Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What you deserve --- just because you're you

I've been wrestling a monster for a very long time.

Over the years, I've given it various nicknames. Mostly because I never saw my monster face to face. The best I could do is guess what it was based on how it made me feel when we battled it out.

I have given it the name Anxiety. Depression. Anger. Frustration. Infertility. Grief.

I thought I had the right name for my monster. 

I didn't. 

You might wonder if names even matter. I get it ... And they do.

If I were fighting for my life against a real-life monster, it would be enormously helpful to know if I were trying to survive an attack by a 20-foot great white shark ... Or a grizzly bear. 

Rolling over and pretending to be dead would do nothing to dissuade the shark. (And if it DID dissuade the shark, I'd  likely still drown.) And bopping a grizzly on the nose would be as useless as just serving myself up on a platter for dinner.

And so, as it turns out, spiritual monsters also need names.

Thinking you are fighting discontentment when you are actually struggling with greed will not give you the tools and accountability you need to emerge the winner from the fight.

Unless I find out what I'm actually up against, I'm never going to overcome.



In my Self-Care post, I mentioned that I'm reading the book "Anything" by Jennie Allen. 

Toward the beginning of the book, she names a brutal monster many of us privileged American Christians face. What makes it so brutal is it's uncanny ability to blind us from what (Who) we really need. 

It simultaneously tells us to take joy in what we have ... While robbing us of the sense of peace or contentment based on what we own.

While we are to be grateful for what we have, JOY should never be wrapped up in titles, vacations, stuff, achievements, or even other people.

Joy has to exist with or without all the "stuff" of life. And the monster of deceit who tries to convince us otherwise goes by the name Entitlement.

Now when Jennie named this monster, I was ready to tune out.

You see, I feel I've worked for everything I have. I went to school, and have been earning money in some capacity since I was 12.

When I got my driver's license (1 month before I turned 18), I only did so because I had enough money to pay for the license, gas and monthly insurance on the car.

In high school, I was responsible for buying my own clothes and makeup (which is pretty obvious from my pictures.)

I was always taught to give as much as you can, pay for your own way, and be responsible for YOU.

I truly didn't think entitlement was a monster I had even met, let alone wrestled with for years. After all, I worked for everything. Right?

But as Jennie progressed through her discourse, I discovered that my monster who had been wrestling me and stealing my joy was none other than a sense of entitlement that I deserve more ... Just because I'm me.

Here's what my entitlement has looked like:

I deserve to have a baby whenever I want.  (Because why exactly? Because I'm Rachel? Because I'm a good parent? Because I'm a decent-ish person? When did raising another human being become a reward for good behavior?)

Why do I always have to give my babies back? (Newsflash: I don't. God has let me keep two of them, which is two more than some people get.)

I shouldn't have to give Z back because I love him like a son. (My role as a foster parent comes with no legal claims. I might love him and care for him as my son, but God -- nor the State -- have any obligation to keep Z in our home.)

I've spent 7 years in my business. I should be making X amount each month, be driving X car, or earning X trip. (The truth is, in my business you are paid on results. If I have not done the work to see the results, that is on me and no one else. No matter the time I have put in. If God is using this time to mold me into the leader and person He desires me to be FIRST, before the title and huge leadership come, that is His choice to make. It's rather my job to be faithful in the day-to-day in my business that He has called me to -- no matter the time frame or results.)

Anything about our house.
(Since we got pregnant with Maddy, we have lived in a rental home. It's a great little home, that meets all our needs. AND YET... It doesn't meet all my wants. I don't want a bathroom with steel trim, no bathtub and a floor that refuses to look clean no matter how much I mop it. I don't want white tile counter tops with white grout that is stained, and worn and has eroded so it is impossible to get it really clean. I don't want gold trim, white walls and a rock floor.

Somehow, I have believed the lie that I deserve to own a beautiful home, with a gorgeous interior and decor, in a safe neighborhood with good schools --and let's just add in a water view, just because.)

All of this I have felt I deserved ... No believed with my whole heart that I deserved ... Just because I'm me.


 When I follow entitlement to its logical conclusions, that means other people must deserve war, sickness, poverty, lack of opportunity, children dying, cancers, divorce and death ... Just because they are who they are.

And if they are getting what they "deserve" ... Why should I reach out and help them in their distress?

When I turn entitlement on its head, only then do I see it's ugliness, it's raw banality. Only then do I see myself for the fool that I have been.

I have heard that gratitude is the best cure for entitlement. And I have tried wielding thankfulness like a sword, slashing carelessly at my monster with appreciation for more stuff.

"Thank you for this pen I'm using because it serves me when I need to write something down."

"Thank you for this shower because it serves me when I want to be clean."

"Thank you for this home because it serves me by protecting me and the people/things I care about."

See how it's still all about me?

Gratitude is necessary. In fact, God calls us to it.

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." -- Colossians 2:6-7

Gratitude is not wrong. It's right. But until I get rid of the "thanks for serving ME" mentality ... It's lacking.

No gratitude is not enough. Too often we still root it in stuff. Rather than rooting it in who God is.

Submission, on the other hand, prepares our hearts for true gratitude and rids us of entitlement.

I live in this home because the God of the universe has provided me shelter and protection out of the goodness and generosity of his heart.

I have the children I do because God looked upon me with compassion, and graciously allowed me to keep (for now), these children.

I have infertility because God has sorted through the enemy's arrows, and has allowed this one to pierce my life. While I can't understand or see it at times, God will use this as an instrument of his glory. And in that, I give him thanks.

Gratitude, only when rooted in submission, can take our eyes from the stuff we want -- can take our joy in the things we deserve to have -- and place them on the true satisfaction of our souls: God Himself.

Entitlement: an ugly monster what tells us what we deserve because of who we are.

Submissive gratitude: a beautiful surrender to the will of God with thankfulness and joy -- regardless of the the circumstances, the titles you bear or the stuff you own --- all because of WHO He is.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

To the unsung heroes of Father's Day






To the unsung heroes of Father's Day


I wonder if this is how pastors feel delivering a sermon for Mother's Day.

After all, they aren't moms themselves. But they have to somehow encourage moms, and speak as though they get it.

Likewise, I've never been a bereaved father.

But I feel it's really important to tell you today, that you matter. And your sacrifice and grief aren't altogether unnoticed.

I know that time and time again, after the loss of your child, well-meaning friends and family came up to you wanting to know how your wife was. Never mind that you lost a child too. And in spite of the fact that your grief was just as real, just as overwhelming, you answered those friends and family.

In fact, you yourself were just as concerned about your wife.

Something in your family broke -- and you couldn't fix it. You try to fix everything in the house -- the budget, the lawn, the cars, the dishwasher. You take your job of providing stability and safety for your family very seriously.

But this -- this was something you could never fix. This was a tragedy you couldn't prevent. These were hearts you couldn't save from being broken -- and hearts you can't seem to mend.

And that perception of failure  ... the helplessness as you watched your whole family grieve . . . undergirded everything.

You probably went to work too soon. There were now not only a house, food and cars to pay for, but funeral expenses and medical bills. Maybe your wife had to quit work. Or take unpaid maternity leave. Financially, things got way more complicated. In spite of your hidden tears, numb heart, anger or sadness . . . you went back to work anyway.

I know you pulled more weight around the house too. My husband did. Grief always left me exhausted, and I struggled to care. What did food matter? What did a clean house matter? My husband took on a large role of providing food (even if PB & J), and tidying the house more. He was "on" constantly.

That left little room for his tears. Or his feelings. His grief, as it turned out, wouldn't totally rear it's head until my grief had started to settle in a bit.

That's what you guys do. You put us bereaved moms first. And even take our comments and badgering that "you don't care" or "you don't seem to miss them or love them like we did!" You take accusations, and know it's not true. And then you keep pushing forward.

I know that bereaved dads don't have the same social support moms have.

We moms -- well, we can cry in public as much or as little as we need to without breaking any social norms. We get to attend support groups, be a part of bereaved mom's groups galore on Facebook, read tons of mommy blogs and books, and we even have our own International Bereaved Mother's Day.

You guys? Well, I hate to say it, but socially, you're a little screwed when it comes to pregnancy and child loss.

Most people don't think to ask how you are. Many of you don't want to talk about it, but even if you did -- who would you talk to? Support groups sound like they would just be full of weepy women, and not exactly your cup of tea. Or pint of beer. Or whatever. Just not for you.

It's not like guys enjoy sitting around talking about feelings. You have to DO something, like put an engine together, or climb a mountain, or kayak the river to get your emotions out.

And yet again, we bereaved mommas totally misinterpret your intentions. "Why are you running away?" "Could you just slow down?" "Can we please just talk things through?" And maybe most of all . . . "How are you FEELING?"

You are busy fighting for your family the only way you know how -- with less support than you deserve to have from all the rest of us. And I want to tell you, we see. We care. And we recognize the sacrifices you make for your family.

I didn't always see these things in my husband. I accused him at times of not caring about our babies. I begged him to come to a support group to no avail. I got all irked when he had "mental checkout time" in front of the computer or outside.

I wanted him to grieve like me.

But he didn't. And now I understand more why.

He needed to keep it together to make our family run while I was fallen apart.

He did that out of love and self-sacrifice.

He did that because he's a bereaved dad, but also because he's a husband.

So to all you bereaved fathers out there . . . I want you to know it's ok to NOT have a happy Father's Day. It's OK if today reminds you of the son or daughter you wish was making you breakfast today, or tossing a football outside, or going fly fishing with you later.

It's OK to grieve. And to do it in the way that makes sense to you.

So go ahead, climb a mountain today. Or play computer games. Or work on the car. Or whatever you have to do to be OK.

We'll hold down the fort here for you for awhile.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Self-Care (And Pursuit of Purpose)

With the full expectation of Baby Z leaving our home after the summer, I've decided to make MYSELF a pretty big priority.

Not in the "I'm going to drink lots of coffee, eat lots of ice cream, and go shopping whenever I feel sad" kind of priority. But I'm choosing to make self-care a big priority, especially in a few key areas.

Physical Fitness

You guys know that I recently started the 30-day Shred again from Jillian Michaels. The last few weeks I haven't been as consistent, but I'm exercising at least 3 times a week. I know that exercising is going to be key in feeling confident in my body, and releasing the endorphins I'm going to need. (My goal is to do 5-6 days of exercise each week -- but I keep reminding myself, progress not perfection.)





Diet

I'm choosing to do Arbonne's 30-day Clean Eating Challenge this month as a part of my health challenge to myself. Gluten, dairy and sugar do nothing to help my mood or energy. If you want more info one what I'm doing, here's more about it.








Emotional Health

Personal development is one of the biggest priorities I have to have right now. I don't want to lose the goals, momentum or personal health I've worked hard to attain. So that means 30 minutes of personal development each day is not optional. That my self-talk has to be spot on. And that tea dates with friends (and many of them) are going to be a must.



I'm also going to focus on fun. Getting time outdoors every day. Going on hikes with the family. Going to the park, playing in the sprinkler, spending quality time with Ryan. Making memories with Z for the time we can. And there is definitely going to be a girls' night in Seattle with my two girlfriends going salsa dancing at Century 21 Ballroom.














Me and God

Lately (full confession here), I haven't been the Christian I want to be. I'm spending time on Facebook and not time with God. How can I expect to be fulfilled without Him? Last weekend, as my birthday approached, I spent some time in reflection and realized that this world DOES NOT SATISFY. It just doesn't. A nicer car, a home, a pretty wardrobe -- it's all so temporal and will not fulfill us. And as I've been chasing these things, it's pretty obvious to me that the journey is not taking me toward fulfillment, but toward desperation.



And so I'm starting an online Biblestudy through Jennie Allen, called "Anything." It's about surrendering to God, and discovering and fulfilling HIS purpose -- and letting go of our purposes for ourselves.

If you want to join me, here's a link to more info and to register:





If we have enough interest, I'll start a Facebook group where we can go through some of it together and chat about what we are discovering about God's purposes.


Financial

I know this sounds weird to include this, but I've discovered that if our finances feel out of control, then I feel out of control.

Ryan and I recently graduated from Financial Peace University. We're on track to get rid of all debt (mostly school loans), and save up for a home.

I'm also committing to take my business to the next level. Can I just be honest here? I'm not perfect, and at times, I've struggled with how my business has done over the last 4 years. As soon as I get some momentum going, we either lose a baby, or take one in. The last 6 months, I've been consistent in growing my business, but I've realized that I have put some self-limiting beliefs on what I can accomplish.







I don't want to survive this summer or Baby Z leaving -- I want to thrive. I want to show everyone that I have accomplished what I have told you I will accomplish for several years now. I'm recommitting to my goals.


I know that I will not do all of everything perfectly -- but I know that I'm going to be intentional, set goals, and create some accountability and mentorship in my life to help keep me on track.



What do you do for self-care? And what kind of goals do you guys have this summer? 


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Court Update on Baby Z

For those who have checked in on me following court, thanks for caring.

In a strange twist, I have actually NOT felt like writing in any shape or form following court last week. It's very different to want to hide inside a shell and not let anyone in -- but that is exactly how I've been feeling.

In spite of that, I've decided write a quick update. Maybe because I'm emotionally drained reliving my court experience over and over again for those who have asked. (I don't mind that you asked, by the way. I appreciate the concern. I'm just feeling drained.)

So for those who don't know . . .The plan is for Z to go home.

At court, the biggest cause of concern for me was that, for whatever reason (and I hope it was a good one), our social worker did not come to court. The difficulty I had with this is that Baby Z is entirely dependent legally on people speaking up for him. The right people need to say the right things. I was quite concerned that the fill-in social worker would not do an adequate job, but she is someone I knew from Youth for Christ and she did well enough.

That however, did not help the state of my twisted-in-knots stomach for the hour in which we had to sit through others' cases, not knowing why our social worker was not there, or who would fill in for him. My prayer that God would be Z's voice and judge was even that much more urgent.

My parents and Ryan came to court. It was nice not to be alone.

At the judge's bench, bio mom asked if I was ok. Truthfully, I had just gotten over a flu, my stomach was empty and twisted, and the only thing running through my brain is "try not to cry. try not to cry. try not to cry."

(You should know that promptly after court my mantra failed me inextricably.)

I answered bio mom with a shrug of my shoulders. I didn't feel up for talking, though I did appreciate her show of concern.

In a nutshell, that was court.

I don't feel comfortable with the permanency plan, and I am making my reservations known in the appropriate ways. But foster parents really don't have much of a voice. I'm a tool the state uses to rehabilitate families.

As Deanna, Leyla's first foster mom says, the system is broken, and we as Christians get involved to bring as much light and as much Jesus as we can to it. Even still, the system is not perfect, and feeling voiceless is not easy.

At this point, we don't know the timeline for going home. But we are hoping to at least have him through the summer.

Here is where our little family could use support as we move forward.

For those of you who have been following along with our story, you know that Ryan and I just spent a year preventing pregnancy and trying to heal emotionally from our recurrent losses/infertility. Truth be told, the idea of handing Baby Z back is really bringing back some struggles and grief for me to that end. Pregnancy announcements are hard again. Triggers (while not yet as painful as they might be) are multiplying. I am trying to picture a life without Z in it, and it is very hard to imagine.

Please pray for Z as he has no words to voice his opinion on the matter. As he works through the hard feelings of leaving our home and going to a new home, pray that God would comfort him. A lot. Because I won't be there to help him through it.

Pray for safety for Z -- from hurtful people, from any abuse or neglect, from dangerous situations. Just pray a hedge of protection around him.

Please pray that if it's in Z's best interest, our family will still be allowed to visit Z or have some sort of relationship with him after he moves home. This will be entirely dependent on if bio mom WANTS us around. Pray for me as I work to have some sort of relationship with mom. As we balance the back and forth of parenting the same kid.

Pray for Madelyn and Leyla's hearts as they say good-bye to their brother. Pray for our extended family as they say goodbye to their grandson, nephew and cousin.

Pray that God just never lets go of that baby's heart. Just keep praying for God to chase him all through the years, through childhood and the teen years and as a young adult and on -- that God would never let go. And that Z would find God and have a relationship with him.

And pray for me please. Some days I'm doing really well. And when when you ask how I am, and I say good, then I usually mean it. Besides this going home deal, life is actually pretty good. I'm thankful for my family I have, and my business that is going really well. And then there are days like today that are just harder, for no real reason. It just kinda hits. I long to do grief differently this time. To make it through the other side without losing my business momentum, or happiness, or the balance in my heart I have worked so hard to create. So pray for protection for me too.

And I suppose it needs to be said that bio mom could use your prayers too. Having her children come home will be quite an adjustment, and she could use all the help she can get.

Love you all,

Rachel

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Frozen

Court is tomorrow.

It's the date we've had set in place for the last 6 months. Inching ever closer, feeling forever away . . . except it's here. It's caught up with us. The day the judge will likely decree that Baby Z goes home.

What can I say? I feel like we are all standing on train track watching a freight train come barreling toward us, and no one can move. I can't protect my baby. I'm not supposed to think of him as my baby.

Maybe this isn't what I am supposed to feel. Or say. Or think. Maybe my perspective is all wrong, and somehow I'm supposed to find joy in this.

I don't.

It's a freight train. That's what it is. Just a freight train.

I am scared and numb. And we're all frozen on the tracks.
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