May 29, 2015
Volume 7, Issue 1
All In The Family
As Sally mentioned in her accompanying story I was no more ready for parenthood than I was to run a marathon in the Olympics while playing the tuba. Yet, even without the preparation that comes from reading a hundred What To Expect When You're Expecting-
type manuals God give us nine months of grace to prepare for the most amazing and terrifying thrill-ride adventure of our lives.
When the moment finally comes the terror gently dissipates and you are left holding a small but remarkably similar life to the one your parents held in their arms a generation before.
That moment is the springboard to the first thousand or so stories you'll have to tell your grandchildren someday about ol' Mom or Dad, currently asleep in your nesting arms
Those stories, like the children themselves, come in all shapes and sizes. I documented one such tale recently on my blog if you care to give a short read here
. It might just bring a smile to your face.
" Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children
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Celebrating My Girls On
by Sally Klein O'Connor
It’s Mother’s Day weekend (I thought it was merely a day) I am told by my nice apple-pie Christian radio station. As I start walking the water of finding and collecting words that bring all my thoughts together in some reasonably coherent form I know that I cannot capture all that it means to me to be a mom. I recently recounted to our youngest the many hats I donned to generate income during my earlier years—and believe me, there were many: singing waitress, horse wrangler, floral arranger, lunch chef, graveyard convenience store clerk, and Fuller Brush saleslady (oh yeah!!).
And that’s just a few that come to mind. But without a doubt, the most spiritually challenging and profoundly life-altering vocation I have ever experienced is being a mom…
Now, despite my aforementioned statement, I am not a fan of Mother’s Day. Growing up the daughter of a florist, it seemed pretty obvious some holidays were made a very big deal in the hope they might generate more income for related businesses like flower shops, candy counters, Hallmark stores, etc.
In other words, an ordinary day was made special to encourage us to purchase gifts to honor and thank our moms. This could be a good thing except that it always turns into an extreme consumerism thing. Roses alone are more expensive on Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day than any other time of the year, including Christmas.
Don’t get me wrong, I think being a mom is one of the hardest—and at times—most taken-for-granted jobs a woman can have. A little recognition—and something pretty—goes a long way when it comes from the heart. I guess I am just not a fan of that recognition being socially mandated. I would rather it was more spontaneous.
But there was a day, more than thirty years ago now, I completely rejected the idea of being a mother. I judged myself—as I so often did in those days—and found I was greatly lacking in my perilous estimation of what a good mom should be. The consequences of that choice continue to this day.
I was twenty-three and painfully aware of my inadequacies as a human being, let alone a mother. So it was through a Jewish adoption agency, Vista Del Mar, that my boyfriend and I found a couple wanting to adopt her.
I never doubted it was the right thing to do. But it wasn’t easy. I never touched her little hand, inhaled her sweet baby otherness, did not snuffle through her little sweat curls or look deep in her dark eyes. With one brief kiss on the forehead I gave her over to parents I could only hope would love and nurture her as their own.
I thought I could just walk away, but it was harder than I thought…
Not too long after that I took a songwriting class at CSUN, led by the infamous Jack Segal, whose song, When Sunny Gets Blue was a staple in my singing repertoire. There I encountered the mysteriously charismatic, fair and freckled Michael Francis O’Connor. Little did we realize the adventures that lay ahead as we sat in a Tiny Naylor’s coffee shop one night after class, telling our stories over dessert—and hours later, breakfast.
We married in May twenty-eight years ago. And a little more than a year later I discovered life in my womb for the second time. I will always remember Michael’s reaction: He pulled the covers up over his head and, with all the maturity of his then thirty-three years, said, “I’m too young to be a daddy.”
For my part, I felt numb. Cut off from emotion by the fallout of self-judgment, I couldn’t imagine parenting any child. I couldn’t even hold my friends’ babies when offered the opportunity. In the wake of giving away my firstborn I decided I didn’t deserve to hold any baby. It was a silent indictment in my soul, pointing a finger each time I thought about motherhood until one night at our small group Bible study.
I was a few months into pregnancy and couldn’t feel anything. Our associate pastor’s wife took me aside at the end of the study and I told her about giving up my first little daughter and how uncertain and completely disconnected I felt toward the little life inside me now. I wondered what kind of mom I would be if I didn’t even have the capacity to love this tiny child growing within. I can’t remember her words and prayer, but something broke within as she interceded. Hot tears ran down and love welled up for the life God was entrusting to us.
I will always be grateful to Jo Cory for her insight and love in that moment. It changed everything!!
My heart opened up like field poppies in the sun. I didn’t know I could feel so much love for someone I hadn’t yet seen or touched. It blew my mind!! Dusty Rose, who is very much her own person, took forever to make an entrance. Michael and I are convinced she was curled up in a corner of the womb reading a book—maybe Ted Dekker—not exactly in a hurry to see the world. I had no idea labor could go on as long as it did, but when they finally laid her on my belly I sang to her…
When the flowers all lay sleeping
And the trees have all gone bare
I’ll plant you a garden of stars up where
The harvest I’ll be reapin’
Will be fairytales come true
And my happy ending is you
Dusty at five in the great outdoors
Dusty Rose has always been old before her time, wise in ways that often surprised us. The closeness I felt to Dusty in those first few years continued the healing in my heart that began the night Jo prayed. There’s something kindred in Dusty that connects me in a special way to her, more than flesh and bone. And then there is that love awakened in a mother’s heart for her child that Dusty brought to me as a gift.
I prayed over Bonnie Joy more than any other child of ours, as she took shape in my womb. Petitions would issue almost involuntarily from my lips and my soul at different moments during my season of carrying her. Some I understood and others I did not.
I remember washing myself the night I realized she was renting space. Baths are not a usual occurrence for me, but I was in Pismo on a personal retreat, and candlelight and fragrant soaps beckoned. So I ran the water and slipped in, and for the second time in my life, I felt led to bless and pray over every part of my body.
Bonnie was conceived at the end of the most exhausting tour ever, soaked in prayer and communion, and later baptized with the Northridge earthquake.
Bonnie shares Christmas story with Mom
Five days before she vacated the premises I had a vision. Four straws in a tall old-fashioned milkshake glass. The Four straws were Mike and I, Dusty and the baby. I understood the liquid to be salvation and all four straws were in the liquid. But one straw was shorter than the others. I knew this represented the baby.
And yet contemplating this picture I felt only peace. A few moments after that I started to think about what the picture was supposed to mean and fear whispered in my heart. Would the baby’s life be cut short? Would the baby have Down’s Syndrome?
I was thirty-eight at the time and the OB/GYN nurses had pushed pretty hard for me to have an amniocentesis test to see if there were any defects. An argument ensued and my doctor at the time, who was an atheist, stepped in. He asked me, in front of them, if I would consider aborting the baby if they found anything after testing me. Aware of what I believed he knew full well what my answer would be, and made it very clear to his nurses there was no point in me having that test.
Bonnie’s birth was the easiest of all!! She practically slid out, almost painlessly. One moment she was swimming around inside of me, and the next she was in the doctor’s arms. Bonnie was so very beautiful to look at. Peach and fair, she was all curly girly with mysterious green eyes.
It wasn’t until somewhere between two and three years old that we began wondering about Bonnie. She parroted words from videos she watched, but never said her own. She spoke a nonsense language that seemed to mean something to her but we had no way of deciphering it.
Michael and I joked with each other that Bonnie was speaking in tongues before she knew any English. But, separately, we both wondered if Bonnie had autism. We didn’t know anything about autism beyond Rain Man, the movie Dustin Hoffman made with Tom Cruise many years ago. We never said anything about it to each other, but kept vacillating between believing it was just a phase that would pass, and knowing it was much more serious. Our pediatrician finally sent us to the neurologist with Bons. I remember sitting in the car after we left her office. It was raining and I remembered the vision God gave me—and I thanked Him for helping me see down the road.
Dusty & Bonnie hit the road with IPM
Bonnie’s gift to this mother’s heart was—and continues to be—compassion. I had never considered we might have children who struggled in this way. But God, in His wisdom, brought beautiful Bonnie into our lives and hearts to teach us more about His love—and mercy. And, in the process, He opened a portal to a completely different way of looking at people and the world. Bonnie has more than exceeded our fearful and limited early expectations in her twenty years on the planet. As she navigates through the challenges to her hopes and dreams I am reminded that with God, anything and everything is possible.
At forty-four I was not a happy camper. I had lost my parents two years before. They died nine months apart, and I was still deeply mourning my mom. Beginning to find my way back into ministry, I felt pretty unsteady in many areas.
When Shannon made her tiny little person known in our lives I experienced a deep depression and kind of social regression during Shannon’s shaping in my womb. It had nothing to do with Shannon, but was more about the loss of my mom.
I was in a lot of pain and didn’t know if I wanted to go on, but God had spoken very clearly to me the same day she died. I felt Him say, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Believe!”
And less than two years later, Shannon was a physical fulfillment of that word.
As much as I wrestled with being pregnant—and everything else in my life—during those stormy nine months, I absolutely did a 180 when Shannon was laid in my arms. I looked at her and loved her with all my heart. It was as if all the ice and snow of my winter-soul dissipated in the moment I set eyes on her. Spring came to me warm and blossoming. Shannon brought a kind of deliverance I had never known. Something broke in my soul with her coming out party and I experienced more freedom than I had ever known. It was as if all my old boundaries were shattered and I saw the world through a fresh pair of eyes. I felt like a different person. Joy filled me in a way I had never felt before.
With Shannon it was love at first taste
I have never gone back to that winter. But I will confess that joy is not always as close to me as it was in that miracle season.
Since that long ago day when I gave up my first beautiful baby girl I’ve been given the great gift of meeting her, hearing her sing, reading some of her poetry—and a far back, way up high season bleacher seat in her life. And I am grateful. She got married just this past weekend, a few days after her birthday. She wrote me a short note in response to my annual birthday greeting, thanking me for the gift of life…
As I reflected on this past Mother’s Day—weekend, month, season, etc.—I realize that it’s our children I celebrate when I think of being a mom. I think our daughters have probably given me far more than I have been able to impart to them. Each of our girls has come into our lives bearing beautiful—and sometimes difficult—gifts from God. And I know that all of them have changed Michael and me in ways beyond any ability we have to measure or articulate in words, and all of them for the better.
Improbable People Ministries
A few weeks ago I drove down to Orange County to do an interview with a friend of mine, Sharon Norris Elliott. I basically asked if she would consider interviewing me on her show so I could talk about A Tour of Roses. She hosts a weekly half-hour segment on a brand new internet TV network called the Holy Spirit Broadcasting Network.
Sharon was great and let me talk quite a bit. In fact, we went overtime. But the man behind the camera didn't seem to mind at all. Sharon eventually brought everything to a close. The network founder/owner/producer/cameraman, etc. approached me afterwards and said he was so touched by the Lord during the show he cried. He then offered to sponsor me to do my own half hour show on their network.
Well, today Mike and I spent a couple hours talking with Bishop Andrew Bills and I will tape my first two shows next Wednesday.
Bishop Andrew just started the network officially in March of this year, but says it will be going to satellite sometime this summer. We were just at his studio and he has three cameras and some very impressive equipment already.
When I did the interview a month ago, it was only a single camera. So, God is already expanding this endeavor and blessing his faithfulness. According to his most recent demographics, the network is reaching into 75 countries. So that’s very encouraging in such a short time. My interview is supposed to be posted next week sometime, under Sharon Norris Elliott. And he is hoping to have my first couple segments up online mid-June.
The show will be called LoveStories. Quite obviously Mike and I never saw this coming, but we are grateful to God for the opportunity to reach more people with stories of forgiveness and God's unconditional love. This commitment is going to significantly impact our schedule and lives, and require ongoing prayer. Please let me know if you would be interested in upholding this particular endeavor in intercessory prayer.
Finally, we are so thankful for all God has provided for our special project, A Tour of Roses. Our fundraising event, An Evening of Roses, was quite a success on many levels and the Lord more than answered our prayers!!!
As it stands now, we have a team of 9 or 10 people going to Budapest for A Tour of Roses from July 22 to August 3, 2015. We would be grateful for all your prayers for each of the people on the team, and for the project itself, that God would accomplish all He has in mind to do—in and through us. If you want to be part of the prayer team for Budapest (and Israel in 2016), please email me here.
Thanks so much!!