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Saturday, November 26, 2011

left with his name...

I just got back from Thanksgiving 5 pounds heavier physically, 50 pounds heavier emotionally.

Here's why.

My wife's sister has weathered a horrific turn of events in her marriage over the course of the last 6 months which has left her doing the lion-share of holding her children together as well as herself. Just seeing the collateral damage of a broken marriage firsthand was sobering.

I think the thing that just tore me up was walking up the sidewalk toward their front steps and seeing "The Terpstra's" chiseled into a rock off the left side of the entry way. I don't know why, but it just didn't sit right inside me.

How can a man court a woman, take her from her father & mother & sister & brother, ask her to take on his name, and then leave her? She is now Angela "Terpstra" and her children are "Terpstra's". Her home is covered with pictures and memorabilia with that mark of identity written on checks and documents and household furnishings, and the one who asked everyone to take on his name isn't even there. They are left with his name--in many ways bound to it--and he is off spending the holidays with another woman living another life. Something is wrong with this picture.

How dare a man invite a woman into a life whereby she leaves her name behind and assumes his identity as her own only to strand her with an "empty word"? It's not a name anymore, it's a word. I remember hearing someone say, "Your name is all you have." It is your honor, your mark of truth and trust. When you lose your name, you lose everything. All you are left with is a word, an empty, sad, vacuous collection of letters.

It's not just the woman either, the children bear that name as well. They have to sign it on their school papers and say it when called upon in class. They have to see it on the back of their uniforms when they head out on the field and hear it spoken over the loud speakers after they make a tackle on Friday night. The boys will meet someone someday and pass that name along to her. The power of a name is everlasting, you can't just move on and assume another name if you're a son. That's with you for life. There's no getting away from that name, that backstory. It's part of your heritage, your hermitage.

I watched my nephews and my niece wrestle between innocent childhood and premature adulthood in unpredictable waves of rest & restlessness. One moment they would be lost in joy and the next minute their eyes would be sunken in with sorrow. One minute they would be laughing from their gut and the next minute they would be in their room crying from the absence of their father. It was forcing them to endure something they didn't have the scaffolding to emotionally support. What do you do with that?

This name loomed over us the whole weekend. This name was attached to everything touched and talked about. This name is forever etched into our hearts like that welcome rock next to the front porch. It reminds you of days gone by and days yet to come. It taunts you to anger and haunts you with sorrow. It won't leave you be, letting you get on with the beauty of life because, for now, it's the most present/absent thing about reality.

So I'll say it again, if you're a man and you ask a woman to leave her name and take on yours, if you plan on asking her to leave everything she's ever known to come under the banner of your identity, if you want to create offspring that forever are stamped with your signature for the remainder of their days, and if you want to etch your "John Hancock" in the immovable rock of your family's heart, please understand the gravity of your every move, your every motivation, your every moment. All those under your name are counting on your nobility. Their reputation is bound to your next decision. Clave to your character.

When a name becomes a byword, you're never closer to hell in this life.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Adoption thoughts continued...

My wonderments this morning concern the details of where my boys are today and who is with them.

When most people are preparing to parent children, they have 9 months to watch them grow prior to their arrival. You know where they are, safe and sound within nest of their mother's uterus. They are floating there suspended almost weightlessly in amniotic bliss, the water-like fluid that originates from the maternal plasma, and passes through the fetal membranes by osmotic and hydostatic forces. You don't have to worry where they are and whose care they are under, that is self-evident.

You get months to sing through stomach tissue to the little one, wooing them to the other side playfully and tenderly. You get to feel them kick and twist and turn fighting the cramped living space. You get to prepare your home with a nesting instinct in that miserable last trimester. With every month, the child makes itself more known crowding into your bed with you making it more and more uncomfortable to enjoy natural instincts like breathing, sleep and sex. This third party or third wheel goes with you everywhere, and yet, still hasn't arrived in the truest sense of the word. You are given an intermediate time of test driving the vehicle that will forever change your reality.

But I think the most overlooked beauty of this 9-month orientation is the knowledge of the child's location and watch-care. You know where they are and who they're with. You know how they're being treated and what they're being fed. You can take neonatal pills to ensure health and vitality. You can obey "inordinate cravings" for pickles and peanut butter and chocolate ice cream when the child's cravings cry out for something in particular. You don't have to worry about whether the child is being neglected or malnourished or mistreated. You don't have to think about whether he or she has being given physical affection or verbal communication. You don't have to wonder about the sleeping arrangements or whether they are clothed and sheltered from the elements. You don't have to obsess about "separation anxiety", your own or the child's. There is no separation, only anxiety.

That is why today I am thinking about what orphanage they are at and who their caretakers are. I am thinking about whether they are being held and talked to, nurtured and nourished. I wonder about their diet and whether they are getting enough milk for their teeny tiny immune systems. I wonder about how they are getting along with the other orphans crammed in some undersized living space. Are they being kept up at night with incessant crying; are they being given medicine for ruptured eardrums; are they being rocked back to sleep when they get spooked by a sudden sound? Who is checking in on them periodically to see if they are gaining weight or getting sickly? Who cares about them as more than a number in an institution? Do their caretakers understand that it's my son they are rocking to sleep? Do they understand that every touch of hand and tone of voice makes all the difference in the world to their development? Do they know that I'm counting on them to treat my boys with dignity and delicacy? I hope that God speaks that into their conscience today for me. I counting on Him to do that, in fact.

That's what I'm thinking about this morning. The first three children my wife and I brought into this world, we had the peace of knowing that they were always in our presence, always in our protective care. We had the constant reminder of their presence as my wife's belly expanded to make room for their intrusion. We were able to slowly adapt our lives to ready ourselves for their "grand entrance". We knew that if something went wrong, we were there, we were responsible, we were the primal and primary parents. But this time, none of these calming characteristics accompany the arrival of our boys.

We have to entrust all of these innate instincts to someone else, somewhere else. Someone we don't know living somewhere we've never been. This is unnatural.

We are counting on God to be the womb and woman. We are counting on him to be the nurse and the neonatal pills. We are counting on him to be the tender touch and the soothing voice. We are counting on him to be the father and the shelter, the milk and the marrow. We are entrusting our little boys to the watch care of their creator, the maker and sustainer of all living things, the one who holds all things together.

Hold our boys today, Father. Hold them together. Hold them for me and my wife. We can't right now, but you can.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Adoption...just around the corner.

I've been thinking more about our upcoming adoption lately. That's probably because all the paperwork is done and we're simply waiting by the phone for a referral. It's like waiting for water to boil. The more fixated on it you are, the more it seems to slow down the process.

Over the past month we've settled on adopting 2 boys. One will be under the age of 18 months and the other under the age of 3. We are hoping they are siblings, but that's not a prerequisite. We're adopting from Ethiopia, which is uber exciting to daydream about. I find myself lost in thought sometimes wondering what they look like and what they are doing right now.

Are they born yet? Will they be twins? Will they be tall and skinny, or short and plump? Are they being taken care of right now, or are the malnourished and abandoned waiting for someone to rescue them?

What will it be like to have sons? I'm so used to daughters, I don't have a clue as to how to raise a scrapping young boy. Will they bond to us quickly, or will there be a season of trauma that makes the chemistry difficult? What will it be like to be transported back to the infant stage of diapers and eye infections? What toll will sleeplessness take on us that feels different than our 20's? How will sleeping arrangements work out with 5 children and 3 bedrooms? Will they be circumcised? hehe.

Will my heart connect with them and see them as my own, or will that adjustment take days, months, or even years? Will I kiss them the same way I kiss my daughters and snuggle with them, or will they be standoffish and awkward? If they don't take to our family, will I have the perseverance to treat them the same, or will it lead to insecurity that makes me squirrelly. How will it effect my relationship with my daughters? Will it enhance it or threaten it? Will their excitement wear off quickly, or will their desire for this adoption have staying power?

How will this effect our finances? Will we be stretched to the point of stress? Will God come through when we're out on the limb of faith? What things will we have to do without that we currently enjoy? Will we even notice the ways we're cutting back or will the loss of those amenities be felt?

Will these boys grow to love their lives or will they increasingly struggle with their checkered past and what led them down this detour? Will they see me as their dad, or will I always sort of be the white guy that took them in and fed them and provided for them? Will they want to be like me, or will they wish they could meet their biological father wondering about his whereabouts and features and backstory? Will these boys feel like they are one with our family, or will the color of their skin always remind them that they are outsiders? Even if we pound it into their heads, will they believe us? Will they?

Will our community accept them and welcome them in? Will they find friends at church and school that treat them so normally and naturally that they are unaware of their differences? Will it feel at home in Lowell? Will they like the things I like? Will they be artistic? Will they be athletic? With they love learning? Will they love the outdoors? Will they be outgoing or introspective? Will their unique personalities fit into the dynamic of our current family spirit?

My mind is filled with thousands upon thousands of questions like these. It's racing with excitement and trepidation. It should be, it's about ready to get rocked with the reality of 2 new little Holdridge boys being added to the litter.

May the Lord watch over those two youngin's today wherever they may be and may he prepare our home to be the perfect place for their little hearts to grow and thrive.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

thankful...

It is the week before Thanksgiving, and for some reason I feel the need to write out some of the blessings around me that I'm grateful for. I spend a good deal of time bemoaning the bad, I think it's about time I affirm the good.

Here is just a sampling of the myriad of blessings that surround me.

my faithful and beautiful wife.
my fierce and feminine daughters
my idyllic house set back in the woods
my rusty ole' car with the bald tires
my great job as a pastor
my awesome church family
my little town of Lowell
my health and strength
my gifts and abilities
my mind and heart
my friends who care for me
my books and my writings
my guitar
my steadfast parents
my loving siblings
my extraordinary in-laws
my pillow top mattress
my HD flat screen television
my new Tommy Hilfiger underwear
my early morning coffee from Ella's
my staff at Impact who go above and beyond
my freedom to be myself
my goofy scooter
my band of brothers on Wed. mornings
my Mac
my blog
my heritage
my relationship with Jesus and His kingdom
my salvation.

I have so much to be thankful for.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

908 bottles of wine...

It's so easy to read the Bible and not really read it.

For me I graze on the text and glaze over certain concepts or contexts unaware of their true interpretation and, thus, their true implication. I was reading a book recently that was retelling the amazing first miracle of Jesus, the turning of water into wine.

As I was following the familiar storyline, something the author pointed out just about knocked me over. He stated that each of the containers of wine contained nearly 30 gallons each and so when Jesus made the "great conversion", he supplied the wedding scene with approximately 908 bottles of wine. This would be several pallets of wine being delivered at the loading dock out back. Shocking and scandalous!

I don't know why this struck me so deeply, but I found myself wondering how many times something is happening in the Scripture and I'm standing afar struggling to really comprehend what is actually happening in the story. I wonder how many little nuggets like this I've driven by over the years that touch something "truer to life" inside of me. It was a great story before, don't get me wrong, but I felt I was missing a couple things that made it striking. Almost like watching a movie without the sound. The idea of 908 bottles of wine being produced by the Son of God at a party just messes with your idea of Jesus.

I need my idea of Jesus messed with on occasion. I think I've read all there is to read and know all there to know. I feel like I've traced him out and have him outlined. I can anticipate his next move, like completing my wife's sentences. I know him like the back of my hand. This is all, of course, bunk. It's just not true. But I get to believing it's so.

It was this little nuance at the wedding of Cana that caused pause inside me and asked me to look again. To double-take. Maybe I haven't cracked the code, maybe my best days are ahead of me and that God is wanting, now, to unlock little pockets of truth, like a locket with a hidden picture. Maybe my best days of reading the Bible are yet to come. This is exciting.

Who would have thought the number 908 could make such a difference?

I wonder if you think Jesus stingy and stuffy and I wonder if the idea of him backing up an 18-wheeler and dropping off 4 pallets of wine does anything for your heart? I know it messed with my constructs and categories. Beautifully so.