Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Celebrating Holy Week: The Risen Lamb

We clumsily arranged the plates:
a plate of hard-boiled eggs,
speaking new life,
meatball soup,
our Passover Lamb,
chopped apples, mashed with walnuts, honey and cinnamon,
reminder of mortar and bricks made in slavery
horseradish as our bitter herbs piled on a saucer,
eaten with the sweet apple and honey - bitterness coupled with hope,
a pile of butter lettuce leaves, bright and green,
recalling the hyssop dipped for sprinkling on Hebrew doorposts at Exodus,
dipped in salt water - tears,
matzah crackers stacked straight, our unleavened bread,
a bread baked quickly with no time for rising now.

My husband started the readings, word traversing space and time.
A gathering together of our family
for this Special Meal,
Passover feast,
like so many families have shared over the years, centuries,
yet different too for we are a
Christian family embracing the Passover.
We long to teach our children that Easter
is not just bunnies and chocolate and egg hunts,
not just new life,
but His death and our new life.
We endeavor to create new traditions, rhythms,
that speak of a Risen Savior,
our own Passover Lamb.

My parents, Nana and Papa sat down at the table
with grandgirls, Meilani and Giada,
Ericlee and me, a mama with child.
We were surrounded by special foods,
sacred ceremony.

We forgot the wine, the grape juice
so Papa pours the Paradise Blend,
how appropriate for our
adapted tradition.

We lit candles, remembered the
Light of the World.
Daddy kneeled to gird himself with towel,
bathe little-girl feet.
We remembered how our Lord washed feet
that night
after the Last Supper.

We traded our traditional
Easter bunny cake
for a tomb,
a hole in the earth created by
sticky little hands,
decorated with love.
Meilani named it
"Christ has Risen" cake.

No one could keep our


in the grave.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Greatest Gift: Discovering Fullness of joy

I walk the aisle at church, clutching my husband's arm. The nausea snakes through my head, my stomach. I am reminded each minute of this new life growing inside my womb. I steady. He passes me the bread, the cup. We return softly to our seats. The guitar plays, worship music that pierces me. Hot tears stream down this mama's freckled cheeks. I chew the bread - my first communion - eucharisteo since I've started this journey of counting gifts, hunting down grace.

I cannot sing this morning. The only music here is spilling of soul-tears. I am so sorry. I whisper it deep within myself. I am sorry, Lord, for my ungratefulness. In this moment, I know I have to mourn it all. I am letting go of my plan once again. I am releasing my grip on time, on fears, on dreams, on it all. I am so sorry that I put my expectations on you. I am so sorry that I confine you to my mirror instead of seeing you through that magnifying glass. I am so sorry that my perspective is small, ever-questioning, seldom-trusting your vastness.

I'm rereading Ann's words this week, preparing my heart for Easter Sunday. "Because eucharisteo is how Jesus, at the Last Supper, showed us to transfigure all things - take the pain that is given, give thanks for it, and transform it into a joy that fulfills all emptiness. I have glimpsed it: This, the hard eucharisteo. The hard discipline to lean into the ugly and whisper thanks to transfigure it into beauty" (Ann Voskamp, 100).

It's no accident that later this year - around the Thanksgiving holiday - a new baby will join our family. It's no accident that in this year of waiting to follow God's call to Haiti, in this season of giving thanks in all things God has gifted us with a wild surprise - a new life.

Don't get me wrong: I'm thrilled to add a new baby to our family. We may have four or five one day, and I would be perfectly happy. But this way was not my plan. We were on the road to adopt from Haiti. We planned to wait a few years through piles of paperwork and jumping through hoops. We had this little dream, this rising passion, that we could give new life to an orphan, maybe two, who needed a forever family. And now, because we will have more than two biological children that door to Haiti may be closed. I mourn that today. Tears pool in my lap for the orphans of Haiti. Hot tears of righteous indignation as I know how hard it is to adopt, how difficult for millions of orphans to be united with a loving family. I feel a kind of helplessness as I can barely stand up without losing my breakfast. First trimester sickness. I feel the emptiness.

"And emptiness itself can birth the fullness of grace because in the emptiness we have the opportunity to turn to God, the only begetter of grace, and there find all the fullness of joy" (Ann Voskamp, 97).

My womb has only just begun to swell with child but I feel the fullness of this moment. I am overwhelmed by it. I cannot conceive - how Mary birthed that boy. No, she never asked for that gift but her Father knew she was the one. He filled her womb and give her one joy-full gift that would change the world.

I see His body - the boy's - broken, bleeding on a cross. How His mother must have wept. How she must have felt her insides torn out as she watched them mishandle her Love. How she pondered it all in her heart. How she was truly Great with Child.

No, I did not plan this pregnancy. Never asked for it. Didn't mark squares on my calendar. But I know all's grace. I know this is a most profound gift in a time when I've been changing my perspective to see His gifts. I know the ugliness is in me as I fight with my God about what I want and when I want it. I know the beauty, the absolute miracle is in this little babe - the one whose life we celebrate today.

I drink the grape juice, swallow it down in all its sweetness searing my throat. I wipe tears and thank Him. A real kind of joy swells starting from my womb and traveling outward.

More gifts from my counting journal, approaching halfway to one thousand...

438. ginger tea to settle my stomach
440. sweet Meilani kissing my belly, her new baby bean
442. egg crepes with melty cheese
445. looking through developing baby pictures with my girls, the wonder of eyes, fingers, toes forming in the womb
447. perfect timing - sharing another pregnancy journey with my dear friend Cori just a month behind me
448. Leo Ford, a soft-spoken, kind MediCal case worker who finally helped me through the hoops after 6 hours of waiting - full medical coverage for our whole family
456. a bag of Chipotle burritos laced with guacamole delivered by my love on the night I can't bear to make dinner
465. reviving scent of oranges
482. encouragement raining down from so many friends

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Surprising Gift: Making Plans to go to Haiti

Dear Friends & Family,

We recently sent out an update newsletter to help you know where we are on our journey to Haiti. It’s only been a few weeks but we already have some exciting and unexpected news to report to you all.

We just found out that we are pregnant! Yes, this is a bit of a surprise to all of us. We certainly were not expecting this timing but we are thrilled to grow our family with a new life. We consider any children a gift from God and trust that our Maker has all the details under control. Meilani and Giada are especially excited to have a new baby brother or sister coming this year. The theme of this year has truly been learning to be thankful in all things. Appropriately, our baby will be due right around Thanksgiving 2011.

Please join us in praying for wisdom and discernment as we seek God’s will in making plans for going to Haiti. Right now we are praying about going to Haiti for the summer (June-September) with the financial support we have raised. We are excited about being in Pignon for the summer months to host the short-term teams, spend time with the Haitian leaders and help start a new building project - a new orphanage in St. Raphael. We are partnering with Richard and Gina Wathen of Wathen-Castanos, Inc. in Fresno who have a heart for orphans and are taking on this new project.

We plan to return to Fresno in September to prepare for the birth of the baby, continue raising support and re-evaluate our timeline for 2012. We are clinging now to Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen to God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.” (The Message)

We also continue to pray for the sale of our house. A new roof went up last week and our real estate agent (Dorina’s brother) has since received 5 phone calls on the house since then and we’ve shown it to 3 different families. God is moving! This weekend we will be having an Open House. Pray for that one buyer!

As God surprises us with different time lines for going to Haiti and now the joy of this new baby, the one thing He continues to make clear to us is our call to serve long-term with Christian Friendship Ministries connecting resources to Haiti. We praise God for the 60% of our budget that’s come in for our year in Haiti, and for the ways you all have (and continue to) contributed to that. Thank you for standing with us in our vision. Please join us in praying for the remaining amount we need. We’d be delighted to talk with you personally if you have further questions – please don’t hesitate to contact us. (Dorina’s cell: 559.908.0004; Ericlee’s cell: 559.908.2775).

Partnering with you,

Ericlee & Dorina, Meilani & Giada

& baby bean Gilmore

-sale of house

-healthy pregnancy

-finding a doctor for Dorina with our new MediCal insurance

-plane tickets to Haiti this summer

-an affordable vehicle for our family to use this summer in Haiti

-continued fundraising efforts

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Relenting to Lent: A Journey Through Words

Let's be real: I've been putting off writing this post.

Several weeks ago we shared our better late than never choice to give up "negative words" for Lent. Following the lead of one my favorite authors, Shauna Niequist, we decided that Lent is not so much about giving up but offering up our broken and best selves to God.

I told my husband about my desire to give up negative words for this season before Easter. We'd been in what we fondly, gritting-our-teeth call "the crazy cycle" a few times in the last week. We were spending precious time arguing over petty things. Mind you, it wasn't the cap on the toothpaste but it might as well have been. We were letting ourselves grow impatient with each other in the day-to-day when deep down we both knew we were impatient with something much bigger: the waiting this season of life presents.

My husband, who is so much quicker to humble himself and beg forgiveness than I am, decided to jump in on my promise for Lent. He declared that he would be joining me on the journey to give up negative words. We agreed to be accountable to each other.

Ericlee is good accountability. In fact, he's great accountability. Maybe that's why he's such a respected coach and personal trainer. Say the word and he will keep you on task. I was grateful and a wee bit nervous about the days ahead.

On the first day, I really contemplated the option of keeping my mouth totally shut for the next 40-some days. Wouldn't that be easier? Just shove all the sarcastic comments and negative thoughts down and zip my lips. Well, that wasn't the point so I waded on. Not to mention that's a little bit difficult when you're raising two chatty girls and caring for one boy. Sometimes mama has got to wager in on a situation.

Ericlee reported to me on the first night that he had already failed twice that day. It was something sarcastic he said to one of his athletes that had caused him to sit down and shape up.

We agree that doing this has been a really good discipline. We actually have to think before we speak. Imagine that.

We also had to decide what "negative" words really meant - define it deep within ourselves. Own it. I've decided that giving up negative words does not mean giving up disappointment or grief. It doesn't mean I can't speak my opinion. It doesn't mean I have to see the glass as half-full all the time. It doesn't mean I neglect disciplining and training my kids. However, it does mean I need to pay attention to my tone. It does mean I have to watch how far I take a conversation. My husband has to pay attention to the way he communicates something and how it is received by others.

This all points us back to where we started - recognizing as Ann Voskamp writes that a "failed Lent is actually success." In other words, we experience just a bit of the difficult journey. We taste sacrifice. And we are humbly reminded of the heart of Easter. We are directed back to the Cross and the reason we all desperately need mercy and grace.

I hold my tongue. I pray. I breathe out new grace.