Friday, February 28, 2014

How (not) to respond when people think you're crazy

I've answered a lot of questions lately regarding my resignation from teaching and coaching:

What's the plan?
So you are just going to stay home?
How will you make money?
So you're just not going back to work?

These are all hard questions, and questions I don't blame anyone for asking.

Some might think I should be asking myself more questions about the plan more often; maybe I should be.

But the truth is, I've asked them all, and I've asked them often. I've gotten a pretty clear answer, although I can't expect that any of you would believe me or completely understand my decision.

It does, in fact, appear that my Type A personality has taken a crash course in Crazy.

I don't blame people for wondering and worrying about our future. I've don't plenty of that myself.

After all, we are completing a very expensive adoption, and I did just resign from the best job for which I could have ever asked, where I work with great people in a beautiful atmosphere. (And it hurts a bit that it's a relatively well-paying job...just ask the local sports writer who felt the need to publish all coaching salaries to his 12-person audience of readers.) Oh yes, and my husband does work in an excellent school district that  also just happens to be one of the worst-paying districts in our area. 

So the questions are okay, although I will admit that they make me a bit uneasy and I don't really have a great response to them.

In general, I don't recommend any of the following responses, and I may or may not have learned this from experience:

1. God told me to do it. (Ok, yes, it is true that God has a plan for me; however, I refuse to make this my go-to line. I have discovered a lot about myself; I have found my goals to be rapidly realigning; I feel the need to do something outside of teaching. If I were to say "God told me to do it," I imagine that would offend someone, confuse someone else, and annoy even another person. And there's no need.)

2. I'll figure it out. (Nothing like letting people know, without a doubt, that you're clueless about your future.)

3. (**CRY**) (Ooh-kaaayyy...)

4. I'm starting my own business. (It's called "Arbonne." Ok, yeah...You and two hundred million others started that business.)

5. I'm going to snuggle my babies. (As much as I'd like this to be the case, with boys age 19-months and nearly 3 years old, not a lot of snuggling will actually take place. Don't hate me; I'm just being realistic. Tackling, wrangling, treating wounds from "love pats" from one another...that's more than likely my reality.)

However, I can't figure out if I prefer the questions or the statement of "That was bold" that I received from one of my bosses when I fully resigned from teaching in addition to coaching, even when given the opportunity to take a different teaching position in our school (coaching was attached to my PE job).

"That was bold." I'll take it as a compliment, I suppose.

I'll be back next week with "THE PLAN" and more exciting news and information.

::HINT:: Save the date: April 26, 2014 (No, we are not renewing our marriage vows.)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

(hopeful) upcoming trip

In preparation for filing our I-600, I am TENTATIVELY planning to travel to DRC. The I-600 is the form that's used to classify an orphan as an immediate relative, and when it is filed the US Embassy begins to investigate said orphan to be certain she truly is an orphan.

I can file from the US through parcel delivery, but filing in country can knock up to two months off of the wait time to bring her home because it eliminates the document's bounce rate from department to department. That is, it decreases the wait time as long as Exit Letter issuance resumes soon.

But there's even more motivation to file paperwork in DRC: I would get to hold Sweet C. After seeing more video of her (we got another new video Monday!), my arms are aching to hold her and my ears are ringing for her giggle. I think that's enough of an excuse to visit, don't you? 

But that does mean I'll have to experience this:

Photo from discoverymagazine.com

I just called the Health Department to schedule my vaccinations. I'll need the following before I go:

DTAP (because I am overdue)
Yellow fever
Typhoid
Hepatitis A
Hepatitis B (possibly...anyone have thoughts on this?)

By the end of it, I'll look a little like this guy (but not as cute)...


That's Brecken, our 19-monther who received 3 shots and handled them like a boss. I only hope to handle them as well as he did.


I will also receive oral malaria meds to take before, during and after the trip.

Malaria...No thank you.

It's looking like another expensive visit to the doctor, but I'm going to say it's worth it to stay out of a Congolese hospital.

As far as timeline for this trip goes, I do not have a clue when (or even if...depending on the timing) it will happen. I had hoped to receive notification by now that we had passed court and could file our I-600 soon, possibly even during our Spring Break in March, but as the days pass that looks more and more unlikely. The general time frame for this is anywhere from 2 to 8 months. We are in month 3. I supposed it was wishful thinking that we would receive court documents this quickly, but I'll keep on praying for their speedy arrival.

Maybe I like to plan ahead. But maybe I just want to control something. At 6 PM next Tuesday I'll be one small step closer to Sweet C. I'll take what I can get.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

adoption in the news

A quick post for today. Take a look at this story about the inappropriate things people have said to an adoptive mom and her daughters from China. To see all of the inappropriate comments, you can visit this blog.

And then there's this story about a foster teenager who spend his first Thanksgiving with an adoptive family. Before that experience, here's what he wished for more than anything:

“One family. Even if I had to live in a box – family."

The good and the bad.

Monday, February 24, 2014

140 million voiceless orphans {suppport CHIFF}

We received news regarding adoptions in DR Congo last Friday, and while it wasn't specific to our case, it was enough information to chew on for a bit, and it provided both, excitement and reservation.

Excitement because positive movement seems to be occurring in DRC regarding adoption, but reservation because we still aren't sure about Exit Letters, and there seems to be some misunderstanding regarding the state of affairs and the adoption process in DRC. So we pray for continued positive progress and clarity in DRC, for Sweet C and thousands of other children who need to receive their God-given right to a family.

And it's not just familyless children in DRC that need prayers and action; 140 million children around the world don't have families, or voices, or even a choice. Those MILLIONS need our support and our voices to help them stay with their families, get back with their families, or build new families.

I normally don't really get involved in politics or ask for support for certain legislation. In fact, this is really the only political matter with which I want to be associated, because I think it is important. There are a ridiculous number of arbitrary, redundant, and tricky obstacles to adoption, and I believe this legislation will make progress in cutting through the multiple layers of tape and getting children with their forever families faster. 

And that's why I am BEGGING you to make a call to your legislators and ask that he or she support CHIFF, Children in Families First. Emails and letters are great, but phone calls are exceedingly more effective. You can learn more about CHIFF here and see a list of endorsing partners and legislators here, but here are the basics (taken from the CHIFF website):
  • CHIFF establishes a bureau in the Department of State that will become the much needed foreign policy and diplomatic hub on international child welfare.  
  • CHIFF would streamline, simplify and consolidate responsibility for all processing of intercountry adoption cases by placing these functions under the direction of the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS).  
  • Focuses US Foreign investment on serving children in and through families:  
  • Increases protection for children and families by bringing the need for ethical, transparent and accountable child welfare systems to the forefront. 

In the true and concise words of CHIFF organizers, "The best protection for a child is a family. We protect children by preserving families, reunifying families or creating families through adoption."

Friday, February 21, 2014

looking up

I've learned a lot of life lessons while running: Always wear comfortable shoes, watch for slimy-looking creatures, the first few steps are the hardest, and never say never (throwback to that one time I ran a marathon).

But last night I learned another lesson, and I feel it's worth sharing.

We put the Littles to bed after dark and, since I had some "spare time," I decided to go for a quick run. 

Since my spelunking-style flashlight headband was nowhere to be found (anyone else's kids have an odd fascination with flashlights) I took my phone with me to use the flashlight feature.

(Don't worry; I wasn't running on our back country roads. We have a long, winding driveway, so I stayed in it and simply ran up and down, up and down, over and over again.) 

I must pause here to be embarrassingly honest with you: While running in the dark and using my phone's flashlight, I was also checking my email, listening to music, timing my run, counting my laps up and down the driveway, and praying (so much to pray for these days...Ukraine's people, Sweet C, future plans, and the hurting families in our community, among others). 

Midway through the run my phone died, and the flashlight automatically went off, creating darkness around me. After a second, my eyes adjusted and I noticed a hazy glow above me. I looked up to see some of the brightest stars I've ever seen. Thousands of them, glittering, twinkling, creating roadmaps and--along with the moon--lighting the objects around me just enough to enable me to continue running without a light of my own.

And I got the message. "Jenny, I've got this. I created these amazing wonders that create beauty, light your whole path, and point people toward me, but you are too busy relying on your stupid plans and silly lights of your own creation to see the broader road ahead. Look up!!"

Those are actually fireworks, not stars, but I couldn't resist
the cute pic featuring Brody's long-gone curly hair.
So here's forgetting the phone, emails, and "to-do lists." Here's to refocusing and looking up.


"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork."
- Psalm 19:1 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

noteworthy

A hodgepodge of news items:

ADOPTION NEWS:
If you came here looking for "We get to go bring C home next week!" you have come to the wrong place (at least on the wrong day). We still have about 5-16 months before that announcement. However, I am hopeful that we get news of passing court soon, and news out of DR Congo suggests that the issuance of Exit Letters, which permit adopted children to leave DRC with their families, may resume sooner rather than later. (Prayers...prayers....prayers...)

We did, however, get new pics of C last Friday (on Valentine's Day...how perfect!). She looks so stinkin' big now, and she is clearly being fed well. Her ears are pierced, which I think is adorable (and, honestly, I am glad I didn't have to do it). She appears to be a very happy and healthy girl who is well-liked by the other kids in her foster home. I can hardly wait to hold her and hear her little giggle!

AND:
We also got some great news Monday: We received a grant from JSC Foundation! According to my calculations, this puts us right around $10,000 left until the adoption is fully funded. That is, unless one of us travels to file paperwork in DRC, which will possibly speed along the adoption process, but will certainly make it cost more! 

So THANK YOU JSC FOUNDATION! You have taken another stressor off our plates.

ALSO: 
THE famous Imara was at our house last Saturday night for a fish fry. The girl loves fish, has an amazing little giggle, and a great family of people who care for her deeply and are working to create stability in her life. Praise God for miracles in all sizes, shapes and colors! (This pic represents about 3/4 of the kids who were at our house that night. CRAZY!!)

Embedded image permalink

ALSO: 
Lookie who made it to the news last night (In case you need a hint, it's Generation Next, which I wrote about Monday.)
(Picture from KY3. Find their whole story here.)
That's cool stuff!!

ALSO (last one, I promise): 
I was featured as a guest blogger here. (My post is about fundraising for adoption. WARNING: The post features an outrageously huge picture of my face. It's frightening.)


**I would be remiss if I didn't communicate how unbelievably sad and disheartening it was to wake up to news this morning that a 10-year-old little girl who went missing last night has been found dead this morning. Prayers for the family and friends of Hailey Owens. Full story here.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

you're welcome {this love}

Last week, my friend Shannon introduced me to the song "This Love" by Mandi Mapes. It is beautiful, and I'm sure you'll be able to see its beauty even without seeing the video. (Go buy it!!)

You're welcome. (And thank you, Shannon. Made my day!)


This Love - Mandi Mapes from MurryFamily on Vimeo.

Microwaving bye-bye {a game-changer}

We are now a microwave-less family, at least where our kitchen is concerned. When we moved into this house, we didn't have a microwave, and we kept it like that for a while (probably until the fall volleyball season came around and we had two Littles to feed in about 10 minutes each night).

So we got a cheap microwave to sit in the garage, but in the craziness of it all the microwave snuck into the house and straight onto our counter-top, despite our knowing that microwaves aren't exactly great for our health. (If you need to read up on this a bit, you can start here.)



We said we wouldn't use it often, but with it sitting right there it was just so easy

Yet, any time either one of used the microwave we gave that person the look that asks, "Do you want that thing to kill you early?"

So--prompted and strengthened by a conversation at an IF: local event that had NOTHING to do with IF: Gathering--we moved the microwave back to the garage.

And now I can't eat. Seriously, I may lose 15 pounds over this. 

I wanted leftover dinner from last night. Forgetting that we had moved the microwave, I went to the corner to heat it up. Bam. Dashed my dreams of a quick, easy and delicious dinner.

"Ok, Jenny," I thought as I looked around. "This is fine. You can warm it up in the oven." And it was fine, but it did mess with my productivity, which is going to be a sticking point. 

Later on, I wanted a little snack while relaxing and enjoying an episode of a ridiculous TV show that shall remain unnamed so you won't judge me. Ordinarily, my snack would involve hot fudge or melted PB on a cracker with chocolate chips or something equally ridiculous and bad for me.

But with no microwave, I would have lost the spare time I had planned to use enjoying a nice warm piece of melty chocolate on the couch. So I gave up. No bad-for-me snack.

And no bad-for-me radiation.

Or--at the very least--not as often. 

**Game-changer.**

Disclaimer: We will still use a microwave, people. However, we will think twice about it, and those extra few steps into a cold and dirty garage will keep us from nuking our food as often as we have in the past. Also, if you bring food to our house--perhaps a platter of delicious and buttery broccoli--we may warm it up in the garage and forget about it. (Oops. Please accept our sincere apologies.) 

Monday, February 17, 2014

the next generation

When I was a teenager, I was worrying about grades, studying for tests, getting geared up for college, competing in various sports, and awkwardly avoiding boys. I thought of Africa every now and then, wanted to go there to help people "someday," and forgot about it when other "more important" things arose--things like grades, sports and college.

But now I know a teenager who has been stressing out about something much bigger than all of that. I mean, literally, it is bigger. It's about 40 feet wide. It's a container she's trying to ship to Africa.

But, ideologically, it's bigger than all that, too. It is carrying life-enhancing and life-changing items for an orphanage; items like formula, beds, clothes, supplies, and hygiene kits.

Do you know why she's worried about it? Because she's realized the problems of others are her problems. Her first trip to Kenya was three years ago, when she saw that students in the school there had to share pencils.

I work in a high school where pencils are like pocket lint. They are everywhere, in every crevice of civilization.

But not in Kenya. There, pencils are a privilege.

So this then-13-year-old named Riley started trying to change that for those kids. She collected school supplies and distributed backpacks. Then she handed out hygiene kits to the girls. She started Generation Next, a 501(c)(3) that exists to improve the lives of the next generation of Kenyan children and share with them the love of Christ.

Then, since she was on a roll, she went ahead and built a school.

Riley with a little friend. 

The school built by Generation Next. 

But that wasn't enough. Now she's overseeing an orphanage. (At her age, I couldn't oversee my own laundry, let alone an orphanage.)

Gail's House, Riley's orphanage in Kenya, runs on solar power. 
And did I mention that she's just 18? Sure, her parents help a lot, but hers was the "yes" that started it all--the horse that pushes this cart.

But do you know what is standing between that container full of life-giving and life-improving equipment and the orphaned children of Kenya? Money.

Of course. So many things are about money.

She thought shipping the container would cost $4,800. When the bid came back, it was more like $10,000. That amount should get the container from Missouri to the orphanage, including port entry.

So now she needs about $5,000 more. If you can make that happen for her--but really, for the motherless kids of Kenya--please consider helping Riley move this container from her "worries" list to her "done" list. I'm sure she has plenty of other items about which to worry.

You can find more information at www.generationnextcares.org or http://rileystreasures.net.

Generation Next
1440 St. Hwy 248
Suite Q-190
Branson, MO 65616

**Full disclosure: I am beginning to work with Generation Next to improve lives in Kenya, so you will be hearing more from me about this great cause. Get excited!**

Friday, February 14, 2014

Great feedback for One Day=$10K {a fundraising how-to}

It's been a few days since I posted the fundraising e-book, and I have some great feedback to share. I'm pretty excited to see what will come of all of the information at people's fingertips. Hoping and praying it helps bring some kids home soon.

Here's what a few people have said about it:
"As an adoptive mom I was looking for a way to raise money for our 3rd adoption. When I read this book I found it took the guess work out of planning an event like this.  Every aspect of this type of fundraiser was covered in such wonderful detail!" - Linda Scotto,adoptive mom  
"This truly is priceless!  Very thorough and impressive, a great source of information.  I'm thinking $3.99 isn't enough...[the] information is very complete, easy to understand and follow, and gives lots of resources."  -- Heidi Wellsandt, adoptive mom 

So if you're looking for a great resource in fundraising how-to (now available in hard copy format, too), check it out over here or purchase your copy below.



Format

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

One Day=$10K {an adoption fundraising manual}

Remember that one time I told you that we raised $10,000 at our adoption fundraising dinner? It wasn't a lie.

In fact, it was such a great learning experience that I decided to write an e-book about it and share what we learned with others who are trying to raise money for adoption (or any other great cause).

We are not experts. We are just normal people with two toddlers at home, full-time jobs and a mix of part-time jobs, adoption grant applications, graduate classes and crock-pot meals to fill our plates. In fact, our plates aren't just full; they're sometimes overflowing.

BUT, amongst the craziness of everyday life and full plates, we did manage to pull off a killer adoption dinner with live music and a silent auction. It was a ton of work, but we knocked out almost a third of our adoption expenses in one night. I'd say it was worth all of the work.

We want to share exactly how we did it, as well as what we wish we had done differently.

With that, here it is. You can purchase it for $3.99 (every opportunity is a fundraising opportunity, people). In it, we share the 15 steps we took to pull off a huge fundraising event. Those 15 steps are broken down into detailed instructions--along with several tidbits of information we wish we'd known all along--within 52 pages of easy reading. I think and pray it will be worth your time and money, thus helping you pull off an overwhelmingly successful fundraising dinner of your own.

(PDF Download will be emailed to you; 
Be sure to include your email address in Paypal)
$3.99

 ***UPDATE: See great feedback for One Day=$10K here. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

life unraveling

This Saturday I had the opportunity to experience a bit of If: Gathering at a tiny If: Local event (Thank you to those girls who let me come to a session!) I didn't see all of the speakers, but I was able to catch some of the ones I previously missed on livestream.com yesterday (and they were still available as of Monday morning if you're interested). I heard Christine Caine gave an amazing talk on Friday, so I hope to listen to that later this afternoon, but I want to share some words that stuck with me from Rebekah Lyons and Jen Hatmaker. (Disclaimer...I am writing for myself, not necessarily to teach anyone anything. I write to learn.)

Rebekah Lyons -- (So SO good, and she just came out with a new book, Free Fall to Fly, which made me think of my earlier post about free falling. Guess I need to buy that book now!)

She began by quoting Psalm 139 from memory. Now I must commit that one to memory, as well.

She then pointed out a statement from Viktor Frankl, author of a truly great book called Man's Search for Meaning: "Anxiety is the result of unfulfilled responsibility." Anxiety, then, exists when we are not living out our purpose. (Rebekah and her husband moved to NYC based on their calling, yet she began having anxiety attacks in the big city and determined that they were the result of unfulfilled responsibilities and failure to live out her own purpose.)

Two questions:
1. "What are your birthright gifts?"
2. "What makes you come alive?"

"Calling is where your talents and your burdens collide."
"Burdens arise from broken hearts."

And with those above two statements, she had my full attention. These are questions I've been asking myself and answers I needed to hear. (But Rebekah puts everything so much more elegantly than I do!)

Jen Hatmaker -- Super good talk. She spoke about when "they" become "us," as we join together with those who are hurt and suffering and become like them to help them. She based it on the last Passover meal, when Jesus said His body would be broken and His blood poured out. I believe this idea alone has the potential to rock the very foundation of every Christian's life if we will let it, yet it can start so small: One meal served at the homeless shelter; one widow needing a servant-hearted helper; one child needing someone to care. It is a pulled threat that unravels an entire sweater; once you pull it, you can't help but continue to see how it's all connected. Her illustration: "We started by awkwardly talking to a homeless person and now we have two Ethiopians living in our house." (They adopted...)


Quickly, let me tell you how my thread is unraveling:

A small desire to honor a woman's decision to continue giving her unplanned child life helped us make the a decision to adopt domestically....

Experiencing that one domestic adoption child led to an increased understanding of the gospel of adoption....
This led to an increased desire to educate people to whom adoption or the gospel--or both--can seem so very foreign...

Seeing the picture of adoption in Scripture--God saying "I will not leave you as orphans"--led to an unstoppable desire to adopt again, this time with the intention of impacting lives that are at risk in a country where 1 in 5 children do not live past age five...

That led to BROKEN HEARTS as we learned that the lack of access to clean water (dysentery) killed 33 of 52 children (including twins we hoped to adopt) in an orphanage in a remote jungle town in DR Congo...

Our broken hearts became BURDENED HEARTS for and in the remote village in Africa, and we shared info about the dysentery outbreak and helped our agency gather monetary donations to help...

 (Our adoption agency is now providing supplies and equipment to provide clean water and saving lives)...

Our broken hearts became burdened for orphans everywhere, including the ones in our own city (whom we really didn't know much about to begin with)...

And now here I am writing things on Facebook like "Hey, these five kids in Oregon need a family. If Brad and I could afford to feed all of them, this would be an easy yes." And I truly meant it...

All of this, coming from a girl who wanted a family of two kids at the most, who liked to be in control, who had other plans...

And all of this has led to what I believe is a calling that has required me to resign from my teaching job, spend more time loving my kids at home and far away, and use my talent (writing...minimal talent as it may be) to advocate, educate, and encourage as much as possible...

I don't know exactly what will come of all this. God dangled a thread in front of us, we pulled it, and now life is unraveling and God is making something new and exceptionally more beautiful.

Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.
Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
The beast of the field shall honor me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.
This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.
Isaiah 43:18-21

happy dance

It's snowing, school was cancelled (again), and I couldn't go back to sleep because of the great news I have to share with you. My heart is doing a happy dance. I'll cover the news in a short post this morning, and I'll be back later this week to share more news.

1. Imara made it to the US and is receiving great care at Cox Hospital in Missouri. Praise God! She is doing really well considering everything she has been through. You can read about her trip to the states, her progress and her prognoses here.  If you are unaware of Imara's situation and the obstacles she faced in DR Congo, you can read up at abicongo.blogspot.com or get more info here.


Here is her precious face....She is beautiful and loved! (Pic from abicongo.blogspot.com)
2. Some selfish great news: We got some video of Sweet C from people who traveled to visit their little boy who was in the same orphanage. I can't even tell you how fun it is to see her in action. She is the SWEETEST! One of the videos includes her sitting and smiling, when all of a sudden a balloon pops and she jumps and looks surprised, but she doesn't cry. I have watched it over and over because she is just so cute; I can hardly handle it. The little boys who live with her definitely love her and the other baby there, and I even got to hear them say her name a few times. It is so beautiful when they say it.

**In adoption news, we are still waiting to hear that we have passed court. This usually takes 2-8 months, and I believe we are in month 3, so HOPEFULLY we get that news sooner rather than later. Once that happens, we will be able to file an I-600, which will begin the process of a rather lengthy investigation completed by the US Embassy in Kinshasa. If Brad or I travel to physically hand them our paperwork, it could drop 2 months from the timeline, making it 3-8 months instead of 5-10.  However, it would be an expensive trip, and I'm not sure that it would be beneficial since DGM isn't issuing Exit Letters right now. The traveler could go visit C, though, which would be amazing but also heartbreaking to leave her.

3. We got a Lifesong Empowered to Connect scholarship for the upcoming conference in STL. This means they will pay for our admission to the conference and give us a bit of money for a hotel. Yee-haw! Only small problem is that Bradlee is supposed to coach that Saturday, so we will see how this plays out.

4. God continues to teach me amazing things through challenging and amazing circumstances, and I will be back to share later this week. (If: Gathering and If: Local...I see you. Well done, ladies. WELL DONE.)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

letting go

I'm letting go. I'm letting go of my plans and my expectations and my wants. I am letting go of stress and worry and doubt and BUSYNESS; all of which are idols (sins, really) onto which I have desperately held tightly for as long as I can remember. And I am letting go of my flimsy earthly identity, because it's not important. (Click here if you missed yesterday's post about my identity crisis.)

See, I was really good at having faith when the situation required it. Brody's crazy adoption? I had faith because I knew it was all completely out of my hands. Brecken's situation: Faith, because I couldn't keep that kid in my womb and pump air through his lungs with my own willpower. But selling a stupid rental house? Not much faith. Getting through the lengthy to-do lists? No faith, and in it's place: stress and busyness. Why? Because I felt like I could control those situations and many others through my own efforts.

If we just beautified the house and shared its info more often, more people would see that house and someone would buy it. If I just stressed about details of financing a stay-at-home life next year, I could take care of it all. If I just stayed extremely busy and stressed about it all, I could get everything done and keep everyone happy.

Not so.

While I gripped those things--worry, doubt, stress, busyness--with such tight fists, it was nearly impossible to have my hands open to the gifts God had in store for our family. Where was there room for his gifts and his goodness when I was grasping worry and busyness so tightly? Where was there room for a mustard seed's worth of faith for Him to reveal His miracles? There was no room in my clenched fists.

So I've let it all go. My snow days--which we have had plenty of this year--have not consisted entirely of to-do lists and wringing hands, worrying about some far-off stressor, or  planning every step I'll take next. Instead, it has consisted of tickling kids, slow breakfasts and snow runs.

Mostly, it has consisted of the open hands of letting go. When my hands are open, I am more able to praise God for this family, this house and the thousand other gifts we have been given, and I am also more able to receive more of the gifts He has to give. How many gifts have I missed because my hands weren't open to receive them?

(Image: Colourbox.com)

Why do I share all of this? Because I have missed it for so long, and I think many other people have missed it, too. Busyness is almost seen as a status symbol. Stress and worry make us think we can control outcomes. None of it is true. As someone who has battled through all three--busyness, stress, and worry--somewhat successfully "on my own," I can tell you that it is infinitely better to LET IT GO.

And although I don't think I should have to prove it's better this way, I will share that in the last few weeks (as I've been learning to let go), I have rediscovered purpose in my life, we have gotten a contract on our rental house, I've received confirmation about spending more time with my kids next year from nearly every direction, and our adoption and foster care ministry at church (which is dear to my heart) is finally gathering some steam. How's that for evidence that God had gifts to give and no hands in which to place them?

Stress. Worry. Busyness. Let it go.

And in their place: Peace.

 Proverbs 14:14 The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.

{{If you don't recognize this sentiment, I learned it from Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts.  I can honestly say that it has changed me for the better. It took a while for me to get into it, due in part to the fact that the first chapter was so incredibly sad that I had to take a break for a while. I picked the book up for the first time shortly after learning about the twins, when Imara's situation seemed to be deteriorating quickly as well, and I just couldn't handle one more incredibly sad situation (which the first story in Voskamp's book was). When I finally picked it back up and read the rest, it was as if God himself was giving me fresh eyes.}}

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Identity crisis {Christ is}

I have to come clean. The first few weeks of January were a beast. A proverbial punch to my gut. A windy blizzard to my internal workings. A marathon of thoughts running themselves ragged between my head and my heart.

To put it briefly, I've had a slight identity crisis.

Note: This is not the obligatory midlife crisis, when some people might insist upon buying themselves a corvette or getting injected with Botox. I was sincerely confused about labels that identified me.

Let's start at the beginning. Here are a few of the "identities" I've been associated with in my life, either by others or myself:

coach
jock
smart
bookworm
English teacher
preppy
quiet
Christian
straight-A student
All American
athletic
goody two-shoes
"track star"
teacher's pet
PE teacher
nerd

Over time, as the direction of my life changed and I became a real adult, a few of those identities stayed the same, and I added happy new ones like "Mommy." However, other identifiers morphed in my mind into these:

unsure
failure
loser
inadequate

And when I resigned from my coaching job, and later decided not to return to teaching next year, I dealt with an identity crisis involving the removal or replacement of some "good" identifiers above. I will no longer be "Coach" or the Health and PE teacher, and although I have disliked being pigeon-holed by those titles and the many others I've accumulated through the years, there was something comfortable about them, and that made it difficult to relinquish my grasp on them.

The following words attacked my fragile identity: 

quitter
unemployed
drifter
wanderer
a woman without a plan
nothing.

To say it's been difficult to transition to a period in life when I don't have a specific and known mission or clear-cut word to identify my role...that's quite an understatement. I like to know who I am. I like to know what I'm good at, what my purpose is, and why God put me here.

My resignation messed with my beliefs about who I was. But it shouldn't have.

I recently "re-remembered" (because I so often have to be retaught) something I learned in college from Lifetime Ministries: Christ is my identity. And because he is my identity, I am...

justified and redeemed (John 3;16)
holy, set apart (1 Corinthians 1:2)
a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
liberated (Galatians 5:1)
blessed with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3)
forgiven (Ephesians 1:7)
given new life! (Galatians 2:5)

And, of course, the (adopted) daughter of a King.

In many ways, adoption has played a major role in changing my understanding of identity. Sure, it's been a journey to understanding, just like anything else, but when I truly understood what it meant to be adopted---for Brody to be our son, for Sweet C to become our daughter, and for myself to be the daughter of a king (THE king of the universe)---I finally allowed myself to just be.

Because it's more than enough to be the daughter of a King, and it's more than enough to be discovering His purpose in my life and the path he has me on. He has clearly called me to something beyond myself and the silly identifiers by which I've restricted myself, and I'm thrilled to see where this path leads, even if I only know the first step for now. (Just so you know, so far, the first step has been "LET IT GO. Say no to this great job and these great people. I have something for you." And so far, he has shown up at every point of doubt in this decision to reassure me that this is right. EVERY POINT.)

It's been a life-changing 2014 so far. And it's only just begun.