Saturday, August 26, 2017

Not to Us: 15 Years Later

Me in the kitchen from the other day
This morning, I was holding 11 month old baby Matthew and dancing around the living room to keep him occupied before breakfast. Bri-Bri had "Not to Us" playing on the CD player in the living room. (Yes, he still listens to CD's but that's another post.)

Me being me, tears came to my eyes because the Not to Us album was produced in 2002, and I became Christian in late September or early October, 2002. This album is a soundtrack to the first lessons that laid the foundation of my faith.
The lesson I come back to, and that all others encompass was learning that God was enough. In my dorm room in Newsom Hall at Colorado State University, I had dreams of being a doctor, dreams of meeting a cute Christian college guy, and dreams that knowledge I gained would heal the the trauma in my past.

Over those years, God made me see that His will was to be my ultimate ambition. His love would satisfy me beyond any person's ability to give, and His redemptive power would heal the wounds of my past.

Those lessons were not easily learned, and I would struggle throughout the years to put God first. I learned how to do well in school without making my academic success become an idol. I sort of learned how to get along with the college dudes without chasing - oh wait, I had a new crush every year. Never mind! Ok, yes, I totally had eyes for different guys in my college youth group (and guys outside my group sometimes), But every time I was friend-zoned by a guy, I learned to ask God to fill the void of love and of status (hey, this girl was smart and attractive and a strong enough Christian to have a guy) that I wanted said earthly guy to fill. Every time one of my friends got asked out by her crush, or just out by some random guy in the college group she barely knew, I learned what it meant to truly be happy for her and not let envy get in the way of our friendship because I knew we were both sisters in Christ.

God is still working on the healing the trauma bit. He led me to a university which had a good student-counseling program, and yes, I was in the counselor's office every single year at CSU. This includes grad school. Every time I learned something about child development that made me realize I learned some skill late, or that made me realize that I struggled in some area because of some event or absence of care during my childhood, my wounds of childhood would open up again. I had tried to cover those by doing well in school and being a 'normal kid,' but I realized I had been through a lot. My friends would remind me that God saved me and my story was His story that He was working for good.

As I volunteered at church with the single mom's ministry and as I mentored a little girl adopted from China, I began to see how my past was informing how I helped others and telling my story helped them realize they weren't alone. I began to see God's redemptive work, and I still do.

Of course, these lessons continued after I left college. I learned to trust God as my provider in the Great Recession when I just couldn't get a job in my field, but I was still able to land some jobs that paid rent. I was a bit more content in my singleness and sometimes even shared what God taught me about Him being enough as I sat with younger girls as they pined after guys they liked. Though sometimes was just said, "God is sovereign and ultimately good, but singleness still sucks sometimes. Let's just eat through this pint of ice cream." God continued working with me through my past trauma as well.

Back to the present:

This morning, I was holding Matthew and swaying with him to "Enough." Today, I'm a paralegal, wife, step-mom, and mom. Are all my dreams from my college life fulfilled? Partially. I'm not a doctor, but I have a satisfying career. I married a sweet (dorky) cute Christian guy, and I hope I am a decent step-mom and mentor to his 7th grade son. And baby Matthew is right on track developmentally, according to his pediatrician. Life is going well.

Yet, I still need God to re-teach me the lessons of contentment and "Enough" just as much as I did in college. I sometimes wish we had a house instead of renting an apartment. I wish I had not just a good job, but a flexible job so I could spend time with my baby during the week. As my stepson enters his teenage years, and as Matthew continues to grow, I will need to trust God with their lives.

Throughout these fifteen years, and for the rest of my life, I will continue to learn that blessings and accomplishments in my life are not to us, and that in blessing or trial, God is enough.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Friends and Allies

I was challenged by a friend's Facebook post to write a blog post about friendship. Cool. I just used the word "post" twice in one sentence. 

Anyway, we had a family friend come out to visit last week. We had fun seeing a concert and she got to see tons of Matthew. 

One thing we have in common other than friendship with my husband is that we both have physical disabilities. Throughout the course of our time together, we became allies of sorts. If needed, I'd advocate for her, especially at the concert venue, when both hubs and I made sure she had what she needed. When it was time to clear out our row, I told the staff to please be patient with her and that she needed to go at her own pace to pack up to leave. 

We also had a bit of a heart to heart about how it's challenging getting around in an environment built for people with a normal range of mobility and vision. I hope we mutually encouraged each other and served as allies. We have friends without diabilities, but they don't experience unique daily struggles that come with physical limitations. It's nice to connect with someone who gets it, even if it's in a different way, and when we advocate for each other, we become each other's allies.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Mommy Blog Post

This little man takes up my "free time" when I get home from work and on weekends. His cute little picture begins my "mommy blog post." His big brother will get a post to himself soon :) but right now, little Mr. Matthew takes up most of my time.

Here he is eating a cracker while I eat my food (and then put some dishes in to soak.)
 At one point, my goal was to write a blog post every week. Well, that didn't happen for two reasons. The first is that I thought my life didn't have any noteworthy (or should I say blogworthy) events to write about.

These last eight months, I got up during the night to feed my little guy, got myself ready for work and little man ready to go to Grandma's house for the day, went to work during the day, came home, fed little guy and did chores, then went to bed before getting up during the night to tend to little guy. In between all this, I spent time catching up with hub's day, keeping up on social media (mostly during my morning and evening commutes), and doing other random stuff such as writing in the baby book and doing errands. Hubs and I run errands together if he's home, or if I am able, I take the bus and light rail with my little guy if we're only getting a few things from the store.

The second reason I didn't blog much is because I didn't have time, and still don't really have time to blog. Right now, I  have dishes soaking in the sink, bottles soaking in the second bathroom sink, and the baby clothes / towels / burp cloths / bibs / items baby has spat up on laundry basket is full.

Yet, when I take a step back from all that, I realize my life now is an answered prayer to all the prayers my college student and young college grad self prayed during the lonely nights in the dorms and various apartments.

I wanted a husband, but I thought I was too messed up, not loving God enough, and not being obedient enough to earn the blessing of a Christian man pursuing a relationship with me.

I thought having or adopting kids would be a neat experience, but again, I needed a husband to do that and I also didn't know if I was healed enough from my past to take on the emotional responsibility of raising kids. Sure, I worked with kids in a volunteer capacity at my church, but raising them is so different.

Yet, God did His thing and here I am as a stepmom to a 12 year old boy and a mom to an 8 month old. I'm also a "working parent." At some point, I did want to be a stay at home mom, but I was raised to believe that being a mom who worked outside the home was just fine, and actually couldn't be avoided. I still like my job and my paycheck is necessary at this point. Maybe my house isn't as tidy as the homes of my friends and family members who don't work outside the home, but I've co see that we all love our kids equally.

I also realize that God really does give each of us more energy than we thought we had on our own. Sometimes I'm tired from work and want to snooze, but God gives me the energy to play with and crawl after my baby. Most mornings, I walk into work tired, but Praise Jesus for the law firm's coffee machine! God gives me the brain power to be coherent, especially that first hour at my desk.

When I take a step back from the day in and day out of my life, I am reminded that so many others want my life. I still have friends who are waiting for husbands and married friends who are waiting to conceive or adopt children. Realizing that my life is a gift is a reminder to pray for my friends who are waiting for these things. Prayer is not just "Oh, I hope someday they get these things and be happy." but prayer is asking God, on my friend's behalf, for His power to come into her life to either help her draw close to Him while she waits and, if it's His will, to provide my friend the blessing she's asked for in His timing and for His purposes.

Thinking about my life in that more complete perspective reminds me that my husband and I dedicated Matthew at church in February and promised to raise him to know Christ so that one day, by God's grace, he would accept Jesus as his savior and live out the Great Commission: Love God, Love People for Christ. Even at the crawling, bottles, burping, and diapers stage of Matthew's life, I can pray for him and the act of loving him will make him familiar with love so he will more fully understand God's true love.

All these things make the seemingly mundane tasks of chores, caring for a baby, and other tasks of being a working mom significant and yes, even blog post worthy.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Truth. Love. Truth

So if you, dear reader, have read through the very first part of my blog, you'll find that some of my posts really lash out against "the culture", more specifically academia. I haven't written much about those sorts of things mainly because I've been away from academia so long, but also because my views have changed.


I still believe that The Bible is the true Word of God, Jesus died on the cross to redeem us and forgive us for our sins, that He shall return one day and make the world perfect, that Jesus is the representation of true Love, and that God is Creator.

I also have been wrestling with the realization that I probably made some pretty big mistakes when I went about convincing people of the above truths.

My initial Christian training went along the lines of what most would call fundamentalist Christianity, and our pastor talked a lot about how society has gotten gender and the family all wrong. This was rather pertinent as I was in the middle of getting my degree(s) in Human Development and Family Studies. Indeed, I saw that when a spouse put power ahead of loving and serving his family, the family unit was more at risk for domestic violence, divorce, marital conflict, etc. I say 'his' because most of the time, perpetrators of domestic abuse are men. I used the word 'spouse' in the above example because God intended for a man and a woman to marry and commit to each other to form the foundation of their family.

I still believe all that.

I also believed that when I talked to a person who identified as LGBT, I was to act friendly toward them, but my real intention was to get them to trust me enough so I could give them the low down on why God does not intend for them to live an LGBT lifestyle. I believed that a man was to provide for the family financially, and the woman was ideally a homemaker. I saw many families that made it work at my church in Fort Collins and thought, "Well, hey, they're happy, and they can homeschool their children, so cool." If I met a person who believed in old earth Evolution, I would watch for ways to get into that God is Creator conversation. If I met anyone who had a viewpoint other than mine, I was taught to be civil, but my ultimate goal was to convince them of the Christian viewpoint because if they knew Truth, they would know the Gospel and would eventually accept Christ.

I probably annoyed a lot of people. Looking back, I wonder if some people saw me as that nice sweet fundamentalist Christian HDFS girl from college. More seriously, I wonder how much my actions drove them toward or away from Christ.

After graduating from college, I had my own faith crisis of finding a human services job during a recession and without the ability to get a drivers' license. One would be surprised at how many entry level human services jobs require a driver's license. Makes sense if one is to visit families or child care sites etc. Someone should've told me that earlier, but that's a whole other blog post.

Anyway, my focus became less about sharing my faith on campus and more about working enough hours at a job I didn't like so I could pay rent, pay my student loans, and eat some food. I still clung to faith but it was hard.

Along the way, I found that a lot of people needed love first. As I have gotten further along in life and at the ripe age of 32 (!!), I found that a hug rather than a short apologetics lesson is what hurting people need. Not just being nice so you can share truth, but actual loving them. Social skills training for this nearly Aspie Christian also helped too.

When I met my sweet husband, I was right up against the old debate of family again. Do I write him off because he did family wrong, or do I give him a chance and let him tell his story first? I listened to God and He instructed me to do the latter.

With my stepson, I do my best to show him love so he can trust me as a parental figure. Only after I did that, did we have some small conversations about God, church, etc. Are there times where I slip up and get impatient with him if he's giving his dad attitude about going to church? Yup But there are also times when I have rubbed his back for some sensory input during the message or gently asked him to not prod his dad during the sermon. We have prayed about his homework and we have prayed for sweet hubs when sweet hubs goes to sing with the Sunday school classes leaving my stepson and I to attend service together.

My blog post title is Truth. Love. Truth. I'm grateful for the apologetics lessons I learned in college and how deeply we studied the Bible. I learned so much about God and wouldn't trade that for anything. Learning to balance sharing Truth in love has been the hardest part of my development as a Christian. My instinct is to just tell people the right answer if I believe they are wrong, and that's exactly what I did. However, I slowly learned that people need God's love. I've learned to lend a listening ear first before just spouting out Truth. But when the person is receptive and God says it's the right time, I will tell them Truth: Jesus loves them. If we get into a discussion about other issues, fine, but they need to know that the truth is out there and that truth is Jesus came to bring them perfect Love.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Worthiness in Success

Alright, I mentioned Hermione Granger twice in my last blog post, so I feel like I have to expand
upon why I relate to her character so much.

The Harry Potter series came out when I was in 7rh grade, so I joined my friends in reading along.

I could relate to Hermione Granger because she began the series finding her worth in her scholastic abilities. Her first interaction with Harry and Ron involves her demonstration of magic (in the movie verse, she fixes Harry's glasses.)

However, she realizes that her eagerness to demonstrate her knowledge in class becomes a liability because she's teased for it. Of course, that leads to the infamous scene where she's hiding in the bathroom crying for being teased during a troll attack.

We see more of her character develop as her friendship with the boys develops. She isn't just a student aiming to be the top of the class. She is now part of a friend group (The Golden Trio in the Harry Potter fandom) and values what they value especially when it comes to their role in vanquishing Lord Voldemort.

How does Hermione's character arc mimic mine, and why is it relevant to my spiritual growth?

For most of my childhood and teenage years, I had several major things working against my self-esteem: I felt like my health problems, vision limitations, and early setbacks around my adoption were weighing on my mom and because I couldn't solve them, I felt responsible for her sadness around these issues. I was also bad in gym and the less than chivalrous boys would tease me for that. The only tangible evidence that I could achieve what normal kids achieved was scholastic performance. If I got straight A's (or close to it), maybe that would make up for the limitations due to my severe nearsightedness and nystagmus. If I made the honor roll and brought home a ribbon, trophy, or certificate that said "Top of the class," I would maybe make my mom proud enough to make her forget the sadness that the rest of my development caused her.

Like Hermione's character, my narrative turned around when I met some friends in high school that were by my side no matter what. I started to develop more self-esteem. In college, this trend continued when I met some girls in my dorm that were part of a college group at a local church. They didn't care that I couldn't drive or that I needed help if they wanted to explore the campus at night. They helped me get around and they didn't care that I was a premed nerd and would geek out about class even on the weekends.

They introduced me to Jesus in a more personal way. I always believed I had to be a better person and try harder to get closer to God, but God extends His grace and love freely to us because Jesus sacrificed His life on the cross for us.

This was a love I didn't have to work for.

Now that I didn't have to work to earn God's love, anything I did for others in His name was out of sincere love and wanting to do good and not just to earn His favor. I did stuff like service projects and mission trips in college not for myself, but to truly help others.

Do I sometimes feel like I need to earn God's love still? Sometimes. More, I feel like I need to earn God's blessing if I want something, but just like Ron and Harry stood by Hermione's side no matter what, I'm learning that God is with me no matter what and what I do for Him or not doesn't make Him bless me any more or less because He loves His children equally. Christ's sacrifice was enough for all of us.

If I want go grow as a Christian in character or work on memorizing a verse of the Bible or something like that, worth in my success in this area should not  be my motivator. Because God loved me and sent His son for me to bridge the gap between man and God, I no longer have to have to succeed in any task to attain love.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Question that made me go "huh."

Last Friday, the boys, hubs, and I were at the Kids' Night of Worship (NOW) at Southeast. We thought Daniel would enjoy it since it was geared more toward kids. Matthew enjoyed looking at all the lights in the room, the kids and stage crew dancing, and the music. Daniel did more watching than participating, but that's his style. I've learned that Daniel does participate by observation even if he isn't actively involved.

Anyway, the youth pastor asked the kids if they could fill in the blank. "The one thing God wants us to do is ________." Daniel looked at me and I asked him if he knew it. He shrugged, but my mind filled in the blank with "Obey and know the Truth."

The pastor followed up by saying, "The one thing God wants us to do is believe."

What? Daniel was still thinking about the answer, but my answer wasn't what the pastor had said. Granted, the sermon was geared toward kids ages 5 - 14, but still, he had to boil theology down to the very basics, and God wanting us to believe is a very basic piece of theology.

"Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent." John 6:29 (NIV)

Well, there ya go. But that makes sense. We believe in God and then we worship in spirit and in Truth because Christ is the way, the Truth and the Light. We also obey because we believe and are connected to Christ who transforms us (John 15:5, Romans 12:1-2).

So, if belief is the core component of theology, why did I automatically think of "truth" and "obey" as the things God wants the most from us? Or, the Hermione Granger part of my brain asks, "Why did I get the question only partially right, or at the very worst, wrong?"

And why does it matter? It matters because of the little guy that was my arms and the little guy young middle schooler standing next to me that evening. As Matthew's mom and as Daniel's stepmom, I have an influence on their faith and they look to me for spiritual guidance (Ok, Daniel does. Matthew just likes snuggles in church for now). If I want to guide them down the right path, I have to have a solid foundation myself.

Why is it easier to say God wants us to obey and know Truth than it is to say that God wants us to believe? Well, there are rewards for obedience and the Hermione Granger in us enjoys the recognition that comes with knowing something well. Obedience can be measured: I was patient the last three times I waited in line. My co-worker jabbered my ear off again and I didn't snap at her. Knowledge is measurable: I memorized half a chapter today. Belief is less measurable. You either believe that Christ died for our salvation and rose from the dead to give us new life, or you don't. Belief can be demonstrated in outward signs such as baptism, character growth, and good works, but it is definitely harder to grasp.

I think from a developmental standpoint, it's easier to explain to kids that God wants us to be kind, so share your toys, God made the world in six days and on the seventh He rested. These are easier for kids with less abstract thought to digest. I think that's why we start with these. Those aren't wrong, but I could see why a kid would see "obey" and "know Truth" as foundational if they were introduced to those ideas first and then salvation by grace as a gift of God's love as an added bit of truth. I think I was raised in a church that leaned a bit more toward obedience and knowledge as a means to come to God and His grace was less emphasized.

As a parent, I must remind both boys that Jesus loves them and always start there.

Daniel has accepted the basic premise of salvation and chose to be baptized a few weeks ago as a symbol that he accepted Christ's death on the cross for his sins and has been brought to new life in His resurrection. Daniel will understand this truth and all its implications as he develops greater abstract thought, learns more about his faith, and connects with God in deeper ways. I want to facilitate this connection as much as I want to give him little nuggets of theology to learn, and again, that starts with reminding Daniel that Jesus loves him.

Little Matthew's church experience is purely sensory: the lights from the stage, the music, hearing different people talk, but I whisper to him that Jesus loves him. My hope is that some of his early memories, among those of a warm loving home, are those of his parents telling him that God loves him and that will plant the seeds for him to seek out and accept God's love as he gets older.

Lord, help me to grow deeper in knowing Your love and Your grace so that I may grow closer to You. Please use me to draw the boys closer to You as that is my prayer for their lives.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Spiritual Equlibrium: The Reboot

Rebooting is so this century! DC Comics are rebooting Justice League (from way back in the day) Star Wars is doing episodes 7 - 9, and Star Trek just completed its trilogy for its reboot.

Oh, and I'm turning into a geek being married to Bri-Bri and helping him raise Daniel who is also a geek in training thanks to his dad.

Justice League: With a Polynesian Guy!

Star Wars: The Force is strong with strong women!

Star Trek: The New Cast, but Leonard Nimoy cameos here and there

Anyway, I decided to get back into blogging. I took a hiatus because I was tired, nauseous and pregnant. Then I took another hiatus because I was getting accustomed to life with a newborn.

So, why the reboot? Well, why did any of the above franchises reboot? Um.... Revenue!

I'm not looking to monetize the blog right away, but I am getting back into the habit of writing to at some point publish a book of some kind. There is no spoiler alert for that one because I honestly have no idea about the particulars.

Anyway, the other reason the franchises rebooted was because someone on staff thought they could take the existing universe (DC, Star Wars, or Star Trek) and do some new creative things with it.

I am also taking this existing blog and doing some creative things with it such as:

  • Parenting dimension: I'm not switching it over to it being a parenting narrative blog, but my parenting experiences will most definitely be incorporated.
  • Spiritual Lessons Learned: Most of the posts were drafted and published during my time in my college youth group. Though I continue to learn and grow in my faith, I have seen ways that those lessons have continued to serve as a guide to how I go about my faith journey as a paralegal, wife, mom, and stepmom.
  • More thoughts on Adoption: I did start a dedicated blog on that, but then life happened. I want to incorporate more of how my identity as an adoptee influences how I view my parenting, how I view my son and stepson's development, and even how I view some current events. Obviously, posts on here will incorporate a Christian point of view, whereas I don't think my posts on my other blog have done so in an overt way.
So, yeah. I'm aiming for a blog post a week. Sometimes there will may be more, sometimes life with a baby, stepson, and husband will completely take over and I might not post. But, my goal is to be as consistent as possible.

May the reboot be with me!
Blog long and prosper!

And yes, the geek tie-ins will certainly continue!
(Pictures on this blog post were pulled from Google Images.)