal is that they will be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have full confidence because they have complete understanding of God’s plan, which is Christ himself. In Him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
 
Deut 29:29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”

adoption, huh?

The papers are sent. The 1st bill is paid. We are officially in the adoption process!

“But why, you can already have children of your own? They don’t give you the good ones, you know. You can’t give it back if something is wrong with it. But what about your own children? But isn’t it really expensive? But don’t you have to wait a really long time? Thats amazing, but I could NEVER do that. Oh thats so cool, you’re gonna be just like Angelina Jolie! You should be really careful not to adopt out of their birth order.” etc. etc. etc. 

And thus the questions and comments from well-meaning folks have begun. 
 
All I have time to answer with for now is, Philippians 4:8-9
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

vomity admonition

For what seemed like the entire months of November and December (2013), I mourned the scarcity of meaningful friendships here in Switzerland. I was in a “woe is me” pit. My husband and I even stayed up talking about how lonely life as a parent can be, especially in your 20’s, when many people our age are living a lifestyle that involves more sleep, more cute outfits. While we do HAVE friends, and even some friends with children, finding friends to share life with, to be in true community with, to raise our families along side them with like-minded values, is another topic entirely. But my wintery slump has finally ended.

This past week our oldest daughter had a stomach bug and I’m so thankful for that vomity-mess. In the night, as I washed load after load of pukey laundry and bedding, while Daddy held her and spooned her sips of fennel tea, love was there. Lingering in the air was not only the pungent smell of stomach acid, but also the over-powering aroma of love. And it hit me. My husband is my best friend. He’s right here. The funniest person I know. The silliest yet level-headedest. He’s the CEO and I’m the COO (I’m also head of HR and the janitor) and this family is our greatest work; this work is eternal. Even if I feel lonely, grungy, or uninvolved in “the world,” I am reminded that this is our core. Building this family is our highest calling.

Funny how God can use sweet-potato-colored vomit to make me see so clearly that I need my husband’s hands and heart and mind. He needs to know that he is needed and appreciated. Our children need a momma and daddy that love each other and love them with a love that comes like a tsunami from our Father in heaven. I would never sacrifice these precious moments with my family for any other life. I’d rather be here, cleaning up fluids, dabbing sweaty foreheads, and listening to my husband humming to our sick girl, than anywhere in town, with any number of friends, hangin’ out. These are my people, and with them, I am happiest.

butter bean

Her tiny nostrils pressed against my breast draw and send thread-like wisps of air across my skin. A soft cap of nut-brown hair frames her gentle countenance, with a cow-licked wave that grows to the right. She rarely cries or frets, only when hungry, but even then she is quickly calmed and comforted. She eats slowly and usually falls asleep while eating; I tickle her to wake her up to continue nursing. Her little hands that push and grasp soon relax again and she falls back to sleep. When she wakes in the morning she doesn’t cry, only coos and cuddles her blanket til one of us picks her up. She is so so good. God has been so so good to us.

“Children are a heritage from the Lord. The fruit of the womb are a reward.” Psalm 127:3

my very own italians.

My in-laws are Italian; loud, tan, espresso drinking, pasta eating, Fiat driving Italians. I relish in the fact that through marriage, this new dimension of culture has been added to my life. I have embraced gold-plated picture frames and soccer as if my name were Maria. Even my parents love my husband’s parents. Though we often joke that it is because of the language barrier that they all get along so well. My in-laws truly are “mi famiglia,” and it only took about 7.5 years to get to this point. Luckily for my daughter, she was born into it. Don’t let the blonde hair and blue eyes fool you, the girl can already hand-gesture with the best of ’em.

This past weekend my in-laws were having a party for 200 of their closest friends and relatives to celebrate the completion of their kitchen & bathroom remodel. (As much as I wish that THAT is what this post is about, you’ll have to just picture it: imagine food, lots of wine, and granite countertops.) AJ, my daughter, had taken the opportunity to practice being cute and sweet and sassy and various combinations of the three for this captive audience.
AJ was prissing between the groups of people, pushing her mini-stroller, kissing her babydoll, and saying “Ciao!” “Ciao, people!” They would “Ooo” and “Ah” and give her a “grissini” or an olive or some other snack, and off she would go to the next group of innocent by-standers for another treat. That is until she found Zia Francesca.
Francesca is my husband’s aunt. She is, I must say, my favorite of all my husband’s many, many, many relatives. She is rough and brusque. She cusses like a sailor and smokes like a chimney. She kisses really hard and it always leaves a red lipstick mark, also, her hugs hurt. I love her.
Zia Francesca had brought her famous, fried olive & pepper balls called “Pettole Pugliesi” as one of the appetizers for the party. Me and AJ were hanging around the food table when Francesca came over to ask about my current pregnancy symptoms. I told AJ (in Italian), “AJ say ‘pettole’ to your Zia.” She did, perfectly, in Italian. And then she oh-so-dramatically popped an olive ball in her mouth and goes, “Mmmmm, buono!” Francesca melted and hard-kissed AJ all over. AJ gave a little wiggle-dance while chewing the olive ball, then leaned right into Francesca’s face and said, “Grazie!”
Well, that did it. Francesca was overwhelmed with AJ-cuteness. “Bella! Ce bunedda! Vieni con me! Come here!” Francesca hard-hugged her, sat her down in a chair, and gave her 5 francs to put in her pocket. AJ realized, “Wow! Francesca flips-out way more than any of these other schmucks and she gives me shiny things!” So she pulled-out all the stops for Zia. She was doing “wink eyes”, she did the ole “bunny” with a nose wiggle, she did “nose kisses.” I mean, the girl was on a roll.
By the end of the night Zia Francesca had given AJ half the dessert tray, endless pettole, 6.70 in coins for her pockets, and an empty cigarette box. She had also taken AJ outside with her for smoke breaks, which I used to love to do with my own aunt growing up…especially if she gave me a cigarette to hold. I’m more than certain Francesca gave AJ a cigarette to pretend with. (Don’t sweat the small stuff.) When we were finally leaving The Kitchen and Bath Celebration of 2013, AJ turned to everyone, waved with both hands and shouted, “Ciao, people! Ciao!” I’m so proud of my lil Italian Bambina.

daily adventure, good and bad.

Sometimes I have sudden moments of, “Oh! I forgot this isn’t my country.” I’ve been here long enough, and have gotten into the swing of things so much so, that I don’t always feel that shock of “other-ness.” I go through my day, run errands, head to a doctor apointment, grab a few things from the store, call my mom, drop off dry cleaning…all the usual things that people everywhere do, and then suddenly something totally foreign will happen. Like a Swiss farmer will be taking his cow herd for a walk through town and they’ll have the streets blocked-off so he can have the right-of-way. And I will be caught in a moment of “Oh yeah, I’m the only one around here that thinks that’s weird.”
Or I’ll be on a tram and a group of teenagers will hop on after school and each one is drinking a beer. Openly. With alcohol in it. What are you 14 or 15?? And again I get caught in a state of “Oh goodness. I’m the only one on this tram that is shocked right now.”
Once an old man took my hand on a street corner, motioned to my pregnant belly, and babbled on and on in Swiss dialect, assuming I understood all the clever things he was saying, then patted my hand, winked at my daughter in the stroller, and off he went on his merry way. “What? Oh right. I’m the one that’s different.”
Usually those moments leave me with a smile and I pray a little prayer of thankfulness for the daily adventure. But, of course, because I really am not from here, and some days you really don’t want to be caught in a moment of “I’m so different. I’m not at home,” that those moments are enough to bring you to tears. A hair dresser that doesn’t speak your language and has just given you un-requested bangs, a cashier who refuses your card and also calls you “foreigner,” or a store clerk who shouts at you for not speaking the language and tells you to go back where you came from. That too, is a daily adventure…I guess.
Today I feel at home in Switzerland. But as I sit here at the Women’s Hospital waiting for the midwife to call my name, I spy a young, Ethiopian mother-to-be across the waiting room who I think is having a “This is not my home” moment…and I don’t mean the whimsical kind that leaves you with a smile. I doubt speaking English to her at a time like this will help much, but I am gonna smile as kindly as I can, and maybe take her a glass of water from the refreshments cart, in hopes it will soothe that burning-in-your-throat-pain that comes as you try to hold back tears. If we’re all “foreign” we ought to stick together, right? That’s also part of the fun of living in another country. You know what the locals look like, and you know what the the non-locals look like. Whenever I see ’em, be it Eritrea, India, Columbia, or Korea, I think,  “I see you, and you see me, and I know that you know that we know, ‘This ain’t our country.'” And I smile. Daily adventure.
And also, there’s always a refreshments cart in hospitals and waiting rooms here stocked with bubbly water, still water, and sometimes hot coffee. What?! Oh yeah, I’m the only one that thinks that’s weird.