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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Unexpected Big Brother

Never could we have imagined that the boy to which we were giving a hand up would end up paying it forward to our special needs son.


It all started at the beginning of the school year in our sophomore daughter’s English 3 class. Meredith filled our ears about the intriguing, hilarious, exchange students that were her classmates, and one in particular, Edvard from Ukraine, had become a close friend within a short window of time. Due to circumstances beyond his control, Edvard needed a different place to call his American home for the rest of the school year – and fast. Meredith came home with puppy dog eyes and lip rolled down, begging that we be his host family. Um, ahem. No.

However, the fatal mistake was when we as a family agreed to “pray about it and have Edvard over for dinner one evening.” The next week, he came to live in the Griffin house.

Since our oldest boy, Jonathan, has Down syndrome and doesn’t always adjust well to change, we had some concerns about how he might respond to Edvard and how our Ukranian guest might respond to him! Early on, it was difficult for the two boys to communicate due to Jonathan’s disability, but I noticed that very quickly, the boys began to bond – with words and without. They came up with their own private jokes and rehearsed them on a daily basis. Always aware of his older “little brother”, Edvard engaged Jonathan’s world in a way that words on this page cannot adequately convey. My special little guy adored this tall, blonde boy from Ukraine. He wanted to be just like him. When Edvard would return from lifting weights at the gym, Jonathan could be seen flexing his own muscles in front of the full length mirror. If Edvard crossed his legs, so did Jonathan. If Edvard rested his arm on the back of the chair, so did Jonathan. And so it went. Jonathan even learned to swish his Bieber-like hair. Just like his big brother did.

Our Jonathan has two stellar sisters who brighten his world on a daily basis!  They take him places, dote over him, and are immensely patient with him. But there was just something about having a brother…as our Ukranian exchange son was learning to navigate America, he was also teaching our biological son how to navigate life.

Edvard was with us for just over 6  months. One hundred ninety four days of adventure, laughs, inside jokes, exchanges of cultural richness and deep-rooted love. The middle of last month, all 5 Griffins and one honorary Ukranian Griffin made our way to the airport and did the ugly cry as we let go of the boy/man who came across the world and stole our hearts. Not a day has passed since Edvard’s departure that Jonathan hasn’t grieved, but we are learning to make Skype and Facebook our new best friends and walking the tight rope of holding on and letting go all at the same time.  Seeing the joy on his mom’s face as she is now reunited with her beloved makes it a little easier to swallow, too.

Thank you, Edvard, for bringing your love into our home and touching Jonathan’s life in a spot not yet cultivated. We are all better because of you and claiming the words of one of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp. “Don’t grieve that it’s gone. Wonder that is was. Laugh that you lived and dance that you dared. Inhale that it happened and it was grace.”


Melodie Griffin is a native of the Pee Dee who now resides with her husband and 3 children in the Midlands of South Carolina. A popular speaker, musician, writer, and private music instructor, Melodie does laundry in her spare time. Find her at www.melodiegriffin.com to learn more or to invite her to inspire attendees at your next event.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Prayer I Refuse to Pray


Hello, my name is Melodie, and I am a brave sissy. Unfortunately, I've yet to find a support group for such, so I will gladly leak out my thoughts here for all to see.

People who have only known me in my adult years are always shocked to learn that I was shy as a young child. I vividly remember the Christmas that my beautiful Mom crafted matching, long, silk, plaid, taffeta skirts for us to wear! I was so proud to look just like her. I remember gathering in our living room for a family photo and a neighbor that I didn't know very well had come to take the picture for us. I was scared of anyone that I didn't know very well and quickly hid behind Mama's skirt for refuge. The slick cloth made a happy noise as I wrapped the excess silk around my nervous little self.

I've stood up to many an unfamiliar neighbor since then. I've fought many battles, and have come out the victor because of the One Who was ultimately fighting on my behalf. I stand in the assembly and yell out His goodness. I belt His praises from the tips of my painted toes. I've championed the cause for mothers to choose life for their unborn special needs child, no matter how scared they find themselves. I have valiantly laid out hope for those facing infidelity in their marriages, reassuring them that what God joined together should stay together if at all possible. I meet with girls in their living rooms, in coffee shops, on the phone, internet, e mail and facebook - boldly, passionately telling them about the God Who adores them and that He will go to unbelievable lengths to woo their heart. He will. He did.

I am brave. I am also a sissy. The only way that I am ever able to step into the line of fire is through the strength and power of the One Who redeemed me. I really can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.

But there are those weeks. Those days. Those hours. Those minutes.

Times when I'm just not sure I'm up for the fight. Recently, I have signed on for new assignments in His kingdom, co-authoring a book to encourage moms who have kids with special needs. This is so much more than a book - this is a project. A project designed to bring HOPE to the hurting. Apparently, this is the devil's stomping ground. I feel as if I have stepped into a pile of ants, and bumped face first into a swarming bee hive all at once! The enemy is snorting mad.

Good.

This morning, I pulled out my nifty Bible app and found today's reading - this place that brings things back into focus - this place that settles my anxious soul. Exodus 4:13 says, "But Moses again pleaded, Lord, please! Send anyone else." There it is. The prayer I refuse to pray. My apologies to Moses, because I am not trying to look down my nose at him. He belongs to my brave sissy support group. I simply want to learn from his mistakes.

God trusts us with hard things sometimes - what a compliment! When I see Him face to face one day (pause here for the happy dance) I don't want Him to say, "Melodie, I set you apart for great things in my kingdom, but you asked me to send someone else." No! No! Put me in, Coach! No matter how fierce the opposition, I choose to play for the winning side! And I don't want to sit the bench - no!

What was that assignment again, God? I'm all in.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sidewalk Love Notes





There, plain as day on my front walkway was a love note - left for me by one of my precious little piano students. In bright blue chalk, she had etched “I love Mrs. Melodie!” for all to see. Scurrying out the door to rush to the post office before it closed, I almost missed it. I almost missed the handwritten message that sent me into a full body smile! Me! She loves me! She took the time to let me know…and I almost missed it in my hurry.

Surely this happens in my other relationships as well. My children hand me their papers from school, waiting for me to notice the blood, sweat and tears they spent over each answer and I barely glance at the grades scribbled in red across the top of the page, then toss them. My husband fills my van with gas (mortgaging our house to do so, these days) and do I even notice?

Even more so, the Creator of the Universe scribbles His love for me time and time again, but I’m rushing from one gig to the next, twirling plates as I go, without so much as even a glance. Romans 1:21 tells us that we can see Him in creation. “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature.” I marvel each day at God’s fancy handiwork as I watch the woodpeckers, hummingbirds, and cardinals gather on my back deck for the all-you-can-eat buffet. The kids and I are constantly oohing and aahing at the various formations of clouds. Just yesterday, when I was taking my youngest to school, she and I thought the clouds looked like the ocean as it creeps up to the shore. Love notes.

Yes, God is constantly passing notes over to me, complete with the proverbial, “Do you love Me? Check yes or no.” Many times, His love is handed to me through people. I just got off the phone with my dear earthly Daddy and when I hung up, I was certain I had heard the voice of God – not because He has a booming, rich voice, but more because he speaks to me of my heavenly Daddy’s love for me. My friends hand me God’s love notes, too – like the other day when my buddy said, “You’re not doing so well today, are you? Sit down. I want to pray over you.” Wow. She did, and my burdens were lightened significantly. Love notes.

Who is writing love notes on your walkway? Can you see them? Are you looking? My guess is that love notes are all around you, awaiting your gaze. Take time to stop and see them. The post office will be open again tomorrow.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lessons from the City Dump


When the non-profit magazine came in the mail from Compassion International, I almost cast it aside without even looking – but for some reason, I decided to flip through it. I stopped at page 4 and was mesmerized by the picture of Hannah and Florence, 2 sisters from Iloilo City in the Philippines. Captured by their story, I tried to imagine what life would be like for my own daughters if they had to sift through the garbage dump each day to help provide for their family. My mind struggled to even visualize it - the smell of filthy, rotting garbage in the heat of the sun, the small penance received for the back-breaking labor. No, I can’t even begin to imagine it. Don’t want to, thank you very much.

Hannah and Florence were still fresh in my mind later that day as my family sat around our dinner table, adorned with hot, fresh, ample food. The kids inhaled the beef stew and their Dad and I grinned as they shared the funny things that had happened during their school day. When there was a lull in conversation, I turned to page 4 and introduced them to Hannah and Florence from the Philippines. They listened intently as I read of the sisters’ plight and we all silently admired their courage and tenacity to be able to work at the trash heap every weekend, holiday, and even early mornings before school. I was probably not the only one at the table thinking, The audacity of me to complain about what I do or don’t have! My lifestyle is probably overwhelming wealthy compared to theirs! While we may never meet Hannah and Florence face to face in this lifetime, our family joined hands and prayed for them by name – like we had known them for years. We prayed for their strength and endurance. We thanked God for Compassion International and groups just like them who put feet to their faith. We asked God to bless these sisters in amazing, unthinkable ways.

I so much want to insure that my kids are givers. How do I instill in them a compassion for the less fortunate and a tenacity to touch the untouchable? I’m pretty sure it begins with the one whose fingers are typing these words. High on my “bucket list” is for my little family to go on a foreign mission trip one day. I am believing that this will happen at the right time. For now, I want my family to see me have the “knee-jerk reaction” to help others whenever possible, instead of looking the other way or claiming to be too busy. According to the Corporation for National & Community Service, nearly 9 out of 10 young people who give their time have parents and siblings who volunteer. Hmm.

My mind jumps to the words Jesus Himself told us that the righteous will hear one day. “For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.” Matthew 25:35,36 It seems almost heretical to imagine the Lord Jesus in line for free soup, but these were His words! The other day when I had the awesome opportunity to give out gloves and hats to the homeless, I found myself studying their cold, ruddy-cheeked faces for signs of the Savior. But it might not dawn on me to look for Jesus when my neighbor calls in a panic and needs me to watch after her toddler for an hour or two, or my other friend has a sick child and needs me to pick up her kids in car line, or someone needs a ride, or a meal, or a touch, or a prayer, or my favorite red scarf. When I do these things, not only am I doing it unto Him, but my kids are seeing this Scripture come alive before their very eyes!

Hannah and Florence, thank you for teaching us about hard work and reminding us to love and care for those who are less fortunate than us. We can’t wait to meet you in heaven one day…where there are no trash heaps…ever again!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Accidentally on Purpose


“I accidentally memorized my piano song this week, Mrs. Griffin.” Imagine this piano instructor’s glee when my student flippantly made that remark! Such commentary is a dead giveaway that a student has been spending ample time at the ivories. Any artist will tell you that the more time he or she spends rehearsing a piece of music, the more it becomes a part of them. This got me to thinking…what kinds of things do I accidentally (on purpose) want to be part of my life in this new year?

Fitness. There. I said it. Out loud. In print, even. I want 2011 to be a year of better fitness for myself. I keep waiting to “feel like it.” So far, nada. The reality is slowly dawning on me that I will have to put one Nike-clad foot in front of the other and groan my way through it until it becomes a habit. I have friends who seem to LOVE exercise. Me? Umm, no. Up until now, if you ever saw me walking briskly, or (heaven forbid) running, you could be fairly sure that someone or something was chasing me with a meat cleaver. But in those rare blips on the radar of time when I have made fitness a priority, I have felt so much better – so much more alive! Here’s to hoping for a new habit to emerge as I spend time on the move.

Fortune. Now hold your horses. This isn’t what you might think. This year, I want to daily rehearse the fortune with which God has blessed me. When I think about the people sprinkled across this planet that would be elated just to have a warm bed to sleep in at night, it dawns on me that I am a wealthy girl. I want to spend my days saying things to God like, “Thank You for waking me this morning. Thank You for instant grits…for a steaming cup of java…for instant access to my favorite music…for friends who “get me”…for delivery pizza when my afternoon is unraveling…for providing squirmy students for me to teach…for a husband who provides for our family – when he feels like it and when he doesn’t…for 3 intricately ornate children that teach me much about myself, my God, and life in general. Thank You for making my life so abundantly wealthy.” You probably have an impressive inventory that you could rehearse this year, too!

Family. We all have a deep desire to be seen, known, and loved. And with family, one definitely has that opportunity! Without even trying, we memorize the cracks and crevices of those with whom we spend the most time. My daughters can walk in the front door and immediately tell when Mom has a headache – their keen senses of smell pick up on the aroma of peppermint oil, a natural therapy that sometimes brings me relief. My Jonathan’s Down Syndrome hinders him from speaking fluently, so these past 17 years have given us ample time to practice an unspoken language that allows me to anticipate his needs before he even tries to verbalize them. My hubby knows my “sighs” and will often ask me what is wrong before I am even aware that I’m stressing about something. It sure is nice when we are memorized by those who love us.

Faith. If you’ve ever read even one of my meandering articles, hopefully you know that my faith is a big deal to me. The biggest of all deals! And since I am a wordsmith, I like to post words about my faith around my house as reminders. Take my family room wall, for example. It says, “GRACE”, then proceeds to list various definitions of that word. I chose that word because I want it to define our family - to be branded in our actions and obvious to everyone we encounter. The bottom line about grace is that I need it! As long as I remember my own need for it, I will be much more ready to give it out. I want to live out Deuteronomy 6:7,8 with my family, telling them God’s truths and shouting His goodness to us! “Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” My Mom and Dad graciously did this for me, causing me to accidentally memorize treasured truths about God and His love for me. I want to pay that forward!

Whatever song you’ve been playing over and over on the ipod is becoming part of you, like it or not. This new year, how about you and I toss out some of those tired old tunes and download some beautiful new music together! Before we know it, we will have memorized them…accidentally on purpose!

(as published in SHE! January 2011)

Friday, December 10, 2010

What Does Christmas Smell Like?


“It smells like Christmas in here!” my daughter yelped as she walked into my bedroom. I had just started up a rustling blaze in the fireplace, heaving the splintery wood over the rustic hearth…okay, so all I really did was flip a switch and my gas logs turned on! But something about that smoky aroma transported my baby girl to a place swarming with happy memories. She plopped right down on the floor beside me and immersed herself in the moment, eyes closed, lips smiling.

I wondered where her mind was carrying her. I closed my eyes, too, and let the smell gently waft its way through the picture album flipping in my mind’s eye. Just what does Christmas smell like? It smelled like Russian tea when I lived under my parents’ roof. I can’t say that I really enjoyed the taste of that classic beverage, but when that unmistakable mixture of spices reached my nostrils, magic was in the air! Christmas also smelled like a fresh Frasier fir tree when I was younger. Mind you, we had to get that variety of tree since we bore the name, “Frazier” ourselves! Pay no attention to the spelling discrepancy. Close enough. And oh, the smell! For weeks after the tree was mulching someone’s garden, our house would hint of Christmas every time we used the vacuum, thanks to the left over tree needles inside!

As the gas logs continued to burn, I kept my eyes squinted shut and tried to imagine what Christmas looks like. Remember the uncontainable excitement you felt when you saw the “downtown” decorations for the first time of the yuletide season? You knew then that the fat man in the red suit was on his way! Unlike today, when holiday bobbles start showing up along with the Halloween candy, back then we had to wait until all the turkey and stuffing had settled before donning our garland, lights, and tinsel. Speaking of holiday city decorations, I was in a tiny SC community last summer and howled with laughter at the sight of Christmas decorations on the light posts! I guess it was just too much trouble to put up and take down, put up and take down. I mean, really. We’ve just got to do this thing all over again in 12 months, right? As we say in the south, “bless their hearts.”

Conjuring up the smells and sights of the season, I meandered my way to its sounds. As a musician, all 41 of my Christmas times have started in the early fall with crisp new music books and many a dog-eared favorite. I have participated in cantatas, dramas, concerts, recitals, caroling, and all things musical. I’ve witnessed shepherds in bathrobes who lost a tooth during the play and went crying to Mom in the audience, held my breath as angels flew suspended on a wire from the ceiling, and watched as my very own newborn son played the perfect baby Jesus. With all that music overkill, one might guess that Christmas music would lose its luster. Check back with me in another 41 years and I’ll let you know.

Ah, the smells, sights, and sounds of the season! Our memories of this amazing time of year vary vastly, I’m sure, but ultimately, there are some smells, sights, and sounds that are the same. I guess you could say that the true essence of the holiday has that “new baby smell”. New – newness that reeks of fresh beginnings, do-overs, and a better story. The sights? Yes, the true meaning of Christmas looks like the Father of the universe saying goodbye to the only Son He ever had so that we, the world, could say hello to a Savior. Oh, and the sounds! God’s Christmas story sounds like a love song – my, how He loves you and me! “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him might not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 is the ultimate Christmas card from a lavish Father to those whom He wants to be His children.

May you take His gifts with you into a brand new year, full of hope – that new baby smell, the picture of a giving Father, and the sound of His love song to you. Merry Christmas!


(as published in SHE! December 2010)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Meditating on the M&M’s


I never met an M&M I didn’t like. Well, except for the other day…

My minivan was parched for clean oil and the indicator light glared at me condescendingly. So there I sat, waiting in the lube joint while my vehicle enjoyed a spa day. The shiny little vending machines caught my eye, calling out to me with their various vibrant primary colors. Peanut M&Ms. Yes! Only twenty-five cents invested, and my fist was bulging with peanutty chocolatey goodness!

I slowly chomped each morsel, sometimes sucking on them until the candy coating melted. Other times, I chomped right down into the layers at once. Sadness ensued as I look down to discover only crumbs of bright-colored candy coating left in my palm. Sadness quickly morphed into horror as I noticed a creepy, crawly MEALWORM among the leftovers. Eeeeeeek! I quickly fought off the urge to re-visit my formerly consumed candy, then tried to still the scrambling thoughts inside my head. Was there more than one worm? Did I eat any worms? Will I die? I thought these things tasted stale! Should I tell the lady at the desk? This is going on my facebook status! Once I regained feeling in my legs, I sheepishly told the receptionist and she promptly placed an “out of order” sign on the machine.

This kind of thing happens to me frequently. No joke. My kids even know it! As I was feverishly recounting this tale to my husband, I wondered aloud, “Who does this happen to? Really, WHO DOES THIS?” Without even looking up from the book she was reading, my nine 9-year-old quipped, “Apparently, you, Mom. Apparently you.”

She’s right. Crazy, awful stuff seems to happen to me! Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I’m gonna eat some worms. But I have found that there is an upside to almost everything. Well, what in the world could be good about starting my day eating worms? Here were some of my thoughts:

The day can only get better from here.

• Woo hoo! Extra protein!

• Maybe this will deter my chocolate habit . . . okay, for one day, anyway. Okay, for 10 minutes.

• I can’t wait to tell my SHE! friends about this.

• People all over the world eat worms. Some don’t have a choice. So glad that I do.

Do you ever feel like you started your day out with mealworms hidden among your candy? Boy, don’t I know it! It doesn’t take much to ruin a perfectly good day. A flat tire, a nasty e mail, a late notice on your power bill, a call from your child’s school teacher, a glare from across the cubicle at work. Mealworms.

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8 puts it into perspective. Meditate on the M&M’s, not the mealworms! Don’t get so hung up on the mealworm that you miss the chocolatey goodness of the candy. You know, the candy! The giggling of your children in the next room, the blessing of a car that gets you to and from in one piece, a job that pays the bills, your health, the change of seasons, life lived in a free country, a dog or cat that loves you even when you’re a jerk. These are the candy in the palm of life, and while you will certainly encounter a mealworm here and there, you can choose to focus on the good stuff - the candy. Throw those mealworms to the ground, stomp them hard, then move on. Life is too sweet to let a tiny little worm ruin my love for the good stuff!

(as published in SHE! November 2010)