This is Summer: Season Two {#7}

1996
Summer 1996

1999
Summer 1999

2008
Summer 2008

2011
Summer 2011

Family Reunion 2013 commences tomorrow. I’ll see you in a week, friends! Meanwhile, we’ll be hiking, boating, doing puzzles, reading, playing games, and enjoying family time in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula!

~Natalia

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This is Summer: Season Two {#6}

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A summer bonfire,
I hope the first of many;
Toes warm by the flames.

~Natalia

Bigger than That

Sometime between the ages of ten and twelve, I decided that it would be a good idea for my parents to adopt a child. I supported my campaign for another younger sibling (I’ve always had Stevy, of course) with such efforts as clipping adoption agency ads out of magazines and leaving them in prominent locations throughout the house, or perusing waiting child listings, highlighting and bookmarking children that I found myself particularly drawn to.

My brother and I entertained the notion of a younger sibling for some time; dropping it when we get busy, forgot, or took to heart our parents’ admonishing that it would never happen. Then, a month or two later, a friend’s mom would have a new baby, or another adoption ad would appear in the paper, and we’d be off again. I planned where the child would sleep, imagined what it would be named, and even was so gracious as to grant that it could be another little brother, even though I had one already.

As jr. high began to fade into the beginnings to high school, I found I had less time to daydream about having a baby sibling. Slowly, without realizing it, I began to accept what I had always known, deep down, to be true: my family would be just as it was, forever; a family of four we would eternally remain. That was that. I let it go.

My sisters were adopted from Guatemala when I was 15.

The story of their adoption is much longer, more interesting, and bigger than anything having to do with adoption ads and online orphan lists. It’s mostly a story of God being a sovereign God who had a plan long before I dreamed of a baby- brother or sister- and who smiled, gracious, every time we said it would never happen, could never work, that we just had to move on. He smiled, and probably chuckled a little, too.

There’s a little boy, three years old, who has been living with my family for two months. Boys are boys, and preschoolers are their own special brand of fantastic, of course, and these past weeks have been nothing short of adventure. Our little buddy loves matchbox cars, anything having to do with Cars the movie, and mangoes. He follows Larissa like the dynamic duo/sibling rivalry hot mess that they are and parrots everything he hears. He sleeps with a Superman blanket, has his favorite book (Red Truck) memorized, and takes a sippy cup of milk at bedtime, thank you very much.

He’s wild and cuddly, a handful and a sweet baby boy.

And he’s going home tomorrow.

Tomorrow, we’ll kiss his soft, fluffy cheeks and wave goodbye and my mother will drive him to where he will be reunited with his own mother. He’s seen his mother recently- she was over just last week- and he’s excited to see her again tomorrow. We’ll miss his eerily accurate siren imitations, his penchant for streaking after bathtime, and his little voice, but just like with the girls’ adoption, the God behind this child’s story is much bigger, much wiser, and much more imaginative than anyone on earth.

It’ll be sad, of course, to say see you later to our littlest buddy, but just like the adoption story didn’t end when I stopped clipping advertisements, so, too does God have a plan for this little one that goes far beyond anything I could ever dream up.

~Natalia

Dear Little One,

It had been a couple of hours by the time you saw me. Three, maybe four hours had passed when you called my name. You had calmed down in that time, regained your composure. You didn’t look shaken, nervous. But you were serious. Maybe that’s why I stopped. You, down there in the water, barely eye level with my feet. That’s the thing about swimming: everyone on land is always taller, bigger, than you.

But you called my name and I didn’t hesitate; I knelt down right there in front of you. There were twenty other athletes in the water just then, but I wasn’t the only coach, and something drew me to you- your concerns- and I stopped. You pulled yourself out of the water a little bit, and there we were: me kneeling on the white tile deck, you half out of the water, skinny arms folded neatly, dark blue eyes looking up at me, clouded.

Your peaked nose tipped up as you leaned back to look at me, your swim cap bobbed as you spoke. You told me about school that day: fifth grade. Assembly. Outside. One boy fell, fainted. Hit his head. Another fell, maybe a seizure, you add. We were so scared, you tell me, and even with all those other swimmers all around us, I only heard you, little one. I was touched, child, that you wanted to tell me. I wonder, sometimes, as I stand on that pool deck, guiding your practices, yelling across the water, if you and your teammates know that you’re so valuable to me.

Because you are.

You are valuable, sweet girl, when a school assembly rehearsal turns sour and your young heart clenches with fear because he hit his head hard. You are valuable when you perform an original parody of a well-known pop song at a swim meet, dancing free, easy, on the bleachers, laughing. You are valuable when you buy a Beanie Baby from the shop in the pool lobby and come running over to show me, brandishing the fuzzy toy in the air, joyful.

I want you to hold on to that, child. Not just that I, your coach, say that you matter, that you’re valuable, important, but that God says you are. That’s where I heard it in the first place. I know your heart is cherished, I know that your pain hurts Him, I know that your confusion and fear and sadness aches Him, because He told me. Will you remember that, girly?

Because it doesn’t get easier from here, little one. The world, life, growing up, is a road that everyone walks, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Just like treading water, looking up from the pool feels small, makes those on land look big, so too does life shrink you, grow circumstances. You’ll feel small, insignificant, unimportant. Maybe it’s a person that makes you feel this way, maybe it’s life’s ebb and flow; whoever, whatever, grabs hold of you, tries to pull you down, don’t believe it, sweet one. What they say is not true.

You’re more valuable than that. He says so, and I say so because He says so.

And, child, one more thing. If it’s ever me who pushes your value aside, who handles your young heart roughly: I’m sorry. I’m learning, growing, too. I make mistakes. I forget your value, forget my own. Maybe I don’t show you what it is to have worth often enough, maybe I don’t always stop and listen to your heart. But the beautiful thing, girly girl, is that these mistakes I make, and the ones you’ll inevitably make, don’t change what He says about us: nothing we do will ever change how much He loves you and me, and your teammates and my coworkers and our families. Everyone.

Feel small, feel strong, feel hopeless, feel failure; it doesn’t matter: God says you’re a wonder, a treasure, sweet girl.

~Natalia

This is Summer: Season Two {#5}

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The Lincoln Park Zoo:
our destination today.
The kiddos loved it!

~Natalia

This is Summer: Season Two {#4}

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Heading home from work,
I stopped by the lake, to see
water, trees, shadows.

~Natalia

So Much to Tell

Friday afternoon, bus up. Saturday evening, bus home. Barely 24 hours in Michigan, yet it’s Thursday night now, late, and I’m still fighting to tell you about it. School hardly over, my room just emptied, I got on a bus with The Jen and her sister, Katie, and we went to Michigan.

I want to tell you all about it. I do. I want to tell you so much and tell you so well that I’ve thought myself, planned myself, into a corner. I wrote a post, just now. Part of one, anyway. About my time in Michigan. But there’s too much to tell and I wasn’t telling well, so I stopped. Began again. And here I am.

I told you, in March, about Jen’s sister visiting school. Remember? I told you about our shared love of Spanish and school and children and the way I stored our conversation away in my heart; a woman who loves the Lord, and His Word. This same sister, Kristen her name, graduated from New Tribes Bible Institute last weekend.

The Jen, sweet girl two dorm doors down, stopped one day last month, outside my door. I was on my computer, typing. Looking up, looking across my bed, across the room, I smiled at her. She dimpled back. This is routine: I like my desk there, the door open, so that I can see the hallway, see those who pass by. Jen passes frequently. She stopped this time, and in our brief conversation, she said graduation, Michigan, Kristen. Half serious, mostly joking, I said I’d go along.

Joke turned serious and later, sitting on Jen’s bright yellow sheets, I clicked to Megabus, bought a ticket to Michigan.

Katie, Jen, me. Four hours, more even, on a bus to Michigan. They sat behind me, the two sisters; one older, Jen the younger. I sat one row up. Backpack next to me, feet against the window, I watched Michigan fly past the window. Trees and grass line the highway; long, tall, strong grass that seems to glow in the sun. The trees are green, too. Wide and thick and many. It’s just trees, bushes, grass, but I breathed tight in, held my breath at the clean, brilliant, freshness of it all. This I love about Michigan.

New Tribes Bible Institute- students call it NTBI, roll it around their tongues, quick- is one building. Used to be an elementary school, maybe a middle school. Now it’s classroom building, dorms, dining hall, offices, all in one and walking the hallways feels like a little bit of everything. The voices down the hall, in the dorms, are adult, mature. They talk about missions training and the Bible and where God is taking them, and this is a place of leading and prayer and faith and I soak up every word while I’m there.

There’s a world map in the downstairs hallway. It’s big, tall: I’m eye-level with Brasil. Kristen gives a tour when we arrive; her dorm room is on the third floor. We climb up and down those stairs, together, in groups, pairs, alone, all the day long, and my heart, mind catches every time I pass that map. Think of the lives who are here, now. Think of the hearts that are growing, the minds that are learning. The Lord they serve, He has plans, big, for them. The Word they love, it will bring hope, much, to people all over that huge wall map.

The school, these students, have so very much.

The ceremony is the next day, then a reception in the dining hall at the school. I line up with Jen, and a brother, tall, and we stack miniature plates with cheese, crackers, thick little cubes of meat. Students, graduates, families, overflow the dining hall. They are in the halls. In the foyer. In the yard. Children, little boys in collared shirts, little girls in sundresses, run in and out of the adults, play on the park. There are more siblings now, and cousins- first? Once removed?- and friends and friends of friends, and introductions are short, conversations long.

It feels like family. Family when we’re upstairs, getting ready. Jen and sisters and friends and we’re all putting on dresses, earrings, makeup. Feels like family afterwards, when we sit around in the sun and drink fruit punch and talk. Feels like family when there are hugs, congratulations, thank you for coming, see you later.

There’s more to tell, no doubt. More about New Tribes and the graduation ceremony, and Jen’s brother driving to the church with the windows down, my hair and Jen’s whipping in the wind. More about the 5k the graduates ran on the morning of graduation, or the night before, driving slow at 10pm, stopping at corners to mark the 5k route with chalk. More about The Jen and Katie and Kristen and sisters I don’t have, who made me feel another sister, at home. More about God’s will and God’s plan and how great He really is.

There’s so much more to tell, but I’ll leave it there for now.

~Natalia

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