Category Archives: Motherhood

A letter to my son’s first mother on Mother’s Day

My becoming a mother came at a high cost to someone else.  And on this Mother’s Day, I want to honor that sacrifice.

My husband and I adopted our son when he was 4 years old. We had the opportunity to meet his biological mother once, which I am grateful for. When I think back to that day, I can remember the pain in her voice. The sadness in her eyes. The mixture of shame and anxiety and regret and fatigue that were evident in her body language and her distant glances. But I also remember her intentionality and the way she carried herself with grace and humility. I saw her son’s/our son’s face in her deep blue eyes. I knew in that moment she would always be a part of me.

As I celebrate my third Mother’s Day, my heart is drawn back to her. I have so many things I want to say to her now, almost three years later. So I wrote her a letter.

Dear J,

There are so many things I want to say…

First of all, our son is amazing. He is a fun and gregarious boy who makes others feel comfortable and valued. He is full of insight and awareness.   He has a beautiful imagination and sense of adventure coupled with a thoughtful care and respect for the world. He draws people in with his ability to connect and his sweet spirit. He is a special boy.

You are not forgotten. I think about you often, and our son does, too. I see it in his eyes. A far off look of wonder and concern. A creased brow. A wide-eyed expression of excitement followed by a pause. A feeling he can’t quite name. A deep connection to his past that will never leave him.

He remembers and so do we.

You are not alone. You carry us in your heart just as we carry you. You are an integral part of my story, and because of that, we will always be connected. Our son keeps you with him in his big smile and his cute nose and his memories. You are always with us.

You are mentioned. I do not pretend you don’t exist or quiet our son from speaking your name. I honor your presence by asking him what he remembers and leaving room for him to speak freely about you whenever he wants or needs to. Every time we meet someone with your first name, he jolts his head up and smiles at me with a knowing glance. He calls you his first mom, and I do, too.

You are still a mother. You gave me the gift of motherhood, and now that I have experienced it, I know I can’t ever go back. I will always be a mother, and so will you. Although he isn’t calling for you in the middle of the night or asking you to tie his shoes, you know the feeling of love for your child. You made choices to protect and support him. You intimately know the pain and guilt of wanting the best for your child and not knowing how to give it to him.

You are still a mother, and you always will be.

I want you to know that you are a precious and valuable human being. I don’t know what you believe about God, but here’s what I believe. He created you. He knows you. He loves you. Your love and sacrifice is a reflection of God’s love and sacrifice, and he hasn’t given up on you. I pray that you know how precious and valuable you are, to me and to God.

Most importantly, know that our son is loved.  As a mother, the most meaningful thing someone can do for me is to love my child. To treat my son with dignity and to honor his journey. To notice him and to value him, not for what he does, but for who he is. To put his needs above her own and to give sacrificially to him. And that’s what I promise you.

I want you to know that our son is loved. And so are you. 

Thank you for making me a mother and for entrusting me with the most profound job of my life.  Our son is growing so fast.  In the blink of an eye, he went from a preschooler with training wheels to a kid riding roller blades.  He is doing well.  We hope you are, too.

Take care,

Karin

100_2247        josh skating

Mother’s Day is not easy for many people.  My son’s first mother is just one example of that.  Remember that this weekend. Look around at church or at brunch or the grocery store and show love and compassion to those with far-off looks.  I hope someone does that for my son’s first mother today.

Lord, be with the grieving, with the barren, with the lonely, with the distant, with the orphans, with the broken-hearted… Today and always.

Consider this my sonogram

There is big news in the Fields Household! Our family of three is growing, and we couldn’t be more excited about it! I don’t have a belly shot or a sonogram picture to mark this milestone. I am not fighting back nausea and fatigue as I write this, grateful to be moving from the first trimester to the second. There is no big gender reveal party to attend where our friends and family stand by as we cut through the cake to find our destiny in the filling. We didn’t get Josh a cute shirt that says “Big Brother” yet, although I am sure I won’t be able to resist down the road. We haven’t started decorating the room because there are too many unknowns at this point. There is much we don’t know. But there is one thing we do know.

WE ARE ADOPTING AGAIN!

We don’t know who our next child is yet, but we believe that our child is already in the world. This is both exciting and overwhelming to think about. As a parent, I know that there is nothing I wouldn’t do for my kid. I want to be there for this child, but I can’t yet. I want to remind this child that he or she is loved and valued and worthy, but my words cannot yet be heard. I want to hug and kiss and care for this child, but it is not yet time.

So in the meantime, I pray. I pray that God would protect this child that He has predestined for us. I pray that this child would feel comfort and peace and strength beyond comprehension. I pray that God would hurry. And I pray that I would have patience. I pray for my son Josh. I pray that he wouldn’t doubt how much we love and want him as we pursue another child. I pray that he would see and believe that adoption is not and has never been a second choice for us. I pray that he would grow in his security of who he is and his role in our family. I pray that he would pray, too.

It’s complicated. Even our announcement isn’t simple, and I hesitated for a while because I didn’t know what to say. But I decided it’s too important not to announce. We are preparing. That’s what the gestational period is for, and we are pregnant, in a manner of speaking. We made it through the “first trimester” of thinking and daydreaming and feeling a bit queasy. We have moved into the “second trimester”, and things are getting real. Our paperwork is almost finished and we have begun the process of connecting. We are talking to our family and friends, making contact with agencies and other adoption entities, and we are beginning to make room.

The third trimester looks a bit different for adoptive families. I want to nest-to prepare a room, have parties, begin to make plans for work and school schedules, and talk more openly with others about our new child. But there are too many unknowns. I can do a little, but until we get matched with a child, I can’t really paint a wall picture with our child’s initials on it or register at Target. It’s hard to make plans for this summer because it is very possible that by then we will be a family of 4 instead of 3. It could take months or we could get a call next week notifying us of a child who needs a home. There is a lot of uncertainty. But there is also hope and anticipation and energy.

When I see a sonogram picture on Facebook announcing the pregnancy of someone I care about, I feel excited. I also feel included. I feel invited to celebrate this miracle and to begin loving that child.  It symbolizes the transition from an intimate secret known by a select few to a public proclamation of intention and expectation. It says to me that, even though they know things can still happen and there is no guarantee, they are believing that it will happen and wanting others to celebrate with them; to experience it with them.

So this is my sonogram picture. This is my announcement. And this is my invitation for you to celebrate with us.

I started this blog because I believed I had a story to share. It’s a story of love and helplessness and pain and redemption. It’s a story of adoption. And the story continues.

adoption blog 1                      adoption blog 2

 

Is this a moment I will remember? Christmas time reflections from the highway

December 25, 2014
I am in the passenger seat of our car basking in the aftermath of a lovely, relaxing Christmas morning with my husband and son. After a whirlwind holiday last year of cramming in and maximizing time, we made a necessary decision to simplify this year- to slow down and actually enjoy Christmas as our own family unit. To sleep in our own beds and wake up by our own Christmas tree.

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Now it is early afternoon, and as we get on the highway to visit family and keep the holiday going, I find myself with more time… Time to reflect, pray and remember. So many wonderful memories are filling my mind. My childhood Christmases when my siblings and I would open up a game to play while we waited for my dad to wake up. STOCKINGS! I have always loved that part. Spending the afternoon playing with my toys and trying on my clothes. I remember being a teenager and driving with my brother and sister to my grandparents’ house on Christmas afternoon. It was a time to talk and reflect and listen to music.  A ritual we had while making that drive was to play Everything But the Girl’s song “25th December”. There’s a line in it that keeps running through my head today…

“Oh I never, no I never ever realized”

Memories are so mysterious. We look back and romanticize and glamorize and immortalize. But when we are there, we don’t tend to realize. It’s funny what stands out in my mind now from my childhood. It’s not the big moments I thought it would be. It’s so many snapshots. Random experiences with people I love. A joke that turns into an inside joke that turns into a family story. It’s a look that sums up a relationship with perfect clarity. A smell that triggers a stage of life; not one particular moment, but the culmination of experiences that becomes a single memory.
So is it useless to try to remember? If we take enough pictures or videos, will we ever be able to fully recreate the moment? Or does trying to remember actually take us out of the moment?

December 28, 2014
Here I am again, reflecting and typing in the passenger seat of our car on our way back home. After our lovely Christmas morning opening presents and starting new traditions in our home, we spent the rest of Christmas day making memories and connecting with loved ones. Now, a few days later, I am already beginning to look back and sort through events and interactions and moments to see what stands out. I remember the moment when Dave discovered that the robot dog we got Josh for Christmas was set to Spanish mode instead of English. I remember Josh opening up his pogo stick from my sister and seeing the genuine excitement in his eyes.  I remember playing Calico Critters with my niece Aimee and laughing uncontrollably when her tiny toy rabbit’s ear broke off. I have those memories, but I also have a feeling. When I think about Christmas Day 2014, I hope I remember it as sweet, connected and special. I pray that I remember the warmth I experienced throughout the day and the depth and genuineness I felt from loved ones. When I look at pictures from that day, my wish is that they will not only spark memories of events, but also the feeling I felt that day and continue to feel now as I look back.

We don’t really know what will hold in our minds when we recall certain events and experiences. Since we don’t know what will stick, we have even more of a responsibility to be present- not to let moments pass us by, and also not to put too much focus on remembering any single moment that we aren’t actually “in it”. When we sit back and watch, let’s also lean forward and engage. When we grab for our cameras to capture a moment, let’s also pause and look at it with our own eyes first. Let’s laugh and cry together so that our memories can be connected to our relationships. Because from my experience, the memories that stick the most are the ones I share with others.

Let’s be present this new year. Let’s be engaged in life and relationships so that our collective experiences will produce shared memories and deepen our connections to others. But let’s also remember that, as hard as we try to be present, there will always be times when we will think, “I never, no I never ever realized”. After all, there are some experiences that cannot be fully realized without the passage of time. And there are gifts in those moments, too. But my prayer is that I will continue to learn to be more fully present and realize the beauty and pain and complexity of life all around me. Because even when it hurts, I would rather be present in my life than absent. I would rather remember than forget.

Especially the precious moments, like these.

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Why my son will never watch Pete’s Dragon: Viewing movies from an adoptive mother’s lens

lens picture

We all have lenses we put on to see the world.  Some of them we choose and others we are born into.  Being a white,straight, middle-class American is a privileged lens for me.  Being a woman, a working mother, an adoptive parent, a counselor, a person of deep faith… these lenses get a little more delicate and sensitive at times.

Over time, both my mother lens and my adoptive mother lens continue to sharpen.  One realm where I find them rear their heads often is in the consumption of entertainment.  Frequently in movies, especially children’s movies, adoption is depicted as the unfortunate result of tragic death or appalling deception toward the biological parents. Typically along this story line, caregivers and adoptive parents are portrayed as evil or unkind in some way and the redemption comes when the hero is reunited with his or her biological family, or at least differentiates from the adoptive family in some symbolic and permanent way (e.g. throwing one’s evil adoptive mother off a cliff).

Watching some of the same movies I enjoyed as a child with an adult lens is eye-opening enough, but when I put on the lens of adoptive parent, I am doing two things at once.  I am viewing them critically for appropriateness and deeper meanings, and I am also trying to see them through my son’s eyes.  At times, I can almost feel his brain moving, trying to make sense of how his own story fits or doesn’t fit.

Although this is in no way comprehensive, I have put on my adoptive parent lens to provide some examples of themes I see in certain children’s movies that relate to adoption- 2 themes that may create tension and confusion for adopted children and a third theme that I see as positive and even hopeful.

Theme 1: Birth Parents are Gods or Royalty

Risk for Adopted Children: The tendency to over-romanticize birth parents, leading to tremendous let-down and confusion.

Hercules: The evil uncle kidnaps baby Hercules and tries to kill him. Good people find him and raise him, and as soon as there is reconciliation with the birth parents (who happen to be gods), there is no more mention of the kind, loving adoptive parents again. Hercules always felt different, and it all comes together for him when he learns he is the child of immortal beings.  He spends the rest of the movie trying to “earn back” his god-like status so he can live with his birth parents on Mt. Olympus.

Tangled: Oh Mother Gothel… She gives ME nightmares. A horrible witch steals a magical baby, creates a codependent and abusive parental dynamic with her and exploits her child in exchange for youth. Rapunzel longs for the Magic Lights that occur on her birthday every year, which she later learns is her birth parents’ commemoration of their little princess who was stolen from them.  Redemption happens when Rapunzel finally learns the truth, stands up to her evil adoptive mother, and is eventually reunited with her birth parents (the king and queen) after her adoptive mother shrivels up and falls out of the tower.  Bottom line- Rapunzel is going to need to A LOT of therapy.

tangled

Theme 2: Social service systems can NEVER be trusted.

Risk: Foster care and adoptive children may become mistrustful of anyone connected to government services or law enforcement and believe they must stay in negative situations because no one will help them.

Despicable Me:  In many ways, I love this movie.  I love the transformation of Gru and the moral of the story that love can soften even the nastiest of people… But let’s not forget a few things about this movie.  The orphanage the girls come from is oppressive and abusive and the social worker punishes them with a “box of shame”.  They are exploited for financial gain, and treated like property when Gru walks in and takes custody of them without any formal process. (Job title: Evil Villain.  Sounds like a great placement for three little girls.)

despicable me

Pete’s Dragon: Don’t get me started. My sister reminded me recently of how horrific this movie is. A sweet orphan boy is bought like a slave, physically abused, treated like property, and the only thing keeping him from having to go back to his ruthless adoptive family at the end is the destruction of his “bill of sale”.  Yuck.  If you think of this movie fondly and want to keep it that way, don’t click on the hyperlink on the film title.

Theme 3: It is natural to feel conflicted about being adopted.

Benefit:  By seeing this in movies, adopted children are given permission to wrestle with this struggle and to honor the complexity and tragedy of love and loss.

Tarzan: Ironically, this may be my favorite children’s movie about adoption.  Orphaned baby is found by a female gorilla and adopted as her son, and, despite the obvious species difference, is embraced and loved.  My favorite part of this story is when his wonderful adoptive mother gorilla gives her son room to explore his origins without making him feel guilty or choose.  In the end, by giving him the room to do this, he chooses to embrace both his biological humanness (by marrying Jane) and the environmental and familial influence of his gorilla community and family.

Star Wars:  I think we can all agree that Luke and Lea were better off being adopted.  Finding out his father is Darth Vader is not an easy pill for Luke to swallow, but he wrestles with it and grieves the father he never knew and even finds room to love his father for who he is now instead of holding on to a fantasy of who he once was.

star wars

 

There are many more examples of movies that depict adoption both in positive and negative ways.  My motive is not to dampen anyone’s viewing of these movies or force any agenda.  My intention is only to provide a lens that I didn’t have two years ago.  And since this is one of the lenses my son will use to see things through for the rest of his life, I will too.  And I pray that he will stretch himself to put on other lenses that are not as familiar to him so he can learn to see the world from other perspectives as well.

I want to be a critical consumer; an attentive parent; a thoughtful woman; a follower of God; an ally to the oppressed and marginalized, whoever they may be.  This means I will have to be uncomfortable at times and stretch beyond my own worldview.

What are some lenses you wear that shape how you view entertainment and see the world?  What movies should I re-watch from these lenses to foster deeper understanding and challenge me to expand my perceptions? Help me see things through your eyes.

 

 

 

“I’m a happy mother”: Honoring the joys and sorrows of Mother’s Day

mom and me

Growing up, my mom’s response to the exclamation “Happy Mother’s Day!” was always the same.

“I’m a happy mother!”

Now that I am a mother, I see this response from a more personal lens.  I have always wanted to be a mom.  I know that not every woman shares this desire for motherhood, which I respect.  But for me, it was something I just assumed would happen, along with every other goal or dream for my life.  I don’t remember yearning for it when I was younger and even newly married, partly because I was pursuing other ambitions and passions, but also because I believed it would happen exactly how and when I wanted it to.  I didn’t see the point in dwelling on it.  I would be a mom, and it would be great when the time was right.

Long gone are the days of simple assumptions about anything.

2 years ago, I remember sitting in church on Mother’s Day feeling alone and angry.  Dave and I had been “trying” (awkward) for longer than I was admitting to myself or others, and it wasn’t happening.  I watched loved ones and not-so-loved ones around me getting pregnant like it was an item on a lunch menu.

I‘ll have a salad.”

“And I will have a baby.”

My beliefs about life and the way the world worked were being challenged in a painful and paradigm-shifting turn of events.  After buying in to the adage that I was “Taking Charge of My Fertility”, both by preventing and then by not preventing, the realization finally hit me that I really have very little control over it at all.  This always reminds me of Charlotte on Sex and the City when she says, “I spent all of my twenties trying not to get pregnant and all of my thirties trying to get pregnant!”

So here I was, sitting in church, watching adorable children pass out carnations to the standing women- the mothers– and I finally yearned to be one of them.  It went beyond a “you do you and I’ll do me” mindset and it became personal.

“Why them and not me?”

In that moment, I felt like I was becoming the person I hated.  The person who believes that everything is about her and that someone else’s fortune is somehow in direct competition with her own.  And then something happened.  I stopped looking at the women who were standing and started looking at the ones who weren’t.  Young women.  Old women.  Single women.  Married women.  Women who looked annoyed and others who looked embarrassed.  Women who fidgeted in their seats and those who looked around smiling and nodding happily at the standing women around them.  I didn’t want to judge them.  I wanted to know them.  “What are their stories?”

What I am learning as I allow myself to be vulnerable with others about my story is that there are a lot of complicated, painful, confusing, uncomfortable, and tragic stories all around me.  There are also countless stories about love, redemption, second chances, joy from sorrow, strength in weakness and healing amidst loss and grief.  I am not unique.  But my story is valuable.  So is yours.

Today, on Mother’s Day, my mom’s words resonate in my heart and soul.

“I am a happy mother!” 

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I am not happy because I got what I wanted, nor am I happy because I deserved it all along.  I am happy because I have seen God work in my life in a real and personal way.  I am happy because God had a plan all along that was better than mine, and I didn’t know or understand that two years ago.  I am happy because the deep yearning I felt that day in church and the story I have been telling myself since childhood are connected.  For me, that’s the key to my story now.  It was never about getting everything I wanted.  It was about the desires, passions and visions God put in my heart the day I was created that have strengthened and evolved into something more beautiful than I could have imagined.

Mother’s Day is a painful day for a lot of people.  It represents loss as much as it represents gain.  It reminds people of what they used to have and what they have never had.  So in addition to my happiness today, there is room for grief.  I grieve the loss of my son’s first mom.  Today, while I celebrate my “mom” status with my son, she will feel her own loss acutely, and that pains my heart.  I grieve the loss of my parents’ mothers.  I am reminded of my mom’s face when my grandmother died and the deep wailing in her spirit as she verbalized that she had become an orphan.  I mourn with my friends and clients who never knew the love of a mother.  I weep with those who have lost a child or who have a child who is sick and hurting and they don’t know how to help.  I hurt with those who yearn for  a child deeply.

That’s the beauty of life, really.  Feelings are not compartmentalized; they are fluid.  They don’t exist one after another, but in a magnificent tapestry, woven together intricately and gently.

If you are a happy mother today, celebrate that.  If that label does not fit for you, honor that however you need to.  For me, I will enjoy my presents and cards and cherish every hug and acknowledgment.  I will also make a conscious effort to be sensitive to the stories of others and leave room for grief and contemplation while still embracing my “special day”.

My road to motherhood was not simple, but it was just as it was meant to be.  And for that, I am certainly a happy and grateful mother.

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Facing your fears- Honoring anxiety and courage in children and grown-up children

A New leaf part 3- Facing Fears

 When I was 8 years old, I heard a story on the news about a man contracting HIV through a needle left on a seat in a movie theater.  Panic struck me, and nothing felt safe.  Of course, going to movies was out.  There was no way I would fall victim to the same trap.  Eventually, it went beyond a fear of going to movies to a fear of public places.  If someone could be sick enough to put an infected needle on a movie theater chair, what’s to stop someone from putting a needle in the sand at the baseball field or in my backyard?  The fear became so consuming that one day I found a sewing needle on the floor of our garage, and I started panicking and shaking.  I asked my mom through tears and heavy breaths, “Why would God create a world and allow it to be filled with so much awfulness?” (Still a question that stirs me deeply.)

I was a scared, anxious kid.  When I heard about something bad happening to someone else somewhere else, I immediately assumed it would happen to me, too. (This could also have been the beginning stages of narcissism now that I think about it.)  Once I had a fear in mind, it became consuming and would lead to irrational scenarios where I would be doomed and there was nothing anyone could do to help.  Looking back, I empathize with my mom and siblings. It must have felt so helpless to watch me panic inconsolably.

One of the reasons why I became a child and adolescent counselor is my deep understanding of how small and vulnerable a child can feel and how big and scary the world can seem.  Although I still experience acute fears and high levels of anxiety at times, I no longer exist in that place of constant fear that consumed much of my energy as a child.  As I got older, my fears took on more of an existential focus.  Who am I?  What is my purpose?  Does anything I do really matter?  Are we all just a speck of dust on the top of a flower being carried by a clumsy elephant named Horton?  You know, the little things.  Although these questions could consume me if I let them, I have found ways to re-focus myself from them by connecting with others, engaging in purposeful activities and embracing faith so that the unanswered questions could coexist with what I believed to be true.

I asked my college students to write down alternative words for common emotions like sadness, anger and fear.  A descriptive emotion that came up to quantify fear was the word petrified.  Literally paralyzed; frozen with fear.  Think of the curse “Petrificus Totalus” from Harry Potter.  The victim’s body goes rigid and the only thing he can move is his eyes.  I know that feeling.  And as I incorporate my thoughts and beliefs about fear with my passions and visions for my life, that word seems to be a common reaction to moving forward with my dreams.  Sometimes, I literally feel stuck where I am out of fear.  Fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of rejection, fear of change… Staying still feels safer, but in actuality, it perpetuates the state of fear- the petrification.

As a parent, it is remarkable to watch your child overcome fear.  My son has a beautiful blend of a cautious and adventurous spirit that I really admire.  I can see his initial concern and fear when he is presented with something he doesn’t understand or hasn’t experienced before, but it is followed by a desire to try.  It’s like he  knows he will regret it if he lets his fear take over.  He has a bit of a formula for how he handles his fears.  He starts out tentative and stays close.  He checks things out for a minute or two and takes it all in.  Then he slowly engages.  He tries this new activity for a few seconds, then looks back and smiles.  *This is my cue.*  “Stay close, but I am going in.”  After participating for a little while, he runs over to me with excitement in his eyes and asks if I saw him.  I answer “I sure did!”, and he returns to the activity, not as a novice anymore, but as a student who is catching on and ready for more challenge.

Josh learning to ride without training wheels

Josh learning to ride without training wheels

josh karate

Josh’s first day at Karate

josh jumping on trampoline

Josh jumping at a trampoline playground

josh climbing

Josh climbing his first rock wall

I want to experience life that way.  I don’t want to miss out on adventures because of my fear.  And I don’t want to model for that my son.  I want him to know that fear is normal and appropriate and even necessary, but that it doesn’t have to win.  Some things are more powerful than fear- like love.  In the third book/movie in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, one of my favorite characters, Eowyn, niece of King Theoden, wants to fight with the men. When talking to Aragorn about fear, she says that she fears neither death nor pain, but rather a cage“To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them and all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire.”

ewoyn in battle

Eowyn does fight.  In fact, she defeats the witch king, who  touted that no man could ever kill him.  (To which she responds, “I am no man!” Love it.)  And she doesn’t do it for valor or for pride or even for her country.  She does it for her friends.  Her family.  Love.  I have things to fight for.  People to face fears for and take risks for and even get hurt for.  As she rides to battle with the childlike hobbit Merry riding with her, she says the words that I hold on to any time I feel weak and petrified in the face of of my fear.  “Courage, Merry.  Courage for our friends.”

The next time you think about avoiding your fears, ask yourself, “Who needs my courage right now?” And “Who could suffer if I don’t stand up and fight?”

The most uncomfortable day of my life

A New Leaf Part 3- Embracing Discomfort

Our comfortable life

Our comfortable life

My husband and I sat on our couch, stunned and speechless.  The last big barrier in our process of whether or not we could adopt Josh had just been removed.  “Talk to each other about it, and let me know what you decide.” the lawyer said.  What we decideOur decision.  We had wanted to be parents so badly, and now we were faced with the reality of it, and we were scared.  Petrified.  I remember feeling like my body was on fire.  As I sat on our couch and looked at my husbandI could see in his eyes the same feelings in my own heart.  All the fun thoughts of parenthood fled and we were left with the intense and uncomfortable thought: life as we know it will never be the same. 

Are we ready for this?”

Hard things happen to people every day.  Horrific things in some cases.   We hurt, we struggle, and (hopefully) we grow.  But I have found that, for me, there is a huge difference between hard things happening and choosing hard things.  When Dave and I were faced with the decision either to adopt Josh and completely change our lives or to opt out and maintain our stable, comfortable lives, my flesh cried out to stay the same.  But my spirit knew that the comfortable choice was not the right one.  And in that moment of desperation and clarity, my heart longed for discomfort.  I couldn’t go back to the comfortable life I had lived before that moment because I knew that, after seeing a glimpse of something more meaningful and significant, my old life would never be enough.  I would never be satisfied where I was.  Despite fear and panic and a million “what ifs?” that filled my mind, I was ready to be uncomfortable.  Nothing had ever felt more right.

As human beings, we desire comfort.  I would choose a hot shower over a cold one any day.  I turn my air conditioning on when I am warm and my heat on when I am cold, and I don’t think twice about it.  I eat when my body tells me it’s hungry (and often even when it doesn’t) and I surround myself with people I like and agree with most of the time.  But then something will happen that will momentarily shake the foundation of my comfort, and in those moments, I have a choice- to seek to return to comfort at all costs or to be adventurous.  To continue existing or to really live.

Historically, I have sought the road leading to comfort.  As a child,  it was a joke in my family that I was the cautious one who would dip her toe in the water before getting in and who couldn’t stand it if my sock had a wrinkle in it.  My sister, on the other hand, was free-spirited and a bit wild (compared to me).  She would dive headfirst into a freezing cold pool without a second thought.  She would act first, then think, and I both envied her carefree attitude and feared for her safety.  By not taking many risks, I knew what to expect from life and I felt secure- until life would act on its own accord, leaving me helpless and confused.  This led to a lot of anxiety and fear that was debilitating at times.  Gradually, I learned that, although I can control some variables in my life, I can’t control them all.  But I still desired to maintain my comfort at all costs.

Fast forward to that night on the couch with my husband, as I am faced with the most uncomfortable, overwhelming decision of my life.  All of a sudden, in the midst of such discomfort, I felt more present than I had ever felt before.  Every part of my mind, body and spirit was responding, and I felt alive.  Being uncomfortable was exhilarating and liberating.  By not choosing comfort, the world was wide open to me.  Everything in my bones knew what I wanted to choose, and I was ready to lean in to my discomfort.

Over time, I settled into my routine as a working parent.  Life is pretty predictable and stable, and I am grateful for it.  But when I think back to that night on the couch, that moment of pure discomfort, I have to admit that I miss it.  I miss the sensations of uncertainty and the flood of emotions.  I miss the intense connection I felt to God, my husband, and my own passions and visions that day.  I know that I cannot exist in that place all the time.  It would be too much.  But what would it take for me to be that uncomfortable again?  What are some daily ways that I can push through my desire for comfort in an attempt to live more courageously and less carefully?  I want to be like my sister and do a cartwheel into the swimming pool and say, “Ta-da!” with my arms raised high.  I want to teach my son to be thoughtful and use common sense, but also to be uncomfortable and take risks and face hard things head on.

What makes you uncomfortable?  I mean really uncomfortable.  How can you lean in to that discomfort?  I am discovering as I pursue my dreams that fulfilling one’s passions and life visions is the epitome of uncomfortable.  But it’s worth it.  And in the end, I think it’s the only way to really live.  So let’s lean in to our discomfort together.

So worth it.

So worth it.