Freestyling

Dear Reader,

The theme of my book, Same Dress, Different Day, is “God redeems the dreams we thought were lost.” This post is evidence of one way he is doing that in my life. In HIS way. In His time. If you haven’t yet read my memoir, you may not fully be able to appreciate the depth of what takes place in the story that follows. If you have read my memoir, I know you will be freestyling with me at the end of this story.

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“I had a meeting with Joelle today,” Honey announced as he changed into a long-sleeved shirt with the CREATION Health logo stitched in white lettering. He was on his way to the YMCA to lead a class on healthy lifestyle choices.

“Oh, how’d it go?”

“Well, we didn’t talk about community building, as planned. I took the boys along. IMG_4444Joelle and I spent the whole time watching them Jet-Ski with her husband, Ken. She was super curious about them. She wanted to know the whole story of how we ended up with two teenage Ukrainian orphans for the summer,” he responded, grabbing his CREATION Health bag and pressing a kiss onto my forehead as he pressed the garage door opener.”

A few minutes later, Honey texts.

Please call me at your earliest convenience.

“What did you forget?” I joke when he answers his phone.

“Nothing. I just heard from Joelle. She and Ken want to meet us at the Y after my class tonight.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. She just said they want the four of us to speak together. Can you bring the boys to work out while we visit?”

“I guess so.”

Lord, why do they want to meet with us?

I receive the answer to my silent prayer moments after we sit down with Ken and Joelle. I hold my breath as polite small talk paves the way for much bigger talk than I am prepared for.

“What would it take to adopt the boys?” Joelle’s question knocks the wind out of my summer hosting sails.

Honey explains as much as he knows of the procedure as my brain scrambles to process the emotions her question just uncapped. I listen as Joelle and Ken share their heartfelt interest in the future of the two teenagers who intensely play table tennis just outside the glass doors of the YMCA’s conference room.

We’re supposed to advocate for them, right, God? Isn’t that the whole purpose of the hosting program? Why do I feel possessive of them? Why are my emotions on edge as I listen to this conversation? Shouldn’t I be happy that someone is interested in them?

I struggle to stay present in the conversation as my heart rate increases and the obnoxious lump in my throat grows to the size of a clementine.

Our meeting ends with an invitation to bring the boys to Ken and Joelle’s on Thursday for a cookout so their extended family can get to know them.

Why do I feel like crying?

I quiz God on the way home as the Boy beside me changes the radio station to something I’ve never heard and the Boy in the backseat proclaims, “Yes! I like this song.”

Driving“How do you even know this song?” I shout into the rear view mirror at the smiling teen who is full on freestyling despite the constraints of his seatbelt.

I know the song that plays in my head. The one I’ve been trying to block for weeks: the one that started out slow, with the simple rhythm of learning to love two strangers. The one that daily increases with intensity as the time for their departure nears and Honey and I avoid the “A-word” that nobody else seems afraid to say. The song that began all those years ago in chapter 7 of my book (Same Dress, Different Day) when I gave my heart to a brown-eyed baby girl and set my sights on adoption.

I know that song – the song whose chorus rings in my ears whenever I allow myself to dream those I-wanna-be-somebody’s-mamma dreams. It’s a song I’ve spent years playing with the volume completely down because I know the searing pain of disappointment. But sometimes something happens that blasts the volume on my silent CD and, like the Boy in the backseat, I feel the music deep in my soul and it moves me in strange and unusual ways.

The day we went to Ken and Joelle’s for dinner was a day I was unable to control my Mamma Song’s volume. I wanted to shout, “Stop looking at them like that! They’re not puppies for sale in some shop window. They’re boys. Kind boys whose eyes are filled with stories they have not yet shared with me, boys whose hearts have been hurt by their hand-me-down lives, but who still hold their heads high with dignity. Boys who live each moment with joy, spilling it all over Honey and me. Hey! Those are my boys!”

Yeah, it was hard to smile and nod and eat macaroni salad without breaking my plastic fork. My emotions were drunk driver erratic as I watched Joelle and Ken’s family watching the boys. I had to step inside the powder room to pray. More than once.

God! What is up with me? I should be THRILLED that these people see the boys’ potential. Thrilled they want to give them a better future than the one they face when they go back to Ukraine. Why am I not feeling this?

Fast-forward five days. Ken and Joelle have invited the four of us for dinner again. This time it’s at Your Pie, our favorite pizza place. I am not hungry.

“God spoke to me as I walked and prayed this morning,” Joelle begins. “He does that sometimes. Ken knows.” She made eye contact with her husband.

Are those tears I see in his eyes, Lord? Oh, God. I don’t know if I can take this.

Joelle continues speaking. I follow one Boy with my eyes as he rides his skateboard between tables on the restaurant’s outside patio. The other Boy plays Keep Away with Ken and Joelle’s daughter and granddaughter.

“Yeah. God said I heard Him correctly the other day when I felt we were supposed to be involved in these kids’ lives. I just got the details wrong. Today He clarified things.” Joelle made eye contact, first with André, then me, before continuing, “God was very clear that you two are supposed to be the ones to adopt them. Ken and I are just supposed find ways to help you do that and provide support as you parent them. We want to financially help you get started with the adoption process. And we’d also like to commit to helping with the boys’ education.”

I put my head down on the table at my favorite pizza place and wept. Then I looked at My Honey. His eyes were moist as he nodded “Yes” to my unspoken question. That’s when I started freestyling as the volume on my Mama Song shot through the roof!

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Honey and I humbly invite you to be part of this story.

Because the adoption process is lengthy and expensive for adopting two children from different orphanages in two different regions of Ukraine, we are starting a Go Fund Me account to give other people the opportunity to join Ken and Joelle in the adventure of supporting André and me as we seek to make our dream of adopting Yura and Pasha a reality. Please feel free to share our journey with others who may also be moved to help us become a family of four._DSC4874

Click HERE To Participate in Our Adoption Journey.

The Doorway of Decision

“It’s all about choices.” My sister loves to repeat that sentence, applying it to anything from why people are overweight to why marriages crumble. She’s right. Life unfolds through the power of choice. Sometimes victims of someone else’s addictions struggle with believing that they have the power to choose something different.Doorways

In Same Dress, Different Day I write about how love is a decision (thanks Gary Smalley, for the original thought) and how I chose to love my first husband, “Jon,” despite my feelings toward him after he was admitted to a drug rehab.

“Life is different when lived from a place of one’s own choosing, rather than as a victim of circumstance. Once I chose to begin practicing a lifestyle of love and forgiveness within my marriage, regardless of reciprocation, the Lord began to give me feelings to go along with my decision. Just a short while before, I had felt anger, fear, and utter disgust with Jon. Toward the end of his stay at the drug rehabilitation center, I began experiencing feelings of compassion, forgiveness, love and hope for my broken spouse” Same Dress, Different Day, p. 59.

On the following page, I write: “I learned unconditional love does not mean passively allowing another person to use you. I learned forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. Slowly, I began to learn how to find joy in life, apart from any choices Jon made. My joy did not have to depend upon another’s decisions.”

Merrriam-Webster.com defines codependency as “a psychological condition in which someone is in an unhappy and unhealthy relationship that involves living with and providing care for another person (such as a drug addict or an alcoholic).” Because of Leon, [my Christian counselor] I began taking my first steps away from unhealthy codependent patterns in my relationships, toward the freedom of living with healthy boundaries.”

Boundaries are vital to healthy relationships. They prevent others from oozing into our personal space and occupying areas of our lives meant solely for God or our spouse. They also safeguard us against the oozing of others. Here’s what Dr. Henry Cloud, author of several books on boundaries says about them:

“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom. Taking responsibility for my life opens up many different options. Boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out. Setting boundaries inevitably involves taking responsibility for your choices. You are the one who makes them. You are the one who must live with their consequences. And you are the one who may be keeping yourself from making the choices you could be happy with.
Henry Cloud, Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life

That’s a heavy statement. We so often tend to blame other people for our unhappiness, yet we have the power to choose to implement changes that could impact our happiness. What prevents us from doing that? I’d say FEAR.

Fear of Change is one fear that underscores many of our decisions.

The Celebrate Recovery Devotional, Day 26 offers this wisdom about life-controlling fear:

“Fear of change can keep us from confronting problems in our lives and get us stuck in our recoveries. Deep down inside, we know that change is inevitable. However, because we already have to adjust to so many changes that we have no control over…we delude ourselves into believing that things will be all right if they just stay the same….

…Most of us fear change, and we can sometimes allow that fear to get us stuck in our recovery journey. When we begin to fear change, we need to go right back to Recovery Principle Five: “Voluntarily submit to every change God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove any character defects.” It helps to understand that there are three main reasons we resist change.

  1. We may be paralyzed by the fear of failure. But falling down doesn’t make us a failure; staying down does. This is where our faith and trust in Jesus Christ come into play.

Philippians 4:19 assures us: And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

  1. We may fear intimacy because of the fear of rejection or of being hurt again. This is why it is so important to move slowly in a new relationship, taking time to seek God’s will, to develop realistic expectations and to establish proper boundaries. We hold tightly to Psalm 118:6, “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
  1. We may resist change (growth) because of the fear of the unknown. We may think, “My life is a mess, my relationships are a mess, but at least I know what to expect – a mess!” The unknown can be scary if we are trying to face it alone. That is why we need to rely on Christ and our accountability team. God tells us in Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

If we find ourselves “stuck” in our recovery, it may be that we are resisting a change that God wants us to make. It is only through change that growth can occur. It is only through change that our recovery can happen. It is only through change that we can become free from our hurts, hang-ups and habits.”

Life is all about choices. What fears are holding you captive? What will you choose to do with those fears today?

Step 12 – Something to Crow About

Step 12

“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs”

Rooster Key West He strutted down the sidewalk as if he belonged there. He did. (I was the Key West tourist with the camera.) Paying no mind to taxis, bicycles or pedestrians, he walked his flashy walk – colorful tail feathers lifted high, red wattle swinging from side to side. Life was so good he stopped mid-stride to crow about it.

 When the “good stuff” happens, don’t we want to tell someone, anyone – even strangers on the street?Crowing in Key West

 A proud papa announces to his colleague, “My son scored the winning three-pointer in his JV game last night!” A grandma in the checkout line turns her phone to share a photo of a swaddled newborn with the cashier. Three fingers and a smile instantly pop up when a preschooler is asked his age on his birthday.

When life is good, life is worth sharing.

 But what about the not-so-good stuff? Do we pipe up in an office staff meeting the morning after we bail our kid out of jail? Or discuss our grandson’s disturbing Facebook post? Do we tell anyone that today would have been our spouse’s ninetieth day “clean and sober” – if she’d managed to stay clean and sober? Are we willing to be vulnerable…even when life isn’t picture-perfect?

 We are learning to be, because we’ve discovered the power of being authentic and transparent. We’ve recognized the truth behind Dr. Larry Crabb’s premise that “healing takes place in community,” but those who haven’t been introduced to the 12 Steps may not realize that truth. They may be trying to hide the stench of their suffering.

 Step 12 is about waking up and smelling… not the coffee, not the roses, but the pain of the people around us. It’s about letting God make us so alive in Him that we are finally able to step outside ourselves, and share what He has done and continues to do in our lives as we walk forward and work the Steps with Him. It’s about living what we have learned. It’s about being authentic; about caring when others are hurting and sharing the hope of the 12 Step journey with them.

 Step 12 is the Step where our eyes are finally opened to the abundant life Jesus invites us to live. This Step is when we realize that we’ve got something really, really good and we don’t want to, no, we cannot keep it to ourselves! As we apply the truths of each of the 12 Steps to our daily lives, and our paths cross with others who are traveling the rough roads we’ve already taken, we have something to offer them when they ask, “Which way do I go from here?” Even when their mouths remain silent, we can look into their eyes and recognize the hurt that was once so familiar in our own mirrors. We can smell their pain and offer them healing.

The difference between who we are now and who we were before we began our 12 Step journey is that the pain of others does not revile or overwhelm us. Their story does not send us spiraling back into our own addiction. We no longer long for the numbing effects of whatever we ran to before we learned to run to Jesus. We have compassion for those suffering the effects of their own, or a loved one’s addiction. We recognize the hollowness in their countenances. We know their heartaches. And we are not afraid to share our own experience, strength and hope. In fact, we LIVE to share what God has done for us, believing wholeheartedly that what He’s done for us, He will do for others.

 This IS Step 12:

– Waking up to the fact that these principles draw us close to the heart of God, the HIGHEST Power, and that He will finish the good work He began in us (Philippians 1:6)!

– Carrying this good news to everyone who will listen.

– “Walking the walk,” not just “talking the talk.”

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How am I putting all this “preaching” into practice? Well… I’m excited to tell you that I’ve submitted my manuscript for Same Dress, Different Day: A Spiritual Memoir of Addiction and Redemption to the publisher! It’s scary and exhilarating all at the same time. I feel vulnerable and nervous to share my story publicly. But I also feel that what God has done in my life is so incredible, that I’d be doing Him a disservice if I do not share it. I am choosing to carry this message to others, via my book, my blog and my upcoming speaking engagements. I am excited to see what God will do in the hearts and lives of others through this ministry.

I know that you have something to crow about, too! What are you doing to share your story with others? How are you putting Step 12 into practice? Please do write in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you.