Time to Fight

9 May

Today is Mother’s Day and a red hot fire is burning in my heart.

This is not the first time that I have sat, with tears blurring my vision and words swimming in my heart, in front of my computer to try and sort through my mind and to share with all of you the emotions that threaten to swallow me whole. Okay, even for me, that was dramatic. But the sentiment remains. Mother’s Day brings something out of me and I’m just starting to understand what it is and why it is important.

As these feelings have been percolating beneath the surface over the course of the last week, I wasn’t sure where I was suppose to share them. To say that this blog is neglected and in need of an overhaul is an understatement. But the intention of me creating a place like The Cupcake Garden was to share with others about our adoption journey and to be a resource for those hoping to adopt from Africa as they navigate the ever changing waters of international adoption. However, because of the reality of what our journey has become, I have failed at maintaining any sort of conversation regarding our story and international adoption as a whole. Why? Because I have felt like a failure in our adoption and in most other areas of my life for quite a while now.

Now this all sounds very doom and gloom, but the truth is, I am beginning to feel victorious again. So why the need to update you and why again on Mother’s Day? Because maybe there are many of you, who like me, feel like you are failing and that you are watching from the sidelines as life happens around you; your power to live your life the way that you desire to has been taken from you and it is now time to stand up and take that power back.

For those of you who have read my other publications, you will know that mental illness has been a huge part of my life over the last number of years. It is heavy, it is often overwhelming and it is ugly. But my depression and anxiety do not define who I am. I am so many other things besides a victim of mental illness and it has taken me a long time to crawl back out of the dark pit that I lived in. I let my depression get the very best of me and I gave into the thoughts that consumed my everyday life.

For four and a half years now, our adoption has not been successful. To me, success equals my child in my arms. But as I share with you today, I realize that this journey has been leading me towards so much more than just my daughter. This journey is transforming me and my family. Obviously any life change or missions of this scope was bound to shape and mould us into new people. But I had no idea that this is where I would be, four and a half years after answering the very direct call that God had placed in my heart. I have known since before we set our hearts on this country that adoption was only the first step. Why on earth would God call us to love such a difficult and broken and corrupt country? Why do I have to care and hurt so much for a situation so far beyond my skills and capabilities to fix? Because this calling is bigger than me and God’s plan for my second home is all that matters.

Over the last year I have knowingly and willfully allowed my passion for our adoption, the country of our child’s birth and God’s calling in my heart to die. I ran as fast as I could away from it and filled my life with as many distractions and frivolities as I could. Nothing was happening and I was frustrated and angry and depression ruled my life. So why not just give up and walk away? The path of least resistance works for everyone else so why couldn’t I benefit from it too? Except that in running away from my passion and my calling, I was running away from myself.

Yes, I stopped fighting. I stopped praying. I stopped hoping. But all of that darkness and sadness has begun to transform me. I was taken out of the game because my dreams were too big and the enemy knows what will happen when I am done with being sorry for myself and I am in top fighting form. So slowly, over the past few months and then suddenly in the last week, I have emerged from my cocoon of self loathing and despair. In my separation from striving and caring, I began to reorganize my priorities and to rediscover the person that I truly want to be.

First of all, I took a step back and reassessed my health. I had let myself go and a large part of my coping mechanisms for my depression revolved around food and inactivity. This had to change. If you had told me a year ago that I would now revel and thrive in days built around my next workout and my need to eat as clean as possible I would have laughed in your face and probably punched you in the throat… this is an even funnier image to me now as my most favourite workouts of the week are kick boxing and MMA training. I savour the thought of become a harden and skilled fighter. Throwing punches and landing kicks makes my heart soar and I come out of each session wanting to try harder and to learn more.

Secondly, I had to let go of caring what other people thought of me. I needed to start living my life for me again and to think “screw you” to those who want to push me back into a box that suits their preferred comfort level. There are so many parts of my heart and soul and body that I have been ashamed of because they aren’t “normal”. But you know what, they are me. All of me. Yes, I love too hard and it freaks people out. I care too much and get my feelings hurt. I feel all of the things, all of the time and it is overwhelming; but it is me. I dream too big and suddenly the day to day seems like not enough. I lack balance in almost every area of my life. But that is me. I was made this way and it was time to stop being afraid of that. Am I going to embarrass people? Probably. Am I going to say crazy things because my passion goes before my reason? Always. Are people going to walk out of my life because I’m too much to handle or  they disagree with my decisions? Absolutely. But haters gonna hate and I don’t need your approval anymore. I am going to do what makes me happy and if you don’t like it, here’s the door. Bye Felicia! I am going to live my life in a way that is beneficial to me and to the overall wellness of my family.

Now, I am all for self love and embracing who I am, but I also recognize that self improvement and discipline are likewise necessary. I still have a long way to go and I know that God is still not done refining me. But I am so pleased to wake up each day, to look in the mirror and to gradually see what He sees. I am His daughter and He loves every part of me. The beautiful parts, the messy parts, the crazy parts. He put them all there for a reason and delights in my oddities, quirks and my love of T Rexes and their ridiculously small arms. He wants me to love until it hurts and to feel until it is purely ridiculous because that is who He made me to be.

Lastly, in all of my hibernation and pity parties, I have found what is most important to me. My girls are the light of my life and I would do anything to keep them safe and to make them happy. I may have failed at so many things – taking care of my body, growing professionally, becoming financially sound, keeping my house clean, being a good friend, sister, daughter, wife, or advocating for my adoption and the country I love and all the other things that I should be focusing on – but in this season, I felt as though I was thriving as a Mom. Regardless of the darkness that I faced, my girls and my love for them pierced through and brought me back to the land of living each day. I want to be my best for them and to show them by example what bravery and hard work can do in their lives. I honestly don’t think that they have any clue that I have struggled through the last few years. They have seen me cry and they knew that Mommy’s naps were important, but I have always been there for them and I hope that is all they remember.

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So as I approached this Mother’s Day, God was carefully cultivating a big picture lesson for me. All of these realizations have been building and taking root inside of me, making me stronger and wiser. But it wasn’t until my best friend forced me into a morning of sheer misery with him that the door in my heart, the part that was sheltering my passion and my drive, was kicked wide open.

Normally those close to me know better than to poke the feelings-bear that lives inside of me. If Erin feels the feels, some days life is just over. But as of late, I have told those feelings to shut the eff up and to sit in the to corner to think about what they’ve done. I have been stronger and more balanced and less emotional. But honestly, why test the waters? Because it was necessary and it was time. Whether or not he really knew what he was doing, it was time to see if Erin could cope with looking her dreams and calling in the eye again.

At his insistence, I listened to two hours of Joe Rogan interviewing Justin Wren about his life’s passion: The Mbuti Pygymies of the Congo. Is this my passion and calling? Nope. But could I connect and understand? 100%. Justin is an Mixed Martial Arts fighter who lived with depression and suicidal thoughts because of bullying as a young boy until he discovered wrestling and eventually success in MMA. Through a battle with drugs and the possibility of losing his career in MMA, Justin, through God’s divine leading, was called to love on the pygmy people in the Congo. His story and his sheer and pure love for these people is what broke the dam in my heart. This is how I was called to live. This is how I am suppose to move forward. We have been called to love the unloved and to fight for the forgotten. My heart does not live in the Congo but it does love a people who are oppressed and neglected and forgotten by the rest of the world. My heart longs to uplift the orphans of HIV/AIDS. I am called to be their voice and to champion their cause. I am called to fight. I was long ago given the title of becoming a Warrior. I think I am ready to take up that mantel and to fight.

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As I tried to rush towards a deadline for work through my hot and righteous tears this last week, all I could think of to express my feelings was this picture from our trip to Africa.

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This will stand out as the single greatest and most clarifying experience I had while meeting the orphans I will give my life for in Zimbabwe. People constantly asked me if Africa was everything I thought it would be or if anything took me by surprise. Knowing the reality of the state of the country as we went in was a huge benefit to us. Nothing was that shocking. I was very aware of what the lives of the orphans looked like before we had a chance to spend time with them. As I have shared before, being there was like coming home. I felt so at peace and whole while there. There were only two things that shook me during our entire stay.

  1. Disney lied to us. Hyenas are enormous and truly terrifying. I have never felt an animal look into my soul the way those hyenas did.
  2. The moment this picture was taken clarified my calling for me and showed me God’s heart for these orphans. We were asked to come and “teach” in a bridging school run by one of the local churches. Even with my degree (I had planned to be a kindergarten teacher at one point…) and J-Sauce’s love for math, we felt like we had so little to offer these eager little hearts and minds. But we were not going to run away from a challenge. So we spent the morning working on reading and writing English and teaching them new ways to count and multiply. After lunch, the teacher asked us if we would teach them some Canadian games. I wracked my brain and came up with “What Time Is It Mr. Wolf?”. Explaining what a wolf was and why this was a Canadian game took some time, but we won them over and were soon laughing and running and chasing one another. To repay us for our efforts, they children wanted to share one of their favourite games. We sat together with them in the field in a big circle. The teacher began to sing a song about the months of the year. When the month you were born in was sung, you would get up and dance. The teacher in me was thrilled to get the kids involved and to have everyone dancing; participation was always a huge component of my piano classes. So as the song went on, the teacher in me was perturbed that not all the kids were participating. By the time November rolled around an it was my turn, I gave it my all and danced with delight. And yet, so many little people sat staring at me with complacency and wouldn’t dance. It wasn’t until the teacher began to sing of a month that I had never heard of after December that the reality sank in – they were not participating because they didn’t want to. They were not dancing because most of them didn’t know when they were born. They were orphans of HIV/AIDS or other diseases, abandonment and the harsh reality of the struggle to raise a child in that country. This bold and ugly truth hit my heart like a freight train and the tears began to fall. I thought I knew what it meant to be an orphan, but it had never occurred to me that they didn’t know when they were born. As the teacher sang about this month that is made up to include all of the orphans who don’t know when their birthday is, I stood with them all and sang and danced with so much pain and wonder and love in my heart. J-Sauce snapped this picture as we danced without knowing what had just happened in my heart. Moments later, our ride arrived and it was time to say goodbye to my new friends. They ran and swarmed me with hugs and kisses and I was able to hide my tears in this goodbye. But what had just taken place would change my heart forever and I have never been the same. The call to fight was issued and it was now up to me to decide what to do.

Is it any wonder that MMA fills my heart with passion? Why did I need to be so weak for so long? Why did I sit on the sidelines and let my dreams go by? Because I needed to be built back up. I needed to become stronger. I needed to be mothered.

As I scrolled through my Instagram and Facebook feeds this morning, I tried to wrap my head around how to best honour the mothers in my life. I (yes, me, 2000 words deep…) was at a loss for words to best express how much the world needs mothers.

I will forever be grateful for my Mom and her unwavering love. I am who I am because of a Grandmother who faithfully and wondrously prayed for every member of her family each morning. I am uplifted constantly by loving aunts and cousins and sisters and Mama friends. In my darkness and my despair, I was weak. But in a moments notice, a few words would bring strength from a friend and my heart would be soothed by God’s mothering spirit through these people. I needed to know what it really meant to become the mother I am suppose to be. There are so many women (AND men!!) in my life who have been pure examples of a mothering heart. I do not care if you are an earthly mother, a heavenly mother, a pet mother or simply a good friend with compassion and understanding in your heart – you, yes you reading this –  you have been a mother to me and I am so grateful for you. You all are the true light in my life. My darkness cannot stand because of you, your light and your presence in my life.

It is now time for me to stand back up and to fight. I am a warrior. Me and freaking MMA are going to get this shit done. My passion doesn’t need to be your passion. I just need you to be in my corner as I, fueled by my crazy feelings, run yelling and screaming at the injustice of the unmothered and the unloved. I will fight because it is who I was made to be. You don’t have to fight with me, just please cheer me on.

Your dreams and callings are just as important and I want to cheer you on. Please tell me the big and scary Goliaths that live in your heart and I will mother you until you are ready to stand and face them. If you have no idea what a mother’s love looks or feels like, please shoot me a message. I will do my best to love on you as a mother or to find you your tribe so they can do the same.

And if you have held on this long through my ramblings… bless your heart. Here is an adoption update. Things are happening. Things are moving. “Roadblocks” have been forcefully removed by government officials. Our child will be with us. We just have no timeline. My heart has so much more peace because of the journey we have endured over the last four and a half years. All of this truly rests in God’s timing and I am willing to wait on Him. Until then, I will train and then I will fight.

Please begin to check back in with us and to ask questions. I would love nothing more than to share my passion with you. And please, please, PLEASE check out Fight for the Forgotten and Justin’s story. I have now added meeting and working with him to my bucket-list… because of course I have.

And to you my Tiny Potato, this is all your fault. You blew on the embers in my heart and now it has returned to an all consuming fire. So now, you either must help me to contain it or you must blow on it until it spreads. There’s no escaping it.

Thanks for allowing me to share and I wish you all a very loving and blessed Mother’s Day.

 

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