“When the Phone Rings” A Zoe’s House Adoptions Post

Anytime that phone rings with an unknown number my heart pounds and a lump forms in my throat. I take a breathe like a prayer and press that button, choking out a greeting that I hope sounds less nervous than I feel.  “Hello, this is Christina with Zoe’s House….” and most of the time the response deflates me like a balloon. It’s a doctor, a social worker, a friend from a local pregnancy resource center who has a question or someone wanting to donate maternity clothes and all of those calls I can answer with ease.

But when it’s the other call, the “Hello……(pause)… I’m pregnant and want to talk to someone about adoption?” Those times, that lump grows larger, my breath catches and for a moment I draw a blank, every time. The significance of that moment and what it costs her to ask that question is never lost on me.”

Click Here to read the rest of this post that I wrote for Zoe’s House Adoptions!

“Extending Grace”… A Zoe’s House Adoptions Post

“Is there anything that you need?” I asked.

Shaking her head no she replied “I’m good.”

“What about maternity clothes?”  She’d come in wearing an oversized t-shirt and gym shorts and I couldn’t help but believe that was due to more than just her trying to hide her growing stomach.”

Click here to read the rest of this post that I wrote for Zoe’s House this week.

Mind Your Manners

Tonight I ran into Target on a quick errand (every woman’s favorite place to be on a quiet evening, am I right?) and while bustling up the center aisle of the store was stopped by a voice behind me saying, “Hey!”

I turned to see a tall man whose face was vaguely familiar and after a moment I recognized him as someone who had attend my church when I was new to the community many years ago. Stepping towards me in a friendly manner he continued, “I haven’t seen you in a long time!” and threw out his arm for a hug. I haven’t seen this man in at least 6 years, he’s probably 10 years older than me and as he was never more familiar to me than a friendly face at church I replied with a smile and hello, responding to his invitation with a high-five. This was acknowledged by a surprised jerk of his head and a widening of his eyes…..before he completely ignored my clear though non-verbal communication and hugged me anyway.

As he pulled away I took a step back from him and straightened to be as “big” as my full 5’4 frame allows. This is a familiar response that I have practiced since childhood when feeling threatened and when he would see it my father would laugh and quote the bat from Fern Gully saying “Puff up! Puff up! They hate that!”. But I digress.

The man smiled and continued as though he hadn’t just tramped through my physical boundaries asking, “How ya doin?”

Swallowing my frustration for the sake of being polite I replied “Great!”

“Oh yeah, what are you up to these days?”

“Oh, you know, just working.”

The conversation continued another minute of him asking questions and my attempting to politely reply with vague answers when without warning he stepped towards me, removing the distance I had intentionally put between us. “So…..hey…..?” and raising his eyebrows in a question he placed his hand on my left elbow before running it down my arm to grab my hand and hold it high while lightly rubbing his thumb across my bare ring finger…… as I stared, dumbfounded. Snatching my hand back and thrusting both hands into my pockets I again stepped back from him, shaking my head and stammering, “Oh no, no no.” His eyebrows raised higher and he asked with a smile and suggestive tone, “Really….No?”.

By now my blood was boiling. I smiled again and firmly said, “I’m on a time crunch and need to go”. Turning on my heel I heard his voice behind me say, “It was great to see you….. Christina, isn’t it?” and glancing over my shoulder I saw him grinning, watching me do my best to not storm down the aisle.

Walking through the store I found the brief, bizarre interaction playing over in my mind as I tried to analyze what in the world had just happened. Had I done something to encouraged his over familiar, rude behavior? Was there any situation in the past that would have led him to believe that he had the right to both touch and treat me that way? Why did I feel the need to be polite to someone treating me with such a lack of respect? I can already hear the defenses coming starting with, “That’s really not a big deal….” so I’ll step back and reiterate a few points. I don’t know this man. He was never more than a familiar face from a long time ago. There was never a friendship. I do not even know his last name but for reasons beyond me this man who is both older and larger than me felt that he had the right to ignore my very clear physical boundaries. And just so we are all clear may I say gently that it is never ok to force someone to touch you in any manner?

As a single 30-year-old woman living in a conservative community I have heard just about all that there is to hear related to singleness and marriage. I don’t mean that in a negative way whatsoever. I love community, love my church, deeply love family and would like to have my own one day! I have read many books, attended seminars and listed to sermons related to both topics and am neither bitter towards my married friends or angry at the season of life that I am in. However, I find that just about everyone else seems to feel differently about that than I do. I have been questioned as though there is something wrong with my being single, not by close friends mind you but by acquaintances, people who at one time may have had an invitation from me to speak into my life, people who assume that familiarity grants them that right and recently, by perfect strangers. I wish that there would be a way to communicate the sincere gentleness in my tone as I make this statement…. frankly, it is not anyone’s business. I have no need to make excuses and I do not owe anyone an explanation. I’m not angry, but I am TIRED of being asked to give a defense for my life as though there is a) something wrong or b) an answer that I could give that would make the questioner feel that my singleness is somehow justified to them.

The interaction that I had with this man tonight is the perfect example(although a little extreme) of the over familiarity and lack of manners that I am continually running into and as I type this in the back of my mind I hear a little grey rabbit chiding, “Mind yo’ mannews!”. I’d like to trumpet that to a whole culture that assumes familiarity where it hasn’t been earned. To the people who make unwelcome comments and suggestions to my married friends who do not have children, to the strangers who grill my friends at the playground because they have several small children close in age, to the voices asking and prodding where they have no room to speak. Have we all forgotten our manners? When did it become appropriate to stop treating each other with honor and respect, to believe it acceptable to demand answers where we have no right or room to ask questions? When did we stop treating each other with basic dignity?

And when did it become acceptable to force touch? To not ask permission? As a small person I have spent my whole life being forced into physical interactions that were unwanted. In high school it was a game among many of my male friends to literally pick me up and carry me around.  As an adult I find myself regularly in the awkward position of being forced to hug people who assume that it’s ok to sweep me up in a friendly squeeze but my stature shouldn’t determine someone else’s right to my body. I used to frame the situation as “I’m being treated as though I am a child” but now I realize that the flaw in that thinking is the assumption that a child somehow has less rights and responsibility over their body than an adult. The humiliation that I felt as 90 pound 15-year-old being thrown on the shoulder of a high school quarter back and the humiliation that I felt tonight as a stranger ran his hand down my arm is the same. This body is mine, and I should be allowed the dignity of deciding who has access to me.

Again, none of this is said in anger but rather as a plea. People, mind your manners. Remember that you do not ever know the whole of the story and that the one piece of information that you might possess doesn’t give you the right to someones personal life. Let’s THINK before we speak, before we ask, before we act. Let’s consider one another, let’s respect each other enough to ask permission and not assume. No one owes you an answer, no one owes you a touch. And to everyone out there who feels the weight of unwarranted questions, you don’t have to make an excuse and you don’t owe anyone a response :).

The Power of a Woman

I look around me and see so.many. different things that women are being pressured to do or be…..
Strong. Proud. Educated. Self Sufficient. Beautiful. Desirable. Able to speak their minds. Able to stand up for themselves. Capable. Articulate. Fit. Accomplished. Unblemished. etc etc etc etc
I’ve seen it, I’ve felt it, I’ve LIVED in the pull to live in a way that fights to convince myself more than anyone that I have got it all together, thank you very much and truly……it’s all exhausting. Trying to hold it together, to not need anyone and to look GREAT while doing it. Trying to keep the pain at bay, press past it and not let anyone see it lest they think for a moment that I may be vulnerable….may be just as weak and frail and wounded as they are.

Life, is beautiful and wild and worth living intentionally with every breath every day, but sometimes life is also really real and really hard. And from that place, I want to be a woman who is kind, compassionate and nurturing, who see’s pain and offers love, who can take a breath and slow down and empathize with the person right in front of me and stop trying to prove anything to anyone, most of all myself. I’m a fighter, God knows it kills me to back down from a fight…..but more than the ability to clench the jaw and fist through pain I believe the power of a woman is in the ability to FEEL the pain. To bear long though it, to carry new life through suffering and come out victorious.

Could we just……stop. Could we lay down those expectations that have been piled high on our shoulders by the voices around us and the voices within and just leave them where they lie. Little girl, young lady, women of all ages and races and places of life, let’s hold our heads high and not from pride but from the vulnerability and tenderness that makes us “Woman”. You have nothing to prove.

Don’t peace out

My only disclaimer is that this is not an angry rant. This is something I’ve thought out for a loooong time, and I just want to talk about it for a minute, so bear with me.

I am a single woman looking at 30 and over the last ten years my relationships have changed, really quickly. I have had the joy of being a bridesmaid ten times, a personal attendant once and have planned or made the decorations for or decorated for 5 different weddings. My friends are getting married and starting families and I love the role that I get to play in supporting them through those massive life changes. Most of my married friends have children and most of those children I have babysat for on different occasions.

I LOVE this. It’s not a burden to me, not a sad thing that constantly reminds me of my singleness in this world and I don’t say that to downplay the pain and the longing that some young women feel in my shoes.  I am just trying to say that I’m happy and seeing my friends marrying good people who love and care for them, makes me happy. Getting to continue to be a part of their lives makes me happy. Seeing the ongoing Facebook announcements of those couples becoming pregnant or adopting children makes me happy.  Being a part of their childrens lives and being loved by their children makes me happy.

I am a very committed person (really no matter the situation) especially in my friendships. I highly value intentionality and clear communication. I work really hard to say hard things and good things because I believe there is almost no deeper pain than the regret you feel at a graveside over things that were not said. If I call you “friend” then you had better believe I have got your back. I will stand with you, I will fight with you and for you, and I will love you to the best of my ability come what may. And seeing the people that I love falling in love generally makes me really, really happy.

And here it comes…..

The difficulty for me lies NOT in seeing others falling in love and then feeling bad about myself or jealous of their lives and the fact that I’m still single – AGAIN, I am not mocking people who really truly feel that pain. I am clarifying; that is not how I process when my friends are in relationships – the difficulty for me lies in the situation where someone who I call friend enters into a relationship, and OUT of relationship with everyone else. When chemistry starts flying and that special someone starts thinking that you are REALLY special, it is so natural to want to spend all of your time with them. It is natural to have the dynamics of your friendships shift and to have that person rapidly move their place of importance towards the top of your list. I have experienced this in ways where I still felt valued and still felt like I was a friend and I have experienced this in other, really difficult ways.

My friends relationships become a source of pain to me when their special someone becomes their only someone. When despite years or depth of friendship, I find myself excluded (though most likely NOT intentionally) from their lives because of that relationship. I have attended weddings of people who I once considered my closest friends, and watched the ceremony feeling like the people at the alter were mere acquaintances, because once their dating relationship began they no longer gave any time to our friendship. That is very sad thing, and the pain of that hinders me from truly feeling the joy of their union. I have experienced this in friendships, where the (for the example) girl spent all of her time with the guy and then months later when the relationship doesn’t work out, has an expectation that our friendship will pick back up as though it were unaffected by the months of no time and no communication between us, despite my trying. Sometimes, I have experienced that multiple times with the same person. It’s painful and it’s frustrating.There have been times when I will bump into these friends, and in person they seem to interact with me as though we still have the level of intimacy or friendship that we once had. This is also frustrating and very confusing, when I have continued to try and reach out in friendship with them only to have them not respond or never have time.

Listen my friends: don’t do that. When you find someone special, know that the people who care about you want to be happy for you and want to continue to be in relationship with you throughout your relationship. It is a JOY to me, to be able to call my friend’s boyfriends/girlfriends/fiancés/spouses “friend”. To be included in those relationships and to have the opportunity to get to know the person who is special to you will mean a LOT to the people in your lives. YES, the dynamics of your friendships will change as you fall in love with someone, they HAVE to, it is normal and healthy. But don’t peace out on your friends because you’re dating, falling in love or married. Your friends and YES, even your single friends DO want to maintain a level of friendship in your life and yes, that does require some intentionality. But know that when you make that special someone your only someone, it can be hurtful to the people who care about you, and can be unhealthy and potentially a dangerous thing for you. When you get married it is natural that you will want to develop friendship with other married couples, and your relationships with your single friends will change. But seeing married friends giving all of their time to married couples and feeling that there is never time for their friendship with single friends, well it just feels crummy.

Dating, engaged or married; out of love, don’t peace out.

On Grief

I posted this on Facebook about a week ago. And since my thoughts lie in this direction, wanted to paste it here as well.

“I watched an interesting video on the topic of grief the other day. At the end, the man speaks of death saying “death feeds everything that lives. The recognition that that’s the case, and that it includes, not you, that’s the easy part to see, but that it includes the people that you love and the things you don’t want to end. That’s grief, and it’s not personal. But the key, the real skill to being grateful is not to be grateful for the stuff that benefits you. That’s easy. What about being grateful for the stuff that doesn’t benefit you in the least, but you’re grateful that it’s in the world anyway? Now you’re getting somewhere, now you’re seeing the big story. Now you’re willing for life  to be bigger than your life span, or your childrens lifespan.

Grief is not a feeling. Grief’s not how you feel, grief’s what you do. Grief is a skill. And the twin of grief, as a skill of life, is the skill of being able to praise, or love, life. Which means wherever you find one authentically done, the other is very close at hand. Grief and the praise of life, side by side. …….. Grief and the ability to love life, they’re toasting the living.

That has proved so true in my life. When I have not allowed myself to grieve, my heart has grown cold and I have found myself unable to fully live. But when I allow myself to feel pain, to walk the painful and slow road through grieving I also find myself living new all over again. It’s Ann Voskamps “Eucharisteo” – swallowing the death and the life of Christ, thanking God for all things – the good and the ugly. Or as Bonhoeffer said, the Christian living life from the perspective of the end unto the beginning.

Take some time and think on that. Grief, hand in hand with the love of life. What do you think?”

On this day 4 years ago the man I was named after struggled one last time for breath, and breathed into the eternal glory of no more sickness. I remember blogging on valentines day that year of how I was able to Skype with my family in his hospice room, and coax a smile onto his beautiful, wrinkled face. I cherish that memory on days like today when I miss him deep down to my bones. His beautiful smile, his soft wrinkled hands, the smell of his shirts when he’d hug and not let go. My grandfather was a precious soul. It’s crazy to me to think that the things that remind me of him – his wrinkled hands and deeply lined face, the ragged sound of his breathing – those things that are included in all of my memories have nothing to do with who he is now. I don’t remember him without an oxygen tank, I never saw him run, never saw him young. But now he is free, whole and remade. I can’t imagine what it will be to see my grandfather whole. Today we grieve as we remember you Carroll, but our grief is laden with heavy hope. Hope that does not disappoint, grief that leads to truest life.

Hello 2015

I’m determined to blog more this year than I did last year, which shouldn’t be a challenge!  My silence is best clarified through the words of a good friend “Once we give something up, it’s much more comfortable to ignore it.”

There has been much to ignore, but there is also much to shed light on, see clearly and to say. For now all that I’ll say is… you should take two posts and read this from Randy’s blog.

“There are a lot of Jesus’ words that make me scratch my head, but there’s phrase that has made sense to me since I was a kid.

When He said “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit…”, that made sense.  I grew up watching wheat fall to the earth and die….and seeing harvests reaped because of it.” Click here to read the rest…..