About Me

 

 The greatest thing we can do is to show up for our lives and not be ashamed.

 -Anne Lamott

 

I'm a creature of the word, learning to tell my honest story.

I offer it here because telling stories is the road back home.

Motherhood is not a biological designation
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Tuesday
May132014

Motherhood is not a biological designation; it is a position of the heart.

On Mother's Day, I had the honor of telling this story of ferocious love...

 

Tribute to Mothering from Mill City Church on Vimeo.

 

I first told this story on Mother's Day 2010, at our church in Northern Virginia, right after Michael and Hope (our best friends and the godparents of our children) met Donald.  I had to tell it without using any names because their desire to adopt was so fresh they had not even shared their thought process with family.  

So much has happened since then, and it is with great joy that I get to share a longing fulfilled...

(here is the text spoken in the video

In 2010, our closest family friends, Michael and Hope, traveled to an orphanage in Jamaica to work with children who have severe physical and mental disabilities.

A few days in, Hope fell head over heels in love with one of the orphans- a thirteen year old boy named Donald-but hesitated to say anything to her husband for fear he wont understand the intensity of her connection to someone she just met.  On a day trip without her, Michael also met Donald, and also felt a strong connection beyond his ability to explain.

A week went by.

Neither said a word.  

Then one night, as they lay down to sleep, Hope turned to Michael with tears running down her cheeks, and said simply, “I love him.”

Without needing any words to clarify what she meant or who she was referring to, Michael said, “I know. I love him too.”  

 

That was all it took. 

These two teachers in their early 20’s, two adventurers who had just finished hiking the entire Appalachian Trail, who had plans for international travel, racing bikes, getting Masters’ Degrees, two partners who had been married for a few years already but had not even considered trying to have children, decided to try and adopt Donald.

 

When Hope and Michael returned from their trip, they shared pictures, videos, and stories of Donald with us.  I’ve never seen two people come more alive than when they described his infectious laugh, his tender heart, his fighting spirit.

 

And that’s when we realized Donald has a severe form of cerebral palsy.  All four of his limbs are constricted.  He has almost no control over the muscles of his mouth and tongue.  He can’t feed himself or go to the bathroom or get dressed.  He can’t walk. He has some level of an intellectual disability as well.  Sucking on a juice box takes every ounce of energy and focus he’s got.  As a thirteen year old boy, he weighed 35 pounds; Hope could carry him like a baby, with his rigid legs hooked over the side of her forearm.   

 

Hope told us about taking Donald down a slide for the first time in his life. She scooped Donald up, carrying him up the steps, building the suspense: “Oh Donald. These are some high steps!  I don't know. This is pretty scary. I'm not sure if we're gonna make it.  Do you think we can we make it? EEEE!!!”  The whole way down Donald was laughing so hard, and when they hit bottom, Hope asked him, "Do you want to go again, Donald? Do you want to go again?"  And this precious boy, who almost never talks, who spends most days lying on a mat with only a plastic baby toy at his feet,  said, “yeah, yeah,” through his huge grin.

 

Some people might see Donald as a burden or an imposition. They would take in his contorted frame, his wheelchair bound existence, and they would only see limits.  All the ways they would have to sacrifice if they chose to love Donald.

 

Hope says Donald taught her to believe in God again.

 


Motherhood is not a biological designation; it is a position of the heart. 

 

I am reminded of something the writer Khalil Gibran said in his piece, “On Children.”
He said, “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hands be for gladness.”

 

When I first read these words, I thought of a position in yoga called "dancer." I'm going to try and show it to you so you can see what I saw.  

In "dancer," you reach behind and grab your foot, and then you stretch your opposite arm out in front of you, and as you stretch, you begin to bend. And as you bend, you end up looking like a bow. 

This is what I see when I think of motherhood.

I see woman after woman, standing in a field that stretches to the horizon line, bending. Bending like dancers.  Their faces are set like flint. Their eyes are fixed and blazing. Their intention is clear.  They are living bows. 

And they will bend until from them shoot living arrows, streaming light out into the darkness.


It is the bending that defines a mother.

 

But it hurts to bend. It’s hard to be stretched.  How do we surrender to the Archer’s hands? How do we love when the loving pulls us into pain?  

 

It took three years for Hope and Michael to adopt Donald. Three years of of endless deadlines, financial strain, this weird movement between frantic task completion and interminable waiting.  Three years where they had to defend their decision to family and friends, many of whom supported them, but some who literally interrogated them, told them they were too young, too inexperienced, too idealistic, that if they got Donald, their life would be over.

 

But one day they brought him home. And he was theirs.

And it was so beautiful.

And it was so painful.

At first, Donald wouldn't go to sleep.  He would cry until he made himself throw up. He thrashed around on the bed so hard they had to pad the entire area with pillows for fear he would bruise himself. When they fed him, he spit it out. When they went for walks, people would look at them funny. Some even came up to them and asked, "What's wrong with him?"  Some even commented on the fact this his skin color was different from their skin color.  

And they bent.

They bent beyond what they knew they were capable of.

And then one day, with great effort, Donald looked up at Hope and said, “I luh you, Muh.” 

 

I know no matter what the sacrifice, no matter what the cost, if God asked my friend, “Would you love like this again?” she would look up at Him and say, “yeah,” through her huge grin.

 

Thank you to all the women who take care of the children, no matter what you are called, no matter where they come from. 

 

Thank you for your gracious bending.

 

May it be for gladness.

 

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