Thursday, July 12, 2012

Lost Message in a Bottle

I've always been bad about not proofing my, I just noticed that message in a bottle #2 didn't show up in the post.  And the formatting was off in message #1.  Sorry about that.  Here's #2:

Love trusts
                that I’m your biggest fan.
                that I’ve got your back.
                that I’m yours.
Love trusts
                that I’ll tell you the truth
                                even when I don’t want to
                                even when it hurts you
                                even when it humiliates me.
Love trusts
                that I meant those vows
                                on that perfect day when I was 23,
                that I mean those vows
                                on this ordinary day when I’m 30,
                that I will mean those vows
                                every day for the rest of our lives.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

More Messages in a Bottle

Love hopes
                that being 56 will be as good as 16.
                that the stormy seasons will pass
                                and the stifling, humid ones
                                and the frigid, silent ones, too.
                that our relationship will adapt
                                as you change
                                as I change
                                as our kids grow up
                                as our parents grow old.
                that we’ll see more of the world together.
                that we’ll see more of God together.
                that we’ll see more of our Creator in one another.
                that we’ll be better when we’re older.

The messages
Love perseveres
                when coming home is hard.
                when giving up seems easy.
                when sleeping single sounds serene.
Love perseveres
                when we’re not “us.”
                when I’m nothing like the girl you fell for
                        or the one you married
or the one you dated last week.
We persevered
                when families interfered.
                when miles separated us.
                when God changed us.
                when we were broke.
                when I was broken.
                when we dreamed different dreams.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Messages in a Bottle

When I leave on mission trips, I am keenly aware of how much harder I'm making things on my family.  I'm no supermom or superwife, but I do function within our family in ways that matter.  I try to do more middle of the night, bathtime, and bedtime duty before I leave.  I try to come home and pitch in more than my fair share, even though I'm exhausted from a week of little sleep, because my husband is also exhausted from a week of little sleep.

I leave gifts.  This year, my son got a small gift each day--think dollar bins at Target.  My daughter got some small gifts and the video I mentioned in a previous post.

This year, my husband received four messages in a bottle.  He's a words of affirmation guy, and there are boxes at our house full of affirming and loving words I've written him over the last 15 years.  But, I wanted to try something different.  So, I wrote poems.  I wrote poems to a guy who doesn't always like my poems, and I wrote my first ever love poems.  Here are the first two:

the bottle
Love protects us
from our sin
our doubts
Love protects us
from things that go bump in the night.

from statistics about children of divorced parents.
                from cerebral whispers, “You’re not good enough.”
I will charge the cavalry
                on foot
                to protect you
                and your dreams
                and your ideals
                and your ego.
Love always protects.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Mission Trip--My Experience

The teenagers and I walked back to the carport.  They got back on the roof, shaken up and disturbed.  I sat at the bottom of the ladder an absolute wreck.
How does someone leave kids—kids the ages of MY kids—at home, alone?!  Who even thinks that’s an option?!  I know how challenging, frustrating, and exasperating it can be.  I also know that leaving them to fend for themselves is not an option—ever, under any circumstances.
While I stood at the bottom of that ladder, my heart breaking , I received a text message from my husband.  My 18-month-old little girl was giddy over the video she was watching.  Before I had left town, I had filmed myself reading her favorite books and singing Itsy Bitsy Spider and Wheels on the Bus.  My baby girl was watching the video in the safety of her daddy’s lap in our comfortable home, and saying, “Again!  Again!” with a smile on her face.
Hearing that my kids were happy and safe in that moment was just perfect.  Realizing that the kids I’d just met didn’t have a daddy to hold them, a comfortable home to sit in, a mom who would/could take care of them was too much to bear.
It’s not fair.  It’s not fair that my baby girl was watching her mom sing to her on a video while that baby boy was left to fend for himself wearing only a diaper in a housing project in a community known as “Crackville.”  He’s learning now that no one can be trusted.  Permanent damage has already been done to his emotional development—damage that almost guarantees a troubled adult life—if he makes it that far.
We sing to God, “break my heart for what breaks yours.”  As I’ve ranted about before, when we sing to God, we’d better mean our words.  I mean it.  I mean for God to break my heart for what breaks his.  And it hurts.  And it wrecks me.  And the huge, white, sad eyes in that baby boy’s coal black face haunt me.  And I know it’s God breaking my heart for what breaks his.  And it’s awful, and it’s necessary.  I don’t know quite what to do with it, except to open my heart to be broken.
That night we sang a familiar song in worship.  It’s the only time I was emotionally impacted by the worship that week:
As I sang “Our God is healer,” I begged God to heal those kids of the abandonment, neglect, and injustice they’ve already suffered.
As I sang “Awesome in  power Our God,” I begged God to intervene in his power, to undo the emotional damage that’s already been done, to break through the chains of poverty and injustice that tie down these kids before they ever even have a chance.
As I sang “into the darkness you shine,” I begged for God to shine into the darkness of that housing project.
As I sang “out of the ashes we rise,” I prayed that God would raise up those kids out of the dead lives they live now and that await them.

Mission Trip--The Story

A week ago today, most of my job crew on the mission trip was finishing the roof of the carport we built.  So that as many teenagers could get on the roof as possible, I took myself off the roof.  I hung out at the top of the ladder, relaying messages, water bottles, tape measures, and chalk lines.  Through the repeated hits of seven hammers, I could hear moaning or wailing.  I looked around, unable to identify the sound’s origin.  I kept hearing it.  Finally, I spotted her.
At the housing project diagonally across the street, she stood on the front stoop crying.  She was small, preschool age, and I know from lots of personal experience that crying and preschoolers often go together.  I watched, waiting for a mom or childcare giver to appear.  I kept watching.  I thought maybe the mom had put the daughter on the front stoop as a timeout of sorts. 
Then the teenagers on the roof noticed the crying between their hammer whacks.  “Angie, can we go over there?  You said on Tuesday we should play with the kids in the projects.”
“Let’s wait a minute and see if an adult shows up.”
Another teenager, “Angie, let’s go.  You said we could go over there.”
“I know.  I know.  I’m just trying to get an idea of the situation before we walk over there uninvited.”
We waited.  We watched. 
I listened to the wailing and crying until my heart ached.  I know what it’s like to hear crying non-stop, to get frustrated, to be pushed to my limits.  But this cry didn’t sound like fussing.  It was sad and lonely and crushing to hear.  I listened until my heart was breaking, and my anger was burning simultaneously.
Enough is enough.  Why has no adult appeared to console or comfort or even fuss at this little girl?!
Then I saw him.
Naked except for a blue diaper.  Crying, hiding behind his older sister.
 I got three students off the roof, and we took off toward that housing project with determination, fire, and righteous indignation.  (An adult male on our crew decided it’d be best if he followed, which was smart.)
As we walked toward them, the kids went door to door in their building, begging for anyone to open the door.  No one did.
Anna sitting under our carport.  Kids' home in the background.
We caught up with them two doors down from their home.  I sat on the stoop and cleaned their faces with my bandana.  The girl hid her face with her arms.  The boy stared at us with the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen on a baby.

The girl is probably four.  The boy is probably close to 18 months.  The same ages as my kids.
We got the girl to smile after some peek-a-boo.  The boy just stared.
A woman across the street approached us.  I explained we had heard the kids crying and were just trying to help.  She assured us we were okay.  Then she stormed over to the kids’ home and banged on the door.  When no one answered, she let herself in the open apartment, searched through the house and came out, “She left.  Their mother left!  There’s no one there.  That’s it!  I pulled that boy out of the road yesterday when he was unattended, and now this.  I’m calling for help.”
While she called to report child neglect, the man with her called the police.  And I sang.
I sang the preschool songs I sing with my kids everyday:  Itsy Bitsy Spider, Wheels on the Bus, etc.
I touched them gently and told them that they were beautiful and that they were good.  I felt the urgency to lavish on them as much love as I could in a short amount of time, doubtful of how much love they received.
Then a woman claiming to be their aunt stormed onto the scene, yelling for the girl to come back to the apartment.  She started crying again, looked at me hopelessly, and obediently went home. 
The woman yelled at the boy to come.  For the first time, he moved.  He shuffled his bare feet toward me, making eye contact and slightly shaking his head “no,” before dropping his head.  The woman came and took him, and he started crying again, too.
Social workers didn't show up.  The police drove by, and the man who called stopped them and talked to them.  But they never got out of the car, never checked on the kids.