Sunday, August 31, 2008

Family trouble

There isn't much that grieves a mother's heart more than to have her children make poor choices or that her children are fighting with each other. I had both this week and the two are related. One of my sons is living a lifestyle unacceptable to another one of my sons, and this son confronted him on it. Now they want nothing to do with each other. Then the worst of it--I am pressured to take sides. I cannot, of course.

A friend of mine told me this happened in her own family among her siblings. A battle raged for years and years with two sisters who would not speak to each other. This caused her parents deep sadness and affected the whole family. Imagine family holidays--the walking on eggshells, the carefully chosen words each member must use. What if the family can no longer even get together as a whole? It isn't fair to the rest of us who just want peace and harmony. I dread the next few months--birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas.

I used to tell people that my four brothers and my younger sister and I always got along so well. Is it because we live in different states? Is that what it takes for families to be at peace? No one teaches you how to parent grown children. What do you do when one child calls you with bitter complaints about another? Little children argue, my girls often do, but those quarrels soon sputter out. I can see this fight with my boys simmering just below the surface, ready to bubble up and boil over at any moment. Unless someone can say, "I'm sorry," and someone can say, "I forgive you," (and mean it). We'll see. It's not something I can do for them.

Monday, August 18, 2008


We begin school in 3 days. How did summer fly by so quickly? Arielle reminded me we never even had ice cream on the deck this year! (A special summer treat.) When I realized this, we hurried to do so that night after dinner. Liana was immediately attacked by mosquitoes, so we came back in the house.

We've had a lot of rain this summer, plus Fred put down some kind of black sheeting in the garden that kept the moisture in. The result has been beautiful, lush, green plant growth and an abundant harvest of vegetables. Fred was successful in keeping out the deer by adding height to the fence, but the squirrels found the corn. All year Fred feeds them dry corn at a feeder on a tree in the backyard. But the greedy little creatures decided they would steal fresh corn instead. We had to pick it all before the whole crop was ruined.

Gathering the corn every year means Tommy's Soup! My mom passed down the recipe from one of her Cherokee friends and it has become a favorite. The primary ingredients are fresh tomatoes and just-picked sweet corn--lots of each. Every year I make at least one batch to put away in the freezer. It is heated up on a cold winter night and we dream of our summer garden.

So I started peeling the tomatoes and chopping them up in a big pot. I scraped the corn and tossed it in too with lots of onions and peppers. Oops, forgot the carrots. I turned the soup to low and darted out to the garden to dig some up. The sky had suddenly turned black and flashes of lightening zigzagged in the west. Fred yelled at me not to go out but then he helped me free the bright orange carrots from the rich earth. We ran inside as the storm grew closer.

The windows were all open in the kitchen and as the wind picked up, the chimes on the deck sounded their alarm. The electric scent of rain mingled with the rich boiling fragrance of the soup. My girls watched the lightening from the window in mock fear, squealing with each clap of thunder. All the heaviness in my heart from the past few months was pushed out by the crisp breeze blowing through the kitchen and the pounding rain on the deck. The storm ravaged the yard, tearing branches from the trees, but we were safe in our cozy house, protected and feeling abundantly blessed.

God gives a promise in Revelation 21:4 of a coming time. "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." It's not a promise for now, we know that. There is plenty of suffering in this world. But a day like today in my kitchen is an exception to the norm. It is a foreshadow of things to come, a glimpse of the new earth where peace and contentment will reign and no one is sad. Today is a gift and a peek into a future time.

"Yet God has not left himself without testimony: he has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy." Acts 14:17. The storms will come, but one day it will all pass away. Never forget the promise.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Thoughts of China

The morning news announced the date--it's August 4th! I met my precious daughter Arielle ten years ago today. How can I show her how thankful we are that she is part of our family? Here she is with my new granddaughter, Laci Bo. Arielle just adores her, and it appears Laci feels the same.

My dad was an amateur rock collector and jeweler. On my tenth birthday he made me a necklace with my birthstone--an opal. It was an extraordinary, beautiful blue opal. I was thinking of that when I decided to give Arielle the topaz necklace that Fred gave me several years ago. Topaz is her birthstone. I told her this was a very special anniversary for her--ten years in America and ten years my daughter.

We decided to surprise Arielle with lunch at a local Chinese restaurant. Our favorite place was closed, so we went to one not so familiar to us. The owner, after watching her go back and forth to the buffet several times, asked if she was Chinese. Then he asked if she spoke Mandarin, but unfortunately, no. He seemed to understand, motioning that she must have come here as a little girl. Then he smiled and told Arielle she was beautiful. We sat back down and in a few minutes he came to our table with gifts for the girls--little red Chinese ornaments. Arielle and Liana were delighted.

As we ate lunch I thought of another restaurant so long ago. On August 4, 1998 I was dining with my mother and several other American families at a hotel in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province. It was our first day in China. We were excited and chatted nervously, wondering when we might meet our babies. Then we heard someone say, "The babies are here!" We were told to go to our rooms and we immediately left the tables and ran for the elevators. One woman cried in the elevator at the thought she would soon become a mother for the first time. Too full of emotion to wait quietly in our hotel rooms, we congregated in the hall of the 17th floor and soon a parade of women came, each carrying a baby. A boy of about 10 or 11 was hoisting my Arielle on his hip. Our facilitator called our names and then my baby was in my arms. Joy unspeakable! I get teary-eyed every time I re-play that wonderful moment in my mind.
A little bit of China came to us last weekend. The director of the orphanage from Yangchun, Guangdong Province arrived in the U.S. for a visit. Yangchun families were invited to come to a picnic to meet her before she and her boss headed on to Oregon for a huge reunion. Liana is a Yangchun girl, so we decided this was a once in a lifetime chance for her to meet one of the caregivers who knew her so long ago.

We arrived in the middle of a nasty thunderstorm and Mrs. Yu and several other families were crowded under a covered porch watching the rain. Someone motioned for me to take Liana to meet her, even though I considered waiting until we went inside. It was so dark and dreary. I brought a picture of Liana, one Mrs. Yu herself had taken at the orphanage and given to me many years ago. I had taped the characters of Liana's Chinese name on the back to jog Mrs. Yu's memory. After all, she has seen many, many babies since then. We walked over and I set Liana before her. I handed Mrs. Yu the picture and she did not turn it over to read the name, but instantly exclaimed, "Yang Chun Cun!" How did she know? Then she embraced Liana and kissed her face. Just to know Liana was recognized meant a lot to me. She was a real person to Mrs. Yu, not just another little face in a sea of children. Hopefully Liana will realize this too someday when she is searching to answer the hard questions.