Thursday, December 15, 2011

What 2011 Taught Me

2011 was...quite a year.  I would never have pictured December 2011 this way a year ago.  Never ever.  This time last year we were recovering from a failed adoption, totally uncertain for the first time in a long time what was next for our family.  I couldn't possibly have forseen the joy and pain of the upcoming 12 months, and for that I am thankful.  God, in His mercy, kept hidden many of the surprises around the corner in this year - He knew I'd need to keep my sanity for 365 days straight.  Through the ups and downs, there are some major life lessons I've learned.

1.  I was born to have a daughter.  I wouldn't have, in a million years, thought this to be true.  I haven't ever been  a woman who dreamed of baby girls and bows and sugar and spice.  Pink and purple weren't colors in my rainbow.  (OK, I was into sparkles.)  I love being the mom of boys - stinky, noisy, rough and tumble, grass stained, cape wearing, karate chopping boys.  When we decided to continue on our adoption journey, we were open to either gender, but we knew from our hosting experiences that an older girl was a good dynamic for our boys.  Neither of our previously hosted girls were what you would call "girly girls" by any stretch.  And then God blessed me with a beautiful daughter - and my world has forever changed.  So many things I never really had a desire to do are now some of my favorite things to do.  An example?  Shopping with my daughter.   Several years ago, I made a deal with my sister that if I could tag along on my neices' prom dress shopping trips, I'd buy their accessories and shoes.  I didn't figure I'd need any more girl shopping time than that.  Oh. How. Wrong. I. Was.  I absolutely love shopping with Alina.  We don't always buy a lot, but we thoroughly enjoy showing each other what we like, what we don't like, and what we would never, ever wear.  It's not about having my own life sized Barbie, it is honestly that I love her company and seeing what catches her eye.  I love the comraderie of another set of aching ovaries.  I love braiding hair.  We've gotten manicures and pedicures.  Her room is now a brilliant shade of pink.  I love it.  I love her.

2.  If I have an international road trip in the future, my mom is going to be my wingman.  This fall Alina, my mom, and I went back to Latvia for our adoption court date.  It was a whirlwind trip - we were literally traveling somewhere every day, but that whole trip will be a deathbed moment for sure.  (Deathbed moment = a special time I hope I remember on my deathbed.)  My mom was able to meet some of our new extended "family" - our lawyer, another totally awesome adoptive family, and Alina's foster family, and she got to see Latvia.  I love that place - love it in a way I can't even explain, so to share it with my mom was such a blessing.  And then there was our 20 hour layover in Prague.  If you ever have the chance to go to Prague, go.  My mom, Alina, and I traisped all over that amazing city, and all I could say over and over to my mom was, "We are totally in Prague."  And we were.  There were moments that would have panicked any other wingman, but my mom rolled with it, and we ended up laughing hysterically when we didn't have enough money to buy her birthday dinner or when we took the long way (I mean the really, really long way) to Prague Castle (to this day we aren't 100% sure what  we saw), and spending more than a half hour using up our extra money in a vending machine in the Prague Airport.  I learned that I love seeing new places and reading about the history of other countries.   There are so many places I want to visit now that I have gotten a glimpse of this big, interesting world.  And I hope my mom will tag along.

3.  When you wonder if you are too old to wrestle with your kids, you are.  So says my sprained thumb.  Still - weeks later.  Won't make that mistake in 2012.

4.  Losing my Gram has forever changed my life, but not nearly as much as her love still does.  I know you all (both of you) may be tired of hearing about my Gram, whom we lost on February 19 of this year.  But losing my Gram and gaining my daughter are the two most defining moments of 2011 for me. I always knew losing my Gram would be awful - Mark and I have had many conversations about how awful it would be for me, and I used to always tell Gram that she better not ever die because I would be so angry with her.  She would always laugh (I can still hear her laugh!), but I was only half joking.  When you have been loved well by someone, you never want to say good-bye.  I remember stepping into the funeral home right before calling hours began and knowing - knowing - that I was crossing a metaphorical threshhold that I have dreaded all of my adult life.  I miss my Gram every single day.  I am sure all her grandkids do.  She really was that great at being a grandma.  But I also see even more clearly now how much her love changed my life and my perception of family.  She was a 95 year old woman who couldn't see well, enjoyed Steelers football, and loved her family...and she changed lives.  Beautiful.  

I also learned that, whenever possible, I will send flowers or go to calling hours when somone passes away.  There was such comfort in the long line of folks who came to remember my Gram.

5.  Praying for your enemies is the hardest assignment in the Bible for me this year.   I almost hate to write that because it sounds like I have a slew of enemies, but I really don't.  Actually, I have little time for the amount of drama it takes to get and maintain an enemy (except in the case of my archnemesis, Randy Bohlender, whose evil office behavior shall make my blood boil until the day I pass from this world to the next).  I am, by nature, an optimist and a firm believer in redemption, so praying for my enemies has never really tripped me up spiritually before.  Until this year.  I won't go into detail, but there is one person (no one who reads the blog and no one I am in contact with in real life) who has caused such grief and pain to me and my family, and I have spent the last year choking on my prayers for this person.  Oh, I can get out the "smite him DOWN" prayers with no problem, but the "God, I know you can redeem anyone.  You are the changer of hearts.  Help me forgive as you have forgiven.  Let him hear and believe Your gospel" is like lava in my throat.  I'm ashamed, but it's true.  I have learned there aren't any trite commands in the Bible - just struggles you haven't encountered yet.  This is one of those for me.  I will continue to press on and pray (in the good way), because God has said so.  Obedience over emotion.  Even if I need the heimlich maneuver to get the words out.

For a slew of reasons I haven't shared on this blog (and rarely shared in real life) 2011 has been one of the most challenging years for me as an adult.  Losing someone I love and seeing others I love facing unbelievable struggles has, at times, pained me beyond tears.  On the flip side, I have experienced some of the greatest joys of life this year as well.  2011 has been the year of Ecclesiastes 3:1:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven...

I don't know what 2012 has in store for our family, but I am going to take a deep breath, pray, and see what season comes next.


Renovation Girl said...

Always good to reflect on the past while looking to the future. Your 2011 has been abundant...wishing you a fulfilling 2012 filled with many deathbed moments.

Judy P said...

Hi Ann, I have enjoyed reading your blog and keeping up with how things have been going with Alina. We hosted her last year at Christmas and praise God for placing her in your beautiful family. Both our daughters are married, and we have two young granddaughters. We are expecting a grandson in March and another grandbaby in July!! God is so good to bless us with one of His greatest gifts - children in our lives :) I have really enjoyed reading about your love for your grandmother. As a grandmother myself, I would love to know more about why she was such an amazing grandmother. I want to be that kind of grandmother to my grandchildren. I don't know if you could write some about that on your blog or not. Or maybe email me to share some of that kind of information with me. I am so glad that things are working out so well with Alina. I know she must love you so much! Judy P

Anonymous said...

I hope 2012 is as fulfilling for your family as 2011 has turned out to be : ) You have a beautiful family.