Finding Joy in New Ways

If you’ve read my blog at all this week, you know that I have had the opportunity to post on a devotional site encouraging.com

Well today is my final post on this site. YOu can also find my posts for Wednesday & thursday which I didn’t have time to post as we spent some great time with family.

Here’s a little bit of what I said,

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Over the past 4 years my husband and I have heard a variety of responses to our struggle first with infertility and then during our wait for an adoption. Some have bordered on awkward as individuals gave all too detailed advice to aid us in our quest. Some unintentionally disregarded our reality with comments like, “Don’t worry, God’s plan is better in the end,” or “Aren’t you glad you haven’t miscarried,” or even “You’re young, don’t worry about it.”

Mostly, in the midst of our most painful moments, we have been blessed with friends who have met us in our suffering and then pointed us forward. Not by denying our grief or our pain, but by exalting God.

During one of our recent disappointments I let some individuals close to us know that it had not worked out. 

To read the rest of the post, click here

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. I look forward to some new posts next week as we enter the period of Advent.

Until then, enjoy the weekend!

Listening to the Spirit

As I mentioned yesterday, I am writing all week long for a devotional site called encouraging.com

It’s been a neat exercise to take some time to write these devotionals. And the one which is posted today especially so. How are you at listening to the Spirit’s voice in your life? If you’re anything like me, that can be very challenging. And I don’t have all the answers, but  I hope that this offers you some encouragement.

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17b-19


Do you ever have trouble hearing the voice of the Spirit? If you’re anything like me, then your answer is a resounding Yes! Recently I have embarked on a project of simplicity. What do I mean? I have been trying to simplify the “extras” in my life. Too often I allow noises to crowd out the voice of God.

So I have begun turning off the T.V. and simplifying my activities. I have been working to discipline myself to only take so much time getting ready in the morning. I am still very much a work in progress, but I’m learning.

And I have been amazed at how these simple steps have allowed me to hear the voice of the Spirit.

Click here to read more from “Listening to the Spirit.”

Encouraging.com

Recently I was asked to join a team of women writing for a website called Encouraging.com. This week is my first week of posts, so I thought I would post them here. In a post entitled, “He is Good,” this is what I write…

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Even before my husband and I decided to start our family, I knew that not having a child would be painful. However, I didn’t know that this pain was going to challenge my view of self.

And I didn’t know that giving this pain to God to be used for his purposes would require heart-wrenching sacrifice. But for the past 4 years, this has been my journey and this is where I have begun to find God in the pain, in the sacrifice, in my own weakness. And as I write for the first time for encouraging.com, I thought this was a good place to start.

One day a few years ago, I faced that all-too-familiar disappointing news… I was not pregnant…

Follow the rest of the post: http://encouraging.com/monday.htm

A Lifetime

Last night I spent some time praying / journalling before falling asleep. As usual I opened my heart up to the Lord… I voiced my exhaustion over this wait for our child, my trust that his planning and his timing was perfect and ultimately began to pray for our child and their birthmom.

I have spent so much time praying for our child now. You see I believe that even now, even if our child has not been born, that God can speak to them. They are a soul who can begin to learn the voice of God (ask me sometime to tell you about the secular studies that back this up). And I have pray fervently for them right now. I pray for wisdom and peace for their birthmom. I pray that the bond between us would be strong. And suddenly it hit me. I pray very little for our future. Last night it hit me that I am going to have this precious life for a life time. There is so much to be prayed over.

And I began to pray over school, and friends and teachers. I prayed for their after school activities and for our wisdom in both making decisions and allow this precious one to make decisions. I prayed for their spouse.

And I rejoiced that I get to be their mom. That Brandon gets to be their dad.

When you spend four years working to have a child, I think it becomes easy to forget that there is so much after that initial birth or adoption. There is a lifetime of memories to be had.

And I am so thankful.

Exhaling the Unnecessary

Weggis, Switzerland

Recently my parents took a trip to Weggis, Switzerland. Now many of you know that to say my parents travel a lot is most definitely an understatement. With their various ministry responsibilities, they are on the road often. But this trip was different. This trip was a time to get away, to rest and to pray. The picture above was taken on their trip and I just thought it was gorgeous. Simply beautiful.

Which brings me to our topic of the evening… Simplifying. Getting away is necessary. But what are we to do in our regular every day life? Isn’t it hard to get rid of those things that are truly unnecessary in our life? Or is it just me?

In her Abundant Simplicity, Jan Johnson challenges her readers in the first chapter to identify what is unnecessary in their lives, so that they may inhale more of the Savior. Jan writes,

Because we’re trying to breathe in the oxygen of real life with God without breathing out the daily chaos that chokes out such interaction.

So I’m learning how to resist the unnecessary as I prepare to dig deeper in this discipline of simplicity.

How? Some simple steps: watching less T.V. and spending less time getting ready in the morning. These may sound overly simplified, but I’ve found that they uselessly crowd my day. So, instead of turning the T.V. on right when I get home, I’m waiting till there is actually something I want to watch. And instead of changing my clothes 5 times (for no reason whatsoever), I’m sticking with what I put on first, or even picking it out the night before.

These are simple steps, but I’m hoping that open up just a little bit more time in my day that will allow me to spend more time growing closer to the Savior. Already, I have been blessed by increased time with the Savior in the morning and more time to devote to a few writing projects I have going on. It hasn’t been a perfect week, but I’m growing.

We’ll see.

Good night, friends.

Living in the Ordinary

Yesterday I got to work from home.... which means I got good coffee in my favorite mug...one of my favorite "ordinary" things.

My routine has resumed.

What do I mean? I shared before that I was feeling knocked out, incapable of doing life. Well, lately, I have begun to find my footing. I have begun to find life much more doable.

And ordinary tasks have helped. Now I have had to be patient with myself. Anytime one struggles through a time of depression or hardship, often energy is the first thing to suffer. And I have had to train myself to feel better about doing less.

And maybe I should do less to begin with. I’m trying to sort out what is necessary in my life and what is unnecessary. But that’s a discussion for another time!

So today I’m running errands. I had breakfast with some women that I am so blessed by. Then I got to do some fun birthday shopping for my darling husband. Now I’m back home working on freelance assignments (and blogging along the way)…

And I find myself encouraged.

And I find myself feeling at peace with the state of our lives. I wouldn’t say I’ve bounced back (because I think that’s not a helpful metaphor)… but I’m living. I’m accomplishing things by the power of the Holy Spirit that three weeks ago I did not feel I had the energy to do.

And it’s not by own strength, but by Christ who strengthens me.

And I think that’s all I have to say.

And I hope you’re okay with that. 🙂

Thanks for reading, friends.

Love, love, love these precious girls!

P.S. Just for grins I thought I’d post a picture with some of my favorite girls who I used to nanny for. I miss getting to spend time with them every week.

Simplicity in Abundance anyone?

Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider

As Brandon and I struggle to maintain 6 jobs between the two of us, prepare for our child and try to keep the romance alive… simplicity is something that we crave. In fact, lately I have found myself picking up every book I can that talks about this topic. Now, I realize the irony of adding a new thing to do in order to simplify more… but I’m just craving insight in cutting out the unnecessary and living life more intentionally.

One of my favorite books is Organized Simplicity. If you have time, or even if your time is significantly limited, you should definitely pick it up. It’s an easy read and gives practical advice for simplifying everything in your life. I read it in 10 minute spurts while nannying and LOVED it!

But that’s not why I’m writing today. One of the benefits of having a husband in publishing is that he often gets free books. By often I mean 3-5 a week at times! He reviews those he thinks the magazine would like and then passes on the rest to friends in ministry… or me!

So, as I try to blog more often I’m realizing that I need some prompts. So I thought Mondays would be a great day to blog about books that I’m reading. A cyber book Club of sorts.

Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace

 

And what’s my choice for this first series? Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace by Jan Johnson.

Simplicity. I’m longing for simplicity and I can’t wait to see what Jan has to say! Join me!

Beautiful Things

On Monday I posted some very personal things (you can see post here!). I felt compelled to write what I did but I honestly didn’t expect the response I received. Sure I expected a few comments here and there (namely from our moms… and a few close friends), but the magnitude of messages I received both privately and publicly on facebook and through my blog was overwhelming. Thank you, dear friends, for your care for us.

Over the past 4 years Brandon and I have heard a variety of responses to our struggle first with infertility and then during our wait for an adoption. Some have bordered on awkward as individuals gave all too detailed advice to aid us in our quest. 😉 Some unintentionally disregarded our reality with comments like, “Don’t worry, God’s plan is better in the end,” or “Aren’t you glad you haven’t miscarried,” or even “You’re young, don’t worry about it.”

But most of you, the vast majority of you, have come around us to cry and to grieve and to call us forward. In the midst of our most painful moments, I, we, have been blessed with friends who have met us in our suffering and then pointed us forward. Not by denying our grief or our pain, but by exalting God.

During one of our recent dissappointments I let some individuals close to us know that it had not worked out. The responses I got were amazing. These individuals started by acknowledging how hard this was… what a great dissappointment it truly was. They shared their own dissappointment, shed their own tears….

And then they simply said, “But remember, God is good.” They didn’t make claims to know God’s plan, nor did they trivilize this dissappointment by asserting that God’s plan would be better in the end and we just needed to remember that.

No, they simply pointed me, pointed us, to our Savior.

And this gave me hope. This gave Brandon hope. This gave us an ability to move forward.

And we are so thankful.

One of the realities we have as Christians is that God is most evident in times of grief or pain. His joy is present even with our smile has disappeared. We have reason to rejoice, even when circumstances havn’t gone our way. And this is where my hope is found. You see I don’t often take hope is God’s future plan… I take hope in my present reality… with Christ all things, I mean all things, are possible. He is my hope even when life is hard. He is my joy in the midst of my tears.

By his power, and only by his power, I can see beauty in the midst of my grief. Friends, I haven’t lost my joy. I have just found it in new ways.

And you are a huge part of that.

I wanted to close today with a song that has been increasingly meaningful to me in the last week and that (spoiler alert) Brandon and I will be singing next month!

Breaking my silence

I haven’t been blogging lately. And that’s a significant understatement… because it has been since July that I posted anything.

And I’m going ot jump back in today… but I would be lying if I said it was easy. You see, I haven’t been blogging because I haven’t felt capable… or like I had anything at all to say. These past few months have been some of the hardest of our life. And I’ve wanted to hold these painful events close. I’ve shared them with family and very close friends… but the idea of sharing with people beyond that tight circle has been unimaginable.

But I think it’s time. I don’t know why, I just feel like I should probably share.

At the beginning of the month of August we found out (for the third time in our adoption journey) that a possible situation was no longer possible. It wasn’t a situation we had placed all of our hope in, but anytime a potential birth mom situation is no longer possible, it hurts.

We were finishing up a vacation with my family when we received this news. The day after we returned to Wheaton, we had the one-year update of our homestudy. When our caseworker was in our home, we found out that they were having a slow down in the number of adoption cases. No slow down in the crisis pregnancy situations they work with, but none of them were choosing adoption.

Another blow.

And I found myself fighting to stay afloat. Activities and events that in the past had been energizing now brought me to tears. Meetings that I could do in my sleep were requiring great effort.

And this was August. One of the biggest months for any Children’s Minister is August and I couldn’t afford to slow down. But I just couldn’t do it.

And then one night we got a phone call from a family member about a possible situation in AR. Within a few days we had made contact with a birthmom who was 7 months along. She and I spoke all day long, and it began to feel like everything was happening. During the course of that week I mailed our profile book to her, we talked about a possible time for us to come visit. We maintained constant contact. And then Friday morning she contacted me and told me she had chosen another family.

By that point Brandon and I had been praying for her for a week and we had sincerely been praying that whatever decision she made, she would feel a peace. We knew there were other families and we had sincerely been praying for them.

But this was still painful. Because unlike the 3 situations beforehand, this one was personal. This birthmom had a name and a face.

So we took time to grieve and tried to think through possible decisions that needed to be made. And as we were praying through these over the next week we learned that Brandon’s grandmother had died. We made the trip to be with family and had a life-giving and wonderful time with the O’Brien side. Diane O’Brien was an amazing woman who we admired and loved deeply. And she loved Jesus. I mean SHE. LOVED. JESUS. It was a beautiful testimony. We felt loved and supported and we rejoiced in her life. But not without sadness. You see Grandma had been praying for our child fervently and we had so hoped to place our sweet BabyO in her arms.

So we returned home and began to live life. We struggled and felt this struggle in every area, but we also felt God’s grace through the support of those around us.

Earlier this month we were contacted about a little boy from an agency we have listed with in Texas. This was a boy who had already been born and needed a home. We put our names in to be considered. (In this situation the agency would be making the call.) We sincerely felt a peace about it, but the problem was the placement fee in this situation was significantly above our previously planned-for amount. Significantly above. Several days after we had put our name in, we had to withdraw purely for financial reasons.

And I felt knocked out. I knew how it felt to not be chosen. We had experienced that, and I had prepared myself for it. But I had not prepared myself for the pain it would cause to walk away from a situation. I was heart broken. I found myself incapable of doing life.

And we were amazed at the support that came around us. Friends and family who prayed with us and for us. God protected us from platitudes (you know like “Don’t worry, it will be fine.” or “God has a great child for you, just wait.”) These statements may be true but they are never helpful when a painful situation happens.

Instead God provided for us a community that grieved with us… expressed their own frustration at these events… and crowded around us with support. Friends brought us dinner, one good friend expressed her own frustration that this had been our journey, volunteers covered for me to be able to take a break one Sunday. Encouragement and hope flooded our inboxes. Sweet cards came in the mail. These events were tangible expressions of God’s grace that we desperately needed. We felt like healing was possible.

And we are learning to move forward.

Before I conclude this very long post, I want to say something about the man who I have the great privilege of living life with… Brandon O’Brien. As I have struggled, he has sacrificed to care for me. When I broke down and felt incapable of doing life, he picked me up and together we have walked forward. The journey that we’re on can be a death sentence for any marriage… but I am blessed with a man and with a partnership that is life-giving.

As I weep to write this post, I also rejoice in God’s rich grace. In his beautiful faithfulness. Today I am just okay, but I am confident that one day I will find myself on the other side.

I need your help!

So I’ve had a hard time writing lately. Why? Well, I honestly don’t feel as if I have much to say. Which is a problem. Not so much for my faithful blog readers (whoever you may be… if you even exist), but for my professional readers. You see most of you know that Brandon writes and edits for a living. Although he hopes one day to be a full time professor, right now he finds great opportunities to write. I mean, he’s not even 30 (that’s right, we’re very, very young) and is working on his second book. He’s good. I mean, I’m totally biased, but he’s really good! (Seriously, ask his mom…)

So what does this have to do with me? Well what many of you don’t know is that I write too. Now, compared to Brandon what I do looks like child’s play… but that works for me, since I primarily write about children.

Okay, so now you’re wondering why I need your help. Well, right now I am working on a project on ministering to Children of Divorce. And I would love to know your thoughts. I am married to a child of divorce, have many friends who are the adult children of divorce and I am daily overwhelmed by stories of children who are journeying through this painful experience.

So that’s where you come in. I would love to hear your stories. Are you a child of divorced parents? What was your experience like at school, at church, at home? What did you find the hardest part of this whole journey? Maybe you are a parent or an aunt or an uncle in this situation. I would love to know your experience as well. Pretty soon I’m going to be having a round table discussion with some friends whose parents divorced when they were young. I’m looking forward to hearing from them. And I especially would like to know how your faith community handled this. What was your experience at church?

Basically, if you would trust me with it, I would love to know your story. And I know these stories might be somewhat personal, so feel free to email me by filling out the form below. Don’t worry, others wont see your story, just me.  

Thank you! And I really do plan to write more regularly soon… I’ve missed my blogging world.

Amy