A Letter to Men in the Church: How You Can Affirm Our Worth

Dear men in the church,

Some of you may be aware that there’s a teensy little debate over the role of women in the church.  Should women be elders? Should they be allowed to teach? Can they be involved in leadership?  To what extent?

And I wish it was as simple as one person’s opinion verses another person’s, but I realize everyone is trying to justify their answer with the Bible.  Because in truth, I’d like to believe most of us in this debate care an awful lot about what God has to say.

So guess what?  I’m not going to sit here today and re-debate the same old same old.  (Not that I mind a good two way conversation.)  I’m not going to start a protest outside your church’s men’s breakfast gathering, or challenge you to a public scripture boxing match.

Ryan McGuire (pixabay.com)

But I am going to ask you to listen to my story.

Recently I saw a John Piper tweet about women teaching men in seminary, followed by a hailstorm of comments from dissenters and allies alike.  And as I processed the comments and the emotions that arose, I had a moment of clarity as to part of why the debate is so hard for me:

It makes me feel like I’m not enough. And it always has.

I grew up as a pastor’s kid, compliant and rule-following, with the exception of whatever rebel stories my mom has on me.  And by a young age, I soaked up the belief that men were the head of the house and of the church and I saw the verses that seemed to back that up.  From what I gathered, that meant that there were clear and present limitations on what women could do in the church. (Again, not getting into debate here.)

But I realize, despite my fairly balanced religious upbringing, that all these Bible verses were making me nervous.  See, I had a growing suspicion that I wasn’t as good as a man…that God maybe saw me as less.   In fact, as I read the Bible, I worried that I had two strikes against me in God’s eyes: I wasn’t Jewish (the race that God chose to reveal Himself through) and I was born a female.

Not much I could do about that.

I remember asking my dad once for all the verses on women in the Bible and asking him what God really thinks about us females.  I needed to know then, and now, that God’s love and value over me wasn’t tied into my sin, my talents, or my gender.  And he graciously supplied me with not one or two verses, but many, covering women from Old Testament to New.  And he helped me to see the value of women in the Bible as a whole.

Anyway, as the debate rages, I see the way many people quickly end a discussion about women in the church by pointing to a verse and saying, “Well, that’s what God says.  End of story.”

And like I said, it’s not that using the Bible to back up your belief is wrong. (I think it’s actually important.)  But please be aware that in debating certain passages, we may be overlooking some very black and white verses that share exactly what God DOES think about women.

And in the intensity of the debate, in the angry back and forth, I think you may not realize the unintended message that some women are internalizing: that we are not worth as much in God’s eyes.

I’m not sitting here asking you to give us dignity.

To borrow from John Perkins, God has given each one of us dignity, and we can’t give it to someone else we can only affirm or deny that God-given dignity.

I’m simply asking that even if you never see women’s roles in the church differently, that you would acknowledge and affirm the God-given worth of women through your words and actions. 

Because the Bible also has a lot to say about our worth.

Both men and women were made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27).

God promised to pour out His Spirit on both men and women (Joel 2:29).

We are co-heirs of life with men (1Peter 3:7) and as children of God we’re co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).

Before God we’re not more or less than men, but one in Christ (Galations 3:28).

Further, Jesus valued women, taught them, encouraged them and called them friends.  I never saw Jesus diminish or devalue a woman.

Whatever our roles, our value and ability to be used in God’s plan is undiminished by gender.

What does all this have to do with you?  I’m simply saying this: it’s still a process for me to fully allow the truth of God’s love and worth to seep in between every crack of who I am, regardless of my gender, race, qualifications or role.

Maybe as a man you’ve never wondered if God sees you as any less than a woman.  And maybe you’ve never thought that a woman was less valuable before God.

All I’m asking is that you acknowledge that.

All I’m asking is that when you look your wife in the eyes, you affirm her dignity, worth, and God-given gifts.  I’m asking that you consider what it means that God sees you both as equals.

All I’m asking is that when you teach your little girl about what God says about women in the Bible, that you make sure you start by teaching her that God loves her, LIKES her even, just as she is.  That she’s not “second-best” or “second-choice”.

Bess-Hamiti (pixabay.com)

I challenge you to teach your daughter that God made her with a plan in mind, and whatever her role or future, it’s no less important than your son’s.

All I’m asking is that when you interact with that woman who serves alongside you in your church that you see her as an integral part of what God is doing in His Kingdom.

And if you find yourself in a sharp disagreement with someone, man or woman, please remember they equally bear the image of your Creator.

And to all the men I know in my church and beyond who have encouraged, mentored, challenged, affirmed me and even disagreed with me in love…thank you.  Because YOU are part of why I’m growing to see myself as God truly sees me.  And I hope to turn around and do that for others.

StockSnap (pixabay.com)

Sincerely,

Carrye

 

 

 

Stop Photoshopping Your Personality

Four+ days in a cabin with 10 adults and 7 children has taught me many things: don’t put your cup of water down without marking it as yours; be cautious of trying to use the bathroom during a game of hide-and-seek; and if you play your cards right, you can avoid doing any dishes without anyone realizing.

But mostly I’ve learned something about personalities.

My four siblings and I discussed our lives over an unprecedented lunch by ourselves (read 0 of our 7 children were present…whhhhaat?).   We talked about growing up and the ramifications of our parents gradually throwing assorted rules and limitations overboard (to keep their sanity afloat, I assume).  I insisted on singing along to “Wagon Wheel”, on my short list of acceptable country songs.  (I know.  I clearly don’t belong in the south.)  We wondered collectively, for the love of squirrels, why our restaurant table needed a giant tv screen, and my brother coached me on his theology of tipping.

We also talked about our differences.   Apparently we differ in how we communicate, where we draw our moral lines, how we raise our children, and how we choose to caffeinate.  Between us, we have hundreds of variations in perspective, process, and personality.

Personality differences sound so beautiful in theory, because on paper our combined uniqueness is supposed to add color and dimension to the world around us.  You’ve heard what they say: We’re better together; we need each other; there’s beauty in diversity!

Pullllease.  Try telling me all that rainbow, sunshine mumbo jumbo after throwing a bunch of different personalities into a cabin for a few days and shaking them up.

The obnoxiously loud kid up at the crack of dawn is clearly no good for his sleep-loving mom or the poor guy on the couch by the kitchen.  The one whose idea of adventure is an obscure coffee shop or thrift store mixes like oil and water with the other who’d rather be kayaking.  The worriers and people pleasers clash with the self-confident and matter-of-fact.  Oh it was a wonderful vacation…but I’m just saying…our uniqueness didn’t always look a whole lot like a painting by Picasso.

And I re-realized this week (no, I’m not stuttering…I just relearn things a lot), that I’m constantly wanting to photoshop my personality.  Maybe nip and tuck my random anxieties or give my emotions the equivalent of a nose-job.  At least I’d prefer to soften the edges of my personality so I could blend in with the person nearest me and be really liked by everyone 24/7.

But my personality isn’t the kind that hides my emotions well, so one fateful evening smack in the middle of the chaos of bedtime, I leaked a little personality all over the family dinner table.

My dad had brought an ample supply of old family pictures to peruse together while we reminisced about the memories they evoked.  He began sorting pictures in preparation, and the family members who didn’t have to put kids to bed yet were sitting around the table laughing over a few loose photos.

Not pictured: My Mom who is the picture-taking personality.

I wanted to be totally cool with that arrangement. I wanted to be Miss Go-with-the-flow.  I wanted to not care at all that they seemed to be starting without me.  Pff…I wanted to act like I totally didn’t mind if I was missing the beginning of an epic, monumental, family activity enterprise that was three years in the making.  I wanted to not be the person who used dramatic words like “monumental” and “enterprise” to describe a simple family moment.

But I am that person.

So I flipped out a little on everyone and told them to wait because -hello!- some of us are trying to adult here and get the kids to bed.  And my temperature was probably elevated and I was making zero eye contact with anyone and exited my melodramatic stage feeling just as angry at myself as at anyone else.

Why did I care so much? Why wasn’t I born with the emotional evenness of a manatee?

Photo Credit: Ben Brandt (pixabay.com)

Why did I have a hyper-active sense of being left out?  And why couldn’t I just keep it together so everyone at least thought that I was the amazing personality chameleon that conveniently matched the color and mood of those in the room at any given moment?

The problem is, I wanted to take all the parts of my personality that test well in public and divorce them from the equally “me” parts that are a little less presentable.  Keep my outgoing nature and my love of new people; keep my creativity and my whimsy; keep the crazy big dreams and quirky fashion.  But for God’s sake leave out my neediness and irrationality; my emotional highs and lows; my tendency to not always follow through on crazy dreams; and the insecurities that lie under the surface.

But it’s just not possible to itemize my personality and extract the unwanted.  Each of us is a mixed bag, and the parts of us that seem easy to love wouldn’t exist without the parts of us that don’t seem quite normal or easy.

But there’s power and freedom in owning who we are…all of it.  

It’s not that we don’t have room to grow, or places to improve.  Accepting our personality isn’t the same as making excuses for poor choices or hurtful actions.

But if I hadn’t been trying so hard to stifle who I was, ironically my freak out moment over a pile of family pictures would have looked more like a calm dialogue than a panicked outburst.  If I had accepted who I was, I would have given others the chance to accept me too…and to make room for my personality just as I make room for theirs.

Owning who we are and letting others see our true selves is so brave.  It means others are going to be irritated by us sometimes.  It means we’re not always going to mesh with everyone all the time.  It means we won’t make everyone happy.

Well that’s a relief…because frankly, no one else makes me perfectly happy either.  Seriously.  If we’re all so different, obviously we’re going to get on each other’s nerves sometimes.  We can spend our lives trying to photoshop ourselves so people like us more, but it’s exhausting and it’s really just not working.  In fact, it’s making things worse.

We really do compliment each other but not always in the ways we’d think.  Our differences stretch and grow and balance and teach us how love truly covers over it all.  And our collaboration of personalities might be messy at times, but there’s a lot more beauty in our authenticity than in pretense.

So whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, emotional or level, irrational or practical, dreamer or planner, coffee lover or hater, assertive or compliant…you simply are you.

You DO add color to the canvas that is the world.  And yes, your personality might also leak all over someone’s kitchen table one day in a not so pretty way.  And that’s really OK.

So I dare us both to start living like it’s OK.  (Because it sounds like a lot more fun.)

 

 

 

 

The Thief Called “Not Enough”

I’m currently writing a book about living powerfully purposeful lives not because of what we do but who we are and who we reflect.

It’s a book about not striving, not comparing, not trying to measure our worth by the world’s standards.  So freeing.

Ha.  Don’t go writing God books unless you plan to let God write a thing or two in your life in the process.

See, the tricky thing about writing a book is that you’re supposed to market it.  You’re supposed to try to convince a real-time publisher to look your way which, in today’s world, often requires accumulating thousands of followers on social media, beefing up your list of email subscribers, or already being famous.

So…let’s see…um…unless you want to play super fast and loose with the word “famous”, I got nothing.  Not a great checklist for me.

And I’ve wrestled lately with how far my reality lies from that ideal platform I’d love to achieve.

I have my precious and faithful readers online and I’m so grateful to you all.  Seriously- your encouragement and your presence here has been amazing to me.

But don’t we all have those gaps in our lives that make us wonder if we’re really enough? If we really matter?  Whether it’s a lack of facebook followers, job title, education, recognition or apparent influence…don’t we sometimes feel like we’re always missing “enough”?

Going into January I had all the intentions of getting my ducks launched, my email subscription started, and baiting people to start following my blog with the virtual candy of choice: a free download.  (Which may come one day- I’m not knocking the idea.)

Photo Credit: USA-Reiseblogger pixabay.com

But January brought a slightly different perspective (and also a stomach bug, but that’s hardly the point).  Here I am literally writing the book on being completely content in my identity in God and serving people instead of striving.  And I’m struggling with those two things.  OK God.  I’m listening.

And I really believe that one of the greatest thieves of our joy, of our hope, of our contentment…is the thief of “not enough”.  The brutal lie that who we are today isn’t as significant as who we’ll be tomorrow.

Because tomorrow surely we’ll have accumulated those online followers.  We’ll have mastered that diet plan.  We’ll have proven to our boss that we have what it takes.  We’ll have managed to stop yelling at our kids, because we will have figured out how to turn them into tiny angelic robots.  Someone will finally give us the chance to really shine.  Tomorrow.  Yes, tomorrow we might be worth something.

Only it’s not true…at least not the way we think.  The fundamental premise of my book is that you and I are absolutely valuable TODAY.  No strings attached.  Nothing we’ve done (wrong or right) in the past or will do in the future changes that incredible reality.

You are worth so much more as is than you could dream.  You were designed in the image of your Creator.  You were given life as a co-creator, free to breathe life back into the world around you.  You are loved to the point of death and back.

I know this concept seems small and redundant, but if we were to actually embrace this idea in our lives it would change everything.  No more need to measure our worth by looking around us, no more thinking we’d be loveable if we could only get our act together.  No more pressing the reset button on or lives every New Year in a quest to finally be that person we thought was worth something.

Because we already are that person…worthy.

You are.  I am. Barefoot and empty.  Come as you are.  Nothing could be more freeing.

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And aside from the sheer joy of knowing that worth, there’s a secondary freedom between the lines: we can choose to serve others instead of striving.  We don’t have to earn our worth, so we can simply live our lives out of the overflow of our worth.  We can lift others up and bring freedom to those who don’t yet see their dignity, beauty, and value.  How amazing is that?

So this year I’m still going to write and speak for all I’m worth. I can’t really help it, it’s what I’m made for.

But this year I don’t want my online pursuits to overshadow my offline endeavors.  I don’t want to prop up my virtual community at the expense of my flesh and blood friendships.  I don’t want to chase facebook influence over motherhood influence.  Whether online or off, I want to see souls and stories, not numbers.

I want goals to be tools that stretch me to defy stagnant and comfortable, not measuring sticks of my worth.  I want to believe with all my being that the weight of a moment flows not from productivity (or success, or bank account numbers) but from love.

Yes.  There it is.  I’d rather be known offline for my reflection of God’s love, than online as the girl with a million followers.

And I’d rather simply know and be known by God than chase anything else.  Because right there in His arms I find that I really am simply enough…and I can barely breathe that much peace in.

So what do you think it would take to make you worth something?  Would you dare to believe that you are already worth more than you believe?  When you trade in the thief of not enough for the Giver of worth, you’ll find yourself loved exactly where you are…simply as is.

John 10:9-11 (NIV)

9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

 

2 Timothy 1:9

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,

 

1 John 3:1

3 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

 

Romans 5:8

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.


Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

 

Adoption Stories to Empower Your Next Step

My Christmas tree is already up which means November is ending…and with it our celebration of adoption here at lesstobemore.  But for some of you, maybe it’s just the beginning of a new journey.  I hope these past four weeks have given you inspiration, perspective, resources, and courage. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have more questions; I never would have adopted if it hadn’t been for others who acted as guides for me.  Or if you connected with the story of one of my friends, they’d love to talk with you as well and I can pass along their information.

Hopefully you feel a little more confident to take that NEXT STEP on your adoption path, big or small.  Don’t be discouraged if your steps seem small at first…trust me, they all add up!

Photo Credit: Daniel Reche- Pixabay.com

And even if you never plan to adopt, I hope this month has opened your mind to what adoption looks like, and will give you tools to have helpful conversations with others about adoption.

In closing, I’m excited leave you with some parting stories from my friends that may infuse you with fresh hope and faith to take with you no matter what your story may be.  And if you want a practical next “baby step”, consider checking out one of the links at the end of the post!!

Closing Stories from Friends:

Lisa: (Private US Adoption) God’s hands were definitely all over this adoption, which sadly we really didn’t see until the day we got the call that we were matched. A few weeks before we got the call, [my husband] and I were sitting on the couch and decided to list our Top 5 girls names and Top 5 boys names and see what matched. There were a couple similarities for boys, but both of us had the same Top 2 for girls: Sarah and Grace. So we kind of decided that if we were matched with a girl, we would name her Sarah Grace.

A few weeks later we got the call that a baby was born and the birthmother had chosen us to be the adoptive parents. The birthmother’s name is Sarah. Knowing full-well that we had the right to change the baby’s name to whatever we wanted, she named her Grace.  We kept Grace as her first name but changed her middle name…

Terry: (International Adoption- Korea) I have learned that you need to trust yourself and God in this process. Do what is right for you as a couple and not worry about what others think you should/should not do. It is you who is 24/7 with the child. You are who matters.
I learned that even if I had a rough start with placement, I grew to love my daughter wholeheartedly.

Caroline: (Foster to Adopt)  I loved being able to surprise friends and family members. We kept her a secret from a lot of people until we actually brought her home so we could walk into the room with a baby in arms. It was a very joyful time!

Becky: (Foster to Adopt) We were very specific about what circumstances we were willing to consider for an adopted child. My husband and I had different feelings on it, but needed to agree to make it doable. So we wanted a perfectly healthy baby. This can be a challenge when many of the babies are exposed to drugs, alcohol and abuse/neglect. When we heard F’s name and description she seemed perfect! To me her name told me she was the one God had chosen for us. I went out that day and bought all 6mth old girl clothes and baby items… on faith alone that she would be ours. When we were told we were chosen it was like we won the lottery for millions of dollars. That phone call and the moment she arrived to our home were 2 incredible memories of joy like no other that I will never forget.

Pamela: (International Adoption- Ethiopia) We began our adoption journey with a prompting from the Lord on our hearts. We knew that if tragedy happened to our family we would want our children to be taken care of properly. Why couldn’t we be that for another family in need? God took a family in Ethiopia and stitched it together with our American family to make a beautiful blended family. They were praying for help and we were praying to be used. At each stage or obstacle God provided a way, lack of money God provided through a grant, language barrier God used our ESL educated daughter, matched with twin boys but God changed that to a brother and sister, stuck in Ethiopia due to incorrect document friends enlisted senator to bring us home, our lack of diversity God brings another African to our family through marriage. God is all knowing and all powerful which makes resting in Him for all the answers so much easier when challenges inevitably occur.


Some Final Links….(to pick up where I left off!)

If you’re looking for a support group that covers multiple adoption issues and offers a place ask more questions, check out this Facebook group:

Creating a Family: Talk about Adoption and Infertility

If you’re looking for more information about foster-to-adopt options in your state, check out this link:

Adopt Us Kids: State adoption and foster care information

Looking for more specific information on International Adoption?

Intercountry Adoption: (travel.state.gov)

Interested in finding specific steps for a private adoption?  Here’s a link for you!

How to do a Private Adoption

And finally, if you’re interested in Embryo Adoption, check out this link:

Embryo Adoption Awareness

Thanks so much for joining us this month!  And a HUGE thanks to all my contributors- this wouldn’t have happened without you!!

 

 

Is Love Biased? (On loving adopted & bio kids- PLUS!-how siblings reacted to adoption)

Can you love adopted and biological children the same?

Maybe it’s a question people are afraid to ask, but the curiosity lingers.  It’s human to fear what we’re not certain of… and it’s not really a selfish fear.  The last thing we want is to adopt a child only to discover that we can’t give them all the love they deserve.

But as someone who has had children through birth and adoption, I’ve found that love doesn’t know how to be partial and it certainly isn’t weighted more deeply by flesh and blood.

Adoption, like birth, is a path to parenthood and doesn’t dictate our capacity to love.  As I go through my normal day, I’m rarely thinking about the fact that my youngest is adopted.  When I’m scolding kids for sneaking candy, reading books and chasing kids at the park, or apple picking together… I don’t compartmentalize my kids or have stronger feelings of joy, pride, irritation, or protection over one than another.There are certainly differences between adoptive and biological children: I can’t go hunting for pieces of myself or my husband in our adopted son.  (Although honestly, sometimes that’s freeing because he gets to be himself- nobody can try to claim every piece of him!)  I also can’t parent him expecting him to be “just like me” or “just like his father”.  I may have a learning curve when trying to approach his unique personality and traits since I can’t chalk it up to a hand-me-down traits.  Though at the same time, I can’t assume parenting my bio kids is easier just because we have genetic similarities.

All three of my kids have wildly different personalities and annoyingly varied responses to discipline.  In fact, recently we’ve gotten professional counseling to help better parent one of our biological kids because even with shared DNA we don’t always have all the tools or wisdom to know what each child needs.  I parent each child slightly differently, but my ability to love each is the same.

Here’s what I know about my adopted son:

  • When he had trouble breathing during bad congestion, my mama heart was ready to take him to the ER, no questions asked.
  • When he paints pictures at school I’m so happy to make room for them on the fridge.
  • When he’s sad or left out my heart is sad with him (unless he’s sad because I made him return the tic-tacs he sneaked from my bag.)
  • When he needs extra help with speech, I gladly advocate for him and find him the support he needs.
  • When I tuck him in at night and he says “I lud you”, my heart melts all over again every time.
  • When I look into his little face I’m so grateful that he’s mine, perhaps in a more profound way than even with my biological children.  This doesn’t mean I love him more, but that I’m more keenly aware of the unmerited grace that brought him to us.
  • I’m fiercely protective and proud of him.
  • I post adorable pictures of him perhaps to an obnoxious degree on social media.

Love isn’t measured by DNA or birth.  Love is what pulls us out of bed to feed a baby in the middle of the night when we have no energy at all; love is something we give with no other prerequisite or merit than “you’re mine”; love cooks and cleans and wipes smudges off cheeks and then does it again the next day; love comforts and disciplines and calls someone higher into who they’re meant to be; love isn’t manufactured and it isn’t always a warm fuzzy feeling; but love is what calls you to bring a life into your home even before you ever see their face or feel their heartbeat or know their name.

If fear of being able to love an adopted child is the biggest thing holding you back, I’d suggest you do a quick inventory of all the people you love who aren’t flesh and blood related to you.  I imagine your spouse is on that list, and perhaps a few close friends and beyond.  I know the love we have for children feels like a whole different category, but our hearts are designed to make room for love beyond logic, beyond biology.  I really believe that if you take that step of faith towards adoption you’ll find your heart has no trouble wrapping itself completely around a little life, even if your mind feels a little unsure at first.

If you have your own story of adoption or making room to love, I’d enjoy hearing your story!!  Share below in the comments or on my facebook page!  And speaking of friend’s stories, below you’ll find a few stories of how parents and siblings of adopted children learned to make room in their homes for a sweet new child:

Sibling Adoption Stories From Friends…

Terry: International Adoption- Korea D was not very happy about giletting a sibling. He liked being an only child. He was 4 ½. We took him to our Agency visits so he would learn about E as we did. He seemed ok with it. His personality was completely different than E’s. We let him know that these are things we did while waiting for him to join our family.

Becky: (Foster-to-Adopt) We always talked about [adoption] as if it were a normal part of life. So when the time came for it the kids had been thinking about it and excited for it for awhile. They had written the new baby notes and bought little gifts in anticipation for the babies arrival. It all happened so fast that my son came off the bus one day and walked into the house and we said … come meet your new baby sister. He felt like he had just won the lottery too!

Pamela: (International Adoption- Ethiopia) Since we already had 5 biological children we asked the eldest their opinion on adopting first. At Christmas we made the announcement to the rest of the children. We were careful to not upset birth order. In the first couple years of bringing 2 new children into the home we worked very hard to give the 2 kids closest in age more attention since it was big adjustment.

Carrye: (Foster-to-Adopt) Yes, I’m sneaking one last thought in here: When we were preparing to bring our son home, we prayed almost nightly with our kids for a new baby.  Even as we were learning to wait on God, our kids were learning a similar lesson.  Since our son was an emergency placement and we brought him home so quickly, the end result was a whirlwind for us and our kids.  Our daughter cried at first because she “wanted a sister!” but quickly came to love her new brother.  A beautiful side-effect of bringing our children into our adoption story is that now it’s part of their “normal”.  When my daughter talks about having kids, she always mentions that she plans to adopt too.


Parting Thought: I don’t want to gloss over the ache of infertility or the deep fear that adopting a child might feel like a “less perfect” way to grow a family.  If that is your story, my heart breaks for you and the last thing I want to do is invalidate you or your very real struggle.  If you’re wrestling over guilt in choosing adoption after infertility, I’d refer you to this post titled “Second Best or Second Choice?” and hope it encourages you.

I’m Thankful for Friends Who Talk Adoption

“You know your Mom’s not your real mom,” he quipped casually.

My heart nearly tripped as the words rounded the corner from the room where my older kids were playing with a friend.

“You’re adopted,” he continued. “Your mom’s not your real mom.”

We’re not adopted,” my daughter countered, “just our brother.”

I cried from outside the door.  I couldn’t speak in the moment, but deep inside I planned out a whole Mama bear list of things to talk to my big kids about later.  I was grateful the comment had no power to threaten their identity, but equally panicked over the reality that those same words might knock my then peanut-of-a-boy over one day.

We’ve always been honest with him about his story precisely so he can own his beginnings and identity.  It’s part of who he is, the messy and the miracle, the painful and the prayed-for.  He is just starting to understand that his story is different from his big siblings.  Most recently he’s started understanding that babies grow inside their Mommies.  He got upset one day when I was telling him about the mom he grew inside of, insisting he’d grown in me instead.  Even though I don’t want him to hurt, I also don’t want to cover the hard parts of his story to protect him, because it will just delay the wound.

But I want him to know at the same time that he is absolutely ours and fiercely loved.  And I wanted my big kids to know to know the same: that I was just as much their brother’s mom as theirs.  No doubt ever.  After their friend left, I told them they should stand up for their brother if they ever heard kids say something like that.  Ever.  It was an important reminder to them and to me to be prepared.

Yet my heart ached over the million imaginary ways my little son might feel out of place, hurt, or unloved because someone else didn’t understand his story.

Still, their friend’s tone had been matter-of-fact, not malicious.  He wasn’t taunting; I believe he was just processing in his own child-like way something that was foreign to him.  So though I was broken by the conversation, I was also thankful to my friend for even trying to explain adoption to her son.  It’s not easy.

What a bizarre cocktail of emotions erupted from one moment.  Welcome to the world of adoption.

People always seem to have something to say, don’t they?  Even under everyday scenarios, someone will be there to tell you to put another layer of clothes on your kid or ask you why you haven’t started your baby on solid foods yet.  Maybe as humans we can’t help ourselves.

But whenever your story is a little bit off the beaten path, people tend to say things that range from comical to extremely hurtful because they just don’t know enough about your story.  Certainly there are some who are just hurtful- who don’t want to even listen.  But I believe most people don’t intend to hurt- they just haven’t had enough experience with adoption so it’s like a foreign language to them, and they need to learn a few common phrases to help them on their journey.

Once a friend of mine was going through a hard situation that I’d never experienced.  I ended up looking up stories and comments from people online who had similar circumstances.  I was so grateful because I’m sure I would have said something absolutely hurtful without meaning to if I hadn’t tried to understand.

And today if YOU are reading this post as we head into Thanksgiving, you’re taking a step towards understanding adoption and I’m so thankful for you.  WE’RE thankful for you, because my friends have some of their own hard and hurtful stories as well.  I hope you’ll listen and learn a little bit about what it’s like to adopt and some simple well-meaning phrases that don’t come across the way you might think.  Some stories are painful to hear, but in sharing maybe we find healing.

Yes adoption is a many-layered wonder of loss and love.  Not all stories are easy or simple to share.  But I’m hoping that as we bring it into the open and talk more, our adopted children will grow up being confident of who they are, without fear that their story is wrong because it’s different.

(Maybe we’re doing OK because our kid so far has no shortage of confidence in being himself.)


Friends Share Their Adoption Stories…

*What people said to them that made them uncomfortable, and how they talk about adoption with their own kids.*

Pamela: (International Adoption- Ethiopia) People often talk romantically about adoption and how “lucky” our kids are to be in our family. I am always uncomfortable with that talk because it seems to gloss over all the loss the children have experienced in their short lives.
Also, I get annoyed when people think that threats of punishment or consequences will be effective on kids from trauma… they have lost their culture, language, birth family, and anything familiar; what could you take from them that is more valuable than those? My children are much more motivated by knowing you love and care about them as a person.

Since our children were older and of different race it is obvious that were adopted. I have always been comfortable telling their adoption story. I believe that when I keep silent the children might get the idea I am ashamed or uncomfortable with their life story. I even spoke to their school about adoption in 2nd grade so their friends could learn their story. Our children did nothing wrong to deserve their difficult start and I want then to hear that message over and over.

Terry: (International Adoption- Korea)  A Hispanic woman made Chinese eyes asking if daddy was Chinese, Other questions, “is he black”, “what is he”, and he has “horse hair”; “chinky chinky chinaman- go back to where you came from” from 5th graders to my Kindergartener on the bus to/from school. Also great was my mom asking for me to give him back so I could get a white one…… lovely.

We celebrate anniversaries – no gifts.. We would show the movie “here comes D” or “E’s arrival” which led to their stories. Dad and I got married and started [a family]…Because we wanted children to fill out our family, we brought you into the family. You joined us on this day, so it’s your anniversary of becoming part of [our] family! The kids, especially E, really enjoyed their videos. They heard pet names used by the adoption staff and could see who was there not only when at the airport, but later at our home.

Caroline: (Foster-to-Adopt)  When I first brought her home somebody asked me, “Where did you get that?” …uh… I’m going to chalk it up to social awkwardness?

I do really appreciate when parents are willing to take the time to explain adoption to their children. My cousins got a book about adoption from the library and read it with their children, and it really helped them to understand that our daughter belonged to our family.

I plan to be open and honest about it [her adoption story], and always allow her to ask questions and talk about it. We will show her pictures and tell her about her birth mom and about how we met her and brought her home, and about her adoption day. We will read books to her that explain adoption at an age-appropriate level.

Lisa: (Private US Adoption) I think for some people it has been hard for them to understand having a semi open relationship with the birth mother. They see it as once you adopt that’s it so why are we having any relations with the birth mother. This has been hard to explain and for them to understand.

Becky: (Foster-to-Adopt) “Why would anyone want to give her up.” This is not true, her mom wanted her very badly but was very sick with addiction and could not provide the care she needed.

I haven’t shared much yet because she is still very little. I do have a shadow box of her outfit she came to us in and some cards sent. I will be open and honest and tell her what is appropriate when she asks.

 

 

 

Agencies, Social Workers and Adoption Types (Oh My!)

Once you truly understand your own story and why you want to pursue adoption, you will have a clearer sense of what TYPE of adoption makes sense for you.

There are two basic categories of adoption*, with many subsets: DOMESTIC ADOPTION and INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION.   (*A third type of adoption is Embryo Adoption, which I’m hoping to have a friend share more about in a future post.  Check out the link if you’re dying to know more now!)

  • Domestic adoption is more of what I’m covering here as it can include any adoption from the US, including private adoption, family member adoption, adoption through foster care system, etc.
  • International adoption is any adoption of a child not born in the United States.  (Note: I do have many friends who adopted internationally, including one woman’s story I’ll be sharing throughout this month’s blogs.  If you have specific questions for them I’d be happy to pass those along to my friends!)

**Since I’m not experienced in all the adoption areas, I encourage you to check out this website for a more comprehensive look at each type of adoption to see what might be a good fit for you.

As you explore adoption options that might work for your family, I’d like to remind you of a couple things to keep you from getting paralyzed in fear or inaction:

  • Every adoption type has it’s own unique risks and blessings.  I think most of us want to find the quickest and least painful way to adopt a child.  We think we can minimize our risk by choosing the “perfect path”.  (BTW, if you find that path please let me know because I’m still looking!)  But nothing in life worth doing is risk-free (from purchasing a home to getting married, from pursuing a degree to writing a book).  As I told someone recently, if you have a passion to adopt or a passion for orphans then there’s a greater risk to your soul in NOT stepping out than in stepping out.  Don’t choose not to adopt simply because you’re afraid of choosing the “wrong path”.
  • There isn’t a “right” way to adopt and all adoptable children are equally worthy of adoption.  Often we get so amped to share our stories of adoption that we can make it sound like our way is the best or only way to adopt.  We might come off at times like the only right way to adopt would be through foster care, or from Ethiopia, or ___________ (fill in your story).  There’s not some chart somewhere that graphs which children are more worthy of adoption than others- all children are worthy and your path will be unique.  Whether you adopt a healthy five year old from the foster-care system, a one year old with down-syndrome from China, an infant through private adoption, (or any other variation), you shouldn’t feel guilt because you think someone else’s story was “truly sacrificial” or more important.  Like I said, let other people’s stories inspire you and stretch your mind to embrace a story you might not have considered, but please let’s drop the “should” because they really don’t help anyone!

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I’d love to share a few personal starter stories of friends who have adopted.  You’ll hear more of their answers through more blog posts.  To protect privacy, I’m giving made-up names for these friends and their children, but most are happy to talk more if you’re interested in following up with more questions.  I also give one caution: each story represents someone’s unique experience.  Since adoption agencies and regulations shift from year to year (eve in the three years since we adopted!) I advise you not to use these stories as guides not rules.  I tried to provide links to any agencies listed, even if the experience was negative, because it’s possible that agency or group that didn’t work for someone else would work for you or has updated to become more user friendly.  With that said, let’s get started!

MEET TERRY! 

  • She adopted two children internationally.

We were adopting in prehistoric times- late 1980’s.  We were told the State/DCF will not provide any sort of adoptions [Carrye’s note: this is no longer true!] so we checked out other options.  Catholic Family Services– we would have an 11 year wait as neither of us was catholic.  Thursday’s Child- were possessive of the adopted child pose placement- ridiculous rules.  My sister’s neighbor adopted from Korea thru FCA and had a great experience.  We were basically self-educated on adoption; it was difficult to find agencies to work with.  We were limited in which country to adopt from due to cost and time off work for various residency requirements (prior to FMLA) and due to family extreme prejudice, what “kind” of baby would be accepted.”

  • What organization she used: Straight placement through Family and Chidlren’s Aid of Norwalk.  They currently have an office in West Hartford and name changed to just Family and Children’s Aid.
  • How she raised funds: “We used up any savings we had.  Made two payments prior to placement and third on delivery.  We were on our own.”  [Carrye’s note: the landscape of adoption fundraising has changed significantly- more details on that to come!]
  • Her suggestion for people just starting out: Keep a binder with a list of organizations you are looking at.  Try to keep a note on each place- who you contacted, how did you feel about pre/post placement requirements (rate 1-5), how comfortable were you while discussing (rate 1-5), how about the financial requirements + the inevitable incidentals that come up (rate 1-5).  Be sure to list anything that feels wrong- requirements, timeline, $$$, etc.  Just a few word, not the kitchen sink.”  🙂

MEET CAROLINE!

  • She adopted through DCF Foster-to-Adopt program in CT. 

We considered both private and DCF, but a few factors that influenced our decision were cost, waiting time, and understanding the need for safe and loving homes in the foster care system.”

  • What organization she used: Waterford Country School
  • How she raised funds:  “Not Applicable- the state provides all the funding for DCF adoptions through foster care”
  • Her suggestion for people just starting out: “We were fortunate enough to have friends go through the process before us so we had a good understanding of how it worked.  We took it one step at a time, and prayed and talked about it as a couple a lot.” 

MEET LISA!

  • She adopted an infant through Private Adoption in the US.

“We decided on private adoption because we knew we wanted a newborn and a child that wasn’t foster to adopt where we had the chance that the baby might be taken away from us.”

  • What organization/agency she used: “Waterford Country School did our home study and pre and post placement visits.  Our adoption agency was American Adoptions.”
  • How she raised funds: “At one point we did a small fundraiser but we mainly had help from our families.”
  • Her suggestion for people just starting out: “I would want them to know that it can be a long process. That at times you will feel all you are doing is paperwork and paperwork that tells all the small details about your life.  The waiting can be hard and seems like it can take forever but in the long run the wait is totally worth it.”

MEET BECKY!

  • She adopted through the DCF foster-to-adopt program in CT.
  • What organization/agency she used: “…[we] used a private agency through Waterford Country Schools. It was grant funded to use WCS.  We had heard that a few families from our church had gone this route and had a great experience.   We knew we would be getting the same social worker who came highly recommended.”
  • Her suggestion for people just starting out: “Go sit in some information sessions and just get things started.  It seems overwhelming but once you get the ball rolling there are people around to hold your hand through the process and make it very doable.  We were blessed to be supported with amazing social workers.” 

TERMS DEFINED!

Home Study: This is essentially the review of your home and paperwork (performed by a social worker) of your family background/situation to make sure your home is safe and your family is able to care for a new child.  At first I viewed this as a test that I was afraid to fail, but it’s better to view it as preparation for you and your social worker.  If your home has minor issues (peeling paint, needs updated child safety locks, etc) your social worker doesn’t “fail” you…they tell you the areas you need to fix to bring your home up to their standards.  Then you continue your process!  It also gives the social worker a chance to get to know who you are uniquely as a family.  This information helps future social workers or, in the case of private adoption, birthparents who are looking to understand what kind of family they’d like to place their child in.

Social Worker: An adoptive social worker is a licensed professional who helps families/children in various steps of adoption.  They can work for agencies or the government.  We had one social worker (primarily for us as parents) that did our home study and called us to tell us about potential children we were matched with; another we only knew briefly as she was in charge of actually finding placements for the children that came into DCF care; yet another social worker (technically our son’s social worker) visited us regularly while we were fostering our son and gave us updates on paperwork and where the State was in our adoption process.  The social worker who did our home study also checked in on us periodically while we waited for a placement, went to the hospital with us to help us pick up our baby, and checked in on us afterwards as part of post-placement services.  Our two long-term social workers became friends to us, and were both present at our son’s adoption in court!

Me holding our son for a first official post-adoption family picture with our amazing judge in court.

This has been a lot of information to throw at you at once, but I hope that it’s been helpful!  Tune in next time to learn about Open/Closed adoptions and my personal story for those that are afraid to know their adoptive child’s birthparents.  I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation!

 

 

 

 

Adoption Starts With a Story

November is National Adoption Month and I’m celebrating big on my blog! Maybe you’ve always wanted to adopt but your questions so far outweigh your answers that you wouldn’t know where to start.  If that’s you, I hope you’ll find encouragement, practical advice, and some resources to move you even a little farther along in your journey.

If you have no desire to adopt, I hope you’ll still find a fresh awareness of adoptive families as you learn more about the journeys of myself and a handful of friends.

If you don’t like kids at all…well…check back in December.  🙂

So why should I be telling you about adoption?  For one, because I’m not an adoption expert.  (The first thing you should know about adopting is that you don’t have to be an expert to pull it off.  It helps to have some facts and to prepare yourself for your journey, but what you most need is a heart to connect with a child and perhaps the physical ability to chase them around a grocery store.  But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.)

The truth is, I’ve invested numerous hours in personal adoption research spanning private domestic, overseas, and foster-care adoption.  I’ve had in person or phone interviews with a few agencies.  I’ve made intentional meetings with friends who are adoptive parents, wielding notebook and pen to jot down their every insightful thought on adoption.  I have relatives who have adopted and graciously allowed me to peer into and even be part of their family’s story.  I’ve read and skimmed through stacks of books and websites to satisfy my curiosity on the subject and prepare for our own adoption.

I’ve also spent months getting licensed (home study, paperwork, background check and all that jazz) in order to adopt a child through foster-care adoption in CT (DCF).  In 2014 we brought an infant child into our home and were able to finalize our adoption in court about a year later.  So I have a lot of practical experience and a passion for adoption that kind of just oozes out of me at this point.

But I’m not an expert because I’m not sure such a thing exists in adoption world.  “Adoption” is a term that refers to such a wide range of families, situations, and constantly fluctuating legalities, that no one person really has the definitive answers.

Some of you are thinking, “EXACTLY!  How can I adopt when it’s so hard to find answers?  P.S.  I thought you were supposed to be encouraging me, not overwhelming me.  Gah!”

Before you lose heart, the beautiful thing about so many kinds of adoption is that there’s no one right way to do it.  Instead of feeling trapped by overload, breath in the fact that options are your friend.

Also, you don’t need all the answers to get started.  I believe it’s far more important to know others who have taken the adoption journey ahead of you- to know you’re not alone- to know where to turn when you need some advice.  That’s where this experienced-but-non-expert comes in.

When I first started out, adoption was like this crazy out-of-reach dream that only a handful of people I knew had accomplished. Mostly it was for rich celebrities and people with perfect houses who vacuum wearing pearls and take family pictures where everyone is not only smiling but wearing matching clothes custom made by a clothing company I can’t pronounce.  Minimally, it was for people who knew what they were doing.

Then I started talking to people about adoption- normal people with kitchens that sometimes piled up with dishes like mine and whose children weren’t glowing and angelic 24/7.  And these people didn’t claim to have all the answers; in fact many of them had more questions than before they started.  But they’d adopted anyway.  I found out that adoption isn’t perfect and neither are the people that open their lives to it.  And in those imperfect stories I found courage to step out.

Think about it a different way: suppose you were a high school senior who didn’t personally know anyone who’d ever been to college.  You were faced with a bajillion college choices, application deadlines, and majors to pick from.  You might have lots of great information and guidance counselors, but you’d be daunted without being able to hear someone’s story first hand.  How did they pay for college? How did they feel confident in their decision of schools?  What do they wish they’d known before they started their freshman year?  What you need is a story.

Textbook or professional answers are practical tools to move us along in our journey, but personal stories fuel our courage to begin and a passion to sustain us in our journey.

That’s what I want this month to be about on my blog: personal stories to fuel your courage to begin.  Passion to sustain you in your journey.  And if nothing else, some heart-opening stories that give you a clearer window into adoption than you had before.  I hope you’ll check in often this month.

Here’s what you can expect in the coming weeks:

  •  My personal story of our DCF adoption including what it’s like having biological kids and an adopted child.
  • What real adoptive parents wish they’d known when they started out (and other answers from adoptive families.)
  • Some obstacles you may encounter/potential resources to help!
  • Links and references to adoption agencies…
  • Further adoption community resources…
  • And more!

I hope you’ll check back in often!  If you are considering adoption, I’d love to hear your questions!  If you’d rather meet in person to connect and ask the gritty questions, send me a message here or connect on FB and I would be happy to meet or chat with you.

If you have adopted and want to add your voice to the conversation, please do!  We all need your story.

 

 

Fantasy Football Theology of Unity

You know that obnoxious person on your Fantasy Football team who has absolutely no business being there?  They own an official jersey for their favorite team, but you’re pretty confident they wouldn’t be able to pick out their team’s starting QB in a lineup of three people; they rarely watch any games so they foolishly place all their strategy eggs in the “projected points” basket on any given week; they have the nerve to use an outdated “egg” idiom to describe football.

My name is Carrye, and I’m that obnoxious person.  (Nice to meet you.)

For all the reasons I don’t really belong in my fantasy league, I admit I’m becoming a bit obsessed with it.  I’m tracking player injuries, add/dropping players like a boss, and occasionally staying up way past my bedtime on Monday nights to see if I pulled out ahead of my fantasy opponent.

But here’s my problem- I’m so devoted to the fantasy part of football that I’m completely missing the non-fantasy point.  Let me explain.

Exhibit A- Week 5: Vikings Vs Bears

I was losing by a hair going into Monday night’s game, and had placed my only hope in the questionably capable hands of Minnesota’s Adam Thielen.  I’d read stats that suggested he was performing better than expected.  Then again, I only hear the stats I want to hear.  I was optimistic about pulling ahead until I looked at my opponent’s final player- Stefon Diggs.  Through painstaking research I discovered a little known fact: both players were on the same team.  I know…my powers of observation are keen.

I won’t bore you with how football works, since you probably know the basics: endzones, tight pants, those yard lines that magically appear on the TV aren’t really on the field, and all that jazz.  But the bottom line is that two teams play against each other to see who gets more points. (Call me Captain Obvious but I’m setting up a point I promise.)

In my great desire to win a fantasy game, I changed the goal of the game to “how can my player on the same team beat his fellow teammate?”  Not team vs. team.  No glorious community win.  I pitted brother against brother because my focus was on a fantasy issue- a decoy problem that distracted me from the real-life, larger purpose of football.  The Vikings won (actual goal met) but I sulked over a personal fantasy loss of .4 points.  (My player did score more points, though. So. Yeah.)

Where’s the theology in all this convoluted fantasy football analogy?

It doesn’t take a lot of digging today to find ways to disagree with those around us.  It’s practically an epidemic, and trust me I’ve been infected.  Of all the divisions though, the Christian vs. Christian rifts are the most sobering and appalling for me.  Unlike fantasy football, many of the issues we disagree with aren’t skin deep- they are places we have strong convictions about and strong emotions over.  I’m not suggesting we bury our convictions or stop taking a stand for the justice around us. (Ask for discernment.)

But sometimes in our division we get so focused on where we disagree that we lose sight of the “ultimate purpose” of following God (pursuing peace, justice, love and freedom with God), and instead focus on the “decoy purpose” of being right…or feeling justified…or proving someone else wrong.

(Guilty as charged.)

Colossians 3:12-15 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” [Emphasis mine]

There are a million problems with the world, and we are called to step out and make a difference hand in hand with our brothers and sisters. But for myself (maybe you can relate) I need to ask myself what it looks like to pursue the real life goals of peace and justice with brothers and sisters that I don’t always agree with.  What does it look like to bear with others, forgive grievances, and find peace as members of one body or team?  That’s a real life-changing goal.  And unlike the ease of my fantasy click and drag investment, it’s going to require real life sacrifice and sweat.  And it will probably take a lot of practice.

Still… I’d rather stop caring about a .4 point loss striving against a decoy enemy and  instead enjoy the victory of a messy community that disagrees sometimes but chooses to work together to love and serve the world anyway.  In the meantime, my ESPN app is calling…


Your thoughts?  I don’t have many answers here.  Where are the places that we can stand up with our fellow brothers and sisters to give freedom, hope and justice to others?

 

 

One of the Afflicted (Friend Post Friday #7)

Well, I am technically a week late, but have no fear, September’s Friend Post Friday is here!  I’m eager to introduce you to Annie Bartosiak, someone I’ve just met within the past year but have already learned so much from.  She grew up in Killingworth, CT and if she’s not enjoying a hike you might find her quietly people watching.  She has a passion for traveling, and recently returned from a lengthy trip that included Australia, Thailand, and Europe!  If you get the privilege of talking over coffee with Annie, you’ll find that she is a beautiful mix of bold and humble.  She wears her passions on her sleeve, is constantly exploring books and subjects that stretch her, and listens well to the perspective of others (a difficult trait to find!)  I may be a little biased because she washed my dishes for me, but I believe Annie has a needed perspective that flows out of the introspective journey of her travels and beyond.  I hope her wisdom touches you!


“One of the Afflicted”

by Annie Bartosiak

After having travelled extensively earlier this year, I returned home with an increased sense of awareness and curiosity which has driven me to question certain situations I am now encountering in my daily life.
I am allowing myself time and space to observe, feel and reflect (a process I believe many people in today’s society are too rushed, self-absorbed, detached or perhaps apprehensive to engage in) in order to try and figure out how I can live my best life possible.
Through my reflections, I stumbled upon two different yet interrelated themes which seem to explain much of the chaos afflicting us internally, which has rooted itself in how we perceive and conduct ourselves as a whole in society.
The first is the belief in redemption. Nowadays, when many individuals do not have a religious affiliation, or if one does, is not fully committed to the scale of belief/devotion that true following entails, it leaves one in a very murky state of mind and vulnerable state of being. Our insecurity, as a result of unbelief, leaves us unfilled, constantly participating in distracting or destructive behavior. I am not saying one is not allowed to have doubts; rather, today one is overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choice when it is no longer predicated on fundamental principles or beliefs. It begs the question, “What would my life look like if I lived out my true beliefs?”
There are times when I feel consumed by hopelessness. It has taken me awhile to figure out that not only are outside influences affecting me (the world is so big and has so many issues that I know I cannot fix myself), but internally I am not actually following and practicing my beliefs to the fullest extent. To give a small example, I am an advocate for eco-friendly practices. I strive for zero waste overall. I like to bring a reusable cup with me for coffee (or a mason jar if I know I’ll be getting a juice or smoothie). If I have forgotten to plan ahead and there are not in house reusable choices, I will opt out of getting something. I know this might sound a little silly and extreme, but I would not be able to enjoy the indulgence if there is waste attached which the environment would suffer for as a result. It makes me sad to be in a disposable culture where most people don’t even think of the effects of their choices. But I will not hold it against them. I just choose a different path for myself-I have the power to live out my personal choice/belief and also to not judge another for his/her own.
Lack of absolution leaves our society and oneself spinning in circles. We become susceptible to misguided (in extreme cases, perverted) thoughts. Today, we are seeing contention engulf groups of individuals concerning issues we believed we had already fought and won as a larger society.
I am also not saying we all have to share the same beliefs, merely, that our collective beliefs need to be united in striving to support and sustain everyone’s wellbeing. I want to be able to lift you up and be lifted in return. This line of thought leads me to my second theme: the discipline of restraint.
You give to others what you receive from them. Giving kindness in return for kindness is easy. It is also easy to fall into negativity and offense when it is shown to us or it is what we constantly encounter in our everyday lives. We need to endeavor to rise above and give kindness to all, especially to those who seem incapable of reciprocating.
For instance, I was recently at the supermarket buying a few groceries when I encountered such a situation. I chose the self checkout lane since I reasoned I could go at my own pace which might even be quicker than the regular line. There were a couple people standing in each line so I waited behind an older woman who only had the similar few items in her cart. It took me a minute or two to realize that the associate was helping another woman ahead of both of us scan a full stack of coupons into the system. I knew it might take a little longer, but I decided to sit back and relax and just let my mind wander. Others were not at the same leisure. Suddenly the woman in front of me spoke up abruptly (shouting the distance of 3 cart lengths to the associate in front of her), “Do you think you will be done anytime soon?” Her tone was not pleasant, with a note of irritation one can normally brush off in public. The associate responded, “I’m sorry. I’m not sure.” The woman continued, insistent, “Well how long do you think you’ll take?” The associate held up the stack of coupons to show her the extent of his task, shrugged and said, “I don’t really know-a couple of minutes or more probably.” Now there was a woman with a cart full of groceries and children in the line next to us. She said to the woman, “You can go ahead of me. That’s no way to talk to someone.” This remark diverted the woman’s attention and irritation towards the other and she replied, “You have to right to say that to me.” And the other responded, “Well you really shouldn’t talk to someone like that. Now, I’m telling you, you can go ahead of me.” (And I’m pretty certain she gestured ahead of her own cart to the scanner that was now unoccupied.) The older woman quipped, “I don’t want to go in front of you.” And truth be told, that is the moment I walked off shaking my head. Being in the midst of negative emotions really affect me a lot, but even after I went to another line, paid for the items and left, I could not stop thinking about the entire situation. We (I’m generalizing the American population) no longer practice patience or understand the power of silence. I have noticed time and again how many have become preachers. A preaching moment causes tension and resistance, whereas, a teaching moment can be silent and impactful. I’m not saying that there is necessarily a right and wrong side to this scenario, just that negativity feeds into negativity. I don’t believe anyone in the vicinity of that exchange left feeling happy or comfortable. At the heart of this problem are grace and humility. In today’s society we indulge ourselves in many superficial and afflictive thoughts, behaviors and emotions. Most of the time we are in our own heads and worlds it doesn’t even occur to us to extend our thoughts and feelings towards others, strangers primarily, to empathize and try to build a positive from the situation. These caustic practices isolate us as well as blind us to the beauty and the power of love and happiness.
Separation supports an unhealthy view of oneself and the world. We, as a whole, feel undeserving, yet incapable of rectifying this attitude. We need reassurance from others. But usually block this need with a wall of contentious superiority. By investing in personal restraint of egotism (restrictive tendencies we sustain that are perceived to be self-fulfilling), we would consciously be opening ourselves up to the support of others. These are the parallels of the afflicted. Freely give to others while practicing restraint within oneself.
We are all broken individuals. Yet we resist this truth. But together we have power. It is time to have faith and reach across the chasm dividing us all, hoping others will reciprocate. If we cannot depose our self-perpetuating actions, if we cannot forgive, we cannot abound.


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