Saturday, May 12, 2018

Summer is Here

Our summer staff arrive tomorrow.

For those of us in camp ministry, that means that a "normal" life for the next three month is virtually impossible. Our world speeds up and we struggle to breathe. But it's so, so good.

On this night before the chaos ensues, I find myself researching vacation spots for my husband and I post-summer (open to any recommendations you may have!), jamming out to some old school Shane & Shane, and letting my mind go down memory lane to the first day I arrived at camp as a summer staffer.

I'm going into my 15th summer of camp...but I'll never forget the first day I arrived at Camp Eagle in 2003. Everything was new and I didn't know a soul. But, it was the first place I remember going that I could be fully me. It was the first place that I went that no one else I knew had gone before me. I was on my own, embarking on a new adventure. In most ways, it felt like the most radical thing I had done in my just-turned-19 years on earth.

It makes me think a lot about the staff that are coming in tomorrow and how they must be feeling and what they must be thinking. They may not ever forget tomorrow for the rest of their lives. They may look up 15 years later and be working full-time at a camp with several of the people they worked with that first summer. Crazier things have happened.

I probably don't even know all the ways that first summer changed me, but I know that I was different afterward. I know that I continue to learn and grow and, hopefully, become a better version of myself. Not just because I work at a camp. Mostly because God is good and gracious and patiently waits for me to realize how much I need Him (over and over again).

I want to be like I was that first summer again.
Open, willing, ready, eager, excited, nervous.
Willing to dive deep into relationships with others, excited to see what the Lord was going to do, eager to learn and grow in my relationship with God and my study of Scripture so I could teach it to campers. Open to whatever the Lord had for me. Ready to work hard and learn all the new things required of me.

Join us in praying for our staff as they arrive. Pray for safety. Pray for their hearts to be prepared for a summer of intense ministry... a summer of investing in eternity. Pray for their lives to be malleable and ready for God to change them, as He works through them and in them--even in the most exhausting, selfish moments.

Pray for our full-time staff, as they go from a busy season of serving and preparing into an even busier summer of leading our summer staff and serving thousands and thousands of guests (literally).

We have incredible opportunities around us. Pray that we would be bold with the Gospel, that we would live out of the Spirit, and that we would be diligent about investing in our relationship with the Lord and those around us.

I'm pretty pumped for whatever this summer entails.
Let's do this.

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Sunday, March 18, 2018

A Jumbled Mess

It's harder to try. 
I don't want to try anymore. 

It's hard to explain to your husband how trying hurts more. The disappointment is greater. The risk feels higher. There's a constant awareness that the trying brings-- every twinge in my gut, every day that passes, every possibility. I found myself Google-ing a lot a few weeks ago. Did you know that practically everything can be a pregnancy symptom? But also that the biggest (most obvious) symptom is a missed period? But, for whatever reason, our irrational brains have a hard time waiting just a few more days so we read into every plausible "symptom" that could indicate that, yes, maybe this time it worked. 

I cried again. The weird part is that I still don't know why I get sad. Maybe it's pride. Maybe it's a fear that I feel like I'm letting everyone down. I feel like there's a great number of people cheering us on, praying for us, supporting us--and sometimes all I want to do is bring you good news. Maybe it's because I really do want kids and I'm too scared to actually admit it. 

I have been on a journey with spiritual disciplines for the last few months. 

"Disciplines" is one of those gross words that kind of makes you want to vomit in your mouth a little bit. Or, at least, that's kind of what it used to be for me. The trendier word for it right now seems to be "rhythm" - a safer, gentler, cooler sounding vibe. Spiritual rhythms: melodies we live our lives by that are rooted in a spirituality. 

A lot of my classes lately have had elements of disciplines, rhythms, rules attached to them. It's a part of being spiritually formed, of being centered in God, of casting off the old and living in the new... part of living in such a way that envokes transformation in those around you, that asks us to dig deep, to reflect, to be willing and open to change in ourselves. 

When I used to think of spiritual disciplines, I used to think about praying, or reading the Bible, or journaling. In my mind, the list of disciplines was pretty short. But for the past few months I've been practicing the presence, service, memorization, gratitude, retreat...and now I'm entering into a two-week stint of "slowing". Slowing down my life, giving room for God to move by creating space in the midst of the hustle and bustle of being busy, taking time to give the Lord my days before I take my head off of the pillow, driving in the slow lane, choosing the longest line at the check-out. Because I'm too busy, too unwilling to pause and let the little inconveniences open my eyes to the world around me. I pretend to be too busy to even really process how I feel about infertility and only give myself a few minutes to cry before wiping my eyes and returning to work again. Too busy, too unwilling to let people see the rawness and the pain of it. 

Have you ever felt something stirring in you? 
Something deep, something big, something unknown? A feeling that there's something coming your way and you may need to brace yourself for what lies ahead? 

I've been feeling like that lately. That something big is around the corner. I don't know what it has to do with, but I have felt like the Lord has asked me to be patient in the process and to seek Him all the more. I wonder, often, if it has to do with children...and more recently I wonder if it might have to do with my growing passion and awareness of social justice and how Scripture repeatedly takes up the cause of the orphans, the widows, the poor, the oppressed.  

This is the second Sunday in the last few months where I have left church and told my husband that I feel like adoption is in our future, even if I don't know what that tangibly looks like. Sometimes I think that a child with no mother or father might just show up on our doorstep (probably not literally) and that we just need to be ready. 

I say all of this, and I say it all over the place because I don't know how to succinctly make it sound pretty or well-thought out. My mind is jumbled. But, I know, more than any other track of self-improvement that I could choose right now, this is the journey that I must take...and the one I want to take. More than the attempts to keep my skin young or to shed a couple pounds, I need to be disciplined in my quest to draw closer to God. I need the transformation of the soul, I want to be more like Jesus. I want the things I say I want to be the things I really want--I want God's word to impact me to the core of my being. 

I think these disciplines, these rhythms are preparing me for what is next. Perhaps they're preparing me for a life without biological children. Perhaps they're preparing me to move to Africa. Perhaps they're preparing me for a life of simple obedience in the mundane, ordinary day-to-day. 

I want to boast in the Lord.
Only in Him. 
I don't know if I know how to do that if I continue to hold on too tightly to the world I think I want. 

So for now, I will pay attention to the stirrings... waiting patiently until He calls, and press further into knowing Him. 

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Swimming Forward

Science is crazy.
So is the human body.

Last week, we were presented with some new news regarding our fertility. You ready for it? Basically, we're both fine. Healthy, even.

My husband's got a lot of forward-swimming little guys with funny shaped heads (but enough normal shaped head ones to not matter). My ovaries are in the stellar shape of a 23-year-old lady (that's ten years younger than me, folks) with no tube blockage and plenty-o-eggs to be implanted.

It wasn't shocking news.
But, now we know.

"So, Doctor-man, you're saying there's no apparent reason that we aren't getting pregnant?"
"Honey... it's amazing anyone gets pregnant."
(okay, so he didn't say "honey", but it seems like he should have.)

And he's right.
It is amazing. Miraculous. For every single thing to go right that has to go right for a couple to conceive is crazy. I don't know when the last time was that you watched a little clip on "how babies are made" (probably 7th grade, like me)...but, it's fascinating. And weird. And fascinating. And miraculous.

So, now what?
Do we keep moving full speed on the fertility train of IUIs and IVFs and wherever else it may lead us?

I don't think we're quite there...and, honestly, we may never get there. More than anything, the cry of my heart is to be open to what (or who!) the Lord might have for us in this journey of life. Since before I was married, I have always thought adoption was something I would want to do (I even wrote this blog about it, long ago). Then again, I was also sure kids were something I wanted to do.

But that's the prayer.
Not my will, but the Lord's will.
Maybe we'll get pregnant.
Maybe, someday, we'll come across a little child that needs a family.
Maybe we'll never have kids. 

But, that's the prayer.
That, no matter what our circumstances may bring... we would be faithful. Joyful. Content. Open. Willing. Obedient. Abiding in Christ and bearing much fruit.

Beyond that, I'm not too worried about how it all plays out. There will be hard days...and good days...and mediocre days. There will be days when my heart cries out for a child, days when I feel like my life is flying by and I just can't catch up, days when nothing is as it should be. But, despite those moments, I know I'll be okay.

Pray that we'd be willing.
To go, to be, to give, to receive, to let our lives truly be transformed by the Good News of Jesus Christ.

On a note of practical updates:
I am taking Clomid for a few months and we do plan to reevaluate and see what our next steps might be, depending on how that goes.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Turkey Baster

Today was the day.
I hadn't really put too much thought into any of the details of what would transpire, aside from asking people to pray for us.

Pray for us to know more.
Or to have clarity.
Or something. I don't even know.
We had been praying a lot ourselves. Looking back, I'm not even sure what we prayed for.

Lots of paperwork. Intimate questions. How often do you sit in a sauna or hot tub? (every day, people). How many caffeinated beverages do you have a day? How many times are you intimate with your partner each week? Medications. Surgeries. All the things.

A nice doctor man.
We sat down with him and talked through our history and where we were at, what we had tried, what we had come across.

"I assume you're here because you want to get pregnant."

Nice doctor man... while that might be the normal assumption of a couple at a fertility clinic, that's not exactly the case here. We just were hoping for some answers. Just to know if we even can have kids. I don't know if I'm really ready to pull out all the stops.

He described it as a journey and began to tell us the step by step process of how things typically go, what they'll try and a bit of what we could expect. Asked if we had questions. "Sir, we have a hot tub. Does that affect sterility?" "No, I think you're fine." I had asked my husband a few weeks ago, after reading online all the negative ramifications of hot tubs on sperm count, if he'd rather have a baby or a hot tub. He hadn't answered...

Before I knew it we were being given an ultrasound, tested for vital sperm and taken into a room with a nurse to sign my life away. More tests. Prescriptions. Specific days of my cycle to take medication, test for ovulation and come in and get a turkey baster of my husband's goods planted in utero (I promise that the doctor actually referred to the medical syringe as a turkey baster).

I remembered at this juncture that a friend had told me recently how, once you go into the fertility clinic, they just throw you onto the moving train of baby-making. I got a little panicky as I listened to the nurse's words. There was no, "If you want..." or "think about it...". Just, "do this" and then "do that". BUT WHAT IF I DON'T WANT TO!?!?!  My heart was racing.

"Could we just try the medication for a bit before jumping into IUI (in utero insemination)? My husband and I haven't had a chance to talk about all of this..."

Finally seeing my panic, the nurse backed off a bit. She assured me that I could take my time and that signing the papers was just a formality to get out of the way so we wouldn't have to worry about it later. I could just take the medications for a few cycles and see how that goes before coming back to the clinic for an IUI.

Next steps involve another blood test and a few more tests on me to see that no tubes are blocked. The good news is that I have healthy looking follicles and eggs (and no cysts). The bad news is that I still feel a bit lost as to what to pursue and how much to pursue it and how far is too far. We haven't even talked about the dollars involved in this entire process yet....

So, my husband and I left feeling a little more exposed, sat at the bar of Texas Roadhouse (they were giving away free appetizers if we sat there) and talked about our fertility treatment options. I'm sure it's perfectly normal to have a couple at a bar, drinking Dr. Pepper and water, praying and talking about IUIs.

I don't know if we have solid answers yet. Maybe my husband does and I don't. Maybe I just need some time to process and pray some more. I told Kel that I think I have this faulty expectation that if we go down this route, we will have a child.... and I'm still sometimes really not sure if I want one. But, I also realize that if we go down this route, we still might not have a child. And maybe that part is actually more unbearable to face. Pulling out the stops...and still being empty-wombed.

Keep praying, if you think about it.
We have some pretty decently quick decisions to make and I have loved hearing from those of you who have reached out (and in the very near future, once my classwork slows down, I plan on responding to all of you). I'm encouraged by the fact that there are others who have gone before me in this, others who are still struggling with it and others who are just here and with us, even if our battles look really different. I'm thankful and humbled by you all.

(Ironically enough, I am taking a Christian Ethics course this semester... which includes some content on reproductive technologies. So, that'll be fun).

Your entries will remain anonymous

Sunday, January 14, 2018

To be or not to be...

I feel like for the last 3 years I have been slowly trimming out a baby-shaped hole from my heart. Every month that goes by is another cut in the paper heart. To be or not to be...? That is the question.

Right before Thanksgiving, I felt like it was the next to last snip before the baby-shape falls out completely.

And I lost it.

A tragedy about finding out that you’re not pregnant each month is also finding this out during your most emotionally unstable time each month. How can you ever trust what you’re really feeling in those quiet, lonely hours and days?

So I waited.
I waited because part of me couldn’t handle processing the emotions that were attached to that final cut. I waited because I couldn’t trust them. I waited because I certainly couldn’t talk about them. I waited because I was surrounded by friends and family who were raising up beautiful children and learning new things about life and the Lord and family and I knew that was factoring somewhere into the equation of my sadness.

I waited because I had never felt more alone in my pain. Realistically, I had never actually felt this pain before.

This was the first month that I had felt pretty hopeless, a little like it actually wasn’t going to happen, a little like I needed to start living life without this possibility that children may someday be in our future. A little like I needed to make the final cut and be done with it, learning to live life with this baby-shaped hole forever in my heart. A little like I needed to mourn the loss of never knowing what it might be like to carry a child in pregnancy. A little like I needed to stop thinking about what sort of cute pregnancy announcement we would come up with to share with the world that a miracle had truly transpired.

I still haven’t known how to talk about it.
Not on a real gut-wrenching, this actually hurts my soul, type of talk about it. Maybe it’s because those moments are few and far between. Maybe it’s because I still sometimes don’t know if I want kids. And maybe because sometimes I do. And maybe because sometimes I’m scared that if I say I do and it never happens, where does that leave me?

I don’t know how to connect with others and I don’t know how to let them connect with me. Instead, I find myself keeping them at an arm’s length: they don’t/can’t/ won't understand. Because…how could they? One day I think I want kids. The next day I don't think I want kids. One day I really want kids. The next day I really don't want kids. My journey hasn't been one of constant longing or undeniable desire. In fact, most days, as this blog can attest, I am content and absolutely grateful for the way this life is going. 

But then there's that day.
A day where loss seems inevitable, where mourning seems necessary, where moving on and letting go seems most wise.

My husband scheduled an appointment at the fertility clinic.
I suppose some of you are thinking, finally.
And maybe that's true. I sometimes think it myself, while also a bit in denial that we're here at all. If nothing else, we're just looking for answers. We'll both get some tests done at the end of the month and figure out where we want to go from there, if there's anywhere to go from there.

And so here we are.
In place I didn't think we'd be, but trusting the Lord in it--no matter how it continues to go.

Would you pray for us?
For discernment?
For wisdom?
For us to continue trusting the Lord in where He has us in the possibility as parents (even if that looks like us not being parents, or adopting, or pursuing some other options with fertility treatments)?

I'd also love to hear more from any of you who have been on a similar journey. We're entering into unchartered territory and the unknown always feels a little...questionable. And I'd love to hear from those who haven't had children (whether by choice or not)...and how that process has been for you.

There's the latest with us when it comes to this infertility saga.

(I wish one blog post could also sum up the hundred of other things going on in our life that are also on our minds and hearts...but I'll save those for a rainy day).

Thanks for reading.
Thanks for caring.
Thanks for praying.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Monday, October 16, 2017

Dream, He said

He said.

Think of what could be.

And so we did.

There was a permission to live freely in the dreaming process. No boundaries, no parameters, no "No's"....just dreams. We processed for a bit and slowly we began to shout out own dreams.

I'll admit that mine weren't limited to just our ministry--they were bigger, broader, and probably a lot more unrealistic.

I want to see a changed world.
I want revival.
I want more than what I read about, hear about, cry about....

The dreaming reminded me that there's hope.
Hope of better.
Hope of good.
Hope of different.

I've been wondering what my part in the conversation lately needs to be. What can one person possibly do or say that matters? What can one person say or do to be a catalyst for change? An anchor of hope?

And then I've realized that more often than not, it only takes one person. One person to believe, to be willing, to go, to be. One person to listen. One person to speak out. One person to live out their dreams with reckless abandon. One person, living obediently in the path the Lord has put before them.

And it's never really one person. There's always an Aaron to your Moses, a Timothy to your Paul, a Rosa Parks to your Martin Luther King Jr. There's always a host of people who are like-minded with similar missions longing to see the changes, to see the redemption, to see the freedom. It's just we sometimes stall out in knowing how to make it happen. Sometimes we doubt. Sometimes we're terrified. Sometimes we don't really think the Lord could ever use us.

I don't doubt that there are millions of people in the world who have the same dreams that I do. Millions whose hearts break when they read the news, millions who are scared, millions who want this world to be better. And then millions who just keep plodding through life, not really making any changes at all. We sigh, we cry, and then we move on.

I want more.
My heart is screaming.
But my actions don't often reflect the cries from within. Because plodding through life is easier. It's more comfortable.

Think of what could be.

I don't want to just dream anymore.
I don't think I can.
I have to do more. We have to do more.

I don't fully know what it needs to look like yet, but I know that it has to start somewhere.

I frolicked through a golden wonderland two weekends ago, dreaming and praying and wishing and hoping...and now it's time to do.

It may not need to be grandiose just yet. It may start small.
Offering hope.
Extending grace.
Building trust.
Serving others.
Forgiving those who have wronged us.
Asking forgiveness from those we have harmed.
Breaking down barriers.
Being willing to get to know people who are different from us...and letting them know us.
Stepping out of our comfort zones.
Being faithful with what we've been given each day.
Working hard.
Living out of our true calling.
Dying to our own desires.
Proclaiming Jesus in ways He is truly honored by and glorified in.
Sharing our stories of redemption and life change.
Being kind. And thoughtful. And generous.
Knowing the Lord.

Would you consider coming with me?
On another imperfect journey of second chances?
I may only be one person, but there's at least a million of you that want to change this world.

Would you consider committing to knowing the Lord more deeply? And then deeper still? To be devoted to Him, to pressing into Him and letting your life be an overflow of that? Would you consider, before you speak or write or do something that might offend or hurt someone, pausing and seeking?

I think that's the crux of the change.
Knowing Jesus.
That's the real dream.
That all may know Him, love Him, live their lives for Him, worship Him.

And if we all start doing that, if we all start truly living out of that...?
I think it changes everything.

And then let's do.
With reckless abandon.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Answered Questions

When we first met, I couldn't understand if he was saying CALE or KEL.

"Can you spell that for me?!" Knowing how names are spelled always helps me pronounce them correctly. K-E-L.

It's not short for Kelly. Or Kelby. Or Kellender. Just Kel.

this is our first picture together. when my hair was still longer than his. 
He was confusing to me (and still is).
While his accent isn't thick, it often comes out in words like fill (feel) or oil (oyul)--and sometimes his own name (Cale). And while he's from West Texas and loves country music, he's not exactly a cowboy with boots, tight jeans, and the desire to two-step me around the dance floor.

We met just over 5 years ago. The son of a dear couple that I had worked with for many years-- a son I didn't know existed. He was crazy. Loud. Confident. And if you had told me 5 years ago that I would be married to Kel Beal today, I might have laughed in your face.

But here we are, 3 years later. Married. Happy. Figuring out how to do our lives better together with each passing day because we both want more.

It's our anniversary today and while we haven't really had time to reflect on all of the memories of our wedding day, I've had a few of those moments where I get a little teary-eyed thinking about this man I married. This confusing, long-haired, athletic, video game-playing, fantasy-football crazed, people-loving and Jesus-desiring man that I married.

And then I think about all the people. A lot of you who made the time to be present, who spent the dollars to come, who poured out sweat as you set up the most beautiful wooden, candle-lit backdrop and covered itchy hale bales with lace and ribbons. People who traveled far. People who gave much. People who loved us so, so well. I truly can't ever say thanks enough.

I'm so humbled.
So blessed.

I was talking with a single girl not long ago about how it's so easy to feel like you have to "have it all together" before you find the "right" guy. It's easy to feel like you need to really figure out who you are, so you aren't looking to a guy to "save" you in a relationship... because he can't. A man doesn't make you whole. And that's absolutely true.

BUT- I would be lying if I didn't tell you the truth- at least for me.
Kel doesn't complete me, but he's the answer to the question I had been asking myself for almost my entire life. From the moment I even knew what a crush was, I was wondering who I would marry. Who. When. How. Where. When. When. When. Who. Who. Who. My heart ached to know the answers.

We played M.A.S.H. growing up (sometimes even in college), we flirted with boys, we wrote about them in journals, we cried over them, wrote songs and poems about them, danced with them, held their hands-- always asking, always wondering: are you him?

Even the boys we knew weren't and shouldn't be, we still sometimes wondered. Maybe... maybe it'll have to be him if it's going to be anyone at all.

And so when Kel and I got married, my questions were answered.

Who: Kel Beal. 
When: September 27, 2014; age 30.
Where: my parent's backyard.
How: in the most perfect way ever. 

He didn't complete me.
But the nagging fears and constant curiosities are gone.
There is a peace that transpired that I had never had before. A security. A person. A life-long best friend. A reminder of God's faithfulness. An answer to a thousand prayers. An answer to a question.

You can't help but feel like the luckiest girl on your wedding day. And you can't help but feel like that all over again on your anniversary. Because, today, 3 years ago, is the day my life changed forever.

The day the Lord showed me everything He had had in store for me during all those years of question-asking, all those years where I doubted Him.

I'm still baffled by His goodness to me.
I'm still humbled.
Still so blessed.

I continue to pray that the story of Kel and I would be one that gives others hope. Hope that there can be relationships and marriages that are good and fun and imperfectly perfect and constantly pointing back to Jesus. Hope that maybe one day, others may get to experience the Lord's goodness in the same capacity that I have (even if it's years and years later than you want it to be). Hope that not all things in the world right now are bad and that the Lord is still faithful.

Because He is.
In all things. In all seasons. In all the brokenness and hopelessness.
Somehow, for some reason, He remains faithful.
Even for a ragged, defeated, hopeless 29-year-old girl in 2013.
Even for a confused, selfish, prideful 33-year-old lady in 2017.

May we humbly learn to love Him and others more earnestly.

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