The Velveteen Equation (Part 1)

“If we treated everyone we meet with the same affection we bestow upon our favorite cat, they, too, would purr.” Martin Delany

Can you remember the story of the Velveteen Rabbit? If not, let me sum it up for you: Once upon a time, there was a lonely little stuffed bunny who belongs to a little boy, who loved him very much. The bunny is the little boy’s constant companion, until one day when the little boy is stricken with scarlet fever and the bunny as well as the rest of the boy’s belongings are put in a big pile to be burned to stop any further spreading of the disease. The little bunny is rescued by a fairy who has watched his love and faithfulness for many years and at last, the little bunny is granted his fondest wish: to be “real” and hop around with the other rabbits and live out his life. (OK, the original story is much more charming, but that is the jist.)

As some people know, and many others do not, I was adopted. However, I did not begin life as an unwanted child. More to the point, I was a surprise! My birth parents were older when I was born, my mother 42 and my father had reached the ripe old age of 71 when I appeared on the scene. (The many implications of this particular age difference and the fact of my birth were things I had to come to terms with as a preteen in typical “eww-gross” fashion; but I digress, the fact is that I owe my existence to unusual circumstances.) As I grew, their years advanced until a chance meeting with a logging truck and the car my father was driving when I was seven. Fatherless, I continued living with my mother until the age of sixteen, when I received a call while in Denmark as an exchange student. Cancer. Terminal. I chose to return home. My mother appeared diminished and grey, dark circles under her eyes when I saw her at last. Less than a month full of anguish and sleepless night trying vainly to nurse her back to semi-health as she slipped away from me and her body gave in to advanced kidney failure, she died. I was all alone.

Others who have faced the prospects and unique challenges of being orphaned, will understand the many times I felt isolated, misunderstood, and strange, among other things. It is bad enough to be alone as an adult. As a child, especially an extremely sheltered and backward child such as I was, it is devastating in the utmost. It is difficult to take in a child whose been broken. I have friends who have recently adopted a child from China, and they have learned about many of these issues already. “Difficult” is a nice word for the way I behaved that year as I lived with the kind family friends who became my guardians.

I began to daydream about belonging to the family of a friend of mine.  Little did I know, at the same time that I was daydreaming, my guardian was praying about whether it would be better for everyone if I lived with this other family and the “daydream family” was thinking the same thing about me! I remember the day they came to pick me up. There were tears in our eyes as we hugged on the doorstep. It was the beginning of a brand new adventure.

Adventures do not always take the turns we anticipate. Part of the journey involves taking what you’re faced with and learning to adapt, accommodate, and worth through it. Joining a complete family, especially as a needy, spoiled teen has many pitfalls and challenges. It would be difficult to say who has a more difficult time of it, actually, the adopters or the adoptee.

It has been a long journey. The love of my adoptive family has seen me through the recovery of a divorce following a terrible marriage, single motherhood, remarriage, and the births of my 5th and 6th children. Their love has at times confused me, as I pulled away, and felt isolated for my efforts. I am now well into my adult years and still occasionally struggle with what it means to be part of a family, included in something I didn’t begin. The bottom line is that love makes us real. Love makes us belong.

“NOW WHAT I mean is that as long as the inheritor (heir) is a child and under age, he does not differ from a slave, although he is the master of all the estate; but he is under guardians and administrators or trustees until the date fixed by his father. So we [Jewish Christians] also, when we were minors, were kept like slaves under [the rules of the Hebrew ritual and subject to] the elementary teachings of a system of external observations and regulations. But when the proper time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born subject to [the regulations of] the Law, to purchase the freedom of (to ransom, to redeem, to atone for) those who were subject to the Law, that we might be adopted and have sonship conferred upon us [and be recognized as God’s sons].” Galatians 4: 1-5 AMP

(To Be Continued…)


“The Joy of Life”

Joy is a game changer, a rule breaker, and even a life saver. It’s something many people have lost sight of over time. As children, joy is so easy. For those of us who have experienced joy killers like tragedy, loss, abuse, etc, etc, joy may have been unnaturally curtailed or even wiped out of our lives completely. We don’t always have control over the events that shape us. Even as adults, we learn all too quickly that our lives can take turns down roads we never wanted to travel. We soon enough come to the conclusion that joy is not possible, practical, or attainable.

I have a couple of friends currently dealing with a situation that in one friend’s words is like riding a roller coaster. The name of this roller coaster is cancer. Many people are familiar with this particular ride, having undergone it themselves or with a loved one. Many of us have lost special people in our lives to this roller coaster. It seems to be a ride you can never fully exit. For many people the fear of it coming back is ever present. Steve’s blog is here.

I think, however, that his choice to maintain an attitude of faith and hope even in the face of such a monstrous fear as cancer makes it possible for him to experience joy, in spite of his situation. His faith is not in himself. His hope is not merely for hope’s sake, or for some generic idea that things will get better. He is not wishing on a star. He knows better than that. Facing the truth of the situation, Steve chooses to look PAST his fear to the One who has been with him and will continue to be with him the entire journey.

I don’t like to think about cancer. I don’t like to talk about cancer. “Not in a boat, not in a tree”; it seriously scares the heck out of me. I have personally lost some of the most important people in my life to cancer. I don’t understand why. I don’t understand why a lot of the ugly, terrifying, heart-rending things go on in this world. I have noticed, lately, that the most beautiful, precious, and uplifting things in the world are God things and the most terrifying, disgusting, evil things are man things.

So many people are caught in the re-run cycle of pain, shame, guilt, fear, and so forth. There is ugliness and heart break in the world, but we don’t have to be swallowed up by it, period, end of story, we’re done for; and certainly, we do not have to contribute to it. It doesn’t have to be this way.

The French have a phrase: joie de vivre, which means, simply, the joy of life. Whatever anyone’s opinion of the French, there can be no denying the fact that they seem to have a unique ability to add special touches to just about anything to make it more beautiful, special, or memorable. Even a simple life can be beautiful when you take the time to appreciate (and I think this is key) the world around you. Appreciate the gifts you have been given, the use you have of your mind and body. There are many throughout the world who would LOVE to have your life, your body, your troubles, your health. In other words, BE THANKFUL. There are many who would love to be in your shoes.

Psalm 28 : 6 – 8 “Praise be to the LORD, for he has heard my cry for mercy.
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for JOY, and with my song I praise him. The LORD is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.

Basically, if we bring our focus back to God, and what He has done, every single day for us, as well as what He continues to do, not to mention what He did on the cross for us, how can our lives be anything but joy-filled? It is easy to be Pollyanna about things when you haven’t experienced them yourself. I may write, by and by, about some of the griefs I have experienced on the road to where I am today; but today, I want to focus on my brave friend Steve, and my brave friend Milissa, and countless others whose lives fly in the face of this monster fear, and continue to put one foot in front of the other, and hold onto joy, in spite of it.