look happy

I got a huge compliment yesterday.

“she looks happy”

 

Which is funny, because at the moment it was said I was trying to hide how unthrilled I was.

I had just stepped outside my building for a moment to meet a friend who was delivering a custom skating dress for me. I had the garment bag over my arm and I was on my way back to the building.

With no make-up on.

In the middle of the workday.

Yes, I know…brave.

Foolhardy.

Just plain stupid for a 44 year old.

Whatever.

Coming up the sidewalk towards me were three men. I think of them as “young men” but really they are almost my age. They are all fit, neat, healthy and pretty decent looking guys. One of them is my former boss (whom I had a lite boss-crush on) and all three of them were people that I used to work with in the Chemistry Department here at Emory.

Last time they saw me I had long hair and was 40 pounds heavier than I am now.

fat christmas

this is what I looked like last time they saw me

 

So when Todd hugged me and said

“I’ve heard some rumors about you, are they true?”

I experienced my very first “I don’t want to talk about the cancer” moment.

I didn’t want them to attribute my weight loss to the cancer.

I didn’t want them to chalk up my hair cut to the cancer (chemo, hair loss etc)

I didn’t want my lack of make-up to be marked down in their minds as “oh she is strung out from treatment of her cancer.”

 

fat puttputt

and this photo really shows how bad it had gotten.

 

I’ve worked hard to lose the weight, I changed my hair cut because I wanted to and I didn’t have makeup on simply because I don’t feel the need for it most days. Sure I look better with it, but I prefer not to have to bother.

nomakeup

this is what I look like now….with no make-up.

 

So I laughed. I bubbled. I sparkled. And I said

“What rumor? The one that I’m going to U.S. Adult Nationals next week and I’m going to do better than last year? Sure! It’s TRUE! I placed 5th last year, but this year I’m gonna make it to the medal stand!”

In short, I deflected.

I knew what Todd wanted me to confirm.

But I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bear to have

 CANCER

be the word that comes to mind when they think of me.

I would ten thousand times rather they think of

Ice Skating.

spiral magnolia

recent competition.

 

 

The conversation went pretty rapid fire after that. All three of them shooting me questions about ice skating, competing etc…when suddenly one of them says to the other

“Man I almost didn’t recognize her! Deirdre, you sure do look different!”

And the other one comes back with

“yeh, she looks HAPPY!”

 

happy

just last week. minimal make-up. on a date with hubby.

 

 

At which point I got to tease them by saying that it was because I had gotten rid of all the stress in my life when I left off working with them!

All in all a fun conversation. And one that I have gotten more and more out of as it percolates through my brain hours later.

And yes, I’m insecure enough that I wore make-up today…… Just in case.

 

 

let blessings abound

In this season when “blessings” are on everyone’s minds thought I’d share a few thoughts I’ve had recently on the subject.  Just to throw my hat into the ring, so to speak.

A co-worker of mine has come up with a fabulous idea for her next birthday party

She is getting a big group together, coordinating them through facebook, to go serve in a local soup kitchen together.  I think they will be going out afterwards too.

Isn’t that a cool idea? 

I asked Trenadia what prompted her to come up with this idea.  What was the trigger?  This was her answer;

“Well I just decided that I wanted to promote giving back. So I’m just inviting friends out to  volunteer at the Atlanta Food Bank.   Because it’s about who I am.  On a personal note; over the past two years, I have had to use a few of the services as well as people who have giving hearts, to maintain everyday life…not only from family or people I know, but strangers as well. Giving back helps us remember that ‘WE ARE ALL ONE’.”

My life changed in one day, from one of comfort and privilege to the exact opposite.  I have  always volunteered but during this time, I volunteered a lot and it helped me get through my hard times.When you help others, you truly help yourself.”

Bravo Trenadia.  And I quite agree, we are all blessed in order to BE a blessing.  If your blessing today is hands that can lift, sort and pass food out to those in need, do it.  If your blessing today is some extra cash in your grocery budget, drop off some food at your local food pantry.  If your blessing for today is just a smile that you can share, then share it.

And if your blessing is that you always have too many friends who want to come to your birthday party, consider organizing a joyful giving party. 

Let the blessings abound!

and the answer is….

42

Yes that’s right.  I am forty two this year and I am perfectly fine with it.  To celebrate, here are 42 good things about my life.

  1. I don’t really have the answer to the question of life the universe and everything, but am more aware of where to find the answers
  2. I’ve actually really been enjoying my 40’s so far.  Lots of pieces of my life have changed quite drastically in the transition from my 30s to my 40s. and yes, that counts as a “good thing in my life”
  3. The most obvious is Ginny.  Nothing can shake up your routine quite like a child. 
  4. I am grateful to my heavenly father for granting us financial stability even with two layoffs in two years.  Martin’s came first, and mine was just a year later.  But God took care of us even when we had no idea what to do next.
  5. There has been peace even amidst surgeries and my dad’s cancer diagnosis.
  6. I love my grey hairs.  Yes, you read that right.  I see the silvers as free highlights, courtesy of God.  Now I’ve just got to figure out what to do about the change in texture…..
  7. Ice Skating.  After a 25+ year break,  I have gone back to the rink and I am loving it.  I’ve found something that will keep me active and healthy and vibrant for a long time. And yes, I see even this as a blessing from God.
  8. There has been a sense of renewal  in my marriage (in part due to the shakeup of the aforementioned layoffs and Ginny)
  9. I’ve found that I have a real friend next door.  Not just the mom of Ginny’s best friend.  But a real live girl friend. 
  10. You almost have to have been in the skating world to know how unusual this next one is –   I have a Christian woman as my coach.  Previously my coaches were almost all men and across the board they were all completely anti-church.  They all expected their skaters to practice on Sundays.  Not a one of them understood that God was important to me.  But my current coach not only gets it, we can actually talk about God and church topics over lunch.  What a blessing!
  11. Being an adult skater brings up a completely different coach/student dynamic.  And yes, that too is a “good thing”
  12. This year, so far, I have been able to lose 40 pounds
  13. Martin has lost at least 30 pounds (he’s catching up to me…I’m gonna have to work harder!) 
  14. I love my job.  Through the course of my layoff I had a chance to really explore what my real working style is and to look for a work environement that meshes with my style.  I was unable to find that blessing on my own.  God hit me over the head with my current job and I love it.  I have impact on peoples’ lives and across campus in a way that I never could have foreseen. 
  15. I was blessed to be able to return to a campus I love and whose mission I believe in- Emory University
  16. This is a Siesta Scripture Memory Team year.  I love learning my verses. (though I am a bit behind in memorization…)
  17. My job allows me to post my memory cards as artwork in my cubicle.  Thus providing me with an artistic outlet, spiritual assist, open devotional and memory aid all in one!
  18. My home Bible study group has chosen “to Live is Christ” as our study this fall.
  19. My husband is amazing.  He is Mr. Mom during the week and cool technical director for our church on the weekends. He does it all.
  20. My brother is back in college.
  21. My boss understands what makes me tick and we communicate well.  Don’t knock it, usually that takes years to figure out. 
  22. I enjoy my co-workers….
  23. …More importantly, I enjoy the job itself.
  24. I am learning new skills through volunteer work at church.  Maybe I’ll learn how to run the sound board next year….
  25. I am young enough to still be active…..
  26. ….And old enough to know when not to push
  27. I’m not in such a hurry anymore
  28. The highlight of Ginny’s day is when I come home and play horsey with her
  29. …..Which makes playing with Ginny one of the highlights of my day too.
  30. I have actual fans of my blog who push me to write more often.
  31. Life is fun – I accidentally volunteered at the face painting booth last night at ginny’s school Fall festival and rediscovered how much I love painting!
  32. Sitting on the back porch with the neighbors, watching our children run and play together.
  33. Discovering fantastic local restaurants.
  34. Café d’Alsace’s currant and port chicken liver pate.
  35. Three blind mice’s entire menu…
  36. …Especially the sticky toffee pudding
  37. My parents live close enough to sometimes have impromptu evenings together at local cheap Mexican restaurant.  Or just hang out and watch football on a Sunday.
  38. Reconnecting with a friend from grade school (!!!!) through facebook and getting to hug her in person was a real treat.
  39. I met Beth Moore.
  40. My Ginny and Martin have also met Beth Moore.  And she told them that she knows who I am!  How cool is that?  And kinda intimidating to be honest….
  41. I got to stay in the home of a dear friend in Houston that I met through blogging.  And our husbands enjoyed each other and the kids all got along!   And they are foodies!  Missy found an amazing Cajun restaurant out in the boonies that we are going to go back to when we see them again in January.
  42. I really enjoy my neighbors’ kids.  They are active, happy kids that play well with Ginny.  It is such a huge blessing to be right next door to Ginny’s favorite playmates.  And most of the essentials of child rearing…we agree on! 

I think Douglas Adams got it right.  42 turns out to be a very good number.

i am worth it

Today has been a great day.

 Does it have anything to do with a lunch date I have planned with a friend that I haven’t had a real chat with in a little over a year?  Well, yes, it will be fun.  But that’s not why I’m happy.

 Could it be because I got a good night’s sleep?  Um…no.  I didn’t get a good nights sleep.

 Could it be because today is Wednesday which means that I’m just a little bit closer to Thursday and the ice rink?  Perhaps.  I do seem to be living my life these days pointed like a hunting dog at the rink schedule.  But, no, that’s not why I’m almost euphoric today.

 Maybe it’s because someone complimented my writing yesterday?  I love knowing that someone likes what I write.  It is very affirming, but no, that is not what is making me grin from ear to ear.

 Is it because I’m enjoying a strengthening relationship with our neighbors?  As our girls get older together and enjoy each other’s company more and more I’m finding that Ginny is not the only one with a girlfriend next door.  Liza is creative and energetic and quirky.  She loves the Lord and is a real joy to be around.  But, that is not why I bounced in the door at work today.

 Beth Moore.  Could it be that getting back to studying God’s word in a format that I really enjoy is what is making me so giddy?  No.  I enjoy Beth’s style of teaching, but that’s not it.

 Free tickets?  A dear friend just offered us free tickets to a show Ginny really wants to see.  But that’s not why I’m thrilled to be alive today.

No, the reason I bounced out of bed this morning, even short on sleep, just happy to be alive and ready to smile at the world…is Jesus.

 You see a thought occurred to me.  For too long I have let the price Jesus paid for my soul be a burden to me.  I’ve felt a crushing weight of obligation, remorse for every lash of that whip and prick of thorn that my sins have personally added to His pain on the cross.  But for some reason, that image has fallen away for me recently and more and more I am seeing the price Jesus paid for me as a testament to how much I am worth to Him. 

 The infinite creator of the universe knew that I was worth saving. Me.  Deirdre.  He looked at me, and then checked his agenda and said, “yup…I need her to do ______fill in the blank___________ for me.  She has just the right weaknesses to show the world My divine strength.  How much is it going to cost to ransom her?  …….alright.  That price is right.  We. Will. Pay. It.”

 Why am I happy?  Because I am finally absorbing the idea that God declared me worth it. 

 He looked at you and had the exact same conversation with the rest of the Trinity.  God felt that you were worth it. 

The price was right. 

Now what are you gonna do about it?

 

 

because i promised

I recently got a message from a friend who reminded me that I hadn’t posted on the blog in a while.

That same day I had submitted my written testimony as part of a job application to a Mission organization that I really would love to work for.  In the process of writing the testimony, I handed it to my pastor to see if he had any edits or suggestions.

He handed it back to me and to my utter shock said this

“Don’t change a word. Oh, and I want you to read this during my sermon this Sunday”

Can you spell shock?  or how about flabbergasted? that’s a good one.

So I did it.  I read it in church.  My husband says it went over really well.  I wouldn’t know.  The whole experience is somewhat of a blank to me.  Something about the dark room and that spotlight just erased my brain I think.  Anyway, here is the written version.

Streams of Mercy, Never Ceasing…..
As a Christian child, I loved the Jesus of Sunday school and songs, but my faith had no depth, so my adult choices resulted in two failed marriages. At my lowest point I was living in a sinful situation, with no repentance or desire for God.  I thought God was all about “no” and rules.  Eventually my wrong thinking took me somewhere I had never planned to go.  Friends and family alike were fed up with my continuing disasters.  My life was a mess, and it was my fault.

I was alone.

God then poured out His mercy on me through one friend – Barbara.  She made it clear that she deplored my choices, but Barbara also made it clear and that she, and God, loved me. And she set out to prove it.  After unsuccessfully inviting me to church many times, Barbara decided to kidnap me.  Every Sunday she got her family up early, drove to my home, rousted me out of bed, and took me to church.  My unwilling ears heard truth at that church.

Sometimes I would come home from work, expecting a silent, lonely house and I would find instead a home full of Barbara’s family.  The kids were happy to see me, dinner was on the stove and I had a family to eat it with.  We would read, talk, and fellowship.  My hardened heart saw love made tangible.

Because of Barbara’s deliberate ministry to me I began to want to know God.  I finally read the Bible, and found out about a God beyond Sunday school songs.  A God that wants an intimate relationship with me.  That still blesses me with fresh meaning every day.

My life still has highs and lows, but every day I learn more ways to praise my redeemer.  These days my husband and I host a Bible study in our home, I write devotionals, volunteer in our church, and I’m currently learning the inductive method of Bible study.  Martin works for our church and we have a beautiful daughter through the blessing of adoption.  My Lord has bound my wandering heart to Him through more goodness, blessings and merciful moments than I can count.  Streams of Mercy, Never Ceasing.  Here, I raise my Ebenezer indeed.

pump up the volume

Thoughts.  Thoughts scurry in my mind.

Like fifteen toddlers who all are trying to get out the door all at once.  What you really need is for them all to be quiet, and pay attention so you can instruct them to get in line and hold hands.

No one will get left out.  Just calm down.

When you are dealing with just one toddler at a time, you can afford to use a quiet voice.  It won’t work all the time, but some toddlers will quiet themselves down just to be able to catch the sound of a quiet, calm, authority.

But when you are dealing with a room full of noise, distractions and chaos……

Sometimes you just have to raise your voice. Just a smidge.

“Everyone needs to sit down. Now.  And Be Quiet.”

I think,  sometimes, God needs to shout at me.  To “Pump up the Volume” as it were.  Just a smidge.

Don’t know about you, but I get swarmed under by myriad fears, anxieties, worries, things I’m planning, posts to write, schedules to arrange….and when I was waiting for our adoption to come through it was even worse.  The thoughts that crowded my head all the time…oi!  Each thought was a mere whisper, but the cumulative effect was an overwhelming din.

Are we in God’s will? Will the paperwork ever go through?Will we ever be matched? Are we matched with the right birth family? Is this couple going to run off with our money? Am I sinful for worrying about the money? Is the baby healthy? Am I sinful for worrying about whether the baby is healthy? Am I ready to parent? Is anyone ever ready to parent? Will I be a good parent? Have I worked through my grief yet? Is adoption a moral option? Or am ripping a child away from her family forever? Is this baby going to be permanently emotionally damaged by just the mere fact of being adopted? Will I be able to explain the concepts of adoption to a child without giving him, or her, a complex?

At some point God had to shout to be heard above the babble of fears swarming around in my mind and heart.

“Everyone needs to sit down. Now. And Be Quiet.”

In other words,

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.

When that verse is read out loud it is commonly read in a quiet, respectful, calm voice.  But I have this vision of God occasionally having to shout it at me in order to be heard over all the scurry and noise of my mind.  All those fears running in circles, and the things I spend my mental energies worrying at.  Each one, individually doesn’t make that much noise, but collectively? They can be deafening.

How did God “shout” at me?  I am convinced of this – He let our adoption proceedings get to a point where there was, quite literally

Nothing I Could Do.

Not one thing I did was going to make the process happen faster, or better, or proceed in a more understandable direction.  Once we got to the point where nothing I did would have any effect…..

It finally dawned on me that God was in charge.  He had been in charge all along of course, no matter how much I thought I was contributing.

Why am I writing this?  Well Missy asked me to share “what to say to a friend who is waiting for an adoption”

Hmmmm.

Okay.

First off, my reaction when she asked me to write this was something on the order of “are you kidding me?  I am hardly the poster child of someone enduring a long wait for an adoption!” (ours went from the very first phone call with the agency all the way to the delivery room in an INSANELY short 6 months) but then I stopped and thought about it and remembered all the sleepless nights, the heart-rending questions I had, the grief of being convinced that each moment that we waited was some kind of judgment for my past sins and I realized afresh a very simple truth….

When you are in the throes of waiting for something, every single moment feels like the middle of forever.

When you are waiting, you can’t see the end.

When you are waiting for a phone call, you have no way of knowing when it will come.

When you are waiting on the good offices of some clerk in some office somewhere in a county, city, or country far-far-away, or even one next door, there is nothing you can do to make them work faster or look on you with favor.  You just have to wait.

And when you are waiting, you become like a child eager for Christmas.  Or a dog waiting for his master to return home from work.  The only thing your brain registers is

Each

Tick

Of

The

Clock

Seems

Like

An

Eternity.

So what to say to a friend who is waiting for an adoption?  Well unless you can be right there next to your friend every moment, every second of her torment, to whisper to her that God is good and that He knows what he is doing, there is really no way that you personally can adequately comfort your friend.

Lots of people said lots of things to me.  Some of them were helpful.  Some, not so much.  But I have to be honest with you, nothing really sank in until I was forced by God to sit still and listen.  So my best advice is this –

If you have a friend who is waiting, (whether they are waiting for IVF results, or waiting for a clerk to forward their paperwork, or waiting for a match, or waiting for a baby to be born) Give them God.  Give them Scripture.  Encourage them to fill their every waking minute with the love and comfort of our Lord. Scripture songs on CD are especially good.  Any human advice you give them is just going to get lost in the noise of their fretting, scurrying, endlessly circling brains.  BUT scripture will echo in their hearts because it is by nature divine, and when they slow down enough to listen (or God brings them up short, like he did with me) they will finally hear, process and be blessed.

Which scriptures?

Well, that is between you and the Holy Spirit, but here are some ones that helped me

Jeremiah 33:3
Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. (this one was a great one to shout at God when my heart was crying one great big long WHY LORD, WHY?????!!!!!!!!)

Proverbs 16:9
In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

Genesis 18:14
Is anything too hard for the LORD?  (nothing is too difficult for God.  nothing. Simple and true)

Psalm 62: 1 & 2
My soul finds rest in God alone, my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

Psalm 10:12
Arise LORD! Lift up your hand oh God. Do not forget the helpless.  (we prayed this for our as yet unknown child and her parents. Over and over and over)

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you declares the LORD. Plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Galatians 3:3
are you so foolish? After beginning with the spirit are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?  (this one stung me.  I am a do-er by nature. Nuff said)

I John 1:5
God is light, in him there is no darkness AT ALL  ( this one helped me immeasurably.  Yes, I know.  As a Christian this sounds like such a simple concept, but it really helped drive me to the point of acknowledging that God IS good.)

Any time you have a friend who is hurting ( and trust me, waiting for an adoption can be a long series of one hurt after another) you should pray, fervently for God to give you wisdom.  For the Holy Spirit to speak through you and provide comfort.  This is something that God has already promised to do for all of us, so you don’t have to worry about if this is in his will or not.  You already know that it is.

James 1:5
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

Isaiah 61:1&2
The spirit of the sovereign LORD is on me because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.  To proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God. To comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion.

My family has not yet come to the end of our adoption journey.  We adopted an infant girl from a wonderful family that we love and pray for daily.

But the journey doesn’t end there.  Every day we get up and continue the process of adoption.  As Ginny grows and understands more and more we will have new challenges.  Every day there are new obstacles to confront, and new events to wait for and the scriptures that calmed me during our adoption process still apply.

And so do my instructions from the God that whispers in my heart (and sometimes has to shout at me to get me to listen)…..

Be still, and know that I am God.

ginny’s second birthday party

Hey folks.  Long time, no blog.  I know I know.

I’m gonna try to get back in the groove of posting more soon.

But until then, here is a slide show of SOME of the 1000 photos that Doug Mulford took at Ginny’s Second Birthday Party.

the party was at The Little Gym in Snellville.  I had always sworn I was NEVER going to pay to have a party at some venue outside my home for a childrens party.  yeh, I know never say never….

At the beginning of the summer we enrolled Ginny in a weekly class at the Little Gym and she loved it so much that we decided “oh what the heck, let’s have her party here too” and boy are we ever glad we did!

First of all two year olds have WAY too much energy to have a party at our house.  Our home can barely contain Ginny in an energetic mood, never mind 10 or 15 guest kids.  oi!  The Little Gym staff was amazing.  They did everything we paid for and then some.  When we arrived they made a point of asking what Ginny’s favorite games are.  Hide-n-seek? Peek-a-boo? Tag? So that they could tailor the group activities to HER tastes!  Maybe other places do this too, but I am naive enough that I was impressed.

Anyway, her favorite thing in the whole world to do these days is (in her own words) Bouncy! Bouncy! Bouncy!  so they extended the time the kids get to play on the bounce…thingy.

I will post an update on her words and current doings soon, but for now I’ll just say that Ginny is 34 inches tall, weighs 26 pounds and has the sweetest personality in the world.  I am daily amazed at this wonderful, complicated, cheerful, creative, energetic little girl that God has blessed us with.  “Thank you” doesn’t even begin to convey the feelings I have for Ginny’s birthparents, Mel & Steve.

The adventure that officially started in a hospital room in Kansas on the night of August 29th, 2008 continues.  I can’t wait to see what comes next!

Happy 2nd Birthday to my lovely

Virginia Altie Aspen Gerard Russell