Breaking Lent to reflect on purpose….

I’m breaking my fast from “social networking” in the evenings for just a moment to reflect on what flooded my emotions tonight.

Just by chance, on two separate occasions today, I was asked to recount the circumstances of my firstborn’s birth. A very long story short, Erin was born, by emergency c-section, over two months early weighing 2# 14oz because I had HELLP Syndrome. The nurses told me a few days later that I almost died from complications including the rupture of my liver. As I reflect, there were SO MANY details of the story that I KNOW God stepped in and changed the trajectory of where I was headed. (Those amazing details will be saved for a later, much longer post.)

Also tonight, I was taking care of updating some billing information for a mission we give to–New Missions Systems International. On their front page they tell of a mom of four in their organization that died recently from brain bleeding complications from eclampsia (most likely the same as the HELLP Syndrome that I had). My heart hurts for her family. I was overwhelmed by the fact that my family’s life would be totally different (and basically non-existent) if God had not stepped in during those couple weeks previous to Erin’s birth.

Why me, Lord? Why did you save me? What do you want of me? What do you want of our family? We have been given a second chance. I don’t want to miss you in the mundane of life. I want to make everything I do count. I do not want to get so busy with our American, self-sufficient way of life that I forget that you are my Creator, my Redeemer, My Savior (in more ways than one), my Lord. I know I don’t have to do giant things to be worthy of your love and approval, but I do want to please you in the little things and allow you to work through me so that whatever I do, big or small, it is ONLY because of your grace and only for YOUR glory. Whether I am a big toe or a shoulder, an eyelash or an eyeball, I truly want to know that I am following YOUR purposes for me. Lord, “thank you” is not enough, but I don’t know what else to say…..

“Ama-se-ganalo” (thank you in Amharic/Ethiopian).

It’s Suzanne’s birthday–surprise!

It’s not often that I can surprise my wife.  In a good way, that is.

Suz has planned and pulled off two surprise parties for me in the last few years–I’m a little slow on the uptake when it comes to paying attention to birthdays.  For my 40th birthday last summer, she invited some friends over and, even after they’d arrived, I still wasn’t aware it had been planned.  Duh.

Suzanne celebrated her 40th birthday last week and, with this milestone occasion, I felt we needed to do something special.  With the help of some of her friends, I began laying the groundwork several weeks ago for a surprise party on Friday.  I checked with her girlfriends to make sure the date was clear–no problem.  Friday, Feb. 26, was good.  The main issue was getting everyone to the house without blowing the surprise.  Normally we have Family Movie Night each Friday, which means we’re all in our PJs and the kids stay up later than usual.  I didn’t want to have guests show up unexpectedly while we were all in “relax mode;” that wouldn’t have been the good kind of surprise.

As it turns out, though, Ryan, the husband of Suz’s friend Deanne, shares the same birthday as Suzanne.  Deanne and I reckoned that we could get Suz to invite them over on Friday for a mutual birthday celebration.  Perfect!  This was the last piece we needed to keep the surprise a surprise.  So Suz and Deanne made their plans and everything else fell in place.

Instead of our usual movie night, we played a game with the kids and put them to bed earlier.  Ryan and Deanne came over around 7:45 and the other guests were instructed to arrive at 8:00.  As friends began appearing on our porch, Suzanne had no clue what was happening.  Mission accomplished: she was surprised.  In a good way.  She even said it was the best 40th birthday party ever.

Many thanks to Deanne, Ryan, Shannon, Rob, Chantell, Eric, Rachel, Natalie, and Bethany for being available, bringing food, and being our friends.  Thanks for making Suz feel loved.  And happy birthday to you, wife.  You are loved indeed.

A Boy After His Daddy’s Heart

Liam made this picture today.  To many it will look like a snapshot.

It’s not.

This picture was made, not taken.  And for that reason, it’s not a snapshot; it’s a photograph.

Photographers distinguish between taking and making a picture.  If you see a scene, raise the camera to your eye (or, as is now the case with most small digital cameras, hold it at arm’s length in front of you) and fire away, you are taking a picture.  If, on the other hand, you see a scene or subject, visualize how you want the final image to look, consider the background, think about your composition, analyze and–if necessary–modify the light, and thus create the means to achieve your vision–then you are making a photograph.

Liam is always cooking up and working out some idea in his head.  He is great at visualizing and works hard to execute and achieve his vision.  For this reason, he loves building toys: Legos, Snap Circuits, K’Nex.  He also loves tape and paper and scissors because, to him, these are tools for creating things.  One of his favorite Christmas gifts was a bag of various kinds of tape–duct, masking, transparent–from his grandma.  Liam isn’t just building things; rather, he is creating with intent.

He’s often seen or helped me set up an environment for making portraits: set up a background, put up lights, measure, shoot, check, repeat.  This evening he was building with his K’Nex blocks and evidently decided he wanted to make a picture of the tractor he built.  As we were preparing for dinner, he was building a background for his photo session.  He used two sheets of paper, a ruler, the lid from a container, and, of course, tape.  All of this was unprompted: he didn’t ask me for advice or help; he just set himself to it.

After dinner I walked into the den and found him hard at work on the next phase of his project, making the pictures.  Here are some “behind the scenes” images:

While reviewing his pictures on the camera’s monitor, Liam noticed that the white background didn’t fill the frame completely on some of the images–he hadn’t achieved his vision.  We talked about how to correct this (move back physically from the subject and zoom in).  Some were blurry (hold the camera steady after you focus).  He wondered if maybe he should be using a tripod; I suggested that setting the camera on the floor would work for this session.  He asked if there was a way to use the computer to take out parts of the image you don’t want, like the carpet instead of the white paper.  Sometimes, I said, but it’s better to get it right “in camera” whenever you can.  He wasn’t pleased with the way the shadows appeared in his photos; I told him we’d work on off-camera lighting another time. 🙂

As a photographer, I love the way he came up with this idea and then pulled it all together.  Liam had a vision and worked with the tools he had at hand to execute that vision–brilliant.  Not too shabby for a seven-year-old.

As his daddy, I just love him.

Bad choices, good choices

So apparently Liam was a little disobedient during recess yesterday and had to miss both recesses. The story from him varied a little from the story from his teacher. Don’t get me wrong, I totally believe his teacher and stand by her ruling, but most of the time I think Liam is just in a different world. So yes, he disobeyed, but HE thought he was obeying.

At the same time, we are trying a new discipline/rearing technique called Love and Logic. We are giving more choices at appropriate times, and giving directions in a more positive manner. So he and Maura were both having a hard time after school, obviously tired, and needed to go to bed early. I told both of them, “You are tired and you will be going to bed early tonight. Would you like to take your bath now (before dinner) and then have a little time with Dad before bed, or finish your movie now and then bathe and bed right after dinner?” Liam chose Dad, Maura chose movie. 🙂

After dinner, Michael and I discussed Liam’s episode at school. We decided that since it didn’t seem his disobedience was totally out of defiance but mostly just Liam-ness, that he had already paid the penalty at school. Nonetheless, he should write an apology letter. So again the choice, “Do you want to write the letter now before bed and miss time with Dad, or in the morning and miss TV time before getting ready for school?” Again he chose Dad. Good choice, Bud.

Here is what I wrote out for him to say and fill in the blanks on his own. “Dear Mrs. Geary, I’m sorry that I _____________ yesterday. I should not have ____________ and _____________. I did not listen well enough. Thank you for _____________. Please accept my apology. Sincerely, Liam.” He had to write it neatly and show it to us for approval. It took him almost 45 minutes and he did it before we even got up. (He’s an early riser :)) Here is the finished product (click pic for bigger version):

We’re proud of you, Buddy.

Story about Jane

When I visited Ethiopia last April, I was especially moved by the babies. I spent a lot of my time holding, feeding, and praying for them. I wanted to lay my hand on them and pray over them out loud, but most of the time I could only get Jesus’ Name out of my mouth amidst the tears. Several of them were so tiny and some even had tubes out of their nose and taped to their faces so they could get medicine or formula straight to their tummies. I think it hit me so hard because my oldest Erin was 2# 14oz. at birth and had those same tubes. I thought about how fortunate she was to have born into a family that loved her and had the best medical care possible for her. These babies at the orphanage have the best care and love they could have in Ethiopia by the nannies, but they don’t have a mom and dad and they aren’t in a hospital. Here is a picture of me and one baby (I don’t recall the name) and then another picture of Erin in her incubator–the scenes of her emergency birth flashed through my mind each time I held those babies.

Of all the babies, there was one face that I will never forget. Her skin and her eyes were yellowed from obvious liver problems, but her smile was infectious. Later I read about a family from AWAA adopting a little girl with liver problems, and through some email and picture exchanges, I realized that she was the same little girl I had held and prayed over! I have been able to be in touch with the family and am so excited to report that they are in Ethiopia right now as I type, picking up their Jane! I am so blessed to have been able to play a small part in their story and even more blessed to be able to witness her adoption! You can see their blog here. God is so gracious and faithful!! Thank God every day for His blessings!

First Snow, First Snowman

The kids pose with their first snowman of the season today. Buttons and eyes came from Dum-Dum suckers, the mouth from a Twizzler strip, and the nose from a carrot. He also sports a Notre Dame hat and scarf (hopefully new Irish football coach Brian Kelly can turn things around). We’ll see how long Frosty stands–temperatures are expected to be above freezing the next few days with a strong chance of rain…

Early Christmas present!

Thanks so much for your prayers! We finally got the call today (after 11 weeks!) that our background clearance papers had come through! Now we will have our home study completed and be able to pass it on to the next place. There will possibly be another long wait, so please keep praying!

I would like to share a couple things that God is teaching me through all this. One is that while I was reading Revelation last night, I was reminded of how much Satan is not wanting adoptions to happen. In my understanding of Scripture, orphans and others who are often forgotten are who God wants as our top priorities. And just like the red dragon in Rev. 12 is waiting to snatch that baby away from Mary, and then he goes on “to make war against the rest of her offspring–those who obey God’s commandments and and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (v. 17), he is still doing his best to ruin the plans of God and so many families obeying Him through adoption. But Satan doesn’t win. God snatches the baby to Himself before the dragon can even blink an eye (v. 5)! And if God cares so much for orphans, then He is watching over them wherever they are, whether they are “home” with us or not. They belong to Him first and foremost! It is not about us or our wait–it is about those children, and we can rest assured that He is taking care of them! I have to trust Him with ALL my children–they are HIS first.

Secondly, I wanted to share another special gift God gave me today. Almost a month ago, I decided that I needed to be praying and fasting about this paperwork that was taking so long. So I chose Tuesdays to do so with today being the last day (before all the Christmas traveling). I also invited a good friend to participate with me. Today she asked to come over so we could pray together. When she got here I checked my email once more to see if there was any word, but there was none. So we talked about our emotions, about Scripture, and about what God was doing in us through this. Just before we were about to pray, I got the phone call with news that our paperwork had finally come! Not only was this a gift of good news, but also a gift of timing. He didn’t have to do things that way. So to me He was showing us that he was honoring our small sacrifice of food and heard our earnest prayers, and that He is right “here with us” in all of our struggles and our service to Him. Thank you Immanuel, for all of your gifts, great and small, during this Christmas season!