Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Problem with Perfection

Confession: I'm a perfectionist.

This is not a shocking statement to anyone who knows me.

My house is always clean.  Scratch that.  Not always clean per se but always picked up and ready for a visitor at a moments notice. Everything in my home has it's place. It's organized and free of clutter. 

My email inbox is at zero. At least, that's my goal every day. My inbox serves as my to do list: emails to respond to, calls to make, tasks to complete. If it's done it's filed away virtually as reference. 

My calender is precise. It's color-coded by family member, complete with email or pop up message reminders so I don't miss the teacher's birthday, work meeting, or coffee with a friend. It's electronic so I have it on hand on my phone and computer and shared with J so we know what the other is up to.

My multi-tasking skills are superb. Not a day goes by that I'm not doing a load of laundry between emails. Or driving and listening to a podcast. Or talking on the phone and wiping the counter tops.

Are there benefits to being a perfectionist? Undoubtedly. I can find things when I need them, I get a ton accomplished throughout the day, and people can count on my word. Our home truly serves as a refuge where we can come and relax rather than feel overwhelmed with stuff to be done. 

But before you start secretly hating me, my perfectionism has come with a price. I've started to see the gaps in my heart that my attempts at perfection is trying to fill. At my core I feel a need to fix the brokenness around me in an attempt to feel right and make everything ok.

I often use David Pawlison's X-Ray Questions for much needed heart checks. These questions serve as a helpful way to identify my true motivations and expose idols in my heart (things like control, power, approval, and comfort).

Questions like:

What do you want, desire, crave, lust, and wish for? What desires do you serve and obey?
What do you seek, aim for, and pursue?
Where do you bank your hopes?
What are your plans, agendas, strategies, and intentions designed to accomplish?
Where do you find refuge, safety, comfort, escape, pleasure, security?

What's really going on in my heart is an idol of control. There's something crazy that goes on inside me when I don't feel ok until all the dishes are done, all the laundry is folded, and all the toys are picked up. When I can't rest until all the emails are answered and I feel a sense of accomplishment at the checks on my to do list for the day. There is something hugely satisfying and comforting in getting things done for me. 

But this satisfaction is short-lived, never enough, and fools me into thinking this is what matters. I tell myself I have it together when my house is clean, my kids pick up their Legos, and life is good when I've completed the to do list for the day.

It's all lies. 

Here's the truth: I have it together and life is good because Jesus has already done the work. The work that really matters of saving my soul and the promise that he will ultimately redeem and restore everything that is broken. (How's that for checking off a to do list?)

When I lean into this truth, I'll know that none of my striving perfectionism will ever lead to happiness. That there's nothing I can do that's truly worthwhile and of eternal significance unless I join him in his work.

Is my hope in my Savior or in my track record?

Is my pride in having it all together or in Christ's finished work on the cross on my behalf?

Do I need a clean house or do I need a Rescuer?

My soul satisfaction will never be filled with my perfectionism. It can only be filled by His.

Monday, August 26, 2013

4,383 Days

4,383 days.

105,192 minutes.

5 cozy homes.

200,365 miles on the minivan we swore we'd never be driving.

10 jobs and 3 careers in social work and ministry.

2 amazing children.

2 dogs, 2 frogs, and lots of goldfish (may they rest in peace).

Hundreds of fights passionate discussions.

5 vacations in the US and 1 dreamed of vacation to Ireland.

4 car accidents and 1 broken neck.

2 years of really hard road.

12 years of marriage to Jamy.

This past weekend we celebrated a dozen years since we made our vows to each other. Just out of college, at the very beginning our adult lives, and having no idea what our future held. Naive. Ignorant. And crazy in love. Also crazy enough to think that love would be enough to hold us together when things got tough.

Now we know better. 4,383 days into our marriage, after going through unimaginable storms, we know that the great lie that "love will keep us together" isn't enough. After broken promises, broken dreams, and broken hearts, our greatest tries have only led to failure.

But God has been enough. God has been good and great and big enough to cover all of our brokenness.

We've learned that our hope isn't in our homes, our careers, or even our marriage. We've learned our true joy doesn't come from being the best spouse, the best parent, or the best in our field. We've learned that we're in desperate need of a Savior who can redeem and restore.

1 God.

2 broken sinners.

And 1 marriage for 12 years that I would commit to again in a heartbeat.

Here's to 23,182 more days with you, Babe.

For more of our story, click on the marriage tab. It's a good one...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dear Adoptive Mom [What Birth Parents Wish You Knew]

Let's be clear from the gate. I'm not a birth mother. I've never made an adoption plan. I don't personally know what it feels like to walk the journey of an unexpected pregnancy and know I'm not in a season to parent. But I have worked for years with birth families. I've sat with them in coffee shops, cried with them in doctors appointments, and been by their side in labor and delivery rooms.

I've been with them as they look through profile books of adoptive families, taking in every picture and detail about a family to see if they are a good fit to raise their child.

I've been with them for that first meeting; meeting the adoptive family they've chosen. The awkward conversation at first that then gives way to a bond beginning to weave two families for a lifetime through a child.

I've been with them when it's time to say goodbye in the hospital. When they place their newborn baby into the arm of another family and walk out with their own arms empty.

I've been with them when they look at picture updates and plan for the park date as they watch their baby that used to be so close she could reach down and feel them at any moment grow up miles away from her touch now.

And through it all, there is much that's almost always unspoken. Words too heavy and too much to say in these life events that are almost too much to bear in the moment.

But always, always, her heart is saying something like this:

I don't want you to think I'm one of  "those" girls.
Although there are many stereotypes about birth mothers, every situation is unique. Not every birth mother is a drug user who doesn't know who the birth father is. Not every birth mother is a teenage girl. And I've never met a birth mother who doesn't care about her child and their life. She is a mother who has run into a hard season to parent. She is strong and brave and selfless.

This has been the hardest choices I've ever had to make.
This isn't something she's come to lightly. There have been sleepless nights, body-wracking sobs, and maybe even fights with a boyfriend or family to choose life for her little one. There have been endless conversations with well-meaning friends and even strangers trying to talk her out of "giving her baby away." While other pregnant mamas are creating labor and delivery plans, decorating a nursery, and counting the days till they meet their baby, she is counting the days till she has to say goodbye.

I want you to know I chose you to be their mother.
Chances are, she's looked at several profiles of families to parent her child. She's labored over her decision to make an adoption plan and looked for hours at families. She's thought through the kind of life she wants her baby to have. She's noted your kind smile, the way your husband describes you on paper, and the way you made her feel when you first met. And now, after choosing you, she has chosen to share her title of mother.

I love this baby we now share with all my heart.
It's because of this amazing, selfless love, that she has chosen adoption. And this love is the same as all mothers. The kind that dreams dreams for our children, longs to protect them, and prays for all they will become. Her love is fierce, often protecting her child from the kind of life she doesn't want for them and sacrificing much in hopes they will be cared for in ways she can't offer at this time in her life.

I want my baby to know I love them.
A birth mother fears in her quiet moments that she will be forgotten. That as your child's first mother she won't be spoken of at all in your home. In the end, she wants her child to know all of the above as well. She wants her child to know they were wanted. They were loved. And they are loved and thought of and prayed for every day, even years down the road.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Congratulations Jon and Erin

When Jon and Erin announced their adoption plans to family and friends months ago, they began by saying "we are committed above all else not to our walk, but His."  

Not knowing how their story would unfold, I'm honored to say that as I watched them, they stuck to their commitment to walk out how God would choose to build their family. It took more than they thought they had in them...

Their adoption journey took more time than they originally thought it would.

It took more faith than they thought they had.

The road took more unexpected turns than they had planned.

And in the end, this sweet little one was more of a blessing than they could have ever imagined.

In describing their adoption journey, Erin says:

We have been left more tender, with more tears, more in love with each other, with more depth of community and friendship, with more prayers, more dependence on the Lord, more need to look up, and more need to hold onto Him. We have been left with more. Gifts that we would never have been brave enough to reach out and grab, yet now we can’t imagine life without them- without being closer to Him.

In the end, Jon and Erin have been blessed with more than they anticipated. God is good at giving out more. Especially when it comes in small packages like this one.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


This morning they started 1st and 2nd grade. This year they seem BIG. Kindergarten is no more. I have kids in grade school now. Big kids with the bigger size backpacks, bigger sized jumpers and polos, and bigger shoes.

Yesterday at Meet Your Teacher almost all the school staff commented at how much they'd grown; the obligatory welcome-back-to-school phrase spoken by all teachers everywhere. Although the first time I throw them back into pants in the fall I know it's true, but there I times I don't want it to be. Yearbooks were on their desks from last year with pictures they had already far outgrown.

Last night I read them this post (edited a bit for them) and fought back tears. As they get bigger they face new challenges and new brokenness in this world that as a mama I can't shield them from much longer. I want them to be brave and big and courageous and compassionate. I want them to have big hearts that match their Heavenly Father's.

And this morning I took this picture that's become a tradition in our family. They look so small in this picture in front of school. But they were bigger than last year.

I'm thankful I serve a God that's bigger too.

Bigger than my fears that my babies will grow into big kids before I'm ready.

Bigger than the broken world I send them into.

A God with even bigger dreams for them than I have ever dreamed.

This year, I pray my kids will increase their faith, their compassion for others grows, and their trust in Jesus deepens. 

I guess you can go ahead and get bigger, Isabelle and Jackson...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Bucket List: Minus One

So this weekend I crossed a huge item off my bucket list: I ran a 5K.

As in, I actually paid people to run. No mass murderer chasing me. No children running into the street.

I ran on purpose, ya'll. Newsworthy.

Had you asked me this time last year if I would be running a 5K I would have laughed so hard coffee might have come out my nose. This May, I started a Couch to 5K training program with no intentions of ever running a 5K. My goal was just to be healthier and feel better. But when you start that kind of training program people assume that you'll someday run a 5K.  And it turns out, you start thinking about it too.

I started training and called my dear friend, Gretchen. "So, I have this crazy idea and wondered if you wanted to do it with me..." She's crazier than I am and hopped on board.  And then we began scheming that maybe, just maybe, we would run a 5K someday together.

A few weeks ago we registered online at her kitchen table with our kids running around in the distance and laughing at how crazy this was. Because of schedules and wisdom, we decided to do a smaller race with only a few hundred people that was CHIP timed but family-friendly (and beginning-runner-who-doesn't-know-what-she's-doing-friendly). I tweeted this:

I just registered for my first 5K. In related news, I saw pigs flying.

Last week, Gretchen and I decided to do a practice on run the course. And that week, two tragic things happened. One: unbeknownst to be, Gretchen was now running so fast we need to find out when the Olympic trials are for her. For real. Two: the course included HILLS. Lots of them.
What I thought would be good and encouraging preparation last week turned into discouragement bordering on despair. But the thing about tweeting your intentions; you are now accountable to the interwebs come what may. And I was not going to give up. I might be walking those hills watching Gretchen streak by me but I wasn't giving up.

But Gretchen is such an amazing friend and decided to run it with me (knowing I would slow her down). And when we went to pick up our packets the day before we found out we had trained the course backwards (so there were still hills but significantly better). We arrived on race morning ready, with our families cheering us on.

I have to admit I was a little intimidated. I'd never even been to a race before, much less participated in one. When the horn went off and we started running with the masses there was excitement and adrenaline. But this promptly wore off at about the 2 mile marker and I was out of steam. 

At the 2.9 mile mark, there were 85 year olds that passed me and I was seeing people who had already run the race running home. I wanted to punch them all in the face. (Note: After checking my GPS, it was actually mile marker 3.1 so I also wanted to punch race officials in the face for the lie that I was running a 5K that was really 3.3 miles...)

But then Gretchen and I turned a corner and I could see the finish line. There were people lining the course with cow bells and I saw our kids holding signs and cheering. Jamy had a proud look on his face.  We turned to each other, smiled, and sprinted the rest of the way in.

We crossed the finish line together. With tears in my eyes I hugged my friend who ran with me.

Isabelle and Jackson greeted me with a "medal." Homemade out of a kitchen sponge, it's my first race medal and I'm crazy proud of it. We celebrated that morning, the two families with a huge breakfast. And when our official times were posted, I was amazed. We ran 10 minutes faster than we had trained. 

I'm still far from calling myself a runner. And I still hate running. But I hate it less and love how I feel more. I'm down 10 pounds from when I started this journey and have a huge sense of accomplishment doing something I never thought possible.

And I'm paying people next month to run again...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Poem for Our Birth Mama [By a Waiting Adoptive Mother]

Nancy and her husband Ryan have just started their adoption journey with me. But their heart for adoption and for their future birth mama is so far down the path.

Nancy gets it. She understands that adoption means loving not just a little one, but a birth mama. She understands, as much as she's able on this side of adoption, what courage and sacrifice it takes for a mother to make plans for someone else to parent her child.

I can't wait for Nancy to be able to share these words with the birth mama who someday chooses her to share the title Mother with the same sweet baby...

might be hard to understand

i love a child i have never met
          i love their mother too
                    more than i really know how to express
                                     is that hard to understand?

somewhere out there is a woman who is either already pregnant 
or will become pregnant with the baby that RT and i will get to raise
she is my hero

i feel like as humans we are selfish by nature
we simply think of ourselves first... even if we wish we didn't
but the birth mom of our child will put herself second in order to make an adoption plan for her baby

can you even imagine?!?

for whatever reasons... she will decide that her baby will get to have the life that she deeply desires for them by going to live with someone else... with us

the magnitude of that is hard for me to wrap my brain around

she loves her baby so much that she will be willing to let us raise him/her... and one thing is for sure... our baby will know that about their mother. they will know how much she loves them. they will know that is why they live with us... that is why we get to be their mom and dad

she is not giving up on her child
she is not weak and unwilling

she is the exact opposite
she is giving up herself for her child
          she is the strongest most willing person
                    strong enough to make an adoption plan to let us raise her child
                               willing enough to think objectively about what she truly wants for her baby

i adore them both and i can't wait to meet them so that we can all become a family...

To follow Nancy and Ryan's adoption story, you can read more on her fashion turned lifestyle blog.

Photo by Sarah Donaldson 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Congratulations Chris and Shelley

Right around Valentines Day this year, I got a call from Chris and Shelley. Chris, a social worker who works with families and Shelley, a news reporter, were doing their homework on adoption. By the time they called me, they knew that using a consultant was a good fit for them, but they wanted to know if I was a good fit. When we "clicked" on the phone and they asked how I felt about Shelley blogging their adoption journey on her news site and there was no hesitation, we all knew this was a journey we'd travel together.

Through it all, Shelley has used her voice, in their community and beyond, to share their adoption journey and educate others. She vowed from the beginning to tell "the good, the bad, and the ugly."

In May they were home study approved.

In June we created their family profile.

In July, they threw a few fundraisers.

And this past weekend, the first weekend in August, they met their daughter.

Friday I told them a birth mama was in labor hundreds of miles away.

Saturday, in the wee hours of the morning, she chose Chris and Shelley to be her daughter's forever family.

And Sunday, they met their daughter for the first time.

For their story, there was much that happened in between the lines above. Piles of paperwork to complete for their home study. Pictures to gather and stories to tell for their profile. Creative fundraisers to host to raise money for the costs of adoption. 

Hard work. Tears. Prayers. Waiting.

And then, in a matter of days, all of the work and tears and prayers and waiting was done. And worth it. And beautiful.

One of my favorite parts of their story? Shelley shared the details of meeting their birth mama with me:  
"I told her if Olivia turns out to be like her, we would be SO happy. And I truly meant it. She was funny, kind, so sincere and SELFLESS...When I look back at the past couple of weeks and the "no" we got...I am so confident that God had a bigger plan for our family and this was it. This whole situation just feels right -- like we were meant to be here and Olivia is meant to be ours." 

Congratulations, Chris and Shelley. She was definitely meant to be yours.

A special thanks to Ashli Hill of Isadora Photography for some of the pictures above.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Day My Coffee Almost Killed Me

Disclaimer: this is a cautionary tale. Also graphic. Also disheartening for travel mug-sipping-coffee-drinkers.

It was a regular day a few weeks ago. A normal, lazy summer morning. A ''mommy day" when I'm with the kids and they're not at summer day camp. Jamy was off to work and we slept in a little. The kids watched cartoons while I showered and prepped a huge homemade breakfast. I kid. I popped frozen waffles in the toaster oven and poured milk over cereal. Since we were running late, I brewed coffee straight into a travel mug, grabbed the keys, and headed off to a book club with other mommies and kids at the kids' school.

I meet with other Whitefield mothers during the school year. We meet weekly at Panera to talk about life, chat about a book, and what God is doing in our hearts and families. I just showed up one day for the coffee and prayed I would have something in common with the other moms. These women have become sweet friends (AND I got the bonus of cheese souffl├ęs - double win). So this summer, we planned to continue meeting. More laid back, with our kids playing on the school playground and the mamas all sitting in the gazebo, discussing literature and life. (More accurate: mamas sitting in the gazebo discussing a book and life and philosophy while running point on children, refereeing, and swatting at mosquito and melting in the heat.) But it's wonderful. For real.

That morning on my way I felt a little headache coming on. I swigged more coffee praying the caffeine would help and when I got there asked a friend for an aspirin. Due to summer schedules, there was only four of us, and I was thankful since by this time, my head was really aching.  We started to discuss Stepping Heavenward and by now my head was swimming, I was close to fainting, and scared I might puke on the shoes of a sweet mama I didn't know very well.  Then I was asked to read an excerpt from the book. Right about the time I was deciding if it would be more embarrassing to need to excuse myself or just keel down right there in the gazebo. I opted for the first and headed for the van.  

I barely made it to my van where I laid down in the back. By this time I was in so much pain I was crying and couldn't see straight (and I had visions of Bret Michael and wondering if I was having a brain hemorrhage). Because I was with three other mamas, they were right behind me to make sure I was ok. As I understand (since I wasn't very coherent for the next several hours), things went downhill from there and it was decided I needed to be rushed to the hospital. I was aware enough to drag myself into a passenger seat and ask for an ambulance not to be called (let's not add insult to injury and scar all the children). All I knew was I was in the worst pain I had ever experienced in my life.

"That's you in the hospital, Mama" - Isabelle

Several hours later, after a CT scan, blood work, lots of wonderful drugs, and kindly declining a spinal tap (no, thank you!) I was discharged from the hospital and feeling amazingly better. But the doctor was dumbfounded and concerned at the severity and the speed of my headache. Jamy was anxious that we were headed out of state for vacation in a few days and this might happen again. One of the mamas was going crazy thinking the aspirin she gave me might have been something else and she had drugged me (for the record it turned out to be a Tylenol). And I was just thrilled that the pain was gone.

But there was still the mystery of what caused the headache.

Last week I was running late again (I promise I'm usually prompt) to head to book club and I grabbed the same travel mug.  And I started to get a similar headache after drinking a few sips of coffee. I quit drinking and started putting pieces together.  The coffee mug...

You have to understand that I LOVE said travel mug (whose brand will remain nameless). It keeps my coffee hot for hours. And the best part is it doesn't leak. Ever. It's true. I once freaked out a security guard when I threw it in my purse to go through the x-ray machine. By the time I had been through security the guard was sold and he wrote down where he could purchase it. (Side note, he had to write down AMAZON. He was older...)

I rave about this mug to friends and family. But when I brought it home that day and looked underneath the little slot that seals it (where my mouth goes, friends)...wait for it...there was black mold.


Mystery: solved. After googling I'm pretty sure black colored mold CAN cause you to keel over at a book club, pass out in a van, and get you prompt medical attention at the nearest hospital.

Now, I know you must be thinking: ohmygoodnessdoesn'tthisgirlcleanhermug?! The answer is yes. In the dishwasher just like every other mug and dish and utensil I own just like every other human being (almost) on the planet. And no, I have never thought that if this seal keeps it from leaking during a security check upside down in my purse that maybe it was also tightly securing TOXIC FUNGUS 1 cm from my lips. Never occurred to me once. Clearly.

Until now. Until my coffee almost killed me. Actually, my travel mug almost killed me.

I'm still drinking my coffee. The mug is in the trash.
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