Thursday, September 6, 2012

Love, Loss, and Hope

Almost seven years ago, I made one the toughest phone calls of my life. As happy (and shocked) as I was to have found out that Jason and I were going to have a baby, my heart winced at the thought of telling my sister-in-law Leigh Ann. She and Jason's older brother Jerel had been hoping to have a baby for as long as I had known them, and she had shared intimately the pain of their infertility.

So I drew a deep breath and made the phone call. After carefully telling her the news that I was pregnant, she managed a few sweet words and said she had to go. I only found out later that she cried and cried for days. It hit too close to home this time for her and it killed me. She called me several days later, however, and did what any normal person who is in terrible pain could not do. She started planning my baby shower. That is the sister and the person she is. She has planned many baby showers for friends and family, putting her own sadness to the side.

Jerel and Leigh Ann have been the kind of family one could only dream to marry into. They accepted my son Corey as their flesh-and-blood nephew and treat both he and Avery like royalty. We lived next door to them for two years and during that time, the running joke was as soon as they would leave their house, we would sneak into their refridgerator and be overwhelmed with the treasures it contained. Jerel is an amazing cook and it was always so much fun to treat ourselves to such delicacies and then run back home. Only recently did I tell them we did this!

Things changed and we moved ( and moved and moved) and so did they. I was actually their buyers agent and found them the perfect little Bungalow right on Union Street in Concord. It suits them to a tee. During all of this time, they have longed for a child. We have poured through foster children's pictures over the past two years to no avail. I have waited with held breath to give Leigh Ann the world's biggest and best baby shower...And then earlier this year, hope arrived. They met a lady who sought them out and wanted to give them her unborn baby, as she could not take care of him. Everyone was over the moon. Sadly, they realized she was not the person we had hoped and she changed her mind and kept the baby.

Three days ago, a precious baby boy was born whose mother didn't want him. With no reserve, Jerel and Leigh Ann lept at the chance to love and raise this child as their own. When Leigh Ann called me I was on the golf course, and I could not contain myself! I stopped after nine holes and rushed to the hospital to meet my long-awaited nephew. We huffed and puffed to the room and quietly entered the dark maternity room.

I beheld the most beautiful sight. Leigh Ann, in dim light, holding her baby and feeding him a bottle. My heart melted into a puddle. In that moment, she was where she had dreamt of being for so many years. I breathed it in slowly and was immediately filled up with such love for this baby. I carefully bent down and fngered the tiniest bracelet that said "Bradshaw" on it. It was almost too much. All we could do was pray that this would be the child they had waited on.

It was not to be. The next morning, it was if the dreamy lullaby had turned into a twisted nightmare. The birth mother had changed her mind. They would sign him back over. That was it. The baby items were returned. Even as I spoke with Jerel that morning, my mind would not process this information. What words are you supposed to say? I could feel my own heart physically ache, and could not imagine what Jerel and Leigh Ann were feeling. I helped them make a few phone calls and then just layed listless on the couch. Although I was trying to pray, appraoching His throne and begging for His will to be done, I could not find any words that matched the hurt inside. For the first time I feel like the Holy Spirit was interceding on my behalf. That afternoon, the birth mother took her baby and I pray even now that the Lord watch over him.
I was reminded that God knows what it is like to lose a Son, too. The agony is no stranger to the One we lift our hearts to.

And now my brother-in-law and sister-in-law are back at square one again. I am so blessed to have them in my life, and I count it a privelege to stand with them, lifting them up during this time. I don't know if they have the strength to hope again for a child, but I know they would be amazing parents. Corey my son, said yesterday that he was pretty sure when Jerel and Leigh Ann finally do get a baby, they won't be getting them such great birthday presents. I laughed out loud because they do spoil all their neices and nephews.. and they love doing it. Then I thought about what Corey said. He said "when" they get a baby. Not "if". I think all of us believe that it only a matter of time-God's perfect time.

I believe that these traumatic experiences will only make sense when they look back and see His perfect plan. I can't wait to meet the little neice or nephew ( or both?) that I am supposed to have. There is a family waiting here for them that will embrace them for who they are. There are things worth waiting for. Please pray for Jerel and Leigh Ann if you feel led to.

I have been blessed to call them family. My children are honored to call them Uncle and Aunt. We are all so grateful to call them friends... and my heart awaits the glorious day when I will hear precious lips call them Mom and Dad.

Jerel and Avery cooking while waiting on Corey to get off the bus.
Leigh Ann and I at the beach a few years ago. We have a specila bond because we married into the Bradshaw family.
Leigh Ann, Donna, Kayla ( our neice) and me.
Leigh Ann and I at my surprise birthday party last year.

Jerel and Avis ( his nickname for her) at the beach a long time ago.

Monday, June 4, 2012


      It is hard to believe that it has been over one month since I walked out of the doorway of that breath-takingly gorgeous model home that I called my office. Lump in my throat and picture frames clutched tightly in my sweaty palms. But looking back, I wouldn't change a thing.
     One of the most suprising discoveries I have made is that as irreplaceable as I convinced myself I was in my management role at work, my phone has not rung once with calls for help. That's right. Can you believe it? That company that I just knew would come begging me to return has not yet done so. Humble pie tastes funny- a little hard to swallow. And the world continues to turn without my assistance.
     I would love to report that it has been blissful and sweet and easy and problem-free. If God calls and orchestrates a huge life event like selling your big home, quitting your big job-that sort of life event- then surely you will emerge victorious..right? I don't know why I expected to wake up week #2 and be a real life Betty Crocker who knows how to do wife stuff. Like clean out the fish bowl and know what to buy at the grocery store. Surely I would not have a melt-down after baking ribs for two hours and them turning out like an old rubber car tire. ( Cue my poor children children chewing in uncomfortable agony, not wanting to hurt my feelings. Now cue the handsome husband who saunters in from work and takes a bite of says one horrible word about my cooking.. "Unchewable".. That was the last word he spoke before his head was missed by an inch with a missile shaped like a rib.)
    Yes. It has been hard. But beautiful. About week 2, I woke up with a horrible sensation. It had been rumbling under the surface for days, but raised its ugly head instantaneously. I was having withdrawal pains. Not from my career. Something worse- from control. I began having a mild panic attack. Praying under my breath, I dialed my wonderful counselor and therapist who immediately called me in. I told dear, dear Louis of all the events that had transpired and he listened before his diagnosis. "Christy," he declared, "You are a wonderful mother and you have certainly sacrificed much. But, my, have you got a bad case of control-itis. One of the worst I have seen."
   He was so right. I had used my bread-winner status to gain a false sense of security that I was somehow in control. That my husband needed me. That I people wanted to be around me thus loving me because I was a successful career driven woman. I was secretly terrified that Jason would reject me for being a kitty-litter cleaner. Or a lunch-maker. Or a supporting and loving wife. So there in that office, where my journey to quit my career took shape a year earlier, Louis set me up with a plan. A plan to be well- body, soul, and spirit. I realized just how silly I was being. God has a beautiful way of bringing to light all that is ugly so that I keep my eyes on Him.
    I went home and apologized for throwing the rib and for being awful and for forgetting that I must trust. Jason lovingly accepted and has been amazing through this transition. Since then, I have had so many reminders of why we took this leap of faith. Each day when I round the corner to pick up the kids from school, I am thankful. When my children and their wild and precious friends destroy my home with pillow fights, I am thankful. When I get to spend perfect Saturdays catching up with family and long-lost friends, I am thankful. My former life is becoming dimmer and the present grows more beautiful every day. I have such a long way to go, but our God is a God of grace- I know He can see how much my heart wants to beat in time with His.
    When I left the counselors office that day, I knew I need to stop at the bookstore for some Holy inspiration. Sisters, you know where to turn when you need just that? Yes, maam. Beth Moore. "Breaking Free" was just for me. Beth wrote in the beginning of the book of the powerful and righteous man, Gideon. But he didn't start so powerfully. She says, " God sees the potential of His children. In Judges 6:11-16. Gideon was hiding from the Midianites in a winepress. The angel of the Lord came and said to Gideon, 'The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.' Of all things, while Gideon trembled in fear, God called him a mighty warrior-long before he was one."
    This makes me happy. I can trust in Him through my growing and weaknesses and as work on changing old habits through the Holy Spirit. I will keep on chipping away at the ugly, raw places that humble and scare me...and I will keep pressing on towards the beautiful heart He already sees. As Beth goes on to state, " The ability to believe God develops most often through pure experience.' I found Him faithful yesterday. He will not be unfaithful today'." The other item I bought at the bookstore that day was Christy Nockels' new CD. The song below is my heart right now, and you will be blessed as you listen to it. Although she may not throw food at others, I think there is a common heart that is shared with the desire to be more of what He sees, as the layers of "me" are removed- day by day and moment by moment.  Christy
Christy Nockels- "Into the Glorious"

Monday, April 2, 2012

Trading one big salary for two little hearts - reversing the "American Dream"

"Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4

The desires of my heart began drastically changing about one year ago as I sat in the office of the therapist I hired to help diagnose Corey's behavior problems. My mom had encouraged me to talk to a Christian counselor about his moodiness and aggression- just to be sure we weren't missing something. Mr. Floyd (the most wonderful therapist, by the way) had just spoken privately to the then eight-year-old Corey and was now going to hand me the prognosis. I had mentally prepared myself for what I thought the problem was. The therapist would tell me it was Corey's biological dad's fault. Hmmpphh - I already knew that. My fingers twitched nervously as he began.
"Mrs. Bradshaw, your son's issue is very simple. He has an acute need for his mother. He feels you are always gone and always working and that makes him very upset. That is it"
Talk about a pin-drop moment.
Thus began my journey. A series of God-orchestrated events brought me closer and closer to a place where I know I was intentionally missing unreplaceable time with my family - and it was slowly suffocating me. The money was great, the success was greater and I had such a mixed bag of feelings. I loved what I did for a living, yet the price I was paying was too painful. Even the balance with Jason was off-kilter. We had decided years ago that he would stay home with the kids, and I started resenting him for it. I would lash out at him, holding over his head the fact that I made the money and was in control.. all the while, being so sad, jealous and resentful. I wanted to be with those kids! It was a never-ending cycle of anger, apologize, repeat. When I would tell Jason I wanted to try a different arrangement, he would tell me that there was no way we could make less money and live the way we were living and I would agree, with an achy heart and a lump in my throat. We were stuck. Too many bills, too much pressure to make that money. I would have to forge ahead and work every weekend and many evenings. My work ethic was such that I did whatever it took to get the sale- with every victory came a numbing pleasure that momentarily took my mind off my guilt of not being around. Of missing those t-ball games, those field trips, those homework sessions.
Still, God wasn't done with our situation. He drew me closer to him and began changing my selfish, proud heart- the desires of my heart were beginning to change as I delighted in Him. God consistently brought people into my life who helped me see things through different eyes. Tara Furman, a well-known Christian speaker, and her assistant laid her hands on me and prayed in the back of a conference room as I bawled, that God would touch my husband's heart-that He would make a way where there seemed to be no way. I will never forget the way she cared for me in that moment. Here is a link to her ministry.

I also read a verse last October in Isaiah that spoke to me.

If God doesn't build the house, the builders only build shacks.
   If God doesn't guard the city,
      the night watchman might as well nap.
   It's useless to rise early and go to bed late,
      and work your worried fingers to the bone.
   Don't you know he enjoys
      giving rest to those he loves?
Don't you see that children are God's best gift?
      the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?

Still, I wondered, "How can I get to place where I can spend time with my children and still be a responsible provider?"

That answer was given to me late last year when I found out that, due to market constraints, I would not be making the money that I had been used to- still good earning potential, but not enough that I could sleep at night and be the only one working. We decided that with the kids in school, Jason needed to work as well to maintain. Cue more stress and more unhappiness.

At a stop light in Harrisburg last fall, I cried prayed for God to show me how to find balance, how to know what God's will was for me- How we could possibly cut back in ways that would give me the freedom to be at home. I heard Him say in that moment, " I did not get you into this mess, but I am going to help you get out of it" I didn't know what that meant at the time, but somehow Jason agreed that we could try and downsize. A few days after our home went on the market, it was under contract. We were able to pay down debt and we moved to a much more simpler, smaller home. Humbling, yet necessary. We were able to save a substantial amount of money, yet not enough where we could get the math to add up to me doing something different. Meanwhile, my job was going great- sales, sales, sales. Still, I was empty and longed to work less.
I met with my Pastor, Dean Burris, and he listened as I poured my heart out about the marriage struggles with me being the provider, about how I wanted to simplify and be with my family. He helped me incredibly.. He said it sounded as if I need a "restart". I agreed.

The supernatural kept happening. We were strangely happy in our new small house. I didn't feel ashamed- instead we felt peace. God kept smiling on our decisions to get our lives in step with His plan.

My friend Celia texted me in February and suggested I go get a book called "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann VosKamp. Need I say more? God knew I needed that book- a book that chronicles a woman's journey to find pleasure and thankfulness in the simple moments of life. It resonated with me, so much so that I was in tears through most of it. (Please watch and see what inspired me in so many ways. The blog continues below)

During all of this, I truly tried to balance things better. I tried to leave earlier, go in later. But the industry I work in doesn't lend itself to not being there. My assistant, who I love like a second mother, and even my boss tried to work things out for me- none to which was helping. My heart was changing. I was pulling away from the career that had signified so much for me. The glory. The success. The awards. They were no longer appealing. As I looked out the model home windows on the weekends, I saw families walking and playing and just being. My heart ached to be with mine. It simply was not enough to see Corey and Avery three nights a week when I got home from work, and rarely on the weekends. It was no longer worth it to be deleted from the class email list because I could never respond. Not worth it to see my husband as we passed each other in the hallway at home and lived as life-less roomates. No longer worth it to have my "stuff" be more important than my children.
Tow Fridays ago, I felt a little tug on my hand. I was on the phone, trying to hammer out a sale, and shushed Avery with a typical finger to my lips. She handed me a card she had made at school in art class and I read it mindlessly, leaving it on the table. Later that night I picked it up again and re-read it. In her kindergarten scrawl, she wrote, " Mom, when are you off of work? I love you. I miss you"
My decision was clear in that moment. But how would Jason take it? That Sunday night after a long and grueling day in the real estate world, I came home and let it all crumble. Jason sat there and listened to me. He didn't respond at first, but I knew his response.  Although I had numbers to support taking a sabatical and not working for the summer, he would say it was a terrible idea long term. There is no way this can work. We need your income. In this market, who walks away from a job like yours? His words always seemed to echo my fears.
But this time, He didn't say that. Instead, he pulled me over to him and said, "Baby, life is too short. It is my turn, and we'll make it work. In the fall, you can figure out something part-time when the kids are in school. I want you to be at peace."
Somewhere, the angels were singing!
Could this actually be happening? Only God could have changed his logical heart.

Last week, with sweaty palms and quivering voice, I met with the president of my company and formally told him I was resigning. It was quite possibly one of the hardest days of my life. Instead of anger, I received grace. He understood and gave me the best compliment I could ever hope to hear. He said, "Christy, if I wasn't your boss and didn't need you desparately, I would tell you that is the best decision you could ever make for your family."
Leaving Classica Homes is like leaving my other family. I am working until he hires my replacement, but even now my time is bittersweet. The past five years have been nothing short of amazing. To start as an assistant and be given the chance to be given the role of a sales manager is something I never took lightly. Every sale, every success in this market gave me tingles. I remember walking through the very first home I sold (as a to-be-built) when it was completed and crying tears of joy and amazement. Who takes a six week real estate course and then gets to sell million dollar homes to such wonderful families? My time here at Simonini/ Classica will be remembered with joy, as I found that I was a darn good sales person and real estate broker.
I have learned that dreams can change, as the desires of our hearts change. It was hard to sell my BMW last week. That beautiful car represented a dream that I was "trading in" for another dream. As silly tears streamed down my face, I handed the keys over to the dealership. It was more than just trading a car in- it symbolized the life I was trading in. I panicked for a few minutes. What am I doing? I will go crazy with my kids all day! I don't know how to cook. I haven't gone grocery shopping in years.
But the panic faded. We drove off into the disctance in the old SUV, and this aching heart finally felt at peace.
I may not be able to stay at home forever, but I am going to enjoy every minute that I am there- I have a lot of catching up to do. I pray that God will "smile" on this decision, as my friend Janette says, and that He will continue to reveal to me the next steps.
Below are some pictures of my journey- to be continued of course...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Grace, Thanksgiving, and Joy..and the lessons I am learning

"One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. This book will change your life. Read it.
While I could end this note now, I don't think it would be blog-worthy. At a time in my life where everything within in me is stretched to outer to the outer limits of sanity, I can be suprisingly sane.
When my heart aches to be with my children more than I am away from them at work, I am oddly content.When the old Christy rises up defiantly and wants to buck submitting to my husband, I have been able to back down peacefully and resist. It has been a process.
Some may not know this, but due to salary changes and uncertainty and debt, frankly, we decided to sell our home last month and move to one half the size ( and half the mortgage) That was a stressful, yet liberating process. It was a decision we made through prayer, council and tears. The kids are happy, and we are only about a mile from where we were in Harrisburg. We hopefully are in a position to figure out how to balance our rental houses and become more debt free. We also got involved in a tax fiasco last year that cost us a small fortune in taxes and that took the wind out of our sails in a big way. But moving is not fun. It's ranked right under death and unemployment, and for good reason. And we have done it three times in 12 months. This last time was divine, however. A big step of humility for us. No hardwoods. Ugly wallpaper.. But a response to a cry for help that I heard clearly from God.
I was at a stop light in Harrisburg before we decided to sell the house and I prayed for direction and peace and clarity.. and I heard God say "Christy, I didn't get you into this mess, but I am going to help you get out of it." Whoa. So a few days later our house went on the market and a few days later it was under contract. ( Can I just say that I have an awesome, wonderful husband who didn't bat an eyelash at my crazy "divine decision"?)
So here we are in a cozy, sweet house after so many moves..and you know the crazy part? This house cost the same amount as our first home many moves ago. The one that I thought wasn't good enough. The house I thought wasn't big enough. And here we are! Oh the lessons I have learned. I wouldn't trade any of it for the place of contentment that I live in now.
Peace when things are good. Peace when things are bad. Gratitude because God is good and life is sweet. And it all came together when a dear friend suggested via text that I read a certain book...
Which brings me to Ann Voskamp's point in "One Thousand Gifts". She was profoundly changed when she started looking for God's blessings in everyday life. She made a list of one thousand blessings and gifts. Some were simple, some elaborate. Listen to what the author says as she realizes the power of eucharisteo ( meaning thanksgiving) in Chapter 2.
"And sitting there before the window, I'm struck, a comet blazing through the empty dark of my life. All those years thinking I was saved and had said yes to my God, but was really living the no. Was it because I had never fully experienced whole of my salvation?
Had never lived out the full expression of my salvation in Christ? Because I wasn't taking everything in my life and returning to Jesus, falling at his feet and thanking him. I sit still, blinded. This is why I sat all those years in church bu my soul holes had never healed. Eucharisteo, the Greek word with the hard meaning and the harder meaning to live- this is the only way from empty to full".
This is just a window into a whole new world of living a life of thanksgiving. I have tried to make my own list, which forces a new way of living. I am looking for the things in life in which I can rejoice. And I am writing them down. Here are a few of mine from last week.
24. My dogs sitting so patiently while I wipe their paws.
25. Getting the kids to bed on time- and having them wake up easily the next morning!
26. Pinwheel spinning on the side of the road in the breeze. Clouds behind it so glorious!
27. Picking up my kids from school on my days off..those two sweaty, dirty little children loaded down with bookbags coming around the corner..they are mine.
All of these are so simple, but they are changing me. Making me content. Content with my little house even thought I sell big houses. Eucharisteo is showing me all the big things in life that I may have missed..because I am looking for them now and celebrating the gifts God gives in this life.
While riding down the road a few days ago, I silently prayed for God to show me things for my "list". It had been an unsettling day. Things weren't going as I had hoped. Yet I needed complete my joy list. My eye caught this sign on the side of the road.

I had to pull over and snap a picture. If I had not been looking for things to be grateful for, I would have missed this. This man, this Sargeant Newman, is the son of Corey's teacher. A man for whose safe return we have been praying for months. He was oversees serving our country. And this sign in a rural southern town says it all. He is home. His mother will sleep well tonight. If I hadn't been praying and waiting and looking I would have missed it! I quickly flip open my notebook and jot down the next gift.
#28 Mrs. Newman's son is home- will send her email to congratulate!

Ann Voskamp says so perfectly, " Prayer without ceasing is only possible in a life of continual thanks. How did I ever think there was another way to enter into His courts but with thanksgiving?

He is so good, and His grace is so sufficient and I am so blessed. Which leads me to my #37
#37 Corey banged his eye, but he let me hold him for a few minutes on the couch.
Stroking his tears, I remembered the chapter of One Thousand Gifts where the author is holding her own little one.
"I wrap a thread of her curls around a finger. I stare into that face conceived in love, reflecting love, and I feel His love fall soft on me. I am child in His arms and His breath falls warm upon my face and what I feel for this daughter He feels for me, and these gifts, all these gifts I keep counting, they are His love gifts and they are slowly waking me up to the tenderest, fiercest Love of all."
Read more about Ann and her book at

And watch the unrelated video below, which is a song by Kari Jobe called "You are For Me"
I listened to it no less than 15 times in a row in the car, and it could be the soundtrack of all that God is doing in my life.

The song says in similar words...
God will never forsake us in our weaknesses and He is for us! He wants to write upon our hearts a reminder of who He is.

Grace, thanksgiving and joy to you.