Category Archives: family

“This is NOT home.”

airplane over cochabamba, bolivia, january 2015

Our little mob of weary wanderers rounded the final corner of our 36 hour journey. Mama and Papa caught each others’ eyes and puffed out a breath to prepare for impact.

“You ready for this?” they asked.

“Nope,” they answered.

“Here we go,” they said.

All the kids, with baggage to drag, followed the plod of their parents up the ramp from the airplane to the airport. I saw my parents before they saw us. My mom, my dad, my youngest brother, and my youngest sister came out that chilly Saturday afternoon in January to gather us. You might tell me that was only four days ago; it feels like a lifetime ago.

We left Bolivia. To quote a friend, “It is not so weird that you left, what’s weird is that you are not coming back.” Oh the sting.

The impact of the separation has not yet hit me. I am sure the ones we left back in Bolivia are feeling it. I have been the one left behind, it is excruciating. I can see on the faces of some of my kids the sadness and loneliness. Others beam with relief and renewal. The colors of our emotional profile burn bright like a sunset on fire. Or is it the sunrise?

The transition material tells me that a new beginning starts with an ending. The rites of passage of ancient cultures teach us to face the end, embrace the grief, and move through to the new. Denial, slap a happy-face emoticon on it, fake-it-’til-you-make-it, just won’t do. Honest tears help wash the soul.

It hurts so much, though. And there are so many people so very happy to have us here. And we don’t want to disappoint people. But it is not fair to them if we are dishonest with our “glee” in the hopes to manage their emotions. No. This is not what we want to do. So we sit broken, together. Yet, there does exist happiness in all the grief. Sparks of hope of what will be flare up and our faces make genuine smiles.

Oh yes, I was talking about the airport.

We walked into view. My mom burst with shouts and ran to catch me. My sister cried and wrapped my kids in her arms. My brother said with pride and joy, “My sister!” My dad laughed as he welcomed us all. What was left of my mascara ran down my cheeks. I felt like my heart would explode.

Then I looked around at my children. My oldest stood off to the side, away from the huddle of hugs. I moved over to her. The anger and helplessness radiated from her reddened eyes as she met me with an indictment. Through gritted teeth and a cracking voice she whispered a gruff, “This is NOT home.”

I wrapped her in affirmation and understanding. Yes, I told her, you are right, this is not home. We cried. I told her we would talk later. She nodded.

We grabbed our 12 checked bags off the conveyor belt. I unzipped a few and snatched out sweaters and jackets for all of us. No matter how many layers and hats and scarves and gloves I put on I couldn’t cut the chill. We loaded up the people and the stuff and drove to our borrowed residence. The rest of the day rushed by as we set up beds, tended to the kitchen and bathrooms, and sorted the bags into the rooms.

When just the Washingtons remained in the home warmed by the wonder of heat blown through vents I called Raimy to my side. She initiated the conversation. Her countenance was calmed yet fatigued, and she said, “About what I said… this is not home, yet.”

Yes. That’s right baby.

Love. Be loved.

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One Week Ago We Didn’t Even Have Tickets

Can you believe that? One week ago we didn’t even have plane tickets for our family to travel to the U.S.A.. Now, we are here, have a great place to stay while we find a place of our own, and OWN a 7 passenger van (which is a whole story for a separate, dedicated blog post). A small army has been working to gather stuff for our new home. My sister and brother-in-law collected from tons of people: some beds, bedding, dressers, towels, toiletries, some groceries, coats, hats, scarves, toys, games, some kitchen items, laundry soap, a laundry basket, Target gift cards, and a coffee maker. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of a friend who set up a facebook page to organize people, a few churches helping out, and many people networking, we feel very loved and cared for.

My parents, one of my brothers, and one of my sisters met us at the airport. There were hugs, happy tears, and lots of loud. It was great! They helped us get into the house of my brother-in-law’s father, who happens to be away on a golfing vacation and graciously opened his vacant home for us to stay in for free. WOW! I am so grateful for the generosity from someone I have never even met.

Before dawn Friday morning dear, dear friends came and collected us from the missionary housing where we were staying in Cochabamba. We said tearful goodbyes and started the 36 hour journey back to the city where both DaRonn and I were born and raised. The kids are amazing travelers! There were lots of talks about our move down to Bolivia way back in 2001. We compared, contrasted, and reminisced.

Ahead of us now in the coming days are: finding a house, filling it, and settling in. Please pray for us, as I know you already have been. Things seem to be falling into place. I am so grateful.

The kids have said some amusing things these first few days. The laughter has been helpful to break up the fatigue and tension.

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Me: Tyler, when you go to the bathroom you can put your toilet paper in the toilet and flush it down.

Tyler: [look of utter disgust] That is so gross!

Me: Yep, your pee, your poop, and the paper all together.

Timothy: [from the other room, singing loudly] We will all go together when we go down!

Cultural orientation – – – in Bolivia the plumbing systems are different and the used toilet paper is thrown into the trash can beside the toilet. Here in the U.S. the used paper is flushed.

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Can I go drink from the water fountain! (Five children RUN through the airport to quench their thirst.)

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Look, a mailbox! Oh look, there’s another one!

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These houses are so beautiful! (In one of the more simple parts of town.)

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There are SO MANY  [you name it on the shelves in the stores]  to choose from!

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This pizza is SO GOOD!

— — — — — —

It is SO COLD! (The locals are in lightweight shirts and no jackets. We are in layers, coats, hats, and scarves.)

— — — — — —

You can drink the water from the faucet. WHAT? Yes, from the faucet.

— — — — — —

Timothy on day 2: I still feel weird drinking water from the faucet. I mean, it tastes fine, but I am thinking in my head the whole time, “I am drinking bugs!”

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on the wall of the house we are staying at
on the wall of the house where we are staying

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Bravery, a Derivative

My Teen Girls in Uyuni

I really don’t feel strong or brave. Most days I jolt awake as the rush of nervous acid pours into my stomach. The aftereffects of the daily emotional roller coaster ride make me nauseated. The regrets choke. Thus, I have determined that bravery is not an emotion, it is a derivative.

As I share my story with a low voice, tears in my eyes, so many people tell me I am strong, that I am brave. They see me. They see the circumstances. Then they affirm strength??? I really don’t feel it. Oh boy do I wish I did!

I wince at their words, doubt trumps dauntlessness. I bury myself in my notebook. My hand trembles as I make it pull the jumbled words onto paper. My thoughts slow and calm comes as I think about bravery.

Forged in the fires of truth unhindered, time, and surrender comes forth words to define bravery. Definitions help me maintain realistic expectations of myself, and others.

> Bravery is not a stoic face to mask authenticity. Nuh uh.

> Bravery is not a bully who lashes out in fear. Nope.

> Bravery is not an ungodly holler from a maniac who runs reckless to sure defeat. Sorry Sparta, you can keep that crap.

Bravery: Life lived with strength derived from the assurance that 1. I am the beloved of God, 2. God loves everyone, and 3. His love in me enables me to love well.

So when my teenagers come to me distraught and fraught with emotions I can rely on the strength in me derived from the love infusion from my Father God. Then I can attempt to listen with empathy. I can speak, if I need to. Or shut up. I trust that God can love them well when my resources fail. I choose to engage, rather than cower and hide (which is my default mode, by the way).

So when the days topple on top of each other and mash with the piles to-do lists, and I breathe too quick, and my brain begins to spin like the tilt-a-whirl, I can stop the scared screamy sounds in my mind. I see the lips of my friends who tell me I am strong. Yes, I am strong, because this tangible weakness draws me to the source of my bravery. My bravery is a derivative of the assurance I am loved.

So when terrible scenarios of what-if replay on loop in the darkest corner of my heart I can crawl to that place and face the fears. In the past I have shut that part of me away as “bad” and “sinful” and “faithless”. With weak limbs and scraped hands I can do the next thing. Just do the next thing. And the next thing might be a simple flip of a switch on a plastic flashlight to shine a shaft of bravery on the damp, creepy parts of my soul. A simple task made nearly insurmountable by the paralyzed state created by my imaginations of what will be revealed. But my bravery is not brazen or foolish. True brave strength is surrender to Love. Love knows me. Love accepts me. Love sits beside that awful terribleness, and waits with me for the light.

So what do I do when I just do not feel so strong or brave? I cry. I fuss. I complain. I moan. And when I get that all over with I return to the assurance part of my definition. I can rest when I have been assured. Sometimes this blessed assurance comes from those around me. Sometimes the assurance comes from a song whispered in the recesses of my throat, sang with raspy tones. Other times gritty, holy stories or chunks of scripture assure me.

One prayer from the book of Ephesians has brought encouragement.

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.”  –  Ephesians 3:14 – 21

Love and Peace.

 

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Birth Stories – 5 – Tyler

bunny birth stories logoMy redeemer baby came many years after my first three: bam, bam, bam. When I had an inkling I might be pregnant again I had a talk with God. I was embarrassed and sad that I had cried at the news of my first 3 pregnancies. I didn’t want that to be the case this time.

I felt the sweet voice of God releasing me and redeeming me when He said, “You can be as happy about this child as I was with the news of your first three pregnancies.” Wow! God rejoiced over Raimy, Timothy, and Gabrielle. Now God Himself was telling me I was pregnant even before I peed on the stick of the home pregnancy test. Wow.  Yes, I was so happy. The whole pregnancy was normal, healthy, and good. I was thrilled. I would be giving birth to my redeemer baby in Bolivia.

His due date came and went. The doctor became nervous. He talked of c-section, the cord around his neck, too short cord not letting him drop, and too big of a baby. I begged for an induction – to give it a try. He said I would have to sign a waiver that I was choosing against the doctor’s suggestions and I would be held responsible for any consequences, including fatalities. Ah! I felt backed into a corner, powerless, lorded-over, bullied with no where to turn. We finally agreed to schedule the c-section.

The whole procedure was sterile, mechanical, and impersonal. It felt routine and professional yet joyless. I was very glad we were able to talk them into allowing DaRonn into the room. They invited DaRonn to watch Tyler come out of the cut they had made. He chose to stay beside me. They brought him out and exclaimed that the cord was wrapped around the neck twice. So, it turned out that their assessment of a short cord was incorrect – the cord was long enough, just caught up around his neck a few times.

Tyler Cole Washington was born the morning of September 7, 2006 in Cochabamba, Bolivia. His weight was similar to the first 3 at just over 7 pounds. This was considered “huge” in Bolivia where the babies are around 5 or 6 pounds usually.

Having a c-section is like a natural birth in reverse and in slow motion. The slow pain of recovery from the surgery lasts weeks compared to the relatively fast and intense hours of labor pains. I don’t recommend a c-section if it can be avoided.

Tyler was the most fun, most adored infant. He is my Bolivian boy.

The photo on the right shows Tyler as a newborn. In the photos with his older siblings he is 1 month old.
The photo on the right shows Tyler as a newborn. In the photos with his older siblings he is 1 month old.

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If for nothing else (aside from the obvious joy of bringing the birth of my son) the c-section was useful to point me in the path of midwifery. I didn’t know until that day when a natural birth was “robbed” from me that I had such a great passion for midwifery, natural birth, and helping women enjoy the process of pregnancy, labor, and delivery the way their bodies know how to do it. For that part, I am grateful. Even the c-section experience will be redeemed.

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Birth Stories – 4 – Gabrielle

bunny birth stories logoGabrielle’s name came to DaRonn in a dream during our engagement to be married. The birth order and all full names of all of our five children were decided upon before we said our vows on our wedding day. We did not think this odd. I now see that the prediction, or whatever you want to call it, with such detail about our offspring even before we were married was a rare exercise. We knew Raimy Olivia would be first, then our oldest son Timothy Aaron, then the dreamed of Gabrielle Moriah, followed by Tyler Cole, and finally we would adopt Kaitlynn Glory, our crowning glory.

Many times during my pregnancy with Gabrielle I felt strongly impressed to stop everything I was doing and intercede for her life. I prayed for her life in the womb, for her birth, and for her life as a whole. The prayers were intense and powerful. I felt as though I was affecting decades and hedging her about for a life calling. I was grateful to be able to serve this extremely strong and active being even before she was born to this world.

My she could kick! She remains an active strong person with an inquietude for great things. Her unique passion intrigues me.

She was due on August 11, 2001. I thought that providential because the first two were both born on an 11th. This little lady was a limit pusher from the first day of her life. Her due date came and went. I was a bit disappointed she didn’t come on the 11th – but I thought it was to be expected since my first two came well after their due dates.

Sunday, August 12th we were all resting in the afternoon after church. The warmth of that Oklahoma summer day enveloped the house in a calm blanket of heat. As I lay on the bed with my sleeping husband beside me the infant inside of was very active. Then the tightening began. I didn’t recognize what was happening at first. I felt an anticipation and overwhelming surge of confidence. I couldn’t lay still any longer. I began slowly pacing in the small house.

The truth dawned on me as I recognized the regularities of the pattern of tightening and loosening. These were not painful. They felt like a long firm hug.

I had been reading the book “Supernatural Childbirth” and had prepared myself for a drug-free, pain-free delivery. I woke DaRonn. I told him the baby was coming.

Our friends came to get our other two kids. We arrived at the hospital and I was all smiles. I knew what was happening and I was happy and excited. The nurses said that they would probably be sending me home because I was too calm to be in labor. I told them the contractions were coming very fast and strong.

They got me set up on a bed and told me a doctor would be in to examine me. After a long while (maybe 45 minutes) the doctor came in. He didn’t want to examine me and didn’t believe I was in labor because, “No, you are smiling too much to be in labor.” I calmly told him that he needed to see how far along I was. He finally consented. The priceless look of disbelief on his face when he said, “Nurse, prep the delivery room. She is at 8 cm!” still makes me smile to remember it. A couple more hours of labor and I was begging for them to let me push. Two big pushes and Gabrielle popped out, big-eyed and sprawling arms and legs moving around in all directions.

Some differences with this birth from the other ones: no pain killers, the bag of waters broke on its own, and I was given oxygen at one point because my hands cramped up from my breathing technique. There was a kind nurse there who helped me to adjust my breathing during the contractions. I was very happy for her calm wisdom. It helped alot. Another difference was that I was able to move around during labor because I was not attached to any machines. That was so very nice.

That birth was miraculous. Gabrielle, born late in the evening on Sunday, August 12, 2001, was long and skinny, but still very healthy, and weighed just over 7 pounds. Ten weeks later we made an intercontinental move to live in Bolivia with a 3 year old, a 2 year old, and a nursing infant.

Gabrielle at one year old
Gabrielle at one year old, Santa Cruz, Bolivia

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Birth Stories – 3 – Timothy

bunny birth stories logoOn Valentines Day of 1999 we confirmed the pregnancy of our 2nd child – not quite one year after our 1st child was born. Again, I cried in fear and an overwhelming sense of helplessness and inadequacy. Married, traveled out of the country, had our first baby, DaRonn lost his father to cancer, we moved to another State, both of us working, DaRonn a full time university student, and we got pregnant again – all in the course of 2 years and 2 months. Talk about some stress!

The pregnancy progressed completely normally. During the third trimester we prepared for a road trip from Missouri to Chicago. My prep consisted of growing our firstborn son and getting him born. DaRonn’s prep consisted of training for a marathon. He was doing it as a fundraiser. Did I mention he was still a full time student (due to graduate shortly after we returned from Chicago) and working to provide for our growing family? During our “free time” also we volunteered at our church leading a marriage small group and spending Saturday mornings at a kids club in a downtown neighborhood.

This pregnancy taught me that children have distinct personalities from the moment they are conceived. Whereas Raimy’s intrauterine movements felt like a butterfly or the gracefulness of a jellyfish, Timothy’s movements were deliberate and almost predictable and scheduled. Raimy remains a free spirit and beautifully flows in grace and softness. Timothy is my scientific, structured thinker who thrives on schedule, predictability, and logic. How fascinating that their traits were identifiable from the very start of their lives in my womb.

Timothy’s due date came and went. We scheduled his induction for the 11th of October. I felt that was providential since Raimy was born on the 11th too. Another cold morning for going to have a baby. The same IV and bag breaking procedures were followed as with my first. This time I wasn’t so happy to be connected to an IV, though. I had the urge to be moving around. They allowed me to walk some but wanted me in bed. So I tried as many positions I could on the bed. I moved around alot!

The laboring time was again around 6 hours long. He was born face up. This means the back of his skull rubbed against my bones as he descended. Usually babies are born with their squishy faces down. When the back of the head pushes on the spine there is no break from the pain between contractions, just a bit of a lesser pain. Still, I opted for only mild pain killers through the IV drip. I was glad that the pushing was started and done in just a 10 minute span.

Timothy Aaron Washington was born in Saint Joseph, Missouri on October 11, 1999 – my first son. This beautiful, round boy weigh a nice 7 1/2 pounds. His low cries sounded like manly moaning. We took him home as soon as we could.

Just weeks later we made the road trip with our family of four to the marathon event. We stopped along the way to nurse and let our toddler run around. The highway rest stops from St. Joe to Chicago are very nice. I enjoyed our trip very much.

We didn’t go out to see the early morning start of the marathon with DaRonn. He told us an estimated time to be near the finish line to see him cross. I loaded the kids up in the double stroller and we found a sunny, grassy spot in the crowd to wait and watch.

I sat with my back against a tree on the frozen ground to nurse my newborn and corral my toddler. I felt so strong, like I could do anything. I watched people of every shape, size, ability, and age cross that finish line. Considering the crowd, the finish-line crossers, and our little trio under the tree had an empowering effect on me. My little son, especially, gave me a sense of strength and worth. I am capable and resourceful thanks to Timothy Aaron.

DaRonn’s race took about 4 1/2 hours. My labor to birth our oldest son took about 6 hours. As a couple we supported each other during these tremendous physical feats. We made a good team.

December 1999, Timothy 2 months, Raimy 1 1/2 years, married 3 years.
December 1999, Timothy 2 months, Raimy 1 1/2 years, married 3 years.

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Birth Stories – 2 – Raimy

bunny birth stories logoSeven months after we were married DaRonn and I found ourselves in the beautiful yet smoggy city of San Jose, Costa Rica. For a month we led a group of 25 teens in evangelistic drama outreach. Our band of youth made up just 1/4 of all the kids who went to Costa Rica that year with Teen Mania. Every morning all 100 of us started our day with a big plate of rice and beans with a side of papaya for breakfast. In full costume and makeup we then loaded up in our respective buses to go out to the various drama sites scheduled for that day. To keep energetic teens occupied the pace was designed to be a bit grueling.

Inevitably on the first bus ride of the day through the congested down-town streets I would lose every bit of what I could force myself to eat from breakfast. After many days of this I stopped coming down for the morning meal. DaRonn graciously talked to the hotel people about a different option for me, something simple like cereal and milk. They brought stale Frosted Flakes in a tiny tea cup with a side of warm, frothy milk. This did not help my tummy problems. Every morning I made myself eat with the team, at least a little bit. Every morning I puked it right back up.

Near the end of the trip the leader of a different group of kids, who happened to be a nurse, asked if we might be pregnant. The purchase of an “embarazada” test at the corner pharmacy was laughable. “Embarazada” is the Spanish word for pregnant and it sounds similar to the English word “embarrassed”. It was very embarrassing as we tried with hand motions and discrete whispers to make the old man understand what we needed.

Back in our tiny shoe-box hotel room with the unforgettable grimy turquoise walls we sat on the edge of the creaky bed waiting for the results. By the dim light of that little bedside lamp we discovered we were expecting our first child. The head-honcho leader lady came in and started jumping on our bed making whooping noises. (I can only imagine what the people downstairs might have thought.) She was so very happy for us. I cried.

Costa Rica, 1997
This is a page from the scrapbook I put together of our month in Costa Rica. I was 21 and DaRonn was 22. I didn’t know it at the time but I was pregnant in this picture; we found out the evening of the day this photo was taken.

I learned later that this sweet woman celebrating our news had lost twins not a year before in a miscarriage. What a brave and kind woman to literally jump for joy for us. I am so grateful there was someone there to be happy about the pregnancy. I only cried – in fear, out-of-control fear. Logic said it was too early. DaRonn was not done with school. Our finances needed help. I was worried. Yet my life-long dreams of being a wife and mother were coming true.

In the first trimester I began to bleed. I felt an unusual faith rise up in me. I commanded my body to work properly. I commanded my baby to remain safely in me. I went to battle driving out every evil I could think of with the authority of a child of God fully aware of the power available to me. The bleeding stopped. I felt complete peace and absence of fear.

Shortly thereafter I went to the appointment with the government subsidized doctor. No abnormalities were found. Baby and I were found to be in perfect health. The rest of the pregnancy went smoothly. I craved macaroni and cheese quite a bit.

Raimy’s due date came and went. Ten days passed and they wanted to schedule an induction. At two weeks after her due date we went in early on a cool March morning. They hooked me up to an IV drip of Pitocin. The contractions started immediately. After some progression they broke the bag of waters.

The music I chose that played the whole time I labored was a guitar instrumental.  DaRonn was at my side the whole time as the worship songs on the CD filled the room. The one song I remember especially is “As the Deer Panteth for the Water so my Soul Longeth after Thee…” The soothing music, low lighting in the birthing room, and a mild pain killer to take the edge off dripped in with the magic contraction chemicals made for a pleasant labor. I was actually glad to be “stuck” in one place with the IV so that I could focus on making each contraction a progressive one.

Labor lasted six hours. Six short minutes of pushing followed. I suffered a small tear that was discovered too late to be stitched up.

Raimy was born just over 7 pounds on March 11, 1998 in Omaha, Nebraska. DaRonn didn’t want them to rush her off to check her out. He was worried and wanted her with us. I felt accomplished, calm, and assured. I was very happy to bring her into this world.

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When You Were Born I Was On the Other Side of the World

Dear boy… The day you were born I was on the other side of the world. In Chile. Shopping, of all things. Even though I can’t inhale the perfect scent of your perfect fuzzy head, and I can’t cuddle your curled up, squishiness against my chest, I want you to know a few things.

You are part of a big, wonderful world, Parker. You are important. Your part in this world matters. Your robust joy and stalwart strength will touch many. You are loved and adored!

Dear girl… The day you were born I was on the other side of the world. In Bolivia. I was making cookies and getting ready to celebrate the Day of the Child. Even though I can’t feel the grip of your little fist around my finger, and I can’t caress your rosy cheeks, or wrap you up in a blankie and rock you to sleep, I want you to know  few things.

You are a princess, treasured and loved. You, Andrea, were born to make a mark on this world. I can’t wait to see the unique you unfold and shine! I love you and I think you are so special!

To the mommies and the daddies of these precious babies, my brothers and sisters, I am so proud of you! As you add your own footprints to the path of parenthood, well trodden by those before, know that I admire and honor you. Y’all are amazing, really.

With much love,

Tia Angie

 

Book Club ‘Free of Charge’ – Chapter 3 and Interlude

free of charge

How can we give? This question follows the previous chapter which explored ‘How should we give?’ In Chapter 3 we take a look at the human tendency to use giving as currency. We give expecting something in return. Or we give to assuage a guilty conscience. Or we give to be seen and admired. In effect, we have a tendency to give … to ourselves. For in each of these examples we benefit from the gift.

Miroslav Volf says:

“Whether we give in order to extract goods from others, win praise for magnanimity, put a fig leaf over our moral nakedness, or feed some raging beast inside, in one way or another our generosity often proves wither counterfeit or impure. We give to ourselves, in whole or in part.”

Delving deeper into the inner realities of our heart condition we find sin. The author focuses on three key aspects of sin at play when we attempt to give: selfishness, pride, and sloth.

Volf continues:

“So can we counter the effects of selfishness, pride, and sloth and make our giving pure? Not before we land in God’s perfect world of love on the other side of this world’s history. Only when, in communion with God, we become the perfect image of God as individuals and communities, will our giving attain purity.”

Things were sounding pretty dark until I got to the part addressing ‘Transformed Attitudes’. Much emphasis was given by my mom during our upbringing on our attitude. She used to do ‘attitude checks’ rather frequently to help us be aware of the motivation of our heart at any given moment. I heard a pastor once say, “Attitude is almost everything.” And the old saying goes, “Your attitude will determine your altitude.”

The author says this:

“Giving depends on the proper attitude toward three things: towards things we possess, towards others, and towards ourselves.”

Things – our relations to things changes ones we truly understand that everything has been given to us by God.

On our last trip to the United States with all the children (we have 5) the generosity of my Uncle and Aunt shocked me. After thanking them profusely for allowing us to used their mini-van to drive around various states for three months, free of charge, I was speechless and choked up. My Uncle looked me in the eyes in total sincerity and said, “Everything we have was given to us by the Lord. It was His in the first place, so if anyone has need of it we are glad to give it because it was given to us by God. Our home, our cars, our time, our table, are all for His service.” This was the first time I had seen such genuine generosity. It filled me with ease and an overwhelming desire to follow his godly example.

This quote sums up this idea with precision:

“Earning and possessing are not just a bridge between our desires and their satisfaction. They are a midpoint in the flow of gifts: from God to us, and through us to others. We give because we have been given to; we don’t let other simply fend for themselves because we haven’t been left to fend for ourselves.”

Others – we can consider others as the intended beneficiaries of God’s gifts.

A new kind of board game has emerged in which all the players compete against the game. They work together in strategy and cooperation to beat the enemy. It is a thrilling experience to join together in a common cause with your friends or family for an evening, instead of passing the time trying to beat the ones you love.

A new attitude towards self – without being “more-than-enough” people, our wanting will always outpace our having, and we’ll end up perpetually exhausted and forever dissatisfied.

“A rich self has a distinct attitude toward the past, the present, and the future. It surveys the past with gratitude for what it has received, not with annoyance about what it hasn’t achieved or about how little it has been given. A rich self lives in the present with contentment. Rather than never having enough of anything except for the burdens others place on it, it is “always having enough of everything” (2 Corinthians 9:8). It still strives, but out of satisfied fullness, not out of the emptiness of craving. A rich self looks towards the future with trust. It gives rather than holding back in fear of coming out too short, because it believes God’s promise that God with take care of it.”

Gratitude … contentment … trust

At this point a thought struck me, “Is there enough love in me to love abundantly? The logical answer is: yes. God and His love infilling me is enough and more than enough to make me a generous lover.” Amen! This frees me up to enter into the flow of love. I don’t have to muster up feelings or put on a mask of faked love. I can trust that He has loved me, and that love in me is more than enough to spill out into the lives of the people around me. There is no scarcity of love. He gave love freely to me, I can give love freely to those around me.

Thankless ingrates. This festers in me at times. I don’t want to give because the gift is unnoticed or under-appreciated. This goes back to the start of the chapter about giving … to ourselves. Which is pride. Volf clears things up very nicely when he says:

“We are not disrespected by ingratitude; our pride is not injured. The ingratitude of recipients wrongs not us but the gift-giving God.”

There you go! I don’t have to worry about. I place the recipient and their own attitude in God’s hands. Anything that I gave them was given to me by God in the first place. So I am not offended – I pass that over to God. He can interact by His gracious mercy with the others as He sees fit. He doesn’t need me to defend Him. He is strong enough to handle that. To hear this, as a recovering control freak, brought great relief to give freely.

As Jesus said, “freely ye have received, freely give.” Yes, and amen.

Interlude

The Interlude serves as a dramatic and heart wrenching introduction to the second half of the book about forgiveness. It stirs profound questions about the capacity of the human hear to truly forgive in the face of impossible circumstances.

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This book is quite heady yet balanced by truth told in anecdotes. The quotes from well known and highly respected individuals underscore the impact of the points the author makes. I also very much appreciate the thorough involvement of the Hold Scriptures as he leads us on the path to a truer realities in the way we give and forgive. I recommend the book.

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Killing the Deadline

My youngest daughter is 4, 5, and 6 years old. Wha?! Yes.

In May we celebrate her Adoption Gotcha Day for the 4th time. She and I have been mother and daughter for almost 4 years.

In February she will enter Kindergarten. In Bolivia children are usually 5 when they enter Kindergarten. She needed to repeat preschool so that she could be a stronger Kindergartener.

In December of last year she turned 6 years old. Since this is a provisional birthday I can only hope and assume that it is close to her physical age.

She has behaviors that match all three of those ages. So I killed the deadline, before it killed me. I got all caught up in the benchmarks of where we “should” be that I couldn’t celebrate where we are.

(See this post on time for more thoughts on the subject: Airplanes are Time Machines)

Sure, we need timelines, deadlines, and goals with measurable results. We need those things in areas that we can control, to an extent. As a certifiable control freak I can attest to the ease in assuming that everything can be controlled. Ha! My current process of the deconstruction of damaging patterns landed me on the conclusion that many of my conclusions need to be revised. The “shoulds” associated with time that came under evaluation didn’t hold much water.

It comes back to expectations. Expecting myself and others to maintain an imagined level of performance may create some facades in the relationship. Simplifying my expectations creates freedom for myself and others to grow at a natural pace. Creating an atmosphere which transmits trust invites a relationship in which all open up with a freedom born of acceptance. The rate of growth no longer frustrates me. I let that go so that I can be happy to see the actual growth right in front of my eyes.

I replace

I expect you to behave in this fashion: ______________ [fill in the blank with billions of rules]

with

I expect you to know I love you in this fashion: ______________ [fill in the blank with billions of affirmations of the worth this person holds in my heart, soul, and life.]

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Pulling at the little seedlings in the pot will not make them extend their branches any quicker. Most likely the yanking will result in a hurt plant and stunted growth. Give those root water and healthy soil and they will strengthen. Give those tiny green leaves the warmth of sunlight and keep the bugs away and you will see them flourish.

My daughter does not need me to yank at her with a face of disappointment and disgust. She came to us already damaged. She needs from me a face of kindness, acceptance, and love. She needs words of truth that warm her heart. She needs the nutritious power of a family surrounding her with encouragement and trust.

We never stop growing, right? I am so grateful for the grace to keep learning these parenting concepts. Why would I not extend that same grace to my children as we work this out?

Grace to you, too. Thanks for reading.

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