Wednesday, November 9, 2011

48 Hours Off

The Donahue Crew managed to survive 48 hours without iPhones, iPads, iPods, Macs or texting, calling, tweeting, status updating or wearing of headphones! It helped that we were away from home with fewer opportunities for distraction.

I'll be first to admit that I love technology, and it's not a bad thing in and of itself. It was enlightening, though, to see how we operated without it. I'm used to carrying my iPhone around everywhere. It's not just my cell phone, but it's also our home phone. IT'S ALWAYS WITH ME. Sometimes I think it's another appendage.

Over break, though, instead of carrying it around, I left it on the kitchen counter in case of an emergency. It stayed on but wasn't used.

Walking around without my phone, I discovered how much I use it or my iPad to distract myself or to bide time. Instead of checking email, reading Facebook, Googling, texting or playing Words with Friends, I read a book (a real one with a cover and pages!), talked to my family, took strolls and enjoyed being.

I was overwhelmed by how much I depend on technology. Sometimes it feels almost drug-like...We can't get enough. We check email before getting out of bed, text while walking across the room, talk on the phone while taking a walk, even text while we're driving.

All of it can WAIT. We may feel the pressure to respond to email or texts right away or feel the urge to see who is doing what on Facebook, but all of this is getting in the way of our paying attention to where we are right when we're there...rarely do we "stay in the moment."

I so enjoyed sitting on the front porch with Cara while the others were away. We had zero to do except be together. We talked, read, swung from the swing in the tree and rested in each other's presence.

We carved pumpkins, roasted marshmallows, talked in the glow of the fire under the stars, played board games, went hiking and ate meals together...pretty much ringing, dinging, buzzing, or vibrating to distract us from right where we were--together.

Granted, we only took 48 hours off and were 100 miles from home. There was no TV to even tempt us, and we were on Fall Break with no schedule to keep...all of these factors played a part in the degree of difficulty and ability to create some idyllic moments; however, the absence of our technical distractions was palpable at times. The draw to checkin with the world was real, and the experience was sobering.

I wish I could say that we came home and continued the trend, but we didn't. Today, it's almost impossible to function in society without some quick/instant form of communication. It's expected. Demanded even.

What bugs me the most, is that I find myself so often tangled in the trap of "instantaneous-ism"... missing the moment for what it is and the ability to appreciate it while it's there, distracting myself so I don't have to think about something else or just biding time.

Just biding time?! Yikes!

So, we're a technologically savvy culture, but we don't have to be a slave to it. We can use it and put it away when someone's talking to us. Tune it out while we're driving. Shut it off and be.

Trust me... it'll be there when you get back... it always is!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Losing Our Voices

We live in such a tech savvy world. I love new technology. I love the latest Apple products. I use technology a lot, and it helps me manage my life. If it weren't for my calendar reminders, I'd be leaving kids at school, forgetting to get them from practice or standing up a client for an appointment. So much goes on in my life, that having reminders pop up on my iPhone/iPad/Mac helps me better manage our family's schedule and my own.

Communicating on email and Facebook and sending and receiving texts are all such quick, and usually efficient, ways to communicate. Because there are so many ways to get in touch with someone, I sometimes have to decipher and remember which way is most efficient for whom.

Sending an email to my kids is not productive. Texting them is (for the most part), and as technology continues to improve, I see email fading away as an effective way to communicate in a timely manner. Urgency to respond to email is waning quickly while texting seems to be get an almost immediate reaction from some, and it creates a sense of urgency for a response.  

Our technology, sadly, seems to be replacing the use of our voice on the telephone and the need (perhaps even desire) to meet face-to-face. These human touch interactions are no longer efficient forms of communicating, and our society continues to demand "instantaneous-ism". Truth is, society can demand it because technology continues to deliver...taking it a notch up every time.

We are doing so much because we can do so much because we have the technology to do so much, and if we aren't doing enough, to accomplish as much, then we are left behind...or at least we may feel that way in the not-too-distant future. I'm afraid we are losing our voices...literally and figuratively. Of course, technology is a great tool for having voice in a matter, a cause, a least it's perceived to be that way.

Really, though, if there is no voice to the matter, the cause or the relationship, chances are, it won't last long. That's because things that matter take time and interaction...physical not just technological. Technology isn't enough to sustain our race. We need the touch of other humans. We need someone to hear our actual voice. We need to engage. We were made for relationship.

What happens though if technology trumps relationship? It's the beginning of the end, but I don't think we will allow that to happen; however, we do have to remember to exercise our voice, to allow ourselves to untether from our smart phones and computers...perhaps even cut the technical apendage that some of us have grown (myself included).

So, for the Donahue Crew, we are taking on a 48 hour tech free challenge. Actually, Don and I are taking it on and imposing it on our teens and preteen. The idea has been met with much resistance and negativity. Oh, well, we'll see.

I'll let you know how it turns out. Tech free starts at midnight (Oct. 15, 2011) and ends 48 hours later. Computers shut down, wifi disabled, no TV, no texting, no phones (except one for emergency). We plan to play games on real boards with real pieces, read real books with pages you have to actually turn, and talk face-to-face with nothing chiming, dinging, ringing or beeping to distract us from each other.

Here goes...

Friday, October 7, 2011

Open Arms

Last Saturday we had our first visit for our home study. Our social worker was wonderful. We sat and talked with her about our life, marriage, parenting and more. She told us of the adoption of her son and spoke tenderly and passionately about the impact that he has had on her and talked about the realities of having a child who is of a different race.

We listened intently and were so moved by her and the gift she has given her son. She asked each of the children several questions about adoption, how they feel about it, what they think about having a multicultural family and asked them to consider how they will respond when others may not be as accepting of us because we are not all the same.

Each of the kids was so respectful. They took turns raising their hands and answering the questions. It was like we had planned it out...but we didn't! Baker, Brennan, Cara and Eliza did such a wonderful job expressing themselves. They are all so excited about our adoption and are eager to embrace a new Donahue. We know that there will be challenges, though, and our social worker did a great job speaking candidly to them.

We will be faced with prejudice and discrimination we have not felt before, and we will be put in uncomfortable positions when people ask naive or hurtful questions. Our whole life experience will be new and different, and we won't know how any of it feels until our child comes home.

What we do know is that we are eager to love our new Donahue with all of our hearts, and we are walking in faith that He has great things in store for each of us.

The word "adoption" has taken on new meaning for us. The reality that we are all adopted by God Himself is making a powerful impact on us as we consider God's adoption of us.

God really did choose us, and He wanted us so much that He sent His only son Jesus to pay the ultimate price for us. God pursues us. He never will leave us or forsake us. We are His. We have an eternal home with Him. We have a God who knows us each by name and calls us His own. Despite the trials and tribulation of the world, regardless of the attacks and discrimination of our faith, we are still held, wanted and loved.

Don't we all want to be called by name, to be wanted, to be loved without condition? Thank God He has adopted us in spite of ourselves, and we are no longer alone. We are no longer orphans. The God of all grace and comfort, the one and only Lord, has said "Come to Me. You are mine. I want you!"

My prayer is that when our little Haitian Donahue comes home, s/he will feel an inkling of the love that the Father has lavished on us and will live secure in the knowledge that s/he too has been called by name and is safe in the Everlasting arms of Jesus!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Eyes Wide Open

This past weekend, Don and I attended an adoption conference called "Empowered to Connect." It was hosted by Show Hope and led by Dr. Karyn Purvis, Director of the Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University. Our friends Dan and Terri Coley also spoke as did a couple of other families.

To say that the conference was good would be to do it an injustice, even to say it was great would wouldn't be the best way to describe it. To say that it was a big dose of a reality check would be adequate.

Truly there is no way to describe how incredibly educating and informative this conference was for us. The overall theme was learning to connect to your adopted child based on your child's attachment style, and, yet, that only skims the surface of the depth of the conference.

I'm not writing this blog today to try to convey Dr. Purvis' principles or recount stories that were told. My purpose in writing is to underline the importance of educating yourselves prior to adoption. Obviously, this is our journey right now, and while education seems like a logical step, I would venture to say that what we learned from Dr. Purvis is unlike anything that can be captured just through reading or perhaps from any other conference.

While the conference was focused on adoption, the principle discussed directly affect relationship in any form and don't only apply to adopted children but biological children as well. In fact, there is not a person who could not learn something amazingly insightful from listening to Dr. Purvis.

The weekend was mostly positive, educational and thought-provoking; however, it was also emotionally draining and even scary at times. We heard personal testimonies of severely difficult adoptions and witnessed video of Dr. Purvis in action working to transform the lives of children and improve their home life, emotional health and provide parents with hope. What we witnessed is that there is hope in every situation. What was missing was a balance of reality.

I'm confident of adoption success stories with few attachment issues and little, if any, difficulties. I'm also sure of adoptions that have experienced more attachment issues than others, but at the same time, have experienced success through implementing Dr. Purvis' safe-touch therapy plus more.

Without a doubt, I would recommend this conference to anyone...pre-adoptive, post-adoptive, or non-adoptive. If you have the opportunity to attend one, please go. I promise you won't be sorry. You can visit the TCU website for more information If you can't make it to a conference, the book The Connected Child by Dr. Purvis and other professionals is terrific. There are also several DVD series that can be purchased.

We are still in the beginning stages of our adoption and looking forward to our first home study visit on Saturday. The blessing of this conference for us is the opportunity that we now have to walk into the process with education, with our eyes WIDE open and with the confidence that the Lord has already hand-picked the "new" Donahue. He or she will arrive in His perfect timing, according to His perfect plan and clothed in His perfect care. Our Hope is in Him, and we are blessed to be on this journey

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Diving In...

"Diving in" seemed an appropriate follow-up to "Jump then Fall"...because we have jumped, fallen and are now diving, head over heals, into adopting from Haiti. It's hard to believe that we are on this journey. It takes so much just to get started. Of course, you never know what you're getting into until you go for it.

As of right now, we are in the major paperwork overload stage. We are filling out our home study packet and preparing for our social worker to visit us soon. Who knew all the information you have to reveal about yourself? It's certainly necessary, but I guess I've never really thought much about it because I haven't actually walked through this process myself or alongside a close friend.

The questionnaires and paperwork are revealing and reflective. While I filled out the marriage questionnaire, I reflected on what I love about my husband, how we communicate, what we struggle with, what our challenges are as a couple and how we resolve conflict. I retold the story of falling in love with Don and fell further in love with him as I told it, and thought about so much in our lives that I never really spend much time thinking about...this has been a good exercise and worth the time that it has taken.

There's also the "autobiography" of sorts that you have to write plus a parenting questionnaire. Each step has caused me to process more of who I am, who we are as a family, and who Don and I are as a couple and as parents. Perhaps this is part of the design of the home study, or maybe it's just a side effect. Either way, it's been so good for me to spend time writing and preparing, thinking all the time about the little boy or girl that will come into our family.

Because the process takes so long (18 months or so), and we don't know yet who our child is, there is a strange feeling that this isn't "real". So many others are much further ahead. We have so many steps to complete, so many government agencies to go through and so much waiting. The adoption of a child is often compared to a pregnancy. I like the analogy.

For me, the paperwork has seemed a bit like morning sickness and the overwhelming tiredness...something to get through but also a reason to cause me to slow down. At times I've thought, I will never get through the paperwork. Other times, I've been so tired from thinking and writing, but the process is good...necessary.

When the paperwork is done and the documents are sent to their respective places (after many notarizations, government clearances, translations, etc.), we will begin to wait. When you're pregnant, you have to wait too. Why should it be any different with adoption? We will wait. Sometimes we will wait patiently. Sometimes we will wait in anxiousness.

Our labor will come in stages...first, through our referral (when we get an emailed picture of our child!), then a first visit to meet our child and finally bringing our child home forever. I think the labor pains will be strongest between the time we first meet our child in Haiti and the time when we bring him or her home.

Anyway around it, it's all a process. The process is good, though, and worth it. Good things come to those who wait; and all things good are from God, and He promises that our labor will not be in vain. Thank goodness His process, plan and timing is perfect.

So, here we go... dive with us, head over heels. The journey will be worth it!

WARNING: you will get wet on this ride!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Jump then Fall

Since returning from Haiti, my heart can't stop thinking about the children there. I was overwhelmed by the reality of so many children without parents. While I knew the statistic "147 Million" orphans, thanks to the wonderful awareness campaign by moms making a difference, that number itself is hard to comprehend. However, when I put faces with the number, my heart felt many children with no mom, no dad, no family.

One day, I spoke with one of the male workers at the orphanage. We had a long conversation. Jean Marie was learning English and was eager to talk to me. In our conversation, I asked him what he thought about Americans and other foreigners adopting the Haitian children and taking them out of their homeland. With Jean Marie being Haitian, I wanted to hear his perspective.

What he told me, further opened my eyes. Jean Marie said, "I love America. I love Americans. You have come in to help us when we cannot help ourselves. The only chance that these children have in this world is to be adopted. I am very grateful and happy that Americans want to take care of and love these kids." Those words, coming from Jean Marie whose homeland is Haiti, rocked my world.

Eliza and I fell in love with these precious souls. We loved on them, carried them, played with them, fed them, giggled, sang and just held them...for hours. It was so difficult to leave them when it was time to return to the States. Here, at home, I can't stop thinking about those children. One, in particular, holds a firm grasp on my heart. She is constantly on my mind and in my heart...

I was emotionally unprepared to be called "Mama Blanc"to tiny hearts thousands of miles away, and I know I am among hundreds of women who feel similar. The attachment is much more powerful than I imagined. So hard, in fact, that when Eliza and I came home, we asked our own family to consider adoption.

We have been praying now for just over 30 days. Some of us are looking for a big sign that says, "yes, adoption is for your family!" Some want a small sign, a nudge. Others of us don't need a sign at all. The heart just knows... perhaps that is sign enough.

Today I came across a quote that I wrote down during a Bible study last year. I don't know if someone in our group said it, if I penned it or if I paraphrased it from something that was said. It doesn't matter. 

What I wrote was, "Are you afraid to pray for what you need because of fear you might get it?" A couple of days ago, I was reading Facebook posts, and my friend Kelly posted, "Why do we doubt God when He...shows us opportunities -- why do we look for things to hold us back -- why?"

Both of those questions are "fear-based." We can talk ourselves out of anything if we focus on the fear-factor. I understand practicality and the need to consider reality when making a big decision, but sometimes, the best decisions are the most impractical, the most radical...the most real.

Fear of what is not practical can hold us back from falling...even while we stare possibility in the face. Fear of what feels radical can keep us from leaping...even while God holds His will in our face.

Do I need a sign? Do I have to hold out a fleece? Do I have to be practical?  Do I need reasons to hold myself back? If so, what am I going to miss?

I'm feeling the urge to jump...

Monday, July 18, 2011

She Has a Heart for Haiti

Eliza and I recently returned from our first trip to Haiti... the trip was Eliza's dream come true. She claimed to have a heart for Haiti prior to ever going. I witnessed that heart in action and in truth when I saw her in Haiti. She does, indeed, have a heart for Haiti.

Our trip to Haiti included our spending time with the children in the orphanage adjacent to our guest house. The time we spent with those children is some of the most precious time of my life... not just because of the children themselves but also because of my child's unreserved love for them. She went in "no holds barred," heart and soul, no conditions... just pure love and passion.

We were with a group of 60 or so people. Eliza, 10 years old, was by far the youngest by at least 5 years. Being the youngest, though, was not a disadvantage for her. In fact, what I witnessed in her is the heart of a girl on a mission... a missionary, called by God to the country of Haiti.

I would venture to say that it's rare for a 10 year old to hear God's calling. I think it's rare for an adult to hear God's calling... or perhaps what's rare is for us to listen and follow God's calling. Eliza had no problem hearing, listening and following.

She touched our group of Americans in a way that literally floored me. The whole group knew her by name. Men and women encouraged her, loved on her and witnessed God's calling on her life.

There is so much more to tell, more details of our experiences both emotionally and spiritually, but what I most want to convey right now, is the call to hear, listen and follow.

Jesus tells us that we should have faith like that of a child. A child's faith is unclouded by Earthly distractions... eyes open, ears listening, heart fertile. Never have I personally experienced a more powerful witness for God's will than I did while watching Eliza.

Oh, that I, like Eliza, like a child, would be a simple vessel for Christ... filled up, running over, spilling out everywhere.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Stuck in the Middle

In the mid to late 80's, my high school friends and I used to eat at a pizza joint called Mr. Gatti's. Mr. Gatti's served traditional pizza fare, including the daily, all-you-can-eat, buffet. On one particular outing for pizza, I walked up to place my order and was asked if I wanted a drink. This was long before there were free refills and immediate access to the fountain or any sizes other than small, medium and large. So, what you ordered is what you got, and I ordered a medium Coke.

The employee taking my order looked at me and said, "We don't have medium. Medium is for people who can't make up their minds." Excuse me, I thought to myself, and I repeated in my mind just what the cashier had said to me, medium is for people who can't make up their minds. For a moment I couldn't say anything. I was embarrassed by his rude reply and offended by his nerve, but "no mediums" meant that I had to decide between large and small. I don't remember which size I chose, but, for some reason, I have never forgotten what this person said to me.

In reality, I suppose the Mr. Gatti's guy was right. Medium is for people who can't make up their minds. I didn't want as much as a large, but I wanted more than a small. "Medium" is the perfect compromise, though.   I thought about medium is for people who can't make up their minds a lot after that the time, less philosophically and more emotionally because I was just offended, nothing else.

However, as I've aged, I've thought about and considered this response more on philosophical level. Recently, my husband and I talked about it, and he said, "We actually live our lives in the middle, sometimes pursuing the materialistic and other times trying to simplify (para)"  Is "medium" less than a compromise and more of an easy way out? Am I truly stuck to medium in more ways than one? I think I am, and being in the middle has created a huge internal struggle... I've lost my desire to chose medium. So, where do I really stand?

I think of the middle as being a valley with a steep climb up to either side. One side is labeled "Large" and the other is labeled "Small."At the top of large is a life lived in over-the-top extravagance, perhaps the life of some of the rich and famous, closed-fisted, self-focused. The Small side, in contrast, is humble, not boastful, a life lived with open hands and an open heart, unswayed by Western Civilization's bulldozer focused at the top of the Large slope. While each slope is difficult to travel, neither is unattainable, but it's easier to linger in the Middle, taking steps up each side every now and then, and this is where I find myself. My reality is that I am tired of the Middle, and I'm left to choose Large or Small, but history has proven that I change my mind going back and forth, and finally landing in the Middle, again.

I've attempted to partially climb the Large slope so many times and along the way, I developed a silent, but deadly, "keep up with the Joneses" mantra. It's no secret, a lot of us live this way. If we didn't, there would be no one to keep up with. In reality, it's impossible to actually keep up with the Joneses unless you are yourself the Joneses.

I live in a beautiful home in a terrific neighborhood, but I've wanted a bigger house, more land. I've driven hip mom-taxis, but I've wanted ones with higher status. I have a closet full of clothes, but I've wanted more. I could go on, but you get the idea... I've succumbed to the tune of "more is more" more times than I'd like to admit. Quite frankly, it's exhausting and unfulfilling and each time I return to climb the Large side, I rediscover that more is not more of anything meaningful, just more. So, I slide back down to the Middle. Honestly, I don't want to make it all the way to the top of Large, but sometimes I think that half-way up would be ok...see what's happening here?

The Small slope allures me with its unselfishness, peace and contentment. Unfortunately, it's hard to climb up the Small side with all of the luggage I've accumulated from my climb up the Large. There have been plenty of times when I've ravaged through my closet getting rid of "everything", only to realize my closet was still full of clothes. I've given stuff away, had garage sales, posted on Craigslist and ebay only to turn around and replace it through the years with something else. The climb up Small is tough. My baggage from the Large weighs me down, and I get pulled back to the Middle where things seem more comfortable when in reality there's no true contentment in maintaining the status quo. The push and pull is exhausting.

Sometimes, I think there is a workaround to Small. If I lived in a smaller house in a smaller town, drove an older car, home schooled my kids and existed on no one else's schedule, terms or expectations other than the parameters of my own family, then it would be easy to live Small...duh! However, abandoning my present life and responsibilities isn't truly living Small. It's avoiding the presence of Large so I don't have to deal with the external pressure of actually choosing.

Maybe airing my own internal struggle in a public forum is a step in the right direction, but allowing myself to be vulnerable doesn't change the direction of my climb, it acknowledges where I am right now. I know, by the grace of God, that I will survive just fine in the Middle, make a difference even, but I can't deny the obvious pull to make a choice. The Middle is for people who can't make up their minds.  I don't want to be one of those people anymore. I want Small. The slope will be steep, the path will be rocky and confusing at times, but I won't be alone. Thank the Lord that He knows the way. Wanna climb with me?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

I was thinking this morning about the recent additions to our Western vernacular... reduce, reuse, recycle, global footprint, global impact, etc. With a heavy concentration on the environment and how our daily habits influence the Earth's environment for good or bad, we are often reminded of the need to reduce our impact.

While I'm all for being environmentally sensitive, as a mother, wife, daughter and friend, I'm actually trying to increase the impact that I have on my environment in an effort to leave a lasting footprint, one that matters... reduce my selfishness, reuse the forgiveness that I've received and recycle the kind of love that is without condition.

Selfishness is tough to get away from, especially in a world where "self is king." It's hardly possible to reduce in America when our focus is me, me, me and more, more, more.

Forgiveness is hard to reuse when we see so many who won't forgive, which again goes back to being selfish. How can you forgive if you are selfish? Forgiving is based on our ability to become selfless.

Love is hard, if not impossible, to recycle if we look to the world to show us how. Unconditional love is not a standard set by our society. Again, we have to go back to being selfless if we want to love well.

I'm not saying that we won't find selfless, forgiving and loving people in our world. Of course, we will. Hopefully, you're one of them or you're working hard to be one of them.

We can only rely on one example...the One who left the greatest global impact. If we look to Jesus as our guide, and we seek to emulate Him, our own footprint on the world will become increasingly difficult to distinguish from His.

Why? Because Jesus was the greatest environmentalist ever. He knew how to reduce, reuse and recycle from the beginning. He is selfless. He is forgiving. He loves without condition.

Think about it... if we were all to use His example as our modus operandi, would our environment be suffering so much? Would our world be hurting so much? Would we be working so hard to reduce our stuff, reuse our bags, recycle our plastic? Would our focus be less on us and more on Him? I'm willing to bet it would.