Thursday, July 17, 2014

Full Time Life

Seems like I start every blog post by mentioning how I never blog anymore, so I'll save us the time and not talk about it.  It is what it is.  =-)
A few days ago I was having an incredibly difficult time with life, and posted a sulky few sentences on facebook.  This incited lots of beautifully kind messages from my beautifully kind friends, along with recommendations for books and other readings.  My friends said to me exactly the kinds of things I would say to them in their moments of weakness.  To read the comments left on that post, you'd think that I had led a life similar to Mother Teresa!  And how could that not make me feel better?  It did.  The thing is, it those words didn't fix the problems I'm dealing with.
Writing is cheaper than therapy, so you're invited to my therapy session...


Ball #1:  Being a wife to my husband and a mom to four beautiful children is a full time job.  So over-said.  And so true.  Quality time with each child; and the husband.  Cooking.  Cleaning.  Taking hubby to/from work.  Taking kids to/from everything.  Shopping for groceries and toiletries--doing forget to make them the cheapest available AND organic (not)! Home maintenance.  Haircuts.  Making sure nobody stinks.  Laundry (which should be a 4-letter word)!  The list goes on and on.  It never ends because when you get to the end of it you simply start at the beginning again.
Ball #2:  Homeschooling.  Homeschooling X 4.  Homeschooling special needs kids.  Homeschooling 4 on a budget of less than $200 per kid per year.  I know some moms have this homeschooling lots of children thing down pat, but I don't.  It was a lot easier when my littles where little; when my bigs were the only kids I really had to worry about.  Now I've got 4 kids in "real" grades, with real academic goals.  Three of four have real, verifiable academic differences that make their education much more complicated (at least for this mama).  And the budget.  Planning carefully for the next year takes up any "down time" the summer may otherwise promise.  Homeschooling.  Takes.  Time.
Ball #3:  The non-profit.  Sometimes I feel like I'd spend less time on this "job" if I were running a medium to large size non-profit rather than a small non-profit.  Then, I'm assuming, there would be a larger array of people on the team to call upon when there is a need within the organization.  And then, I assume, all positions may not actually be volunteer.  As it is, there are a very small number of very sweet volunteers that typically have full time jobs #1 and #2 above (or an actual traditional job!), and are therefore unable to always be there when a need arises.  The buck stops with me.  There is no limit to the number of hours I could spend on Eban Project each day.  When jobs #1 or #2 might otherwise be "light" on occasion, the time is quickly gulped up by the work the Lord has put in front of me in Ghana.
The 4th Ball:  It's this extra job that put me over the edge the other day.  Finances were too tight.  Something had to be done.  So Eric and I decided that we should both look for other ways we could contribute to the household income.  I could see the reason in this decision, and was in favor of this decision.  Then, I began to feel the crushing pressure in my chest!  As I delved more deeply into what would be required for me to build an online presence in order to do some freelance writing work, I realized it would be another fulltime job just preparing to hopefully add another fulltime job!  C.R.U.S.H.I.N.G.  P.R.E.S.S.U.R.E. 
The thing is, I love all of my jobs.  Well, parts of them anyway!  Each of them is fulfilling to me, in a different way.  After a day of being the best mom and wife I can be, I feel so very contented inside.  "This is what you've always wanted to do Anita.  And God has allowed you to do it."  After a day where we've rocked out our homeschooling goals, I feel accomplished.  "You have done right by your children today Anita.  Your sacrifice has allowed them to receive an education they wouldn't have received in the public school system."  After a day working on Eban Project stuff, I feel whole.  My calling to be an international missionary has been somehow fulfilled (albeit untraditionally).  I can feel the Lord's blessing, "Well done, good and faithful servant."  In ALL of these things, my goal is to faithfully serve those that the Lord has put in front of me to serve.  That makes it all the more painful when it becomes impossible to accomplish all of these things.
Maybe I am the odd duck.  Maybe most other moms really can be a mom/wife fulltime and add homeschooling, volunteering, and other things as well without any of it suffering.  But I'm not other moms.  I've carried so much guilt throughout the years when people have said, "How do you do it all?" and inside I'm thinking, "I don't.  I can't.  Something is always going undone."
I can survive.  I have learned to juggle life's duties so that most of the time nothing falls to the ground. Nothing totally falls, but I'm always on the edge of chaos.  I think this must be why the prospect of adding another thing (the side work) caused me to breakdown.  It would be adding another ball.  Juggling three balls is different from juggling four balls.  And really, I so love the idea of not juggling at all.  Is that even possible?

Sunday, March 09, 2014

13 Years of Motherhood and Mission

MOTHERHOOD:  Thirteen years ago today, I became a mother.  The most important purpose of my life, fulfilled.  [Feminists, roll your eyes if you must.]  I was created to be a mother.  I wasn't one of those girls who ever questioned whether I would have children; I only questioned how many, and through what means. 

I was ready to start creating our family as soon as we were married; the earlier the better!  So after two years when it hadn't happened, you can imagine my sadness and frustration.  Two years of the "young married" class at church.  ALL those baby showers to suffer through, trying to genuinely be happy for my friends but then crying myself to sleep at night because it wasn't "my turn." 
When we learned of our infertility, there was no question of whether we would try to go to extraordinary means to create life.  When the doctor told us we had a 5% chance through infertility measures, through tears we said, "That's okay.  We will adopt."  That was in our plan for family building anyway.  The big whammy was when the quack of a doctor told us that "Oh, nobody would allow you to adopt.  With your husband's health issues and you being overweight, you would never qualify."
THIS was a new concept.  Not being able to become a mother?  What?  No.  I had a very fearful next several hours, but was reassured QUICKLY by the new fangled internet-thingy that international adoption would be a great choice for us.  YES!  Motherhood, here I come!
And then it did.  Thirteen years ago today.  I met my daughter. And my heart grew two sizes bigger.  I felt it.  As I lay her on my chest for the first time, for that first nap together, I felt it.  A literal pain.  Whether it was my heart breaking or growing I cannot say for sure.  Maybe both.  That day motherhood began, and so did my mission.
MISSION:  I never realized I would hurt so badly for my daughter's biological family.  It never occurred to me that I would mourn the loss of country and culture for my daughter.  I was young and na├»ve and nobody mentioned even the remote possibility of these things to me.  But as she raged in my arms over all she was losing, I raged with her.  I remember crying with her on our fancy hotel room balcony.  And I think it was in that moment that the Lord God planted my life's mission within my heart.
When I was 17 years old I felt a call upon my life to be a Foreign Missionary.  It was as real a "call" and experience as I have ever felt.  I do not question it.  And then I married a Type I Diabetic that is legally blind with kidney issues.  How does that fit with foreign missions?  I didn't know, but I went on with life, and became a mom.  That seemed more important.  In becoming a mom, the "foreign" part came closer to me.
Cambodia was within me.  Cambodia's people plagued my soul.  At that time the term "family preservation" hadn't been coined (I don't think??) but certainly, that was at the heart of the matter.  It was at this time, 13 years ago, that my mind was opened to the realities of the developing world.  A passion like fire spread in me and I remember BEGGING God to open doors for me--the RIGHT doors.  He did.  And within the year I was helping others people adopt and involved in humanitarian aide for the first time.  Bulgaria.  Haiti.  Vietnam....the world became smaller again.
In 2006, Ghana entered my life.  Like Cambodia, Ghana and its people entered my heart in an all-encompassing way.  It wasn't just about adopting my child.  It was so much more.  How could the Lord use me to help the people there KEEP their children rather than lose them to conditions of poverty?  Oh, the burning in my heart!  It's now 8 years later and the passion continues.  Now, through Eban Project, the Lord has opened doors that are closer to the "foreign missions" call He put on me so many years ago.  Eventually, I believe I will stop being an "armchair missionary" and start being a true foreign missionary for Him.  But not now.  Not as long as He allows me to keep my dear husband.
Thirteen years.  Of motherhood, ever changing.  Of mission, ever growing.  Of family, ever filling.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Couldn't do it without you...

For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.  Philippians 2:13

I went to my mom's house this weekend to celebrate Christmas with her and the rest of our family.  It's our tradition to celebrate the weekend before Christmas with her.  Our kids even think Santa comes twice when they're young because he comes once to Grandma's house and once to our house (not that I at all encourage the belief in Santa, but that's another post and I won't get on my soapbox now)!  Eric and I are always there to help my mom finish up wrapping, stuff the (14) stockings, do last minute cooking, etc..  We DO get to sleep (unlike my mom who usually pulls an all-nighter) but it's normally 2-4am before we head to bed.  Anyway, my mom was thanking us and saying, "I couldn't do it without you" before we left.  That was the perfect way to begin this post.
We couldn't do it (this time of being unemployed) without you.  Our friends and family who have supported us through the past few months with your prayers, words of encouragement, and various gifts of support.  You have allowed the Lord to work though you to keep us afloat.
Because of the friends and family I have, and the enlightened things you say just because of who you are, I have had very few truly "down" days since October 11th when Eric got laid off.  When he first notified me of what happened, it felt like the world shifted from under my feet and I thought, "How are WE going to do this."  That's the place I was in at the time.  I was focused on US; OUR abilities, OUR money, OUR job.  It was so completely out of focus, but I didn't realize it at the time.  I had a relationship with the Lord, a close one.  But I was leaning on our bank account to survive much more than I was leaning on Him.  Our entire family was.
It didn't take long to begin seeing the good side of unemployment.  One of the great things about adoption is that you can do nothing but lean on the Lord.  It doesn't take long to figure out that the entire process is completely illogical and without God one might just go crazy.  We haven't adopted in four years now, and haven't had that "hold on tight because here we go" need since then.  Our family has been in this awesome place of growth and comfortableness (ya know, minus all the health stuff!).  So this job loss has given us the OPPORTUNITY to remember how truly wonderful it is to lean on the Lord for our daily bread; in this case both literally and figuratively.  There is a certain excitement in that that's hard to describe.  I suppose it must be how missionaries feel much of the time.
I don't know if the Lord saw a shift in our hearts or what, but it wasn't long before HE began to provide, through YOU.  And I'm talking about in a physical bill-paying, food-providing way.  One of the most astounding aspects of this experience has been seeing how the Lord has provided through friends that we would have *never* expected to give so generously to us.  Let me just make it clear that we in no way equate the goodness of a friend with whether or not they have sent a financial blessing to us in this time of need.  That's the thing.  The Lord didn't send these gifts from the "usual suspects."  Rather, He laid it on the hearts of dear people who are our friends, but not necessarily the people I would call on and cry on their shoulders when I'm having a bad day.  To make it more amazing, these have not typically been people with big bank accounts themselves.  These facts have made it so very clear that it is all FROM GOD.  These are God's people, being obedient to His call to provide for another brother and sister in Christ.  Amazing to us.  Even though we knew and had faith that He would provide for us some way, to see it done in this way has been so very humbling and inspiring.  To hear, "We had X money and God really laid it on our hearts that we were to give you and Eric X portion of it."  Wow.  Thank you obedient servants.
Are we out of the woods?  Not by a long shot.  Every month we are thousands of dollars short on being able to pay our bills.  But thanks to the Lord, through you, we were able to keep food on the table until we got food stamps.  [And wow--now food stamps are SUCH a blessing.]  Thanks to the gifts we have received, we were able to pay some bills, which freed up other money.  Now our children will have gifts on Christmas morning that are pretty much in keeping with other years.  We didn't at all expect for that to be the case!  Not a need in any way, but it's nice to give them some wants after many weeks of just getting by.  They are blessed by you.
We anticipate that this season will come to an end soon after the new year. [No job offer yet, but some possibilities.]  And while we will rejoice in Eric's ability to once again provide for our family, there will actually be some bitter-sweet aspects to him returning to work and our family not "living on the edge" anymore.  When asked what Kendi was most thankful for, she said, "I am thankful that we get to see Daddy now and he doesn't have to work late."  She shares all of our thoughts that it has been a blessing to have Eric/Daddy home for an extended time!  The children are much closer to their dad than they were before.  Seeing my children come back down to earth; realizing that certain things are special, not expected; and learning how to budget much more carefully--that has been a blessing.  It will be wonderful to be out of financial crisis, but I will also miss that feeling one has when you MUST depend on God for your survival.  It's special.  The key will be remembering that I always MUST depend on God for our survival, even when it might appear otherwise.
Thank you my friends.  We couldn't get through this without you; without your willingness to be obedient even when it makes no earthly sense.