To Be or Not to Be a Victim?

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It’s easy to become a victim of infertility. It’s even a little sickly satisfying to feed the woes of infertility with all the possibilities of “it’s not fair” and “why not me?” But those phrases become well-worn mantras that destroy peace, love, and joy. It has taken me years to learn how to fight that internal battle, but I believe I learned in the perfect time.

You see, in His perfect timing I have wrestled with being a victim. In his perfect timing I have learned that I am not. In His perfect timing I recognized the lies I believed about motherhood, family, and parenting. In his perfect timing I accepted the call He laid on my heart since 2nd grade: Adoption.

But now I am learning it’s just as easy to become a victim of infertility through the perspective of adoption. I face new obstacles and a new perspective. I must now learn how to apply what I know to this circumstance as well.

The other day Dean and I attended our second intake meeting with our perspective adoption agency. This meeting left me feeling exhausted and vulnerable. The director went over our application with us, their policy is to go through every question on the application. This doesn’t seem too bad, but let me tell you, some of those questions are very personal: “Have you ever received counseling from a mental health professional?”  When my response was, “yes” her follow up question was, “What was the nature of your issues? What did you and your counselor discuss?”

“Have you ever been abused sexually or domestically?”

It didn’t take long for my fears of not being good enough to creep right back into that room. I defaulted back to my defensive behavior. I wanted her to know I could be a parent. I wanted her to hear the good things about me, not about my abuse and my anxiety. I wanted to prove to her that I was worth it. But those weren’t the questions she was asking.

Overall, I think I did a pretty good job at answering the questions honestly, but I made the mistake of getting defensive when she asked me about Celebrate Recovery. Later, when Dean and I discussed how the meeting went, he pointed it out to me. I knew he was right, because I identified it for myself during the meeting. Thirty seconds into my answer I caught onto my old behavior and stopped it. However, I had 30 seconds of defensive dialogue that I felt horrible about. Dean ensured me that her question was not accusing in the least, it was simply a question. I cried on the way home because I felt like I ruined our chances. I cried because I felt like my abuser ruined my chances. I cried because I felt like my history of anxiety ruined my chances. I cried because it wasn’t fair, other people just have kids without being interrogated.

However, I refuse to feed my sick desire to pout and find reasons why my life is “harder than theirs”. It would be insane for me to go down that path again and expect an outcome other than despair, sorrow, and anger. The reality of the situation is: I don’t know what it’s like to live their life, and they don’t know what it’s like to live mine. This is my life. This is what I have been given. So I need to learn how to find the blessings in this. The best way for me to do that is to change my perspective.

I put myself in the shoes of the birthparent. If I was pregnant, and I was about to go through the selfless act of letting go of my dearly loved child, I would want to know that the adoptive parents were emotionally and mentally stable. I would want to make sure that they have support systems in place. I would want to make sure that they are finding healing from life’s hurts, habits, and hang-ups. I would want the agency to ask them these questions. Not as a way of condemning them, but to get a glimpse of how these people live their life and handle situations that sometimes are out of their control. I would want to know that the adoptive parents recognize brokenness in their lives. I would feel uncomfortable with a seemingly perfect couple, because to me it just screams denial. I know that not everyone feels or thinks this way, but I can’t be the only one. God has gone ahead of me, and he has prepared the heart of the birthparents to receive me and Dean. God has prepared the hearts of me and Dean to receive the birthparents.

So, to ensure I don’t fall back into being a victim I practice gratitude:

Thank you God for adoption agencies. Thank you for all the hard work the staff does to ensure the safety, health, and well-being of the children, birth parents, foster parents, and adoptive parents.

Thank you God for birth parents. Thank you for their hearts of love. Thank you for allowing me and Dean the opportunity to be welcomed intimately into the lives of another family.

Thank you for my husband, and his willingness to call me out when my character defects rear their ugly heads.

Thank you for the support you have given me through counseling, Celebrate Recovery, family, and my dear sisters in Christ.

Thank you for going ahead of me in all things; for helping me to work through major hurts.

Thank you for loving me through it all, no matter what my flaws.

Psalm 52:8 “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.”

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Whoever Does Not Believe Stands Condemned Already

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I am my own worst enemy. It’s a well-worn cliché that is well-worn for a reason. When I don’t accept the love and value that Jesus has given me I live my life as a condemned person. But I didn’t know I was living my life as a condemned person and I never thought that I would be the one condemning myself. It wasn’t until I started to examine my ways that I began to see the truth.

Lamentations 3:40 Like I’ve said many times in the past, what I found through self-examination was that I was operating my whole life around one simple lie, “you’re not enough.” It’s amazing how my belief in this three word sentence affected how I heard, saw, and reacted to things inside and outside of myself. I spent my whole life in fear of being condemned of what I already believed: you’re not enough. I don’t know about you, but when I live in fear of something, it’s always on my mind, and everything I see, hear, etc. becomes about that fear. For example, spiders.

I hate spiders. They scare the crap out of me. Most days I don’t think about them. Most days I forget they exist, which means I am not operating out of my fear of spiders. But then there comes the day when I see one. It’s on the wall, up near the ceiling. And the only thing worse than spiders, is spiders falling on your head. So naturally, I scream, jump around with the squirmy creepy crawly tingles under my skin, and then run to get the vacuum. But like the story always goes, when I return with the vacuum the spider has disappeared. And that is the moment I begin to operate out of fear.

Of course, I spend 10 minutes searching, in vain, for the spider. Suddenly every black spot on my walls, counters, ceilings, etc (and there are a lot of them) come to life. Every spot is a potential spider. I find myself constantly looking up from what I’m doing to check around me. Every time my hair settles or moves on my head I am convinced it is the spider: it fell on my head! It doesn’t take long for me to become paranoid and expect the spider to be anywhere and everywhere. It’s at that moment that I realize I didn’t make my bed yet, and the spider is probably burrowing its way into the warm folds of our sheets…that little jerk! 

The only thing to do at this point is to wash the sheets and hope the scalding hot water and the hot dry air kill that little devil. Do you see the insanity of my fear? Who really knows where that spider went to; in all reality, it probably just snuck into a crack or crevice nearby. But I continue to spend my day resenting the spider that has not actually harmed me in anyway. He didn’t fall on my head, and yet I accuse him of it over and over again. He didn’t crawl into my sheets and yet I wash them anyway. He isn’t that spot above my sink, and yet I have examined that spot 20+ times just to make sure. And every time I do one of these things I think, “uggg, this stupid spider!” because if the spider wasn’t here I would not be experiencing this discomfort. It’s all the spider’s fault!

But is it? I don’t know the spider’s intentions, but I am almost positive his goal in life doesn’t involve torturing a 28 year-old housewife.

But I felt him in my hair!

That wasn’t even him! That was just your hair falling out of that side part you insist on putting it into.

But his existence made me think it was him!

Oh, so the spider is responsible for your thoughts…that makes sense. (I hope you can sense that this line is dripping with sarcasm. If you can’t, let me tell you, “this line is dripping with sarcasm. How could a spider be held responsible for what goes through my brain?”)

Do you see how I was condemned? The spider wasn’t lurking around every corner, but my fear of the spider lurking around every corner was enough to condemn me to a way of living as if the spider was going to pounce on me at any moment. Instead of living life fully and dealing with the discomfort of a surprise attack from a spider if and when it came, I was living a half life trying to prevent any discomfort. By trying to dodge the discomfort, I forced myself to think of all the uncomfortable scenarios and then avoid them. The amount of energy it takes to do that is not worth it, especially since the chances are high that I will never see that spider again.

Do you see the flaw in my behavior? It doesn’t seem like it’s that big of a deal when it has to do with spiders, but how does this type of behavior affect my relationships and life outside of arachnids? Let me show you.

Several years ago I heard God call me to Africa. All he said was, “Africa”. I didn’t know anything else. At the time I didn’t realize it was ok to not know, I thought not knowing meant I wasn’t smart enough or wise enough. Suddenly, my doubts and fears about not being enough to even hear God correctly crept into every room, lingered on every wall, and sat dauntingly on the ceilings of my heart.

“Why would God call upon me? There are so many better qualified people out there.”

“Did I really hear God? What if I am wrong and I end up looking like a fool?”

Every time I thought about my call to Africa I feared others would find out I wasn’t enough. I feared I would be exposed as a fool, as worthless, as useless. And because I believed these things to be true, I spent much of my energy trying to keep others from seeing the “true” me for fear that they would leave me when they found out.

So when my husband, Dean, started asking me questions about Africa, I acquired a defensive posture. I secretly felt like he was trying to expose my “true” self. His simple questions to discover more about my faith journey were skewed by my fear. I wasn’t hearing what he was really saying, I was imposing my own opinions about myself into his questions and then reacting to those questions as if he actually asked them with the motivations I had imposed on him.

Real question: “Are you sure this call was of God?”

What I heard: “Are you sure this call was of God? Because I doubt your ability to be able to decipher his voice from your own and from the voice of the devil.”

My Response: “Why would I say ‘Africa’ to myself? Of course it was God, do you think I can’t hear from God? Why can’t you just support me?!” This conversation quickly escalated into a heated argument about the “lack of support” I receive from my husband. See how I managed to distract him from discovering my worthlessness by accusing him of not being enough for me? I can now see how blind I was to the amazing support my husband has shown me over the years and how his question of “are you sure this call was of God?” only needed my honest response, “yes”.

Real question: “Did God say where in Africa?”

What I heard: “Did God say where in Africa? Because Africa is a big continent and if He didn’t tell you where then you probably weren’t listening to Him well enough.”

My response: “Probably an orphanage or something. I have to find a group to go with (my church didn’t have a Kenya mission team yet).” Here is where I would insert my human plans because even though I had no idea what God’s plans were, I had to pretend I knew, because I believed not knowing meant maybe I didn’t actually hear from God. This tactic did not become a problem until later when God started revealing the real plan and I was then asked questions like “but I thought God said an orphanage, are you sure he wants you to go with our church to serve with One Life Africa?” I would then have to use my energy to figure out how God changed His mind when He is unchanging, you know, instead of admitting that I lied.

Real question: “What does God want you to do there?”

What I heard: “Are you sure God wants you there? What could you possibly do for God?”

My response: “Why can’t you support me instead of tearing me down?” There I go accusing my husband of not supporting me again instead of answering the question. In case you’re wondering the answer at the time would have been, “I have no idea. I guess He will let me know when I need to know.”

Instead of avoiding uncomfortable feelings about my value and worth, I was hyper sensitive to anything that could have a possible connection with it. I wasn’t condemned by Dean like I feared, I was condemned by myself because I didn’t believe I had worth. I was so fearful of being condemned that I saw condemnation in everything, when in reality it wasn’t there at all. I wasn’t condemned by Christ for not trusting Him, I was already living a condemned life when I wouldn’t accept His unconditional love for me as I was.

I always believed in Jesus, and at this point in my life I did have a relationship with him. But I still couldn’t accept his sacrifice for me. There were areas of my life I had kept hidden from everyone, so when Jesus died on the cross to save me, I thought he made a mistake. I thought if I accepted his love then he would be constantly disappointed in me because I could never live up to His impossible standard. I didn’t want to have to live up to that standard. I didn’t want to try and deceive yet another person by pretending I had worth and value. I thought that by accepting Jesus I would be accepting a life of constant condemnation and reprimand from Him. But that’s not how Jesus works.

During my first year of Celebrate Recovery I completed my first moral inventory. I then confessed the nature of all my wrongs to God and to someone I trusted. It was during this time of confession I began to feel freedom. Instead of feeling condemned by God and by my sponsor I felt love. It didn’t make sense to me, if I did these things I should be condemned. I should be deemed “worthless”, “useless”, “used up”, “unworthy of love”, etc. I thought that if I admitted to these wrongs then I was agreeing to my condemnation. I thought that it would be like walking up to a guillotine, shouting all the things I had done wrong and then willingly placing my neck under the blade. Nothing good can come from that right?!

In a sense, I did do that. But before I could even settle into that neck spot, Jesus removed me and placed himself there. Even if I didn’t come forward and confess my wrongs He would have been there dying in my place. But because I confessed I was able to witness first hand that He did indeed pay the debt for each and everyone one of my sins, yes even that one. I was able to feel the freedom that came with knowing my debt is paid. If I didn’t confess I would have continued to walk around with my sins weighing me down and wondering if I would be sent to the guillotine if anyone else found out, not knowing that my transgressions were already settled. But the metaphor doesn’t end there. I have another choice. Jesus is in the guillotine, he took my punishment, he suffered, he died, my sins are paid for. But now what? I have two choices, I can either accept that Jesus’ death did settle my debt, or not accept it.

I find myself making this choice over and over again in so many different areas of my life. Jesus is slowly making his way into every layer of my heart, not hesitating to remind me of His love for me even while I hold onto that sin. He is constantly encouraging me to let go of it so I can hold onto Him instead. And it is the peace and freedom I find in His love (even when others try to condemn me) that keeps me confessing.

You are Beautiful! You are enough!

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Say it with me, “My body is beautiful. My body is enough.”

I have been struggling with this body image thing again. Surprise, surprise. In recovery we call this a “relapse”. It’s hard to distinguish my relapses because it’s not a drink, a joint, a hit, etc. It’s a pattern of thinking. All it took was one thought and before I knew it I had jumped on the train of stinkin’ thinkin’. So I am writing as a way to re-center my thoughts, and you, lovely reader, are invited into those depths. (Lucky you…sort of…ok actually, beware!)

This is where it all started:

There is something so beautiful about yoga photos. The lines the human body can create, the balance, the strength, the flexibility. I love to look at yoga photos and be amazed by others. But it’s never just about success, it’s about their failures too. There is something about yoga that is so open to failing and imperfection. Failing isn’t failing in yoga- it’s discovery, it’s learning. I love that so many Instagram yogis post their falls, their mishaps, their insecurities, their imperfections. It reminds me to enjoy the journey This sounds like great thinking doesn’t it? I know, I was doing well there (ick there is my ego…). But here is where I get messed up…

I saw a picture on Instagram. I had just posted the same pose and… “mine doesn’t look like that”. IMG_1360IMG_1362BAM! That’s all it took. As I scrolled through Instagram, all I saw in the pictures were, “I don’t look like that.” I should have realized then what had happened, but I didn’t. This went on for weeks. And in those weeks I had reverted back to analyzing the crap out of myself in the mirror.

“Too much chub.”

“Love handles.”

“Uggg…where did this back fat come from?”

“At least you can wear halters, I have man shoulders…”

And to top it off, I do have really bad breath in the morning!

It wasn’t until my sponsor said “You are relapsing, look at the relapse chapter” that the scales fell from my eyes. (If you are interested, here is a helpful blog on the relapse lesson https://oneandonlyhigherpower.wordpress.com/lessons/lesson-20-relapse/)

What was I doing to myself? Why was I beating myself up? In the span of 4 weeks I felt like my body went from fab to FLAB. But recognition of my relapse didn’t make it go away. When I saw myself I kept returning to “you don’t look like her, your poses don’t like that, etc.” And it wasn’t just with yoga, but with our adoption book: “no one is going to choose you when your hair looks like that”

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and “you’re too goofy, is it so hard to take a serious photo?” 016a9ce355e1bcb23914eee9b183d06ed9faf6b722

and “you look so unkempt and like a ragamuffin, no one wants their child to be raised by a goofy ragamuffin!”  10648302_4660778375235_3742580051643962743_o

Looking back, these phrases are just silly! I am goofy, my hair looks like that, and I am a ragamuffin- is that such a bad thing? No, it’s not. Will it keep me from being a mom? No, it will not! Will it deter some birthparents from choosing me and Dean, maybe, but that’s ok. God has our little fawn all planned out for us and all I have to do is follow Him.

So what about my yoga? A lot of times I think, “I could never do that pose, because I have fat rolls in the way.” Or “my expression of that pose doesn’t look right because my flabby arms make curvy lines instead of straight lines.” But the facts are these: this is my body, these are my poses, the expression is beautiful.

I thought that when I started yoga I would slim down as I progressed. I thought that you had to be slim to express back bends, because then you wouldn’t have a giant roll above your butt to get in the way. That’s false. Somehow I manage to bend over the roll. I am bigger than I ever was, and I am better at yoga than I ever was.

Then my thoughts moved to “why aren’t there more bodies like mine on Instagram?”, “why are all the yogis slim and trim?” That’s not true of course. Not all yogis look the same, and there is nothing wrong with being slim and trim. Yoga is a journey, and maybe a natural progression of yoga is finding health in all areas and thus a slim physique. Or maybe, the only Instagram yogis that post are the ones that are confident in their value and beauty and because they are confident in their value then I am confident in their value too and it’s just a coincidence that they are slim and trim. Or maybe there are tons of full figured yogis out there that I haven’t found yet. But regardless of why, the fact of the matter is: I want to see beauty in the poses of the full figured. I want to be mesmerized by the lines a curvy girl creates just as I am with the slim and trim. I see the beauty in the slim and trim, but I want to expand my thoughts of beauty to the full and curvy.

And it suddenly hit me, maybe others can see beauty in my poses. Maybe, I can be a representative of the full and curvy (or at least half full and curvy…does that make me an optimist?). Maybe, I can help others see that that roll of back fat doesn’t have to get in the way. That they don’t have to make excuses for their practice based on their body shape. That you don’t have to be slim and trim to start yoga, continue yoga, or progress in your practice.  Maybe I can help expand the stereotype of slim and trim yogis to just yogis. Because yoga isn’t about feeding the ego and fitting into a mold. Yoga is about discovering who you are whether slim or curvy, tall or short, full figured or trim, long-limbed or compact, boy or girl, tatted or not, long hair or short hair, whatever!

But here is the kicker, if I don’t see my value and beauty just as I am, what type of message am I sending to the world and to my own brain? If I am ashamed of my figure (whatever size or shape) am I unknowingly spreading the message that people with a similar figure should be ashamed of themselves? I don’t want that! If I send a message I want it to be:

“You are beautiful! You are enough!”

In order for me to send that message, I have to truly believe that message. That’s what I am going to be working on. I’ll keep you updated.