Category Archives: Parenting

Meredith is going to Honduras

Standard

hnOne of the great joys of raising our daughter, Meredith, is watching the social-justice vein within her grow. Ever since she was very young, she has been concerned with and tested many venues for helping the disadvantaged. Her father and I are often caught in the balance between lending a hand to her “charity work” and reining her in when she tries to help a little too much.

“You’re right. All girls should be allowed to attend school! But, no, we cannot spend the summer after Kindergarten traveling to all the countries and speaking to the leaders. Not this year.”

“Yes, feel free to make bags of toiletries and snacks for homeless people, but no you cannot walk through the city alone to distribute them.”

“Thank you for helping collect clothing and school supplies for the orphanage we support in Honduras, but no you can’t travel there…  Or can you?”

This last request, one of dozens, sat differently on our hearts. Could she go to Honduras with one of us, meet the children she has supported for more than five years, work alongside us, build relationships, play games with kids her own age but vastly different backgrounds, be forever changed? Why yes, this time we can say with resounding clarity – YES.

Honduras

Meredith and I are headed to Honduras in less than six weeks with a small team of parents and teens. At age 10, Meredith is by far the youngest member, but we believe ready. She is excited to meet the kids, teach crafts, and play games. Our team will host a week of summer camp activities with sports, music, games, crafts, and devotions. We are raising money to take all 100+ kids to a local water park. We will share dinner with the older teens and worship at church alongside the whole community. But the most important “work” will be to spend time and build relationships with the kids who don’t benefit from regular attention, hugs, and quality time.

For Frank and me, our prayers for Meredith are many. Among them, that her innocence will be protected in a place where the harshness of life isn’t hidden away. She will come face to face with much of what we in America shield from our children’s eyes: poverty, greed, desertion, immoral life choices, animal cruelty, physical and emotional abuse, desperation. When I consider all the awfulness and danger of a third country as poor as Honduras, I question our decision. Why expose her to this at all?

Because she will also get to see God show up in a place that seems so void of His love. She will meet children who have nothing yet are filled with a knowledge they have everything simply because He holds them in His hands. She will learn family is everything, even if it consists of 100 brothers and sisters without a single biological connection. She’ll perhaps realize taking the top bunk above her little sister isn’t quite as bothersome as sharing a bedroom with seven other girls and no air conditioning. Working alongside half a dozen women who cook, clean, do laundry, bathe, and care for more than one hundred kids, she might learn a heavenly perspective on housework – theirs and ours.

Above all, I pray Meredith will experience the uninhibited joy of childhood! No matter on what continent a child has been born, no matter what advantages a child’s family can or cannot provide, no matter what horrors a child has seen or experienced, when all the distractions of life are stripped away, each child on this planet is entitled to joy and unconditional love. Despite all we give our children in our affluence, our children are left unfulfilled, hungry, wanting. Yet, these kids who bring no material possessions as they escape lives of abuse and neglect, find their security in others who care for them, hope from the opportunity to be educated, and wealth in being loved by God. The first time I ever looked into the eyes of pure, overflowing joy was 4 years ago when I met the children of Heart 2 Heart Children’s Village. I cannot wait to introduce my daughter to them!


We are working with the team to raise about $1,000 to take the kids to a waterpark. If you would like to help us make that happen, feel free to make a donation here www.h2hcv.org (please mention Meredith or me in the subject line).

To learn more about the amazing work happening at the Worldwide Heart to Heart Children’s Village, visit the homepage at www.h2hcv.org. H2H is a home and school to over 100 children and youth, ages 2-20. The children come undernourished, abused, and unloved, but H2H changes their lives by raising them in a Christ-centered family atmosphere and educates them at a bilingual school.

Read more about my experiences before, during, and after my first trip to Honduras under the Missions tab. Meredith and I both hope to catalog our trip via this blog.

Above all, please keep us in your prayers!

 

 

Advertisements

One Night Away

Standard

I asked my husband for one night away. Not together, not for an event, not with friends. One night, by myself, to be completely alone. No kids, no husband, no obligations, no noise. Now, don’t get me wrong. I adore my family. I love the noise and the chaos and the constant chatter, driving, and planning that go along with raising three gifts. But ever since our youngest came on the scene, I’ve realized how desperately the introvert in me needs space. Quiet. And sleep.

For Christmas, he presented me with a gift certificate to the Ritz, just 3 miles from home. Our family knows this hotel well; my parents, sisters, husband and I have all used it for various get-aways and business meetings. To me it is comfort and escape, at an arm’s reach. No, I didn’t need to travel far, but I did need to find an evening I felt comfortable to retreat alone. The real value in the gift was not the money, but my husband’s offer to stay home alone with all the kids, doing all the parenting things that at times take a village, and freely say “Go.” This husband of mine? He is the gift.

So, here I sit in a quiet, peaceful room, overlooking the buzz of the evening commute 15 floors down and writing for the first time in months. My daughter asked “What do you write.” Not much anymore. I need to get out of my head and onto paper. My goals for this solo retreat are to write, to sit quietly, to pray, to sleep (I hope), and to return to my family ready to refill. But that’s tomorrow. For now, it’s just me.

That Time I Said No to God

Standard

My heart resides in an orphanage in Honduras. Lush green forests, smooth rich coffee, insufferable poverty, broken homes, happy children. I went, I fell in love, I returned to my family, forever changed. And now everyday, I seek ways to better the lives of the children in Honduras or others like them.

The opportunity was handed to me like a jewel on a silver platter. A team was ready to go to Honduras this summer, but they needed a leader. The church offered to pay all my costs. Will you go, they asked? Would I ever! It’s perfect. God must want me to go, I believed.

Everything called me to the trip. Everything, except my extended family. The trip was scheduled in the middle of our family vacation, a trip to celebrate my father’s pending retirement. If I missed half of the family time for a mission trip back to Honduras, surely my dad would understand. He knows my heart. My husband and I prayed, believing it was obvious God wanted me there. We worked the schedule this way and that, juggled flight times and childcare, and finally came up with an agenda that made sense. Only, to my parents, it didn’t.

Every so respectfully, they tried to explain why No, they didn’t think I should go. This was a time for our family to be together at the beach. Oh how I argued, in my mind, if not directly to them. How would I be able to sit in the sand, play in the ocean, and relax while my heart and soul were with a hundred rescued orphans? And so I prayed some more. My heart was screaming “Say yes to the trip!” but my family was quietly asking me to stay home.

Eventually, probably out of exhaustion, I relented and listened to that still small voice. Instead of insisting on “Missions or Bust!”, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the other calling to “Respect thy father and mother.” In my selfishness to fill my own heart at the orphanage, I was neglecting the love that raised me, taught me about Jesus, and fostered my heart for others. In my bitterness at their disapproval, I had lost sight of the incredible gift my parents are to me. My supportive, adoring, wise parents.

And so I said No to God. No to the call and opportunity to return to Honduras (this time, at least). My heartache was replaced with an abundance of gratitude, healing, and forgiveness as God responded to my faithfulness.

Three months later, I sit on the porch overlooking the beautiful Carolina beaches. My children laugh with their pack of cousins. My sister sits, quietly reading the Bible in the warmth of the sun. My mother takes a few of her beloved grandchildren for a sparkling sunrise walk along the coast. My family and I sang and danced the night away to the music of our childhood. And my dad? I steal glances at him, soaking it all in. Three grown daughters, three sons who treasure his girls, and nine grandchildren to fill every corner of his bottomless heart. Yes, God, this place of unstoppable love is exactly where You wanted me to be. Thank You for waiting for me to say No.

To the team who traveled to Honduras without me, I am praying for you, for your precious hearts of love, and for your safety. Come home and tell me all about the children who changed your life! 

To learn more about the Worldwide Heart 2 Heart ministry, please reach out to me or visit http://www.h2hcv.org. The children’s village is an unforgettable slice of heaven!

That’s Not Fair

Standard

“That’s not fair!”

“Well, life isn’t fair.”

As a child, how I hated this conversation between my parents and me. Probably as much as my daughter hates the exchange these days. I usually respond with “Life isn’t fair, but things work out in the end.”

I don’t think she believes me. Who am I to blame her? Life isn’t fair.

Our days are full of unfairness. Sometimes slight – like when a colleague takes another’s lunch from the office refrigerator. Sometimes heart wrenching – like when a leg is broken, a tumor is discovered, and a wedding is postponed.

Life. Isn’t. Fair.

My mom and I were at the church, meeting with the wedding coordinator one last time before the big day, when my cell phone rang. It was his best friend calling, the one who took him skiing for the weekend. The last thing I had said as they piled into the car was “Whatever you do, don’t let Frank break a leg!”

“Hey Brian,” I answered. “Having fun?”

The hesitation on the line spoke before he did. “Frank broke his leg.”

In the quiet sanctuary where a bell choir was soon to perform our processional, my disbelief rang out loud and sharp. My fiancé was broken, in pain, and separated from me by 300 miles of mountain road and a winter snow storm. Life isn’t fair.

Back at home, my father put on his fighter pilot bravado and confidently announced the wedding would go on as planned. Still reeling from a death-defying fall my sister had taken on her own honeymoon three months earlier, my parents were too shaken to face another wedding tragedy. My brave dad opened the box of wedding invitations and carefully began adding the stamps. He prayed for Frank and laid his trust before God. All would work out, this we knew.

A week later, Frank and I sat in his hospital room as the orthopedic oncologist explained the details of a “giant cell tumor.” It had been sending warning signals for several weeks. In fact, Frank had planned to see a doctor after the ski trip to complain of pain in his right knee. But the fall made that appointment unnecessary. The tumor had grown outward from inside his femur, reducing the bone strength to that of an eggshell. It didn’t take much to crack, so the speed and force of his fall on the ski slope crushed that section of his leg bone. It would have to be rebuilt. And it would take months.

With the doctor’s news pounding in our heads, we talked over our options. February 28, the wedding date we had so carefully chosen, was only weeks away. Frank was still in the hospital, awaiting his first of several surgeries. To secure the leg bones from moving while the femur began to heal, an “external fixator” would be installed. You’ve seen the barbaric contraptions; sometimes called “rods and pins,” this would jut out of his leg, extend from upper thigh to lower calf, and keep his leg perfectly straight. For six weeks. Pants wouldn’t be able to cover it. Walking with crutches would prove too painful to cross the room, let alone walk down the aisle. There was no question. Our wedding would be postponed. We held hands and cried for all that was broken, all that was unfair.

On the weekend of our intended ceremony, Frank went under anesthesia again, this time to remove that wretched contraption and all traces of the tumor that caused so much damage. For twelve hours, I paced the halls, kept our families informed on the phone, and prayed for the man I had already committed to love through sickness and health.  Finally, the OR nurse said he was ready for a visitor in the recovery room. But, we weren’t yet married; I wasn’t his wife. And so his mother went to see him.

Life isn’t fair.

Over the next several months, Frank fought his way through more surgeries, pain killers, and physical therapy to strengthen his leg and give his knee range of motion. We rescheduled our wedding date to late summer and looked forward to celebrating under the bright August sun. One sunny summer afternoon, he asked me to join him at PT. He went about his usual exercises for a bit, then asked me to wait just across the room. Ever so carefully, he took a step, then another, and another, each with a perfect gait. Since the early spring my fiancé had kept a secret from me. His goal through all of the painful physical therapy was to walk, unassisted and without a limp, down the aisle with his bride.

Life isn’t fair, that much we know. But when you try to make the most of it, it really does work out in the end.

Husband and Wife

A memory that will be with me always. Frank took my hand, escorted me from the church, and exclaimed, “We did it!” August 2004

 

 

* Advertisements displayed below are chosen by the blog host, and are not endorsed by the author. *

These Walls Between Us

Standard

The slight slump of her shoulders, the downcast eyes averting my questioning look, the pasted-on-smile for benefit of her schoolmates. As soon as she stepped off the school bus, I knew something was wrong. But she held it together as well as a 7-year old could. We talked casually on the way home, skirting anything that would sprout a tear, but as we entered the front door, cracks began to show.

She dropped her backpack to the ground, snapped at her little sister, and plopped on the couch. Although these behaviors needed to be addressed, my daughter needed more than disciplined parenting. I sat down beside her and pulled her to me; her shoulders began to relax into the nurturing embrace of her mother. Her warm tears trickled down her cheeks as she opened her heart.

That boy picked on her at school, again. He laughed at her artwork. A mean, purposeful laugh. Again. I tried to find the balance between sympathy, empathy, and just listening, all the while teaching my daughter the hardest lesson: to love her enemies. This job of parenting a child’s broken heart is sometimes too much to bear.

As we talked, I could tell there was something more, something she wasn’t sharing. I had to dig, ask more questions than I used to. At 7 1/2, she is beginning to put walls between us. Walls of independence. Walls the color of tears. Translucent enough that I can still see through them and find my way to her soft, squishy heart. But will these walls become more opaque over time? It’s inevitable she will grow into her own young woman, but the distance is already breaking me. The tiny baby I held in my arms, to whom I whispered my deepest secrets in the quiet hours of those early, sleepless nights is building her own spaces without me. How do I earn her trust for the longterm, an open door inside those walls? Will she believe I will always knock on that door to offer a listening ear, without judgment, without retribution? I am here, precious daughter. My embrace is always here for you.

 

 

* Advertisements displayed below are chosen by the blog host, and are not endorsed by the author *

When Silence Enters

Standard

Just down the hall in our small home, my daughters are drifting off to sleep. It’s the same most evenings. We put the toddler to bed, followed shortly by the 7-year old. Some nights it takes longer for them to settle, but most of the time, quiet follows me up the hall until I sit in the living room in silence. The house breathes a sigh of relief. We made it through another day in the noise, this parenting of young children. Never a pause in sound. Until this hour, when silence enters in.

The gentle tick-tock of my grandmother’s cuckoo clock lowers my heart rate and brings me into rhythm with the countless other women who are just now taking a breath for the first time in the day. Tick-tock, tick-tock. I am reminded of generations before me, my mother, my grandmothers. Did they crave quiet, like me, waiting for their hour each evening? Or were their days less busy, less loud? I am left to wonder how they spent their evenings. Beside their husbands, enjoying drinks together. Reading, sewing, or watching tv. Reviewing the events of the day, the children’s successes and adventures.

Did they lament mistakes they made themselves, where they failed as mothers, as I do? Wishing I could change my reaction, my tone, my quick temper, I am left to worry and feel guilty for my shortcomings.

When the silence falls around me, my mind doesn’t benefit from the quiet. Sometimes I long for the din of the day to fill my thoughts and my ears, blocking out any room for misgivings. But tonight, this night, I breathe my own sigh of relief. I look back on a day filled with love, laughter, and patience for one another, a successful day. And that old German clocks lulls me to peace with tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock …


* Advertisements displayed below are chosen by the blog host, and are not endorsed by the author *

And then there is BRAVE

Standard

Learning to be brave can take many forms. For some, it goes so far to as find a newly brave soul jumping from an airplane; others test their taste buds with strange foods in strange lands. Many people consider stepping in front of an audience to be a bravery make-it-or-breaker. In my own quest, I am testing my limits and finding my courage by sharing my heart via this blog and offering it for others to read.

To that end, I recently submitted an entry to be published in an online publication. While my piece was not chosen, the act of editing it to conform to the publication’s standards (and limit of 450 words!), then sending out to be judged took as much gusto as that first time I stood behind a podium to address hundreds of people. And, maybe, just maybe, when the task was complete, I put on my well-worn SuperGirl tee shirt!

The following is a consolidated story from my mission adventures in Honduras


And then there is Brave

I thought I was so brave when I left my children. I filled their arms with stuffed animals to cuddle and their hearts with promises to love them forever. I arranged for babysitters, church friends, my mother to comfort them in my absence. My MOPS Mentor mom suggested I leave love notes and Bible verses to read if they felt sad. I packed my bags, I kissed my babies, and then I left them.

As the plane took off and my home receded farther into the distance, I recited the verse I had left with my daughters, my mantra of bravery.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9

Several hours later, our plane touched down in the third world country I was to spend the next two weeks. My mission team and I wound our way through customs, hoping our bags would not be confiscated. We traveled through checkpoints of armed teenaged military personnel and were awoken at night by nearby gunshots. I was often frightened, but not afraid. This was an adventure, an opportunity to see another side of life, to bring God’s love and hope to hurting, abandoned children. I would return home and tell my daughters I had left them to spread goodness in the world. It was hard being away from them, but I would show them I am brave.

And then I met bravery face-to-face, looked into eyes of true courage. She arrived at the orphanage with her five young children, then the young woman signed paperwork, handed over her babies, and walked away.

The native language being foreign to me, I gleaned only a little of the conversation but words were unnecessary. Grief has a language all its own, a non-verbal way of taking over one’s posture, gaze of the eyes, strength of hand, to expose the deepest heartbreak. I saw the vacant look in her eyes as she left her babies; the orphanage would provide a safer home than the one she offered full of sickness and abuse.

What love and wisdom – bravery she probably didn’t know she possessed – it must have taken to leave her children, giving them their best chance at survival. In weakness, my heart crumbled as I recognized the strength she possessed was something I do not, with my clean, secure home and healthy, well-fed children. Choosing to separate herself from her children in order to save them, she revealed to them – and me – what true bravery is: a sacrifice of love.

More than a Number

Standard

I wanted it to be more than a statistic. More than the ugly number that states 1 out of every 3 ends this way. The odds surrounding the survival of my baby were dizzying. Every third known pregnancy ends in miscarriage. Half of all pregnancies don’t survive, even though most women never even know they are expecting. At age 40, my chances for a live birth are even lower. We knew the odds going in, yet we tried anyway. We prayed, talked, and sought answers for months before even attempting.

Four years ago, my husband and I walked out of the silence and shame of infertility into the hope-filled world of reproductive therapy. Our first child had come to us so easily, we never expected to face several years of “trying,” only to have the doctors confirm the heartbreak: we were unable to conceive again naturally. In fact, the doctors aren’t sure how I was ever able to conceive our first child. Together with this husband of mine, whom God gave to me in perfect union, this man who in every way completes my heart, we were unable of creating life in my womb. Medically flawed. The knowledge that our union could not produce that which it was designed to created compatibility insecurities and stress. Yet, no amount of “you just need to relax” suggestions were going to fix this problem. Weekend get-aways weren’t quite the same for us. Sex is a wonderful thing in a marriage, a really wonderful gift. But prescripted sex every other day for months on end – even with a spouse who keeps you coming back for more – can begin to lose its luster.

With the new truth facing us, we could have counted our daughter as our miracle and moved on to raising an only child. But we felt pulled to try anyway. We prayed over the controversies surrounding In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), the process of introducing a woman’s egg and a man’s sperm in a dish, waiting for it to develop into a live embryo, then transferring it into her womb. As Christians, this science-driven method of creating life can raise questions. Yet we believe that God’s desire for us is life and relationships. If our family was to be blessed with another child, God would still be in control of the conception, no matter what method we used. And so we pursued. To be honest, I was terrified and ready to quit before we began. If it weren’t for my husband’s bravery, my first visit to the reproductive endocrinologist would have been my last.

In the months that followed, I obeyed the doctor’s instructions perfectly, injecting myself daily on schedule, sitting for repeated blood tests and sonograms, and generally feeling like a science experiment. My body helpfully produced a large number of high quality eggs which resulted in a fair number of living embryos. Babies. After our process was complete, and several weeks later we learned I was indeed pregnant, we were able to cryopreserve just two remaining embryos. Two future babies. Frozen in time.

Fast forward a few years to our now family of four. Two beautiful daughters fill our lives and hearts with joy. Is it selfish to desire another child? With two healthy children, each a miracle in her own right, how much more can we ask of God and science to produce for us? Yet we do so greatly desire a larger family. We spent months debating the pros and cons of “trying again,” something that can provide fun recreational intimacy for most couples. For us, we knew it meant it different level of intimacy – weeks of intramuscular shots, more tests, and this time, the anxiety of thawing our embryo with hopes it would survive long enough to be implanted in my womb. After many conversations and tears, we embraced the idea together and set out for a new round of IVF, completely committed to the life we were going to bring into the world.

And yet we didn’t. My pregnancy, the embryo we fell in love with, the idea of another child in our family, failed. Only a couple weeks into it, I suppose I could count myself among the millions of women who never realize a life is growing within and just move on. Except with me, with anyone facing infertility, it’s different. If I was going to subject myself to the pain and raw exposure of the process, I had needed to fully wrap my mind and heart around this child, to be prepared long before it could grow in my womb. As much as I loved my first two babies in utero, this child was mine. Then it was gone. My pregnancy and I are nothing more than a statistic, 1 in 3 women who suffer miscarriage.

I have joined a sisterhood, a sad sorority no woman wants to pledge. Our song is hope.


* Advertisements displayed below are chosen by the blog host, and are not endorsed by the author *

Back To School Makes Me Cry

Standard

Am I the only one who hates back to school day? All the hubbub and excitement as the long summer winds down and the house is suddenly too quiet. I was weepy for two weeks before the yellow bus arrived, knowing my daughter would be gone. all day. every day. for nine months. I’m glad her little sister didn’t know what was coming because she would have been crushed with disappointment. As it is, whenever Meredith isn’t at home, Audrey goes on auto-repeat, “Where’s Meme? Where did Meme go?”

Sure, we had our bouts of give-me-my-space during summer. And maybe, just maybe I told my husband I want half-day Fridays next year. But that means I want a few hours to myself, not all of them, every weekday, for the majority of the year.

School is necessary. And I realize one day these baby birds of mine must fly from my nest. But you won’t find me doing a happy dance about it then or now.

The Grandparent Legacy

Standard

My husband’s grandmother passed away recently. Our last grandparent. My husband and I have been together for many years, yet we never knew any of one another’s grandfathers. Who we did know quite well, were each other’s grandmothers, the matriarchs of our families. During our engagement, we lost both of my grandmothers and one of Frank’s. The absence of these women we loved and looked to for comfort was sudden, empty, and painful. His maternal grandmother, Babcia, a stout Polish woman whose eyes were bright like the light of heaven, remained our only grandparent for a decade. Oh, how we loved her.

Each of these four women (Nana, Babcia, Gamu, and Gramma) were so different from one another, but brought to us the same unconditional love. Without them, we now look to the new family matriarchs … our own mothers, the grandmothers to our children. In them, MomMom and Grammy, and in our fathers, Boppa and Grampy, we see that same love, acceptance, adoration.

What a joy to observe our parents pouring over our children with endless, boundless, unassuming love! We can glean so much from the relationships they maintain with our kids. They teach us how to be better parents, how to let go of the little things and just enjoy the sweet laughter of our children, how to think about the bigger picture and forget daily “mom-petition” even exists.

Going forward without any grandparents of my own makes me feel a little lost. But I look forward to absorbing all the grandparent love through the eyes, arms, and hearts of our parents.

With love, we will always remember you, Babcia.
Halina Krauze-Jaworska (1920 – 2014)