Monday, January 29, 2018

Christian, what is your only comfort?

Heidelberg Catechism, question 1
Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

Over the past few years I lost my grounding. A horrifying layoff at a critical time in our adoption process was followed by a difficult move and two long hard years in a literal desert. It left me untethered and my writing a forgotten extra I no longer made time for. I also recognize that Facebook and Instagram may have made me lazy. Atrophied my creative writing desires. Why take the time to type and edit and post a long blog post no one may read when I could get 54 likes for posting a sentence with a cute photo? I have found, that similar to my eating habits, feasting on  the easily accessible and immediately satisfying only leads to a deeper hunger. 2017 was probably the breaking and turning point for me. The Trump election made me terrified to speak my mind and even more terrified to stay silent, but after having my own parents tell me how disappointed they were in my new found political beliefs and having friends send me concerned emails and phone calls about my shocking "new" liberal (oh that nasty word) tendencies I turned even more inward. Push comes to shove though and ultimately I broke. Deeply depressed I reached a new highest weight. voila. pass the brownies. My marriage was falling apart and I was spending more time imaging ways out of it than in. My husband had been laid off three times in 18 months and was on his 5th job in two years. We decided the only solution was to take drastic measures. Job number five required him to work away from home and stay in hotels for extended amounts of time. We decided if he wasn't coming home at night then it didn't matter where home ultimately was.  We sold our house and moved back to our hometown.  Six months later I feel like I'm finally waking up from a very long nightmare. So much life has been lived since February 1st, 2015.  So much was lost, but so much was gained and I'm not just talking about the weight. Our adoption was so difficult for me. Typing out details felt like a betrayal to her story and to her birth mother so I chose not to tell anything and suffered alone. At the same time, I betrayed myself because this blog and the act of writing my story in an unfettered, unfiltered, public way was such an important part of my own identity. When I had to hide parts of my story to protect hers I lost my ability to process so much of what was happening and in the long run, I shut down and fell apart. This year I've set some big goals. Goals that have nothing to do with weight loss or gym memberships or resolutions. Goals intentionally challenging and intended to open up my closed off self.  I want to read 100 books. I want to allow myself to receive input I've been hiding from. I want to listen to music. New music. Old music. I want to listen to podcasts and TED talks. For three years I hid. The hard was just too hard and the monsters under my bed too terrifying, This year I want to let it all pour in again. This outside world I've been too afraid of. The people I have convinced myself won't want me. This year I find me again. Because I belong. To my self. to my body. to my family. to my community. to my church. to my faith. to my God. Body and Soul. In life and in death.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Hurried to Sleep

A friend Shannon has started a new blog over at Life Prompted. Each week she writes and responds to a writing prompt and invites us to join her. I'll be playing catch up for a while, but hope to use her discipline to breathe some new life into my own writing...

Hurried to sleep

I can not remember a time in my life I did not hurry. Even as a child teachers constantly told me and my parents that I just needed to slow down or take my time. My oldest son was diagnosed fairly early with ADHD. While some corners of the internet like to pretend this is a myth diagnosis and I'm just failing at motherhood somehow and should probably just feed him differently, I know from my own life experience that Hurry is more than a choice sometimes. Hurry is a state of mind. Hurry is a chemical imbalance in our brains.

 Do you hear music while you have a conversation with a friend- while at the same time seeing colors and remembering what you wore to the eigth grade dance and wondering if your husband has the right socks in his bag to match his shoes? I do. Does this Ally Mcbeal life soundtrack follow you to bed? Im very aware of my sleeping thoughts, maybe because they aren't sleeping. I wake up hearing music, and remembering conversations from my dreams which are in vivid color and full of all senses. My dreams feel real and my sleep monitor on my fitbit has shown me that half the time I think I'm asleep, my body is actually restless. Even in my sleep, I hurry.

My pastor shared last week about the need for rest as a spiritual practice. He reminded us how Jesus took time to rest in order to prepare for his ministry. We must also rest. God commands it. I left the sermon somewhat frustrated. I WANT to rest. Sleep especially frustrates me. I WANT to sleep.
The beginning of Lent coincided with my realization that I was not sleeping. So as part of Lent practice, I decided to give up as much caffeine as possible, leaving me a sore headed zombie most days. The more I tried to sleep the less I did.

Everything hit a low point Sunday night. We've had sick kids rotating through a stomach bug for the last week. We've seen worse, but a groaning child on the couch does not encourage sleeping mothers. My second born was taking his turn, and my husband was heading out to a job site Monday morning. His wake up call would come at 1:30 am. I went to bed around 9:30. At 3:30 I was still staring at the clock. This was unusual even for me. Wide awake, 3:30. I was so hurried for sleep that I could not sleep.

I don't think I have a solution for this yet. Clearly. Last night I went to bed at 9:30 with a little help from my "sleep supplements". While I don't really remember waking my fitbit says I was restless 20 times for a total of 5 hrs 26 minutes asleep, and 4 hours 7 minutes restless/awake.

The only answer I have for myself is Grace. I've changed my diet, drastically cut out caffeine and am trying to limit screen exposure in the evenings. We recently changed our bedroom from a nonfunctional purple to a calm and soothing blue. My bed feels like a spa. There is nothing left to change. I simply can not hurry myself into rest. I'm only pushing myself deeper into anxiety and further away from my goal.

In psalm 4, the psalmist writes about the people frustrating him by worshiping false gods. He says in vs 4, to the people "Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be SILENT." How often do I instead search my heart and find noise? Noise of anxiety, noise of discontentment. Noise from ADHD. Then in verse 8 he says "I will both lie down and sleep, for you alone oh Lord make me dwell in safety." This last verse is one I know by heart and my boys repeat as "I will lie down and sleep for you God keep me safe". When they are afraid of storms or nightmares we repeat it until they can sleep again. I never noticed the connection to verse 4 before. The psalmist is comparing his confidence in his sleep to the discontented hearts of the people. Verse 6 he works out that "Many LORD are asking, "Who will bring us prosperity? Let the light of your face shine on us. Fill my heart with joy when THEIR grain and new wine abound." I could rewrite this as "Who or what will bring Emily sleep? Shine your light on us and fill my heart with joy when Emily closes her eyes and rests until she needs no more rest." Could sleep be as simple as laying down our current burden and expecting God to provide? Could sleep for me come simply by expecting God to eventually provide it and resting in his goodness until he does?

So today I will rest, but in a different way than I've been trying (and I don't mean by abandoning the melatonin or drinking a giant coffee with my dinner). I'm going to clean my kitchen, deep clean the tile like I've been meaning to for weeks and be thankful for a home. I'm going to finish the laundry mountain and be grateful for dressed children and cute fashions. I'm going to take a walk with the kids after dinner, and read them a chapter from their current read aloud before bed and see them for the gifts they are. I will read today's scripture from my bible in a year, even if I've missed the last six, and  I will choose not to carry anger at myself for not sleeping but instead repent for trying to hurry to make it happen on my own.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


Somehow we've made it. One whole year since the incredible day (in a series of long hard days) that changed everything. The day we took legal custody and physical possession of our baby girl. In the adoption world, "gotcha day" can mean a hundred different things due to the hundreds of ways children come into their forever families. The range of emotions can vary from celebration and parties, like a birthday, to hushed grieving and silent recognition. Every adoption is born out of loss. Even when all choices are positive, there is still a loss. I say this because in our family there are multiple figures in our sweet Sarah's life who won't remember today with the joy that we do. For her birth mother,  it was a final goodbye to regular visits because we live across the country. For her aunt and uncle and cousins who fostered her for her first ten months,  it is a day they lost a loved daughter and sister as she became niece and cousin. We know that there is pain there and don't celebrate without recognizing that Sarah too had to grieve those relationships in those specific forms. Her routine and schedule and home all changed on that day while my very dreams came true. While my heart was completed, theirs took a bit of a hit. I'm grateful that Sarah's foster journey was able to keep her with family. I'll never be able to express the gratitude I feel that my sister and brother in law were able to foster her while we worked tirelessly to get our home study and legal nonsense done and bring her home. She will always be able to have a relationship with them, and with her beautiful birth mother and biological brother as well as cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents. I have so many friends in the adoption community who don't have knowledge of their child's early life or a connection to their birth family now. Friends who have children who grieve birth families that fell apart, or foster families, nannies or a culture they left on the other side of the world. We have to acknowledge that. Our kids deserve their hurts to be recognized. Even in the midst of our shout from the rooftop joy. So for us, gotcha day is about Sarah's 37 weeks in the womb of a mother who fought for her, who tried tirelessly to do everything she could to be the best mother she could. It is Sarah's first ten months, loved by a family that knew she would one day leave but did not treat her as so. And her gotcha day is that incredible day that we claimed her as our own. A day that all the waiting ended. We left her foster home mid-morning that cold Monday and immediately stopped at Target. I needed a moment to process  before we started a long day, so we walked around Target, bought a baby car mirror and just stared at her. For the first time we could legally take her anywhere we wanted. Then we had a quiet lunch with her birth mom and hit the road. I think I found reasons to stop at two more Targets before we got from Saint Paul to somewhere in Iowa. We had dinner at a Buffalo Wild Wings and told every person we could that this is our daughter. She's going home today. We ended up getting a horrible Norovirus that night but she slept like a champ. Our second day of travel was delayed, but got us south of Kansas City. And then around 4:00 on Christmas Eve eve we pulled into our driveway. To greet her we had decorated a tree in our front yard with pink lights. Pink like her sweet cheeks and the tutus and all the precious baby girl dreams we had dreamed for so very long. We wanted everyone who drove by to know that our daughter had come home! So this year to celebrate today we strung those same lights on the mantle and chalk board. Her lights. Our favorite Christmas gift a year older.

Happy gotcha day sweet girl. We honor today all of the people who love you, and joyfully remind you of how very much you are wanted here. Forever, Mama