Thursday, January 30, 2014

Less Of Me

So, a midst the craziness of my current life, I'm choosing to add more. Actually, God had this planned all along. I chose way back in August to go through a book in January with some of my favorite ladies...

For several years now, I've been meeting with other Whitefield mamas every Tuesday morning at Panera. Our kids go to school together and we love Jesus and each other. But that's where our similarities stop with most of us. We attend different churches, live in different areas of the city, and think different thoughts (imagine). But we OWN that Panera with our own table and staff who endue our laughter and birthday celebrations, complete with banners, balloons, and candles. After meeting weekly with these women, we know a lot about each other. We know each others strengths and hurts and sensitive spots. We know whose kiddos are struggling in math and whose husband is going through medical testing. I have laughed and cried with them and shared dozens of mugs of coffee.

All of this to say we decided months ago that this would be the month we dive into Jen Hatmaker's 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, and I don't think any of us knew what we were in for. If you're not familiar with Jen Hatmaker, check out her blog. I have determined to get HGTV just to catch their reality show coming soon (and also that we would be bffs if she were in the KC area)...

This book is hard. core. In it, Hatmaker writes about her experiment in boiling down each of these categories (food, clothes, spending, media, possessions, waste, and stress) to the number 7.  Wear just 7 items of clothing for a month. Eat only 7 foods for a month. Get rid of 7 media outlets for a month. You get the picture. It's a book that challenges a Christ-like simplicity and generosity; living a deeply reduced life to discover a greatly increased God. A fast to create margin for God to move.

You should have seen the women's faces when I suggested we do it too. Not just read the book, but live it out.

Before you think we're as hard core as Jen Hatmaker, we're not. We're only doing it for a week at a time. And thankfully, we're pushing each other with a mix of grace and challenge that allows for each of us to create our own individual fast. The way God has uniquely called each of us to make space for him.

Ultimately, it comes down to this prayer: "Jesus, may there be less of me and my junk and more of You and Your kingdom."

Two weeks ago we went through the first chapter and I was a mess. Food.

So I gave up (among other things): coffee *gasp*, soda, eating lunch, and grocery shopping. (Before you think I'm feeding my children scraps from my cupboards, I'm still shopping for fresh foods and just using what we have in our pantry that could honestly feed a small African village for more days than I will confess to here.)

Also, we have a private Facebook group that serves a little bit like an AA support group during this time.

YOU GUYS. I am currently eating burritos without Diet Coke. (Def pushing me towards Jesus...)

Which of these were the hardest to give up? Other than Diet Coke with Mexican and pizza? (If you've known me longer than 24 hours you already know the answer). Coffee. It is near and dear and close to my heart. Two things I discovered. 1.) I am not physically addicted to coffee. Win. 2.) However, my heart is. Coffee happens to be my go to comfort.

And that was just week one. Coffee is a comfort. But what else is holding me back from finding Jesus as sufficient? Clothing and the importance of how people perceive me? Possessions and what I cling to rather than Jesus? Spending my time lost in media rather than something of eternal significance? The list goes on...

We're now smack dab in the midst of week two: clothing.

I have always been the girl standing in my closet bemoaning the fact that I have nothing to wear each morning. This week I was proven wrong. Way wrong. I challenged myself to get rid of 100 clothing items. I assumed it would be painful to find that many to purge and thought I would need to count a holey sock or two to top it off. It turns out I easily got rid of 150+ items of clothing. Now before you get all judgy, much of this was stuff that was years old (even including basketball shorts from 6th grade - I kid not). And my gracious friend Gretchen stifled her laughter as I tried on my "this-isn't-too-bad-right?" pile for her and was lovingly told "yes-it-is-soooo-bad-get-rid-of-it" (or took the good ones that no longer fit for herself). True friendship, ya'll.

And I haven't just been purging this week. I've relegated myself to one pair of jeans and tops that I haven't worn in over a year. I've been reminded this week that my clothes shouldn't be about pride and position and prestige. They should reflect a simple heart that longs for His glory. "When the jars of clay remember they are jars of clay, the treasure wintin gets all the glory, which seems somehow more fitting."

My mantra these past weeks: less of me, more of you.

It turns out, this is a good season for me to be getting rid of excess in my life. To position my heart for God to break through. To soften myself to what He has for me.

Because, in the end, my prayer is Jesus, may there be less of me and my junk and more of You and Your kingdom. Amen and amen.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Congratulations Hanna

Hanna is home with her sweet son today.

Working as a family nurse practitioner on a Cherokee reservation, in Africa, and in under-served populations right here in the US, Hanna has a passion for families and for children. Adoption had been her heart's desire since she was a teenager and Hanna has longed to be a mother.

Too often single women who long to be mothers are told they can't be.

There are no birth mothers who will choose you. How can you do it alone? Dozens of voices speak into the void with judgement and assumptions. But the truth is there is an immense need for people to adopt. There is an immense need for children to have families who are equipped to care for them. And a single woman willing to meet that need and called to adoption, who acknowledges her strong need for community just like any good parent does, will find that there is a child God has for her.

With the help of a strong support system through her church community, family, and friends, Hanna was ready to embark on the adventure of motherhood. Just eight months after her home study was completed Hanna was matched with an expectant mom who thought she would be the perfect fit for her son.

Hanna was surprised with a text early in the morning that her son was on the way. He was born three hours later and the next few days were spent with her son and his birth mother in the hospital.

And today, this little guy is home with his mama. 

courageous birth mother chose Hanna. She is surrounding herself and her son with loving support. And a family was created.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

In Their Own Words: What Makes a Real Mom

In my work as an adoption consultant, I have the privilege of meeting and walking with some amazing people in their adoption journey. Nancy and her husband, Ryan are no exception. They were recently matched with their expectant mama and have had a chance to meet her. Nancy has already begun building a relationship with a woman who will share in her motherhood in one of the most precious ways. But when others ask who will be their daughter's "real mom," Nancy has answers...

It is interesting how things change. In august of 2012 RT and I started trying to get pregnant and at the time I was possessed by it. I wanted to be pregnant more than anything...and then in October of that same year we were given the news that we have a 0% chance of becoming pregnant on our own. So a little part of our dream died but a new hope bloomed in its place. IVF wasn't how we originally thought we would start and grow our family but we were confident that it would work and I would still get to carry our babies. We started our first round in january 2013 and got the news that it was a failed attempt in April. We started our second round in may and got the news that I still wasn't pregnant at the end of June. Another part of our dream died. But again a new hope bloomed in its place...a hope in the adoption process.

When this whole journey started I was eager to be pregnant
I wanted to go through the nine months and watch and feel the baby grow
But that wasn't in the plan 
At least not yet

And you know what? I am ok with doesn't even make me sad. It is just how it is for us and either way we are going to be parents and that is the point. So instead we get to celebrate with B and watch her baby grow and talk with her about how it feels...and really that is awesome too.

But even though I am at peace with not carrying our children in my body...there is still fear.

Last week I was talking with a woman and she asked me if RT and I have any children. I explained to her that we are adopting and are matched with a mom who is due in April. She proceeded to tell me that I need to wait to tell our daughter that she is adopted until she is at least in high school because we need to be sure that she grows up thinking that we are her parents.

I disagree. We will tell our daughter her adoption story from birth. She will always know. We will tell her about B and what an incredible blessing she is to RT and I and we will explain that B is the bravest, most selfless, most loving person we have ever known. We will enforce that B made an adoption plan because she loves her baby so much.

We will tell her that she has a sister and we hope to continue to have contact with B for the rest of our lives. But someday our little girl is going to realize what that all means. She will always hear it but some day when she is not very big she will truly understand. And she might just say the're not my real mommy.

That thought is terrifying.

But regardless of if she is biologically related to us 
Or grew in my belly or someone else's
Regardless of if we have the same color skin
Or any features alike at all
I will still be her real mommy

And that little girl will be double lucky because she will have two real mommies.
One who gets to squeeze her tight every single day of her life...gets to read her bedtime stories and play hide and go seek. One who will wake in the night with her when she is tiny and new. Who gets to be her mommy twenty-four-seven.

And one who will love her from afar. Thinking of her everyday. One who carried her for nine months and kept her safe and healthy. One who put her first above everything else.

Biology doesn't create real families...relationships do.

You can follow more of Nancy's adoption adventure here on her blog.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Congratulations Rob and Carla

Rob and Carla started with Christian Adoption Consultants in late August.  After finishing their home study in record time, they were matched to the first birth mama they were presented to in October. Then, this past week, this sweet little guy entered the world. 

In less than five months start to finish, they became a family of three.

A family who took the dreams they dared to dream in the quiet of their hearts and decided to act on them.

A family who did the hard work of filling out paperwork, saving the finances, and preparing their hearts.

Because behind the scenes, God is always working. While Rob and Carla were planning and preparing, God had a beautiful story he was writing for their family. 

Congrats Rob and Carla! I'm so thrilled you took those first steps toward your son. 

They were worth it.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

When God's Love is Tangible

Saying that this has been a hard season for our family would be an understatement. Without all the details, I can share that our family is what going through what feels like what David describes in the Psalms like the valley of the shadow of death.

But even in the midst of the valley, it's been amazing to see how God has chosen to lavishly bless our family.

There has been encouragement. Not a day goes by where I don't receive a text of scripture, a friend calling to check in, or an email or card of support. And the words are not platitudes or Christian clich├ęs. They are life-giving truths that remind me of who I am and who my God is.

There has been gifts. Gifts of time, of food, of childcare, and even finances. The carpool line at school has become a swap meet of food and clean dishes I'm returning. Cookies have been decorated with my children, gift cards have arrived unexpectedly, and multiple mugs of coffee drunk with listening ears across the table.

There has been prayers. There are people praying for us; near and far. Those who know the details and those who just know things have been rough. Those who have walked life with us for years and new friends dearer than some blood-family now. They have interceded for me when I have no words or strength left to pray.

Even with all of this, there is a reality that no amount of casseroles or play dates or even prayers on our behalf can truly take away the suffering. At night, when the house is quiet, and I'm left crying out to Jesus, there is still heartbreak. But the comfort of the gospel, the good news that God offers refuge and ultimate salvation, is truly enough.

It has been enough that Jesus is my treasure.

It has been enough that He is my rock, my refuge, and my salvation.

And because of all of this, there has been hope.

Because God is a good Father who loves to lavish his children with undeserved gifts, I can have joy in the midst of sorrow. I can have peace in the midst of heartbreak. I can have hope in the midst of chaos.

But for me it is good to be near God; 
I have made the Lord God my refuge, 
that I may tell of all your works

Psalm 76:25-28

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Why I'm Not Resolving

The new year always calls for New Year's resolutions. 

We fill in the blank: This year I will ___________.

Work out more. Eat more organic. Read more of the Bible. Achieve more at work.

More trying. More striving. More promises. More good intentions.

My Type A heart swoons when it comes to this. Creating check boxes and to-do lists and goal setting. I am amazing at this. What I'm not so amazing at is that all of this "stuff" ends up getting in the way of my actual goal. Lists become priorities above relationships. And all of my "achieving" simply becomes more striving to do things on my own without Jesus. I fool myself into thinking that I can earn God's love and favor with all of my resolutions.

So this year there will be no resolutions for me. As good as they can be and as valuable as goals are, it's just not a fit for my heart. Resolutions lead to more striving when I should be resting. More doing when I should be sitting at his feet. More achieving when I should be listening. More promises when I should be trusting the one who keeps all promises perfectly.

So if I have to make a New Year's Resolution for 2014, it will be this:

This year I will rest in Jesus' finished work on the cross.

This year I will celebrate His faithfulness rather than my feeble attempts at my own.

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