Palmer’s Change for Good

Perhaps it was a moment of insanity, or my intestinal fortitude had increased, or maybe I was running a fever, but I decided to take both kids grocery shopping with me at two different grocery stores last week. After hearing nightmarish stories of culture shock from other adoptive parents who took their kids shopping in the early days when they were home, we avoided taking Addie and Palmer to the store at all costs for the first year we were home. So because stores are still somewhat new to our kids, and because our kids have an insatiable curiosity, and because they both really like to ask questions, comments and questions are usually hurled in my direction in machine-gun fashion.

Addie: “Mommy, why are some peppers red and some peppers green?”

Palmer: “Mommy, why do you have to put a quarter in there to get a shopping cart?”

Addie” “Mommy, why are there people in the back of the refrigerator?”

Palmer: “Mommy, why does hamburger meat look like spaghetti?”

Addie: “Mommy, Palmer pushed the cart last week. Can I push it today?”

Palmer: “Mommy, why is some of the food cold and some of the food not? Why isn’t any of the food hot?”

Addie: “Mommy, why are there so many kinds of cereal?”

Palmer: “Mommy, why do we go shopping at two stores instead of one? Why doesn’t Aldi have sesame oil and cilantro?”

Bless them.

After 5 months of Addie and Palmer not talking to us when they first came to America, I swore to myself I would never regret when they spoke. But sometimes it’s just a wee bit easier to concentrate on figuring out what we need at the store without the 3rd degree. Just sayin’.

I managed to survive grocery shopping with the kids, but we decided to stop and get Wendy’s because the kids both wanted the new Superman kid’s meal, and I realized that with all the grocery shopping we had done, we were hungry and had nothing to eat.

As we were standing at the cash register, Palmer was pelting me with questions, which I was deflecting with the skill of a ninja Jedi.

“Mommy, do they have hamburgers and chicken here? Mommy what does that machine do? Mommy can I choose my toy in my kids meal?Mommy, why is there money in this box? Can we have it?”

I explained to Palmer that there was a box at the register collecting change for families who are adopting. “Adopting is expensive, I said, so if anybody wants to help another family who is adopting, they can put their money in there.”

Palmer reached into his pocket, and pulled out some change. “Can I put money in there?”

“Of course.”

In the midst of questions, Palmer had asked one that, for him, was life-changing. It was the first time he had ever asked if he could give money away. HIS money, not mine.

Since Addie and Palmer grew up in destitution, their obsession with money has been natural. They pick up every penny. They save and scrimp. They talk about money with great love and great passion. When they are given money to put in the offering, they ask if they can keep it instead. The lack of money in their African lives had disastrous consequences in their early childhood. Their earliest memories were about not having enough. To keep a tight handle on money is understandable. But he gave his money away to support adoption. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but maybe deep down inside he feels blessed for the results of the gut-wrenchingly difficult journey he has been on.

As we stood in Wendy’s, I recounted all the times when he had chosen to hold on to his money. Through all of the fundraisers at school, the offering plates that have passed them by, the chances to give to others, our kids just haven’t been ready to share. They wouldn’t be ready to share until they realized they had enough.  Until they knew that giving away a quarter wouldn’t mean going without food for the next two days. Until they felt secure. When Palmer dropped his money in that box, it was a momentous sign that he felt safe enough to give to others. I couldn’t have been more proud of him, and more pleased with his choice. My eyes brimmed with tears of joy in the line at Wendy’s.

I think the same is true with giving our resources, our best efforts, our lives to God. Until we know that He is enough, we will hoard, protect, guard what we hold most precious to us. And He is patient, waiting for us to come to understand that our security is in Him. I can also imagine how God’s eyes fill with tears of joy when we decide to trust Him enough to give back to Him what we value most.

I’m thankful every day for my giggly-goofy-happy-smart-strong-sensitive-inquisitive boy who teaches me to let go and love.

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Missing Mabel

Of all the people and I things I miss about Nashville, the one that I miss the most is my friend Mabel.

 

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Actually, Mabel isn’t her real name. Her real name means “beautiful,” but I’ll call her Mabel. I met her around three years ago, and it took me a few months to get to know her. I eventually started helping her with some of the things she had to read for our workshops. She was fairly quiet, until the day she finally shared her story with me.

While I can’t share the details of her story, I’ll just suffice it to say that life had dealt her many unfortunate circumstances, none of which were her fault. She couldn’t finish school, she never learned to read well, and had struggled more than she deserved.

I had met Mabel in the transitional housing complex that I went to once a week, and it wasn’t long after Mabel shared her story that we became friends. She begged me for her picture, week after week. She said that she didn’t do much reading or writing, so she went to two different churches when she could, and she spend much of the rest of her time praying for all the people in the pictures on her wall.

While life had certainly surrounded her with more than her fair share of tragedy, her positive outlook on life was refreshing. After all, if she had joy in spite all she had been through, what could I possibly have to complain about?  Mabel was never shy about telling me how much she loved me, and that Jesus loved me. She prayed for me every day, and even though she didn’t know the details of my life, she didn’t need to. Jesus knew them, and that was enough for her. She said every day that she saw me was a good day, and that I was so pretty I made her smile.

And then one day, after months of seeing Mabel week after week, I began to see what Jesus sees: Mabel is one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met. Beautiful, just like her name.

Here are some of the best lessons I’ve learned from Mabel came from the time that I spent with her, and some quotes that remind me of her:

  • Good or bad, beautiful or ugly, we tend to find whatever we are looking for in people, and in life.
  • “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” – Mother Teresa of Calcutta
  • Like a jelly donut, what is inside of us is best revealed when we are “squeezed.”
  • “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa of Calcutta
  • “It is wise to wonder whether those you consider to be naïve are perhaps just showing more Fruit of the Spirit than you are.” –David Drury

“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.  Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.” Galatians 5: 22-26 The Message

 

I hope one day to be just as beautiful as Mabel.