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6/29/2015

Operation Shrink-A-Bootie (take 3435803049492)

Years ago, I read The Weight-Loss Diaries by Courtney Rubin. Blogging and chronicling weight loss seemed so novel at the time (at least to me), and I remember thinking "I could do that. I want to do that."

It's difficult to think about that because that was nearly 10 years ago. And for anyone who has struggled with weight, who has yo-yoed as I have, it is almost sickening to think about the 10 years that have passed me by.

I am not saying that you can't live while carrying around extra weight. I have remained alive and breathing for the past 10 years. I have traveled and worked and fostered. I have graduated college and begun graduate school. I have purchased a home and several cars. But I have also hidden behind the weight. Because sometimes hiding is so much easier than facing things head on.

I could be wrong, but I really don't think there is anyone who is overweight who doesn't wish they were a bit thinner. Yes, you can be happy and satisfied at any weight. And yes, people come in all shapes and sizes. But when you're more than just a tad overweight, there is this wish to be thinner, and this little voice that tells you life would be better if you just dropped 20 pounds or 30 pounds, may even 50 pounds.

That little voice is a liar and a bully, of course. Because weight doesn't dictate life or any one person's experience with life. It is only a facet of life. Yet, it is one that takes over.

I compare myself physically whenever I go out. And I almost always become self-conscious, feeling as though I am the largest person in the group and that this somehow devalues me compared to others. I also do this at the gym, as if I am trying to find an excuse to leave or as if I am trying to find someone else who is in the same boat so we can establish solidarity. I'll be the first to tell you that comparison truly is the thief of joy.

There is so much that you miss out on when you compare. I hid from that realization for quite some time, keeping my nose in my text books and spending far too many hours working on papers for graduate school. While I enjoyed everything I was learning (and still do), I also enjoyed that I had a reason why I couldn't go swimming or walking. I did the same thing with my poor, pitiful knees. "Oh no, I can't do that. Bad knees and all."

It's true that I have to adapt with my knees and that school is important. But those things also can not and should not be reasons to skip out on trips to the park, playing in the water, or wearing shorts. Skipping out on so much results in not quite living.

I did this a few weeks ago. I thought I was over it, and then, I met a group of ladies I had only communicated with over Facebook (sans one). We were all selected to be on Jen Hatmaker's launch team for "For the Love." We had similarities and topics to discuss, and yet, I felt out of place at the table.

I went over the differences in my head. I smiled and engaged some, but I felt uncomfortable in my skin and unsure of how to really participate and remain present. No one at that table did anything to cause me to feel the way I did; my subconscious did all the work on that one.

A few days later, I expressed all of this and named it. I've been aware of it since, and I have warred against it since. Comparison is the thief of life and joy, and I will fight against it stealing anything else from me.

But it is still hard. I hate that I am here, in this place of actively trying to lose weight, because I feel like I should already be past this all. I feel like I should already be thin. I get that "thin isn't in" and it is more about being healthy. That's what I want, honestly, but I also want to see the scale dip lower and lower.

The scale isn't the answer, and my worth is not in the number I see flashing at me. I get that. It doesn't mean that I don't want to see it decrease. It shouldn't be the sole focus, but it is important. I get why people say it doesn't matter, but in reality, it does matter.

I'm not quite sure why I am, all of a sudden after six months of silence, posting all of this. It isn't exactly the comeback to blogging I planned. But it is real, and at the end of the day, as much as I would like this to be not true (sometimes), I don't know any other way to be. If I'm not real, I don't feel comfortable, and I refuse to live in such a way that causes me to hide anymore.

10/08/2014

learning to be brave

I want to be brave. I just don’t want to be brave sometime in the future. But I want to be brave right now in this moment and with every aspect of my life.

Maybe that statement is odd to you. After all, I am foster mom. Bravery is a part of my nature and blood. Except that it’s not.

When we started fostering, I believed I was brave. And it’s possible in that moment – the moment I said yes and accepted the placements we’ve had – I was brave. Except that bravery centered around my abilities and my strengths. The second things got difficult, and I questioned if I was even cut out for foster care, all of that bravery disappeared.

It’s a conversation Justin and I have had several times. He’s noticed this trend in my life and our relationship. I become sure about one thing and then convince him to join in. Then, when things get hard for me, I am immediately ready to throw in the towel and give up. He, on the other hand, is just then realizing that we are where we are supposed to.

I guess it’s a good thing we haven’t always been on the same page. I cannot begin to imagine what life might look like if we had just given up and given in to the feelings of failure.
Recently, I’ve been praying for bravery. I’ve been resting in Jesus and his bravery because I know my bravery (just like everything else that is mine) will fail daily. I also have joined a new movement – a community of women learning how to live bravely – called #fireworkpeople. And they also help me to want to be brave.

Even with praying for bravery, I’ve been hiding a lot. Thoughts pop into my head, and I commence writing an entire post all in my head. Within minutes of putting fingers to the keyboard, the post all but disappears and immense fear takes over. I can’t write this. I can’t share my heart. I could never express foster care the way it deserves to be discussed and described. And what about confidentiality?

Some of the fears are warranted. I want to be extremely careful with confidentiality. I never want to place myself, the littles, or my husband in a place where I have said too much or been too explicit about any one aspect of our lives.

Some of the fears are ridiculous. They are simply a way to remain hidden and to keep others out of the loop in somewhat grasping foster care and how to work through fears with foster care.

I’ve been open about the fact that foster care was much more difficult than I expected. I’ve shared some of the milestones – like making it 100 days with three toddlers in our home. We have another milestone coming up. 365 days of parenting three toddlers.

Many people ask how we are going to celebrate. And that word celebrate absolutely destroys my heart. Because I can’t celebrate the past 365 days.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m grateful for the past 365 days. They have been the most fulfilling, difficult, beautiful, and messy days of my life. As difficult as the transition to motherhood has been for me, it has shaped me into a person I am much more proud to be.

That’s not to say that I don’t still struggle. I do. I struggle with immense guilt. I struggle with thoughts of never being enough. I struggle with the balance of work, school, marriage, kids, and not losing myself in the process. Every day brings some type of struggle. But almost every day brings some beauty with it. I say almost every day because, let’s be honest, sometimes it feels impossible to find anything good and all you do is count down to when the next day will start.

One of my struggles right now is how much loss there is with foster care. Foster care itself begins with loss – the loss of the child’s family, the loss of safety before the child comes into custody, the loss of stability, the loss of knowing what to expect (even if it’s harmful and scary). I simply can’t celebrate that much loss.
There’s another woman out there who is also a mother to the littles in the home. The relationship I have with her is a difficult one. It’s not about if we talk or how much we talk. The difficulty resides inside my head as I grieve her lack of presence in the little’s life. I also grieve that she isn’t able to experience the beautiful moments – like a one-on-one date with one of the boys and ended with us holding hands while watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

A part of me still wants them to be able to go home. Because I know how difficult it will be for them to never again be a part of a biological family. And then a part of me is utterly terrified of the day they might leave.

The littles don’t belong to me. No child belongs to their parents, but especially within the context of foster care when I am sometimes nothing more than a place holder.

So as we approach 365 days of fostering and parenting three toddlers I am aware of the pain in my heart that may never recover if I do have to say goodbye. I am also aware of the fear I have with possibly not knowing what will happen to the littles should they leave my home and my house.  But I can’t remain in my fear. If I did, I would not be able to move forward, and if I remained in my fear, it would hurt the littles.

Foster care is not the child’s fault. No child wants to go through the trauma of abuse and/or neglect and then also the trauma of removal from the home and then movement through a volatile system. And yet the children pay the utmost price. A price that increases when adults and foster parents hide in their fear of what it would be like if they had to say goodbye to littles after caring for them for any length of time.

I don’t think I can say goodbye. But I know I may have too. That’s where Jesus’ bravery comes into play. He is so much stronger and able than I am. And if goodbye is what is said, then He will see me through, my husband through, our families through, the littles through, and the littles biological family through.

I type that all out, and again it seems like I am brave. That I’m almost superhuman. And yet my lip quivers and tears flood my eyes. Because I don’t really want to walk out this life of uncertainty and potential farewells. I also don’t really want to be so closely aligned to hurts and heartbreaks. Yet here I am.
I can’t hide from foster care. I tried for a few months. I remained distant. Instead of opening my heart as wide as it could, I let my care by minimal and hid behind graduate school and work. Something happened, and all of a sudden love burst and I couldn’t pretend to not really care about the littles. The moment that happened I felt every single thing.

Holidays are hard. Because I love these littles but my heart breaks for the families they aren’t able to celebrate with. I do what I can and involve the littles in whatever ways I can. This involvement, I feel, honors the littles and their history.

I think that’s how I see the 365 day mark. It’s not a moment to ignore. It’s a moment to honor because the littles deserve to know they are cared for and important. And by honoring them, I don’t celebrate the loss. Instead I acknowledge it and do my best to ensure that the littles know they are more than just this loss. Yes, they are in foster care. But they are also silly, stubborn, adorable, strong willed, and intelligent. That deserves honor as well.

I guess that’s what being brave is right now. The kind of brave I can only be with Jesus. The kind of brave that puts my heart on the line and welcomes inevitable heartbreak for the betterment of three toddlers.

9/24/2014

Not for the Faint of Heart

Life is not for the faint of heart. It's just not. At least life the way I want to live it, the way I feel called and compelled to live it, is not for the faint of heart.
Photograph by AW Photography
Of course there's a portion of me, bigger than I want to admit, that craves comfort. I want the job with every benefit imaginable. I don't want to experience other's pain and struggles daily. I want to come home and spend hours reading or watching TV, in my pajama's, and eat as much ice cream as is humanly possible without gaining a pound.

I want the newest iPhone. I want a closet full of shoes and bags and to live in an exotic city (read: not Oklahoma City). I want to travel and write and be asked to travel and write. I long to be known. Not in a personal way but in a way that I am recognized and that recognition fills my bank account until it overflows.

But when I am quiet, when I distance myself from the world, there's a stirring and longing in my heard to live life the way Jesus would have me. And that sort of life is not for the faint of heart.
I waiver on my heart's status nearly every day. Sometimes multiple times throughout the day. I spend time with Jesus in the morning (second week in a row of starting my day off with the Bible, which is a record) and rest in His presence.

But then I am rushing to dress three littles, play or read books for a few minutes, make getting into the car seats fun (which it never is), have a dance and sing along in the car (current faves: Shake It Off by Taylor Swift and Let It Go), unbuckle three littles and manage to get them all into their classrooms.

After that, there's work, email, grad school, practicum, and a million other items. Sometimes I seek Jesus out. More often, he is a passing thought. More often I'm concerned with not having an iPhone 6, not being thin enough, how much coffee I need to make it through the day, and reading emails while sitting at a red light.

It has to stop. At some point and preferably before I leave this earth and enter into heaven.
Photograph by AW Photography
The stirring and longing on my heart is there for a reason. I have gifts and talents. I have a purpose. I have a life that Jesus needs me to lead. Though I don't quite understand how or why, I have been placed exactly here and exactly at this moment. I have been called into a place where there are no borders, where I am overwhelmed on a daily basis and aware of my lack of strength, where I have no choice but to fully trust and rely on him.

When I listened to Oceans today on the way to work, the words slammed into me and the tears poured out of me. I so badly want to be in control of my life. I so desperately want to plan for everything that could happen and account for it all. And while I know that God has blessed me with forthsight and the ability to fight for the voiceless, I am not God. I am only me, the tiniest drop in the ocean, and I have to remember that God is bigger than any of my plans, any of my fights, and any impact I could have (or would have/should have/have had) on another's life.

9/18/2014

The Busyness of Summer

This summer was the busiest I ever experienced. Busier than the summer I worked multiple jobs. And than the summers I worked as a camp counselor. Busier, even, than the summer I taught in China. I didn't enjoy this summer. I didn't really live this summer. I survived.

Of course there were moments I'll never forget. Experiences I am beyond grateful for. But those experiences were overshadowed by long working hours, endless deadlines, mountains of reading, and practicum hours. In addition, we participated in an intensive 10 week initiative to learn how to better parent while the oldest child placed with us learned different techniques to help her regulate, express herself, and establish that she was in a safe place.
Those 10 weeks changed our lives. We walked in a broken, messy, barely holding it together family and walked out with newfound hope. I will always be grateful for the experience- for what it taught me but more for what A gained from it. She came alive in those 10 weeks, and she invited me fully into her world. I'll never be able to describe how much it means to share the relationship with her I do now. No matter what happens I will always carry love for her and remember her as my buddy. I'll always see her reaction to "The Little Mermaid" on stage and how she loved her first big girl haircut.

Yet, I felt like a failure during those 10 weeks. There was a sense of failure before the 10 weeks started, and there is still a lingering sense of failure. Not because of anything related to the sessions but more because of what I wrestle with - all of which became even more evident during this summer.

Filling my schedule up comes naturally. Being an introvert at heart, who desperately longs for time alone to recharge, you would think I would welcome an empty schedule. Instead I tend to pile on as many tasks as I can feasibly handle with a few more for good measure. I do occasionally say no. But I usually say "no" to the wrong things and "yes" to things that might not matter quite so much.

It took a few weeks after we finished the counseling and learning for this all to come to light. More than that, it took leaving town for five days and turning off all email notifications on my phone as well as setting my iPhone to "do not disturb" to fully comprehend just how busy I had made myself and just how it had weighed me down.

I can't really remember the last time I willingly took time off - even for just a weekend. I've certainly planned to take off and have told those around me that I was going to take off, but I haven't really practiced that. It's one of the reasons I feel I had knee surgery back in 2013 (beyond, you know, blowing my knee out completely).

The busyness of the summer was tearing me to pieces. It was wreaking havoc on my family, my marriage. I felt it every Saturday my husband played with the kids while I worked or studies. I felt it every weekday I ignored the kids to study. I felt it when they exclaimed they wanted to go "bye bye" with daddy but not with me because he was always a part of the most fun times.

All of it I did to myself. Some I could more easily step away from. Other aspects were more difficult to untangle myself from. We all make choices, and some of my choices led me to a summer of non-stop studying and paper writing on top of parenting.
I know what's important. At least, I like to think I do. I say all the right things, and I work to be as fully present as I am able. But my heart goes to the grades on my papers for meaning rather than looking at the life I am living and the people (little and big) living out life in front of me.

I had to take a final when we were on vacation this August. I was able to change the date of the final to our first night of vacation rather than the second night of our vacation. But still. As soon as we arrived at a beautiful resort, I rushed into the room and settled into the desk area to complete my final instead of enjoying the beauty and the silence that was time away with just my husband. It was truly the perfect picture of the summer.

Since returning from our trip, I've silenced some of the remaining busyness. I've stopped taking on so many duties at work. I've enjoyed time spent in front of the television. I've made memories with the littles in our home. I've even read a few books.

I've heard Jesus in the silence and the stillness that weaves through my daily life. During the most intense moments of the summer, I struggled to believe in his presence. I thought it was because He had forgotten me, but it was me who had silenced him while focusing on everything else. I made the choice to make time for everything but Him.

Getting out of town allowed me the opportunity to breathe. There was a noticeable change to my person. I rested. My head felt clear for the first time. The strength I depleted during the summer returned. I connected with my husband and held coherent conversations. I even got to meet Jen Hatmaker.
It's been a few weeks since we returned. I've battled the busyness. I've spent hours on the couch. I've continued to connect with Jesus. But my mind is swimming. I'm stuck between purging our house and de-cluttering with this intense desire to take on a million projects - spreading myself entirely too thin.

We're in a stage of a transition. I'm transitioning with school and my practicum. We're transitioning with the littles (always and amen). We're discussing the future and what we think that looks like (simply so Jesus can blow it up and show us just how wrong we were). We're engaging with other families and even more with orphan care. There's so much happening. And while I'm terrified that I'll get swept up in all the transitions and lose sight of the constants, I'm also terrified of remaining still and quiet. Yet I know the stillness and quiet is exactly where I'm meant to press in.

How do you bid farewell to your reaction to life when you have no choice but to just see your commitments through? How do you balance the quiet with the insisting assignments and projects? How do you invest where you are when there's also a future to plan? How do you engage in the life you've been given when the life looks wildly different than anything you dreamed?

If you've got the answers, I'm all ears. Until then, I'm going to try to rest, to plan my time wisely, and to make as many memories as I can..... (and maintain a 4.0 in grad school because I can't quite give that up).

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