God, My Story

Singing through Transition

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Here I am, sitting to write again. Today, I’m feeling ‘down.’ As I went about my daily chores, my feelings and thoughts seemed to come together and I found myself ‘writing’ another blog post in my mind while my hands were deep in dishwater. I find that I ‘write’ many posts while washing dishes, but, sadly, the mundane tasks of life seem to take precedence and by the time I’m done with one chore I have to move onto another task or the pressing urge to write has passed. Today, I tried to maintain that sense of wanting to write and now I’m here, trying to make space for it. 

The thing I find myself wrestling with today is transition… what else? That’s the phase of life I’ve seemed to be in over the past year or so. I find that even in the midst of a hopeful and exciting transition, there are still times when the changes become overwhelming. Today is one of those times. Creating new routines and trying out old routines in new spaces only to find that they have failed can be draining, exhausting, and discouraging. Have you ever felt that way? Well, if you have, you’re not alone! 

It’s really hard, making so many changes at once. You know, I’ve heard it said that moving is one of the most stressful things humans can experience. So, it makes sense that along with the joyful days of a positive relocation, there will also be times when I’m overcome with the challenges of navigating all this newness. New house, new city, new church, new friends, new etc…

Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

Often, I’ll find my mind searching for ways to alleviate the pain of the change. My mind flips through old files to see if there is anything that can help. I usually turn to music… music from my past. This music evokes the feelings and memories of when things were different, dare I say easier? Either way, this familiar music is like a warm embrace for my soul and my heart. It’s a soft blanket that soothes the stressful feelings and thoughts. Music reaches the depths of me in ways that words alone just can’t. What’s it that Hans Christian Andersen says? Oh yeah, “Where words fail, Music speaks.” This is so true in my life.

So, today, I chose to head way back to the 90s with Out of Eden’s first album, Lovin’ the Day. I can’t tell you how many times I have listened to this album over the years. I’m pretty sure every word, beat, and instrumental interlude is completely memorized. As I listened to the first song, “Lovely Day” I was struck by how accurate the intro lyrics were to my present feelings.

When troubles come my way, / I look to you and everything is okay. / When help seems to disappear, / I look to you and everything’s so clear. / When hard nights turn into hard days, / How I long to seek your face. / When blue skies turn to grey. / I look to you and then I know it’s gonna be a… / It’s gonna be a lovely day.

And as the song played on, I was carried away by the reminder that when everything seems like a hassle, like a problem, or even hopeless; then when we look to Him, to Jesus, we can trust and have faith that it WILL be a Lovely Day. I hope you’ll listen to the song below and have a very, truly, lovely day.

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family, homeschool, My Story

Homeschooling Review

Well, it’s in the books! Week 1 of Year 2 of homeschooling is finished. Last year our family tried out homeschooling. Due to Coronavirus and all the unknowns of the public school system, we realized that it’d just be easier to homeschool and therefore have a consistent schedule that fit well with our (my husband and my) work schedules. When we realized in the Spring that we’d be relocating to a transitional town, we knew it was time to plan for the second year of homeschooling. We’ve had people ask us how we like it and what curriculum we’re using and all that sort of stuff. I got to thinking, why not write about it and have a place that gives a thorough answer! So, this is it!

,I must admit, I wanted to try homeschooling for a while. I always thought that it’d be so fun to learn along with my children, especially those things that I didn’t have much of an interest in as a kid, but do now… history and science. But, there hasn’t been an impetus to really get us to make the choice to try it, until last year. With my homeschooling sisters ‘around the corner,’ I knew I wouldn’t be alone if I needed help. So, we jumped in!

What I’ve learned (so far) is that there really is no ONE WAY to do it and what works for one person or family isn’t necessarily the best for another. BUT, it’s still so helpful to at least hear what other people are doing because it gives a good place to get started from. Also, even after you choose, it’s good to give yourself a break and make changes as needed. Flexibility does seem to be key in this endeavor.

The first question we are often asked is, “What homeschool curriculum are you using?” Well, we’re not using just one curriculum, but a combination of different books. I had my physicist-husband choose the Math and Science because he has the most understanding of what would be good in that area. I had the most input on Language Arts (Grammar, Spelling, Reading, etc) and History. Then we kind of made a hodge-podge Bible curriculum because we didn’t find one that we were really sold on. I also teach the kids piano and we call that ‘music.’ I dabbled in trying to get the kids doing Coding, Foreign Language, Etc, last year and quickly realized that I could only do so much. 🙂 But, this year, we are bringing it into the daily lessons! I’m so excited.

So, here’s a breakdown subject-by-subject of what we’ve found that works for us:

Math: Singapore Math – Dimensions. This math is intense, but apparently this is the the way my husband wished he would’ve learned math, but he had to wait until he was in Physics Class to learn it this way. So, we tried it out, adjusted it to fit our personal school week and we’re using it again this year!

Homesciencetools.com

Science: We’re using a group of books from Real Science 4 Kids called ‘Exploring the Building Blocks of Science.’ The textbook is colorful and covers the 5 major areas of science: Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Geology, and Astronomy. This is not a faith-based curriculum, but we can always weave that in. AND, since we’re using faith-based stuff for Devotions, Language Arts, and History… they’re getting plenty of Bible/Jesus teaching. We’ve enjoyed doing the experiments together and this year I’m hoping to try and squeeze in two textbooks (one each semester). We’ll see how it goes, but I can dream, can’t I? I also love that we can buy the lab kits online so that I don’t have to come up with ALL the lab equipment on my own. Definitely worth it for our busy family.

Language Arts/Grammar/Reading: We’re using the ‘Language Lessons for a Living Education’ series from MasterBooks. It has a main text book and a book of Bible stories that goes along with it. It’s been pretty good. I think it could use a few more ‘practice’ portions, but it’s really okay for this age level, probably. (I hope!) There is also verse memorization each week and occasionally poetry memorization. It also includes spelling lists for each week. Along with Grammar and Writing, the kids read 20 minuets a day on their own and learn about the various aspects of literature (plot, summary, scene, characters, etc). I’ve also added to our daily schooling this year, Read Alouds by Mom. I chose a handful of books that I’d love the kids to listen to together and I’m reading them out loud. It’s a highlight of our day and a break from seatwork!

masterbooks.com

History/Geography/Social Studies: I wanted to teach the kids American History last year and so I bought a book from MasterBooks called, ‘America’s Story’. It’s a 3-book series. It covers history, a bit of art appreciation (and that’s in the LA books above too), and cartography/geography. It’s all kind of rolled into one package. It’s been good and I’m glad we’re using it. This year, if my ambition holds, I hope to do both books 2 & 3 (one each semester). As we go through the chapters, I like to add my own flare to help the kids retell and remember the stories… like when I had them recreate the Leif Ericksson story in our backyard and show it to me as a ‘play.’ This year the kids asked if they could do a project of ‘building’ different types of housing from American history (pipe cleaner teepees, Lincoln Log log cabins/timber-framed buildings, and balloon-framed buildings with legos and blocks!)

The two older kids both use their own books for Math and LA. They share set of books for Science and History. Last year, my youngest (PreK at the time) just followed along or went off to play. She did use the ‘Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills’ by Thinking Kids (I got them as Sam’s Club) and finished the Pre-K book. Then we worked through the Kindergarten book which mostly focuses on letters (writing and sounds), math & reading readiness, color/shape/sizes and other concepts, etc. We use the ‘Leveled Readers’ from the Library. I discovered these were the same ones used in the Kindergarten classrooms! It went pretty well and I reminded myself that Pre-K is as much about play as it is about learning. So… she got a lot more break time than the older ones. 

Kindergarten: However, this year my youngest is officially starting Kindergarten. I wasn’t too excited about following along with the same curriculum as the older kids since Kindergarten learning is so different from older grade school learning. I decided to try my hand at the Kindergarten abeka curriculum. I used abeka when I attended private school 1st-4th grade. I remember really loving it, especially the emphasis on phonics. I wanted to give it a go this year and so far, it’s going well… but it’s only been one week. So, we’ll just keep on trying it out and remaining flexible as needed.

There are so many good computer programs to use too (and can be an incentive if the kids need it). We’ve used Khan Academy to supplement math and we are also using it for Coding. There’s a plethora of other subjects on there too. The kids are trying out DuoLingo for foreign language, and I’m learning along with them! It’s been going well so far. We signed up for Typing Club also so that the kids can learn their way around a computer keyboard. It starts off so simply that even my kindergartener can do it. Amazing! For piano, I use the Piano Adventures Series. It’s super simple and there’s even tons of videos on YouTube that can be used to aid in the learning. 

We do ‘PE’ and ‘Field Trips’ and other sorts of things just about any time I can think of calling out the learning. It’s great to see how much of what we already do is actually very educational or active. We use GoNoodle when the kids need some indoor PE time and we go on walks/bike rides when it’s nice outside. We haven’t shied away from being with family and close friends so the kids have often been with other children of varying ages and getting plenty of ‘socialization.’ 🙂 

Bible: Last year, we used the Mr. Phil Show and What’s in the Bible episodes for some Bible teaching and I read to them from the Bible and prayed with them. Sometimes we did worship songs together and other times we just turned on a ‘Books of the Bible’ YouTube song or something like that and all have a lot of fun learning together. This year we are working through two 100-day devotionals about science and God by Louie Giglio. So far so good!

The great thing about homeschooling in Illinois is that it’s one of the most ‘free’ places to do it! There are so few regulations that it really can be up to the parent to choose what works best and assess their kids on their own. So far, I’m loving it. I am excited to homeschool again this year and I hope it’ll be even better than last year! Please feel free to ask me any type of question about my experience with home school and I’ll be sure and get back to you.

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Adoption, family, God, Kingdom, My Story

Life Update July 2021…What’s been going on?

Wow, well… it’s been a while. A LOT  has happened since my last post. So much so, that I just had to put writing on hold for a while. Even now, I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to get back to the consistent schedule I had before, but I do value having this space to write and share my life and thoughts. So, here’s the update!

After my February post about our adoption needs, we were so blessed to receive a large financial donation to help us get much closer to being fully funded for the adoption! Praise the Lord and thank you to the donor! We have heard very little about any matches since that time and I’m not sure how I feel about that. Of course, I DO WANT to move forward with this adoption journey, but as I look back over the past months, I can see how having a baby in the mix would have made something complicated even more complex! But, my dream of another baby or sibling set is still alive and well. Now that things are in the next stage (which I’ll write more about below), I find my thoughts drifting more towards adoption again. I find my readiness being reawakened. Maybe this is a good time, maybe it’s not, and maybe it doesn’t really matter whether or not it’s a ‘good-time’ as long as it’s a ‘God-time.’ So, we keep waiting. That’s the adoption update.

Well, let’s talk about the rest of what’s been going on. In short, we’ve moved to a new city. Yup… you read that right! About seven months ago, I shared how God was telling us that a job change was coming. We started to separate our focus from our previous employment to what God had already birthed and grew in Putty’s area of influence. But we didn’t know that another big shift was coming our way. As we worked through the process of where to place our focus and how all the complex details of that would work out, something just wasn’t right within us. It became clear that God was asking us to move out of the hometown we’d known since we graduated with our undergraduate degrees and look towards a new future. 

The trouble was that we still didn’t know WHAT exactly that future would be! We knew we had to keep taking the next step though. So, we notified the people who needed to know about this change in course and we started looking for the next landing place. Since we weren’t feeling called to any particular location, we decided to choose based on a few criteria, with two big ones standing out: 1) A good HUB airport for Putty to use for easier travel and 2) an area where we have a lot of ministry connections already. One place stood out above the rest and was still relatively close to our family… Chicago! So, we began making plans to move there. But we had no idea where to go in the sprawling metropolis. We weren’t sure what kind of housing we could afford, nor did we know where we’d eventually end up attending church. All we knew was that we were heading out to follow the Lord and this was the next step.

As we connected with a realtor who could help us find some rental housing, the reality of what we were about to do set in. She sent us many MLS pages of homes that were available for rent, but all of them made my heart hurt to even consider living in them. It was so rough. I didn’t like getting these emails and I just wasn’t connecting with any of the homes presented to us. I was keeping up a good front though. It’s easiest to do that when you just don’t acknowledge it. And that’s essentially what I did. I ignored the ‘finding future housing’ task and instead threw myself into preparing our home for sale and moving. However, I did have this fleeting thought at one point and I vocalized it to Putty. I said, “You know, I don’t care what house we live in next. I’d really like it if we could just be offered a place to live or at least take one for very cheap. I mean, maybe someone we know has a vacant house or even missionary housing! I just don’t want to go through the process of choosing a place when we probably won’t even be there long.’ 

Little did I know that this statement was actually a hearts-desire because the act of choosing was very hard for me. I chose the home we were living in at that time and we worked hard to make it a wonderful place for us to live and host people. We LOVED it. So, nothing could compare to what we were leaving. What criteria could I use to choose the next house except for letting it be God’s choice for us. With that said, I returned to my packing, donating, and cleaning up our current place. Whatever was next, we were going to leave this house in nice shape for the next owners and we weren’t going to bring along a lot of unnecessary stuff to our next resting spot. 

The time was drawing closer to when we’d be putting our house on the market. With one week to go, we still didn’t know exactly what next home we were heading towards. But, God was about to surprise us once again with his goodness, providence, and confirmation. It was the day our congregation was being notified of this new change to the status quo. With little more information to give them other than that we were following God to Chicago with no idea of what was coming next, we left a lot of questions unanswered (perhaps more of our own than anyone else’s). That was the day though, when God was giving us the next piece to our puzzle! 

Putty received a phone call from a friend in the Chicago area with a job proposition! It seems he needed to hire a new pastor, but wasn’t ready or able to make a permanent decision yet. He asked Putty if he’d be willing to take on an interim pastor position while we were in transition. We couldn’t believe it, but God was allowing us to live off of a salary during this transitional period, instead of the proceeds from the sale of our house! Not only that, but this church has a parsonage and we could live there as part of our compensation. And to ice the cake, it’s in a beautiful area and we already had a childhood friend who attended there too! We were blown away at this offer and although right away we were pretty sure that we’d accept the job, we did take some time to pray and discuss it before giving our final answer.

I admit it, I broke down in tears. I was so overwhelmed with how God was caring for our needs. Not only by helping us to stay afloat financially, but He heard my desire to have a house that I didn’t have to choose! He provided housing for me and my family. He provided a church for us to connect with while up here in Chicago. And, he provided existing friendships so we didn’t have to start from scratch. God is so good. He is so kind. He is thoughtful. He is steady and true. (You can read Putty’s perspective on our life update on his most recent blog post)

I’m so thankful we followed Him on this journey. Since my last blog, He has provided us with adoption money, gifts towards our next ministry, housing, a new job/salary, rekindled friendships, and stability. It’s these times that I will look at again and again and remember that God is good. If I doubt that we’re on the right trajectory as we transition, I look to His obvious provision and I see that He is leading us and making a way. We still are searching out the next things. We are following rabbit trails and seeking the LORD. Even though I don’t have an answer for my next stage in life… even though I can’t make a plan (which I LOVE to do!)… I know that my steps are directed by the Lord.

Thank You Note: Thank you to all of you who have generously given towards our adoption, our ministry, and our family. Thank you for believing in God’s calling on our lives and this next journey he has us on. We truly are so grateful for your support and enthusiasm as we step into our next season in ministry together!

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Adoption, family, My Story

Adoption Update February 2021: Approved Again

In short, it feels like nothing has changed. Our first year of being adoption approved has come… and gone. We have completed an annual update for adoption approval with our agency and my heart was so sad. I really wanted to be the anomaly that got matched with a birth family almost immediately and really just knocked this thing out in a year!

The First Year

In the back of my mind, I wasn’t so sure that it would happen. But then we got a call this past spring about a baby already born and needing a home! I began composing my social media announcement posts in my mind and envisioned the generous rejoicing that so many would do along with us. But… that wasn’t to be.

Even with the second potential match I had hopes that maybe this would be it. The baby would be born before our year expired and that still seemed like hitting some sort of ‘one-year goal.’ But, no. The match just didn’t feel like it was for us and we removed ourselves from the birth family choices. I came to find out that those birth parents decided to parent after all. I suppose that was God’s grace and direction for us in that moment. God knew that we didn’t need to get our hopes up and then start the process all over.

Beginning Year Two…

So, here we are, more than a year since our first adoption approval and over two years since we first sat down with the agency and explored our adoption options with them. I didn’t know… I didn’t know how long this process really would take. I didn’t know all the ins and outs of domestic adoption on the matching side alone. I know more now, but I still will learn so much after the match and throughout to adoption finalization.

When I think of what’s ahead in this process, I feel tired. I feel unmotivated. I feel a bit disappointed. Perhaps that’s because I’m not waiting only on this one thing, but it feels like all the big decisions in life are on hold right now. And that’s not even to mention that the entire world is in a ‘wait’ to open up again due to this pandemic.

But, I hope things are changing. I hope the waiting period is quickening, like the term used when a pregnant mother feels the first flutterings of movement from the baby inside of her. My kids are asking me regularly now, “Mom, when are we going to get our new baby?” They have so much desire for a new sibling. I keep asking God, “When? How long?” I feel like the answer from God is changing from ‘Wait’ to ‘Soon.’ Oh, I hope I’m hearing him correctly!

Even in the natural, I’ve been starting to nest a bit more in my home – another thing pregnant women do as they get closer to delivery. I felt a strong desire to change my kids rooms around and get things set up for a baby. I haven’t done that in the past year at all. I just figured that we’d set up the space once we had a match/baby. But now I just want to have it set up and ready. So, we have made changes and the crib is waiting in the room (unassembled at this point) for our next addition. I still have the changing table and nursery items ready to welcome that sweet child. And as I write this, I’m in my rocking chair that I’ve used with all my children The nostalgia is real!

On the outside, I’ve had a growing number of people asking how our adoption is going. I wish I had some exciting news to share! But, all I can say is, “We’re still waiting, and we’re now approved for another year! We completed our annual home study update.” People are happy to wait with us, wonder with us, and ask after us. That asking is actually really precious to me. I know that I’m not the only one waiting. I’m not forgotten as I wait, but others are hopeful along with me. Others are actually somewhat invested in this process too. And so… this blog is my answer to that question. It’s hard to answer thoroughly in a quick conversation, but I hope you’ll enjoy a bit more of the fully-rounded answer that this space provides.

How You Can Help…

If you feel like you’d like to do something with/for us while we wait, we’d LOVE to have you partner with us. We continue to need prayer. Prayer for the birth triad (birth mother/family, baby, adoptive parents). Prayer for our hope and anticipation to remain intact and that we don’t become resentful or despondent that the process isn’t done yet. Prayer that all the finances will come when they are needed. We estimate this will cost between $15-$20K.

I also need people asking me about the adoption, whether anything has changed or not. That real life touching base reminds me that I’m not alone in the process and it helps me to keep my mind on the great changes that will come. I really am looking forward to and feel so ready to have our baby with us! I’m itching to get started on parenting my adopted baby and talking about it with others helps to keep that feeling alive during the waiting.

Lastly, we need help with the finances. We’ve received about $3,500 so far. We are incredibly thankful to those who have donated already. The money has been used for adoption related expenses, like getting our home study approved and then updated, as well as the many health and documentation expenses that come along with just getting the approval process finished. If you’d like to give now, you can do so at this link or send a check written out to The Vineyard Church (please do not write on the memo line what this is going towards, but instead include a note about where the money is to be used) and sent to the following :

The Vineyard Church
1500 N. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, IL 61801

Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’d like to submit our profile with a lawyer who gets referrals from crisis pregnancy centers. These are the women that I’d really like to help (by being an adoptive parent choice) as they walk through the difficult decision of whether to parent, make an adoption plan, or abort their baby. There is a retainer fee for this lawyer and we’re just shy of having enough in our account to pay that. So, finances are still needed, even in the waiting, but much more so once we have the baby matched and place. That’s when the placement fee (the biggest of the expenses) occurs and then we’ll have the lawyer fees to finalize the adoption (perhaps the next biggest expense or at least in the top 3-5) as well.

I do not want to forget to say how very thankful I am to all of you for walking along with me and my family in this adoption journey. It’s had unexpected twists and turns, but I know that I’m not alone and I know that God has placed this dream and call in my life. Whatever comes of all this, I’m so thankful to be strengthened by God and surrounded by friends and family. Thank you all and I’ll keep you updated!

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(If you know someone who would find this story helpful or encouraging, please feel free to share it! Thanks for reading my post!)

Bible, God, My Story

Secure and Insecure People

“Being Secure Helps Others.” That was the title of that particular day’s devotional. But instead of focusing on the what the title said, my mind immediately turned it around. “Being Insecure Hurts Others.” My mind went back to the previous week when I had gone ‘off my rocker’ or so it seemed. 

The Weekend…

It was a hard week. The COVID restrictions were hitting my small business again and it felt bad. I was losing students and had so many cancelations or postponements come at me that week. I was able to hold out hope in all this until the last work day of my week when I lost yet another student. UGH! “What is going on?!” School closings, business closings, the holidays, quarantine, etc made the perfect combination for a very disappointing work week. I was so down that I got to that ‘stuck’ feeling again that I talked about in this post. I chose to force myself to do something to get through it because I still had to parent, cook, and relate to my family before the evening was done. 

Luckily, I found a way to practice my singing. I chose a sad French Song that talks about waking from a good dream and wishing to go back into it. After many run-throughs, I wanted to sing it like I was drawing others into the feeling too – performance time! So, I made a few recordings, some with my eldest daughter looking on. I was happy to share my ‘craft’ with her. It’s not often that my kids see what I studied after all. When all was said and done, I went from feeling very sad and despondent to a bit more normal again. I proceeded with the rest of my evening and enjoyed the time with my family. What I didn’t realize was that I was feeling a bit insecure about my work and our finances. I didn’t allow myself to did deeper and this weight joined the already heavy feelings of this year. … insecurity.

‘Apres un reve’ by Faure sung by Brittany Putman

But I hadn’t really went deeper with all this and it built on some things that had already been happening and which reared their ugly heads throughout the weekend. One of those was my husband’s new business. He and a friend are trying their hand at a new type of socializing over the internet and it’s taken a lot more time than originally anticipated. This has meant focus and energy away from us for an extended period of time. Of course, not all the time, but just enough that it started to feel like it was dragging on. When things take a long time to get realized (like our adoption dreams right now), it can feel really disheartening. He and the friend continued to chug away at this new venture, but these things just take time! 

Additionally, since we could only invite a few people to join us in BETA mode, I really hoped everyone would jump on the bandwagon and join us. Of course, some couldn’t because they didn’t have the necessary things in place, but others just weren’t interested. This really hurt my heart. Each time someone said, “No, not this time,” it was like I was taking it personally! I didn’t quite realize, unfortunately, and those repressed feelings began to grow. I just pushed them aside and thought, “Maybe next time.” But my heart was thinking, “Why won’t they just help us and rejoice with us?” Another weight added to my heart… another insecurity.

Putty and Andrew’s New Project: https://www.crowdwatch.app/ Feel free to ask us about it!

The hits kept coming in that particular weekend. Do you ever have times like these? I know it’s all part of the human condition, but we don’t ever want it to be part of our condition! Anyway, the next day my daughter came down with a cold. We were being careful to avoid situations where we might get sick because my husband would be preaching soon and needed to stay healthy (and COVID-free) in order to do that. I also didn’t want to cancel any lessons due to sick kids because I had a responsibility to my students, my husband, and my family to keep teaching. We’ve already had enough change-ups this season, I didn’t want anymore.

So, when my youngest got sick, I felt worried. I knew it was probably just a cold because of the other people that I knew who had it (and tested negative for COVID), but still, there’s always that feeling of wondering and worry. I worried that it would systematically go through us one by one and that my husband would get it just as he was going to preach. That would not be good. Who wants a sneezing and snotty preacher on stage in this time of Coronavirus? No one, that’s who. So, I pushed my feelings aside and focused on helping my little one feel comforted. I watched each of my other kids to see if they showed any signs of sickness too. Yet, I did not take time to really look at how I was feeling. I was insecure about sickness on so many levels. And so was added …. Another insecurity.

The Breaking Point…

Could we just be done now? Nope… the next day was coming and it held the final straw. My ‘back’ broke and it wasn’t pretty. We had to stay home from church that day. Well, the kids and I did anyway. After all, ya can’t take a sneezing kid to church right now, right? So, we tuned in to the Livestream. That was nice. It was a great service and we had a nice family time with online church. But something was bothering me. 

As a person whose husband works in the church, this tense season hasn’t been easy. After 10+ years of my husband working at our church, and over 15 years of attending that church, I’ve become a cheerleader for our church-team. Normally, this is great, but when you come to love something so much, any hurt against it can feel like a hurt against you too. 

To say this COVID time was been a challenge for the Church (at large) is an understatement. Do we meet or don’t we meet? Do we mask or don’t we mask? How do we help the greatest number of people during this time? Is any group of people falling through the cracks? How do we relate to our diverse congregation in regards to the racial incidents? How do we address the election in our politically diverse congregation? There is no one-size-fits-all approach. 

I haven’t been a part of the decision making in all of this and neither has my husband because of his change in responsibilities this summer, but let me tell you, I know it hasn’t been easy. I’ve witnessed the social media comments both for and against the leadership decisions of the church. I’ve read the fighting and arguing between my beloved church member friends. The divide has torn at me. No one alive today has had to make decisions in a time quite like this, and it’s just been plain hard. I tried complaining. I tried sympathizing. I tried a number of things to get over the feelings of pain that all this has brought to the surface in me, but it hasn’t resolved. Sometimes pain takes a while to resolve and that’s okay. But what I didn’t notice was the feeling of insecurity growing. It was triggered as I watched the Livestream of the service from home. I was feeling the insecurity of the unknown. What will church look like once we can meet together again in a regular fashion without worry of spreading a contagious disease? I just don’t know and so there was heaped on me … another insecurity.

I broke that day. While conversing with people dear to my heart, I felt that insecurity pricked – but I didn’t know that’s what it was. My feelings were triggered by some things that were said and instead of taking time to wait, feel, decide, and respond, I just reacted. My words tumbled out in a passive aggressive way – I’ll say something that sounds good, but really it’s a bit of a jab to you. I knew I shouldn’t be saying it while it was coming out, but I didn’t stop! As soon as I had said my piece, I immediately felt remorse. I knew that I should have waited. I knew that I wasn’t exhibiting love. I knew I had meant to hurt people. That’s not okay and so, I did the hard work of apologizing. I had good discussions about it with my dear people and things are good. I’m thankful they were quick to forgive. I don’t want to do that again.

“Being Insecure Hurts People.” I didn’t realize I had so many insecurities stacked up during this time. Even though I knew something was wrong, I hadn’t put this label on it. And yet, when I read that devotional title, before I even read the text of the devotion, God showed me the truth. I had had so much insecurity that I lashed out and hurt the people I loved! I hadn’t allowed God’s healing to penetrate my heart during each of these circumstances. The insecurities just came so fast, one after another and I didn’t have time to heal. I was insecure.

Becoming Secure…

But how do we become the “Secure People who Help Others” instead? From a counselor’s perspective (my counselor who told me this months earlier)… when we feel that things are insecure and unstable all around us, as is happening all over the world right now, we need to turn our focus and attention to the things that are stable and secure. We can do this by showing gratitude and regularly saying/writing out what is stable and secure at that moment. We can look to the things that are predictable – I will eat breakfast, lunch, dinner today. I will go to work, parent my children, wash the laundry, etc. We can focus on the ‘What Is’ instead of the ‘What If’ of our lives. And as one of our pastors said in her sermon, we can think of the ‘Even If’s.’

Finally, we can look up God’s promises about security in the Bible. And so, I’ll leave you with some Bible verses from Psalms and Proverbs to think on. I hope these will help you and me heal from all the insecurity that comes against us and help us to focus our eyes on the stability of Christ. Ultimately, I pray that we will all become ‘Secure People who Help Others.’

Creator: kalliantas 

Psalm 16:5 (NIV) LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.

Psalm 16:9 (NIV) Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure

Psalm 112:8 (NIV) Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

Proverbs 14:26 (NIV) Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.

The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.

Psalm 93:1 (NIV)

Adoption, family, My Story

Adoption and Job Update December 2020

A year! I can’t believe it’s been a year since we were first approved to adopt. It’s gone by so fast, but when I look back I see how much has happened. In the past year we’ve had two meetings with potential birth parents and been presented with a few other far-off matches. Sadly, none of these potential matches came to be. We did have one baby in our home for a few days, but acted more as Cradle Care for a deciding birth mother than actual prospective adoptive parents. 

When our agency case worker reached out to us about updating/renewing our home study for another year I was a bit sad. I had so hoped that we would have a quick match and be on our way to an adoption court hearing by this time. Of course, I assume that most people who go down this road hope for a quick match with a baby in their home to love and cherish. Even knowing that adoption usually takes multiple years, I still wanted to be the anomaly that got matched super quick! I thought that would happen in June, then I wondered if it’d happen in August – both months when we had legitimate birth parent meetings. But alas, there were not the children for our family. 

So, we find ourselves going through the steps to become home study approved again. So far we’ve had to do our physicals again, we’ve filled out our criminal background checks and had them notarized, we’ve be re-fingerprinted, and updated our financial summary. This last one was a bit of an eye-opener for me. It really made me see the reality of all the financial changes that occurred in our life this past year with both my work and my husband’s.

Not only did the COVID pandemic affect my work, causing me to quickly learn how to teach voice lessons online, but it also caused multiple speaking engagements for my husband to be canceled. With the slow down of life, we enjoyed a lot of time together as a family and even made some great headway on home projects. But even with what already seemed like a lot of change, God had something else in mind.

God began speaking to my husband, Putty, about a possible job change. The trouble was that we didn’t know what that change would be. We just felt like a shift was coming. After a lot of prayer and contemplation, as well as reaching out to some trusted individuals outside of his workplace, we knew we had to take the next step in regards to his work, even if we didn’t understand all the details. At the end of May we decided to talk with his employers, who are our friends and partners in ministry, about what we were feeling God was asking us to do next. The same day Putty had this conversation with his employers was the same day we had the first baby in our home

It seemed so strange that we would have these two big life changes begin their respective journeys on the same day! What was God doing? So much was unknown and we couldn’t, in our own minds, work out what was going on. But, we trusted God and we said, ‘Yes’ to both the next step in his job and our family. 

Over the next few months we took an even greater amount of time to pray and think about the next steps in our lives. Sadly, the adoption journey didn’t continue with this first baby because that child went back to stay with the birth mother (a wonderful decision!). It wasn’t stability in Putty’s job either because at this point we didn’t know if God was calling us to stay or go! We had so many things we were weighing very seriously and we’re so grateful for our work family that gave us time, conversation and additional prayer to work through what we felt was next.

In August we had a meeting with the executive team at Putty’s workplace to share what we felt like the Lord was calling us to next, but again, we didn’t have a lot of details. They would also be sharing with us their thoughts on the matter. We were thankful to have a team with us to support us as we continued to listen carefully in this important life decision. We still didn’t know what God was telling us to do exactly, but we knew for sure that God was saying it was time for Putty to have a change in his current workplace employment and be ready for the next step. We didn’t know if that meant staying in our current home town or moving away. 

During this same week, the one with the very important work conversation, we had a meeting schedule with a set of birth parents! Was this really happening again? Was our big work decision lining up with a big family decision again? Apparently things come in pairs! Haha. Anyway, we met with the parents and knew they wanted to have contact with the baby as it grew – as many birth parents do now. The problem is that we had no idea where we were going to be in the future! As wonderful as these parents were, we didn’t feel a strong go-ahead to match with them and so we bowed out of that match and continued to wait.

When I say that waiting marked our COVID season, I’m not kidding. We waited for a baby match. We waited for job clarity. We waited for our society to open back up. We waited and waited on everything it seemed. God was growing peace in the waiting for us.

Eventually, Putty’s job situation got some clarity. God opened up a new work idea that we hadn’t considered at first. It was through the act of teaming with his workplace, friends and family outside of work, and other advisors that a really neat and workable next step came to be! Putty would shift his primary focus to starting something new, focused on developing the ministries and ideas that God has asked him to spearhead. He is still involved with our church of course, preaching and ministering, but his leadership responsibilities have shifted from the local church to this new adventure. The change officially took place in October.

During that same month we began taking the steps to update our adoption home study so we could be approved to adopt for the following year. Now at the beginning of December we have completed everything except the last home visit. That had to be postponed due to us being exposed to COVID. Next week we have a home visit and we fully expect things to move along smoothly. I am excited to have this update completed and begin the next leg of the journey!

Photo by Samson Katt on Pexels.com

So, our next steps in our adoption process are to wait once more. We continue to share about our journey and our desire to adopt because we value the prayers and support from everyone. We also ask that you keep us in mind if you hear about a birth mother (in any state) who is looking to make an adoption plan. My greatest desire is that through this process we can really help a mother and child who needs this option. God has placed this adoption on my heart since I was a child. The process is different than I realized it would be, but it’s a good one. God is growing me exponentially and I know that will continue even after we finalize adoption. 

Please continue to pray with us that God will bring our adoption match to us and that we can be a blessing to a baby and birth mother in all this. We pray that we will continue to listen carefully for God’s leading and be well-directed by Him. For now I dream, but one day my dream will be reality. I am so thankful, hopeful, and excited. I pray that God identifies the dreams in your hearts too and that He brings them to reality in your life.

God, My Story

Shamed if You Do, Shamed if You Don’t

There’s nothing like shame to make you second guess yourself. Over the past year, it seems like everywhere I look I see shaming attitudes, comments, and actions. One person says or does something that another person doesn’t like and instead of just disagreeing and leaving it at that, shameful venom spews from their mouth against it. Then the hurt person either slinks away to lick wounds or retaliates in kind. I keep hoping this shame-fire will die back, but as soon as it starts to wane, more fuel is added and it sparks to life again. 

I have seen some real debate when both parties try to express their own views and it seems like they are listening to each other rather than combatting. But still, overall the nation seems to be in a shaming loop. I have felt that shame directed at me, directed at those I love, AND directed at those whose views I don’t agree with. It seems like whatever people do, or don’t do, they’ll be made an example of. 

This has been so hard for me personally because I dealt with shame for a good portion of my life. As an adult I have come to learn that even when shame is thrown at me from something outside of myself, I am the one who actually chooses if it gets to hook into me or not. As a child, I didn’t understand this and so attitudes and actions done to me resulted in intense shame for me. As I’ve matured, I can see how Satan is the one who really slings shame and who whispers in my ear and to my heart that I have to wear this shame. Knowing that, I can choose NOT to agree with it. And as a Christian, I have the added victory that Jesus’ blood cleared away all that shame, empowering me to walk in love and confidence. 

bible.com

But… because I am intimately acquainted with the feeling of shame, I sense it easily when it’s hanging around. I recognize when it’s trying to invade my thoughts and make me feel less than the person God made me to be. I want to share a few specific examples that have been heavy on my heart during this past year – Coronavirus response, Racial Incidents response, and the 2020 Election. It does scare me a little to share these thoughts because they are such hot button issues and I’ve stayed away from speaking about them publicly, but nonetheless, I want to express a few thoughts on them and the theme of shame I’ve seen running through them.

Coronavirus…

Photo by CDC on Pexels.com

It all started about a year ago when we heard reports about a new virus in China. Then we heard how it was affecting other countries and finally we got hit hard too. It seemed like most of the country closed down for a while and more and more health safety protocols/restrictions were put in place. Fear began to build until it was towering over our nation. Fear of sickness and death. Fear of lack of freedom and choice. Fear of hurting the common good AND the individual good. But which one is right? That’s the thing, I’m not sure there is just ‘one right thing’. And yet, the shaming began. If you go out unmasked in public… Shame on you! …If you require me to wear a mask…Shame on you! If you hold gatherings… Shame on you! …If you restrict my freedom to gather… Shame on you! And on and on it goes. 

It has become so shameful that contracting Coronavirus seems akin to getting an STD! If you got the virus early on, then people assumed you had done something wrong by disobeying the rules or being reckless. It was then assumed that you passed it on to so many people unknowingly that therefore, you were worthy to be shamed. And now, the virus is almost everywhere and if you get it, you could have picked it up at work (while following proper guidelines) or at gatherings (with or without recommended protocols). Yet, there has been enough shame around it that people still want to remain anonymous when they contract it. (Some, not all.) But how can people reach out to help others who are sick if they have no idea who is sick? How can people safely assess whether or not they themselves should take some extra precautions if they don’t know who it is that has been sick in their midst? My hope is that as this becomes more common, people will feel less shame and negative stigma around contracting it and feel free and clear to talk about their experience with the disease and get the help (can we say MealTrain!) from the community around them.

Racial Incidents…

We’ve had a number of racial incidents throughout all this time too. They have garnered an outcry from blacks, browns, whites, and so many others. Our nation aches with the injustice, anger, fear, and yes… shame from all this. I heard messages like… Talk to your friends of color and hear their stories of injustice to understand all this and if you don’t… Shame on you! …I’m so sick of white people asking me questions just because I’m black! Don’t talk to me about this and if you do… Shame on you! …You must speak out about these incidents because if you don’t…Shame on you! …You just spoke out about these incidents… Shame on you! And on and on it goes.

Photo by Kelly Lacy on Pexels.com

In all this, I am feeling some similarities to when I’ve read books on transracial adoption. For the most part, many of these books are written from a positive and educational viewpoint. But, there are a few that are quite negative and carry a feeling on them that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. As I discussed the difference between my perceived feelings on different books with an African-American friend of mine, he cautioned me about what he called, ‘white-shaming.’ I hadn’t heard this term before. But as he explained it, a lightbulb went on. Some of the things said are not only to inform and educate, but also to toss a bit of shame onto the person thinking of transracially adopting. I didn’t realize! I suddenly could see what he was talking about and from then on, it was so easy to spot this sort of thing. Since then, I’ve seen it not only in books to the public, but also directly to me – from people of color AND also plenty of whites too. I’m so thankful for the people who speak and write about this topic that truly want to educate readers and help them along what is a difficult journey. These people write from a place of hope and care. 

Election…

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This has been the most watched and talked about election for me in my life-time. I know some will say that the election 4 years ago was just as big, but I wasn’t quite as mentally involved then, so I’m going to speak from my experience of this year. On top of the already very stressful time we’ve been having lately, we then are in the midst of a very chaotic election season and post-season. My heart breaks for the way our nation has divided so clearly. People who talk about their beliefs and ideals on either side of the ‘divide’ are being shamed back and forth. The messages are…You said a positive thing about this candidate (either one)… Shame on you! … You said a negative thing about this candidate (either one)… Shame on you! … You haven’t shown public support for this candidate (either one)… Shame on you! You have shown bipartisan support for both candidates… Shame on you! 

It seems like we don’t know how to be a nation that can hold strong ideals that disagree with one another, yet still be united. I read one politician who said, ‘Now that we’ve been divided, it’s time to be united.’ Yes, I agree, but why did we have to be so divided in the first place? Why do the politicians have to use shame in order to gather people to their side of the aisle? Left and Right I’ve heard and felt shame. I would like a leader who knows how to govern ALL PEOPLE with love and kindness. One who doesn’t have to shame and have their constituents join in the melee. We need peace in our nation and I just don’t see it. I know, I know… ‘But Brittany, it’s always been this way since the beginning of our country!’ True. But still, I can dream and hope for change can’t I?

But Hope…

So the shame in this country at this moment is at least 3-fold (virus, racial tension, election)  if not even more. We’ve been sitting under this shame for getting close to a year! How have we bared up under it? How have we dealt with the intense pressure to ‘get it all right’ in order to keep shame away? How are we monitoring our own hearts? Are we allowing the shame around us to attach itself to us? Are we struggling under the weight of the shame heaped on us? What are we choosing?

As I’ve looked in Bible to help me understand what God says about shame, I’ve found out that God does not put me to shame nor is His plan for me to live in shame. The bible says ‘No one who hopes in You will ever be put to shame. – Psalm 25:3b.’ and also ‘…hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. – Romans 5:5So, when I feel the claws of shame trying to hook themselves into me, I’ll pause and look to Jesus for the hope that will never put me to shame. Then that shame will not find a place to attach and I can move forward in life with my head held high.

I pray that we all experience renewed hope in our hearts today, in this moment. I pray that God’s love will be poured out even more into our hearts through the Holy Spirit and that we can use that to heal our areas of influence. I pray that we will know the Hope that does not put us to shame, but instead raises us up in God’s glory and power with confidence to take the next step in our lives. So, to all of us, let us choose HOPE!

God, My Story

Standing Stuck

Stuck…

Photo by Nick Bondarev on Pexels.com

I just stood at my kitchen counter, staring. I couldn’t figure out what I should be doing next. It was like I was immovable. I had no desire to do anything that would push forward the to-do list in my life nor did I have the energy to interact with my children and I couldn’t even find it in me sit and relax. It was as if everything came to a standstill and the only thing that made sense was to be in one spot without making any choices without having any interruptions and without having any expectations on me.

This is a weird state for me to be in. I’m the kind of person who always keeps going. I’m constantly go-go-going and do-do-doing. Even my times of rest and relaxation are still anchored in accomplishment – finishing reading a book or finishing a puzzle or something to that effect. Wasting time or being inactive is just not usual for me. But over the last few weeks this state of ‘being stuck’ has seemed to encroach on me more and more.

I know, some might say it looks like depression. And maybe there are some aspects of depression to it. After all, life as I’ve known it has changed drastically and I don’t have any promises that things will be back to ‘normal’ at any time. Some might say it’s decision fatigue and I’m sure that there’s plenty of that going on too. With every change that’s come my way, a myriad of decisions has had to be made as well. But when I think back about what my life has been like in the past few weeks and months preceding that, I can see that this is a state of heightened feelings of being overwhelmed. I push for as long as I can to do the things that I absolutely have to do and when those are done or when my energy runs out, I stop and it takes a while for me to regroup in order to do the next thing. Can any of you guys relate? I feel like I’ve been on a non-stop hamster wheel over the past year!

Assessing…

So what’s going on? It would be very easy to blame this on the pandemic and the pre- and post-election tension that’s all around, as well as all the other daily life stressors and obligations that come our way. But, I’m not sure that I want to use the excuse of blame in this situation. I don’t want to live in a place of blaming because when I do that, I don’t move towards resolving the issue at hand. When I live in a place of blaming I’m constantly looking back and constantly trying to find the reason for why things are the way they are so that I can shirk my responsibilities for making positive changes in my life.

Over the past few months, I haven’t been writing, I haven’t been singing, I haven’t been doing many things that move my life forward. I’ve been doing the bare essentials which include plenty of good things, but mostly those that maintain the status quo. Things like making sure my family is fed, clothed, and clean. Things like making sure my children are educated as well as the students in my voice studio. Things like maintaining a level of community and connection while still adhering to the standards of health and safety all around us. Things like maintaining the balance of my spiritual life and the feeling of peace and rest in our home.

But, under all of that, I feel that something is missing. I feel that something is askew. I feel like there’s something that is unresolved and unsettled. Something that is weighing on me in the background of my mind; in the background of my actions; in everything. And it is this thing that I need to discover so that I can move my life forward.

I suppose this ‘thing’ could be from the fact that I’m a feeler. It’s as if I can feel the general feelings of those around me and even the feelings on a broader scale (community groups, people groups, nationally, etc). Or maybe it’s something in the spiritual world. As a spiritual person, I believe that there is a spirit world all around that’s fighting for the influence of my being and my attention. or maybe it’s just plain fatigue. I’m a busy person who rarely takes a break unless forced into it somehow. Honestly, that isn’t very healthy.

Getting Unstuck…

So, how do I get ‘unstuck’? What are the things I do, or don’t do, that give me a jumpstart once again? I’ve let this question roll around in my mind for quite some time. I’ve been trying things out and hoping to find that balanced point again. It’s not been one simple answer, but rather a series of things that when put together, have really helped.

In no particular order, I started to try things out. I had to prepare some music for a lesson and so, I just started singing. This led to more singing and piano playing. That was just the bit of motivation I needed to jumpstart my own singing and playing for pleasure! When my kids heard me playing and singing, they’d come around me and join in – not all the time, but enough that my heart was warmed. Now, I know that music doesn’t ignite passion in everyone, but I do think there’s something that each of us is passionate about. It can be so hard to just have the activation energy to start something (read more on that in the book Flow by Csikszentmihalyi), but once we get going, we often feel the continuation of it uses much less energy than getting started.

I also made a renewed commitment to my devotional time. I had started to let my mind wander much more during my Bible time. I allowed distractions (Can we say… phone?) to interrupt me more regularly. I stopped journaling because I just ‘wasn’t feeling like it.’ All these things put together created decreasing returns in my quiet time with Jesus. So, I found some simple and easy prayer devotionals on YouVersion and I continued with my daily Bible reading. I grabbed my journal more frequently to write down how I was feeling, what I was thinking, and just generally trying to be in the moment and not lost in the past or the future. All these together have really helped to get me back on track with my Jesus time. I feel like the relationship is once again, moving! (not that God ever stops moving, but I sometimes do)

Photo by Mental Health America (MHA) on Pexels.com

Lastly, I began talking and walking again. Sometimes these happened together and sometimes separate. I need to talk to people about what’s going on inside my head. I need to be able to hear it out loud before I can assess whether or not what I’m thinking actually makes any sense! I admit it! I’m an external processor. My best times of thinking or talking are when I’m doing something. Things like doing a puzzle, cleaning, or taking a walk. Whether I’m out walking with someone or even just taking that time alone, it really helps to order my thoughts and reinvigorate my physical body with energy. If I can’t walk with a person, then I listen to a podcast. Somehow, hearing the rhythm of another voice helps me either focus in on what’s being said, or sends my mind onto a rabbit trail of its own. When I can go down the rabbit trails and sort through the tall grass, I often come out into a ‘clearing’ in my thinking. This is so beneficial for me and I can return to my family and my activities with a much more focused and clear mind. So, yeah… doing something physical is super helpful for me too.

As I reflect back from when I began this blog weeks, even months earlier, I see how much’ life’ has happened since then. I couldn’t finish it earlier because I didn’t have a solution. I was still stuck. I hoped that just writing it out would get me unstuck, but I was still very much in the midst of it. I didn’t realize it. I wanted to force my way out of it through one simple act – writing. But, I couldn’t. If I had I wouldn’t have been true to allowing myself to feel the feelings, wade through the muck, and eventually see some more forward motion. It was hard to wait and hard to be in that place, but I’m thankful God is always ready to take the next step with me. Even when I’m afraid of being stuck, He isn’t. Even when I’m too tired to be motivated, He patiently waits and speaks ideas into my heart and mind. He isn’t pushy and He’s not a push-over. I’m so incredibly thankful for my Lord. With His help, I’ll continue the cadence and flow of my life, one day at a time.

Bible, family, My Story

Homeschooling

Educational Sabbatical & Homeschooling…

Well, we did it. After much thought and consideration, we decided to take an ‘Educational Sabbatical’ this year in our children’s schooling. All this means is that we pulled them out of school for this year and are… homeschooling!

Yup, it’s a pandemic trend that many are doing and there are so many individual reasons for each family who’s doing this. We ultimately chose to homeschool for the consistency of our schedule. Even up to and past the school registration date, our district still didn’t have a solidified plan for what we could expect for our students. Since I am a person who thrives on a schedule, we decided to make our own schedule this year. As much as I have appreciated what the school district has given to our children over the past years, I didn’t want to be at their will when it came to whether my kids would be attending in-person, virtually, or a mix of both and then, even more-so, to have those plans changed as the system continued to learn all that it means to school while in a pandemic.

A friend of mine said very clearly to me, “You know, you’re lucky to have the option to make this choice.” To which I replied, “Yes! That is not lost on me. I realize that not everyone can make this choice, and I’m very thankful that I can.” As I continued to converse with him, I found myself hoping that an outcome of keeping my kids out of the public schools this year might mean an opportunity for other kids to be in school – if they ended up meeting in-person. I hoped that the burden on the school system would be that much lighter because they’d have a few less children to have to think of what to do with during the pandemic – like one less desk per class to move 6 feet apart. I hope it ends up being helpful for all parties involved.

How it Looks so Far…

So, how’s it going so far you might ask? How am I doing at being a new homeschool parent? How in the world am I fitting this into my already full schedule of working 2 part-time jobs, taking care of the house, and attending to my own self-care? Well, I’m still working all that out! Honestly, it’s been 2 weeks and neither of those two weeks have been the same yet. We are still waiting on some of our curriculum to arrive which means we’re doubling up on some subjects while not even looking at other ones. We’re making use of every situation to be a learning opportunity, right down to a recent doctor’s visit!

Challenges…

It can be challenging for a scheduler like me NOT to have the same expectations day after day and week after week. It can be challenging to teach three different lessons all at once with constant requests for more help. It can be challenging when I worry that I’m not getting enough ‘school learning’ into them. It can be challenging to actually fit in all the education that I want to because I just love learning and teaching! It can be challenging when I face bad attitudes – both my children’s and my own. 

Opportunities…

But amidst those challenges are many opportunities. I’ve had the opportunity to wrap Biblical history into non-Biblical history – to which my child happily exclaimed, “We get to learn Bible history along with our regular history?!?” I’ve had the opportunity to create a field trip out of getting my son’s cast removed at the Orthopedists office. We read books on bones and saw how X-rays are done and how to read them. We asked our PA why he chose to do this job. I even had a kind woman say to me in the waiting room, “Way to go for taking the opportunity to teach your children through this visit.” She saw (and probably heard) me reading a book about bones to the kids while we waited for our appointment.

‘Field Trip’ to the Orthopedist’s office to learn about bones.

I’ve had the opportunity (and now time) to weave cooking lessons and cleaning lessons into our daily lives. These were things that I didn’t feel like I had the time to do before, but now there’s time and space to teach these life skills. I’ve had the opportunity to invite our parents into the learning process. My mom taught sewing to one child and my mother-in-law taught the kids about different ways we learn while challenging them to try new things at a Horse Ranch!

Perhaps the best thing is that I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about my kids. In just two weeks I’ve learned about what they like to read, how they read, and what I can do to increase that interest in them. I’ve learned how to tell when they need a break and trust that they’ll come back to learning after they take some quick time away or get a snack to re-energize them. I’ve loved seeing my oldest child help her younger sister when I’m working with the middle one. So far, I’ve seen more independence come out in my children and I feel way more empowered to really make sure each of my children are grasping the concepts we’re putting before them.

The Honeymoon Stage…

I know, I know… some might say this is just the experience of the ‘honeymoon’ stage of homeschooling. And, maybe it is. But the benefits I’m experiencing so far are so good that I’m super hopeful they’ll propel me to continue on and persevere through even the hard times this year. 

Also, I love having control of my daily schedule and even though I don’t have as much time to myself, when I do take time for myself, I feel less guilty. After all, I spend a lot more time with the kids and they know and understand that. In fact, when school is done, the kids actively choose to be away from me. They are so excited to play together and run around outside or build their newest creations. It’s great! So, I’m learning the rhythm of our days and what times are open for me to take a few moments to myself or grab a walk (when my husband’s at home) or read a book with the sun shining on my face (or wrapped up in a blanket as the cool weather approaches). I think I’ll be okay with self-care, but it’ll just take some time to find that new rhythm. I’ll give myself some leeway on all this.

Working and Homeschooling…

One thing that has been a surprise is working and homeschooling at the same time. My work schedule actually gives me enough structure to my week that even when our school schedule has a last minute change (like a ‘field trip’ opportunity arises), I’m not thrown off balance too much. My schedule is not wide-open. (Although, let’s be real. No homeschool family’s schedule is actually that open. It’s mostly a perception from those of us who don’t homeschool. I’m guilty of this one.) The schedule is made up of blocks of work, school, and free time. This gives just enough structure and just enough flexibility to actually create balance! Here I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to have a balance in my schedule, but I think I might have more of one now. That was and still is a surprise. 

Gauging Capacity and Interest…

So, all in all. I’m feeling positive about homeschool. I felt positive about public and private education too. For any person making a decision about schooling, I think the important thing is to assess what your capacity is at any given time and also your interest. This year, I have the capacity to homeschool and take the necessary time to plan for it along with the usual other parts of my schedule. This year, I’m very interested in learning along with my kids and getting supplemental books from the library to encourage further understanding. It’s been great so far and I’m looking forward with hope and expectation for the remainder of this year. And you know? Next summer I’ll reassess and decide if I’ll be sending them back to the public schools or continue on with homeschool – because next year will be a different year from this year. 

God, My Story

Whore

Whore. That’s what she called me. I can remember the class I was in at the time. I remember the row of seats I was in. I remember the desk I sat in. And, I remember the look on her face when she turned her head towards me and called me a whore.

Welcome Back to School!…

It’s back to school time! Of course, this year school isn’t quite like it was in the past years due to the pandemic, but the social system probably changed much. The beginning of school is a time to get excited to see friends on a regular basis again. It’s a time to get out the crisp new school supplies and don freshly bought school clothes. That first day back, especially as a high schooler, is full of expectation for the year ahead, but also fraught with worry and anxiety over how we’ll be perceived. It’s an exciting day and also a terrifying one. 

I was no exception to this rule. Being an extrovert, I LOVED seeing so many people on a daily basis. I knew that going to school, especially choir, would get me my quota of hugs for the day! Having so many people surrounding me also gave me the chance to use up most of my words each day and thereby allowed me to give my family a break from what could have been (and sometimes was) constant talking. I really enjoyed the social part of school and the friendships and acquaintances I made there.

Since I was fairly personable, I didn’t really have people that outright didn’t like me. And the inverse was true too, I liked most people. I had the ability to see the good in people and the fun in people. I’d latch onto those things when interacting with them instead of the more negative hangups. This was great because I could easily interface with most people I came into contact with. It also came in handy with my many moves over my childhood. Actually, I bet it was part personality and in part, a learned survival skill! It was a lot easier to make friends when I wasn’t afraid to approach new and different people. 

Perception…

Well, apparently, not everyone thought well of me, as I alluded to in the opening paragraph. Every girl, I suspect, goes through the struggle of how to dress each day. What does this particular outfit say about me today? If I changed up my usual clothing style what would the reaction be? Would it be too obvious or would it go unnoticed? Do I need to really be concerned about what others think? Is it brave to just do what I want without thinking of how others perceive me? I swear, these thoughts were constant (and sometimes still are) when I was picking out my clothes from day to day. I had my go-to outfits, but one time, I decided to shift the status quo.

That particular day, I wanted to wear a dress. I had seen other girls wear dresses to school and it seemed cute and fun. I didn’t tend to spend a lot of money on clothes, so my selection was slim and not the most up-to-date styles. But one thing I definitely cared about was modesty. I always wanted to wear clothes that were attractive, but not ones that would draw unwanted or negative attention to myself. I didn’t wear deep cut shirts, mid-riffs, or too short pants/skirts. It was really important to me to honor myself and God with my clothing choices.

Me in my dress

Well, the day that I changed it up and wore a dress, I was unprepared for what was about to come my way. I knew I was choosing to wear something a little more dressed up than the usual jeans or khaki’s, but I didn’t expect that it would be noticed by people who weren’t in my inner circle of friends. I liked my dress and I felt good about myself by wearing something a bit ‘fancy’ to a regular ol’ day at school. Sure, I felt a bit tentative about the different look, but it was only for a day. So, I hung out with my friends and we talked about clothes and ate our lunches and went to class.

Chemistry and the Mean Girl…

Class. Yup, it was chemistry class. I don’t remember what happened before, but I do know how I felt afterwards. We came into class, probably talked with friends and got to our seat when the bell rang. Then it happened. What felt like an out-of-nowhere, unprovoked comment came from the girl in the next row a few seats up. She turned to me and called me a whore. I was seriously shocked. “WHAT?!? She couldn’t be talking to me. I’m nowhere near the definition of a whore. What was this all about? Why did she say that? Why was she being mean to me? I don’t even usually talk to her! Why was she saying this to me?”

I was so hurt, confused and ashamed. I don’t remember responding to her. She probably turned around right away and class began. I was left to wonder why this had just happened. Did I do something wrong? Why would anyone call me a whore? I was a devout Christian who regularly attended Sunday church, Sunday school, Wednesday night youth group, and morning Bible study/worship at school. In middle school I made a commitment to stay a virgin until my wedding night. I mean, I attended the True Love Waits conference and signed the card! I lived out this commitment and I thought it was pretty obvious that this was who I was – the good little Christian girl.

My True Love Waits Commitment Card

I could only deduce that my sudden change to dressing a bit fancier that day, which included a skirt that ended slightly above the knee and wearing strappy shoes prompted this uncalled for name calling. As an adult, I could say, ‘Maybe she was jealous. Maybe she was confused. Maybe she was having a bad day.’ But honestly, I really don’t know why she said it.

What I do know is the feelings it brought up in me. Along with being hurt, confused and ashamed, I was also angry and filled with self-doubt. These feelings stuck with me throughout the rest of the day and I’m sure I talked with my Mom about it that evening. There was no rhyme or reason to this mean-spirited speaking. It just was what it was. Luckily, the word ‘whore’ is so far from who I was and who I ever planned to be that I didn’t internalize it. I knew it wasn’t a label that would stick, but the sting of it did.

Do You Know Who You Are?…

You know, high school is a hard place to be. Middle school and elementary school are hard too! Even being out in public and on social media, we run into hard things. We get called names by people who don’t know who we are. We get teased, bullied, and misunderstood on any given day. I guess the question is, ‘Do we know who we are? Do we have an assurance of our identity? Do we know the road we are committed to following? Have we made up our minds to point our life towards something and continue on even when others question it or come against us?’ 

As I reflect on this story from my school days, I can see how my identity as a Christ-follower kept me stable when the winds shifted. I am thankful that as a child and teen, I could make my own choice to follow Jesus and His Word. I chose to be loving, kind, modest and moral. Because I made those choices for myself, when they were brought into question, I knew where I stood. I knew that wearing a dress and having someone call me a whore didn’t mean that I was heading down some dark life path. The word spoken to me didn’t overtake me. And this feels important to repeat.

The word spoken over me – ‘whore’ – didn’t overtake me. When I could have drowned in the misery of someone thinking so lowly of me, I knew where I stood. I knew the choice that I had made. I was a committed daughter of God and virgin for my future husband. When I could have worried that there was one person out there that didn’t think highly of me, I knew who did. Not only had God given me so many friends, happy acquaintances and good family around me, but I knew how God thought of me. I was His special creation, a masterpiece made to be just how I was and He was proud of me. He loved me. 

Do Your Friends Know Who You Are?…

You know, l knew that God didn’t think of me as a whore and I knew that my family didn’t think of me like that either. But, what about friends? Those are pretty important and special people in the lives of teens. At least, I thought so. For me, when I approached my friends with this story, they stood next to me and encouraged me. They knew that wasn’t who I was and they could reaffirm me when I was down and hurting. 

I’m so thankful that God gives us so many different types of relationships. We always need Him. But sometimes we need family and friends too. Even other times it’s enough to have a friendly acquaintance or the person passing by me at the store give some sort of positive affirmation of the person I am. These interactions help me remember who I am. And when I know who I am, I can walk forward with my head held high with quiet confidence that I am the person I am meant to be.

You know, perhaps the most surprising thing to tie this all together is a note I received from one of my friends (who didn’t have the same value for purity) towards the end of our high school career. It said,

I have always respected you as a classmate and a good friend, but one thing stands out that I really respect. I have always looked up to you for this fact, … you still have your virginity and your morals. … Your morals are pretty much exactly the same as when I first met you. I will even admit that you had a great impact on my life in more ways than one. And I would just like to say, thank you’

Labels. They impact us, but we get to choose which ones stick. We are in the driver’s seat of our lives, not our friends, not our family, not the random mean kids at school. We are. We make the choices that last. We choose our paths. When we know the power of choice, we realize how very special and important this is. We can let life happen to us, or we can choose the way we want life to happen. I’m so thankful for the mentors in my life who encouraged me to make choices that lasted. They truly empowered me to take control of my life and steer it where I wanted it to go. I knew my destination – virgin on my wedding day, and I wasn’t getting off of that road for anything!

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