Category Archives: Global

The Adventure I Didn’t Ask For

Moving to Europe and facing the reality of cancer – two very uncomfortable things I have never done, but today’s post comes from someone who has. This whole Uncomfortable January series is about leaving our comfort zones and risking more in 2014. Beth Stedman struck a chord when she posted this fall about a severe mercy. I know you will love her again as she shares a bit more of her story.

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When I hear things about risk,  adventure, and living uncomfortably, my heart starts to do little excited somersaults. These things resonate with me. I have never wanted to live a normal cookie-cutter life. I have wanted something different. Something bigger. I have wanted adventure. And I have understood that adventure requires risk and discomfort.

So, when Liz first told me about this Uncomfortable January series I wasn’t just excited I was thrilled. These are ideas that have shaped a big part of my life and character. But, then I started to think about the present. I began to thing about what risks I want to take right now, and suddenly I was at a blank. As I stared at the blank page I realized something very uncomfortable for me. Right now, I lack all desire to risk. Where had that heart for adventure and that desire to stretch myself gone?

In order for you to understand where I’m coming from I want to take you on a little journey. I want to show you a snap shot that displays my past love for adventure and one of the biggest risks I have taken, and then I want to show you a snap shot that I think displays why I currently don’t desire risk or discomfort.

Snap Shot One: A Risk I Chose

We walk slowly, hand-in-hand, watching as the sun’s rays disappear over the city of a thousands spires. The bricks that make up the bridge under our feet are hundreds of years old and each step seems to whisper stories to us of times past. We stop near a statue and watch the rushing Vlatava river sweep under us. It has rained most of the week in Prauge but today it is dry and the river sings a merry and contented song.

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Prague

“So, should we do it? Should we move here?” I ask the question with as much fear as excitement and before Bryan has a chance to respond I am processing through my own answers. Admitting my fear. It feels too risky. Too unknown. Too uncomfortable. But, I want that. I want a life that is different from the norm, a life that is bigger, a life of adventure. I want to be the kind of people who move to Europe for no other reason than because we want to.

I fluctuate with every sentence.

Together we talk through every fear, but we keep coming back to one question, “What kind of people do we want to be?” And suddenly it’s clear.

“Fear is not a good reason to make a decision.” My husband’s words seem to echo on the stone bridge. “It is scary to think of moving here, but we don’t want to be people who live in fear. We don’t want fear to dictate our decisions. We want to be the kind of people who intentionally stretch themselves, who take risks and seek out adventure . We want to be the kind of people who move to Europe.” He pauses before adding, ” I think we should do it.”

” I think we should too.” And with that a decision was made that would change my life.

We spent four years in Prague. It is the longest my husband and I have lived anywhere together. The friendships that we made there are some of the closest relationships that I have ever had. Those friends are family.

Living in Prague shaped us and changed us. It strengthened our marriage, it shifted our values, it expanded our minds, and it taught us how very strong we really are. It was not easy. There were dark seasons and heart aches, there were stressful situations and failures. Moving to an unknown country was a massive risk and it was not without expense. All risk comes at some expense though, and often it is worth the cost. Prague was worth the cost for us.

Snap Shot Two: A Risk I Did Not Choose:

Bryan says a shallow goodbye and sets down the phone.

“Who was it?” I ask right away, eager to solve the mystery that has been going on in my head.

” The dermatologists office. They got the pathology report back from that mass that was under my thumb nail.” His voice is controlled and calm. “It’s melanoma.”

The words crash over me like a wave. I feel adrift. I can’t seem to focus or completely grasp what that means.

“What does that mean?” The words escape my lips as a question, but I am not sure I really want an answer. I know it is bad. I know it is cancer, but I can’t wrap my mind around it. Bryan’s young. He’s healthy. It doesn’t mean what I think it means, right? It couldn’t mean that.

chemo

chemo

But, it did mean that. Just over a year later I would be looking over Bryan’s shoulder at a scan of his body that took my breath away. There was one shot where his body was shown in white and the tumors in black. It looked like swiss cheese. I will never forget it. His cancer had progressed aggressively.

I asked God for a life of adventure and now that he’s given it to me, I don’t want it.

This is an adventure I didn’t ask for. This life I have been walking for the past two years, this path labeled cancer, it’s too far outside my comfort zone. It’s too risky. Fear has become my constant companion – and I don’t like it.

My husband and I value risk and adventure and even being a little uncomfortable. We don’t want fear to control or guide our decisions. But, what do you do when you are thrown into an adventure that feels too risky? An adventure that comes hand-in-hand with fear? When all of life becomes a great risk, when the adventure feels too stressful to take anymore, well, what do you do then? You go into survival mode. You stop seeking risk. You seek out comfort, not the uncomfortable. And instead of your life expanding, it shrinks.

There has been a lot of shrinking in our lives in the past two years. At times our fears and pains have been so great that they served as giant blinders keeping us from seeing anything but ourselves.

Right now if you asked me that same question that my husband and I asked each other so long ago on Charles’ Bridge I would not answer that I want to be a person of risk or adventure. In fact, even asking the question, “What kind of person do you want to be?” feels too risky, to grand, to intentioned for me. For the past year ( or more ) my only answer to that question would have been ” an  alive one”.

I don’t want to live that way anymore. I want to keep stepping out and taking risks even amidst a risky uncomfortable adventure that I didn’t choose.

Bryan

Bryan

I want to go back to choosing to risk and I know exactly where I want to start.

With the biggest risk of all … Love.

In the adventures I’m currently walking it would be easy to wall off my heart for protection. Loving is risky. Loving means the potential for loss. But, I don’t want to let the fear or pain of loss serve as a blinder for me anymore. I’m throwing off the blinders. I’m inviting in the hurt and accepting it with kindness. I’m telling fear to take a hike and replacing it with prayerful trust.

I want to choose again. I want to choose to get out of survival mode and open myself up. I want to choose to dream big dreams again and take the scary risky steps to pursue them. And most of all I want to choose to risk opening my heart to all the love that is around me.

Rejoicing in the journey,

Bethany

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headshotsBethany Stedman is a mom and writer who often wishes she was saving the world with a super hero cape, a quill, and some rocking literature. Instead she spends most days playing peek-a-boo with her baby girl, reading Goodnight Moon, and racing around the house with her preschooler. She’s completely addicted to Pinterest, peanut butter, and Doctor Who ( yup, nerd to the core). She blogs about life with God, parenting, marriage, and anything else that comes to mind at http://www.bethstedman.com. Come stop by and say hello.

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Filed under Faith, Fire, Global, Uncategorized, Uncomfortable January 2014

Why I Speak To Cats In Russian

illustration by Gemma Correll

illustration by Gemma Correll

I speak to cats in Russian.  I know, right?  Weird. Why would a girl from Texas do that?

During the ages of 11-13 I lived in Irkutsk, Russia with my family. So much of my life has been shaped by those years. When there is a bowl of soup in front of me, you can bet I will put sour cream in it. The smell of dill is synonymous with summer in my mind. I believe that eating ice cream in freezing temperatures will keep you warm and I draw a line through my ” 7 ” s and ” Z ” s.

Also, I still speak to cats in Russian. I’m not sure why, it is just one of those things that stuck with me. I wish it was a more useful skill that remained from my time there, like knowing how to tell which berries can be eaten in the woods. That would be helpful to remember. Instead it is the cat quirk that has stayed with me.

In high school I tried to be cool and keep the cat thing under wraps. I was a closet Russian-cat-speaker. I moonlighted as an average American teenager. Pretending to be angsty about life and acting like platform sandals really looked cool. ( they didn’t. The NEVER were cool. )

And I was accepted. I was accepted for the perception of myself I put out there. The bummer was that the acceptance felt really limited to me. My peers weren’t accepting the Russian speaking, politically driven, and senior citizen loving teenager that I really was.

In college it all came out. Time had taught me to embrace some of the cross-cultural traits I had picked up. I developed my friendships differently – high outer walls and low inner walls. I made factual statements in question form and tended to clap in unison with the person next to me.

I stopped hiding all the little things I was so insecure about before. Shout out to hipsters for making quirky cool I guess. I wasn’t afraid of who I was anymore. Encouragements were breathed in deep and owned because they were spoken to the real me.

When we are honest about who we really are, we can be loved for who we really are. And we all need to be loved. —> click to tweet

Sure, I am still quirky. I’d like to think it is charming in a Zoe Deschanel kind of way, but it probably isn’t. And it doesn’t matter really because it is who I am.

So many of us are surrounded by people who care about us, but we still don’t feel loved. Perhaps it is because we aren’t being honest and showing them our true selves. The cat thing is a funny example, but there are more serious things we keep hidden.

Our sins, our weaknesses, past failures or deeply rooted insecurities. Maybe you struggle with depression and are afraid people will misunderstand you. Perhaps you think your religious beliefs will be judged or maybe you are afraid your personality isn’t right.

I believe we were all made to be loved. By God and by others. So be yourself – insecurities and all – and be loved for it. And if you speak to cats in Russian too, let me know. We could start a club.

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Filed under Faith, Funny, Global, My Life Thus Far, Uncategorized, Whimsy

Adoption … It’s a _______!

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It’s a … NEW COUNTRY!  If you have been following Lark & Bloom for very long you may have come across some posts about adoption. You can read through them right here to get caught up.

This December marks four years since we started the process of trying to adopt. We began with Uganda, then moved to Ghana. Two weeks ago we learned that our agency is now closing their Ghana program.

Jady & I went back to the drawing board and asked ourselves the hard question. Do we still want to adopt?  The answer was overwhelmingly yes.

Nights were spent scouring programs both internationally and here in the United States. We considered every option…again. One program and agency stood out. We talked to them on the phone, got our questions answered, prayed a lot and made our decision.

We are adopting two children from Burundi!

In a lot of ways we are back at square one, but our hearts are very peaceful and excited to be moving forward. Unlike the two previous countries we were working with, Burundi is not dealing with government setbacks when it comes to adoptions.

So, we are filling out the paperwork and the ball is moving forward. If all goes smoothly we could bring our children home as early as this summer.

Lark & Bloom really isn’t a personal blog, so I am going to limit the number of posts I put up about adoption on here. I have however started a new blog, The Six Griffins, which will keep you updated on our adoption situation.

Check our our adoption blog —> The Six Griffins

Learn about ways to donate —> Funding Our Adoption

As always, I appreciate your prayers and thoughts as we keep working to bring our kids home. Your support and encouragement has been overwhelming in this process. The biggest thanks to each of you!

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Filed under Adoption, Global, Kiddos, My Life Thus Far

Government Shutdown And Who Is Right

I know you readers are from around the world, but if you aren’t aware our government has shut down. If that is news to you, I suggest you read this first.

I love America. I love that we have a system of government in place that demands agreement in order to move forward. What is problematic for me is the way this is all going down and the critical approach both sides have.

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Me and the hubs in DC this past spring

I was going to write about the shutdown, but then my brilliant and fantastic friend Stephanie at Stifling Trivialities did. So, I am reposting her thoughts here. I’d love you to comment at the end about what your thoughts are regarding the shutdown. But be warned — I will only allow posts that are kind, respectful and constructive. You can disagree, but be nice.

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This morning I was listening to NPR and they were talking about the Affordable Care Act and the fact that there is a 40/48 divide in America regarding the way that America should be run. 40 percent of Americans believe that we need “smaller” government, and 48 percent believe that ‘big’ government is more effective. **disclaimer- I have not seen this study, I have no idea how this question was asked, to whom, and how many people were polled.

However, I do know that 1/2 of America ( or so ) believe FUNDAMENTALLY they are right – we need LESS government, BIGGER business, less intrusion, lower taxes, the government needs to step aside and let America be for the people by the people and give the people back the ability to rule ourselves…

Another 1/2 of Americans believe FUNDAMENTALLY they are right – we need the government to step in and do their jobs. To legislate where things are blocked, people are falling through the cracks, the minority is terrorizing the majority, to stop the widening gap between rich and poor, to control the flood of guns and violence, and death due to poverty…

So who is right?

One or the other.

There can only be ONE right? That’s the way we’ve allowed this to be constructed. That there is a right, and there is a wrong. As if it is a game of political Red Rover. You are either for or against.

The problem with being right is that it assumes there is someone who is wrong. There are some places where things are this black and white. Touchdowns and death for example – but politics not so much.

Politics is more of a game of Go Fish…and it’s about that exciting as well. Just think about the fun the OMB had when they sat down and said, ” Well, we’ve got a 40/48 split – what’s the line in Vegas on a shutdown October one?” When they heard the numbers, they ordered in Chinese and set to deciding which 87% of Veterans Affairs were essential, which 81% of the Department of the Interior needed to be furloughed. Commerce another 87% – 97% of NASA, 94% of the EPA, 81% of the Interior, 80% of the Treasury, 69% of Health and Human Services and so on and so forth…

“Do you have any State Park employees?”

” Go Fish”

“I would but normally I do that at Acadia National Park”

It’s well known that in the most successful negotiations everyone walks away without getting everything they wanted. No good negotiation is a winner take all game, or it’s not a negotiation. Somehow, Americans seem to have forgotten that.

We have begun to think that it’s our way, or no way. It’s behavior that we despise and punish in our children, that we critically critique in the coming generations, and demand uncompromisingly from our political representation.

The problem with being right, is that you can’t be right all the time , it’s a statistical impossibility. Beyond that, it’s difficult to like that person – the one that can never be wrong. And we are a nation full of them.

Two bickering sides.

Both always right.

Neither side ever wrong.

To what end?

At what cost?

I ask, in the long term, how can anyone benefit from this petulant behavior?

The problem with being right, is that it’s not working, and we’re not learning – and no one seems to be ashamed of their behavior.

We should consider who we vote for.

We should consider what we demand from them.

We should consider our political posture.

We are not moving forward, we are not at a standstill, we are sliding backward.

In three weeks, we will be facing the discussion regarding the debt ceiling and we can barely have an adult discussion with one another regarding the rules within our own home.

Our politicians are simply representatives of the people, they do as we demand. I cannot be angry at them for something that I am pretty sure starts with me. —> click to tweet

I am looking for places to concede and compromise, had our founding fathers been as obstinate and bull headed as we are, there would be no Constitution or United States. It might benefit us to remember the great concessions and compromises they made in order to move this great republic forward.

So what do you think? If you live in another country what is your take on this? For Americans, how do you think we actually solve this breakdown? Please share your thoughts and join the conversation!

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Filed under current events, Global, Politics, Uncategorized

Porn’s Biggest Secret

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So, porn… I’m gonna be quick and to the point. Pornography is helping fuel human trafficking. I personally know stories of human trafficking victims who have been forced to make porn.

Do adults have a right to view pornography if they want? Yes, they do. However, due to the internet, children and young adults are being introduced to it at younger and younger ages. Most of them stumble across it accidentally.

This accidental introduction creates more people with porn addictions, thus the demand for porn increases. How is this demand being met? Human trafficking.

We have launched a campaign inspired by recent actions in the UK. Our goal is to petition gov’t to make internet providers put filters on pornographic images unless a customer wants access to them

Reducing the demand for porn will reduce the trafficking of women & children to meet the demand. Will you join me in saying “NO!” ?

1. Visit UnBound’s site to learn more.

2. Spread the word to your friends via social media & email! Use the hashtag  #no4hope

I am saying “no” to human trafficking! Will you join me? #no4hope —> click to tweet this now!

3. Sign the petition right now!

This isn’t about politics or religion. It is about people. These are real people I have met and people I care about. Will you help me spread the word and say “NO”?

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Filed under current events, Fire, Global, human trafficking, Lifestyle, Uncategorized

The Dirty Gospel: Loss & Depression

Welcome to week # 2 of The Dirty Gospel series. This week I am talking about finding God in loss.

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I was in drinking lemonade in Egypt the day he died. I was 16 and on a trip to Africa with my dad.

We were never supposed to be in Egypt anyway. The plane leaving Amsterdam had to make an emergency landing due to engine failure. We missed our connection in Egypt so we were put up in a casino for four days until we could get another flight further into the interior of Africa.

I remember walking into our hotel lobby where my dad pulled me aside.

He told me how my mother had called the hotel to deliver the news. My friend Jeremiah had been killed by a drunk driver. The car was turning into Jeremiah’s driveway when a drunk driver slammed into them. Jeremiah didn’t make it.

I cried. I felt lost. I missed the funeral because I spent the next two weeks in Sudan.

Fast forward a decade and many more grieving moments. I was pregnant with my second child.

Sophie was just about 18 months old at the time. We always knew we wanted another child, and here the sweet baby was! Unlike Sophie, this pregnancy had me sick night and day. It was terrible.

But it got worse.

When I went to the doctor she was unable to find the heartbeat. We should wait a week and come back we were told. Just in case the baby wasn’t as far along as we originally thought. Friends, family and our church rallied around and prayed that God would do a miracle and and a little heart would start beating…thump, thump…thump, thump. It didn’t. God didn’t perform a miracle. The baby was gone.

At 11 weeks, I lost our baby. My terrible morning sickness continued for several weeks until my body recognized that there was no longer a pregnancy.

In the months to follow, I had post-partum depression. I wasn’t mad about the miscarriage, I wasn’t even sad at the time. I felt nothing. Not a single thing. A veil just went between myself and everything around me. I played with Sophie, talked with friends, did all the normal things…but I wasn’t really there. I had couldn’t rally my emotions back into gear.

I didn’t know that a miscarriage could cause post-partum depression. I just thought I was “off”.  Thankfully my hormones leveled out and after three months I was back to my old self. But those were rough days. Lost days to be honest. I know what I experienced was a very mild compared to what a lot of people with depression go through.

( If you are dealing with depression, I’d encourage you to visit your doctor. )

The days after the death of Jeremiah and after the loss of my baby felt so thin. I was holding on by a string. A very small string.

Where was God when Jeremiah died and the days after the loss of my child? He was filling my jar.

There is a story in 1 Kings 17 about a widow who only has enough oil and flour to make a final meal for herself and her son. Their provisions were so meager the plan was to eat their last meal together and then die of starvation.

But God stepped in. He filled their flour and their oil so it didn’t run out.

In those days of my loss and post-partum depression, God was refilling my oil. If I had been the widow I would have wanted a stocked pantry. Maybe a goat or two. But, God let the oil and flour be enough to sustain them.

In that season I wished God would have let my situation be easier. Given me all the things I felt like I was lacking in those moments. He didn’t. He simply multiplied what little I had so that it sustained me.

The days were messy, numb and confusing. Unknown to me I was in the middle of the Dirty Gospel.

God didn’t clean up my mess, He found me in it. And He never let go.

Yes, the situations got better. However, in the middle of those teary and numb moments there was something of God that I learned.

When what I have is not “enough” to sustain me, God comes. And He makes it enough.–> click to tweet

This realization that I can have “enough” in the middle of my complete lack has allowed me to develop a faith I have needed. Not just a faith to make it through the challenging moments. The kind of faith that enables me to chase dreams I have no business chasing.

That is the power of the Dirty Gospel. It replaces the need for perfect circumstances with the need for a perfect God. —> click to tweet.

Have you found God in a place of loss? I would love to hear your stories or thoughts in the comments.

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Filed under Faith, Fire, Global, My Life Thus Far, The Dirty Gospel, Uncategorized

what Italy taught me about getting lost

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photo cred: Galaxy Eyes

Want to know a little-known fact about me? Amid the Type-A drive and tendency to hurry, I adore being lost. It is true that I am 1/32nd Cherokee & can tell time simply by looking at the shadow of my horse…but, I do in fact get lost often. Like my first 24 hours in Italy.

My friend Connie & I flew into Milan with maps and whimsy. The plan was to catch a train to Slovenia for a few days and then explore some fine Italian cities. After landing we headed straight to the main train station.

Oh, but wait. There was a national train strike when we arrived & we were stranded. Did I mention it was fashion week? I was stranded in a train station during fashion week. Whoops.

There we were surrounded by very eccentric fashionistas & a  large group of angry Russian women. I’m not exactly sure why there 20+ Russian women, but for some reason they filled the women’s restroom and were not inclined to share it. The restroom was the only warm spot in the entire train station and the Russians had dibs on it apparently.

Through some United Nations style negotiation, my friend Connie was able to get us on a train to Venice.  Hungry & barely awake, we lugged ourselves off the train in Venice & began the hunt for our hotel. It was called Hotel Albergo.

It was just after 10pm when we got to Venice. We spent what seemed like days saying, “Scuzi! Dove e Albergo?”. The boisterous Italians would flash a smile, point a direction & say a slew of words we couldn’t understand.

It didn’t take long to realize our mistake. Albergo wasn’t the name of our hotel. It was the Italian word for hotel. Hours we spent going from albergo to albergo hoping to find one that had our reservation.

Dizzy from wandering around the canals, Connie & I stumbled upon a midnight mass & sat in the back row happy for a rest. So I sat there. Watching a foreign expression of worship in a strange place was pretty powerful to me. The droning of the prayers & devotion of these silhouettes  lit by midnight candles were enchanting.

I looked at these worn faces around me. We sat together in this ancient church for the same reason. To find Rest. When it was over our feet shuffled back along the canals continuing our search for lodging.

Luckily, or perhaps by divine providence, we found it a few minutes later. The owner’s son was attending the front desk of the small hotel. I don’t remember his name, but he was possibly the only ugly Italian male we saw during our visit.

He had the hots for my friend & proposed every time we came through the lobby. Oh, the Italians.

To be honest, we spent pretty much the entire 10 days lost in Italy. Each step of the trip had been calculated before we left. I spent $1,000 total on the 10 day trip. Yes, that is INCLUDING airfare. (Just try to beat me on travel deals, I dare you). Despite my best planning efforts, the entire trip was a series of missing trains and loosing ourselves in winding alleys. We were even in the wrong country at one point.

That’s just the way life goes sometimes. We get lost, away from our planning & calculations. Lost in strange towns with people we had no intention of meeting. We end up heading north instead of south & going when we are supposed to stay.

Our 5-year plan for our lives gets stuck in an old journal & God has created a new route for us to take.

It is scary and thrilling at the same time.

Italy taught me to surrender the expectation and embrace the adventure. My plans are nothing compared to His. We should put down our maps more often & get lost.

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August 13, 2013 · 3:07 am