Labels and Diversifying Our Social Set

Starting Statements of a Socially Segregated Single Sister:

Have you noticed how clique like adults are? I thought we were supposed to grow out of it when we graduated. Maybe somebody should have told us that it wouldn’t be any easier to integrate our social circles as adults than it was as kids. We watched The Breakfast Club and thought, ‘Yeah, I’m not going to allow anybody to label me!’ But we continued to label others and often try to avoid those with undesirable labels.

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Try thinking about the characters in the 80’s classic The Breakfast Club and who they grew up to be. We have ‘The Criminal’ and  ‘The Athlete’ who likely went out and got blue and white-collar jobs respectively. ‘The Brain’ got a Master’s degree (if not a PHD) in something useful and now likely owns their own company, gives TED Talks, conducts all sorts of important research etc.

Each comes in the male and female varieties. But, the girls? Well, the girls seem to me to be primarily defined by their marital status. ‘The Princess’ got married before she turned 29, while those of us who identified with the ‘Basketcase’ are enjoying our 30s and 40s as single women. Maybe I’m thinking to deeply about a John Hughes film. The point is, we’re still labeling, and we’re still congregating around the labels we’ve chosen for ourselves.

The problem is the same as it was in high school. When we only spend time with persons who are similar to us, sure conversation is relatively easy.  These small social circles become breeding grounds for (at best) isolated ignorance and at worst severe prejudice.  Additionally, I find that when I mingle strictly with those individuals with whom I have much in common I begin to lose any sense of self. I begin to ask, “Who am I?” What a ridiculous question! The truly frightening conclusion is that my answer begins to come back tritely packaged as ‘The Basketcase’ ! I’m single, female and over 30. The general consensus is that there must be something wrong with me! At the least I’m too picky and at the worst I’m on the fast track to being the lady who claims several dozen felines. So, how do we address this rampant social segregation, these juvenile cliquish tendencies? We must diversify our social set.

Presently, my closest circle of friends includes:

  • My 13- and 17-year-old brothers: They keep me in-touch with what’s hip and cool while reminding me what my values are and why I hold them so close to my heart. Incidentally, I find that we behave better as adults when we know an impressionable youth might be watching.
  • A young married mother: she is my biggest cheerleader and challenger. We are so very different…but we value each other more because of those differences. BONUS: she comes with baby cuddles!
  • An atheist with a pair of bachelor’s degrees (I’m a Christian with a piece of paper that confirms I went to a conservatory for the study of physical theatre for precisely one year): she challenges and questions my beliefs. Plus, she thinks I’m smart, and since I think she’s smart. I tend to believe her.

May I offer you a challenge? Go make friends with someone with whom you have little to nothing in common. Try it! You might learn something and you might just find that your differences aren’t so great after all. There’s an education to be had; a point of view to see; a thought process to learn. And maybe you’ll effect change in the other or maybe they’ll effect change in you. If you’re really lucky, you’ll both be better for the exchange.

End-Note: I actually set out to talk specifically about the segregation and exclusion of singles in our culture. I was going to get up on my soapbox and whine about how we singles (especially us girls) feel like outsiders. Maybe someday I’ll share those thoughts in more detail. But here’s the thing: I can’t change you. I can only change me. So, I’ll continue to seek out the others. I won’t make my social comfort your responsibility; it’s mine, after all.

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Dear Diagnosed

To the diagnosed person,

I know that I am probably writing to the majority of the U.S.A., but I felt that this letter needed to be written just to you. Yes, you there; you with the recent diagnosis. What did the doctor say? Cancer? ADHD? AIDS? Depression? Diabetes? I know I could go on, but I would get writers cramp if I tried to name all the possible diagnoses in the world. Every day there are so many who receive diagnoses, and while many are mere viruses, many are fatal diagnoses. “You have six months to live,” or, “you will need to take this medication for the rest of your life.” Maybe, “your results came back and we are concerned.” Whatever the doctor had to say, here is what I have to say to you:

This diagnosis doesn’t define you.

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Continue reading “Dear Diagnosed”

Thoughts on Friendship

I’m not the type of person that takes a friendship lightly; I’m fiercely loyal to my friends. However, there comes a point in all new friendships were you must decide: will we remain friends for the foreseeable future or will our friendship crumble? Friendships that last have all come to the same conclusion: we can not change the other person. That annoying thing they do? Chances are, it isn’t going away. So, whether we are in a new friendship or relationship, we must ask ourselves am I still getting all that I need from this friendship even with these annoyances? If the answer is no, then sadly you need to walk away from that friendship. If the answer is yes, then you need to accept the annoyances and move on. I have certain friends in my life who each serve a specific function. Like a Swiss Army Knife, each one, being created by God, is suited for different situations. I have my friend who is incredibly grounded in God’s word, I have a friend who is incredibly optimistic, I have my friend who is easy going, yet can see me through anxiety, and I have a friend who is incredibly passionate about all things. I don’t always take everything to all of them. There are certain topics that I don’t take to certain people. There are certain things that just stay with me. I may get frustrated when my optimistic friend doesn’t think critically enough about a decision I’m trying to make. But I have to remind myself that in doing so, I’m asking her to be fundamentally different from who she is. I love the movie The Sound of Music. In the film, Max is trying to convince Captain Von Trap to perform at the festival. Realizing he can’t convince the Captain, Max seeks out Maria’s help to which she responds, “Max I can not ask him to be less than he is”. If our friend is too _____ (fill in with any negative or positive quality you wish) and you ask them to change, in a sense you are asking them to be less of who they are. There is a reason why friends walk in and out of our lives and it has to do with our being able, or in some cases when friendships don’t last,unable, to look past their faults. It is unreasonable to place expectations onto our friends to be someone or something that they are not. So, if a friendship or relationship has you down, I say it’s time to figure out if the friendship is worth it. If it is, try to celebrate each other more. If it isn’t, part ways wishing each other the very best.

Hosting a Meaningful Bridal Shower

While there are some people who LOVE the bridal shower games and prizes, my best friend is not one of them. This past weekend I had the honor of throwing a bridal shower for my very artsy and coffee loving best friend. I searched and searched on pinterest for ideas that fit her and her soon to be hubbie. I was pretty excited how things ended up and thought I would share the ideas I came up with :-). (Thanks Pinterest for the help!)

Adel is a coffee lover… and that is an understatement. So I took the lovely idea from this blog. Check out how this project turned out for my coffee loving best friend:

The second project was writing out an actual recipe or a “recipe for a happy life together”… especially since Adel loves to cook, even if she doesn’t follow the recipes exactly…

To go along with the cooking theme and also Adel and Josh’s love for Africa I had Ruth, owner of Bound With Hope, make his and hers aprons with an Africa theme. Adel LOVES purple so when I found fabric that had a purple undertone to it with little Africas all over it I was super excited! For Josh, I chose a very African themed fabric. Ruth did an absolutely fantastic job… check them out:

Ruth also made her Painters Drop Wedding Date Pillows and Adel absolutely loved them:

When I was walking around Party City to try and found decorations an idea hit me (Adel HATES pink and all bridal shower decorations were pink). It isn’t a new idea, but I know Adel. The last thing she wants is money wasted (she is after all the daughter of an accountant). While decorations can be fun, they aren’t Adel. So instead of decorating a large amount and party favors that would most likely be thrown out, there was a donation made to I need Africa more than Africa needs me

And lastly, I had people write on a chalkboard created from a a canvas and chalkboard paint a message to Adel. Since Adel doesn’t get married for a few more months, I can’t post what the messages were (but I can assure you many of them were QUITE amusing). Adel is in the picture with each of her friends/family and on the night before her wedding she will get all these pictures to help calm the nerves and provide encouragement.

Since this is my 5th wedding party, I’ve had a little practice with this. My advice is to think about the bride and groom and what it is that fits them :-). In the end, it isn’t about the money spent it is about the time spent together, the memories made, and the preparation and encouragement to enter into such an exciting (and nerve racking) life change! Congratulations, Adel! I can’t wait to continue to celebrate with you over the next few months!

Adoption Is Growing Me

Don’t ask me when I first became interested in adoption. I couldn’t tell you. Somewhere between high school or college is my best guess. It really doesn’t matter though. What matters is that this desire has continued to grow and take root.

Me (Emily) & my better half, Nick

I met and married a rather special someone who is also passionate about adoption. It was something we first connected over in our dating days, something we talked about as we made our budget during engagement, and something we’ve saved for since day one of our marriage.

Two and a half years ago we both would have told you we would get married, live life just the two of us for two to three years, then have a couple biological children, wait till they were 10-12 and then adopt. All while saving for this long-term goal of adoption.

Yet God has a way of changing our plans, or at least showing us that our plans are not always His. We hadn’t even been married a year when my heart began breaking more than I thought possible over the fact that are millions of orphans around the world. One of my friends has termed this ‘orphan pain’ and it is an incredibly accurate description. There were days I just wanted to do nothing but scheme and plan how we could help and days my heart was just broken beyond belief at the thought that the word orphan even exists because it represents a very real crisis and very real hurting boys and girls who need care, love, and a family. 

I began to pray. Some days I pleaded for this burden because the timing was all wrong. Other days I begged Him to let us do this NOW! Most of the time though I read and researched and felt compelled to do something all while knowing that wouldn’t happen.There was no way my husband would be on board this early…

Imagine my surprise when he came home one night a month or so later and mentioned that the Lord had been working on him! I hadn’t said a word to him! This whole time I had been in silent turmoil feeling like we would never agree on this. I was wrong.

Courtesy of Kristi Witek. Taken during her trip to Columbia.

We began researching options and trying to think through what we were being called to do. We hit some BIG roadblocks. I remember being very real with the Lord and questioning why He had given us this burning desire only to bring us to an impossible place. We got no real answers. Rather, we continued to talk about it, pray about it, and plan for it.

This fall we were able to attend the Together For Adoption Conference and were challenged by some amazing speakers. We spoke with some true servants in ministry, and walked away knowing NOW was our moment. We were just three days away from our second anniversary. Not exactly what we had planned, but we knew this was where we needed to head. We didn’t even think twice about our old plan of having biological children first and then adopting. This was what we were being called to do. We are so excited (and admittedly a bit intimidated)!

Why adopt? I wish I could sit down with you over a cup of hot tea or coffee and look you in the eyes and tell you about the 5 million orphans in Ethiopia, the waiting sibling group in foster care in your ‘backyard’, the mom who decided not to abort her baby but who isn’t going to mother the wee one either. I wish I could somehow encourage you to educate yourself and be broken to the point of action. I wish I could tell you that there is nothing good in me. This desire comes from the Lord and He is the one who will see us through. God cares for the orphans. I think one of the ways you can see the heart of God most clearly, is through orphans, those who cannot help themselves, those who are alone, loveless, and abandoned. God’s heart is there.  
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress… James 1:27a 
Let us not lose heart in doing good… So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to ALL people… Galatians 6:9-10 (emphasis mine)
Photo courtesy of Kristi Witek

Orphans are part of that all. Children who just want a home, a warm meal, a mom and a dad or maybe a sibling or two are part of that all. Adoption is a true picture of the Gospel. Our prayer is that just as He has provided for us, cared for us, loved us with an everlasting love, and sought us out, that we would be able to do the same as much as humanly possibly for a sibling group in Latin America.

Did you know sibling groups are considered ‘special needs’ because most people aren’t open to adopting more than one. They aren’t the youngest children available for adoption so they face more risk of never being adopted.

Adoption is not without its costs. Both financial and physical/emotional. The average international adoption will cost between $35,000- $45,000. We don’t have that money. No matter how much we save or sacrifice we just don’t. I could (and often do) get overwhelmed and tell God there is no way this will happen, that just CAN’T. But then that still small voice reminds me I have been called to this. I may not understand the hows, whens, who, why, or be able to control any of it, but it isn’t about me. It’s about the orphan. The children who are waiting to come home, who are waiting on us to come and get them.

We’re not sure how we are going to do this financially. We want to do it debt-free. We’re saving, trusting the Lord, and inviting others to partner with us. I’m selling Jamberry through online orders, Facebook & in-home parties. It’s providing some extra income to bring home children I can’t get here fast enough. We’ve started a Just Love Coffee storefront where the certified fair trade & organic coffee friends and family buy helps give us funds and a Pure Charity account where others can donate money they earn from online shopping. We’ve put off vacations, home decor or house projects, we live a simple life without smart phones or cable/Netflix or newer cars. I honestly don’t feel like any of that is missing (most days), but I do find myself missing the children that are waiting on us. I find myself wishing I could do more to save more to send more money to places right here and around the world that provide care for the orphans.

Not everyone is called to adopt. Yet, I do believe we all have a role in orphan care. Have you considered doing a clothing drive? Sending money to an orphanage overseas? Sponsoring a child through Compassion International? Being a Safe Family?- (You have to check them out!) Being a mentor? Giving to those who are called/equipped to provide a home for orphans? Going on a missions trip to love on and care for orphans even for a few days?

You can keep up with us  and our adoption journey at our blog Sunbeams & Raindrops

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