Nils :)

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Earlier this week our family was eating dinner out and our server was a handsome young Hispanic man with a Spanish accent. As he walked away from our table, Nils said what all of us were thinking. “I can’t wait for them to come.” We all knew what he was talking about. 

My heart swelled at the comment, especially coming from Nils. His world will be rocked most of all by the arrival of his new brothers. He knows this is true. And yet, he can’t wait. 

Before we said yes to adoption we needed to know Nils was all in. 100%. We did more talking and more praying with him than with anyone else. Nils will go from being the youngest son and the last kid at home, to being middle, and a triplet of sorts. Nils, Felipe and Jimmy. Three peas in a pod. Separated by seventeen months, ten pounds, and three inches. 

It’s hard to say with which of his new brothers Nils will have the most in common. Felipe likes math and science, and so does Nils. Both are artistic. Felipe shows us his drawings when we skype. Pencil drawings of landscapes and scenery. Nils digs out a few of his own favorites. Colored illustrations of professional athletes. When Nils was younger he spent hours at the kitchen table drawing pictures of sports figures with amazing accuracy. 

Jimmy, like Nils, is a sports nut. He wants to play soccer, basketball, and baseball–just like Nils. Also like Nils, Jimmy is out-going and social. A people person. I imagine Nils and Jimmy will have a blast together. 

Nils is the perfect kid to welcome two new brothers. Out of the five of us he’s the truest extrovert. Our people magnet, known for his ever-present smile. Nils loves people, and people love Nils. It’s not uncommon for me to meet someone for the first time, and when I tell them who my kids are, they break into a big grin and say, “Oh! You’re Nils’ mom!” 

A couple of years ago, when Nils was in junior high, we gave him some advice. Instead of using your people-gift for your own gain, use it to bless others. Instead of pursuing popularity, pursue kindness. 

He took the lesson to heart, and I’m so glad. At school and at church Nils is quick to welcome the new kid, and quick to reach out to the underdog. He’s slow to seek the limelight and doesn’t clamber for attention. He tends to avoid the habit of many 15-year-old boys of making much of themselves. Nils works harder at knowing people than being known.

Nils can hardly wait to introduce Felipe and Jimmy to his friends at school. He’s hoping Felipe will be in some of his classes. He’s hoping Jimmy will be on some of his teams. All the kids at Legacy know about the new brothers who are coming, and they’re excited, too. 

But this week Nils will go back to school alone. The only Anderson boy at Legacy. It’s strange for him, and strange for us. Nils has always been at school with older brothers, and he’s looking forward to one day being at school with younger brothers. But for now, it’s just Nils. And in a way I think this might be an important season for him. A special time for Nils to be Nils, and not somebody’s brother. Time for just a little bit of limelight.

Detours

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Today’s guest blogger: Boy Dad (Kyle)

Waiting is hard. Praying for things to hurry up, only to see nothing happening is agonizing. 

Sometimes, maybe a lot of times, I think God makes us wait on purpose. Not to torture us, not to make us sweat like Nick Cannon announcing the AGT winner, but for our own good….and I hate it! I’m an actuary, I think in straight lines, I’m good at getting from point A to point B quickly, efficiently and without any detours (well, except maybe in the Amazing Race). But God is the master of the detour…ugh. 

God uses detours; I think he even plans them on purpose. He tears up my life road-map and takes me on a route I would never have planned for myself. What is He thinking? This isn’t the fastest way! After all, if He really is God, then you would think he’d know how to get us where we are going. Of course he does, He just has a better map! 

Oswald Chambers reminded me today that “Every time you venture out in your life of faith, you will find something in your circumstances that, from a commonsense standpoint, will flatly contradict your faith. But common sense is not faith, and faith is not common sense. “ 

I think I’m a lot like Martha, Lazarus’ brother. She flat out told Jesus, “What were you thinking?! It’s your fault my brother is dead.” Of course that’s my translation, but I think it’s accurate. Jesus had chosen, on purpose, to stay where he was for two more days when he heard Lazarus was sick. Any rational person would have expected him to hop on the next donkey and gallop to Bethany to heal his buddy. But Jesus waited…on purpose. Why? Because he was doing what was best for his friends, because he loved them, and because he wanted to blow their minds! You see, Jesus is all about increasing our faith, and he often times takes the “no pain, no gain” approach. Jesus made Martha wait, and allowed the unthinkable to happen, because he is so much bigger than the unthinkable. 

I have a lot of common sense, and that’s a good thing. But it also gets in the way sometimes. I spend a lot of time asking why, and sometimes even get pretty hacked off at God. What are you thinking! Why are we waiting? You say you love the fatherless, so why don’t you make this happen? 

My favorite quote of all time is also from Ozzy. “Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life—gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and do the task He has placed closest to us, He begins to fill our lives with surprises.” 

Jesus asked Martha to “roll away the stone.” Martha thought Jesus was nuts. After four days, this is gonna stink. This already stinks! But she did what Jesus asked. In spite of her doubts, she obeyed, and the unthinkable happened!

I’ve decided to stop asking why, and start waiting for God to blow my mind… Can’t wait!   

Cool Nerd

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We did it. Yesterday we moved Luke into his dorm on the U of M campus. It was actually much easier than I expected. 

The night before he left we were talking to the parents of Luke’s good buddy who’s attending a state school. They described in dramatic detail their son’s initial impressions. It went something like this: “About an hour after the parents left, all hell broke loose, and it’s been chaos ever since.” 

That’s not what this mom needed to hear just hours before sending her own offspring into the world. 

Our collegiate experience until now has been almost entirely limited to one small Christian university and its seminary. Our Alma Mater. Familiar and safe.

BU was in Luke’s final two, but in the end he went with the Big 10. Both Kyle and I feel certain he made the right choice. All along it was where God seemed to be leading. Away from the familiar, and into the unknown.

And yesterday didn’t feel all that scary. Maybe it helps to know Luke is living in the U of M honors dorm. The Nerd Dorm. Yesterday Kyle and I realized we like nerds a lot. They feel quite safe, and not at all inclined to invite girlfriends to overnights in our son’s dorm room. 

Luke is our cool nerd. He likes Harry Potter and strong black coffee and jazz. He bought himself a mandolin earlier this week. He has a knack for memorizing wacky lines from movies. He loves history. Yesterday moving Luke into his dorm we discovered he forgot to bring a pillow, and hadn’t yet ordered textbooks. But he did make sure he packed his AreoPress for making perfect coffee. Luke’s roommate moved in with a surplus of power cords and electronic devices. Luke came with a surplus of musical instruments. 

Today at work I commented to one of my colleagues, “Luke might be the most socially impactful introvert I know.” He is a rare combination of empathetic heart, leadership potential, and brilliant mind. Unlike every other kid leaving for college, Luke is not concerned about having too few friends, but too many. That’s not to say he doesn’t love people; in fact, the opposite is true. But he knows sometimes love can be burdensome, and for a short season at least he thinks it might be nice to keep things simple. 

I’m going to miss having this boy around. I’m going to miss the way he makes all of us laugh. I’m going to miss the way he can’t stop tapping his fingers at the dinner table. I’m going to miss seeing his lanky self wrapped up in a blanket in the living room early in the morning reading his Bible. I’m going to miss drinking coffee with him. 

I’m hoping the U won’t end up feeling too much like home.

 

Energizer Bunny

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When Grant was a little boy we called him the Energizer Bunny. He kept going, and going, and going. Grant was a bundle of non-stop energy, unquenchable curiosity, and outlandish confidence. His most repeated phrase – “I know how.” One Saturday morning when we asked Grant why he didn’t like to sleep late he answered, “I would sleep in, but I always feel like I’m missing out on life.” 

A couple of weeks ago we happened upon the results of Grant’s StrengthsFinder assessment, a test he took during his freshmen year of college. Grant’s top five (in alphabetical order): Activator, Competition, Includer, Positivity, Strategic. 

Energizer Bunny indeed. 

One of my favorite things about being a mom is discovering my kids’ personalities. I absolutely love seeing how they’re wired and observing how they think. Each boy is so different, a unique combination of God-given ingredients.

Over the years Kyle and I developed a tradition for each of our boys on their ninth birthday. The tradition involved a special dinner out, and our own strengths-finder. This was before we knew about the official assessment, and we created a mom and dad evaluation. Based on observation alone, we picked our top four. As I recall, our parent picks for nine-year-old Grant included confidence, determination, competitiveness, and talent.

The purpose of our birthday assessment went beyond merely identifying gifts. Our objective was to bring our boys a new perspective. We wanted them to see their gifts as possibilities. Possibilities for good, or for ill. We said something like this. God has given you these strengths, and you can use them selfishly, or generously. For yourself, or for others. 

You can live full of self, or full of God. 

We saw this in Grant, and now he sees it for himself. Self-confidence and God-confidence are vastly different. Determination is the gift of persevering, or an excuse for being stubborn. Talent will either glorify self or glorify God. With each gift we’re given, we’re given a choice.

A few years ago, when Grant was seventeen, he went on a mission trip, and he encountered God. He came back filled up. Same kid, new Spirit. I remember saying to Kyle, “It’s like God took his personality and filled it up with Himself.”

Tomorrow Grant will begin student teaching at an elementary school within walking distance of our house. He’ll be great teacher. But Grant’s real passion is music. He wants to be a worship leader at a church, and I have a hunch it’s the path he’ll pursue. 

Whatever he chooses – teacher, musician, or pastor – he has the right stuff. This activating, including, competing, strategic, positive young man – filled up with the Spirit of Jesus – is an exciting combination.

Look out world, the Energizer Bunny is on the loose.

 

The Amazing Race

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Kyle compares our adoption process to the Amazing Race, and this makes me laugh. It’s an appropriate comparison. 

The race he refers to is not the televised version, but a fierce competition held every spring for the high school students of our church. It’s quite an event. Teams of students and leaders unravel mysteries and race through the city to win the prize. And Kyle is an Amazing Race genius.

Every year the high school students vie for a place on Kyle’s team. His city smarts, athletic ability, and competitive grit make him the perfect leader. Kyle knows every landmark and every shortcut in Minneapolis, and he leads his troupe on a fast-paced charge toward the finish. But for all Kyle’s Amazing Race savvy, he’s never won the game. 

Almost every year without fail Kyle and his team keep the lead or close to it until the last leg. And then something unfortunate happens. A miscount. A malfunction. A wrong turn. And it all falls apart. 

It would be an understatement to say Kyle is bugged by his results. It’s not fair. Not a true indication of his ability. (Think Chicago Cubs.)

Kyle is also the designated paperwork champion of our adoption race. Last winter when he started the process he was fast out of the gate. Applications, doctor’s letters, home studies, background checks and fingerprints. We filled them out and mailed them back in record time. Come mid-May we were ahead of the pack. Among the first to deliver the goods to Colombia. 

And then, the inevitable. A paperwork malfunction. A wrong turn in the legal system. An unexpected holdup. And Kyle watches, incredulous, as all the other teams storm past in a race for the finish. 

We’re happy for them, of course. Eight other families started this adoption journey with us, and one by one they’re getting their referrals and buying their plane tickets. Daily we’re getting emails and updates from ecstatic families heading for Colombia to be united with their children. It’s exciting for all of us. Truly, it is. 

But who would have thought we’d be the ones at the end of the race still waiting, so far from the finish line? Certainly not Kyle.

Time

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I received a text early yesterday morning from a good friend who lives out of state. Her text included an Oswald Chambers quote, which ended with the following statement: 

Time is nothing to God. 

I sent a text back:

The challenging thing is time is NOT nothing to us. We’re in a season of life when time is so very tangible and moments are fleeting! 

I’m hoping my friend – and God – understands the gist of my comment. 

I don’t think I’ve ever been so keenly aware of time realities as I am right now. They confront me everywhere I turn. 

Next week Luke leaves for college. My second boy turned man will start a new chapter and no matter what it looks like it will be different than it was. This boy is wired for independence. That’s not to say he won’t return. He loves his family and has a special bond with all of us, especially maybe his mom. He’s not going far; thirty minutes max by light rail. But still. 

The college years fly by like nobody’s business. We know. Grant will be a senior this year. There’s a rumor he may not live at home forever. He’s making plans. The sweet little space he created for himself downstairs may have a vacancy in less than twelve months. 

Our three boys and two of our nephews have all attended the same high school. There’s been an Anderson graduation every three years since 2005. Five boys, each exactly three grades apart. By now we’re familiar with the rhythm. We know what to expect. Nils will be next. 

Every milestone, every season that passes, is one season less. I don’t mean to be melancholy. It’s just that we’re so aware. Every week that goes by while we wait for this adoption to be final is a week we’ll never get back. It’s a season Felipe and Jimmy will never get to experience as a part of our family. A summer with Luke. A soccer season with Nils. Grant’s last year at home. 

I fully embrace God’s timelessness. I’m mindful of this when I pray. God, you’re the creator of time. Time is nothing to you. Would it be too much to ask you to slow things in Minnesota and speed things in Colombia? Amen. 

Cool

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When Grant and Luke were around eight and six years old, they had a conversation that went something like this. 

Grant: When I grow up I’m going to have a really cool car, like a Corvette or a Lamborghini. 

Luke: When I grow up I’m going to have a regular car that doesn’t cost very much, because cars don’t make you cool. God makes you cool. 

Fast forward a dozen or so years. Grant is nearly grown up, and the car he drives is far from cool. It might actually be the most ordinary car on the road. The boys recently did some internet research to find out. I think his particular model turned out to be the third most common. Grant’s car does have one distinguishing feature. The front end is wrapped in layers of duct tape, making it easier to pick out in a parking lot.

Luke drives a 1985 SAAB, a gift from his grandpa. His car does have a certain coolness factor, but it certainly didn’t cost him very much. Luke calls his car Signilda, and she guarantees he’ll never go very far or very fast. We like her for that. 

There’s something I need to say about my boys, and I say it humbly. Gratefully. These boys are cool. All three of them. Incredibly cool. And this I can say with certainty – it is God who makes them cool. 

My boys love Jesus a lot. It’s amazing how much they love him. It’s amazing how hard they pursue him. These guys who are athletes and musicians and students, with many gifts, it’s true. But I watch them and I see the gift they go after hardest is God. 

We have a nephew who will be a senior in high school. He’s a successful athlete, a quarterback. Big universities have been watching him. His potential is exciting. Earlier this week in a preseason practice our nephew blew out his ACL. One practice, and everything changes. 

The thing is, Trey is cool, too. The God kind of cool. Trey has his identity wrapped up in Jesus, and everyone knows. Not that it’s easy. The injury stinks. It hurts. It’s not what he would have chosen. But Trey will be okay. Because he’s cool.