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Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I never knew a lot about the word Advent when I was growing up. It seems like we didn't use that word very often in the Baptist church. I always associated it with the Catholic Church, and never took the time to really discover what it means. But now that I am part of a Presbyterian church with my husband, I am hearing this word more and more.  Sunday, one of our pastors was talking about the meaning of the word Advent while leading our adult Bible class. I was struck there in the middle of Bible study with just how meaningful this word is for me now - at this exact moment in my life. And then . . . during church, our other pastor called us out as the word was mentioned again, saying: "Melissa and John are in a season of advent right now . . ."

According to Wikepedia (not always a reliable source, but sometimes helpful and accurate) Advent (from the Latin word adventus meaning "coming") is a season observed in many Western Christian churches, a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.

The reason this word means so much to me is that I am in a season of waiting in my life. I am waiting for the children that will call me their mother. Though I will not be their first mother, I will be their forever mother, through the gift of adoption. John and I began this journey several months ago, and through many ups and downs, and the loss of many precious children that we only had for a short time, we are waiting and "expecting" a great celebration.

We are completely done with our home study process, we loved our case worker, found the process with Families First to be a positive one, and now we are "waiting" for the "coming" of our new family members. We are "waiting" for the last document to arrive in the mail, and then we can begin to search for the children that God has out there "waiting" for us.

Every day, I hold my breath when checking the mail. It's totally different from all the times I "waited" for a birthday card, a love letter, a check from a tax refund, or some new purchase from a catalog. I am waiting in earnest and hopeful expectation, for this promise of God to be fulfilled.

Some day I believe that I will show this blog to my children, so they will know how much we wanted them, prayed for them, hoped for them, and how they were already in our hearts - even before we met. And I hope that in some way, they feel the season of advent in their own hearts as they wait for us.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Two Slushies and a Tank of Gas never know when a simple outing can turn into an adventure, as was the case for a trip to the lake house a couple of weeks ago. Samuel had won a county competition with 4-H for a project he did on white tigers. When we went to the county meeting and he won first place, we were given some paperwork for the next level of the competition - that would take place at Rock Eagle 4-H center. Samuel was so excited, but he begged me to go along as a chaperon. Now don't get me wrong - I love kids, and I love nature, and I was a 4-H member myself in the fifth grade. But something about a 2.5 hour bus ride with fifty 5th and 6th graders, and a handful of acne-covered high school kids as "counselors" just didn't appeal to me. Not to mention getting up at 5 am to catch a school bus. "I have an idea," I told Samuel, "I will see if someone will cover my shift at work that weekend. We can go up on Friday and spend the night at the lakehouse. It's just a short trip to Rock Eagle, so we won't have to get up at 5 am. We can have breakfast out, and go meet your classmates at the competition." Samuel thought this was an enchanted idea. He bugged me nonstop until I had emailed the 4-H office to make arrangements, and had found a staff member to work for me for part of the weekend. For two weeks, we talked about our trip, and how we would leave Friday night and go to the lake house by ourselves. "Mitchell and Georgia can't come," Samuel told me, "Because they would be bored at the competition. And besides, I want it to be just me and you." How sweet is that? So Friday FINALLY came. I packed an overnight bag for us, with our clothes for Saturday and warm pajamas. I knew that the thermostat is normally turned way, way down when the lake house is not in use. Three cheers for thinking ahead.  After dinner, we kissed everyone else goodbye, and headed out of town with our overnight bag and one awesome presentation on White Tigers.  Just outside of Gainesville, I stopped for gas and let Samuel get a blue raspberry slushie inside the gas station. All the way through Athens, Samuel raved about that blue slushie, "Mmm! Mmm! This is the best slushie I've ever had! Mmm! Mmm! This is a great trip, Melissa! This is the best slushie in the world!" in his usual dramatic way. When we finally got to the lake house it was late. It was dark outside and we hurried to get the water turned on and the heat going. Inside the house was very chilly- and I was thankful for the warm pajamas. We were both tired but I let Samuel stay up watching cartoons for a little while, just to make the trip even more special.  On Saturday morning, we woke up and got ready, left the house around 8:30 and headed over to McDonalds to grab some breakfast. From there we headed over to Rock Eagle, which is 12 miles from the lake house. We found the bus from our county and were right on time. Samuel gave his presentation on white tigers at 10 am and afterward we ate lunch with his classmates and another mom.  I watched in amazement as Samuel and three classmates ran around the Rock Eagle campus, happily experiencing a little independence - or as much as eleven year old should be allowed to experience. He ate his brownie before his chicken at lunchtime (I didn't say anything about it) and picked out two small items in the gift shop, totaling $7. I took a few photos of the kids, and soon it was time to head to the awards presentation. Although Samuel didn't win, I think he had a good time and grew more comfortable with making public speeches. As we headed out of Eatonton, Samuel asked me if we could stop for another blue raspberry slushie. I told him yes, we would find another Quicktrip gas station on our way out of town, and we did. Samuel sat back in his seat with that slushie in his hand, slipped on a pair of Cody's sunglasses and looked over at me with a smile. "Well," he said, "This has been the best weekend of my life."

Wow! What a compliment! The best weekend of his life- and all it cost me was two slushies and a tank of gas. And so, friends, the moral of the story is this: never underestimate the value of time together.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Just call me Melissy

Mitchell has been the hardest for me to connect with of my three stepchildren. We started off on the wrong foot, because when John and I were dating his mother told him that if he was nice to me, it was a "betrayal" of her love. It's pretty hard to come back from that. But, over the years, Mitchell has come to regard me as a permanent fixture, and if for no other reason than acceptance, he has slowly turned his heart toward me.  As I have learned with other kids, sometimes you just have to be persistent in demonstrating who you really are. We have had many battles, but at the end of the battles, we always say "I'm sorry," sometimes me, sometimes Mitchell. And after almost four years in his life, I have learned about who he really is, and he has learned who I really am.
Mitchell is twelve, almost thirteen years old. His birthday is less than a week after Thanksgiving. He has Asperger's Syndrome - a high functioning form of autism. He is unusually bright, clever and observant. He knows words and their meaning, often to an astounding level. He has an incredible imagination, and is always building or inventing something using physics and his own unique brand of humor. He is the spitting image of his mother, with a round freckled face and the bluest eyes you have ever seen. And like most Asperger kids, he is unbelievably quirky.
As I've mentioned before in my postings, being a stepmother is quite a task. The process of falling in love with your stepchildren takes time. It is not the instant love of a birth mother or "love at first sight" that is attached to infatuation. And while I know that I love him, I am not sure now just when I started to love him. I know that when he was nine I thought I would have to move out of the house because of our personality clashes. I know that for about eight months, he couldn't bear to be in the same room for me for very long. He glared at me with squinted eyes, and he mimicked me behind my back. Tolerance for one another was a task, respect seemed to be light years away.
But somehow, over the course of three years as his stepmom, Mitchell has come to regard me as more than just an annoying clean-freak, barking orders at him every morning and night. I still get the usual response when I leave his bedroom at night after reading and praying with both boys. I say "I love you, good night." Samuel says, "I love you too!" and Mitchell says, "I don't love you!" with the same cheerful tone as his brother. (Fortunately, John has encouraged Mitchell to say "I like you," if he doesn't want to say "I love you.") Yes, I know - love is one of those words that gets all mixed up and confused when you are a pre-teen boy. I get it. But it is frustrating to hear, "I don't love you!" night after night, for three years.
 But somehow, over the course of three years- three Christmases, three New Years - three years of school teachers that he had to tell: "She's NOT my mom. She's JUST my STEPmom" - three years of the flu - three years of Halloween - three years of birthdays - three years of camping trips- hikes - losing a pet - losing a grandpa - starting middle school and much more, somehow, I now have graduated to a new title. I am no longer just "Melissa." Now, I am Melissy.
The change of one simple letter. He changed the "A" on the end of my name to a "Y". Without notice, and without ceremony, he just started calling me "Melissy." And I like it.
I like it because it means I'm important enough for nickname. I'm no longer just someone he has to tolerate. I'm Melissy, maybe a halfway normal and acceptable human being.
 And last week, when all the kids got their flu shots, Mitchell grabbed my hand and held on tight. Yes, it was only for a moment, and I know that it was more of an issue of "needing" my hand, than "wanting" it, but I'll take it any way it comes.
The nurse, who always gets a kick out of our "far from ideal family," looked across the crazy exam room and smiled, "You're stepmom, right?" she asked. "Yes," I said, "just stepmom."
And Melissy!