Thursday, December 1, 2011

Using Empathy with Children

Using Empathy With Your Children

Empathy has changed my life. I first became aware of the concept when I was in graduate school studying counseling. My supervisor taught me the art of using empathy. There are several things people often get hung up on when they are "listening" to others. Problem solving is often a way that people respond to others when "listening". Oftentimes, problem solvers come across as pushing their own agenda. It can also feel more stressful when you are just trying to share something with someone and they suggest solutions that you don't need or have no interest in. Another hang up is that some people think if they respond to what the speaker is saying with empathy it feels like they are agreeing with the person. That's not necessarily true. You can be empathic and not agree with someone.

While I can't teach a whole seminar worth of information on empathy in a brief blog post, I would like to offer up some food for thought when it comes to using empathy with our children.

Empathy works wonders with children. It doesn't matter if your child or teenager is being completely irrational and overly emotional. Tapping into the emotion they are expressing is a great way to love our kids. Let me give you some examples.

To the two year old who is having trouble sharing his toys: "It's hard to share your toys."He responds, in dramatic tears, "Yeah". You give each other a hug and stick with the plan of making him share but you've acknowledged that it's frustrating and difficult to share. He feels understood by you.

To the five year old girl who is crying because she wants to wear a certain skirt to church that you have decided is not an option: "Honey, you are disappointed that you can't wear the skirt that you had in mind to church today."She responds, "Yes, I WANT to wear THAT one (whiney voice)" . Mom responds, "I know you love that skirt but today it's not an option. " She still doesn't like the response but she at least heard you acknowledge her disappointment. She feels acknowledged, especially considering your response could have just been "No, because I said so!".

To the 8 year old boy who is not ready to come in from playing outside at bedtime: "I know you're annoyed that you have to come in before all the other boys and it doesn't seem fair". He responds: "It isn't fair Mom." Mom responds, "I understand it feels unfair but 8:00 p.m. is the rule at our house."Of course, he still believes it's unfair but at least he knows he was heard.

To the 13 year old girl who got dumped by her "boyfriend" for her best friend: "Honey, you feel crushed that he chose her over you." This urges her to continue to share..."It feels awful Mom. It's embarrassing!" Then you can take the opportunity to build into your daughter and tell her why you think she is special. She feels like her world is shattered. You know it will pass but instead of dismissing her feelings by saying something like "Boys are silly...I told you not to get wrapped up in them," you show her that you acknowledge that she is hurting. She feels important to you.

To the 17 year old boy who is not going to make a college football team: "You have worked so hard Son and you feel so defeated right now." He responds saying, "I do feel defeated Mom. It feels like everything I've worked for in football for the past 10 years is a waste." Now, you have a chance to offer him some encouragement which will especially be received because his feelings have been validated!

I know, I know, you probably think I'm nuts but I encourage you just to try practicing some empathy with your kids. I am 100% confident it will make an impression on them. An impression that will be lasting. They will feel heard, understood, validated and important.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

IT'S A....

Having a Gender Reveal Party was a great way to celebrate our new baby. We invited our local friends and asked them to dress in either pink or blue. Eric pulled out his special gift from some dear friends from India and I also chose to wear blue. Eric said his gut said a boy. I couldn't decide between boy or girl but chose to wear blue.


We had such a great night with friends celebrating adding another BOY to our family. We played some silly games, including testing out the old wives' tale with the string and ring. Our friend Daphane tried it first and sure enough it twirled indicating a girl. I tried it right before we cut the cake and it also indicated correctly, a boy.

My Mom and Dad kept Simon overnight so we took some cake pops to share with with Simon and my parents this morning. Simon still says he wants a girl but he also says he's a girl, so there you have it.

We are Praising God for another Baby Boy! Can't wait to meet him sometime in April (EDD: April 10).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Coming Out of the Closet: "I'm a Birth Mom!"

There I said it!

Sometimes people don't even know what that means. I have had to explain so many times what a Birth Mom is. I placed my firstborn child for adoption. One time I had a midwife just not getting it. So I continued and continued to try to explain it. By the end we were both sweating.

It really must be that uncommon...or maybe birth parents are just underrepresented.

What's the balance between not defining who I am based on this title and yet honoring that it is a significant part of who I am?

When I got hired at CCU to be the RD I remember in my interview answering honestly to what I had been doing the past few years since undergrad. I said I had a baby that I placed for adoption and I needed to take some time to heal so I worked for a year as a waitress and a substitute teacher and lived with my parents to save money and to focus on healing emotionally. The responses from the interview team varied but I remember the lady who would become my boss saying that she would expect me not to share that with the CCU students. (Shame Inducing Statement) Of course, I knew that the goal would not be to share it with every student but what was I suppose to do with my pictures of my firstborn? I didn't want to hide them because that felt like I had done something wrong.

When I had to sit across from the Dean of Student Development at Anderson University (a man I deeply respected and babysat for) to share with him the news of my unplanned pregnancy which was particularly relevant to him as I was the Director of New Student Orientation that was to take place in just four weeks from that time I will never forget his response. He prayed for me and he said "Priscilla, I believe this is going to be a redeemed story in your life." What a profound statement. Thank you God, it is! But I have been shy to tell it. I fear others' responses. I fear being misunderstood or even judged. I hear comments that were made to me when I chose adoption for my firstborn. "You are a disgrace to our family!...How dare you name your daughter Grace!" "I can't help it that you don't WANT your daughter!" "God has told me you are making the wrong decision!" And honestly I could go on with that list. No matter how hard I try to forget I still hear all of those judgmental statements in my head.

One of the greatest conundrums I have found in regarding sharing this description of myself as a Birth Mom is that that title and what that means to me is one of the most precious things in my heart and in my life. The way I feel about my firstborn and the way I feel as a Birth Mom is so precious that I feel completely naked every time I share it with someone for the first time. I put open myself up to be judged, criticized, and even misunderstood. Sometimes I am not strong enough to put those false accusations to rest. When I am weak I wonder if people are right?

I have to constantly bring myself back to the truth:
  • I am a Birth Mom to beautiful 8 1/2 year old girl.
  • I have the privilege of sharing in her life through open adoption.
  • I don't have to feel shame about my unplanned pregnancy. I know that God forgave me.
  • I don't have to feel ashamed of my decision. I made the best decision I knew to make at that specific time in my life, with my specific circumstances.
  • I don't have any control of what ultimately comes from this situation. I pray that my firstborn will not feel abandoned by her birth family. I pray she will know she was and is loved and was never unwanted.
  • The truth is always best. My firstborn knows who I am. She is still gaining a complete understanding of it. My son, Simon and any future children will always know the truth of our family. I want my children to know all of who their Mom is.
When I became a Pregnancy and Adoption Counselor at Catholic Charities, it was understood that I wouldn't share my with clients that I am a Birth Mom. And I agreed with this from a professional perspective. But I also realize that nine years later, I have largely hidden this aspect of my life from people. In the most recent years, I have tried to practice just mentioning it when it's appropriate. I don't always correct people when they refer to the number of children I have or the number of pregnancies I have had incorrectly. I don't always tell people but I am starting to try to integrate this as naturally as I can into my life. It's been freeing.

Every time I get pregnant, I just become overwhelmed, almost consumed with thoughts about adoption and being a birth parent. I think it just stirs my heart thinking about to my first pregnancy and delivery experience and all of the raw emotions and stories that come with that. I really believe I need to share my story, all of it. From this point on, I am going to shamelessly practice writing about this on our blog. It just might end up in a book, even if it's never published.

Pregnancy After Miscarriage

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, I was shocked when I had my miscarriage at 12 weeks in February. I have always heard one of the best indicators for future healthy pregnancies is previous healthy pregnancies and a flawless medical history, of which I had. Then the new reality of life after miscarriage came when I got pregnant again this past July. I knew it would be hard to go through another pregnancy following the miscarriage but I was not fully prepared for all the ways it has been hard. I have realized that over the past 15 weeks I have at times been nearly paralyzed by fear. I know this also goes back to me being a birth mother and relinquishing my firstborn to another family through adoption. I guess a second loss around becoming a parent has really triggered a lot of fear for me. I have tried to process this endlessly and I think I've come to the realization that my biggest fear is that I just don't know how much more loss I can bear. If this pregnancy does not last I wonder if I will have the strength and courage to keep trying. I also just want to know the outcome now, even if it's not the outcome I want. It has been a very long 15 weeks. Every first trimester has been the same for me. I start throwing up daily (usually multiple times) somewhere between weeks 5-8 and continue until 14-16 weeks. That part alone is very exhausting and draining. I don't feel like myself. I wake up dreading to get out of bed because I know I'm heading straight to the toilet. And the rest of the day is up in the air as far as whether or not I'll be able to eat and keep food down. I suppose the physical exhaustion has contributed to the emotional exhaustion. We know that is usually the case since we are holistic beings, of which each part affects the other. Pregnancy after miscarriage has looked like this for me:
  • Pregnancy test response: a pit in Eric and I's stomach. Of course we were excited but also felt hesitant to celebrate.
  • Hesitant to tell others: after the miscarriage I now realize you have to untell every person you tell. I have found myself trying to "hide" this pregnancy from a lot of people.
  • Hiding feels shame based: Somewhere deep down I somehow feel ashamed of my miscarriage. I know rationally speaking, I had no control of that. But somewhere in my heart it feels like a personal thing.
  • I despise the prodding of others to choose optimism: I am a realist. I choose reality. "Now come on, we're not going to think like that. Everything will be fine!" I'm not going to put myself at risk for being ignorant. Right or wrong, I try to prepare myself for either reality, which has naturally led me to holding back.
  • Holding back in embracing this pregnancy: I find myself not fully embracing this baby, even though I'm not proud to say that. I have listened to Selah's song "I Will Carry You" countless times b/c my heart is really to get to a place where I can say before God and this baby "you are mine to carry for this time. I embrace you today no matter what the outcome". Ironically enough, this is the best advice I received when I was pregnant with my firstborn. A critical moment of choosing to dive into my pregnancy regardless of the outcome (parenting vs. adoption) even though it felt like I was accepting more risk of pain if I chose adoption. Reality is I had much less regret b/c I knew I had fully embraced her both in utero and in the time I had with her at the hospital. I don't want to regret how I handle this.
  • Doctors appointments involve a lot of nerves and sweating: I will never forget how it felt to have the ultrasound tech not find a heartbeat on the screen back in February. I actually have had many dreams/nightmares that this will happen again. I am currently nervous about our 18 week ultrasound for fear of the baby not being alive and/or not growing right.
I think that about sums it up. In sharing this, it is both cathartic for me but I also hope that when we come across people in a similar situation as mine, that maybe we can be more empathic with each other. That's not to say family and friends have not been empathic. It's just a lot of times, we don't invite each other into our private thoughts. I recently had a conversation with a lady who had a similar experience and she shared that I may not feel overall relief until I deliver a healthy baby. I appreciated that feedback. It felt good to think that maybe I'm not alone in my craziness.

We have also decided to do a Baby Gender Reveal Party. We really want to embrace this baby boy or girl and thought this party would help us as we continue to move forward. So on Wednesday (assuming baby cooperates) the ultrasound tech will write baby's gender on a piece of paper and we will take it to a baker without looking. With friends on Friday night, we will all find out the gender together when we cut into a cake and it is either pink or blue inside. Stay tuned for pics ;)

Disclaimer: although it was not emphasized I do realize how blessed I am to be a normally healthy person (of which many people cannot say) and that I am also blessed to be able to conceive and to have carried successfully in the past.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Tribute to my Mom

This blog post came to me a few nights ago when I couldn't sleep. It's funny how that always seems to happen. I recently told Eric that I want to be a Fun Mom. Please note: Fun Mom does not = Cool Mom.

My Mom was a very fun Mom and I honor her for that today. I remember her dancing in the kitchen while she was making dinner or doing dishes. She never swept the floor without doing a little jig with the broom. I remember her putting whole chickens that she would clean up on the counter and making it "talk" to us. I remember her doing synchronized index finger dancing on the steering wheel while she was driving. I will always remember a story she told me about a time she was pushing me in the stroller into Elder Beerman (throw back) and the stroller totally collapsed on me. And after she checked to make sure I was ok we both erupted into uncontrollable laughter. When we recall certain stories like that one, we still share a contagious laughter. My sister gets in on that too. And our husbands, including my dad, will just sit there looking confused because they have no idea what we are laughing about. She was a fun Mom and that sense of humor, that good old fashioned fun never compromised her authority or the structure that our family had. When I was living at home after college I finally talked my mom into getting her eyebrows waxed. I went with her to support her. When that tech pulled off the tape for the first time we died laughing at the whole eyebrow that was on the tape. Then we laughed again when she took off a whole other eyebrow with the next tape. Mom looked in the mirror and she still had the equivalent of an eyebrow left. We couldn't stop laughing and I think the Esthetitian thought we were nuts. But another remarkable thing about my Mom is that she can laugh at herself.

Here's my Mom having fun square dancing with her partner Mae at our wedding:

My Mom was not a Cool Mom. She has never worn hip clothes. She never wears makeup (unless maybe some rouse to a special event). She always cries at weddings and baptisms and would embarrass us to death when we were young. She has refused to die her hair during the past few transitional years into gray. I have grown to admire that more and more over the years. She is a simple and a beautiful woman. One who has never given into the world and the world's standards. Instead she is a woman of faith. A faithful and loving wife and mother. She knows how to serve others more than anyone I've ever experienced. She is passionate about teaching. She is a loyal friend. The status of Cool is ever changing. All you have to do is pick up an In Style magazine to see that. When you focus on character instead of cool, life is so much simpler.

In the end maybe the fun Mom is the Coolest Mom. I had real conversations with my Mom. And although I sometimes held things back, for the most part I was able to be honest with my Mom.
In my teenage years, I had some very mean and disrespectful moments and on several accounts I remember my Mom also handling that with humor. She quoted Proverbs 31:28 "Her children rise up and call her Blessed." Mom would say, "Priscilla, One day you will rise up and call me Blessed!". I would laugh. I was so mean. But over the years as I have grown into a God-fearing Woman I have called her Blessed. A few years ago I found a Mother's Day card with that quote and I knew it was the perfect card for her.

As a Mom of two daughters, my Mom modeled great characteristics for my sister and me. She constantly had to battle our desires to want the cool clothes and cool cars. She instilled some incredible values in us. I wonder how much she was conscious of that or if it just flowed out of who she is? I, of course, still struggle with wanting to be cool, even at the age of 31. But I am so thankful I have a Mother who has modeled what a truly beautiful woman of Christ looks like. Really, all of Proverbs 31 describes my Mother. I hope to be half the Mom to my kids as she was and is to me!

The Woman Who Fears the Lord

10 An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
15 She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.

While I know that some of this passage is from a different time period I can still draw the characteristics in the meaning. My Mom is a hard worker. She has stood behind her Husband, my Father. She has a servant's heart and she worked hard to take care of her family. She still does work hard to take care of her family, as most recently evidenced by her devotion to her Father following the passing of her Mom. My Mom fears the Lord more than she fears the World. She is wise in that she knows that Charm is deceptive and Beauty is fleeting. And yet she is beautiful with a natural beauty. Her Children and her Grandchildren do rise and call her Blessed!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Ideal Family, Part II

Ideal Family, Part 2
I recently wrote about trying to obtain an ideal family. The ideal family definitely looks different for each individual. Remember the quote regarding the American dream: "2.5 children, white picket fence,etc"? I think it's very important to tune into our expectations about our families. Sometimes, we have unspoken expectations that continue to drive us without even realizing it. If a large family is important to you, you will definitely feel some pressure to continue to grow and perhaps even a sense of dissatisfaction without having attained that standard. Perhaps you dream of a minivan overflowing with kids, laughter, and chaos. Maybe you have decided you just want to focus and raise one child. Perhaps, you want to become a parent so badly, you have decided to adopt as a single parent.
Over the past few years I have noticed a growing trend towards larger families. While I don't have an overall concern with this I have grown concerned at times by an insistence to fulfill an ideal family at the expense of one's existing family. Have you ever witnessed the harried mom who is constantly stressed out and feeling inadequate and yet continues to add more children to her family? Have you heard a husband and wife say that they can't remember the last time they actually sat down and had a real conversation and yet see no concern over adding more chaos to their family? Have you heard a woman say, "I'm tired of waiting for Mr. Right. I'm going to take matters into my own hands"? On the other side of the fence, I have witnessed families completely broken down by infertility struggling to find acceptance for what appears to be a shattered dream for their ideal family. I have cried with friends over losses of pregnancies, lost hopes for healthy babies, breakdowns in the family unit.
I believe God wants more for us and for our families. What if we allowed the Lord to guide and direct our process of growing our families? I have so much admiration for families that are willing to dig deep and put aside their ideals in order to do what's best for their families. I have seen families have a special needs child and suddenly they are faced with a crisis regarding their ideal family. I have seen families accept their infertility and wholeheartedly embrace the prospect of adoption. I have been blessed beyond measure by families who love their foster and adoption children as their very own. I have seen families allow their ideals to be transformed in order to love their special needs child and to provide for them the best way possible, even if that means holding off on growing their families in number. I have seen families put having more children on hold for financial reasons, whether that be a job change or a desire to pay down debt, all for the sake of wanting to do what's best for their children. I have heard a mom say that she wants more children but knows that's not what's best for her whole family and sacrifices that desire. I honor that that kind of honesty and humility.
What if we could take a hard look inside of ourselves and ask what is motivating us to achieve our ideal families? What is it about that ideal that makes us feel complete or whole? I have seen expectations based on ideals cause a lot of pain. I have seen a son feel alienated by his family because he is not successful scholastically. I have seen marriages fail over sick children. I have seen children feel an incredible amount of pressure to fulfill their parent's dreams. What if you are the only girl out of a family of three boys and you learn that you were conceived in order to fulfill your mom's lifelong dream of having a girl. Isn't that a lot of pressure to put on children? What if this girl from three boys turns out to be a tom boy and doesn't meet her mother's girly expectations? Likewise, how many times have you heard children referred to as the "oops baby"? Now I know some people say this in vein but in all seriousness does this not speak again to an ideal family mentality?
What if we could strip all of our expectations of an ideal family and ask the Lord to be the author of our families? Certainly the Lord cares about the desires of our hearts and it never hurts to express that to Him. I happen to believe the Lord's ways are better than mine. That means, he might have plans for my family that I could not have possibly dreamed up on my own. I want to be open to His plans for my life. I have a long way to grow in this area but I am certainly praying for this.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Adoption Rant

Today I heard a caller on the radio share the good news that her brother was on his way back from Haiti with his two new adopted children. That's so exciting! But then my heart sank when I heard her say that she is going to get to meet them next week when they all go on a (extended) family vacation. What!?!?!

This tapped into one of my adoption nerves. (I have many adoption nerves) These kids are going to be going through so much change. They need time to adjust. They need time to learn who their new mother and father are. They need time to get used to a new time change. They need to find new American foods that they like. They need time to grieve all of their losses from leaving Haiti. Losses from leaving Haiti???, you ask. Well Heck Yes! Their whole world as they knew it is gone. They may/may not even understand what is happening to them. They probably have some language barriers. They will probably have much bigger spaces to live in. They will probably be overwhelmed by all of the STUFF we Americans have. They will be Overstimulated!!!

When might they be ready for a large family vacation? The answer to that is probably no time soon. They need time to define their new nuclear family. They need to time to build trust in their new parents. They need time to get used to the new sights and smells amongst them. This celebration of this wonderful ADOPTION is a huge deal!!!!!!!!!!! Why don't we acknowledge this? Why don't we want to accept this? Ok, I know I know. It might just be ignorance. But that's another adoption nerve. Why aren't we stressing the need for adoption education more? Whether it is a domestic adoption or an international adoption we all need to be educated. We need to be prepared. We need to be humbled. We need to be reminded that while adoption is a wonderful thing, it's not easy. It's complex and we need to honor all of the complexities.

#needed to vent

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Ideal Family

What is your ideal family? Now, come on and be honest. We all have ideas about our perfect family. Maybe it's a boy and a girl. Maybe it's three kids just like the family you came from. Maybe it's little girls because you love girly things like tutus, hair bows and dresses.

What process do we go through when we decide to grow our families?
We live in a world where people try hard to plan their perfect families with the perfect timing. You often hear people planning pregnancies around work schedules. You hear people talk about getting their house first before they start their family. You hear people saying that they want their children to be exactly three years apart.

I remember my husband and I tentatively discussing our plans for children when we got married. We initially adopted the typical 3-5 year plan to have children. After some complications with pregnancy preventatives, we began to educate ourselves on Natural Family Planning. I loved the idea of NFP but I was struck by how much time and attention I would need to give in order to be successful with this. I started to feel convicted that we should release control over this. I asked myself why are we on a 3-5 year plan? I could come up with no good answers. We didn't have our first house yet but what did that have to do with being ready to have children? I was nervous to share my thoughts to stop trying to plan or prevent a pregnancy with my husband, but he was completely on board. Letting go of that ideal time frame was incredibly freeing. I felt freer than I had in a long time.

Do we really believe God is in control of growing our families?
We know that there are several religions that believe in allowing God to be in control completely by not taking any preventative measures or medical interventions to conceive. I don't know all the answers, I just know that for our family surrendering our plan was very freeing and it felt that we were allowing God to be the author of our family. Now, three years later I am faced with being challenged to trust God to grow my family on the other end of the spectrum. Don't think for a minute I was exempt from having my ideal family too. I have always envisioned having 3-4 children and that they would be close together in age. I came from a family of two girls and we are two years apart. I always wanted a brother. I love large families. I love the chaos. I love all the different relationships each member has with each other. After our son was born, we continued the journey of allowing God to grow our family. It looked as though our first two children would be 23 months apart. I was so excited about that timing. Inside I would have been happy to be pregnant again as soon as my son was about 9 months old. Isn't it easy to trust God when we are getting what we really want? I unexpectedly lost that pregnancy at 12 weeks. I was devastated. I have prayed for acceptance. I have prayed to release again my desires to the Lord. And here we are... surrendering control over growing our family. It is scary. Sometimes I worry that I won't be able to conceive and carry again. Sometimes I start to think maybe I need to start looking at other options to grow our family. But I am more feeling the urge to release control and to allow God to grow me in the process. Who doesn't like control? Of course I would love to be able to dictate when and how I will grow my family but at this time, that's not what I feel called to.

What role does faith play in your ideal family?
I truly believe that I will one day look back on this time in my life and see God's authorship throughout our journey. I am reminded to look at the bigger picture. I am going to take care of what the Lord has given me today. I know He knows the desires of hearts. He loves us and wants us to prosper. I look around and see his mercies that are new every day. I am grateful for our son who I have the privilege of raising with my loving husband.

Here's to the next chapter...

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Lord Provides for our Heart's Desire...RD World

I am amazed by the way that the Lord has laid out his blessings in my life.
I know a lot of people don't get the whole RD (Resident Director) thing. People frequently call me a RA, think I live in a dorm room, and the confusion goes on.
The truth is ever since College I have wanted to a RD. I know it's hard to believe but it's true. When I graduated from Anderson U. I was unfortunately not in a place emotionally where I could pursue that dream. After taking a year and a half off from school I decided to pursue my MA in Counseling at CCU.

Right after I graduated, my two best friends from Grad school and I went on our annual trip to her Uncle's condo in Florida. My mentor had just given me the book "Dream Giver" and I vividly remember walking on the beach praying to the Lord about my future endeavors and feeling like the Lord was bringing back my dream to be a RD. It was hard to want that b/c I had just completed my MA in counseling and was ready to get into a counseling job. So I just kept praying and even remember having a specific conversation with Rachel about being a RD at CCU.

I received a call from the Dean of Women at that time the next month inquiring about my interest in becoming a RD at CCU. Wow. CCU is a small, private, Christian college. The dorm size is small. And due to that, I was able to also work as a counselor at another dream job (Pregnancy/Adoption Counselor...another story) at the same time. How was this possible? I was offered two positions I always wanted in the same time period.

I had no idea what I was doing when I first started as the RD. My first year was very stressful and the dorm was busting. Girls were living on top of each other which created a lot more conflict. It was an intense year. But its amazing to me how each year I have grown and learned and it's become a natural part of our lives. I know the rhythms of the school year. I am better prepared to deal with roommate conflicts when they arise. I feel more confident in my leadership. I am more light hearted when problems arise. The only other career I have considered outside of Counseling and Student Development is teaching at the college level. After a brief email to the head of the Psych. program here at CCU, I was offered two undergrad classes to teach. Crisis & Grief Counseling and Abnormal Psychology. What a challenging and rewarding experience. This also increased my exposure to commuter and male students, which was awesome. I hope to still teach at CCU in the future.

Well, Eric and I have lived in two different dorms during our tenure at CCU. Our apt now is definitely a lot more spacious than the first. We have worked with well over 500 women during this time. I have served with three different RDs/friends, two different bosses and 25 different RA's (who I love!!!) Many students have become dear friends of ours. We will forever cherish our time here. I will miss all of the knocks on the door (even the late nights). I will miss the in- depth conversations. I will miss mentoring women. I will miss the drama. I will miss the screaming, singing, dancing, laughing and slamming doors. I will miss witnessing the 18 year old girls turn into women during their time at CCU. I will miss the uplifting Christian atmosphere.

A lot has happened in our lives in the past five years.
The run down of our time here...
May 2006 Graduate
July 2006 Begin RD job
Sept. 2006 Get Penny, my dog who was a puppy then
Sept. 2006 Meet Eric
Oct. 2006 Begin Adoption/Pregnancy counselor job
May 2007 Engaged
July 2007 Married
August 2007 Eric starts his MA in Healthcare Administration
December 2008 Pregnant
September 2009 Simon is born
December 2009 Finish working as a counselor
January 2010 Move to the bigger dorm apt.
January 2010 Begin teaching two undergrad Psychology classes at CCU
May 2010 Eric Graduates with his MA and goes right into his first job (Praise God)
September 2010 Began leading the Moms group at our church
December 2010 Pregnant again
February 2011 Miscarriage
March 2011 Buy our first Home
June 2011 Move to our first home

It has been a crazy ride! Thinking about CCU entails so much more than just living in a dorm for FIVE years. We have so many memories here. So many faces. So many women who have entered our "home" and spent time with our family. It has been such an honor and a privilege. Who wouldn't want to live with people like these...

Recently Eric and I were talking as I was expressing sadness over our decision to move on from CCU and Eric was encouraging me that I will still have opportunities to build into women's lives. It will just be in different ways. And I don't know what those ways will be but I'm trusting God to open the doors. I also am seeing my time needing to be largely invested into my little family. They deserve my affection, time and emotional presence. There's no doubt that there are times the family takes the back seat from the job. More family time will be a welcomed change.

One last thing to mention that is also hard for people to believe is that Eric wholeheartedly engages in this RD world. He has enjoyed it as much as I have. His one complaint is that in five years, no one has knocked on the door for But the truth is, Eric has offered the residents a lot of truth and wisdom over the years as well. What a blessing to me that he has supported and encouraged me in my role.