curling irons and refugees

When I was in middle school I curled my brother’s bangs with a curling iron. I told him that it would look cool. Not so cool. Not so cool to curl your brothers hair. Ever. He says it was that point that it was very clear my future would not be in cosmetology. But I just wanted him to be his best. Apparently I thought that meant some funky hair and aqua net. But that is how we love.

We don’t always love the right way but we love the only way we know.

I don’t live near any of my siblings. I have Michigan envy they all get to be within an hour of each other. Holidays are hardest when I can’t be with them. Grateful this Christmas we can all be together. We love each other well. In all the mess we are learning to love each other better.

So todays challenge was all about loving your sibling well. For me that meant sending letters of love to each of them. I communicate best that way. And I didn’t want another day to go by without them knowing how much I adore them.

My kids….well let’s just say they have had better days at loving each other. I have seen them love better. But it’s ok. That is what grace is. Another chance. Another day.

Day 20: Stand in the gap for the vulnerable!!!! This challenge is the beat of my heart. And now you are asking what do you mean? Who are the vulnerable? The vulnerable are those that need someone to speak for them, teach them, lead them, and love them where they are at. I wanted to focus on a couple of my favorite organizations. I am sure that you have ideas as well. I can’t wait to hear what this looked like for you.

World Relief– Can you imagine? Can you imagine being in a whole new country and not knowing anyone? Or the language? Or the social norms? Or even how to get from one place to the next? Friends we need to be the church. We need to invite refugees into our homes this year. We need to not just give but give of ourselves. I asked one of my dear friends who works for World Relief some tangible needs that could be met this Christmas. Here is what she had to say…..

Here is also a link to all the ways people can support or give to World Relief. If people are interested, they can donate financially to support adults and children in ESL class or to help refugee reach self-sufficiency. Or, there is a link for donating household items (or a car if people have those lying around!)

http://worldreliefdupage.org/give-wrda-for-christmas/

I have helped with World Relief for years. I love it. Absolutely love it. I love having friends from all over the world. Who love, and live so differently than we do. But that is the best part of it. We laugh and learn to do life together….and it’s better that way.

Kids Hope– I have the privilege of being a mentor through Kids Hope. It is an amazing opportunity to spend an hour a week with a child who just needs a voice. They just need someone to come alongside them and meet them where they are at. To extend grace and direction in a life that seems so out of control. It really will change you. Talking to our leader of Kids Hope at our church today she mentioned that of course they always need volunteers or mentors. Those that is willing to just give up one hour a week to meet with their mentee. We also need other churches to come alongside schools and partner with them. It is usually one church per school and they provide them mentors for that school. So call your church, ask them if they are involved and if not….ask why. We need to be the church my friends.

Tomorrow our family will be coming alongside with other families in the community and loving on a few refugee families. We cannot wait to give them Christmas this year. To know that they have enriched our lives, our communities and our schools, it’s the least we can do.

So friends…..how can you stand in the gap for the vulnerable tomorrow?

#25daysoflove…..go love BIG!

p.s. after tomorrow….#25daysof love goes to Michigan….and my siblings are getting in on it! It’s going to be awesome!!!!

when Christmas sucked.

When all I could do was breathe. And breathing even hurt.

Last Christmas sucked. Just sucked. From the outside I am sure I gave the impression that everything was amazing. I had just returned home from Uganda with our newest son and we were one happy, send out Christmas cards to pretend we were, happy family. We lied. I lied. It was me. I lied to save myself. To save myself from all of you knowing that we were falling apart. And by we, I mean me. I was falling apart. I couldn’t breathe. It hurt too much. I cancelled Christmas. I literally cancelled going home for the holiday. I could not imagine being in a room full of people that wanted to love me. When I could not even stand the thought of a person hugging me much less wanting to talk to me. I could barely get dressed. I felt like if I brushed my hair and my teeth it was a productive day. People wanted to visit. It was torture. Torture to pretend that life inside our house wasn’t falling apart. Torture to pretend that I wasn’t broken. A broken mess of a mom not even trying to be a wife. I could not tolerate who I was or who I was pretending to be. It felt like my skin was crawling and I wanted to run away. But I was too afraid to even leave my own home. I became obsessed that something horrible was going to happen to me and my kids. And I thought that if I just removed myself from the equation that everyone would be better.

That is just the tip of the Christmas package of pain last year. Under many more months and layers of therapy we uncovered deep fears and anxiety that suffocated who I was for months.

So sweet one….I get it. I get that Christmas may be excruciating for you. That you just want to wake up and it all be gone. The expectations that others place on you or worse yet, those that you put on yourself will never be met. And it’s ok. It’s ok to be in pain. It’s ok to be lonely. It’s ok to say out loud that it sucks. That is hurts. That you can’t find the joy. That it hurts to breathe.

Just know that you are not alone. I get it. And I am sure if we were all more honest and didn’t send out “everything is sunshine and my life looks like Pinterest” Christmas cards, we could all start to breathe. We could all start to heal. And give each other grace that where you are this Christmas is enough.

The emptiness that screams….

There is this void inside of me. I think if we are honest with ourselves, we all have this.

I think I’ve always known mine was there. An emptiness that screams. Like me. Need me. Invite me. Laugh at me. Hold me. Notice me. Love me. Listen to me. Hear me. Believe in me. Trust me. Walk with me. Dance with me. Pick me. Don’t leave me. Want me. Fight for me.

When I returned from Uganda a year ago I came home with a chasm of emptiness. I am sure all that were there noticed it when I walked through the gates at O’Hare. Although I am sure it was masked by the fact that I was looking just so ravishing after traveling 26 hours straight with a child that was bighting me .

After being in Uganda for over eleven weeks and only released from the country because a certain large organization was called in, you could say I came home with some “issues”. One of the biggest issues was my overwhelming sense that I didn’t belong. I didn’t know how to fit back into my own family. I had left that role for so many months that my family didn’t even know where I belonged. And I had this devastating ache that I would not be able to ever reconnect with my friends. That we would never see things in the same light again.

It wasn’t until recently that I could voice exactly what that need was, I wanted to be heard. Really heard. But I couldn’t. I wanted others to understand the depth of what I had been through. I wanted them to see international adoption in the same revealing way that I now am understanding it. I wanted someone to tell me that they understood the deep pain that suffocated me. I wanted someone to realize that I missed out on three months of all of their lives and felt like I never caught up. I wanted someone to see that I was struggling to know what my role was in the home. The older kids had to be in charge so many times that they had a difficult time letting me be mom again. And here I was scared to be mom because I carried so much guilt around for being gone. I wanted someone to know that I needed to reconnect. And I didn’t know how.

In retrospect I know this wasn’t fair. To them. To me.

I wanted others to fill a deep longing. A deep pain. A deep fear that only Christ himself could heal.

This morning it was apparent I still have parts of the emptiness that are still exposed. I was feeling so alone and disconnected from others. I was drawn into the lie again that they will fill the emptiness that only He can fill.

So in the emptiness I will cling. In the emptiness I will heal.

In the emptiness He will make me whole again.

an open letter to those thinking about adoption…

If there is one piece of advice I would give to those thinking about adopting it is this.

YOU NEED COMMUNITY.

You need a group, a group, not an individual that will walk with you through this. And not walk away.

You need people in your life that will stand in your kitchen after you have returned home after being gone for three months and say “you’re wondering why you did this, right?”.  And loving you in the answer.

You need people that you can lay on their couch and cry knowing that you don’t need to say a word you need to just be.

You need people that will bring you meals and not try to hold your child or give your child anything. They understand that attachment is holding on by a thread.

You need people who get what the trenches look like. They are an ugly dark place filled with loss and grief.

You need people who give you space to feel what you need to feel.

You need people who will fight for justice for the orphan not their happiness.

You need people who will cover your house with prayer and pray the darkness away from you.

You need people who will stop and actually want to know how things are.

You need people who know what to do with hair, skin, rashes etc.

You need people who are in your corner no matter what.

You need people to shower you with grace when make a decision that you stand alone in.

You need people who understand that the health department and the social worker coming on the same day deserves a good cry and a latte, if not a bottle of wine.

You need people who are not afraid of the truth. You need people who fight for your family.

You need people who know what it’s like to try and collect bodily fluids out of your child is draining every last ounce of sanity you think you have.

You need people who understand that you cannot spank your child when he misbehaves. Knowing and respecting that this just sends them into a tale spin of shame.

You need people who realize that adoption can bring out the ugliest part of you. Parts that even scare you.

You need people who love you through your own tantrums.

You need people who understand that at least the first year you are in your own bubble of adjustment.

You need people who understand not to take things personally when you don’t return phone calls, much less remember your birthday.

You need people who except that your family looks different. You need people who celebrate that.

You need people who continually lead you to the great Healer.

You need people who want nothing but healing for all of you.

This is my prayer for you. That before you decide to bring another child filled with trauma into your home that you would have these honest conversations with yourself and those you love. That you would ask God to begin to heal the hearts and lives of those around you so they can be your people.

faithful.

Today was the National Day of Prayer. I didn’t stand by the flag pole or go to any ceremony of special significance. I instead went to be with some of those that have been instrumental in these past few years. Women who prayed fervently for me when I didn’t know what to pray. Women who prayed for our sweet youngest before we even saw his face. Women who get all the “adoption issues” and laugh when there is nothing left to do. On this day of prayer though I am reminded while scooping out buttered noodles for all of our little ones to eat, that our God is so faithful. Nothing like buttered noodles and a house full of little children from all over the world to bring the National Day of Prayer to another level.

I was reminded so clearly this past Sunday about how far He has brought me. It was four months ago that I was dreading going to a large gathering at church. I didn’t want to go; I was afraid to go. The people. The questions. The answers I couldn’t give. The eye contact . I would have rather just hidden in the ladies’ room all night and hand out towels than have an adult conversation. I dreaded anyone asking about adoption. Uganda. My life. My heart. All of it made me want to wear a sign on my forehead that said “now an introvert” or “too damaged; stay away”. But I went and made it through and begged God to start healing me.

And then He healed.

Last Sunday as we gathered for our church’s corporate prayer and worship services I stood with arms open wide ready to receive what that Spirit has in store for me. I was no longer crying the whole way there trying to conjure up a story as to why I couldn’t speak with anyone. I still didn’t talk to as many people. And I am ok with that. I know what healing feels like. I don’t know the exact moment it happened. It took weeks, months, and long nights. I do know what it is like to not be afraid to wake up in the morning. I do know what it is like to have God so intimately speak to me and show Himself to me that I only I could see it. I do know that it is like to lay everything down at His feet. I do know what it is like to speak the darkness out loud and it lose its power over me. I do know what it is like to bathe myself in Scripture day after day just to be able to breathe. I do know what it is like to ask for help. I do know what it is like to feel the hand of Jesus lift me from the pit. I do know what it is like to have people I have never met in person before reach out to me and just encourage at just the right time.

I do believe in a healing God. I believe that HE heals. I do also believe that we need to participate in the healing. That we need to be honest with ourselves and others; that we need to die to ourselves every day. I believe that part of healing is realizing that I needed to take better care of myself. I had been separated from my kids for so long and then came back in a depression that I no longer wanted to miss out on life. Part of that is knowing that God gave me this body and mind and I need to take care of it. It honors God when we take care of what He has given us. I do know that He heals. I have felt it. I have seen it. I am a product of it.


 

This song has been my anthem.

circles.

Keep your circle small. Words a once die hard extrovert had ignored for years. I thought well they must be talking to my introvert friends when they say this. I thought I needed my friends all the time and the more the merrier. But that came with my people pleasing attitude. I wanted others to be happy. I wanted to be happy. All the time. I wanted to talk to strangers in lines and know their stories. I wanted to be available to anyone anytime to meet for coffee, play date, lunch, pick up their kids, watch their pets all the time I wanted to be available. You could call me day or night and I would probably pick up the phone. Or text and I will surely get right back to you. Can you say codependent much?

Before I even left to go to Africa this past fall there were signs that life had gotten out of control my circle had gotten so big that it was more like a circus ring. I wasn’t present anymore. I wasn’t a good friend. I sucked as a mom. And don’t’ even get me started on what kind of wife I was being. But so many people had supported us through this adoption and I wanted to make sure that I please them. I wanted to make sure that I had said goodbye to everyone. That I had taken every chance I could get to meet with my sweet friends and even people I barely new. Because if I was being an example for my church and faith community than I had better run myself ragged and burn out right? That is what being a “good Christian” is all about. Seven days before I got on the plane to Uganda I experienced my first full blown panic attack. I lay on my couch as my friend talked me off the ledge and told me what was going on with my body and spirit. I continued to have panic attacks until I boarded the plane. If that wasn’t’ a sign that I needed some space than I am not sure what it. In order to give myself space and room to actually think on my own God had me fly thousands of miles away and look myself in the mirror. In Africa I never experienced another attack. I was limited as to who I had contact with and the only communication I had with people back home was all dependent on if we had power that day. Yet they came back again before I even got on the plane to come back to the states this past November I knew my circle needed to be smaller. God had so clearly shown me that things needed to change. I was bringing home the sweetest little boy who was dealing with horrendous fears of his own. He needed space to grieve and this mama did too. Even the thought of walking in to the airport with all my family and friends there to welcome us home sent me into a panic attack. They continued throughout the next few months. Some days were better than others. Then there were days when I needed someone physically to remind me that I was ok. That I was safe. That God is faithful and He alone can save me. I asked for help. I actually participated in the help process. Many times we ask for help because we feel like it is the right thing to do but we fail to actually “do” the healing process. So I took meds, I changed the way I ate, I showed up for therapy, I stopped any alcohol consumption, I exercised my tail off trying to raise my serotonin levels, I said no, I stopped watching 99% of what I used to watch on TV. I am sensitive to what I see and hear. I choose to leave conversations. I choose to not be around those who make me anxious. I am not ready to have a house full of people yet. I made my circle much smaller. Although some are are upset with me that I cannot be who I used to be I need to be ok with that. I cannot meet up with them when they ask. I cancel when I feel that my anxiety is coming to the surface. I am not volunteering for anything without running it by my husband and family first. I try and avoid being away from my family especially during the week. I confide in only a couple of people. I need to feel safe . I want to feel safe. I am healing. And in healing my circle is small.

“ It is important for you to control your own drawbridge. There must be times when you keep your bridge drawn and have the opportunity to be alone or with those whom you feel close. Never allow yourself to become public property, where anyone can walk in and out at will. You might think that you are being generous in giving access to anyone who wants to enter and leave, but you will find yourself losing your soul.” – Henri J. M. Nouwen

done hiding.

I am struggling. There I said it. I am done hiding. I am done pretending. I am done making excuses. I am struggling.

I can lie and tell myself that I didn’t see this coming. That I didn’t see depression and anxiety creeping toward me in the middle of the night. That many nights I feel like the walls are closing in around me with such darkness that I am afraid to even move. I can’t lie and say that I have been begging for someone else to tell the truth and tell me that adoption is hard. That being away from your family in a third world country for 12 weeks isn’t hard. I can’t lie and say that I haven’t begged God for mercy. That I haven’t screamed at Him and asked Him why I wasn’t let out of the country sooner. I rant and rave for days about all the injustice I saw and babies who were not orphans taken out of the country. I get so angry about all of the bribery, threatening and entitlement I saw others Americans around me display. How the nightmares of it all keeps me up most nights. I can’t lie and say that the images of my friends suffering to feed their own children doesn’t go away when I close my eyes or turn the music on louder. I won’t lie and tell you it doesn’t make me question God. Asking him why? Why do I have clean water? What makes me so special that my kids can be educated? Why do I have a roof over my head that doesn’t flood up the walls every time it is rainy season? Or why don’t I have to worry about malaria every time my child gets a fever?

Yes. I am wrestling with God. Some days are better than others. But other days I feel like Jacob. And I know I will never win. That God will continue to wrestle with me until I get it right. Until I lay it all down. All of my fears. All of my anxiety .All of the nightmares. All of the helplessness. All of the hopelessness. All of my depression. He wants it all .

When I got home I had realized just how much I had endured. How many times I had been told that I could not leave the country. How many times I had seen and felt suffering of those around me and now it is all coming back . All at once. Adoption is not rainbows and unicorns. Adoption is messy. Especially in the country I was in. There are so many more questions I have now that I am back. Don’t take me wrong please. I am for adoption. But I am also for families staying together. I am for sponsorship. I am for supporting the family so they can “be” a family. I am for health care for mothers and education for children. So don’t take what I say the wrong way. Just know that I am really struggling with all levels of ethical choices things right now.

And when I am struggling I need some space. I need space to breathe. Space to feel. Space to be angry and confused. Space to pray and think. Space to get the help I need. Space for those who really want to be in the mess with me. And yes I do believe in meds and therapy. Believe me I believe God created Prozac on the 8th day. You don’t have to wonder why I have turned into an introvert. Or why I am “ignoring” you. I am not. I am just feeling. And feeling is hard.