Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Identify Yourself

Now that I have titled this blog, all I can here is a little robotic voice saying "Wall-E" in my head. If you have watched the Disney/Pixar movie Wall-E as much as I have, you would too. My mind has automatically gone to the scene when Eve tells Wall-E to identify himself...anyway, on to the real post.

This post is copied from a blog that I like because it usually makes me literally laugh out loud. It is from the author Jon Acuff who wrote the book Stuff Christians Like and the blog is about the same subject. It is kind of a tongue in cheek, poking fun at yourselves, commentary on how Christians or churches do things. If you have grown up in church, there will be lots of posts that sound very familiar to you. He is also one of my favorite people to follow on Twitter, again causing me to LOL. While the posts are usually meant to be humorous, he posts a serious one each Wednesday meant to encourage the reader in their Christian walk. He actually calls them Serious Wednesday blogs.

With my new book Quitter coming out on May 10, one of the questions I have bouncing around in my head is, “What if it fails?” The Stuff Christians Like book did well and there’s a part of me that fears that Quitter won’t do as well. I know that’s a negative thought, but I want to be honest about what’s bouncing around in my head right now.

Here’s what Daniel told me: “The problem is that we all start off with an identity. It’s who we are and who God made us to be. Then we have some small degree of success and we add that to our identity. That success becomes our identity. So now, when we try something new, we’re not just afraid to fail, we’re afraid to lose our identity. That’s what’s terrifying. That’s why people are afraid to take risks or try new things. It’s not just failure at stake, we think we’re going to lose our identity and that’s overwhelming.”

That mentality is easy to see in a city like Nashville. I have musician friends who released successful first albums and are now afraid to release a second album. Because if success is their identity, if they fail, they’ve lost their entire identity. But I don’t think that’s just something artists struggle with. The truth is, I think on some level must of us wrestle with the temptation to let other things become our identity.

You see this in parents who turn the performance of their kids into their identity. Sometimes parents get crazy with pushing kids in sports or school because more than a soccer goal or a spelling test is at stake. Their identity is up for grabs.

You see this in dating relationships. Sometimes we’re desperate for them not to end for the wrong reasons. With popular song lyrics telling us, “What am I supposed to do, when the best part of me was always you?” it’s so easy to think, “If I lose this boyfriend, I’ll lose my whole identity.”

You see this at work, when someone scraps and fights for a surprisingly small amount of power and politics inside a cubicle. It’s not a bonus at stake or a plaque or a recognition, it’s their identity they’re fighting for.

Over and over again, whether you’re writing a new book, or dating a new girl or applying for a new job, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of “identity addition.”

But that debate is over. You’re identity has been decided. How you perform in a new opportunity will not finalize that. You are a son or daughter of Christ. You are an heir to the throne. No success or failure should become your identity. No rise or fall can determine who you are. And though that feels simple and sometimes even impossible to believe, that is what I remind myself of every day. We are God’s children. And you and I can rest in the truth of that and be bold in the risks we take and the hope we have. Because our identity is not at stake.

To be honest, I was not aware that I was struggling with identity problems until after reading this commentary. But I am. It has been a while I think since I have felt like I had much of an identity besides being a mom. I have been filling out job applications and have to answer those dreaded "List 3 strengths and 3 weaknesses" part of the application or other various "tell us about yourself" questions. I have actually had to ask my husband to describe me so I would know what to answer. I used to look for strategic answers to those questions (I mean seriously, who wants to really answer what you are bad at on something that decides if you will be hired by a company or not). But this time around, I am really not sure how to describe who I am.

To be perfectly clear, I love identifying myself as a mother. There is no role that I have ever or will ever be prouder of than being Mama to my two precious kids. No one can make me feel as good about myself than my little boy because to him my only fault is enforcing naptime. An excited voice calling "Mama!" when I come through the door changes a bad day to good in an instant. Even my 6 week old little girl can make me feel like the most special person in the world when she gives me certain looks. I love that I know my kids and their unique qualities because of the time I spend with them and get to be a large part of the shaping their lives.

But I have kind of lost sight of who I am beyond that. In pondering where I find my identity, I think I used to find it in what was affirmed that I was good at by someone else. When I got commended on school work, or someone paid me a compliment, or an idea was proven to work at a job...that is when I would be able to say "(fill in the blank) is a good quality of mine". I just don't hear that kind of thing often anymore because my life doesn't lend itself to having things to prove what I do well, besides being a good mom. Now I do know I am an "awesome buddy" because my son told me that the other day and that is a pretty cool attribute! I would rather my son think I am an awesome buddy any day than being told I wrote an A quality paper.

So I needed to read the last part of Jon's post, reminding me who I am regardless of affirmations or titles or successes. That identity was bought with a high price and there is nothing I can do to lose it. And at the end of this life, that is the only identity that will matter.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

An Adoption Story

I realized recently that some of the most amazing stories I have heard recently have involved adoptions. I have had a place in my heart that softens when it comes to adoption stories because I believe it is such a beautiful picture of acceptance, redemption and a second chance. A child spends their young life without the most important thing for a child to experience, unconditional love. The child does not have the security of knowing they will forever be a part of a family, that they are wanted, that they have a chance. But an adoption changes all of that: a child suddenly is forever a member of a family with parents and siblings, they are desired, chosen and often fought for, and are given a chance for a new life.

I have had two special families that I am friends with that have recently walked through adoptions and their stories are the ones that I am speaking of above. The first you can read of here. We'll call them the "Bonks". The Mama is a sweet friend of mine who is everything she presents herself to be in the blog: a thoughtful person who is committed to her faith while being a complete goofball who can win a contest of stuffing powdered donuts in her mouth. And she absolutely adores and gives her life to her family. She unfortunately moved away from me almost 2 years ago but has remained that go to friend when I just need to know someone has my back in prayer. Anyway, back to the original post... This family has been through the ringer when it comes to domestic adoptions. As a friend knowing their God given desire to provide a home for children who need one, it has been painful to see the devastations their hearts have had to face. But in the last week they have been able to finalize the second of the adoptions for two kids they have fought relentlessly for. They raised these two for over a year, from when they were both days old, knowing the whole time that the birth families could be given the kids back at any time. It seemed impossible at times for both kids' situations but two miracles happened and they are now in a forever family. These kids weren't wanted and weren't even taken care of before they were born by their birth families but they will never know that. Instead, they have only known life with a family of their two parents and their big brother who completely adore and want them. They both have incredible stories of defying predictions made about them because they have parents who love them and provide them with the relationship they need. And they are a hoot to keep up with now on the blog.

The second family's story can be read about here. These friends are in China as I write this with their new little girl! I met this family, the Longleys, about two years ago and quickly learned about the desire God had put in their hearts to provide a home for a little girl from China. They have waited for a long time for a daughter and their long standing commitment and sacrifices to bring her home is incredible. Several months ago they were presented with Yu Niu Jiao. We now know her as Katie Joy. Katie too was a child that wasn't given a chance in life. She has lived in an orphanage in China since birth and she had her two year birthday this week. The Longleys are over their right now to meet her, complete the adoption and bring her home to a family and church family that is excited to welcome her. In one day she went from being one of many kids that stayed in a crib all day to being a part of a family that has dreamed of her. The stories from their time over their have been unreal. She has not hit most developmental milestones, such as sitting or walking, due to her living conditions. I have a two, almost three, year old. Two year olds should be able to run, jump, laugh, respond to people. It is heart breaking that those are the conditions for countless orphans across the world. She doesn't know how to eat solid foods and had spent so much time on her back that milk had caused painful congestion in her little body. She didn't know how to be loved. But her story has already changed! After just a few days she is army crawling to chase a ball. She is laughing. She is responding to medication to heal her little body. She is being adored by her daddy, mommy and big brother.

Those are amazing stories in themselves. But what is really cool is that the stories get even better. Both families have been able to be an example of unconditional love to people who don't see that. The Bonks did a domestic adoption through a foster to adopt program. They interacted with countless people in the social services realm. People in social services don't typically meet families like the Bonks, rather they see the worst of the worst when it comes to families. Few understood the heart of the Bonks, that they didn't have alterior motives or wouldn't quit when it got hard. They showed goodness and compassion to birth parents. The Bonks were treated ugly by some, but remained kind. They showed a broken system that a family could love kids even though their birth families had chosen not to.

The Longleys have done an international adoption in a country that refuses God. In their few days there, the Longleys have been able to demonstrate unconditional love, a concept that is completely foreign to these people because that is something that is only of God. Because of Katie's needs, the people in China assisting with adoption advised the Longleys to wait until Katie's medical evaluation to finalize the adoption so that they could have the freedom to walk away. That was not even a consideration for the Longleys though, she was their daughter already in their hearts. Their commitment to be Katie's family regardless of her needs was so moving to the workers that it has opened the doors for them to question what was different about the Longleys. As Gene put it, God has more plans for their trip to China than just picking up Katie.

These three kids have been given a second chance at life because loving, sacrificial parents chose them and had a steadfast commitment to bring them into their family. And through that God has been glorified. Sounds pretty incredible doesn't it?
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
Ephesians 1:4-6
It is. We all have been given a second chance. We are all wanted. We all have the chance for the unacceptable love that is forever. By a loving and sacrificial Father who has chosen us and has a steadfast commitment to bring us into his family. Now that is an amazing story.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Grown Up?

It is happening...I am starting to feel like a grown up.

I probably should have come to this realization a while back. After all, I have been a legal adult for over ten years. I have two degrees, I am a homeowner, a parent and a responsible citizen. Most people probably trust me as an adult. I would agree that I have been an adult for several years but being a grown up is on a completely different level.

Why is this? Well, now I have kids. I am not used to saying the plural yet and saying that just adds to my age. You see, I guess my thought was that we can still be that young couple with their first child. But as soon as a second is added, I think the perception of my age is increased.

Also, I am no longer considered the younger one of the group. Most of my friends are in their thirties but no longer look at us as younger. I was always the youngest by several years in most of my jobs and that left me feeling young. But, now people are surprised to hear my age so I am no longer considered the young one. I did not appreciate that as I should have when I was twenty. And teenagers now think of me as old, not just older.

This is the kicker for me...I am almost thirty. Not quite yet (as my son would say), but close enough. My next birthday, in less than two months, will be my...29th. I am in my last year of my twenties. How did that happen? It is a little more traumatic because up until about a week ago I thought I was turning 28. That is not new for me though, I think I have been 28 for the last three birthdays. For my 27th I thought I was turning 28, last year I had it right and this year I just couldn't remember my age again. I had to think about the year I was born to confirm my age! 29 just sounds like a grown up (not old, just grown up). I really thought 25 sounded old when I turned that age (I know, anyone 26 or older is rolling their eyes) but that was just a stepping stone into grownupness.

I am mainly writing this so that when I am 38 and about to turn 39 I can read this and roll my eyes. By that time my oldest will be about to turn 13 so I will be reminded often how old I am anyway.