Monthly Archives: July 2014

Chair Prayer

20140731-094551-35151977.jpg  I met a faith healer in the Harrisburg airport today. The girls and I had made our usual slightly-behind-schedule dash to the airport, parked, shuttled, securitied and pulled in at the gate to discover a    flight delay. We settled in to wait.

My back was screaming from some ill advised yard work the day before and I couldn’t sit, so stretched and paced. 15 minutes before boarding I looked across the concourse at a folding screen partially blocking a massage chair. I hadn’t noticed that before. Something made me go over. “How much for 10 minutes?” I asked the woman at the desk. “$10.10,” the woman said, “It will be the fastest and best 10 minutes of your life.” There was a guy behind the screen waiting for a half hour massage. “You go ahead if you have a plane to catch,” he said. The girls were in clear view and sunk into their iPods, so I did.

“What do you do?” the woman asked. Here it goes, I thought, and admitted I was a pastor. I tensed for the usual questions, curiosity or confession but instead she said, “Then this is free, as thanks for all the good work you do. God bless your heart.”

I probably tensed even more then. How could I not pay her?? How could I accept something for free? “God gives us every good thing,” she went on, “and its so important to give what we can.” Over my protests, she said it was an honor to do this for someone who serves God. And she thanked Jesus for me and the opportunity to be together in this moment in what was a statement that seemed very much like a prayer.

I told her about the nun massage therapist I used to see, who would always pray before working on me. “I always planned to be a nun,” she said, “but ended up married to a Baptist and mother of five children instead.” Whereupon she began to pray as she kneaded and smoothed, a long prayer that could have been strange or uncomfortable but it wasn’t. It was beautiful, deeply moving and it left me profoundly grateful.

She prayed for my parents and grandparents, all who taught or raised me. She prayed for the faith of all who believe. She prayed for those who don’t know God. When she started to pray about “America’s enemies” I thought, “Here it comes.” But she prayed that they should lay down arms to seek peace, as should we. She prayed for Jesus’ presence with those who suffer and are in pain. Her words wove God’s presence behind that screen, around that chair and into the crowds of the concourse just beyond.

The middle of a busy airport is a strange place to receive such grace. Its a strange place to get a massage too. But it was the right place to have a holy encounter, to be ministered to and sent on vacation blessed in body and spirit. It was among the best and fastest 10 minutes of my life.

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Candy Land

Candy-Land-Wallpaper-candy-land-2843701-1024-768I wish I had a nickel for every time someone nodded toward my younger daughter’s nonstop action and said, “I wish I had a fraction of her energy,” I would have a LOT of nickels. It happens all the time. Strangers in the grocery store. Parents at school. The other day a young Mom with a very active toddler AND an infant looked at me with pity and said, “You must be exhausted all the time.” Ouch. But yes, I am.

Two years ago our family therapist suggested Mei might have ADHD and gave me a referral for an assessment. I made an appointment, then cancelled. I come from a medication-averse family that doesn’t believe in better living through chemistry. It still doesn’t occur to my mother to take something for a headache, upset stomach or other minor ill unless one of her children urges it. I was troubled about the possibility of medicating my child. I was scared of reaching for the easy solution and thought it might get better as she matured. So we waited.

Fast forward a year.  After a particularly embarrassing public event with Mei, I finally acknowledged that a child who can’t sit still, talks incessantly, drums every available surface to burn off energy and pops up like a whack-a-mole when supposedly doing homework might be more than just active. Maybe it was time, for her sake, to check things out. I made the appointment.

Upon entering the doctor’s office, Mei saw a box with the game Candy Land, took it down and started playing with it. She arranged the cards for the Molasses Swamp, Candy Cane Forest and other sugary locations. Then rearranged them. She sorted the counters with the red, green, yellow, blue squares that instruct you how many spaces to go.  She moved the little gingerbread men around and around the board. I went in to see the doctor and wouldn’t you know Mei sat and played Candy Land with herself the entire time. The kid who can’t sit still SAT STILL and amused herself for a solid 45 minutes. I felt like a child faking sick to get out of school describing symptoms to an increasingly skeptical parent. Not that I know this from any first-hand experience.

I was advised that without corroborating testimony from another source (school) there couldn’t be any diagnosis. Or prescription. No magic bullet to check the constant motion of my quicksilver daughter.

I was relieved. But I realized then how I had secretly hoped there would be a Mother’s Little Helper pill that would make her easier. That my objections to medication were in tension with the flat out exhaustion of keeping up with her. And I immediately felt guilty for wanting that.

Nine months later, multiple tests, teacher meetings and physician appointments and we are in possession of an ADHD diagnosis and have a prescription ready to start tomorrow. I hope its the right thing. Might it change her personality along with her behavior? Because the parts of her that drives me to distraction are also the parts I love and that make her…her. These days I know that children as medicated as easily as giving them grapes for snack. But I do it with trepidation mixed with some small hope.

When I explained to Mei what we were doing and what is was for she clutched me and exclaimed, “It’s going to take my best super power – running fast!” I explained it would help her slow down her brain and focus, but not the rest of her body. “OK,” she said. “Let’s do it. As long as I can take it with some chocolate.” We’ll see where this candy land takes us.

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Best Self Management

We are at the Jumbo Buffet and Grill, sitting in the chaos of the farewell dinner for our two Chinese summer exchange students, Amy and Cherry. Chaotic because after a lengthy talent contest and lengthier speeches, the 40-some students have become restless and are tuning out the podium while tuning into their conversations. The podium doesn’t seem to notice they are drowned out by chatter and my own kids contribute to the noise, imploring me in turn, “I’m bored” and “Please, can we go?”.

We can’t. We were hotly pursued by the coordinator seeking host families for a two week stint. When I said we would be out of town for the first few days she said they would work around it. When I finally agreed to take someone she said, “Great! Can you take four? I really need you to take more.” She pushed aside my protests until I pointed out I didn’t have enough room in the car for my kids and four more. We bargained and finally settled on two, which was probably her aim all along.

That said, Amy and Cherry have been easy to host. They say they like my cooking. They clear their dishes. They are quiet, ask no questions (either not very curious or hesitant to use their English), spend a lot of time on their phones, tell me about the boys in other host families they think are cute. The main downside is they take a really long time in the shower and I missed out on mine two mornings in a row. If you saw me Friday, that’s why my hair looked that way. Their only requests have been food-related (which of course endeared them to me), to eat fried chicken, french fries and hamburgers. And to go shopping for Air Jordans. I didn’t know it would take multiple stores across two counties to get to the right pair (actually, pairs). So its been fine, and the adage “Guests, like fish, stink after three days” doesn’t apply here.

When I broached the idea of hosting, Helen enthusiastically supported being a host family. Mei of course is enthusiastic about everything. I already knew her vote. But Helen doesn’t like change and usually goes out of her way to reject things that have to do with her birth culture or language. But she even volunteered to give up her room. So we took the plunge. It’s been good.

Back at the farewell dinner, everyone perked up when awards were handed out. Categories were things like “most improved English” or “best Chinese representative”. We took note when the last award was announced. “Best Self Management” was basically for the kids who neither excelled at language nor were particularly well-behaved, but who got through the trip without inflicting any major damage. As the names were announced, Amy told us these kids were the most difficult on the trip.

A pack of boys rushed forward to get their award, mugging for the camera, talking and jostling while the presenter spoke, acting out after a long spell of sitting still. Amy, Cherry, the girls and I all laughed, sharing the joke together that there was precious little self management actually going on. But lots of wonderful new relationships being born.

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