Intimacy and the Stumbling Christian Male (Adult Content)


Not too long ago, I was chatting with my gentleman caller – code name “Stockholm”- about some of our various online dating experiences. Stockholm and I are of type. Middle aged, educated, we take our faith seriously, and are interested in making a difference in the world around us. Stockholm and I have zero interest in the ‘hookup culture’ that seems to permeate the dating world today.

Throwbacks that we are, Stockholm and I share an  interest in romance, in finding another relationship that’s marked by kindness, cherishing one’s partner, and putting the needs of a future partner first.

In the several months that I have been exploring online relationship development, I’ve found that there continues to be a profound disassociation between what people will do or say online, and what will actually occur in the physical world.

Consider intimacy, Visitors.

I’ve long operated on the assumption that humans of all ages crave intimacy. We desire to be known, we want someone close to hear us, to listen to our innermost desires or fears,  to actually view our hopes and dreams in as much vivid color as we see our own.

It is incredible to me how quickly the desire for intimacy  gets transmogrified into a desire for sex.

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trans·mog·ri·fy
transˈmäɡrəˌfī,tranz-/

verb

humorous
past tense: transmogrified; past participle: transmogrified
  1. transform, especially in a surprising or magical manner.
    “the cucumbers that were ultimately transmogrified into pickles”
    imgres.png
Anyone who has wandered into the world of online dating knows the drill. Share some basic information, upload some pictures, answer questions that make a stab at intimacy. I get where these dating app developers are going, they are addressing the very desire we are talking about here.
On OKCupid, I have long felt the belle of the ball. I get DOZENS of overtures weekly, sometimes daily. I skim through them, apply some screening criteria, and pick and choose the ones who appear promising. Ones who appear to be solid Christian men, educated and interested in the same things as I. I would respond to overtures, engage in some online back-and-forth chit chat, and generally see where things went.
To date, gentle Visitors, I have been the recipient of FOUR pictures of these gentlemen’s genitalia.
Sit with that for a minute, Visitors, and then you can crack up.
FOUR DICK PICS! FOUR!
These are the SCREENED MEN, Visitors!

The first one, frankly, I was tempted to share with you here. I mean, the opportunities for hilarious mockery were endless. The man in question was not fit, and had taken pains to find a horizontal full length mirror. Wearing nothing but a scowl, he, his limp member  and substantial gut were captured for the world to view, and he sent this treasure to me.

GAG!

The others were more anonymous, which led to some puzzled head-scratching on my part. Ok, so this one was large. This one, a disconcerting shade of purple, this one was most definitely photoshopped to an unappealing length.

WHAT on earth is going on? I ranted about this to Stockholm, and he assured me he found my profile to be articulate, erudite and even funny. Thus, I can’t say I was attracting the trash factor. WHAT on earth made these men think it was OK to do something so demeaning?

( I got this hilarious groaner from the political Stockholm shortly after this discussion-

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The friendly Dick Nixon. 

“This is the only Dick Pic you’ll get from me!”  Facepalm!)

As I wandered further in the dating wilds, I screened and met many other interesting men. One, a fit, accomplished leader in the business world, who simply could not stop talking about his accomplishments. They were considerable! He was affluent, well-liked in his world, and had a heart for Philippine orphans. Looking for wife number three, “Ed” was so caught up in his own desire for intimacy, he had no room for mine. I simply could not get a word in edgewise with Ed regarding my own aspirations.

“Dave” was another. Recently divorced, Dave was a COO of a large manufacturing firm. A solid Christian, Dave and I had many discussions about very intimate things. Love, loss, politics, church life, the state of the world, all sorts of closely-held topics. Dave was a world class athlete, well-travelled and a genuine desire to follow Jesus anywhere. Imagine my surprise when I discovered Dave was simultaneously cultivating similar intimacy with other women across the country. (Women, I can feel your eye-rolls from here. Selfish to the extreme. )

The tales of middle-aged, self-absorbed, needy Christ-professing men went on, and on, and on.

It’s enough to wear me out. What to conclude from all of this, Visitors? Well, first off, the desire for human connection is only natural. Really, it is. I get it! I am convinced God made us this way. Very, very few of us are made to be the ‘lone wolves’ of society, we simply need each other.

But at what cost? Honestly, all laughter aside, it disgusted me that these men who seemed appealing thought so little of me that I’d be interested in such pictures. It is dismaying to see that the “Daves” and “Eds” of the world could be so completely self-absorbed that the needs of a partner would simply not be part of the equation. No space for my dreams, no space for my interests or desires.

I can only conclude that the divorced population  of Christian men has some inner work to do. Trust me on this one, gentlemen, grief is hard. You are not ok.  “Getting back up on the horse”- that is to say dating immediately after your divorce- is a simply terrible idea.

Your divorce has left you scarred, just like my widowhood has left me. What can you learn? How can you be a better partner?  Christian men especially, how can you authentically, honestly put the needs of someone else before your own? Things have changed, middle age is different than your twenties, you are different, and believe me, no woman of character wants to see your dick pic.

You know what though? This kind of work rocks. I’ve wrestled with these questions since Chris died. Thank heaven for good counsel, great friends, and the forgiveness of those who love me. We can make progress, we can figure this out, we can find like minded friends. We’ve got this.

I think  I might even ask Stockholm to lunch.

Much love,

Victoria

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The Horrifying Reality of 3:02 AM


Well, Visitors, what a time we have had. In the past week since Trump was elected, we have been treated to all kinds of images of the most extraordinary fearmongering. School teachers in a large local district wearing black after Election Day, informing ALL children they were mourning the ‘Death of America’.

Ignorant college kids protesting the election, saying they were ‘frightened’ of the upcoming four years. Misinformed twenty-somethings calling for the end of the electoral college, calling it a ‘fearful tyranny of the minority’.

Most incredibly, my peers, college educated middle aged women, being accused if ‘internalizing misogyny’ and being completely unaware of the fearful hell we had just voted down on our heads.

Gracious. In the midst of all this, there has been a small chorus of reasoned voices attempting to redirect attention back to an issue that’s close to my heart- that of genuinely traumatized, fearful people.

I was talking with my gentleman caller – code name “Stockholm”- about this very issue. Privately, Stockholm and I share the same disdain for ‘triggered’ young ‘uns, who need ‘safe spaces’ for ‘self care’. Stockholm is a great deal more diplomatic than I, as I voice my disgust for this at every appropriate opportunity. Stockholm just smiles.

Last night, at 3:02 am, I had a ‘triggering event’.

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3:02 am, on July 18, 2010, the phone jarred me out of a sound sleep. On the other end, my sister informed me that Chris had lost his battle to the great dragon Cancer, and won his seat at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

I was traumatized. I broke the news to my daughters, called my son, and drove over to the Hospice in my bathrobe. I stumbled into the facility, and kissed the cool, lifeless forehead of my husband goodbye. I remember it as if it were yesterday.

Now, most of you know that I am of a pretty rational bent. I like things that can be measured. I like things that I can observe, and control as much as possible.

For about a year after that event, inexplicable things happened at 3:02 am. I got spam phone calls. Coyotes would yap at that hour. As was expected, any night terrors would reach their peak at 3:02 am, jarring me into a wide-eyed, heart pounding wakefulness.

Rationally, one would expect that sleep would become a trial for me, and it has. As most of you know who have been with me for a while, I have a horror of getting ‘stuck’ in destructive behavior. Good ‘self care’ is simply critical for authentically traumatized people. A combination of outstanding talk therapy, judicious, short-term use of benzodiazepines, meticulous attention to exercise, and really, really great church family continues to restore me to good health.

So, about last night. My dogs are these little Italian Greyhound mixes. These two possess the hearts of lions, and the brains of walnuts. At 3:02 am, these little beasts spotted a bull elk off of my back deck, and went ballistic. Snarling! Snorting! Bellowing at the top of their lungs! Raising the roof!

And, of course, triggering  me to jolt BOLT upright, flooded with memories of 3:02 am six and half years ago. Heart racing, I crept downstairs to deal with this auditory mess, and slept no more for the rest of the night.

Self care this morning included a sturdy breakfast, prayer, Scripture reading, understanding from the gentle Stockholm, visiting with good friends, and a solid day in at work.

Visitors, let us not allow authentic struggles of people like me to be co-opted by these irresponsible people rioting after the recent election. It dilutes the language, and the progress we have made on this issue.

Rioters, for shame. “Triggered” students? For HEAVEN’S sake, pull yourselves together. Manipulating teachers? KNOCK it off. You are to teach, not preach your worldview.

My people? The genuinely traumatized? The authentically ill-used?  The wounded and the bleeding? The cloud of us surrounds you. You can do this. We are here, and we love you.

Much respect,

Victoria

 

 

What’s The Surplus For?


Check out this shot from my ‘surplus years’, Visitors.

Chris and me black and white

This portrait was ten years ago. I was 42, and Chris was the picture of brawny health. A mere four years later, heartache of the most enormous magnitude would be forced on me. My kids would lose a terrific dad, the world lost a funny and talented teacher, and frankly, I would lose a pretty smooth life.

I traded it for scarred and resilient children. I traded it for working all the time with a high degree of focussed intensity, and I traded it for some hard won successes.  In recent years, my inner emotional ‘bank balance’ has been getting pretty hefty. EA is going swimmingly, my dad is OK and my kids are making terrific life choices. Life is good, and I rejoice in this stretch of peaceful sailing.

Lately, it seems a though my situation has been an ‘anguish attractor’. I can’t figure it out. For my Christian visitors, one might ask “What is God doing here?”.

Heartache of all sorts has rained down around me. A dear friend is divorcing an addicted and abusive wife, and asked for my help to rent out his house. Another dear,  close friend lost a relative to a freak accident. Another was just hospitalized for a heart  issue, third time this year. Another has a child who was just diagnosed with bone cancer, stage 3. Yet another has joined the absolute legion of folks my age getting rejected by their spouses and enduring a bitter divorce. All have come to me, seeking counsel from me or merely a listening, supportive ear. I am happy to do what I can.

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, Chris and I were steered to some wise, Biblically grounded budgeting advice by our pastor. The late Larry Burkett ran a wonderful ministry devoted to helping God’s people learn wise money management according to Scripture. Nearly thirty years later I am reaping what I sowed, and often have a budgetary surplus to share with folks who have less than me.

It occurs to me, Visitors, that surpluses, or ‘extra’ can take many forms. None of my wounded friends are asking me for money, this is Evergreen, after all. But did you ever notice, as time goes on, that the essence of loss is lack?

Ponder that one with me for a minute, Visitors. I lost Chris, the most heartwrenching life experience I’ve had to endure, thus far. In the years he’s been gone, I felt the lack of a friendly companion, a useful partner, a father to these kids, and warm feet under the covers.

The people around me are lacking. Lacking health, lacking loved ones, lacking direction. Our society answers that in curious ways. It frosts my cookies more than I can tell you to listen to the myriad of predators out there who promise the moon to hurting people. I see it with every single hurting situation around me, these days. Take this vacation! Buy these clothes! Eat this product! Use this cosmetic! Do these things and that lack in your soul will be filled! What nonsense.  Listening to these types tell my people that the holes in their souls can be filled by emptying their pocketbooks nearly incites me to violence.

(Perhaps you’ve noticed, Visitors, one thing I lack is tactful diplomacy. My people can’t take this sort of directness. )

See, Visitors, I lost the burning desire to ‘be right’ a long time ago. What drives me now is the desire to be useful. Evergreen Academy is a great example of this. I get the privilege of guiding new parents every day in my job. Most of my clients are self-directed and accomplished, and most are self-aware enough to face their cluelessness head on (My clients are pretty endearing). New parents are easy enough to guide, usually they’re a pretty open bunch.

The newly grieved, though, are an entirely different matter.  The haze of grief is often impenetrable, and is often perceived as permanent. How to be useful to the ones that end up weeping on my shoulder, or slogging through a seemingly endless grief-stricken marsh, like Frodo in Lord of the Rings?

Christian and non- Christian visitors alike, I think the answer to this is found somewhere in the idea of community. Someone I respect once told me that ‘just showing up’ is critical to the meeting of any need. Reaching out in the real and digital domains, a simple “Are you ok? Just checking up on you” enhances the idea that we are not alone, there is a long chain of hands pulling even the saddest of us back from the brink.

I have a surplus of emotional energy now. I’m sure someday that will change, but in the mean time, I’m giving it away. It helps my little community around me, and honestly, it’s the least I can do.

Much love,

Victoria

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Time To Ditch The Term “Sexual Purity”.


I’d like you to meet someone, Visitors.

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This is Beauty Beyond Bones. (beautybeyondbones.com) She’s a stunning, young Christian woman who writes a blog about her life, which starts with a very dark description of her bout with anorexia.

Visitors, her story is friggin’ terrifying. I had no idea. For those of us in helping professions, I’d like to steer you to her blog, where she eloquently writes about the depth of self-loathing, self-hatred and utter despair that lashed her mercilessly during her battle for her life. Beauty, as we shall call her, entered an inpatient eating disorders clinic at 5′ 6″ and 78 lbs. She was so skeletal that all of her inpatient medical personnel were on a death watch for this kid, and were surprised when she woke up each morning. She had depleted ALL of her fat stores, including the ones that protected her brain and vital organs. Her body was feeding on her muscles- the biggest concern being that her body would start to devour her heart, and it would stop. Horrifying.

Read here for a heartwrenching description of Beauty’s raging battle with profound dysmorphia. (https://beautybeyondbones.com/2015/03/) Brace yourself, this is a very difficult read. She’s a victorious delight now, and writes about her artistic endeavors in NYC.

Beauty is a true, powerful warrior of the Lord. With the help of the Spirit of God, daily she vanquishes the inner voice of torment that works so hard to convince her that she is unloved, a burden, a parasite, and the world would be a better place without her.

Beauty recently wrote a  troubling column detailing her commitment to her future husband. She wants to preserve her sexuality as a magnificent gift reserved only for the man God is preparing for her.

Read this one, Visitors, there’s something off here.  (https://beautybeyondbones.com/2016/06/13/v-card/.)  Did you catch that? Beauty is a committed Christian woman, yet somehow she’s saddled with the idea that obedience to God’s direction for sexual exclusivity is somehow weird. Granny panties-orthopedic shoes- six cats at home weird. Conspicuous, somehow unnatural, weird.

What’s up with that? What did we, fellow Christians, have to do with adding to, or lightening that burden that weighs on Beauty?

I’d like you to meet someone else, Visitors. Her name is Diane, and I met her through a shared interest in dance.

Diane was blindsided by a recent divorce. She’s the same age as me, and had been married for the same 23 years. Diane was very engaging to me for many reasons. One of which was that her husband presented as if he were an abuse survivor, a topic that they never broached during their marriage. Predictably, physical intimacy was a challenge for Diane and her husband,  one that became insurmountable and eventually was the tipping point that ended the marriage.

Diane was devastated by this. She simply didn’t see it coming. When her husband abruptly had her served with papers, she was plunged into an ice-cold, isolating eddy of despair.

Physically, Diane is one of the most stunning examples of humanity I have seen. She’s an eight time IronMan athlete, her full head of chestnut hair sprinkled with becoming touches of grey. Running is her specialty, she habitually brings home Firsts in her age group in any race she participates. She’s nationally ranked, and coaches running groups of lesser athletes with humor and grace.

I helped Diane pick out some clothes for a student production at her studio. For me, it was a blast to peruse shocking pinks and lively blues and talk about tailoring items to flatter her unusually fit physique.

Diane could hardly stand it. As we got to know each other better, I would be very direct with Diane.

“Di, look at this dress.  It makes your shoulders look great! Your legs look fabulous in this one, and this one makes you look smoking hot all the way around!”  With every observation, Diane seemed to withdraw, to pull farther into herself. It was as if, in her fifth decade, any aspect of healthy sexuality was somehow taboo, off limits for even adult women to discuss. What’s up with that? Two fellow Christians, talking about sexuality-related things. Why should this be hard?

Like all of my post-40, newly divorced friends, Diane was floundering. Everything she thought she knew to be true had been rocked by this profound rejection.  Diane was ashamed of her life,  ashamed of her failed marriage, and doubted God’s love for her.

Privately, sexual intimacy loomed in front of Diane as a solution. If she could find another man to ‘love’ her in this way, someone with whom she could share her most intimate desires, perhaps life would regain some sense of normalcy. Perhaps she would feel better.  Someone to fill her lonely days, someone to appreciate her athletic aspirations, maybe even someone with whom to share the second half of her life.

It is terribly hard for me to watch my divorced friends suffer like this.  Self deceit is a  trap like no other and Diane paid the price.

One freezing Colorado afternoon, I held her hand on the surgical table as the gentle doctor removed a portion of her intimate parts. I gave her tissues as she wept in lonely sorrow over another man who she thought had loved her, and had abandoned her to the ravages of a cancerous sexual infection he had given her.

Diane was alone, rejected,  again.

Christian Visitors,  how can we mitigate this, help ease this suffering of our own?  We simply must drop the shame, that will help.   We must unbind the language of cultural judgement, and attach our value to the word of God. ALL sin is created equal, ALL steps outside of God’s best break the heart of Jesus.  Beauty has enough on her plate without shame, and Diane is bone-tired and weary. We have to talk about these intimate things, and we have to do it in a healthy way.  Science and the Word of God tells us that sex is entangling, every single time. There is no such thing as ‘casual’ sex, ‘free’ sex, or ‘meaningless’ sex. That said, sexuality is a gift! ALL aspects of it!

Beauty, you are simply lovely in your slinky little  dress and stiletto heels. Your makeup is darling, and your fashion sense is impeccable! Diane, you’ve worked very hard on your body, and now, you are the picture of glowing health. Your athletic performance is reflected in your lovely form,  and  you are drop-dead gorgeous in cerulean blue.

American Christians, let’s look at this hurting population through the lens of unconditional love. There is no difference at all between Diane’s mistake and me holding a grudge, or getting angry for no good reason. We are ALL impure.  Jesus made us all righteous, if we allow it.  Let’s start looking at each other how Jesus does.

Much love,

Victoria

 

 

Online Dating and the Digital Language of Love


I have news for you, Visitors. I’ve started online dating, and it is a blast.

Nothing for OKCupid?

Nothing for OKCupid?

Now, most of you know me pretty well. I’m a committed Christian, and in my life, I take all comers. I have “normal” friends, single friends, married friends, adulterous friends, gay friends, a dear person who is an authentic transsexual,  deviant friends with every fanged addiction imaginable, and families in every single configuration you can possibly come up with. It’s very enriching.

(I model this take-all-comers attitude in my school as well.  When we admit people, we have a very directed interview, where we explain that we come from a conservative Biblical worldview. Of course, we cover the usual things-curricula, regulations, teacher qualfications, etc.  We also explain, clearly, that your preschooler will get Christmas as Jesus’ birth, Easter as his resurrection, daily prayers, Bible stories, all the things a good, solid, Christian school should provide. Choose EA or not, but know what will happen. )

I had heard about OK Cupid among some of my friends, so I decided to open an account and see what the commotion was all about. I figured there is nothing inherently unBiblical about meeting people like this,  it piqued my curiosity.

Well. Those of you familiar with meeting people this way know the drill. Fill out a profile about yourself, mark some interests, set your limits, and off you go. Gracious! One hour and 253 “likes” later (no exaggeration) I started sifting through all this information.

Good heavens alive, Visitors, what an education! I put down my professional reading for the night, and started reviewing data points.

Data point #1 : Hi! I’m Rich. Ever consider dating a younger man? Your profile looked great! (Rich, 32, teaches English at a public school in Denver)

Data point #2: Hello Beautiful!  I’m Ed. You have a calm “vibe” and I’d like to get to know you better! ( Ed, an engineer at Martin Marietta)

Data point #3: Hello, Gorgeous! I’m  Mitch! (Followed by this groaner) God was surely showing off when he made you! Care to chat? (Senior petroleum engineer at a local oil company)

I quickly activated my ‘predator sensor’ and wrote off the creepy idiots asking for intrusive information. Surprisingly, this was, oh, perhaps 20% of the total. Fewer than I would have thought.  I then wrote off the ones with obvious health problems, for reasons you can guess.

People like Rich, I shelved for further attention, more on that later. “Mitch” and “Ed” types (not their real names, of course) garnered my attention. Why would professional, educated men resort to something like online dating? Are we desperate, boys? (Ooops, pots calling kettles black, came to mind)

So, I gave some thought to this. See, in my case, meeting like-minded, Christian, male buddies is nigh on impossible. I work with a team of delightful women. Middle aged (mostly),  white, devoted-to-their jobs women. All of you know that my dad stroked a while ago, so I gladly take him to HIS church, full of gentle grey heads. I go to grad school with hard-boiled (usually married) cops or fresh-faced twentyish grad students.

Is it too much to ask to hang out  with someone my own age? HA! Not on OK Cupid. This whole thing is just fascinating. As I continued to peruse the data points, I discovered my vocabulary to be lacking. How about these newly-coined words-

Sapiosexual- Someone who views intelligence as the most attractive characteristic. (OK, that’s a pretty cool attribute)

Demisexual- Someone who can only be sexually attracted to someone with whom they have developed a strong emotional bond.  (What? Isn’t it supposed to be like that?)

Omnisexual-(synonym to Pansexual)- Someone who is attracted sexually to both genders.  (Oh, brother, how convenient.)

This exercise in vocabulary development led to a whole new world of ‘blue’ vocabulary that I can’t possibly relate to you, Visitors, without censoring this essay into nonsense.

At any rate, I whittled down this tidal wave of interest into a few likely candidates, so far.

“Rich” piqued my interest immensely. What!  He’s 32! Mommy issues? I won’t lie about my age as a matter of pride. I could be your mother, boy!

Seriously!

Seriously!

What followed was an utterly charming conversation with an athletic young man who actually likes introducing middle schoolers to good literature. Turns out he was at a recent 21 Pilots concert the same night I was, and had just as much fun. This light and fluffy guy actually likes the focus older women possess. Hilarious!

“Ed” was genuine, if a bit of a downer. A parent of adult kids, Ed is four years divorced, and striking out on his own, relationally. Fair enough.

“Mitch” is Armenian, and speaks more graciously than he writes, thank heaven. He’s an attendee of an Armenian Orthodox church, and invited me to a service. I think I shall go!

All of this simply cracks me up, Visitors. The communication skills required in this kind of relationship-building are immense. We only get words until we talk on the phone, and even that is incomplete. Nothing, absolutely nothing, beats in-person communication, and that’s coming next. I’ll keep you posted.

With great hilarity,

Victoria

PS- I love you all, and I can anticipate the cautions a mile off. Remember, I am safety-minded to the point of paranoia. Meeting in crowded, well-lit spots? Yep! Telling someone where I am and when I’ll be back? Got it covered! Applying all of my newly-acquired background check skills to these guys? You betcha!

🙂 V

Miao Zhu Lierheimer And The Handprints Of God


“God’s will”  can be a nebulous thing, Christian Visitors. Ever notice that?  We talk about it so casually, as if it’s immediately recognizable by anyone. We bandy that phrase around, as if it’s something we can readily influence.

Don’t get me wrong, God’s will never contradicts God’s word, and American Christians need to crack their Bibles more often. But the difference between God’s perfect will, and God’s allowed will?  Or even the big picture of God’s will? The farther along I get, the bigger, and more complicated it seems.

Consider this, Visitors. In about two weeks I’m boarding a plane with Christopher to go visit Abigail in Hong Kong. You remember she’s a design student at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and they have a campus over there.

Twenty one years ago I boarded this plane and made the same journey to meet her for the first time,  and I remember it as if it were yesterday.

When we went to China,  Chris and I flew to Hong Kong for a single day. We were so jetlagged we spent it in the hotel asleep, and then boarded a plane for Hangzhou, in the southeast corner of the Zhejiang province of China. We spent several days there, visiting the orphanage where our daughter lived, viewing the silk mills for which Hangzhou is famous, and this, the West Lake.

West Lake possesses a haunting beauty. It’s divided into five sections by several causeways, and is full of ancient temples, pagodas and gardens that have influenced Chinese design for centuries.

West Lake is also busy. Hangzhou, which numbers nearly three million, attracts all kinds of people. Photographers, painters, artists of all sorts come to West Lake to create. It is never empty.

It was here, somewhere in this lovely spot, that Miao Zhu Xu started her journey to become Abigail Lierheimer, my daughter.

Miao Zhu’s biological mother loved her very much. At the time, China’s one-child policy was in full swing. Neighborhoods were monitored, and unauthorized second pregnancies were dealt with harshly. Benefits were denied families, and sometimes entire neighborhoods if second babies were allowed to be born. Sex-selective abortions were routine, ultrasound technology allowed this with ease. As there is a prejudice against girls in China, first girl children were routinely aborted in favor of boys.

Miao Zhu’s mother was careful. She had her baby in secret, and wrapped her tightly against the cold.  She found a crate for her baby, and wrote out all she knew about her child. She tucked the paper inside the blanket, against the baby’s delicate skin.

Under cover of darkness, she carried Miao Zhu  into West Lake. Abandoning children is a crime in China, but Miao Zhu’s mother loved her too much to let  her die. She slowly crept to a policeman’s shack, and left her sleeping baby near the door, certain to be discovered. Anxiously she waited. Waited and waited until the baby woke, and started to cry. Soon, the wailing roused the policeman on duty, and he came and picked up her child.

Miao Zhu’s mother wept as her child was taken away.

Miao Zhu landed in the Hangzhou orphanage, where she soon developed an eating disorder. Miao Zhu was wildly intolerant of lactose, and all of the formula available to the children was made from cow’s milk. She couldn’t hold it down. The orphanage had one care provider for every ten infants, and Miao Zhu was rapidly becoming a time-intensive problem. It was 1995, and often the Chinese response to sickly, abandoned children was to allow them to die of neglect.

‘Dying Rooms’ were common. Dying rooms were rooms in orphanages where ‘too needy’ children were placed, and died agonizing deaths of thirst or starvation. Earlier that year, three Americans made a film about this phenomenon, and adoptions in China ground to an abrupt halt. Miao Zhu couldn’t drink much formula, and she grew smaller and sicker. Chicken pox raced through her rooms. Headlice was common, her head was shaved.

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On the other side of the world Abi’s father and I waited impatiently. Abi’s brother went to preschool, and her sister was learning to walk. We had news of Abi’s difficulties, and we would often plead with God to speed things up, and let us connect with our daughter. Time was short for this little one.

Finally, we got on a plane. Days later we were driven to Hangzhou, and met Miao Zhu.

She had the most beautiful brown eyes I had ever seen.

We were told that ‘Miao Zhu’ meant ‘Baby Pearl’ in Chinese. ‘Abigail’ means ‘Source of Joy’, so Miao Zhu became Abigail Pearl, our joyful third child.

Abigail’s journey presents many, many puzzling questions about “God’s will”. There were many junctures where we, mere humans, could have thwarted God’s perfect will for this child. Her mother could have denied her life. The policeman in West Lake could have taken her somewhere else. Chinese politicians could have not allowed any adoptions at all after the damning documentary. Or, most likely, Abi’s little body could have shut down due to a lack of nutrition and attention.

None of these things happened.  Abi was held securely in the hand of God through all these frightful events.  It seems the older I get, the less I really know about the will of our Heavenly Father, Visitors.  But, this I do know, as the psalmist says:

    He will protect you like a bird
    spreading its wings over its young.
    His truth will be like your armor and shield. (Psalm 91:4)

Abi in China

Amen.

Much love,

Victoria

 

 

 

 

Divorced Baby Boomer Men and Later Life Marriage- Take Heart!


So, I had the most charming news a few weeks ago. A very good friend of mine, we’ll call her “Sarah” got married! Sarah was a widow, and her boyfried “Siegfried” (a stout man of German extraction) was a widower. We lost our spouses about the same time, and Sarah vowed she would never marry again.

“I just miss Mitch too much.” (Sarah was like me, married for decades.)

“I can’t imagine ever being a wife to anyone else but Mitch!”

Siegfried was actually a friend of Sarah and Mitch’s for years, they went to church together, and had children about the same age. Siegfried and Sarah lost their spouses within a year of each other.

Sarah grieved Mitch, and after a couple of years, I began to notice Siegfried popping up more and more in conversation. Soon, they began to enjoy each other’s company on a regular basis, and Siegfried began to appear with Sarah at various functions. I would nosily question Sarah about Siegfried, and she’d timidly laugh, and say what a sweet man Siegfried was, and how much fun they had together.

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I was delighted for Sarah.

Grief is hard, but so is marriage. Baby Boomer Men, check out the stock picture I found above. Most of you are grey foxes like the model, or on your way there. The chick reminds me a little of myself, agewise.

Remember the satisfying times? Remember why you married in the first place? Remember the times you laughed so hard together your abs hurt? Remember the trips, the new experiences shared, mutual support given?

It’s possible to go to that place again. Maybe it looks different than the first time around, but it can be just as satisfying, just as uplifting, and just as much darn fun.

Just ask Siegfried and Sarah.

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(Newlyweds Siegfried and Sarah, 81 and 82, respectively.)

Much love,

Victoria