The Secret To an Extraordinary Life? Say Yes

How often do you say Yes to an opportunity to love?

I've been reading the the archives at Katie's blog and I had a thought. (I never read through archives by the way. I've not got the time. But in her case I wanted to see the start of the story, how did she get to where she is now with all of those children and the sponsorship program and the many kids she feeds and pays for school for?)

Last night I read the story of how she first came to be the mother of 3 little girls at age 19. She started out just taking care of them because the wall of their house fell in one night on top of one of the girls, their mother was recently dead, and they had no where to live. She started out just making sure the injured girl had medical care and food, and that the little ones had a place to stay. She ended up, the next day, signing guardianship papers. Here's the thing, she didn't say no. It wasn't what she expected, it took her completely by surprise, but she didn't say no. As I read her story that's the consistent element in it, when something else comes her way, another need, another person to love, she says yes.

That got me thinking about other people I admire. I found the same theme. They said yes, when they could have said no. Mother Theresa saw a person dying on the street and she said "Yes, I will take care of him." That wasn't the first and by far not the last yes she ever said. She said it over and over again.

Do you know about Jackie Pullinger-To, founder of St. Stephens Society in Hong Kong? Every year they take in thousands of heroin addicts of the street and get them clean and change their lives. When she was 18 God told her to get on a ship and travel until He said get off, and it was Hong Kong. She said yes. And she said yes again to every heroin addicted boy who crossed her path, in spite of a lot of trouble, and incentive to quit.

Pauline Fell started Jacob's Well in downtown Vancouver when she was 60!
In 1976, at the age of 60, a woman by the name of Pauline Fell began walking the streets in the downtown eastside of Vancouver. Although she was a new Christian she asked God what He wanted her to do with her life, and felt His prompting to befriend people in the neighbourhood. For the next 25 years, almost every day, she faithfully walked the streets and alleys, visited the bars, prisons, local hospitals and hotels where her many friends could be found. She is known to many as “sister” or “mom” and virtually everyone in the downtown eastside respects this elderly woman. She has shown deep and profound love for the people who live here.
She said "yes".

Mary, mother of Jesus. "May it be unto me as you have said." She said yes.

Elizabeth Elliot and her friends, when asked if they would come and live with and teach the tribe that killed their husbands because they wanted to know why the men hadn't defended themselves with the guns they carried said, "Yes." Imagine that. The Auca tribe is completely different as a result of that journey.

Would you say yes? Do you?

Do I?

Do you want to live an extraordinary life? Do you want to have a story worth listening to? Say yes.

Do you say yes every time God sends you someone to love, some way to help relieve suffering, or show compassion? Or do you say "No, I don't want to do that." or, "I can't do that."

I am convinced that no one begins their journey knowing how to do what they end up doing, or even where they will end up. I am convinced that saying yes, rather than no, will lead to a much fuller richer life that will be a blessing to others. After all the first step is always simple. It often doesn't look like it leads anywhere important at all. Or if it does it looks frightening. But it's always simple. Just sign a piece of paper. Just stop and smile at the person you want to ignore. Focus on the next thing, which I promise will be within your power to accomplish, and trust that you will find the strength to finish, one step, one yes, at a time.

I can say that 2 years ago I never dreamed I would be a founder, director and administrator of a non-profit that kept 35 kids alive and in school next year with plans to do much more than that this year. I for sure didn't know how. (I'm still not sure I really know how, but something seems to be working alright.) But there was this need, and no one else to fill it, so here I am.

I didn't imagine 8 years ago that I would ever be an experienced mother, or considered wise on the subject by anyone. (That still surprises me when someone says that.) But here I am, one step at a time, one yes at a time later, doing what needs to be done more often than what I'd like to do, and I'm getting there.

I want to be able to look back on my life and know I've said "Yes" every time. Don't you? I think it's the people who say yes that will change the world.


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I had an ultrasound yesterday, the first I've ever had actually, except in the middle of the miscarriage. There is a baby in here, alive and kicking and doing back flips.

I ended up going to the crisis pregnancy care center. See, we haven't figured out insurance yet for this baby, and I could go and see my midwife but she doesn't do ultrasounds, she has to send me somewhere else to do that anyway, which is expensive. Also, I'm not sure we can afford her this time around. I remembered her saying once that they did free ultrasounds at the pregnancy care center so I called them and they said to come on in.

I have NEVER had such a positive experience in all my time spent in prenatal care and consults. I have walked and fund raised for them in the past but I had no idea just how wonderful the women in that office are. They weren't just there to do a job, they genuinely cared about me, my family, and my baby. It was really amazing to be treated like a person, to be seen and heard. I'm used to a really high standard too. I've always preferred midwives because they spend time getting to know me and their care is personal. This was even better. I felt loved.

They hooked me up with information for stuff I didn't even know we qualified for. I mean, I don't feel like we're poor, but thanks to being a family of 6 now we qualify for mediCal and all sorts of other things that I actually feel a little awkward applying for because I'm sure there are people who need it more than we do. We'll see.

I came home with an image of my healthy baby, a gift of tiny little yellow socks and as much information as I could wish to have.

I was a supporter of pregnancy care centers before. I have now turned into a rabid fan!

I'm so thankful that yesterday went the way it did.


Last night my head was hurting so Aaron asked Little if she thought he should kiss it better. She nodded and said, "Yah."

He proceeded to give me a very wet and sloppy open mouthed kiss.

"No daddy, that not a kiss."

"Oh really, what is it then."

She laughed, "I don't know!"


One Thousand Gifts-Week 43

holy experience

For a while now I've been struggling with the thought, reality, that this pregnancy may end in a miscarriage too. Part of it is because I feel exactly the same as I did last time when I miscarried. Yet there is nothing to do but go on, until I know one way or another what is happening. I've faced fully the possibility that this child inside of me could already be dead, gone forever without me even knowing. I've wept and prayed and hoped I am wrong. I still don't know. I hope to find out this week.

Surprisingly, a blog post by a 21 year old girl named Katie, who lives in Uganda, has adopted 13 children there, started a school and feeding program for several thousand more and goes into dirt poor villages to bring food and medical care every week, helped me more than anything else. (Sound warning, if you click through) It's surprising because in it she is angry. She is angry that the boy she brought home from the village has white hair because his step mother doesn't feed him and he's severely malnourished. She vomits after cleaning the jiggers out of his little feet. She's angry about an 8 month old baby girl, who's mother wasn't nursing her because she thought she had aids, weighing only 10 pounds and pooping parasites the size of earth worms. She's angry at a world where so many claim to follow Jesus yet so few do anything to help these children. Even after caring for these children and saving them from death, there is no guarantee that when she takes them back to their families the exact same thing won't start all over again. In fact, it probably will. But then she ends with this paragraph, and it's stuck with me ever since.
My anger is gone and I am just a mom who is tired and going to make another bottle and tuck her children into bed and love them the best that I can, as we as a family love the ones God has entrusted us with. Tomorrow I will brainstorm and pray and come up with the best way to take Michael and Patricia back to their homes, possibly find their parents jobs, or supply them with food and medicine. Tomorrow I will remember that they were never mine to begin with, that they are HIS and He will go with them where I cannot.
The job is only to love as well as I can, for as long as I am given. These babies, these children I have borne, "were never mine to begin with, they are HIS and HE will go with them where I cannot." I just have to love them as well as I can, while I can. The rest is out of my hands and, as far as is possible, I am at peace with that now.

There are still gifts to be found, gleaned perhaps in the harder times when I need to look more carefully to find them, but they are all around nonetheless.
  • A day to just sit around by myself and read or sleep or do whatever.

  • hugs and kisses from my boy. They never get old.

  • Little making up songs in the back of the car.

  • The Boy made me tea.

  • Hugs from good friends who understand.

  • My little sister-in-law may be the sweetest girl ever.

  • The Girl's crazy what if scenarios and the way she belly laughs when telling them.

  • Falling asleep with the GH curled up next to me.

  • Long sleepy chats after the day is all done.

  • A talk with my sister.

  • A birthday card from my grandma, with her hand drawn pink hearts and letter on the inside.

  • Girls splashing around outside in the pouring rain, having a blast.

  • Little lovingly adorning my hand and fingers with stickers.

  • Extended family to watch children and help with transportation when there are multiple appointments in a week. As in, drive to my house and watch my kids while I take their car somewhere.
The gratitude community is here.


My kid's dentist wants to know this. Maybe you do too.

"What did you feed her mommy?"  The dentist was peering over her blue mask and the supine form of my 3 year old, reclined in the chair, staring at Dora on the ceiling.

From my perch a safe two feet outside the room, out of reach of fetus endangering nitrous gas I wondered what she was talking about. Did she need to know in case Little vomited? Was she going to need general anesthetic? I hadn't approved that had I?

"Uh, muesli." I said.

"Oh no, I think you gave her something else. She is so good. I have never had a patient this good. She's staying so still. We will have to give her lots of stickers when we're finished. I didn't think she would do this well."

OH! She's joking. Phew. We were in there to get a filling that may be too close to a nerve and result in a baby root canal and cap so you'll understand why I was nervous. (She didn't need the root canal after all. It was a cavity they spotted almost a year ago but waited until now to work on because she was too little to sit still before.) The silent office, normally bustling, was testament to the dentist's nervousness at the response of one so young. Little was her only patient right now. She had expected some difficulty. She wanted to knock her out for the procedure but we thought it too risky.

"When I figure out the secret I'll let you know," I told her.

"You should write a book about it if you figure it out," she said. "All your kids are so good."

Now, by good, she obviously means they sit still in the chair without crying or screaming. I didn't believe her at first. When the Boy was in there the first time she came out after, removed her mask and said, "He did so well. He was really good."

I responded, "Well, you have shows for them to watch, and prizes after, and you don't let them see all the sharp implements you are sticking in their mouth, and you talk them through it and you give them fruit scented nitrous to help them relax. How could they be anything but good?"

I think the staff at our dentist's office are really excellent at what they do.

"Oh, you'd be surprised." she responded. "Trust me, most kids are not so easy to work with."

Several check ups later and I began to understand what she meant. I heard many children screaming in the chair during a routine check up. There is a lot of crying that goes on behind that waiting room door.

The morning I took in Little a girl just a bit older than her threw a fit during a routine checkup. They waited to take Little back until she was gone because they didn't want her to get upset before they started work.

So, I've been giving it some thought. Is there something that we do that makes the dentist easier for our kids, with their different personalities and ages?

Here are my guesses.
  1. It starts with good parenting. By that I mean, it starts with having a relationship with your children that teaches them they can trust you. It means teaching children to obey and have self control. It means that they know that we always do things with their best interests in mind. It means that we talk to them and teach them and help to understand as much as they can given their age. Basic, really.
  2. We don't project our feelings onto our kids. Even if I am fearful of the work my child is getting done they will never know it. I project confidence that they will be fine, both in what is being done to them and how they will behave. I am always calm and reassuring in the office, explaining and anticipating to keep them from feeling nervous. (The staff are excellent at this too, so it's easy for me.)
  3. We prepare them in advance for what will happen, and I tell them what is expected of them. On the way to the dentist last week Little asked from the back seat, "Where are we going again mommy?" "To the dentist." I replied. "Oh, why do I haf to go back der." "Because you have a hole in your tooth. It doesn't hurt now but if we leave it it may hurt a lot so the dentist is going to clean it and then fill up the hole so that it won't hurt you. She's going to be very careful to do a good job, so it will take a while. You will have to stay very still while she works on your mouth. But you will get to watch a show while she is working to help you stay still. So you will be able to do it, because you're a big girl now." "I will mommy, I will stay vewy still for the dentist to work on me." That was the last of several similar conversations. Every time she asked I answered with confidence and as much information as I thought she needed.
  4. We don't ever mention needles, or fear, or drills. They have no idea what actually happens in their mouth, and they trust us enough that they are content with what we do tell them.  Fear isn't really an option we allow them. Homeschooling gives us an advantage in this area. They avoid schoolyard horror stories. Should it ever come up I will tell them that it has already happened to them and they were fine, so there's nothing to fear.
  5. We really praise them for doing a good job after. "You sat so still! You really helped the dentist to do her job by staying still for her! Good job!"
I don't know for certain, but I'm pretty sure those things help a lot. There's also the part where they watch shows less often than a lot of children, so it seems like a treat to get to watch, even past someone sticking gloved fingers inside their mouths.

What do you think?


Psst, I'll tell you a little secret

I want to share something with you. It changed my life when I finally realized what I'm about to tell you, but that was so long ago that I forget now that not everyone shares this basic assumption. It's recently come to my attention again. So I thought I would share it here.

Emotions are just information.

They tell us something, about how we are feeling and about what is going on around us. All too often though we misinterpret this information, allowing our emotions to govern us, and that can cause problems.

More often than not, emotions tell us a lot more about ourselves and what's going on inside us than what is happening outside of us. How we feel about what someone said often has very little to do with their intent in saying it, or even with the actual content. It has more to do with how we have been conditioned to respond to certain situation by our life circumstances. You know that person who always overreacts to a gentle correction? Their emotional reaction is completely disproportionate to the situation. Odds are that their takeaway from the moment is that no one appreciates how hard they work, or something. What they should be doing is asking themselves, "Why do I respond so strongly to mild criticism? What is it about me that I find it so upsetting?"

These are the kinds of questions that lead toward wholeness, and understanding and healing eventually.

Taking our emotional response at face value without considering it often leaves us hurt, and the people around us hurt as well.

If you are feeling abnormally angry and irritated at your children for leaving a mess all over the floor of their room you can be reasonably sure that it's not because they are being abnormally naughty. Those emotions are more likely telling you that lack of sleep is catching up to you, or that you need to stop skipping breakfast, or that you are still upset over the last conversation you had with a friend.

When you are feeling as though your husband is distant and cold or angry it's just as likely that the information you are supposed to gain is that you have insecurities, you feel guilty about a mistake you made, or you need more social outlets than you are getting.

And let's not even talk about the tricks your emotions can play when you are hormonal. Can we just agree not to act on any thing we may feel or think as a result of those feelings for at least 4 days? You will always regret the fight you had while you were PMSing. If you just hold your tongue for a day or two it will all look different. That is, if you can realize, really understand, that feelings, while true, can be misleading and that you shouldn't act on them without careful consideration of their real implications.

If you can understand this, you will be happier, and your relationships will be healthier. I guarantee it.


I wasn't ready for this

I expected that a pregnancy following a miscarriage would be a bit different; a little less blithe optimism, a little more caution in the first 3 months with words, and feelings.

What I wasn't ready for was lying in bed at the end of a good day, a day that feels more normal than pregnant, and wondering if it's because my child is dead. I didn't expect to cling to every whiff of nausea and heartburn as a sign of hope.

I wasn't ready for those conversations where people ask me how I'm feeling. I'm hesitate to say, "I feel pretty good right now." I know they will say, "That's great."

Is it great? I'm not so sure. Maybe it's a sign something is wrong.

Really, I'm not ready for this baby to die.

I beg it to live. I plead, "Let it live."

Yet there is nothing I can do but go through the days as normally as possible, and wait impatiently until the 12 week mark to listen for a heartbeat, to know for sure.

Two more weeks. How will I ever make it?


I showed my children photos of Haiti.


Well, they wanted to know why mommy was crying for one.

But the real reason is that I think it's a gift to my children to equip them to deal the world the way it really is, by letting them know how it is; in all it's beauty and all it's ugliness.

So I'm honest with them about death. We will all die someday, you, me, daddy, your siblings. Our bodies will eventually wear out, get broken, and stop working. But usually parents don't die before their kids are all grown up and have families of their own, and kids usually live to be grownups and have kids of their own before they die. But sometimes there are accidents/disasters, or diseases, or famines, and then that changes and more people die than should.

I let them see the process by which the animals we eat become food. They have seen goats and chickens slaughtered and butchered, and eaten them that night for dinner.

Only in the wealthy west would it be possible for a child to remain ignorant of these things for any length of time. The degree of visceral insulation built into our culture is ridiculous. The only violence and death we see is pretend and entertaining. The meat we eat is neatly packaged in cellophane with the blood drained out of it. The only dead people we see have been carefully painted and dressed to look as life like as possible while we whisper over their coffins in hushed tones, as though they are merely sleeping. Only in a culture such as this could we live our days with such frivolity, wasting so much time.

Now it's true that living too completely in the shadow of death is paralyzing. When it's more likely that you will die than live today, planning stops, and values erode, and people can lose their dignity. But what I want for my children is an awareness of how precious and fleeting time is, and the courage to live and plan, within that endless uncertainty, to make the most of what they have, however long that may be. I want to show them that life is precious, a gift to treasure, and to give away.

For while it is true that death comes to us all, and that there are thousands of bodies piling up in the streets of Haiti right now I don't leave my children in despair as they look at these images and grasp to comprehend them. I tell them of our God who is good, who holds the living and the dead in his hands, who redeems all things, all the earth in fact, and all it's people. Together we join hands with our Father and with Him hold in prayer those children of His who are in need. Then, as His hands and feet here, we do what we can to help those who need it, and to be the means by which our Father gives His love to them. Because that's what we are called to do.


A Moment of Silence

I was going to post today, a silly nothing about our dentist visit this morning. But in light of these images earthquake in Haiti I have no words left. Really. Nothing but tears and prayers for the people there, and gratitude for the people on their way to help.

I think my time will be better spent praying for them than writing today. Will you join me?

Updated to add:

I know there are many different ways to give money to support relief efforts. One of the most urgent is this, to have medical aid available to all those who were injured. Partners in Health has already set up their location outside of Port-au-Prince to deal with all the patients, as well as triage areas and temporary hospital sites in the capital city. They need money to buy emergency medical supplies, and they need health care professionals who will volunteer to help, esp. surgeons (trauma/orthopedic, and surgical teams, (nurses, anesthesiologists, etc.) It seems like a good place to start helping to me. Go to their website to make a donation.

One Thousand Gifts-Week 42

holy experience

A little boy at the edge of a soccer field slowly inching his cleats deeper and deeper into a large puddle while the grown ups were distracted.

Gingerbread scented candles.

The way the Boy's face near exploded with excitement when I asked him if he'd like to learn how to cook. 

Twinkling lights I have yet to take down.

Little sitting on the couch in her pajamas, cradling her doll and singing, "My baby, my baby..."

Reading George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblins to my thoroughly enchanted children.

The Boy made lunch, Little peeled carrots, and the Girl set the table. Working together to get a meal on the table.

The Boy made me breakfast this morning, before I woke.

Little curled up asleep on my pillow.

Little girls twirling in pretty dresses.

Lettuce, tomato and mayo sandwiches. My new pregnant craving.

Hugs from my big girl.

Sunday afternoon picnics.


I owe you updates

At Thanksgiving I shared with you all my mother in law's story about  a little girl named Usha and her family that lives in a slum in India. She was asking all of her dinner guests to bring their pocket change to help that family. Some of you gave too. At final count the total given was more than $500, which translate to roughly 25, 000 Indian rupees. That's a lot of money for a family living in a slum to receive so it's a really significant gift for them. Thanks to those of you who gave.


At Christmas I sent out an SOS to raise enough to give the refugee kids at the Charis home beds that were off of the concrete floor and warm clothes and shoes. I am thrilled to report that every single last drop of money that we needed for that came in. You guys rock! We even sent about $200 extra to throw a Christmas party for the kids and community. I can't even think about what a change that will be for them compared to last year without crying a little.

They are welding the beds together this month. I promise to post pictures as soon as I have them. Thank-you for helping. It may not have been much to you, but it changed things for a child or two in Thailand and was huge for them. So thanks.


Flashbacks-Moments in Time

I've been browsing through old posts today. A friend suggested I submit something to an anthology that some friends of hers are editing on parenting. I am stumped, honestly. No idea what to submit. But I did find these. Two years ago I was recording little moments from my day, sort of like prosaic snapshots.

I really enjoyed rereading them. Maybe you will too. I suggest scrolling down to the ones titled Moments. They are more to the point.


Let the Adventure Begin

I've spent a month avoiding the writing of this post, largely because I can't figure out how to say it. Which isn't that different from how I was when I first found out and needed to tell my family. As result, I've written hardly at all. So here goes.

At the beginning of December I wrote this post on learning to be content. For those of you who don't remember, or don't want to click over, it was all about how sad I was that we had no plans for another baby anytime soon, the very important reasons for that decision and how I had finally begun to make peace with that.

In the meantime we started talking about adopting a child from Ethiopia from Drawn From Water. A friend was sure she could help us raise the necessary funds and so we started to look around for a 3 bedroom home we could move to and a larger vehicle so we could pass the home study. I didn't say anything about it because it was all in the very early stages and we were just finding out if it was possible still.

Well, less than a week after I wrote that post in December I found out that we won't be able to adopt this year either. You see, they don't let you adopt when you are pregnant. And I am, pregnant that is. Unexpectedly. In spite of ALL of our precautions, and they were many. (Let's just say we're one percenters.)

I have not paced the floor harder than I did in the space of time between finding that out and telling Aaron. Because how are we going to do this? Seriously? How am I going to keep working full time as a non-profit administrator, parent, teach and keep this home running when I'm sick and exhausted all the time? How are we going to afford this pregnancy, along with Aaron's dental work, the Boy's orthodontia?

But there was no going back now. Those questions will all have to be settled one way or the other. And after I told him, and his calm response settled me, I was able to be happy, joyful actually, because this is a good gift, even if the timing of it is difficult. There is always a way, and we will find it.

I wondered about telling people before 3 months and a heartbeat, because another miscarriage will be hard. But it will be hard anyway, and I am not going to not rejoice at the gift of a new child just because of the possibility that it may not live. That would be crazy, like refusing to let myself love my kids now because it might hurt too much if something ever happened to them.

So there has been much rejoicing here. Little says, "I a big sistew now, I will hewp that other baby to wearn how to walk." The Girl continues to give it silly names, jellybean, pink, snow, daisy, and hug and kiss it every night. The Boy, hopes that it lives, and that it's a boy, because "I already have three sisters, and if was a boy I could teach it how to play chess with me someday."

We made it through December. I even got most of my work done, though I was decidedly lackadaisical about holiday projects. I am tired, and hungry, and nauseous, which is good, that means all is as it should be. I was expecting this year to be an adventure, I just didn't think it would be quite like this.


Catching up on the last days of the year.

The morning of the Girl's birthday, Aaron's grandfather fell out of bed due in part to a mini stroke. While he was in the hospital, grandma fell in the parking lot and severely sprained her wrist. She was admitted as well. After they were both discharged grandpa continued to be in and out of ER almost daily due to complications. Since they two are the primary makers of Christmas happenings, not much happened during holiday week. The day of the planned family get together grandpa had several appointments with specialists. It just didn't happen. They are both doing much better now though. I'm hoping they'll be up for a visit from the kids soon.

So on Christmas day the kids decided they wanted to go swimming. My instant reaction, having been in SoCal for 4 whole years now, was, "It's way too cold to go swimming!"

But we let them check the water in the pool, and lo and behold, maintenance had turned the heater on.

Supervising pool side

They stayed in for a long time and had so much fun we called the uncles to come and join them.

Christmas Day evening we took chili and buns up to the parents house to feed the boys. Beema and the girls were up helping the grandparents.

We wanted to go sledding, up in Julian where it's high enough for snow, with some friends, but the sunny weather failed to cooperate and there was no snow even there. So instead we all drove out to the high desert to go hiking up to an oasis.


It's really quite lovely this time of year. Not too hot at all.




It was almost exactly 11 years that Aaron and I hiked that exact same trail on our first "date". It was full of lovely memories for me.



She wanted to walk the whole way. We had to convince her that an uncle ride would be cool so we could move along a little faster. She wanted to jump off of every rock she saw.


I don't have any photos of the oasis itself because my camera batteries died halfway up the trail, just as we came in sight of it actually. I borrowed my little SIL's camera for the rest, but I don't have the photos yet. Someday, I'll show them to you. We had a lot of fun.

I aggravated a tendon injury that I didn't even realize I had, just thought I had random ankle swelling. I know, How likely is that. So now I am walking around with an ace bandage on and it feels more sore than before, likely from the part where it's correcting now.

New Year's Eve we went once again to Aaron's parents house for a fire and drum circle. Which was fun. We barely made it until midnight before going to bed, and forgot all about the champagne in the fridge.

Today we went to the beach after church and picnicked with all the kids, including Hannah, and Aaron gave them all the wooden boxes he made for them as a Christmas gift this year.


(He finally finished them last night.) Hannah's was a "bit" more elaborate since she's old enough to take care of it.




 And that catches us up to today and the two weeks I have not posted, at all.

Happy New Year everyone. Hope you all had a lovely holiday too
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