7 Years Ago

Seven years ago today.

Seven years ago I chose to tell someone. For the first time I didn’t feel compelled to tell, as if the words couldn’t stay in any more. Seven years ago, I wanted to tell.

Seven years ago, I opened my heart, just a little, but more than I had ever done before.

Seven years ago, I decided something- someone- was more important than my fear. I decided to listen to my heart instead of the destructive voices that had controlled me for years. I decided that the regret of saying nothing would be worse than the fear I was feeling.

Seven years ago, I received love, patience, and understanding. Seven years ago, I was accepted for the beautifully broken person I didn’t know I was.

Seven years ago, I started down a path that would not only change my life, but save it too. Seven years ago, I finally started to live.

Seven years ago, I made the best decision of my life.

Happy 7th anniversary Robby. Here’s to 70 more.

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Dear God,

God, I’m struggling. I don’t want to be bitter or resentful, but I keep feeling as though every one around us is being blessed while we just keep waiting. We want a child so badly. We know that you meant for us to be parents, but it just hurts so much. To see people having babies, to see kids who would be Jamie’s age. It just hurts. And there is nothing we can do but keep waiting. I’m trying so hard to hold onto my faith, to the knowledge that you have a perfect plan. But I need hope. I need reassurance that we will get our blessings.

And I know it’s not fair to ask You for blessings, when You have given us life and love, and all the other blessings that I know we have but right now don’t seem that important. I want to be thankful. I want to rejoice in you, rejoice in life. Please carry my heart for me, because it’s hurting. Fill it with hope and peace and thankfulness. Let me appreciate instead of resent.

And, oh Lord, please please bless us. But until you do, let us be happy in the moment.

Keep Walking On The Path

I’ve been trying to reconnect with God lately, so I’ve been reading my devotionals lately and I really loved parts of two of the passages.

“Peace is more than a feeling, it’s a knowing that everything is going to be alright because God is on your side…A sure indicator of trust in God is a fixed mind…It is being able to rest in your heart and soul…”

“Keep walking with Me along the path I have chosen for you. Your desire to live close to Me is a delight to My heart…All I require of you is to take the next step, clinging to My hand for strength and direction.”

I want to become more dependent on God. I’ve really struggled with being too dependent on myself. Ever since I’ve started healing from the PTSD, I’ve felt more whole than I have in my entire life, which–I am ashamed to say–has made me feel farther from God. Almost like I don’t want to need Him (?). I want to feel powerful and in control. I don’t want to feel dependent.

But I also haven’t felt very at peace.

Because feeling like you have to keep your life in control all the time is exhausting. And I love God. I miss that closeness, the comfort. The comfort of knowing that I am in his arms. I know I need to rest my mind on Him and to follow His path, even when it scares me.

So today I did.

A while back I met a woman who told me she tries to give everyone she meets a compliment, and I thought that was a beautiful way of life. To tell people what they mean to you, even if you don’t know them. To pass on the positivity. I really felt like it was a God moment.

And today as I was pulling into my parking spot at home, I saw a woman in traditional Indian clothing sitting on a rock. She looked so peaceful, so beautiful, and the sight of her really moved me. And something inside me really wanted to tell her that. But of course I argued with that something. I argued. I told myself it would be awkward. That I would make her uncomfortable. That I was already inside and it didn’t make sense. But I remembered that all I had to do was cling to His hand, even if I was afraid.

And so I walked across the street to talk to her. And it was scary, and a bit awkward but I am so glad I did it. She didn’t speak much English, and I speak none of her language, but we were able to cobble together a bit of a conversation. Her same is Sandya (sp?) and she lives with her grown son Raj. She likes to sit on the rock in the sun. She used to live in India where she was a priestess in the Temple. She also said something about waterfalls at Temples but I didn’t quite get it. She also asked if I was Indian.

I was so happy that I got to meet her and that I listened to God’s prompting. Just little steps at a time.

God’s Timing- Nov 2013

The same week we began ‘Unglued’ I started a new type of intensive therapy called EMDR. EMDR is specifically designed to help alleviate and even reverse the effects of PTSD. For me, I planned on Unglued being more of a time for fellowship than growth. After all, I’m not an ‘unglued’ person, so how much was I really going to get out of this study?

But every week God surprised me. It seemed as though He was personally tailoring my EMDR and Unglued sessions to fit perfectly together.

When I was struggling with the fear to start EMDR I read this passage “…I don’t know how to get a handle on this. But God help me if I don’t get a handle on this. I will destroy the relationships I value most and weave into my life permanent threads of short-temperedness, shame, fear and frustration. Is that what I really want?” And I found the strength to walk into the office.

At the time I started to become frustrated with myself, telling myself that I should be able to handle therapy ‘better’ we started a session on self-defeating labels and grace, and I started learning to give myself a little grace.

As the memories of the trauma started to consume me, and made me feel like I was losing control, I completed my procedure manual for Unglued Moments. Those 5 steps helped me to feel as though I had a bit of control, a little bit of power, and so I kept going.

And when I had to start identifying the beliefs about myself that the PTSD had trapped me in, I found comfort and guidance in the study. The line “…Where you come to believe you belong is where you will stay” awakened me to the fact that I don’t want to stay in the PTSD reality.

Negative Inside Chatter and the related discussions helped me to realize that I am not alone in seeing the worst in myself, and that these wonderful women don’t see those terrible things in me at all. But even more importantly, it helped me to see how important the EMDR is, because after all, how a woman thinks is often how she lives.

And the ‘Good Words’ exercise revealed to me that my lingering words don’t have to be the ones that have haunted me my whole life. I no longer have to carry the thoughts “I did something wrong”, “my feelings don’t matter” and “I don’t deserve love”. Instead, God showed me that I can be—that I am—compassionate, friendly, generous, patient, playful, and—most of all—thankful.

A Blessing For Us, A Trial For Her

Recently, I wrote how I was facing the possibility that I would have to say goodbye to the kids at my job because it was only temporary. Then a few days later, my boss approached me about staying on “as long as I want to stay”. What a blessing!

But then I found out why.

The woman I am filling in for, April, has been on medical leave recovering from a surgery. It turns out the surgery was a double mastectomy. Thankfully, the breast cancer was contained. However, when the doctors were running labs on the tissue they found a second type of cancer that is very aggressive. And it has already spread. So she is going to be starting two types of chemo simultaneously in an effort to fight both cancers.

So she’s probably not going to be back for a long time. And if we are completely honest, she might never be back.

And I don’t know how to process that.

I am grateful beyond belief to have a job that I love and (I hope) I am good at, but it breaks my heart that it comes at such a cost to her.

I have been through awful things in my life, I know awful things happen. I am just so used to them happening to my family, that I guess I never thought about others going through horrible things. And I would never wish this on her, but I am still benefiting from her pain, and that breaks my heart. I know logically that when I quit my bookstore job due to the PTSD getting too severe (not sure if I’ve written about that yet, if not, I will eventually) that someone benefited by getting my job, but I’ve never been in the positive position in this kind of situation. We’ve always been the ones struggling.

I guess the key is to remember that even though we are in a time of blessings, there are still people going through trials. We can’t say ‘oh, it’s their time’ or even ‘it’s not my problem’ because life happens to all of us and we only get through those times with the support of others. So I will try not to feel guilty, but instead grateful for the blessings we have, and try and pour those blessings into others.

Keeping My Head On

My anxiety is through the roof.

I’ve had what seemed like wonderful job opportunities come up in the last month, and one by one they aren’t working out.

I talked to Missy and Melissa at church a few weeks ago and let them know that we are really struggling financially, and that I would most likely have to get a typical job in order for us to make ends meet. That would mean that I would probably have to take a step back from the serving that I have been doing in the Children’s Ministry at church, which completely sucks because that is where I truly feel called. They suggested that I talk to our associate pastor and see if there was any way the church could hire me at least part time. I did speak to her, but there is no money in the budget, so that’s a no-go.

I’ve also been occasionally babysitting for a family (who originally wanted me several hours a week until summer, and then wanted me practically every day, but then they were incommunicado for WEEKS before finally booking me for a few hours every few weeks) and was supposed to be getting a schedule for the summer sometime soon. Unfortunately, today the mom contacted me and they aren’t going to need me at all this summer. Instead, they are going to coordinate childcare through someone in Cincinnati, where the mom’s business is located. Which totally sucks for me. Not only financially, but I was really bonding with the kids.

So now I’m waiting to hear from two more jobs. One is very occasional contract work, but I think I have a pretty good shot at it, plus it looks like tons of fun. The other job is full time (but probably won’t start until August) designing fun and educational programs for kids, which sounds amazing, but I’m nervous about it because it’s a brand new situation for me with people I don’t know. Sheila pointed out, though, that being new is a good thing because you can ask people for help, which makes me feel a little better, but I’m still nervous. Plus, I don’t even know if I’ll get the job. And I really need the job. And I want the job too. They said I should hear by the end of the month, so here’s hoping.

I know that God is closing doors that need to be closed, and that He will open windows that are supposed to be open, but it is very hard to wait and be patient. And to trust in His plan. I just need to keep my head on, and it will be okay.

 

Realizing God’s Love

Last night the GIRL friends group that I’ve written about before began their winter session. And again, I went mostly for fellowship, not really expecting to get much out of the study, since I had already done a study on Ephesians. Boy was I wrong.

Our meeting leader, Kathy, explained how the book of Ephesians was laid out and we started by reading Ephesians 1:3-14, where Paul is listing the spiritual blessings that are ours simply by accepting God. Then Kathy went back to verse 4.

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.

She asked us what it meant to be chosen, and for a while the room was silent.

To me it is such an abstract idea. It has nothing to do with you, you have no control over it. You don’t get to decide if you are chosen or not, it is just something that happens or doesn’t. Some women said that, to them, being chosen was a feeling. I know that God loves me and has chosen to love me, but sometimes I don’t feel the love. How can you feel loved when something horrible happens? How do you reconcile the abuse? Losing a child? I know I still hold a lot of anger and confusion about things that have happened, and I know that those are issues I have to work through, but I hadn’t realized how greatly those issues had impacted my relationship with God until I sat there listening to these women extol their feelings of being chosen, and all I could think of was the struggle inside of me.

The conversation eventually dwindled and we moved on. Ephesians 1:5 says this:

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

Kathy asked if anyone had any experience with adoption and my hand shot into the air. Having 5 adopted sisters, I tend to be the go-to adoption expert in most rooms. Kathy asked me to describe the relationship between my parents and my adopted sisters and to compare that to the verse and the idea that God has adopted us.

Why did I raise my hand?

I knew what she was asking, but I didn’t have a clear idea of what to say, so I just started talking in the hopes that my words would lead me down the right path.

My sisters know that they are adopted. It’s kind of obvious because they are Asian and my parents aren’t, but it’s always been talked about in my family. They know they were born in China or Taiwan. They know they were adopted. And it’s funny, because my parents get the same reaction from so many people. People are always coming up to my parents and saying things like “Oh, God bless you for adopting them. They are so lucky!” But my parents always respond the same way “We are the lucky ones”

It was around here that the light started to come on. I was starting to see what this verse really meant. But it wasn’t until I finished speaking that I truly ‘got it’.

And my sisters know. My parents tell the girls how three sets of parents have been blessed by them, have gotten to love them. They’ve brought joy to their birth parents, their foster parents, and their forever parents. And it’s funny because we always think of how blessed we are to be loved by God, how lucky we are, but if we are adopted by him, then it’s amazing to think that God looks at us and thinks that He is the lucky one, for getting to love us.

And when you adopt a child, you love them before you know them. When you have a biological child you know them a little before they are born. You know their background, you know their movements inside of you. But in adoption you don’t know anything until you are handed that file. But you love that child long before then. It’s just like the Bible says in some versions ‘even before the world was made, he decided to adopt us’. He loves us that much. I don’t think I truly understood that until just now.

Isn’t it amazing? God, the creator of everything, Master of the universe, loves us so much that He thinks He is the lucky one, simply because he gets to love us.

And no, it doesn’t make the bad things okay. Just like we get mad at our parents for reasons they don’t deserve, it’s okay if I sometimes get mad at God for things He doesn’t deserve. But when I think about how much I love my sisters–how much I will love a baby if we adopt–it helps me remember that God is not The Bad Guy, He is the Comforting Arms when the bad things happens.

Blessings Overflowing Our Trashcans

This doesn’t have much to do with anything, except that it’s a ministry I am trying to start at my church and I wanted to share. I hope you enjoy.

The idea is simple: give something you don’t need to someone who does. But so many times life gets in the way, and those ‘somethings’ end up in the trash. Most times in our hectic lives the trashcan in the other room makes far more sense than the second hand store across town. It’s no one’s fault. It just seems to happen. But every day, countless resources happen to be wasted. This is just one idea of how we can capture one situation and turn that potential waste into real abundance.

Before the much-anticipated last day of school comes the highly dreaded locker clean-out day. The day when you have to dig through all the debris you’ve accumulated the past eight months. The day you find the granola bar smashed under that book you never read. And somehow you are supposed to throw away all the trash, return all the texts books, and put everything else—even the granola car—in your backpack. All in the twenty minutes allotted.

But your locker organizer can’t possibly fit into your backpack, and you don’t really want the binders full of Biology notes, so you take the stuff you want—the pictures, the cool pens—and the stuff your parents would make you replace—hello scientific calculator—and you pitch the rest. And so do all the other 800 students at your school.

Pens, pencils, notebooks, binders, rulers, all of it is thrown away. Sent off to take up space in a landfill. But what if it wasn’t thrown away? What if among the trash cans there were donation bins? Boxes where the kids can dump their unwanted binders, the protractors they never used. Now the kids have a choice to donate, and it’s a choice that costs them nothing. But by choosing the donation bin over the trash can they are making a very real difference.

The items in those donation bins will be sorted, and yes some of them will be trash. But a good portion of the supplies (about 50% in my experience) will be like-new. These items—which would otherwise be in a landfill—can now be redistributed to children for whom school supplies are an unattainable dream.

In Psalm 23:5 David writes of his cup overflowing with blessings from the Lord. We are in a unique position in that our blessings are so plentiful that they occasionally overflow into our trashcans. By implementing this project, we can redirect the flow of blessings and pour them into the lives of others. With this simple ministry, we will be able to help the cups of others to overflow.

Broken Now Instead of Destroyed Later

Right after losing Jamie, I talked to (and yelled at) God a lot about why He took our baby from us. I knew he had a reason, but for the life of me I didn’t understand, and I didn’t agree. Every one I spoke to about this said the same thing, that ‘someday’ we would understand. But I felt so betrayed by God. How could He do this to us? What possible reason could He have for taking away our child? Were we being punished? Had we done something to deserve this pain? For months on end we talked and prayed, questioned and cried. Every time a person said ‘someday’ it felt as though a bitter knife was driven a little deeper into my heart. I blamed myself for being a bad mother, I blamed God for being unfair. I hated myself and I especially hated every pregnant woman I saw. And I still miss Jamie. I would still give anything to hold Jamie in my arms, to kiss that little face. I still wish that things had turned out differently. But I think we’ve reached ‘someday’.

When Rob and I went through our rough patch in August, we had a lot of heart to hearts, and one of the things we talked about most was Jamie. We both agreed that we never really processed losing Jamie, or accepted that loss. We both just tried to push past it, to tell ourselves that if “this” happens, then the pain will stop. We talked about how much we missed our baby, and how losing Jamie broke our hearts. We talked about how not mourning together ripped us apart and in many ways broke us. And, hardest of all, we talked–honestly–about what could have happened if we hadn’t lost Jamie.

It’s easy to tell myself that life would have been perfect, but the truth is that’s probably not real. I had a really hard time being pregnant. I felt like I wasn’t in control of my own body. All of a sudden there were so many things I couldn’t do, food I couldn’t eat. I was feeling things I had never experienced and couldn’t stop and couldn’t take medicine for. Feeling out of control is a huge trigger for my PTSD, and so many things about being pregnant were making me feel out of control. When I started bleeding at 9 weeks, I was put on partial bed rest and told not to lift anything. Rob, being the sweet and loving man that he is, did everything he could to take care of me, even carrying my purse, but to me it felt like all of a sudden I had lost my power. Now instead of having a few restrictions, I wasn’t allowed to do anything. I was frustrated and even resentful that I was having to go through this, all I wanted was to be pregnant, but be able to live my life normally. When we had our honesty talk, we realized that those feelings wouldn’t have just gone away. In fact, there is a very real possibility that they would have gotten worse. That could have, in turn, caused issues with the pregnancy and delivery. It would have

The scariest thing we talked about was postpartum depression. I was told by my therapist that I was at very high risk for postpartum depression due not only to my PTSD, but also to the fact that I have depression. What if I had abandoned Rob and the baby? What if I had started cutting, or even killed myself? What if I had hurt the baby?

What if I had killed our baby.

I know I could never have forgiven myself. That would have destroyed me. In all honesty, I probably would have killed myself once I realized what I had done. That would have destroyed not only me, but Rob, and our relationship. Rob recently told me that even when I was pregnant, the thought of me with postpartum being home alone with the baby terrified him. Even then, something inside him was afraid.

I will never be glad that we lost Jamie. I will never stop missing or stop loving Jamie. Jamie is our miracle baby, and I am so thankful for the time we got to spend together.

We believe that God took Jamie home so soon because He wanted Jamie to be a light in our life. A reminder of our love and happiness. He took Jamie so that we were broken now instead of destroyed later.

Coming Unglued

Last night at my church there was an event called Unlgued to kick off the fall women’s study, also called Unglued. It was an event solely for women and we had a guest speaker from Proverbs 31 ministries, Nicki Koziarz, who spoke about  how becoming unglued can be miraculous if it leads us to holiness. She spoke about how she was the quintessential Jesus lover in high school, and one day God revealed the real her when she found herself pregnant at nineteen. She talked about God used her brokenness to do amazing things, including leading bible studies for the very women who rejected her and her baby.

She encouraged all of us to let God expose our true selves and to let Him use us for His glory, and it was beautiful. It was everything that I have been trying to do. I want to do the EMDR not just for me, and not just for Rob, but for God. To become the person I am supposed to be for Him and to let my story be a light to others who think there just can’t be healing for them. I don’t want them to look at me and say “oh she is so amazing”, I want them to look at me and say “look at how amazing God is, I want that