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 been in mine 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.

Briana: (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 BRIANA!

  • 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.


If you have something to add to the conversation, please join in by commenting!  And if you’re interested in being a “Friend Post Friday” writer, feel free to contact me!  I’m currently looking for writers for December 2017 and January/February 2018!

Moving On, Community and Letting Go (Friend Post Friday #6)

I still remember the first day I met Maura Eckels, my guest blogger for today.  We were at a mutual friend’s graduation party and her sweet love of children found her gravitating towards the playground where I was swinging my kiddos.  From the first conversation, I could tell Maura oozed passion to taste and change the world- and not just in a passing fad kind of way- the girl was ready to make a real difference.  I was amazed that someone so young was already aware of such a deep calling on her life.  It’s no surprise then that her faith and heart have since taken her to Franciscan University where she’s enrolled in theology and human life studies, with plans to graduate and carry God’s heart wherever He takes her.  If you ever have the pleasure of talking with Maura, you’ll find yourself caught up in her smile and eager dialogue, while simultaneously feeling challenged to fully live your beliefs and convictions the way she does.  Her journey hasn’t been easy, and in fact her life circumstances have made tuition alone very difficult for her.  I’m sharing with you her tuition go-fund-me page in the hopes that you will read more of her story and please help out financially if you are able!  And I hope you’ll stick around to be inspired as she shares her honest beautiful thoughts.

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“Moving On, Community and Letting Go”

by Maura Eckels

There’s this closing scene in a film called Brooklyn that deeply moves me. I’m not sure if you’ve seen the movie, but it’s about this young woman from Ireland who takes the boat to New York City and meets this Italian fella. The movie ends with her standing on a street in a city which became her home. She sees her husband after a long period of time (she married the Italian guy), he sees her and then she says this incredible line:

“One day the sun will come out-you might not even notice straight away, it’ll be that faint. And then you’ll catch yourself thinking about something or someone who has no connection with the past and you’ll realize… that this is where your life is.”

As I moved away from Connecticut and into a new home in my college town, I found myself on soccer mom duty for the children of a former professor. Three munchkins, one minivan and an afternoon practice seemed to be the perfect medicine for my soul after a restless day driving to Ohio.

It was here that I was overcome with this same realization. These friends and families around me have become my community. This poverty stricken town has become my home. And for right now, this is where my life is.

Just days before I was cleaning out the childhood bedroom of the home I’ve known for 21 years. I noticed that the mess I was either throwing away or organizing into storage bins paled in comparison to the mess of my heart. On the one hand, I could taste the sweet freedom of moving out for good and on the other, the daunting reality of now facing life with the baggage I’ve accumulated over the years, like dust on a shelf.

As I took one last look at the empty room holding nothing but my battered heart, a truth washed over me that perhaps you can sympathize with: We don’t realize how much crap we have until we sift through it and we can’t see how broken we are until we try to clean shop.

Somehow, I’ve painfully managed to grasp on rather than let go of that which weighs me down. This still small voice would keep asking to lighten the load and to share in my burden, but I couldn’t figure out how to concretely give it over to Jesus. And the truth is, I still can’t. So I resolved to carry it alone. Worse, I accepted that maybe I am alone. After all, how could He possibly be helping if he claims his yoke to be light and mine is so heavy?

Then a beautiful woman reminded me that God will allow you to struggle because He wants you to show up for your own fight. And I remembered all the times I made it through the valley with the help of His grace and once again I am reassured that just as I was victorious before, I will be victorious again.

His grace is sufficient for me. His power is made perfect in my weakness.

So I want Jesus to be my number one. I want him to be enough for me. He is the bridegroom and I am his bride. His love for me is covenant; it’s eternal. My maker wants to marry me. He gives himself totally and completely on the cross, holding nothing back. His body given up for me. Love without condition. And in response to Christ’s disinterested gift of self, I desire to be one right back. I want to love him for his own sake and goodness and not for what he does for me. And I can’t claim to fully love someone whom I fear because perfect love casts out all fear. Therefore, I will continue to ask for the grace to not put God in my own image because it’s a false one. Rather, I hope to see him for who he truly is.

The problem is this: Jesus is not as tangible as I would like him to be. I can’t see his facial expressions, hear the inflection in his voice or know what his laugh sounds like. Does he have a preference in wine? I mean he created the vines, but you never know. It’s the details which seem lacking. He feels less real to me than the people around me even though that’s the furthest from the truth. He’s more real…I know that. Yet my heart won’t consent. I hate admitting that he doesn’t feel enough for me because he is supposed to be. To love God for his own sake means to really know him. But I realized that I don’t know him well because if I did, I wouldn’t fear him.

Yet, I have to believe that the same God who created us for himself in whom we alone find satisfaction and fulfillment is also the same God who said to Adam in the Garden that it is not good for man to be alone. We need others just as much as we need God. I mean Heaven itself isn’t just us alone chillin’ with the Trinity. It’s us, Him and the angels and saints. Even our forever is community. Community is what we’re created for.

I know that soon enough I will have to say goodbye to this community that the Lord has blessed me with these past three years. He’s given me so much more than I could have ever anticipated for myself and for this, I am eternally grateful. As I’ve been learning to detach from objects, people and places, I’ve come to the conclusion that as Elizabeth Bishop says, “The art of losing isn’t hard to master.” Letting go is okay, necessary and good. I don’t think any of us will ever be perfectly content with it, but I can only pray for a holy indifference so that when God asks me to leave, I’ll leave and when he asks me to stay, I’ll stay.

Just as God has given before, he will give again. I’m reminded of this even now surrounded by what feels like an abundance of blessings. Even when we are left with what may seem like nothing and no one, we can have confidence and peace knowing that one day he will fill our cup again. When our brokenness surfaces, we can trust that he will heal us in his timing. We can choose to believe the promise Jesus gives us that everything else will be given to us when we seek first the kingdom of God. So I’m choosing right now to seek him first. I want him to be my priority amidst the struggle of this life. In this pursuit of the one who brought me into being, I can find consolation knowing that he will take care of the rest.

Favorite Five [Shopping] For Freedom

I’m no Oprah, but this girl can still make a list of favorites.  I’ve struggled in recent years with the stark contrast between my excess and other’s lack.  My plenty with another’s need.  And though I know our consumerism is part of the problem, I’m encouraged to find organizations that are creating equalizing opportunities through the very products we buy.  It’s a huge step in the right direction!  You’ve probably heard of organizations like TOMS (the one-for-one charity) or World Vision’s Gift Catalog, but in recent years I’ve connected with some other amazing organizations with crazy heart and a beautiful mission.

With each of the five organizations I’m listing below, I’ve either made a personal connection with a team member, or I’ve personally bought their items.  I can vouch for their work and mission and I’m excited to share them with you today:

1: IMAGINE GOODS

This is a fantastic company I stumbled upon during my involvement with Love146 which seeks to end child trafficking and modern day slavery.  Love146 realized that the t-shirts they sold to promote their organization might actually be perpetuating the very child labor they were seeking to end.  As a result, they partnered up with “Imagine Goods” which provides former victims of trafficking with sustainable employment opportunities.  When you buy through them, you know that the clothes you’re wearing didn’t come at the cost of unfair labor for someone else.  Here are some of the things I’ve bought from them!  (I hope you enjoy my cheesy selfie-modeling poses.)

(Top Picture: “the Kate dress“.  Bottom Picture: (skirt no longer sold) Shirt: The Empowerment Women’s T-Shirt–  SHIRT QUOTE: Empowerment is equipping an author with pen and ink to write their own story.)

AND Better yet, they’re running a sale through Sunday July 23rd! So now is a great time to try them out!

2: NEW CREATION- Design for Justice

I ran into this Harrisonburg, VA based organization through ImagineGoods actually.  While I haven’t ever been to this physical store (it’s on my to-do for one of our next trips south!), they have quite a unique story.  They call this place their “porn shop takeover” where they bought up a building that once perpetuated the trafficking industry and turned that into a powerful weapon against the evil it once stood for.  In their words, their mission is ” counteracting human trafficking through education, awareness, design, + the hope of Christ”.

 

And of course…I bought their “Justice and Coffee” shirt.

Next on my list to buy from them is one of their cool art prints or perhaps some survivor-made lip gloss that supports trafficked victims right out of Nashville, TN.  🙂  Win-win.

3: TRADES OF HOPE

Trades of Hope is very similar to the other two organizations in the ways that it empowers women to support themselves through the production and sale of products.  I love that Trades of Hope reaches out to a variety of women in multiple countries and addresses multiple reasons for poverty (disease, cultural discrimination, trafficking, etc).  But what I additionally love about Trades of Hope is that their sales approach also provides employment opportunities for “Compassionate Entrepreneurs” who sell largely through host product parties.  They sell jewelry, hand-bags, scarves, home-goods, and more- and for each item you can see a little bit of information about the artisans that created the product.  It’s a great way to combat poverty and start some conversations through the items you wear and have in your home!  I’m actually hosting my first Trades of Hope party this Thursday through my May Friend-Post Blogger, Sharon.  So if you’re interested in more information, please check her out!

4: NIGHTLIGHT DESIGN

Also during my time with Love146, we had a man visit and share about his heart to change the trafficking climate by addressing the very men who perpetuated the demand for trafficking.  Since then, he has shifted ministry roles, but he now finds himself working with a mission out of Bangkok Thailand which created “Nightlight Design” . This organization mirrors the others in the way it empowers the trafficking survivors right out of Thailand.  My understanding is that you can “host” a party with friends, church, etc, where Nightlight will send you a box of items to sell, and you return any unsold items and the profits from sales back to their team.  You can also purchase online!

5: AMANI YA JUU (Amani Africa)

Call me crazy, but one morning I woke up with the word “Amani” in my head.  Having no idea what it meant, I looked it up and discovered it means “peace” in Swahili.  So months later when I talked to a friend who worked with an organization called “Amani Ya Juu” I was understandably intrigued.

Amani also allows artisans to create sustainable income through the creation of products.  But Amani has such a unique focus on the communities established through each of their centers (Liberia, Kenya, Uganda, and Chattanooga, TN).  Each of these community centers uniquely reflects the women involved, and provides far more than just training or employment.  Especially in light of the refugee crisis of late, the stories you’ll read about the women who launched Amanai and the centers will truly inspire you.  They are bringing so much life where once was grief and pain.

AND I had the pleasure of visiting their Chattanooga storefront last November-

and was in love with their unique toy items, clothes, greeting cards, and more.  Here’s some pictures to give you an idea:

(This skirt has POCKETS!!! Yes, please!)

Such a great shop, and you can find many of these items and more online as well!


Thanks for hanging around to see a few of my favorite shops for freedom.  This is part of my promise to post about some cool ways you can be part of changing the world with your own “less to be more”.  I’m looking forward to sharing more hands-on opportunities with you soon!  What organizations have you worked with that are empowering people and changing the world?  I’d love to hear about them!

How Many Shades of Gray Faith?

No, the answer isn’t 50.  At least I don’t think so.  It’s a gray area.

Understanding and finding more of God is a process, and we need to give ourselves permission to seek God where our answers seem to run out, where our expectations aren’t quite met, where we can simply be our honest selves.  We might gravitate towards black and white answers and easy spiritual growth- but in my experience, we’re missing so much of God in that safe and sterile Christianity.

I believe we find a lot more of God in the shades and tones of gray, at the end of our control, at the end of what we think it means to just be a “good Christian”, at the end of the simple answers we’ve believed in our head but missed in the depths of our soul.

If you’re looking to step out and meet God in the middle of real life and mess and questions this summer, I invite you to join me for an online “Gray Faith” book study this summer starting Monday June 26th!!

Here are just a few shades of gray you can expect to explore as we go through the 8 chapters of the book:

Gray Beginnings:  Are we believing the lie of “Good Christianity”?  What have we picked up from our spiritual beginnings? What have we grown up believing and how can we critically question those beliefs and spiritual routines in a healthy way?

Gray Christian Culture: What have we been raised in the church to believe?  How has our “Christian culture” shaped our view of God and others, and are we brave enough to step outside of that culture long enough to see the parts that honor God and the parts that may be keeping us from fully experiencing Him?  What are those outside our Christian culture really seeing and hearing from us?

Gray Church:  What does it mean to be part of a church or body of Christ?  How do we handle disagreements and denominations, loving each other and loving the world?  What does it mean to balance each other?  Does God have a one-size-fits-all plan for how church looks?

Gray Sin: What does it truly mean to love a broken world?  Does that look more like waving a protest sign or sincerely listening to people we may not agree with? What does it mean to acknowledge that we’re all broken and need grace?  How do we keep our hearts in check before a Holy God?

Gray Evangelism: What does it look like to “share our faith” with others?  Do we need an exciting before and after story to impact people?  What motivates us to share God with others?  How can we share physical love with people that goes hand-in-hand with our words?  Where have we gotten “evangelism” twisted?

Gray Expectations: What are some of the expectations and assumptions we’ve come to make about God?  Do we perpetually think He’s unhappy with us?  Are we frustrated with Him for not blessing us the way we thought He would when we followed Him?  Our expectations have the power to reveal our true beliefs of God- and wrestling through those expectations honestly helps us find God more intimately.

Gray Walk: What does it look like to grow and change over time with God?  Where are the places that God has been changing our views or opinions?  How do we continue to find God in each season; the waiting and the receiving, the loss and the joy, the beauty and the ashes?  Can our process with God lead us to crave His presence even in the ups and downs?

Gray Answers: At the end of the day, on this side of eternity, we simply won’t have all the answers.  What does it mean to humbly walk with others knowing we don’t have all the answers?  What does it look like to encourage friends without trying to fix their problems with the “right” answer?  How do we handle difficult questions like why God allows pain and suffering?  Can we trust that God is big enough to meet each us uniquely precisely in the gray?


The beautiful thing is, if you’re the extrovert kind of person who wants to get a group together and go through the study with friends, go for it!  I’ve done the study with friends and absolutely loved the raw, genuine conversations that came up.

But if you’re the kind of person who still feels a bit uncomfortable asking gray questions in front of others- if you’d rather just wrestle with God in the privacy of your own home wearing your sweats and a tiara (hey, I’m not judging!) then you can absolutely follow along on your own.

Either way, here’s what to do to JOIN THE ONLINE STUDY:

  1. Optional: Purchase a “Gray Faith” book (paperback or kindle version) here: Gray Faith Book (Note: you can still follow along with the study videos/questions without having a book.)
  2. “Like” my facebook author page, where I’ll be posting all my updates and videos!
  3. Check into facebook every Monday for a new video and FREE weekly Study Guide downloads on my blog!
  4. Comment on the weekly video to join the conversation, challenge others, and open up about your own process with God.  This is one of the most exciting parts for me- really getting to connect with YOU and hear your heart.
  5. Share with friends!  If you know someone who might be interested in joining, or if you find encouragement from the study, please pass the news along!

Thanks so much for checking in; I can’t wait to start this “Gray Faith” journey with you all.

We Are the Collective (Friend Post Friday #2)

I’m excited to introduce you to my brother, Ben Martin, the second author in my monthly “Friend Post Fridays” series.  Ben may be the youngest of the four of us kids, but he daily inspires me in his simplicity of living, his desire to truly listen and engage with those around him, and his big heart and humor.  Ben doesn’t just talk, he DOES.  When he’s not traveling, he’s working hard, being WITH people (all in), or maybe writing music.  You can check out more of his music on his Youtube Channel.  He doesn’t settle for status quo, and he doesn’t want us to either- so I hope you are challenged by his blog today.  


“We Are the Collective” by Ben Martin

What is in a name but just what we have limited it to be? The infrastructure of our mind is more advanced than we let on, more than we can understand. One must think outside the box as it were, but thinking outside the box has become a box in and of itself. There’s no such thing as hipsters. We act like by complete choice we do what we do, and wear what we wear, but there is an extreme influence present that affects all of us whether we’d like to admit it or not. I hesitate to even say the “S” word because it could just be placed in another box, shipped off by an amazon drone to a part of your brain that doesn’t pay a mind to what it thinks it has heard before. Maybe this topic has been introduced previously, but how can that negate the importance? And, if we choose not to listen to this, what is IT that we are listening too? Even when you zone out or drive zombie-like to work, we are listening. We are watching. We are absorbing something. Sometimes our sub-conscious is accepting things all the time without us realizing. We see something or read an article and it makes sense only because we’ve SEEN it. It has made itself visible to us. New ideas didn’t begin until someone said what if we did it THIS way, or what if the world was not flat, but in fact round. Let us look at what is around us and make an accurate judgement.

Maybe I should just come out and say it…..society. There, it’s done. Don’t judge me. Instead, think about how real it is and how it affects you. Do you feel this affect is positive or negative, maybe both? Do you find yourself questioning much of what you do? Are you easily swayed by others opinions? Have you been raised a certain way that in turn makes you think a certain way? How should we define the word society? These are questions I like to ask just for us to get a better view of where we stand. You may have a vision of where you’d like to stand, but that does not always match up with the facts. I would love to be on a beach in Tahiti right now, but If I pull up the gps on my phone it shows me what I already know, that I am sitting in a hobbit hole in Connecticut on a cold winter night with snow coming in a few hours. It’s the truth. Not something you hear every day. I wonder the legitimacy of most news articles and people on television that like to paint a picture. Who’s to say that last article you read about such and such a leader did terrible things was created on false facts just to stir up trouble, to get us angry and emotional. Well, it works. We have a feeling and we run with it. It’s easy to keep a fire going once there’s a few hot coals. With this, the truth becomes almost trivial and only a word to get us believing whatever is put forth.

There is a depth to each person’s soul where at some point they’re asking “why?”. They are asking the deep questions of life. Advertisements and television and news have discovered THIS truth, and used it in such a way to get what they want. If they get us to a point where we no longer think but just do, we are perfect products of our society and aren’t exercising one of our biggest gifts, which is the ability to think and question. A mistake for us would be to equate average living with something somehow entirely separate from what society would tell us ‘average living’ should look like. I am impacted by society just as much as the next guy, and isn’t that the point? We try to distinguish and separate and individualize ourselves, but how is that not interconnected with a collaborative source of people all trying to do the same thing. There’s no such thing as hipsters.

Please don’t write this post off as a purely negative attack looking to point out where you’re all wrong and lost and controlled unknowingly. The fact is, those statements might have some truth, but my purpose behind the glass is to evaluate how everything around us is affecting us, and how it can be both positive and negative, and how we might respond to these effects. It comes easy for me to write overarching ideas and themes, to outline an issue or introduce a doctrine, but it becomes more difficult when getting down to specifics. Therefore, it is my job as the writer to give examples and pull from experiences and point to events and occurrences. It’s true, just as society is an integral force in influencing the general public, I too am looking to influence you and uncover what otherwise might remain buried. Most of what society and television touch upon resides on the surface level in which the ground we walk can even become foreign if we’re not constantly digging. What makes up the dirt, the soil, the minerals, the roots, the magma, the stuff we tread on the daily commute? We know much less than our superhero pop-culture news reports might have us believe.

Personally, I pay very little attention to the news. The only time I know what’s going on around in the world is when I hear it from a friend or co-worker. I haven’t invested in keeping up with current affairs because I tell myself it’s all gobblesmack. Yes, gobblesmack. But this is the world I live in and I am affected by what happens around me. To go further, am I not exercising my fullest potential when I choose hiding over acknowledgement that there are important things going on right now and I play a part? Do we play a part? Do we believe that what we do matters? Some people refuse to vote because they know they’re one vote really won’t make a difference. I haven’t even registered to vote yet in however many years of eligibility. To me I didn’t think much of it, and I felt more just in doing nothing. But that’s part of the problem, when we disassociate or do not recognize ourselves as part of the collective, we will more easily skip out on action. What if we could put a name to society? Or how we would like it to be? What does that look like? We can invest in each other’s lives. Invest in people from all cultures to grow and gain a better perspective. To experience love in all its forms and hate as well, but to embrace emotions and beliefs and both joy and sorrow that comes from this.

Since we’re so good at putting names to things, why not call society what you believe it to be and then do something about it. Take part. Take action. Help people. Find your purpose. Share what you’ve be given and receive what others have to give. Dig deeper. Appreciate what you have. Keep asking questions because God knows we’ll never figure it all out. Look for what you believe to be issues or unhealthy, and take simple steps to change that. We must acknowledge that we’re not always right, but the beauty of this collective is the uniqueness each one of us brings. Don’t lose hope when things are not going the way you wanted them to. Life is confusing and much less linear than we perceive. We are moving towards something whether we like to admit it or not, and whether we take part is up to us. But we ARE a part of this so called society, for better or worse, and we’ve got stuff to do. The only way I can be confident in challenging others is if I also am challenging myself. I am eager to discover where I fit into this puzzle and ultimately coming to a place outside of myself where I discover true meaning and purpose and connections. Together we stand…

Encourage Challenge!

For my birthday this past month, I dressed up 80’s style and enjoyed a murder mystery party with a bunch of friends.  It was a bizarre mix of wandering fake accents, stuffed mushrooms, sweat bands and the realization that my natural hair volume doesn’t really belong in this decade.

I fear if I give you any more details or pictures I’ll incriminate myself, and I wasn’t even the murder.

But on top of being willing to dress up and be whimsical with me, my friends gave me one of the best gifts I’ve ever received:

The inspirational packaging is nothing compared to the inside.  My friends and family wrote me letters and labeled the different envelops for different occasions that might come up in my life.

From an envelop for when I’m bored, to an envelop for when I want to strangle someone, they pretty much have me covered.  I’ve been trying so hard to wait and savor my envelopes over weeks and months, but I’m telling you…this box is like knowing you have a bunch of chocolate hidden in your house.  (Actually, one of the envelops did have chocolate in it.)

The other day I had to go to my doctor, and seriously, does anyone jump up and down about that?  I packed a few envelopes to bring with me just in case, and just the knowing I had encouragement waiting on the other side of that appointment gave me joy.

This is a box of life, and humor, and compassion, and yes chocolate.

And this box challenges me too.  Because I realize that the worth of a letter, a well-timed bit of humor, and certainly a bar of chocolate, are lifters and soothers of our souls.  Could I be this kind of friend to others? Could I take even a moment each day to find someone around me to build up?

I can’t actually begin to count the number of amazing friends that have impacted my life.  You have been encouragers, meal bringers, supporters, deep-thoughts-discussers, coffee-joiners, breakfast buddies, How-I-Met-Your-Mother and FRIENDS watchers, character sharpeners, prayer-lifters, tear driers, road signs to keep me on track when I’m lost.  You friends have loved me well and loved me tangibly.

THANK YOU isn’t big enough.

And my challenge to myself, and my challenge to you is this:  Pick 3 people this week to encourage.  Send a letter, write a text, tell someone you appreciate them next time you see them…for the love, send them a really good chocolate bar.  Maybe start a list of people to encourage and make it a fun game.  Maybe it turns into a habit…but start small.

The action of love written out, spoken over, given freely, can carry us so much farther than we’d imagine.

Post or comment if you’re up for the challenge, or if you have a cool story of encouragement to share!