A Prayer for Running Well

Jesus,

I so want to run my own race well, but my eyes wander so easily. I compare my beginning to someone else’s middle, or even my middle to their Instagram-worthy ending, forgetting that their starting line probably looked very different from mine. Forgive me.

Emily P. Freeman says of You:

He does not manage us, to-do list us, or bullet-point us. He loves us. Is with us. And believing Him feels impossible, until we do, like a miracle, like luke-warm water turning merlot red right there in the cup. And hope sprouts new, because God doesn’t give us a list. He invites us into the story.

-From A Million Little Ways

I so want to believe that is true. I do believe…help my unbelief. Let hope sprout new.

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Photo by Evan Kirby on Unsplash

My comparison game often stops me in my tracks, keeps me second-guessing every step that I just took and every one I’m about to take. The internal voice in my head says that maybe this other path would be better, produce better results. That she’s obviously more successful than I am by walking that path, so I should chase that path also.

And in doing so, I leave the path YOU’VE carved out for me, Jesus. I lose sight of what You say of me and the story You’re calling me to live in this world.

May I keep blinders on my eyes to see clearly the path You’ve laid out for me. May I learn to cheer my sisters on while still running my own race with passion and purpose and clarity. May I not downplay my own worth when I see another’s success.

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Photo by Matt Lee on Unsplash

I so want to see You for who You are, and in so doing, see myself for who I really am.

May I be single-minded in my pursuit of this one wild life You’ve given me.

Amen.

***

*Thanks for reading these words here, friend! Of all the words floating around the Internet, I count it a HUGE honor that you would stop here for a few moments. I originally started this space as an intentional reminder to seek hope and hints of the bigger story that God is writing with our lives. I’d love to send you a little gift, a ‘thank you’ for choosing to seek hope along with me. Sign up over on the right side of the blog (or down below if you’re reading on your phone), and I’ll send you my favorite Spotify playlist For Holding onto Hope. I hope you enjoy it! It’s on repeat over here constantly. *wink*

For Holding onto Hope

 

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Learning to Embrace the Season You’re In

A few weeks ago, the one year anniversary of our failed adoption quietly came and went. It happened on Valentine’s Day, which made it simultaneously hard to forget and easy to sweep under the rug with other activities. It was an unremarkable day, really. Jerrel came home from work and grilled chicken for dinner. We chatted about our day over glasses of red muscato. We probably watched an episode or two of Longmire or The Office on Netflix. The day itself feels like a fuzzy, pleasant reflection in the mirror of my memory. And yet, the date itself is etched in my mind, unforgettable. Here I am somehow, a year later, tears still swelling in my eyes as I type these words, remembering. I look across the dining room table to our fireplace and see only the absence of five stockings that were hanging there in anticipation a year ago, instead of what it really is – a reflection of the current redecorating binge I’m on.

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Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

It’s funny how certain memories glow (or burn, depending on how you look at it) brightly while others fade pleasantly into the background.

There’s no easy way to sum up the past year. The five stages of grief would be a good place to start – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance, readjusting, gaining confidence – often ping-ponging back and forth between them all in random order. It’s been much easier at times to dull the swell of emotions with activity – which I’ve done to a probably unhealthy extent. Other times, I have embraced the emotions with gusto and asked God to teach me what it looks like to grieve well, knowing that a dulled spirit is not where He wants me to remain. I’ve wrestled disappointment with God to the ground, so sure that He hung us out to dry when we specifically asked Him not to. I’ve struggled to believe that He actually cares enough to respond when we seek Him. Prayer has felt like an exercise in futility. As a couple, Jerrel and I have clung more fiercely to each other and our marriage, realizing that this Big Thing that we don’t understand, despite the questions and confusion, is somehow managing to fuse our relationship even closer.

Sometimes the growth of new life comes in the oddest ways.

If I were to live this past year over again, there are a lot of things I think I’d do differently. “Now see, God, if You had asked ME about this, here’s what I would have done…”

And yet…

Would I?

If I had my way, we would have a houseful of kids by now – five siblings from another country that would still be awkwardly adjusting to us and a new country and language and way of life. We’d probably have a baby of our own as well, if I’m the one making the rules here. So there would be six kids under the age of 16 living under this roof where it’s currently just the two of us and a dog who thinks she’s a human. Life would be loud and full.

And while my heart does still softly – almost timidly now – desire some of those things, suddenly the silence broken only by a snoring dog seems very precious too.

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, my gaze is shifting away from all the stuff that happened that we don’t understand. Oh, I still have questions, believe me. That’s just life. But my attempts to explain why things happened the way they did will always fall short. Omniscience is not my gift, nor should it be. That’s God’s territory.

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Photo by Camila Cordeiro on Unsplash

I am, however, slowly and clumsily learning to be grateful for this season of life – right here and now. Quiet house and all.

Sometimes The Next Right Thing is All That’s Needed

Emily P. Freeman has a podcast called The Next Right Thing.  In the tag line, she describes it as a podcast ‘for the second-guessers, the chronically hesitant, or anyone who suffers from decision-fatigue.’  Which basically means she created it for ME.

—–

One thing that has brought a sense of decision-fatigue into my life more than anything this past year has been our adoption process.

EVERYTHING felt like a major decision.  What agency should we go with?  What country should we adopt from?  How many kids do we want?  Boys or girls or both?  Infants or older children?  Are we okay with handicaps?  If so, how severe?  If everything falls apart again…what do we do then?

We didn’t know.  We did know that we still had a heart for adoption, but also had some lingering PTSD when it came to the process itself.  When I thought about strapping myself back onto the roller coaster ride of adoption, I found myself rubbing my neck in an attempt to alleviate the emotional whiplash that still lingered from our last crazy ride.  Thinking of adoption in a big picture sense is honestly still overwhelming at the moment.  It’s too attached to the feeling that ‘it’s probably not going to work out anyways.’

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But what didn’t feel overwhelming was browsing a waiting children’s list on an adoption agency’s website.  No strings attached – just browsing.  No fear of having to commit everything on the front end with no guarantees of whether or not it will work out – just browsing.  I don’t know if that was healthy or not, and frankly, I don’t care.  I’ve learned that constantly second-guessing my motives when it comes to adoption has been one of the fastest triggers of decision-fatigue.

Taking the word of someone we had learned to trust – in this case, our former caseworker – and exploring the option of a different agency didn’t feel overwhelming either.  We trusted her, and leaning into something she already felt confident in lent a certain confidence to our own decision.  Especially when our own decision-making paradigm had been somewhat shaken over the past few years.

—–

In her podcast, Emily says “just because things change doesn’t mean you chose wrong.”

I have to stop to let that sink in for a moment.

When things changed (aka, fell apart) with our adoption, we definitely questioned whether or not we had made the wrong choice.  We questioned whether or not we had actually heard God’s voice prompting us to adopt these specific children.  The underlying belief that we unknowingly held was that making the ‘right’ choice meant that everything would work out.

But what if that’s not true…and what if it doesn’t?

What if being obedient and following Jesus still takes us down a path that we least expect, one that even looks ‘wrong’ to our eyes?

What if decision-fatigue set in because I was more focused on making ALL the right choices, instead of just taking the NEXT right step?

“When I focus on what’s missing, it’s hard to see what’s there.” (I don’t actually remember who said that, just that it was something I needed to hear.)

What if I’ve been approaching this adoption process as if I’m spinning around searching for the next 100 things, when what is needed is to simply find the next right thing?

Is it time, as Adam McHugh says, “to listen to my emotions instead of preach at them?”

What if clarity is not God’s highest priority for us?  What if He desires to use the questions and doubts to draw us closer to Him?  Do we long for clarity…while He longs for intimacy?

Maybe the next right thing is simply allowing my heart to be open to possibilities again.  Maybe it’s opening a word document and clumsily typing words again after a long absence.  Maybe it’s continuing to do work that I’m passionate about.  Maybe it’s focusing on what I DO have – a husband that I love sharing life with, a dog with more personality than she knows what to do with, and friends and family with whom I’m learning to be vulnerable and real.

And maybe that’s all I really need to know for now.

When Things Don’t Make Sense

It’s been four months since I’ve typed words in this little corner of the internet.  A lot has happened…but honestly, the gumption to put together a coherent post about any of it hasn’t really been there.  We’ve been in a season of grief and loss that, quite frankly, has seemed never-ending.  Normally, writing has been my default way of processing and working through thoughts and emotions.  Processing during this season, though, has been mostly verbal, in the form of counseling and talking with trusted friends and family.  Thank the Lord for that.

I still feel somewhat rusty putting words to what’s been going on.  Bullet points somehow feel easier.

  • In mid-February we received the news that our two and a half year adoption process had come to a grinding halt.
  • A few days later, some dear friends lost their toddler grandson in a tragic accident.
  • A few weeks later, a close friend passed away.
  • Just today, we grieved a new loss within our family.

Life can feel downright cruel sometimes.  This side of heaven things often don’t make a lot of sense.  We’re still grieving and processing and hanging onto Jesus and fighting to see hope in the midst of the dark.  Honestly, those last three stories aren’t mine to share.  But our adoption story has been a large part of what I’ve shared here, and I know that many of you have followed along and been such an encouragement to us.  So, by way of explanation, I’ll share the Facebook post we made to our church friends and family after receiving the news ourselves:

Hey church family, we wanted to give y’all an update on some news that we received last week.  We got a phone call from our adoption agency last Wednesday, but it was unfortunately not the phone call that we’d been hoping for.

For numerous reasons, Poland has decided to take the (siblings) off the adoption list, so they are no longer available to be adopted – either domestically in Poland or internationally.  We’ve been feeling a roller coaster of emotions over the past week – shock, confusion, anger, hurt, relief (and then guilt for feeling relieved), you name it, we’ve prob felt it.  The closest I can come to describing it is what I would imagine a miscarriage would feel like after a two and half year emotional pregnancy.

We’re honestly not sure what our next steps are going to look like (so if you ask us we’ll prob say “I don’t know”), but right now we’re just taking time to grieve and process.

We are SO GRATEFUL for all the love and prayers you’ve poured out on us…and especially these (siblings), even though we’d never met them.  Even though they may not know it, these (kids) have been loved and treasured and prayed for from afar…and you’ve been a HUGE part of that.  And we love you for it.  And we could def still use your prayers.

Even though we still have more questions than answers right now (and would quite honestly like to have a come-to-Jesus talk with Jesus Himself), this song is one that has been an anchor for us over the past many months.  And even though it’s hard to sing it and feel like it’s actually TRUE right now, we DO know this to be true – that He is faithful, and He is in the waiting.  We love you guys.

 

If you find yourself in a season of waiting or grieving or not understanding, take courage my friend.  It can be hard and cruel…I get it.  I SO get it.  But please also know that you are NOT alone.  Jesus is there in the dark places.  May you feel His hand holding yours.

From Apple Pie to Wonder Woman – What I Learned (Fall Edition)

Hi friend.  I’m joining up with Emily and friends today for What We Learned, where we pause to look back over the lessons learned from the previous season – from silly to sacred to practical – before moving into the next.

Here are seven things I learned this fall, in no particular order:

1.  I tend to draw my boundaries tighter than I need to.

It’s a bit of a long story, but I’m realizing that I tend to be very cautious in what I think I can handle – whether that’s time commitments, doing things on my own (hello, single for 30 years…what’s that about?), getting to know people, or letting them get to know me – when in reality, I can usually handle more than I think I can.  I’m kind of a creature of habit, and saying ‘no’ has become almost something of a rut I’ve fallen into.  A rut that I’m asking Jesus to help me climb out of. 🙂

2.  I am a fan of pie for breakfast.

We hosted Thanksgiving at our house this year for the first time since we’ve been married (over 6 years).  One of the perks of hosting Thanksgiving that no one ever told me about, besides missing out on all those hours of traveling in a car, is the fact that you are left with copious amounts of Thanksgiving food in your fridge.  In my world this means no cooking for days (all the praise hands).  It also means pie for breakfast, which is just as glorious as it sounds.  Apple pie + coffee = breakfast of champions.

3.  Double checking dates and events that have been scheduled far in advance is always a good idea.

The last weekend in September, I happened to be browsing Facebook, as one does, when I noticed a family member commenting on a reunion we had coming up at the end of October – a month away.  I thought it was weird that this person kept mentioning the fact that it was coming up “in just a few days” but just figured maybe they measured time differently than I did.  To each his own, right?  Upon further investigation, however, it turned out that the family reunion I had put on the calendar – back in July – for the last weekend in October was actually happening the FIRST weekend in October – hence, “in just a few days.”  Luckily, we didn’t have anything major planned for that weekend, although I’m sure you can imagine the flurry of packing, meal planning and dog care arrangements that took place over the next “few days.”

4.  Wonder Woman made me cry.

I grew up LOVING Wonder Woman (Linda Carter circa 1970’s anyone?), and even had the action figure doll whose cuffed arms flew up when you squeezed her legs.  I was SO cool.  So needless to say, I was super excited to see the movie when it came to Redbox (we like our movies cheap, even if that means waiting a couple months).  Y’all.  It did not disappoint.  What I didn’t expect, though, was how it moved me, literally to tears.  Courage, bravery, love, fighting for justice…I was hooked and will unashamedly watch it – and probably cry – all over again.

5.  Organization is not my strength…but I do love an organized system.

I kind of already knew this about myself, but it was reinforced when my husband made a kitchen island for me recently and spent an evening reorganizing the kitchen to incorporate the new island while I was working.  At first I was dubious, thinking I would need to come behind him and change everything so it made sense to me.  After a few days of figuring out where things now lived, I discovered that it’s perfect.  He’s great at organization and setting up a system.  I’m great with working within an already organized system.  Shine where you’re gifted, people.

6.  I’m becoming a Marvel movie nerd.

Speaking of my husband, he’s been trying to get me to watch the Ironman movies for forever.  I always hemmed and hawed and voted for something else because comic book/super hero movies have never really been my wheelhouse (except for the aforementioned Wonder Woman…and X-Men.  I do like X-Men.  Who doesn’t like Wolverine?).  I’ve always been more of a rom-com girl.  And then I watched Avengers.  And then the second Avengers.  And all the Ironman movies.  Before I knew it, I found myself fangirling over an Avengers 3 teaser on Facebook the other day and I knew I was hooked.  But don’t ask me to remember the names of everyone or even what each movie is called.  That’s a little much for this rom-com girl.

7.  We can get Netflix!!!

Ever since we moved to our house three years ago, we’ve done without cable TV.  We have a DVD/VHS player and watch movies and TV series that way, but it was pretty limited.  A little by choice and because we didn’t want to pay for cable channels we’d never watch, but also because our internet out here in the country has been sketchy at best, and streaming was never an option.  Until recently.  All of a sudden, the heavens opened up, our internet provider offered unlimited data, the signal magically got stronger and WE. HAVE. NETFLIX.  You may need to start praying for my self-control right now.  The Crown, The Office, Parks and Rec, The Great British Baking Show, Lost, White Christmas – they’re all on my list.  I’ve already blown through Gilmore Girls – A Year in the Life (just a year late!) and am currently obsessed with The New Girl.  It’s like a whole new world, y’all.  And yes, I just heard the Aladdin song in my head.

Your turn.  What have you been learning?  Any must-watch shows that I need to add to my Netflix list?