Tag: about me

an honest look at Plan B

I am not a person who gets it right the first time, or does it the way it is supposed to be.

When i graduated from high school, I had a full scholarship and then some to my college of choice (go Illini!) But I dropped out after a year and didn’t finish until 10 years later.

Those 10 years were filled with foolish choices, reckless choices, hurtful circumstances, numerous setbacks. But I started my 30s living the life I’d always dreamed of having.

And today, I have a family of 6. The marriage that wasn’t going to last is going on 9 years. The step kids who are supposed to resent me are 2 of the people closest to me. And the babies I wasn’t supposed to be able to have? Well, you probably know how that went.

Don’t get me started on whether former adulterers can be used in ministry. God’s grace is bigger than scarlet letters and unforgiving labels, and His plans don’t require any of us to be perfect, only to be humble and willing. Don’t get me started on the crazy idea of ‘throwing a gospel convention.’ It was never about competing with anyone or trying to make money, only about following a call.

As for moving our family a thousand miles away, to the beach, for a startup company with an unconventional concept?

I didn’t expect it to be simple. I kind of expected the nervous stomach, the uncertainty, and the occasional threats of violence (I mostly exaggerate).

I believe in Big Risks. I believe when your heart is in the right place and you follow your heart, something good will come of it.

And I believe in Plan B, but not because I expect to fail, ever. I only expect that life, in some ways, is a journey we take along a script God has written, and we can’t always tell what’s going to be on the next page. There is no white out, though, and no turning back. We have to keep turning the pages to get to the best part.

And I believe in Happy Endings.

definition & testimony/ on being a stepmom

a mom of four! - Mother\'s Day 2008

What Defines Me

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about definition. What defines me? I used to try to describe myself with vitals, lists, things like that. All you would really know in that case is that I am 31, a Chicago suburbanite, literary yet techy -minded, a sarcastic romantic, a daughter, sister, friend, a teacher, a writer, a fan.

But for most of my adult life, what defined me was my desire to have kids. And slowly, through painful processes, those kids came. They came in the form of “friend-nieces & nephews” from a very fertile group of friends. One came in the form of my sweet nephew Andrew, the blonde-haired, blue eyed, son of my brother, who now as an 8 year old, I can no longer call my Prince Pooh.

They came in the form of Josh & Paige, the children I inherited on March 28, 2003, when I married my best friend Rod. A realization came to me lately that being a stepmom is a huge definer in my life. It’s something as special and sacred as motherhood, but something not nearly as many people understand. It comes with its own set of rules, emotions, guilt, relationships, and blessings. I am still learning about it daily, five years later.

In the fall of 2004, I was diagnosed with infertility. This was, quite honestly, my nightmare come true. It’s a condition I had irrationally and always feared, and it was devastating. I plugged through, concentrating on finishing my teaching degree and being somewhat dutifully happy as several more friends got pregnant.

A little over a year later, days after my 29th birthday, I began my career as a high school English teacher – another lifelong dream – and made the decision with Rod that rather than pursue fertility treatments, we would begin the process of a Chinese adoption that summer (China requires adoptive parents to be age 30 or over).

I was grounded. I began to accept that my “worst” fate as a mother would be “only” having Josh and Paige as my kids, and I counted myself blessed. I also watched my brother marry his ideal mate, and I began to feel a sense of purpose in sharing my “stepmomdom” with my new sister.

And then, about a month after their wedding, I began to notice changes in myself. You know the rest of the story, right? On April 12th 2006, it was confirmed: I was pregnant. On November 22 of that year, Miranda Rose was born. And on June 29, 2007, an even bigger surprise: with Miranda only 6 months old, we were expecting again.

So my definition, I suppose, is grace and gratefulness. There is a lot more to me than what these simple paragraphs tell. There are stories of shortcomings and redemption and triumphs and disappointments. The bottom line, for my life as it is now, is that I have more than I could have imagined, I love my family, and while the moment I became a mommy was not the defining moment in my life, it has put my life in amazing perspective.

The rest is in the living.

Pictured: A mom of 4, Mothers Day 2008

a real fine place to start / 2009 Me

So tomorrow is my 32nd birthday.

I am sort of ambivalent about it. It’s not any particular milestone. I don’t seem to have any more gray hairs or forgetfulness than I did last year. I do have one more child, some new aches and creaks, maybe even a little more wisdom.

Somehow, I have everything I have ever wanted. Some might call me established. Sometimes, though, I think of myself as boring. Today I was chatting casually with a friend and mentioned this. She had described me as “responsible,” which is pretty accurate on most counts (except, you know, I like to play on Facebook and Livejournal and various blogs instead of doing laundry or finishing my free lance projects). Our conversation prompted her to write a blog entry all about me. When I read it, I was somewhat shocked and deeply touched. What she didn’t know is that I get discouraged, often. I second guess myself a LOT. Even though I have so many blessings, I look at myself as someone with so many shortcomings: I don’t have my “body back” after the babies. I gave up teaching to stay home… was that the right decision? I tick off the ways I am a less than adequate wife/mommy/stepmom/daughter/friend. You know the routine. “We” are all our own worst enemies. “We” see ourselves as the worst possible versions of ourselves. I don’t know why we do that…

So it was a glorious birthday present to read Shannon’s words about me. It was somewhat magical to take just a moment and look at myself through the eyes of someone who sees me as much more admirable than I see myself. And you know what else? Part of growing up, I believe, is that I can actually say: I agree, Shannon. Most of those things she said about me are true. I don’t think it’s bragging… I do agree that I love people, I want to make friends and make things comfortable or better for others. I treasure my family. I am a pretty good juggler of “stuff.”

Now I am going to really ramble… but Saturday night, we went to see Marley and Me. I won’t go down the road of what a touching movie it was or the parallels I was drawing between the journey of the characters and my own life. But I will say, at one moment when the Jennifer Aniston character was having a Very Familiar Mommy Meltdown, that part of me actually thought: How can someone who looks like that ever be sad? How shallow, right?! The fact is, that proverbial grass only seems so much greener. I tend to think if I could just do this, if I just looked like that, life would be better. Who knows? Perhaps except for bank accounts and dress sizes, Jennifer Aniston would trade lives with me!

Thanks to Shannon, I am reminded that where I am now is a product of a lot of years of decisions and mistakes, a lot of support from a rich network of loved ones, and, well, God’s grace! I am also reminded that the reason we have friends is to remind us of the best parts of ourselves.

Shannon had no idea… but I was having some big moments of the Doubt this afternoon. Not everyone thinks I am as wonderful as she does :) and sometimes I am still what my husband calls an Approval Addict. Shannon’s words turned my day around… and whether a direct result or not, I spent the rest of the evening cooking a yummy dinner (pasta with light Alfredo sauce, anyone>;) and sharing it with Rod, all 4 of our kids, and our son’s girlfriend, with a little Ella playing in the background, and lots of laughs.

So tomorrow means that I am getting older… that I listen to “dusties”… that I am one year farther away from youth… that I have about a pound to lose for every year I have been alive. So what? Tonight was a great way to start, and I kind of can’t wait to see what happens next…

PS: If you want to make someone’s day, do for them what Shannon did for me!

I call this my manifesto / On my infertility

*The story of a miracle after a time of barrenness.

The God I serve – April 12, 2006

I became a Christian – a real choice to become a Christian, when I was 7 years old. The sect of Christianity I practice emphasizes a personal relationship with Christ… prayer, love, dependency, communion. Not rituals… relationship. I’ve had a roller coaster relationship with God. I’ve always loved Him, always believed… but often strayed. Neglected my faith. Neglected the relationship. Made stupid decisions that made me a hypocrite because they went against the things I believed. This cycle went on and on. I think it nearly killed me a few times.

And fast forward… mid-20s. Tumultuous life? Gone. Suddenly, at peace… married… stepmom… OOH…WORST NIGHTMARE: INFERTILITY… finish school… start dream career… make tentative adoption plans… brother gets married/ family at peace… lalala.

None of this probably makes sense, but that’s okay. Here is my point: I’ve been at peace. Since, I don’t know, maybe Christmas, maybe a little before or a little after, I have been at peace. I quit fighting God about things and stopped feeling punished by Him for mistakes I made. I started to believe the verses I have clung to all these years – but never really took to my own heart.

Verses like these:

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Isaiah 54: 1 “Sing, O barren,
You who have not borne!
Break forth into singing, and cry aloud,
You who have not labored with child!
For more are the children of the desolate
Than the children of the married woman,” says the LORD….
5 For your Maker is your husband,
The LORD of hosts is His name;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel;
He is called the God of the whole earth.
6 For the LORD has called you
Like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit,
Like a youthful wife when you were refused,”
Says your God.
7 “ For a mere moment I have forsaken you,
But with great mercies I will gather you.
8 With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment;
But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,”
Says the LORD, your Redeemer.

Isaiah 43: 18 “ Do not remember the former things,
Nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.

Psalm 37: 4 Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.

Psalm 84 11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
The LORD will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
From those who walk uprightly.

I believe them now. This exercise the past few weeks… the slow, evolving belief that I am pregnant, has been about more than believing I am pregnant. I mean, the doctor said “LESS THAN ONE PERCENT CHANCE OF GETTING PREGNANT NATURALLY (AND WE DON’T SAY ZERO BECAUSE WE NEVER SAY ZERO.” That is what he said. He also said in vitro was a slim to nil chance for us. Why shouldn’t I have a hard time believing that I’m pregnant now? People giggle a little when I say I missed my March period and haven’t taken a test yet. They don’t get it. It is MEDICALLY almost IMPOSSIBLE for me to get pregnant. Thankfully, “Luke 1:37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”

And that is the real miracle for me, folks. I finally believe not only in God, not only in His love and grace, but in His desire for me to experience that love and grace. I know He has forgiven me long ago, has blessed me and led me to wonderful people and opportunities, but I always felt this baby miracle was beyond me. I believed God could do it, would do it for other people, but that probably there was a reason why it wouldn’t happen for me, and I also, of course, thought I knew the reasons.

I have been teaching 4 of my classes about hurbris: the Greek term for pride humans feel that makes them arrogant, makes them forget that that they have limitations the gods do not. How dare I decide I know better than God does what He should and shouldn’t, would and wouldn’t, give to me? He is the creator of the universe; I am the creator of amateur stories.

And now, I am a believer in His love for me. After 22 years of saying it, I believe it. “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I committed unto Him against that day.” You know how many times I have heard or sang that song? Today, right now, butterflies in my stomach, I believe it.

So it doesn’t matter so much what the little pee stick says in a little while. I hope with all my heart and soul that it tells me I am giving a baby to the world, that I get to be a mommy. But if it does not, I will not be crushed or devastated. The last three weeks have brought me to an amazing place in my heart and in my faith. I have seen my friends and people who barely know me feel inspired by the very idea that this could happen. That is God. That is His power and His love. And whether there is a baby growing in me right now or not, the glory for it all is His.

Amen.

About 40 minutes after writing this, it was confirmed: I was pregnant with our Miranda. Fourteen months later, I was pregnant with our Kaity. I am here to tell you that Jesus still does miracles today! If you are in need of one or would like to share yours, please contact me.