Saturday, August 25, 2012

Potter's Hand

Those of you who have been reading my blog (I’m up to over 6,000 readers now) have come to know my life’s struggles.  I haven’t shared everything, but enough for people to get the sense of who I am.  As I read back on some of my own posts: Soul Drain, Stepping Stones, A Dog Named Stay, Egg Light, Wings to Fly, I’ve Used Everything You Gave Me...I’ve realized that there is a common soul thread throughout all of these stories.  It’s like an epic battle being fought between my willful nature and God’s steady nudging.  He nudges, I listen for a time and then I take it all back into my own hands again.  
Isn’t that what so many of us do?  We cry out to God in desperation and finally turn everything over to Him only to take it back again.  It reminds me of cresting waves that come crashing to shore with a vengeance and then quietly recede only to come crashing to shore again.  My life has been one cresting, crashing, receding wave after another.  It’s tiring riding the waves of uncertainty, doubt and fear.  

The night before I resigned from my job I had a dream.  In this dream I was at the “Center of Hope and Light”.  I was sitting on a swing in the middle of a room surrounded by a radiant light that filled the room with a luminous glow.  I cannot adequately describe the light but I’ve only seen it once before in a dream when I was eight years old.  That dream had a profound impact on my life as did this dream.

So, I was in this swing and I began spinning around very fast.  As I was spinning, below me was a bible.  I kept thinking to myself, “Shouldn’t I open that and read it?”  Behind me there were three women singingThe Potter’s Hand.  I started singing with them - and, amazingly, I was singing in the most beautiful voice I’ve ever heard.  

I got to the part where I was singing, “take me, mold me, use me, fill me...I give my life to the potter’s hand.  Call me, guide me, lead me, walk beside me”...Then I fell asleep in the swing.
By the time I fell asleep, the swing was spinning at such a rapid speed that I would have certainly fallen out had the three women not noticed I was asleep.  They quickly ran over to me and grabbed ahold of my foot and began shaking me awake.  

I woke up to someone shaking my foot - I thought is was Bill, but no one was there.  I had spent the previous week reading my bible and praying for God to send me a dream so I would know what I should do about my job.  I knew that this was the dream and that it was God shaking me awake.  

Whenever I read my bible, I journal and sometimes I write/draw with my non-dominant hand.  It is a way of getting in touch with my “inner child”.  

On the night that I had the dream, I got out of bed and read the prayer I wrote in my journal:  “God direct my steps through your Holy Spirit.  Give me peace that surpasses all understanding.  Guard my heart and keep me from fearing what tomorrow will bring.”  

Then I opened my journal to this drawing:

 After reading my prayer and my drawing, I knew in my heart that it was time for me to leave my job. I truly experienced peace that surpassed all understanding and I recommitted my life to the potter’s hands.  I believe that I should now put all my energy into my life's dream of having a workplace for special needs people.  I want to provide a place where they can feel loved and cherished.  I believe that God is directing me there and it's time I listened.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Stepping Stones

I recently posted a snippet entitled: “A Dog Named Stay”.  I wrote that piece when I was pondering whether or not I should stay at my job.  I was trying to convince myself that I could teach full-time without having my health suffer.  I quickly discovered, however, that it was foolish of me to stay the course and remain at my job.  I realized that, by staying at my job, I was not following God’s will for my life.  So, I resigned from my teaching position yesterday.  It is my hope that I will be able to pursue my dream of making Hallelujah Acres a reality now that I am no longer with the school board.  The letter that follows is the letter that I sent to my students.  I decided to share it on my blog because I believe that we all must look at the endings in our lives as opportunities for new beginnings. 

My Dear Young Cherubs,

It is with great sadness that I must leave you.  I have enjoyed our short time together.  It is my hope and my prayer that your new teacher will be just the person you need to help you on your life’s journey.  

This is your journey and there will be people placed in your path along the way right at the moment that you need them most - you just need to recognize when they are there.  

As you know, this learning strategies class is just a tool for you to use along the journey.  I can hand you the tool, your new teacher can hand you the tool, but it is completely up to you as to whether or not you choose to use it.  Each of you has your whole future ahead of you - what will you do with it?  

Life will throw you curve balls along the way.  I was just thrown one.  I expected to hit a home run with my new classes and my wonderful students.  I was looking forward to a great year of teaching and learning with all of you.  Yet, I quickly realized that my health was suffering greatly.  I had to admit to myself that I cannot do this job and remain healthy.  I had to make a decision that clearly will have a great impact on my life.  

One day you, too, will be faced with decisions that will greatly impact your life.  How will you face them?  Will you look upon endings as terrible tragedies or as new beginnings?  Every ending is an opportunity for a new beginning.  

This is my opportunity for a new beginning.  

I will leave you with this poem that I’ve already shared with you, but is worth repeating:

So isn’t it strange that princes and kings
And clowns (that’s me) that caper through sawdust rings
And ordinary folks like you and me;
We are all builders for eternity...
Each of us is issued a book of rules,
a shapeless mass,
and a bag of tools...
And each of us, before our life is flown, must shape either a stumbling block

Now, go build your stepping stones!

Mrs. Henderson

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Dog Named Stay

I’ve been living with a schizophrenic dog named Stay.  He’s been my constant companion.  I yell, “Come here Stay!” and he looks at me in utter bewilderment as if he doesn’t know whether to come or stay.

I usually get angry and yell even louder, “Stay I told you to come!”  

Often, stay comes when I tell him to stay and sometimes, no matter how many times I tell Stay to come, he stays.  

It is exhausting living with this dog named Stay.  At any given moment, neither he nor I know whether he is coming, going or staying.  He accompanies me wherever I go just to remind me that I don’t know whether I am coming, going or staying.  

Stay lives in my head.  I feed him well and fret over him and check on him every day throughout the day.  He takes walks with me, sleeps in my bed, and haunts my dreams.   

I think it is time for me to get rid of Stay and replace him with the Holy Spirit whose name is: Go.  Go will direct my steps.  Go will guard my heart and keep me from fearing what tomorrow will bring.  Most importantly, Go will give me peace that surpasses all understanding.  

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Captain My Captain

The story Captain My Captain was written when Paola was five-years-old.  I wrote it when we were struggling with trying to get her adopted.  At the time, it really looked as though we were going to have to take her back to Haiti and start the adoption process from there.  

What happened over the two years since I wrote “Captain My Captain” was nothing short of a miracle.  We applied for her adoption and were told that the we had a 98% percent chance of being turned down because her medical visa had expired and, even though she still needed medical care, her new visa was denied.  

We went ahead and got a lawyer and proceeded with the adoption anyway.  I wrote letters to my representatives and sought out individuals who were familiar with foreign adoptions, but they all said the same thing; “You’ll have to go to Haiti with her and get the original papers from there. Then, bring her back here.”  They told me that it could take up to two years to get the necessary paperwork.  

I was not about to take her back to Haiti even for one day let alone two years!  I prayed and prayed that God would find a way to intervene.  However, I lost my faith as the days of frustration and heartache turned into months and then years.  I felt completely alone and abandoned by God.  I yelled at Him.  I pleaded with Him.  I even cursed Him.  

Then, one day, my friend Amanda, who is not one to mince words, had a "come to Jesus" talk with me.

“Girl!” She said into the phone,  “You haven’t let go!  You keep worrying and worrying this thing to death.  You are praying all wrong!  When are you going to wake up and tell God to take over?  You know He is an ‘on time’ God!”  

After our conversation, I went to the barn (where I feel closest to God), got down on my knees and made a promise to God that I would give up fighting and would turn it all over to Him.  I told Him that I would trust Him - and, this time, I really meant it.  I walked out of the barn feeling like a bolder had been lifted off my shoulders.  I felt free and at peace with whatever was to come our way.

Shortly after I turned this mess over to God, out of the blue, a letter from the court arrived in the mail.  I opened the letter with great trepidation expecting the worst.  I assumed that it was going to be the letter giving us a date for our final hearing when they would tell us to get on the next plane to Haiti.  I opened the letter with a heavy heart and began reading.

This is what it said: “This cause coming before the court for final hearing and after reviewing the petition for adoption and evidence presented it is adjudged that the court finds that petitioners are fit and proper persons to adopt Paola D’Haiti.  Adjudged that Paola Henderson is declared to be the legal child of Alfred W. Henderson and Elizabeth B. Henderson and is given the name of Paola Henderson, by which name she shall hereafter be known.” 

Surprisingly, I didn’t faint.  I stood by my mailbox and read it over and over again.  Then, I got down on my knees and wept like a blubbering idiot.  I don’t know what my neighbors must have thought!  The emotions were completely overwhelming.  I praised God over and over again for His faithfulness in answering my prayers.  

After I calmed down, I called my lawyer and asked him how this happened.  He was as shocked as me.  He said in his 20+ years as a lawyer he never saw something like this happen.  In his own words he said it had to be a miracle because we were assigned a judge who was a stickler for following the letter of the law and our chances of him allowing the medical evidence as a reason to keep her here were slim.  It just so happened, however, that our assigned judge was away on vacation.

While he was gone, Paola’s case showed up on the desk of Judge Elizabeth Bower who was filling in for our judge.  Judge Bower reviewed our petition and signed it - just like that.  

I will never again doubt God.  Never!  He is an on time God!

Captain My Captain

“Captain Mommy, I see fresh poop!”  Paola exclaimed pulling on my shirt and excitedly pointing to the cow pie blocking our path.  

“This is Captain Mommy.”  I said into my invisible walkie-talkie in my hand, “Come in Captain Daughter.”  

Paola balled her fist and spoke into her hand, “I’m looking at fresh poop, Captain Mommy, and the cows are close by!”  

We silently tiptoed around the pile and surveyed the orange grove for any signs of cows.  In front of us was a hodgepodge of cow tracks mixed with wild boar tracks and hoof prints from the horses that frequented the orange grove.  

“Which way did they go, Private First Class Daughter?”  I asked as we puzzled over the tracks.

“We need a snack.”  Paola responded, “So that we can be strong enough to track the cows.”  

We found a perfect orange tree with lots of juicy ripe oranges at the top.  I climbed to the top of the tree and shook off the ripest oranges.  Paola gathered them from the ground and we perched ourselves on a fallen limb. I peeled oranges while Paola scoured our surroundings for signs of the cows.  

“Captain Mommy?  When I’m adopted will I be white?”  The question took me completely off guard.  

“God made you black.”  I replied.  “You are a beautiful black child and even though you are a different color than me, I’m still your mommy.”  

She pondered this for a minute.  “How can you be my mommy?”  

“Because God gave you to me so I can take care of you and love you. He knew you needed a mommy.”  

Paola reached out her sticky, orange stained hands and gave me a big sloppy hug.  “I love you, Captain Mommy!”  

“I love you, Private First Class Daughter.”  I replied as I wrapped her in my sticky arms.

Captain Mommy, Captain Mommy, Captain Mommy...Her words played over and over in my head as I held her close.  

Captain Mommy is supposed to be in control of the ship and keep the passengers safe, right?  Captains don't abandon ship when it's sinking, do they?  Captains know what to do when the ship is being tossed to a fro in a storm.  They reassure and they calm the people entrusted in their care.  They keep the boat afloat.  

Right now, Captain Mommy is trying very hard to keep the boat afloat, but I am worried because we are in a category 5 storm.  This storm threatens to take my little girl away from me.  This storm could shipwreck our family in one fail swoop.  This storm scares me because I know that, if Paola doesn’t get the medical care she needs, she could get a life-threatening infection.  I know that if she doesn’t get adopted, the medical care will be put on hold indefinitely.  I know that if we can’t adopt her, she could be sent back to Haiti.  I know that I need all the help I can get and the help doesn’t seem to be out there.

Captains have shipmates to assist them in storms.  Where are my deck hands?  Where are the people lining up to help us through this storm?  I listened to a song today: Just Give Me Jesus.  You know what I wish?  I wish I had the faith to believe that Jesus is going to see me through this.  But, I've got to tell you that my faith is waning.  I'm scared.  I'm scared for Paola and for our family. 

I love her.  I love her as much as if I gave birth to her.  If she goes to Haiti or to see doctors in Seattle, I'll be with her.  Wherever she goes, I’ll go with her.  Every night Paola says to me, "I love you this much" and she holds her arms as wide as she can.  Every night I tell her the same and I hold my arms as wide as I can.  However, my arms don't stretch far enough to express how much I love her.   Only a mother knows the depth of a mother's love.   Sometimes that love can wrench our hearts.  Sometimes even mothers need an ear and shoulder to cry on.  This mother needs God to open doors for us and I need the faith to believe He will.   And, what Captain Mommy really needs right now is all hands on deck.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Loved and Lost

When I was a foster parent people would always say to me, “I couldn’t do that because it would break my heart to let them go.”  Or, they’d ask me, “How do you love a child for so long and then send them away?”  I never had a good answer except to say that I loved them as much as I could for whatever time that God placed them in our care.  It never occurred to me to “not” be a foster parent to protect my heart from being broken.  I couldn’t imagine living a “protected heart” life.  
How does someone go through life so afraid of losing a piece of their heart that they never share it?  It’s almost an oxymoron to guard one’s heart because by guarding it, you are ultimately starving it.  To never have loved and lost is so much sadder than having loved and lost, because in loving and losing, our hearts become stronger and more compassionate.  
My friend was just here visiting me after having to put both her dogs to sleep on the same day.  She loved those dogs - even had them groomed the day they were put down.  Of course, she didn’t know that she was going to have to put them to sleep when she was getting them groomed.  They had a vet appointment right after the groomer’s appointment and the vet did not have good news for her two old dogs.  She had to make the terrible decision to let them both go together as they grew up together and were never apart from each other.  Would my friend have been better off to never have loved those dogs in the first place?  Of course not!  We even had a good laugh/cry over the fact that they got all gussied up to meet Jesus.  
Loving is risky business.  I loved all my foster kids.  I stood in courtrooms begging for their lives, wiped their tears when they had to leave, cried myself to sleep so many nights, prayed and prayed and prayed for all of them and their parents...but I wouldn’t change a thing.  I know that my own children learned how to love others and sacrifice and let go.  I know my own children had their hearts broken too, but they are better people having experienced that.  
I don’t want to live in a pristine, protected world because I would feel like I didn’t live at all.  Fifty-three foster children have passed through our lives.  Some stayed for a few days; some a few years and two were adopted into our “forever family”.  Well, they really were all a part of our forever family because each of them etched a piece of themselves into our family’s heart.  
I wrote a book about my foster children.  I titled it, “Melody of My Heartstrings”.  I believe it is the perfect title as it says it all - these children added the melody to my heartstrings.  Sometimes at night, when I cannot sleep, I hear the melody and it reminds me to pray for their comfort and safety.  I picture them as I remember them; climbing trees, whispering to horses, swimming in the pool, singing bedtime brings comfort to my soul.
Tony told great stories. Jessie laughed all the time.  Jessica was a great dancer.  JJ had an amazing smile. Nurjahan had a unbreakable spirit. Christine was our lost soul who found her way back. Tasha loved to cook for the family. Nancy baked amazing bread.  Jeremy brought me flowers every day without fail.  Ben, Olivia, Sam, Gary, Daniel, James, Hollee...I cannot remember all of them now.  I just hope that they all remember that somewhere along their life’s journey someone risked breaking their own heart to love them.