5

The Rescue Adoption & 5 Reasons WE need Grace.

“The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.”  Genesis 6:6

Even God feels regret.  And both biological and adoptive parents should not expect an immunity from regretting your choices at times.

Absolutely nothing qualifies me to write about adoption other than the fact that four years ago I adopted 3 teenage girls from Cameroon, Africa.  I have yet to know if this was a successful “Rescue Mission” as others title it, much to the chagrin of some.  The girls were my husband’s siblings and their mother died when my husband and I lived in Cameroon.  Their father had died a few years prior.  What prompted me to write this post was seeing a friend’s update on FB yesterday about how unfortunate it is to hear others talking about adoption as if it’s their own little personal rescue mission, in effort to abduct rescue a child from poverty.

I understand her point, I think.  Completely.  I don’t think any child would want to grow up hearing their “rescue” story every time things go wrong OR right.  Aka, They make an A in school.  They hear, “Oh, aren’t you so glad we rescued you so that you could get a “stellar” American education and make straight A’s so that you could then graduate, get an 8-5 job and have children of your own?”  OR to the other extreme.  They start selling drugs on the street corner.  They hear “How could you CHOOSE this life when you were RESCUED for the very reason of escaping the STREETS?”  Maybe they don’t “hear” it but have you ever “thought” it?

Maybe you DID adopt to add a family member to your family or to finally experience parenthood AND the idea of “rescuing” a child or trying to “give them a better life” actually does seem as foreign to you as your adopted child’s native country.  But as un-glorified as it may seem, some people DO adopt out of obligation.  A naively glorified obligation to assist those who seem to have a need that outweighs the good sense of just leaving those “poor” children right where they are.  I mean, why is having a parent so important after all?  You’ll never replace their biological mother or father, EVER.  If you’re not looking to fulfill your maternal instinct–what’s the point of getting all tangled up in the complexities of adoption?  If you have children of your own, you know just how difficult it is to parent biological children.  What makes you think parenting adopted children would be ANY easier?

Don’t THINK.  Just DO.  And for what?  Because somewhere in the back of your mind, you believe that you will be providing that child a better life than they would have had otherwise.  Sounds like a rescue mission to me.  But suit up.  With the whole armor and such.  Because the angels won’t be serenading you with heavenly songs from above when everything below seems just a little bit more than you bargained for.   Not everyone who adopts, adopts with the intent of “rescuing” that child into a better life.  But some do. And at times, when they tout the fact that they’ve “rescued” someone, maybe, just maybe– it’s because they’re trying to find value up against the “cost” of what they’ve done.  Maybe they’re trying to reconcile their own losses with a melancholy disposition of an adopted child they thought might have found happiness already.   Naive?  Yes.  A common reality?  I think so.  None of us are immune to our own human depravity.

Here are some reasons why ALL adoptive parents who adopt with any inkling to “rescue” need grace rather than distant skepticism peppered with criticism:

1)  Adopting a child in order to give them a “better life” will eventually force you to define just exactly what a “better life” is.  This is an excruciatingly painful process.

2)  “Rescuing” a child through adoption will force you to constantly scrutinize their life “here” up against what their life “there” might have been.

3)  Most people assume you’re adopting for “some other reason“…they just haven’t quite figured it out yet.  Ironically, they will emphatically say it’s “pious” to claim that you’re rescuing a child, yet at the same time, they think it’s o.k. to insinuate point blank that there MUST be SOME benefit in “adding” an extra set of “helping hands” to your family.

4)  You will find yourself in a constant battle to treat your biological and adopted children one-in-the-same, when in reality, they’re not.  They are NOT the same.  I know that over and over again, people appear on talk shows and radically claim that there is no difference between their biological and adopted children.  But there is.  To me, anyway.  And you’re constantly trying to make heads or tails of those differences.  Because after all, why would you “rescue” a child just to treat them ANY less than your own?

5)  You’re in a panic because you set out to rescue someone else, but now, you’re in sudden need of rescue yourself!

0

Success & 5 Thoughts to IGNORE


I’ve been here before. Thinking this is impossible, that I’ll never be able to successfully change my bad habits into good ones. It feels foolish really, to try things that make others scoff–especially when you wonder yourself just how long you’ll be able to sustain the change.

Writing a book.  Finishing a marathon.  Losing weight.  Getting happy.  Becoming a better parent.  Improving mental health. Landing a promotion.  Living by faith.  Fighting disease.  Finding a cure.  YOU fill in the blanks.

I know THIS is possible. This healthy, vibrant image of ME that can’t help but rub off on my family and friends. And I know how great it feels to accomplish something big (big to ME anyway), while others are on the sidelines feeling obliged to say congratulations. I’ve been here before, at the beginning of a long journey with all of the nagging obstacles that are really just mostly “thoughts in my head.”

Here are a few thoughts that keep re-playing in my head EVERY TIME I try to make a positive change in my life.

But these are the thoughts that also merit being IGNORED.

1. What if I fail?
So what if you fail?
In order to make a habit of something, you will always have to start at square one.  Nobody has the luxury of waking up as a star athlete, without having made the painful day-by-day decision to train hard.  Failure starts with the FIRST time you say NO to a positive change. 
2. What if I fall off the wagon?
You WILL fall off the wagon.  Falling off the wagon is an indication that you were on it to begin with.  FAILURE is the perfect start.  It’s an indication, “You’ve begun.”  Yes, you may have to run to catch up and jump back on.  But, EXPECT to FALL and when you do, get back up again, brush yourself off and smile as others smirk at what they perceive to be your naive commitment to success
3. What if this is JUST a stage?
It IS a STAGE.  Your life is made up of stages!  Don’t spend time obsessing over how long your new-found direction in life will last.  There is a lot to be said for “changing directions.”  Your “stage” is made up of small choices that those around you will observe for better or worse.  You never know the impact that those choices will have on others.  Your “stage” of eating healthy today may inspire one of your friends or family members to make it their ongoing lifestyle.  Eventually, you may just find that your “healthy” STAGES will all connect together to represent an overall healthy life lived! 
4. What if my family and friends are resistant to the change?
They WILL be resistant to CHANGE!  All of us are part of unhealthy relationships because unhealthy relationships kind of just evolve.  We don’t have to TRY to have unhealthy relationships.  We only have to TRY to get rid of them.  They are a result of who we are when we’re NOT deliberate about life.  As soon as you start being DELIBERATE about your actions, your unhealthy relationships will immediately come to the surface and you’ll be forced to make yet another CHOICE.  Do I continue to affect change and bear the pain of isolation from friends and family who 1) Don’t believe I’ll succeed 2) Don’t want to lose the part of me that made them comfortable with who they are 3) Fear they’ll have to change too, if they want to continue to keep my company  ??  Avoiding positive change to sustain mediocre relationships is a mental health disaster waiting to happen.  Ask me how I know.  Your healthy choices will change those around you.  Or else!  There’s no getting around it.
5. What if the “change” doesn’t really produce the intended results?
Ahhh!  This one is the kicker for me.  What if I don’t feel better?  What if I don’t like the new me?  What if no one appreciates my success?  What if my success draws a hard line between myself and the ones I love?  What if taking a new direction means leaving others behind?  What if others are jealous of me instead of proud that I’ve finally accomplished something?  These “Thoughts” are the ones that ultimately keep the greatest number of people from reaching their desired goals.  What if the outcome is not better than my previous way of living?  Just remember, in most cases–it’s easier to go backward than forward.  Lose weight?  Don’t feel great?  You can always start buying Big Macs again.  It’s not that hard to put on a few extra pounds.

BOTTOM LINE is:  You’ll never find success unless you proactively choose to IGNORE these thoughts by recognizing them for what they are, because they won’t go away until you reach the TOP of the mountain.  Until you PERSONALLY feel like you’ve arrived—these thoughts will be your most dreaded companions along the way.  Don’t let the thoughts stop you from taking the FIRST step.

0

What Science says about Social Media and Clinical Depression

O.k. not science.  Not really.  But let’s assume for a moment that our social media addictions are parading around disguised as acute little episodes of clinical depression.

WebMD says that  “A constant sense of hopelessness and despair is a sign you may have clinical depression. With major depression, it may be difficult to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy friends and activities.”  In addition, “Clinical depression is marked by a depressed mood most of the day, particularly in the morning, and a loss of interest in normal activities and relationships.”

I’m not saying Social Media is the reason you MAY be clinically depressed.  I’m saying the effects of Social Media strikingly emulate the effects of clinical depression.  Since I’m truly NOT a numbers cruncher or data analyst, I’ll just put it out there that this article is about shoddy inference more than anything.  Though, looking at the graphs I’ve included below, some of you more scientifically minded (Dr. Aunt Kim) might be able to draw a few correlations between the depression and social media stats and develop a full fledged study of the two.

But for now, let’s just have some fun.  To those of you who love to use Google for self-diagnosis, not unlike myself,  I just wanted to point out that you may want to skip the anti-depressant and go for less time on Social Media instead, because:

1.  Social Media may invoke a constant sense of hopelessness and despair.
I’ve always felt hopeless in relation to social media.  I NEVER wanted to sign up initially.  Cross my heart and hope to die.  I felt forced to register for LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google +, etc. in order to stay current with “the times.”  What could invoke a feeling of despair more than keeping a constant tally of likes, followers, friends and useless facts?  Not to mention, digesting an endless running dialogue regarding the successes AND failures of those closest and not so closest to you.  Twitter tops it all.  Thousands, maybe millions of people constantly trying to come up with something clever-er to say so that someone they don’t even know will re-tweet in hopes that people they don’t know will do the same so that it can then be marked as a successful thing said?  Just putting it into words is hopelessly exhausting.  And then there’s always the chance that the STUPID thing you tweet is what finally goes viral.  Yay!  LinkedIn?  Endless connections with “professionals” you know to the third degree, or whatever–so that you can finally network your way to the job you’ve always wanted?

Then there’s the business aspect.  Where is the quantifiable research that businesses actually benefit from spending ANY portion of their budget on social media?  Sure.  There are studies.  The even more desperate part of my unbelief in the widespread flock to social media marketing is that I’ve tried to fake my way through interviews for “Social Media Marketing” positions. Needless to say, I’m not good at “faking it.”

On a personal note, I have still yet to take a professional photo of my family all dressed in color coordinated fashions to put my best foot forward on Facebook.  And if one more person posts on FB that they’re experiencing a “difficult” situation and DOES NOT give the details,  I promise I’m going to embarrass myself by commenting.  But it looks like the only recourse I have is miserably reading the empathetic comments of others who seem to be fine “praying” for these unsaid “difficult” situations whilst feigning no interest in the details whatsoever.  Un-friending just seems so anti-climactic.  Pinterest?  Truly for the narcissist.  Or maybe that’s just because I haven’t signed up yet.  Anyway, you get my point.  Social media is an unending fountain of hopelessness and despair.  And even though I’ve been feeling “Clinically Depressed” for quite sometime, I still sign in.  Daily.
2.  Social Media may make it difficult to work, study, sleep and eat (o.k.  maybe that one’s a stretch!)
Actually social media DOES make it difficult to eat too.  Most of the time one hand is dedicated to scrolling through the latest updates and another hand is dedicated to lunch and the delicate feat of trying not to drop crumbs and juices on our device.  But I would venture to say that for most of us, social media intermittently, if not regularly, interferes with our ability to work, study and sleep.  It’s self evident, really.  How many of you are logged into Facebook right now?  How many of you spend more time researching the life of long lost friends–trying to determine who landed the better looking spouse, THAN researching what may make you a more viable employee at work?  How many of us have lost sleep over the comment stream that just simply crushed our ego?  How many minutes of studying can you manage to work in without checking to see if your boyfriend/girlfriend “to-be” signed on yet?  Yes, it’s true.  Shock!  Social media MAY make it harder for us to work, study, sleep and eat.
3.  Social Media could cause a feeling of depression for most of the day, especially in the morning.
No need to elaborate on this one.  The morning commute can get awfully lonely without access to firsthand updates on the latest foibles of your friend’s day.
4.  Social Media may cause a loss of interest in NORMAL activities and relationships. 
Now. Now.  Let’s not say we’ve lost interest in NORMAL activities and relationships.  Let’s just say we’re defining the NEW NORMAL.

social media demographics in 2013

8

Why being a Parent is NOT like running a Marathon.

So you wake up one day and think “You know what? I’m going to be a mother/father. I know it’s going to take a tremendous amount of training, non-ending exercise of patience and long hours of grueling commitment, but hey, I will post all my milestones on Facebook, everyone will know I’m slowly but surely reaching my goals and when the BIG DAY comes, I and everyone else will know that I proudly crossed the finished line.” Plus, I’ll get a t-shirt.

If we could only approach parenthood with the same methodology that many of us approach athletic challenges such as marathons, many of us would be faring much better and instead of constantly stressing our adrenal system we would actually be pacing ourselves amongst the many milestones that being a mother or father affords.

The main problem is this: Many of us simply stumble into parenthood. Wake up a decade later and stupidly exclaim as others skeptically eye our large brood, “Wow, I AM fertile/virile, aren’t I?” But hey, maybe that’s just me.

Though as a caveat, I do understand that many of us take much pride in approaching parenthood more like a 5k, being smart enough to know that we’re definitely not cut out for the long haul, therefore taking the appropriate measures to limit our family size to 0-2: please know that I’m just addressing those of us who woke up this morning and marveled at the fact that our life now mainly consists of haphazard attempts at parental sanity.

I’m not great at lists, but I’m going to give it a go.

Why being a Parent is NOT like running a Marathon.

1. Sometimes there is no way to measure our progression toward success. (Very scary for those of us who need to feel like we’re in control of at least a somewhat predictable destiny)
2. More often than not, we’re simply ashamed of the fact that being a “parent in training” is actually just kicking our butt. i.e. it’s not semi-cool to brag about the fact that we JUST came in short of the mark on our daily training routine this time. “Oh man, I was almost a great parent today. The only thing I forgot to pack my kid for lunch was their lunch. And we were only FIVE minutes late to school this morning.”
3. There is no “big day” to obsessively focus on so that we can keep our eye on the goal. (Yes. There is the infamous graduation day (12 years away) and that elusive hope that someday our child will become all the things we never were…but hard to put an exact date on that)
4. No one is standing on the sidelines with water or a cool towel to congratulate us on a job well done because there is NO FINISH LINE.
5. Sweating parenthood is just never attractive. People will eventually figure out we’re not actually training for that “big day.”

Preparing for a marathon can be quite a risky proposition (and I would know because I have FB friends who’ve done it). There is the chance that you might not ever reach your goal. But at least you HAVE a goal. There is the chance that you may face serious injury. But at least others will revel at your undying commitment to accomplish something big. Once you’ve marked “finishing a marathon” off your list, you can pretty much leave it in the past and brag about it when necessary. But lifelong passion and discipline for running is a choice, NOT an obligation.

Parenthood requires this lifetime herculean effort to accomplish something big, but that something big in the day-in, day-out of it, can be quite elusive. It’s like we’re in basic training with someone spitting in our face–yelling at us to keep going, keep training, but there’s no promise of graduation at the end of 10 weeks. And it happens over and over again, year after year.

I know there are some parents who have successfully broken parenthood into manageable, bite sized pieces and they meticulously build their life around each milestone/goal.

But for me, being a mother is more like a work of art. I’m always obsessing over the final touch. I’m lucky if I’m inspired to add anything at all on some days. Sometimes, I very literally want to tear up the atrocity I’ve created and start over–with a clean slate. Surely, I’ll do better next time…I will have learned from my past mistakes and I’ll finally create a prized piece of artistry that everyone will recognize as noteworthy up against the greatest parents of all time.

Then I wake up and realize, I’m not Vincent van Gogh and never will be. I’m just a mother who wants to be someone I’m not. I will never win a marathon. I’m just running. Most days, my effort will never elicit tangible recognition.

Whether you’re the obscure father running a race you could never possibly intend to win or the artistically frustrated mom trying to draw as little attention as possible to your “work of art,” let’s remember we’re all in this together. Seeing parenthood as the chagrin to a society where “other” productivity trumps it all, is our first mistake.

We need you. Populating the planet and parenting the population is still an essential piece of what makes the world go ’round. If everyone stopped having children right now and the youngest children alive had just been born, the human population would cease to exist in just 84 years, assuming the average life span. So, at best, we’d be looking at a century, then that long coveted silence. Now, There’s a finish line for you.

Newsflash:  You’re NOT running a marathon. Cut yourself some slack.  You’re populating planet earth. Who cares if there’s life on the MOON.

Earth is winning and YOU are on the team!

~Happy parenting!

0

Saying “No”

It’s scary when nothing you’re thinking feels congruent.  When you fear the next thing that may escape your mouth and how others may perceive it.  I always feel a need to explain.  To give a heartfelt explanation as to why my answer is simply “no.”  Why is that word so painstakingly difficult for some while for others it seems their personal motto is “no” and it rolls off their lips with absolutely no thought of what comes next?  Why is it that some feel more obligated to explain their inability or lack of desire to meet the expectations of others?  Why is it that some seem to escape the mundane requests of others altogether?  Is it because everyone already knows them as tough enough to say no (and that’s always their final answer)?  Or is it because they are so superior, others wouldn’t dare demand a moment of their time?  One of my weaknesses is easily getting caught in the trap of doing everything but what I want to do or need to do, all out of some deep seated fear that perhaps I am actually obligated in some way to meet the requests of others.  It seems that anytime I say “No,” it is mistaken for “I’m really weak.  Insinuate that I’m a jerk or aloof and I’ll eventually say “Yes.”

Saying no is an incredibly difficult part of church ministry.  But it is an essential element of dealing with people successfully.

There is absolutely no way to move forward in a position of leadership if you’re haunted by the potential guilt of having offended someone by ultimately turning down their ideas or requests.

Sometimes our Christian beliefs get all muddled up and our bad habits become outcomes of misapplied Scripture.

Verses like “Turn the other cheek” and “Forgive 70 X 7″ are taken out of context and before we know it our brand of religion forgets the moments where Jesus said “no” to healing and went to the temple to shake things up and drive out the money changers.

What about you?  When is the last time your “no” was met with a clash of the Titans?  Or did you refrain from saying “no” this time just to keep the peace?  Which is better?  Saying “no” and creating an outward battle or “going along to get along” so that you’re left to fight an internal battle that is all yours to win or lose alone?

2

Winter Blues

For most of the past two months, I haven’t even contemplated writing anything.  I’m not sure why.  It seems that there are multiple factors that play into my inability to express myself.  One may have to do with the fact that I started a new job, at a church.  For some reason, after having had a little bit of a hiatus from “church work” I now feel very uncomfortably exposed again–not able to reconcile with the fact that others may disagree with who I am or how I think, should they come across my blog.  Then I think, “Really, who would care anyway?”  It’s strange how one part of us can really long to be known but the other part of us hides in fear of anyone we “know” truly getting to know US for who we are.  I’ve always felt like I had to act a certain way or say certain things to earn the approval of others, and this has been especially true in church settings.  I always feel this blunted urge to call BS, but I never do.  And who am I to set the record straight anyway?  It seems the majority rules.

So there is that.  And then there’s my generalized depression that is probably a combination of the holidays and overwhelming feelings of expectations unmet, house searching for the older kids (another story within itself), then house renovation, then deciding to let my sitter go who I’ve had for a year at 3 days a week, as well as recounting and rehashing what I markup as multiple personal failures over the last few years and a whole lifetime really.

With depression and failure, there’s always the which comes first, chicken or egg perplexity.  Did I fail because I was depressed or am I depressed because I failed?  Or is my feeling of failure a direct symptom of depression?  I choose to believe it is a little bit of all those things.

The bad thing about not writing when I’m depressed, is that keeping it all inside perpetuates that feeling of overwhelmed hopelessness.

The ridiculous thing about my struggle with underlying feelings of apathy and emotional paralysis is that amongst all of the current “stressors” in my life, there have recently been multiple positives that are true win-win scenarios for me in the long term.  And I’m even more disappointed in myself for not truly being able to “enjoy” the good things that have transpired in the last few months.

And all of this emotional stuff against the backdrop of poor health.  For the past few years, the winter months have brought me these annoying ailments that aren’t really newsworthy, yet just bad enough to serve as a distraction and zap even more energy–hampering my everyday activities.

So……..there, at least I said it.  Doesn’t seem so bad when I write it down.  I’m hoping to post more about some of the “positives” and “negatives” that have been vying for my undivided attention lately.

Thanks for stopping by!

~Anna

7

Do you leave behind sunshine or clouds?

Today I had lunch with a friend.  For the purpose of this blog, I’ll refer to her as “Sunshine.”  I’ve known Sunshine for a little over two years and not once can I remember her ever bringing a cloud my way.  Though today for my sake, she shared some of the obstacles that she’s faced in life, her outlook was only positive, not a plastic version of positive, but that of a sincere steady stream of sunshine persistently warming me through the windowpane of what would have otherwise been a dismal day.

For me, it isn’t easy to sit down to lunch with someone one-on-one because in THIS season I’m an over analytical introvert who can’t easily make conversation without acknowledging the clouds, the clouds that seem to shade much of what I do–especially lately, when I’m like one of those people who thinks they’re drowning, flailing my arms, thrashing my legs, only to eventually realize that I’m actually NOT in over my head–I can stand–my feet will touch bottom.  And that’s what Sunshine said or made me realize, in so many words, “Stand up, Anna.  You’re not in too deep.”

I’m fully aware that I’m not Sunshine, not today, and not for a long while have I been.  (That used to be my grandmother’s nick-name for me.)  In fact, more than ever, I feel like one of those fast moving masses of clouds that hides the sun and quickly darkens a room.  As if I’m on the outside looking in, I watch my emotions sweep over a conversation and before I know it clouds take the moment captive and it turns out to be the rainy day that we all dread.

So after lunch, the thought came to me–who am I?  What do I really want to be?  Persistent Sunshine in the life of someone else, or a cloudy mass who darkens the life of others?  And how much control do I have over who I am in a particular season of life?

Clouds are an ever-changing result of their environment at the time.  But Sunshine emanates from a steady source of light.

Perhaps the answer to my question isn’t immediately clear at the surface.

So, I’m taking time to examine my source of light and to uncover what added control I might be able to exert over my environment.  Hopefully my source of light won’t always play the background to the cloudy version of me.

Thanks to all those who are faithfully a bright spot in my day!