Whose Life is Valuable?

Is your life…valuable?

Who gets to decide that?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the value of life, and what society says about it. I’ve seen some amazing acts of love lately, and some soul-rending situations that leave me reeling, grasping for understanding as to how people as a whole can be so cruel. I keep thinking of the orphanages in Eastern Europe and my heart cries out…how can it be this way? These people, the ones who live near those orphanages, the ones who turn their backs on the children with Down Syndrome and Spina Bifida and cleft palates, the ones who walk by the buildings full of a generation of children who are forever damaged by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. It’s hard not to wonder… how can they be so backward? How can a country be so cold towards those who are suffering, who are different? How can they see those children as having no value, those precious lives as being worth less than the lives of other, “normal” people. Who see them as worth…less.

And yet I can’t judge those nations, and neither should you. It’s a broken world we live in, friends. Eastern Europe is picking up the pieces of decades of Communism, decades in which the value of people was determined by their ability to “contribute” to society. A child with a disability? Not likely to “contribute,” and therefore…not valuable.

Shocked? Yeah, when I read the articles, when I look at the pictures, when I see the damage…I feel that. A lot of help needs to go there, a lot of people who are blessed to be living in better circumstances need to go there and show them differently, show them the value of love, the value of every human life. A lot of people need to donate their time, their money, their hearts to help this cause, to show the world that we value life. Not just the precious lives of those waiting children, but also the precious lives of those people serving them, those orphanage workers who, at a ratio of 40 workers to 800 children are undoubtedly in need of help, compassion, and love. Those people who we see as the root of the problem, the ones who hate and neglect and show indifference…they need our love, our prayers, and our help. How will they know the love of Jesus if we don’t show it to them? Christ touched the lives of those kinds of people, too. The ones you want so badly to judge, the sinners who hated and cheated and persecuted God’s people. Some of them, when they enountered Jesus, became a great force in His story, in our story. Should we doubt that this can still be the case today? If we sit here and…be shocked…we are only contributing to the problem.

America is not innocent. You might be thinking…but there are no orphanages full of children with Down Syndrome here! No, there are not. I cry as I write this…Ninety Percent of babies with Down Syndrome in the US are aborted before before they are born. Ninety Percent. It’s true, and beautiful, that a baby with DS lucky enough to make it to birth in America today will almost certainly find a loving family, in fact recently a baby girl with Down’s had no fewer than 300 prospective adoptive parents apply to bring her home. America, these days, has a big heart…for those who make it. And we have wonderful resources for kids with disabilities…every child born here has access to some kind of education, health care, and early intervention to improve their chances at having a “normal” life, a “valuable” life.

In Eastern Europe, a mother who has just given birth to a child with a disability will be told to put that child in an orphanage. There are no resources for such children, and no tolerance in society for families who keep them. If your child is born in need of surgery to correct a problem (often one that is a simple fix by American standards) and you don’t happen to have the money to finance that operation? Surrendering that child to an orphanage may be the only way to save her life. Parents in that situation visit their precious babies in the orphanage as often as they can, bringing them diapers and blankets and whatever little comforts they can, hoping for someone to adopt that child before they are transferred to an institution.

Not so very long ago, a baby girl was born. She was the third child, a bit of an afterthought born seven years after her closest brother. In the delivery room, there was shocked silence. The baby’s face told the whole story…Down Syndrome. She was beautiful in her own way, but the future was foretold in the grey-blue tint to her newborn skin–a hole in her heart, unfixable, would take her life before she reached childhood. “Put her in an institution,” they said. “She will only break your heart. She’ll never contribute to society. She won’t know the difference, and you can carry on with your life as if this never happened.”

This, they did not do. She went home to live six short months. She did break her mother’s heart, but perhaps not so much as it would have broken had she never gotten to give that child love. Was her life valuable? Her parents never spoke of her, that short life never really touched the lives of others.

Or did it?

That baby was born here, in America. Fifty-something years ago, when things looked very different than they do today. When things looked a lot like they do now, in Eastern Europe.

When I was the age of my Middle Child, eleven or so, I sat down at my grandmother’s dressing table. It was full of treasures, tiny Avon lipstick samples decades old, wedding announcements for couples who had long since honeymooned, had children, and retired. Old papers from my mother’s school days, photos of people I had never met but bore some resemblance to, a lock of hair in an envelope, the glue long since yellowed and dried. I found a book, Angel Unaware: A Touching Story of Love and Loss
I read it in an afternoon. It told the story of a baby girl born with Down Syndrome, of her loss and the love and grace that her short life brought. And it was then I learned about that other baby girl, the one who would have been my Aunt Shirley. The one whose value can’t be measured by the length of time she lived, by the profound words she never wrote, by the career she never had, by the family she never raised. The one who taught those who knew her or lived with her memory that a valuable life is a life, period. That those who cannot speak for themselves are often the most powerful teachers the world will ever know.

Will you, friend, search your heart to see where you can help? Will you find a way to tell the world that all people are valuable? That every life has the same potential to change the world?


Random Cuteness

Just for fun…

While playing around with our new camera, I snapped these of Youngest. I thought I’d post them for no other reason than…well, they’re cute. And right now, I am feeling like I could use a large dose of cute! I love the impish smile…

And, as long as we are on the subject of cute: Remember those kittens that interruped our boredom the other day? Well, here’s one of them. Newborn kittens are…cute. But I have a feeling they will be much more cute once they are a few weeks old and have a little more fluff and spirit to them! And they will be the absolute cutest when we find homes for all…six of them. Anyone want a kitty? Come on, you know you need a kitten!

The mommy cat showed up in our yard not long ago, and has won our affection by not only being a very friendly cat, but also an amazing mouser. Did I tell you about the rodent problem in our yard? I’ll have to do that some day. Between the sweet kitty who greets us every morning on the back porch and the drastic reduction of scary little vermin darting around the garden, I’d say it’s pretty much worth a basement full of mewing little fuzz balls. Check back with me in a month and see if I feel the same way….

Becoming Real

What is real? Here on the Internet, we speak with pixels and megabytes, we have virtual words for virtual friends in a virtual world. You can carry on this way, cloaked in virtual anonymity. When do the pixels become more? When do the words gather together, become more than fonts and html and form a body? At what point do we online entities become….real?

I know, of course, that there are people behind the words. Each of you is out there in three dimensions, fingers flying on the keyboard just like mine are at this moment. But there is a disconnect where the Internet is concerned, a gap that can easily be kept so that there is a safe distance between each of our worlds, between us and our words.

Or it can be bridged.

What makes us real? Is it found in the comment box, where you leave your thoughts and share your hearts? Is it when we reach out and type those words, yes, I hear your heart…your words speak to my reality, to my life too. Or does real require taking it one step further? Are we finally real to one another when we pick up the phone, connect a voice to those words and pixels? Perhaps we are not real until we meet in person…until we shake the hands that fly over keyboard keys, feel the crush and warmth of flesh in a long anticipated embrace.

It’s funny, you know. Some of my best friends, I have never met. Some souls that are so precious to me, I’ve never spoken to. Some people who have changed my life, I’ve never embraced.

What makes us real?

I think, in the end, it’s not the actual moment of taking things beyond the screen. As much as I have loved emailing with dear friends, as much of a gift it has been to have spoken on the phone with other bloggers and as much as I do long to meet each of you (and have come oh so very close at times) I think it’s not the meeting that makes us real.

I think we become real when our words change things, when they take root in another’s heart and cause something new to grow. We become real when we make a real difference, however small it is. We become real when we cause real change in human souls and in society…through our words, through our honesty, through our humanness and brokenness. Pixels and fonts and html come to life in the real difference they make in the lives of others. We may never know this side of heaven what difference we’ve made. I feel confident, in fact, that we will never know until the day we’re able to look back on all of this and see clearly the path of our lives, the seeds sown that grew on soil we never walked on, never even saw.

Are we real? Your words have made a real difference in my life. They have evoked real change, real reflection, real soul-searching. They have caused me to take real action, to change my life and to do my best to change the lives of others for the better, too. I have taken, from this virtual world, real treasures that have enriched, changed, and blessed my life.

You are real. The Spirit moves through the Word and the Word is real, the Word became flesh and moved through us all and yes, we are real. The same Spirit that hovered over the waters in the beginning of all time hovers now over us, connects us, moves through our words. We know, in our hearts, that what is real does not always need to be seen, to be touched. What is real bears real fruit. I look around this community of real people and see the fruit ripe on the vine, the harvest growing every day. And I am thankful for the real blessing of it.

This post was written in response to a writing prompt on High Calling Blogs, as well as this post on the same subject.

Desperately seeking boredom!

It’s been a whirlwind of a summer, and it doesn’t look like it will be calming down any time soon. I’m feeling like I need a vacation from my vacation! We’ve had a paint crisis…started to paint our peeling old farmhouse only to find we’ve been living in a lead-encrusted environmental hazard. Alright, I’ve been accused of being too dramatic before….but still, not what we wanted to deal with!

We’ve had one wonderful road trip, a too-full social calendar, and another road trip coming up.

Where are those long, lazy, summer days?

I strongly believe that boredom is an important part of childhood. It’s the place where the imagination dusts off the cobwebs and once again takes flight, the place where thoughts can roam and the spirit is refreshed. I’m not talking about a break from the usual chaos and joy that is life with children, pets and lots of love. I’m just talking about a break from the busy…where you feel safe to pull out your knitting needles, start that good book you’ve been wanting to read, or just sit around and watch the ants march on your back patio.

The summer is nearly over, and it’s been a good one. But we’ve only had a few sweet days of this:

And this:

And this,

And maybe even this.

Could we have a little boredom, please? My kids may complain about it, but it’s good for the soul. Here’s wising for you some sweet time with nothing at all to do, my friend!

Update: During the time I was writing this post, the stray cat who adopted us last month gave birth to three kittens….and counting.

Today, apparently, will not be boring!

Gratitude Journal…Vacation

There’s beauty in the smallest atom, beauty in the vast sky, beauty in all things in between. How true it rings, when you stop to see it, that “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1)

Some beautiful blessings from our vacation….

289. Sisters
290. the balancing act

291. yellow spilled across green…the beautiful flower with the ugly name

292. the joy of running
293. retirement, a new life
294. reflections
295. more reflections
296. chalk expressions
297. freedom

298. celebration

299. making the ordinary, art

300. soft, sweet love

301. rolling hills, endless sky

302. this tiny cat, twice rescued

303. glory repeated every evening

304. arbor love

305. summer with family, fields, and moments to hold all year

And The Winner Is……At Last, the Fundraising Results!

First of all I want to shout out a big “Thank You” to everyone who donated, and to everyone who passed along the story about Peach and Mallory!

Second, I want to apologize about how long it’s taken me to get the results of the fund raiser posted. It took quite awhile to get all the names of people who had donated together, but I got the names yesterday and am excited to announce the results!

I put a list of all the names of people who donated, and ran it through this nifty random picker. Saved me the trouble, you know, of actually writing down all the names and finding a hat ;o)

Drum roll please……..

First Prize, an 8×10 photo print by A Simple Country Girl from the for The Least of These photo ministry:

Jacqueline DiPasquale.

Second Prize, a Bath and Body Works gift card for $15.00:

Kelly Butler

Third Prize, a CD of Christian music by artist Steele Croswhite:

Jennifer Baker

Congratulations, and thank you again to everyone who helped!

If you won one of the prizes, please email me at RissaRooH@gmail.com and I’ll get your contact info so I can mail your prize. If you’re reading this and you know one of the people on the list, could you do me a favor and pass this on to them?

And, of course…the real winners in all of this are Mallory, Peach, and their new family. There is no prize compared to the love that they have been blessed with and the beauty of increasing a family through adoption! I can’t wait to see that precious family finally united. Can you imagine the joy?

Fundraiser Update!

Today’s the day! The fundraiser for Mallory and Peach ends at midnight tonight…and I’m on vacation in the Pacific Northwest, so midnight comes late ;o)

I will be announcing the winners next week, after all the names have been collected.

Thank you for your donations, for your tears, for your concern. Thank you for passing this along…my prayer is that people’s eyes have been opened to the plight of the orphans in Easter Europe.

And, especially, my prayer is that Mallory and Peach are safe in their mother’s arms by the end of the summer!