family, God, My Story

Describe Your Childhood…

She looked at my husband and said, “Could you explain your childhood to me? Would you call it stable or unstable?” I knew I was next to answer this question. You see, we were in the middle of a psychological evaluation for becoming church planters. As I listened to my husband’s answer, my mind wandered to my own memories of childhood. How would I respond to this question? I knew there wasn’t a right or wrong answer, yet I felt the familiar pull towards a ‘right’ response. What was my childhood like? How would I describe it? Was my experience one of instability or was it stable?

My First Home

As an outsider looking in, my life looked quite unstable – 7 cities, 9 schools, 12 houses, all before graduating college! That’s a LOT of change. Initially we first moved because my dad changed careers and had to do some schooling out of state and then we moved to another state for the new job. This makes sense. People move for their careers all the time. I mean, we’re doing that. We are moving to a new house, a new city, even a new state because we feel like God’s asking us to take this leap and start something new. I can’t fault my parents for choosing to move us.

But then the unthinkable happened – well, the unthinkable for my young heart and mind. After some rocky circumstances, my parents divorced. It was tragic to my 10 year old heart and what was worse, it necessitated a change of living. Heading into 5th grade, I started my new life in a different house, city, and state than what I had become used to. New classmates became new friends, houses changed and stability started to settle in. I had a rhythm and was coming to terms with the changes in my life that I had no control over. I was joyful and thrilled to be making friends, attending a gymnastics school, and have a great church to attend.

Things were going well until mid-way through my second school year there and I had to move yet again. I wouldn’t know the reason for this move until I was older, but all I knew was that we were heading back once again to the place we had left. I was sad to leave my current home, but excited to be going back to a place that was connected with so many happy times in my early childhood. Perhaps I was most excited to be reunited with my dad and also with my best friend. Relationships are hard to come by and I was getting two of them back! However, one thing no one tells you when you’re 12 is that things aren’t probably going to be the same as they were a year and a half earlier. I found out that my friend had moved on and found a new best friend. I had to attend a completely different school district where I once again knew just about no one. My dad remarried by this time and so even time with him was drastically different. All the things I had known in this place were 100% different. It might as well have been moving to a brand new place. I was crushed. It was really hard to gain traction here, but I dug in my heels and worked to make those new friendships. I enrolled in dance classes and even though they weren’t my beloved gymnastics, they were a great way to use my excessive energy and have a load of fun in ballet and jazz dance. 

Later, I learned that the reason we moved back so quickly is because we didn’t know how long my dad had to live. He was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. This hit our family like a ton of bricks. What would this mean for Dad? What would it mean for me? Was my daddy going to die of cancer? Would he get really sick and be bald? Would he live to see my wedding? All these questions and more would lay low in the back of my mind for the remainder of his life. I didn’t know that the reason we moved was because his initial diagnosis gave him a short time left to live. Amazingly, Dad ended up living for many years more before he died from complications of cancer. Without knowing all this, we moved to be near my dad and get as much time with him as we could because we had no idea how long we’d have with him. This was a super weighty burden to carry as a pre-teen.

Not long after, things were starting to feel stable again. I had friendships with kids at school, friends with kids next door and in my church. I was singing, dancing, and playing trumpet whenever I had the chance. We had a cozy little home and I got a dog to call all my own. The new normal was just that, normal. I knew what to expect and could depend on it. Even Dad’s cancer wasn’t so scary any more and he was in a sort of ‘remission’ for the time being. Things were looking up.

Photos of me with my mom and dad.

Then the now-familiar transition was announced. We’d be moving once again. Unfortunately we had to move before our housing would be available and therefore transition in a nearby town for 1 month. During this month the school year started and I spent 2 weeks in a new school, surrounded by new friends, and a new schedule. Our transition home was sparse and just enough to get us by until we could move into our apartment. It was such a hard month. Even harder was leaving my 2-week old school for the next one.

I had barely got my schedule down when we moved to our apartment – another new house, new school, new bus, new classmates, new activities. Ever resilient (to moving) and outgoing, I quickly adjusted. This was a fun place with neat kids and I liked where we were living. We lived in a very international community, with incredibly kind neighbors. I quickly adapted and enjoyed my final year in middle school. Next stop, high school! Unfortunately, my middle school was the one that split between two high schools. I never interacted again with my friends who went to the other middle school. This was a loss for me, but I soldiered on. I stuck with the friends who transitioned along with me to our high school. 

Believe it or not, high school was a time of stability for me. Even though we moved two more times, I got to stay in one school, with the same pool of friends, and develop some of my core gifts in one place (mainly singing) for all four years. I held down a job that stuck with me into college and I attended a college that was down the street from my high school. Can we say, ‘searching for a non-changing life’? These were happy years for me and the highlight, besides choir, was my church youth group. This group of people; pastors, volunteers, and peers; remained steadfast, gracious, and encouraging while high school drama swarmed around me. I’m so thankful for the friend that invited me to her church and the youth group that embraced me, all of me, until it was time to head off to college.

Bethel University: CLC Circle

While in college, we moved once more, but I had a lot more ability to choose my own things now. I stayed at the same university for 4 years in the same major with great friends and classmates. I loved my time during these year and even met my husband. It truly felt like I came through what seemed like a very unstable childhood into a place of security and settledness. 

So, did I have a stable or unstable childhood? With so many changes and upheavals, many would answer, ‘Unstable’. And as I thought things through, I saw that too. But, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t the ultimate answer to this question. As I sat in my memories during our psych eval, I realized that through all the tumultuous upheavals in my life, something remained steadfast in me. Something was always there and never changing, only ever growing and deepening. This was my relationship with God. 

Indeed, it was God Himself who was the Constant. As a young child I asked Jesus to come into my heart and be the leader of my life. Through music, Bible reading, prayer, and relationships, I came to know him more and more. When we first moved to my new school, I knew that God would help me find friendly people to be around and that there’d be many new people to play with. When my family broke apart I needed God to be my Comforter. My heart was so sad for so long and He was the only one who I could truly tell my deepest sorrows and longings to. He listened and comforted me while I grieved, accepted, and healed from this new reality. When I was a child of a single parent and it was really hard to have all the things a child needs, I turned to God. It was Him who I saw as my Provider. When we needed something, we asked God and He provided it for us! Even when we didn’t know we needed things, He always came through. We saw His provision through a myriad of ways, but the ones that stuck with me the deepest were through the body of Christ. 

When I think back to times that should have thrust me into being ‘a statistic’ due to being a child of divorce, I wasn’t. When I think back to times that should have taken me out due to grief, I wasn’t. When I think back to times that should have caused me to abandon all security, safety, and stability, I didn’t. During this time, I came to know God as my constant provider, my good father, my closest friend, and the ONE I could rely on no matter what. God turned the tumultuous times of my life into a steady flow of His LOVE and GRACE. He was always gentle, friendly, and trustworthy as He guided my young heart through the challenges of childhood and into adulthood. Jesus was that FRIEND who sticks closer than a BROTHER and I found much stability in Him. It was God, not just my faith in Him, but God the person who was my STABILITY. He grounded me. So, I look back on my childhood as stable, not as unstable. My inner world was rocked, but not overturned. Because of God, I knew truth, security, safety, friendship, intimacy, love, grace, and so much more. 

Now was the moment. My turn had come to answer the interviewer. “Yeah, from the outside many would say that I had an unstable childhood, but inwardly I know that it was surprisingly STABLE. Let me tell you about it…” And that’s how I answered this very poignant question. 

…And in case you were wondering… yes, my dad did live to see my wedding and hold my first child. I’m ever so thankful for that.

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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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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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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)

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…

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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Adoption, God, My Story

Adoption Update: Early August 2020 – Meeting #2

I know it was our decision, but it’s still hard sometimes.

It was Tuesday afternoon and I got a text from our adoption agency caseworker. She wanted to talk with us about a potential adoption match! I called her as soon as I could. The first question that comes in my mind is, “Could this be it?!?” I was eager to find out more about this baby.

Information…

I called our caseworker and after a short time I knew all the stats about the baby and birth parents, the reason why they were making an adoption plan and the timeline for having our first meeting. I was completely overwhelmed. I wasn’t feeling my best physically, I was already stressed about other life decisions, AND there were a few things that were uncertain about this particular match.

At the time, my husband was out of town and so, I had to wait to discuss this all with him. But after patiently waiting, we were able to connect by phone. We had a few more questions about this particular match and texted some initial questions to our caseworker. The next morning, Putty took over the discussions with her while I was working. Teamwork for the win! After going over a few more things and getting better clarity, we decided to go ahead and meet with them!

To my delight, the birth parents needed to postpone the meeting until the following week. This gave me plenty of time to wrap my mind around what was coming next and took off some of the pressure I felt at first. We still weren’t 100% sure if we felt like this would be our match or not, but we did know that we were supposed to move forward with meeting them. 

Neutral Feelings…

As we went through the week and shared with a few people about what was to come, we got some feedback that was less than positive. I felt disappointed by that. It seems that some people were having a feeling of caution and warning inside for us. I didn’t really like hearing this. After all, I am ready for our next baby! But, when I asked what were some reasons for caution, I had to admit that those same thoughts went through my mind. I mean, I quickly dismissed them and tried to focus only on the positive, but I knew that I needed to weigh all this very carefully.

After a week of waiting to meet the birth family, I expected that I’d be MORE than ready to meet them. I expected to be anxious and excited, but the morning of our meeting, I was mostly not even thinking about it. I had to work that morning and so that kept my mind focused, but even as the hours approached to have our meeting, I was feeling very neutral about the whole thing. This is actually representative of what I had been feeling the entire week about this particular potential match situation. That felt odd.

So, as we prepared to meet with the birth parents over video, Putty and I prayed that God would give us very good discernment during the meeting and make it much more clear to us about whether or not we should move forward with this birth family. Of course, the first step is completely up to the birth parents. They are the ones who choose between us and in this case, the other potential family. But, we wanted to be ready to accept this match if they chose us.

Discernment…

The meeting began. We interfaced mostly with the birth father who was pretty outgoing. The birth mother was a bit more shy and so we heard from her now and then, but not as much. The adoption caseworker was there too and she helped move things along when the conversation died down. Then it was time to be done and we ended the video call.

Putty and I looked at each other. We seemed to silently ask each other, ‘What did you think?’ So, we talked about how we felt and ultimately… we didn’t feel that we had any more clarity about this situation than we had before! Another round of disappointment and confusion. I really wanted and hoped that seeing these parents and talking with them would give us the answer we were looking for – an easy decision. Nope, it wasn’t going to be that way.

As you can imagine, we had more conversations with more people about how the call went, how we were feeling about the situation, and when we’d know more. Not only was it hard for me not to know the answer, but I couldn’t even articulate to our friends and family if we wanted them to be excited and hopeful with us, or remain cautious and ready to disconnect. It was so weird!

Further Clarity

That evening, as we continued to contemplate, we realized something. Maybe God wasn’t going to tell us, ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ for this particular child. Maybe it could work either way and God was okay with that. Maybe God was as neutral about this situation as my feelings were. But in our hearts we wanted God to be totally making it clear who would be our next child(ren). We don’t want to just say, ‘Yes’ because we can. As Putty said, ‘We didn’t want to pick our own spouses, we wanted God to do that. Why would we want anything less for the children in our family? We want God to pick our kids.‘ We really want to know that God has brought us our next child(ren) and not leave it up to natural reasoning. We want to be excited and know beyond the shadow of a doubt, that this is our child.

So, we made a choice. Even with a possible resolution to our adoption dream just in front of us, we made the hard choice to withdraw our names from consideration for this child. I think our caseworker was a bit shocked. How many prospective adoptive parents say ‘No’ to an adoption placement at this stage? I don’t really know. But just as quickly as she was sad for us, she was suddenly overcome with tearful joy for the other family! She knew that their dreams were about to be fulfilled and this was good. It was so precious to hear her emotions of joy for this other family. I knew that our ‘No’ meant ‘Yes’ for someone else! That’s really cool to think about.

The following morning, the morning that the birth parents were supposed to make their decision, I found myself thinking about how the other family would be feeling. They have been waiting for an adoption match too and they were going to find out that they got it! I smiled, inwardly happy for this other couple and the future in front of them.

Still Processing…

Even now, I am still happy for this other couple, but I find myself feeling sad. It’s a lot to process and luckily, writing helps with that. I’m sad that we felt we had to pass on this baby. I’m sad that I don’t know when the next opportunity for adoption will present itself. I’m frustrated that I have to wait again – even though it was our decision. I fear that I missed out on something. I worry that I won’t have another chance. As I catch myself descending into these negative thoughts, I must stop and remember the truth.

God is on our side. We have asked him to write our story and we trust him fully with the details. We aren’t sitting lazily by just waiting around for our life to get moving. No, we are still praying, learning, and preparing for when we get to meet our next child! We are not missing out. There will be another chance. I am waiting again, but I wait with hope and expectation. In the waiting He will lift us up and be our strength and peace. This is good news! This is good truth to hold onto.

A friend sent me this song recently and as I write the ending of this post, I can tell this is very fitting for the place we find ourselves in at this moment.

“We Rise” by Cageless Birds & Jonathan David Helser

We rise by bowing
We live by dying
When we give what we could never keep
We gain what we will never lose

Like beauty from ashes
And joy from mourning
Only You can take brokenness
And make it something beautiful

From glory to glory
You tell our story
We will overcome
We’ll walk on the water
With our eyes on the Father
Nothing is impossible

Rest is our weapon
Joy is our strength
We wait upon the Lord and find
Strength to spread our wings and fly

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

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Bible, God, My Story

Immediately on the Shore

Have you ever noticed the surprising verse of John 6:21 before? I hadn’t. Right now, I am reading through the Bible chronologically and that means that I sometimes get to read the same story three of four times in a row! Well, recently I was reading about Jesus walking on the water towards his disciples in the midst of rough waters and strong winds. The book of Matthew, Mark and John recount this story.

So, the story in a nutshell is: 1) Jesus sends his disciples to cross the sea without him while he finishes up with the crowds. 2) Jesus goes up on a mountain and prays on his own. 3) The wind picks up on the lake, but Jesus isn’t bothered by that and heads out to sea (on top of the water) to meet up with the boat. 4) The disciples see Jesus and think he’s a ghost! They are afraid. 5) Jesus tells them not to be afraid and they recognize him and the wind dies down. 6) According to Matthew only, in the midst of this Jesus invites Peter to come to him on the water. Peter does. Peter gets afraid. Peter starts to sink and immediately, Jesus reaches out his hand to save him. 7) John 6:21 gives one more very interesting part to the story…

Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

John 6:21 (ESV)
(freebibleimages.org)

When I read this, I had to take a double, maybe triple read through it. Did it just say that they immediately reached the shore where they were heading? Like, immediately, immediately? Well, I’m not going to propose that I’m a studied theologian or make a doctrine out of what I’m about to say, BUT God brought something to mind and I just had to share it with you!

Before I went too far into the analogy that God was forming in my mind, I wanted to look up the word ‘immediately’ in the Greek to be sure that I understood it’s meaning. The word is eutheos and means directly, at once or soon, forthwith, immediately, shortly, and straightaway. When I compared multiple translations of this verse, most of them used immediately, and many others used straightaway, or at once. So, I feel comfortable assuming the translation is ‘immediately.’ Well, if that’s so, then are we saying that the boat went from 3-4 miles out to sea (probably from the Sea of Tiberias) and then was all of a sudden (immediately) at the opposite shore? (They were heading to Capernaum and it’s a more than 6 miles trip by boat!)  It really got me thinking about the miracle of a boat, disciples and Jesus instantly going from where they were to be at the place they were going, skipping the rest of the travel in-between. Fascinating!

But what does that have to do with the analogy that God was showing me? Because I read it so many times, a different part of the story ended up standing out to me and that was the beginning of God’s gentle speaking to my heart.

Then they were glad to take him into the boat”  The book of John addresses the heart posture of the disciples in this moment. They were GLAD to take Jesus into their boat! Let’s look further into what their day had been like leading up to all this because I think it would have been hard to be ‘glad’. 

What a Day!…

So, we know that Jesus had been going about healing sick people during the day and that he and his disciples left at some point to presumably be on their own. However that didn’t work. As they were sitting together, they saw that the crowd of people had followed them! Instead of ignoring them or sending them away, Jesus took care of their present need – food. He had his disciples gather all the available food from the crowd (5 loaves of bread and 2 fish) and then he blessed it and sent them to distribute the food to 5000+ people! The amazing thing is that it worked! All were fed and they even had tons of food left over! 

5,000 people! (reddit.com)

After this, Jesus went away to be on his own and when he was finished, he returned to his disciples. It was evening by this point and he sent them over the sea to Capernaum without him. As they made their way across the sea, the weather changed and they found themselves rowing against rough waters and strong winds. Then they see something coming walking towards them ON THE WATER! They were afraid, but when Jesus spoke, “It is I; do not be afraid,” they realized it was him and felt better. They gladly took him into their boat and then immediately they were on the shore! Phew! What a day!

Emotional Roller Coaster…

Can you imagine how the disciples must have felt after a day like that? It sounds like it was a day full of excitement with miracles abounding and mixed with tons of uncertainty. I mean, how did they feel when they saw the crowd following them? Did they get a sinking feeling in their stomachs? What about when Jesus asked them to distribute the meager amount of food? I can imagine they might have felt embarrassed, and been full of disbelief, uncertainty, and frustration! That was probably quickly followed by awe and relief when the miracle of multiplication happened! What a rollercoaster of emotions in just that one gathering!

Or what about when Jesus sent them across the sea without him and the going got tough? Again, human feelings of tiredness, uncertainty, fear, and doubt probably crept in. They might have been complaining that Jesus wasn’t doing this hard work with them. They might have been coming up with their own ideas for why Jesus didn’t come along with them in the boat. They might have been questioning if they heard Jesus correctly, because the way sure wasn’t easy! 

But then they saw something on the water! I bet fear added to their already physically tired feelings of rowing with strong winds. Then Jesus speaks what he always says to his friends during uncertain situations, ‘It is I; do not be afraid!’ RELIEF! They knew that voice. They see their Teacher! ‘Then they were glad to take him into the boat and immediately they were at the land to which they were going.’ They weren’t alone anymore. They were suddenly done with the choppy seas. They got to their destination, safely and quickly! In a non-literal way, this story feels like a parable for our own lives!

Obeying the Voice of God

There are times when Jesus sends us out or calls us to obey him in seasons when we’re already overwhelmed, uncertain, tired, and spent or even cranky. God says, ‘Go there.’ ‘Do this.’ and we have a choice. We can say, ‘Nah, we’ll just wait here on this shore,’ until Jesus is practically the one pushing the boat out to sea or we can obey and take the risk that we heard him correctly even if we’re not sure why it feels like we’re alone at times. 

I think it’s important for me to take a moment to say that Jesus ‘never leaves us nor forsakes us.’ But in our feelings, we can often assume we’re heading out alone or that he somehow disappeared in the middle of our obedience. When our hearts don’t see him anymore and our circumstances change and get tough, it can cause us to question if we heard Jesus correctly. We could just give up and let the figurative wind and waves crash into us again and again. We could just wait and give up and have life happen to us while we wait for our rescuer.

However, I propose a different option. What if we continue to move forward in the direction that God gave us? We will have to be powerful and full of faith, but we will be continuing on course. It does require much strength to push through the ‘winds of life’ and we might find ourselves with a lot of worry and doubt, but… and this is what we need to be looking for… Jesus comes. When we’re in the midst of obedience to God and our circumstances change, we need to look for Jesus. When we see him, our faith rises. When we see him our hearts are lightened. We are reassured. We might even be more excited than when we started, but so much hinges on our attitude. 

Will we gladly take Jesus into our boat? Will we put aside the hurt and frustration of the moment, to fully accept him into our situation, even if we feel like he’s the one who ‘got us into this situation in the first place’? Will we trust again? Will we gladly take Jesus into our boat? I hope I will! I hope we all will and that we’ll see our circumstances immediately change. I hope we’ll see our perspectives shift to a focus on him and that everything around fades away and we land where he first sent us. When we openly partner with Jesus, anything is possible. 

What will we do?

So, how about you? Are you in the midst of obeying God right now but it feels like everything’s turned upside down? Does it seem like Jesus isn’t with you in your present moment? What will you do? Will you passively wait until Jesus ‘shows up’ or will you continue on with action to the destination that you were sent by Jesus? When you see him again in your present moment, will you gladly take him into your boat? 

It seems like it’s worth a try at least! I pray that Jesus is with you wherever you go and that you experience him always by your side. But, if you’re at a place where it’s hard to see him, I pray that he comes to you ‘on the water’ and your heart, mind and spirit are buoyed up! I pray that you will gladly take him into your boat and immediately be at your shore.

Adoption, God, My Story

Emotions… Good/Bad?

Emotions…Feelings…These have been flooding my psyche for the past few months. Sometimes I barely notice them. Then there are other times when they feel like they are overwhelming me. They cascade over my head like waves on an ocean beach. I have a love-hate relationship with my feelings. When they’re positive, I love them. When they’re negative, I don’t. I seem to believe that positive emotions are good and negative emotions are bad. But are they really? Do emotions really need a good/bad assignment to them?

The Never-Ending Change…

Very recently, the constant changes and uncertainty in the atmosphere of our world has gotten to me, and not in a good way. The simmering emotions of the ever-changing fabric of my life (I know, a bit melodramatic maybe), have been on the ‘back-burner’ but they still boil over every once in a while. Although these feelings are not forefront in my mind, they are still in the background, waiting for the heat to get turned up and a simmer to turn to a boil. On and on it goes. A good day, a good week, a bad day, a hard week, then back to center again for a while. Can anyone relate? As I scan the news articles and social media, it seems like it’s not just me, but the whole country and world who’s caught up in the chaos of the unknown future.

Along with the unknown in the world, each of us has our own unknowns in life too. I don’t know about you, but my life is still going. It didn’t stop when the stay-at-home orders started. Sure, it slowed down for a short time, but now it’s speeding up again. Specifically, I’m feeling the pressure in regards to adoption and schooling. 

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…

…or to quote from the movie Girls Just Want to Have Fun, “Decisions are the worst!” I am at a decision point. What do I do with my kids during this next school year? Do I send them back to school with all the unknowns, the constant changes, new guidelines and all the underlying stress of worry that being in proximity to potentially COVID-contagious people is causing? Or do I put them on a sabbatical from their school for this year in an effort to create at least some consistency? (It is not lost on me that I actually have the ability to entertain this choice since I am at home for both work and homelife. For this, I am thankful.) 

Well, we decided to homeschool. It was a very BIG decision for us. We hadn’t ever really planned to homeschool the kids. We were glad to send them to school and have them learn in that way, but this past year has made us rethink things. At the same time, I guess tt wasn’t totally out of the question for us to consider homeschool either. I mean, so many of my friends and family homeschool that if I just started to lean a little towards it, I knew I’d be well supported and have a community of people for the kids and I to be around. So… we’re homeschooling, but then there’s the curriculum. Choosing what to use, how intense to be, trying to keep up with the school system, etc. There’s no one right answer! Each child’s schooling can be as unique as each child! This is both great and also overwhelming. 

It reminds me of a previous blog post I wrote about making our adoption decision. I said, “the child(ren) out there for us will be as unique as our present circumstances that have led us to this decision at this time.” There’s this idea of the uniqueness of time. Never did I think that a global pandemic would force my hand to consider changing up my schooling options for my kids. Yet, it did. And yet, this same pandemic is not causing considerable changes to the other large decision in my life at this time – adopting a child.

We are still waiting and hoping to adopt. During this pandemic we have been contacted about two potential birth families to be matched with. One in the past and one in the present. With each new expectant mother/parent story, we have decisions to make. We have to weigh what we feel God is calling us to do with our family for the future as well as listen in case He’s asking us to make a change. Currently, we’re working through an adoption decision. I can’t go into all the details at this time, but suffice it to say that it’s a big decision! What we say, ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to impacts our entire future! They aren’t quite life or death decisions, but they are decisions with weight on them – they are weighty decisions. Please, tell me that some of you have ALSO had your own share of these weighty decisions moments. Sigh…

So, I’m in the middle of some weighty and stressful decisions. They will all work out just fine in the end, but the in-between details can feel overwhelming at time. They can feel almost crushing, like I don’t have what I need to adequately make these decisions! Then the anxiety and worry sets in and you can imagine how the day goes – not so great.

Negative Emotions…

But back to my earlier question, do the negative emotions need to be labeled as bad? In my mind, I know the counselor-correct answer is, ‘No, emotions and feelings are neither good nor bad. They are just what they are. They are almost akin to fact. They are feelings, nothing more, nothing less.’ But that’s hard to keep in mind in the moment of negative feelings. So, I began to journal. I journaled how I was feeling, why I was feeling what I was feeling and realizing that I just plain don’t like the way the negative emotions make me feel. 

My negative emotions make me feel weak – like a weak person, both mentally and physically. I know this is Satan lying to me, but the first step is recognizing that lie. Then in the swirl of the negative, comes a gentle stillness. I remember the Scripture, ‘For when I am weak, then He is strong.’ I think about how that can be applied to me at this very moment. How is God strong when I’m weak in this way? How is He showing up and lifting me up when I can’t do it on my own? And that’s it. It’s that simple. God is strong because he’s lifting me up, above the crashing waves. Or at other times, He comes in and stills the waves that crash until my inner world looks more like a serene, still lake. God’s strength helps me see another side to negative emotions. He encourages me that I don’t have to believe the same old lie that there’s nothing good to negative emotions.

Do you know what He told me recently? What He helped me to see about my emotions? Even in the midst of the snotty crying, or the heaviness in the pit of my stomach… God created feelings. He’s not afraid of my feelings. He’s not out of control. He loves my feelings. He loves my vulnerability. He loves my emotions. 

A Catalyst…

You see, I am learning that my emotions can act as a catalyst in my life.  They are a catalyst to enter into a bit more self-care when I haven’t been doing that lately. They are a catalyst to help me order my priorities and focus on what really matters for that day. They are a catalyst to keep me in the present, but still dreaming of my future. They are a catalyst to spend more time with Jesus so He can speak to me and show me new things, and old things. They are a catalyst to send me into the arms of my Father-God so He can lavish His love and comfort on me. They are a catalyst for me to listen to Holy Spirit for how God is showing His strength in the midst of my weakness. 

When Joy discovers that Sadness is good. (Pixar’s “Inside Out“)

Without this catalyst to move me towards the next thing, I can get stuck in the muck. I can start to live in the depression of weakness and the lies that come with it. I can start to build-up around me the things that seem like comfort, but really just act like a fence to hem me in. The catalyst of emotions on the other hand, moves me. It moves me out of the muck and onto dry ground. It builds up the strength in me and the truth that comes with it. It tears down my self-made walls of protection and instead shows me the steady and safe path of freedom in Christ! If I allow it. If I allow myself to go a bit deeper into the shadows of negative emotions or even a bit higher into the clouds of the positive feelings, I will learn new things with God. I will be moved and I will carry on yet again. I will have direction and peace.

So, even though I still don’t think that I’ll like the feelings of the negative emotions and I will much prefer the positive ones, I won’t shy away. I’ll press in just a little more so that I can learn more of what God has for me. And when the skies clear, I can work on my weighty decisions again and instead of experiencing great stress, I hope and expect that I will experience anticipation and clarity.