And now…some good news!

Last year, Trinity Episcopal School (my employer) launched a Light the Fire grant. It’s an “out of the box” professional development grant for faculty and staff – encouraging us to dream big and hone in on an area of our profession that we are most passionate about. Last year there were three recipients with varying projects, but all of them were teachers.

This past January, with the Light the Fire application deadline nearing, I had not considered applying because well, I’m in administration and don’t necessarily have direct classroom interaction with students. I assumed this award was really for teachers. Within a week, I had two people from the Light the Fire committee pull me aside to say they thought I should apply for this year’s grant. After hours of brainstorming and talking through potential ideas I took the plunge and filled out my application.

I truly love my job. I wake up every day with an honest excitement to go to work…and I just finished my fifth school year! I’m part of a school community that supports, encourages, challenges and loves like a family. I know this to be a highly unique and blessed situation, one that I try not to take for granted.

My job at Trinity is officially tagged as “Communications & Alumni Relations” but within that title resides many, many different roles. I handle parent communications, run our website, design promotional materials, handle advertising and media relations, connect and work with Trinity’s alums and serve as the official photographer for the School.

I have a job that highlights and promotes my creativity and passion for design, photography and for people. I am blessed to work with the best teachers on the planet, the most amazing students and in a place that values the things I value – love, service, collaboration, innovation, creativity and community.

One of the most meaningful tasks of my position at Trinity is telling the stories of our passionate teachers, extraordinary students and outstanding alumni. On a daily basis, I have the opportunity to capture and share the beauty of our students striving to reach their unique individual potential academically, socially and civically as ambassadors of God’s grace in our Trinity community, and out in the world.

Capturing these moments through photography and through writing are huge functions of my job as Communications Manager for our school. I was first introduced to photography in high school and then further explored the art in college. My photojournalism classes at South Carolina were the last exposure I had to photography lessons.

As I said in my application, photography is an area where I would like to grow and refine my talents to better serve our school community,  better communicate to the world and inspire my own love for learning. Trinity’s philosophy of learning goes WAY beyond sitting at a desk in a classroom– this school is ALL about giving its students(and faculty/staff) the opportunity to EXPERIENCE learning.

Y’all, I won one of the grants!

This time next week, I will be strolling the beautiful streets of San Francisco, California. I’ve never been to California and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity given to me by the BEST school (and job) in the entire world, Trinity Episcopal School.

My trip will begin in Los Angeles next Wednesday. Back in February, I took a chance and reached out to my favorite food blogger, Adrianna Adarme of A Cozy Kitchen, to see if she would allow me to come shadow/cook/photograph with her for a day. Emailing someone who is, in my mind, a blogger-celebrity – I knew it was a long shot.

Until, she emailed me back…that. same. day. And said that she would love to. WHAT THE WHAT!? I freaked and still freak out with excitement when I think about it.

The second part of my trip plan was to take a 4-day National Geographic Photography Workshop in San Francisco. After receiving the good news about my grant approval, I quickly bought my airline tickets and paid for the workshop.

Fast forward a couple of months. I get an email in April from National Geographic saying that they only had 9 registrants and needed 11, so the workshop was cancelled. Say what?! I scrambled. For a few days, I searched and searched for other photography classes, workshops or SOMETHING that could somewhat resemble the workshop. Nothing.

Then, I had a thought. The Nat Geo photographer that was to lead the workshop, Catherine Karnow, lives IN San Francisco and well, now that the workshop was cancelled, she would have this weekend free. After a *wee* bit of internet stalking, I found her photography site and emailed her to see if she would be willing to do a similar workshop. Again, long shot.

Until, she emailed me back…again, that same day. Absolutely AND it’ll be less money. Done & done.

Thanks to my new-found obsession with AirBnb, I booked this fabulous apartment in the Mission District of San Francisco and paid for the workshop.

I’m now a week away from the trip of a lifetime.

What about Jay? Oh that sweet fella is coming to Cali with me. He will fly out and meet me in San Fran. After my workshop is finished, we will rent a car and drive to Sonoma – spending a few days taking in the beautiful Wine Country. (Side note: we were scheduled to visit two years ago, until I fractured my ankle playing KICKBALL. The hospital took our wine money. Don’t laugh.)

THESE are the kinds of blessings and ridiculous life surprises that make me smile so hard my face hurts. Despite the weight of other things going on in my life, these are the kinds of things that bring me up from the dark places and show me that God’s plans for me  are better than anything I have planned…and that makes me thankful, excited and so, so humbled.

I cannot wait.


As the fog lifts

I feel like we’ve been living in the weeds — in the details — and trucking right along for the last month. Nothing super major, just the day-to-day life stuff. The outpouring of support and random emails from people I’ve never met have been so unexpected and so nourishing for my soul. My soul…that thing I like to pretend is strong and fully recovered. But goodness, what a broken little mess it becomes with each month of disappointment, each random unexpected pregnancy announcement on frickin’ Facebook and each month of being plagued with the “what if’s?”. I fight with my heart, and with myself, to try to stay positive…hopeful…and if I’m lucky, distracted.

Co-existence.

My church in Charlotte has been one of the most encouraging places for me lately (when we actually make it there!). Each time we go, I feel like Jonathan Martin is preaching to me…and me alone. In one of the last sermons, Jonathan talked about being “friends with our wounds” in order to help others…really believing that our afflictions are not meaningless, but that there’s great value and purpose in our suffering. He said “when you make your wounds and scars available to others, there’s purpose and healing that takes place.” The crazy thing about suffering is that it’s not separate from joy. It’s through suffering that we come to really know and appreciate true joy.

I know this to be true. Over the last few years, my hopeless pain & disappointment have managed to co-exist with laughter, joyful moments and a stubbornly hopeful heart. How can that be? How can it all feel so hopeless–so out of my control and yet my little heart STILL clings to the hope of something beautiful for our family? It makes no sense. But is it supposed to? The “unknown” can be paralyzing, but when you can find a way to lean into that discomfort, you start to realize that life indeed goes on.

It does go on.

When people ask how it’s been going recently, I talk about a lot of things. I talk about how Jay and I sold a car to get rid of some debt (hello, Dave Ramsey!)…how we are trying to live on a budget…how Jay is really coming into his own as a first-year teacher…how we FINALLY got renters and refinanced (thus making our old house less of a burden)…and how we are counting down the days until spring break and our little beach trip. It sounds like a lot and yes we’ve been super busy and we’ve had great times with friends, with family, with work and with life in general…but under the surface, the disappointment exists. We don’t always talk about it out loud, but the fact that we STILL have yet to start our family is painful. My heart winces in pain when Jay manages to talk about the kind of father he longs to be and the adventures he wants to have with his own children.

But the fog is starting to lift. Maybe the joy can outweigh that pain soon. Maybe, just maybe, there are big things on the horizon for us. It is with a hopeful heart and a lot of other emotions (which we’ll sort through later) that we share this:

adoption

Now we are SO in the WEE beginning stages of this thing AND I want to go on the record and say that us pursuing adoption does NOT mean we are giving up hope in all the other things. For us, since the beginning of Team M (2004 holla!), adoption was always a part of this family…OUR family’s story (before any unforeseen infertility issues). Someone…not sure who…but somebody thinks THESE clowns could be good parents:

US

And as the fog lifts and the warm, spring weather rolls in (hallelujah!), the icy cold winter starts melting away and LIFE — with its joy AND pain — finds a way to continue on.


A Turning Point

Winter is wearing off. The icy cold covering on my heart is slowly melting away. The seasonal shift from cold, grey winter to warm spring – to growth and new life – has been ongoing for about a year or so now.

Jay and I had come to a point, 3 or 4 years into this path of infertility, where we did not believe in much. Months and months of disappointment. Feeling the pain of a longing unexplainably unfulfilled is bad enough, but masking that pain for the sake of not dumping the weight of it all on our friends and family became utterly exhausting for us both. Our relationships with God were both hanging on by a thread and our relationship with each other had seen its fair share of bad days and disconnect. Our hope and faith was whittled away to almost nothing with each month of disappointment.

I felt like Artax in the Neverending Story…stuck in the swamp of sadness, unable to move…to do anything and yet, not let anyone know that this was our reality. (Smile…smile…smile and pretend everything is good.) Our situation – this infertility junk – felt TOO difficult for me. I was reaching my breaking point. Jay knew it…I knew it…and no one else.

Then like the Samaritan woman, Jesus met me. For one of the first times in my life, I had a real life experience with God and Jay witnessed it. Jay and I had just received the bad news that we were NOT pregnant again this particular month. I was an emotional mess and Jay, being the truly loving husband he is, knew he had to get me out of the house. We went for a movie and then I needed to go by Target to get some unmentionables. (Side note…at this point, I was playing this game where I wouldn’t buy these particular “items” in an attempt to sike out my cycle…maybe?! I don’t know…wink)

So, back to my story…he dropped me off to run in for a minute and get what I needed. As I roamed the aisles and made my way to the feminine products, I noticed a group of 3 or 4 teenage girls. They looked right at me and then laughed. Feeling like I was back in middle school again, I put on my best “get lost” face and kept walking. I was in no mood for judgmental teenagers. I grabbed what I needed and turned the corner. There they were, looking and giggling at me…again. Annoyed and with a little fearful pep in my step, I managed through the checkout line and called Jay to make sure he was ready with the car.

I walked out of the door and there they were again…like they were waiting for me. I thought surely I was going to get mugged (by little teenage girls) or worse, hit up for some fundraiser. Luckily, there was a police patty-wagon right out front. But I put my phone up to my ear quickly to pretend I was on the phone and to NOT to be bothered. I got in the car, shut the door and then Jay said “What’s going on?” I looked up and the girls were RIGHT outside my window. Totally freaked out, I rolled down the window and said “What’s up?”

There was a lady with the girls now. She said they were sorry to bother me (and stalk me) but that they were a youth group on a scavenger hunt (WHAT?!). She said they were praying before they got to Target and I matched the description of the woman seen in one of the girl’s visions. My first thought was “Oh great…those crazy PTL people are here in Pineville still”. So Jay and I played along and said “Oh cool, that’s so neat” and hoped that they would walk away.

She said that they felt like they had a “word” for me specifically. Coming from the Southern Baptist tradition, I didn’t encounter “words” of the prophetic nature EVER, so these kind of things freaked me out a little. She asked if there was something that we had been dreaming of or hoping for. Giving her the generic answer of “Sure…lots of things”, she didn’t seem convinced. Just then, the little teenage girl behind the woman spoke up and asked “Do you have any children?” My arms prickled with goosebumps. I told her the short version of “No”.

The girl teared up, looking down and disappointed. She said “Oh because I saw you. I saw you pregnant and with morning sickness.” Just then I joined her in the tears. I couldn’t stay silent and let her feel like her vision was totally wrong. I told them that we didn’t have children…that we really wanted them, but for some reason, we couldn’t have them. That’s when she looked up and got a HUGE smile on her face.

She said she felt like God wanted to tell me something. That He wanted me to “never to give up, to keep believing and have faith in Him. He wanted to blessed me.” And then they left. I looked at Jay and the glimmer in his eyes made me realize that what just happened was real…VERY real.

Now…I didn’t leave that experience thinking that I was going to get pregnant the next month (well, maybe I did for the next few months…oops:)), but after awhile, I knew. I knew that the experience that night was my “woman at the well” experience. God CAN do amazing things, but what He wanted me to know from that night was 1. He is real and 2. He SEES me and KNOWS me and LOVES me. He fully and completely knows me.

At this point, I’m not sure of very much, but I am sure of the fact that God is real because I encountered Him that night in a Target parking lot with a group of random, stalker teenage girls. Those girls didn’t provide me with an explanation of why our circumstances are the way they are, but they didn’t need to. I didn’t need an explanation.

That night marked the beginning of a new journey for me and for Jay. Not one of infertility, but one of renewal and growth. My heart was slowly being pulled from the swamp of sadness. Every day for the past year, I am reminded of that night at Target. I am reminded of the night that God introduced himself to me…not as a rule-maker or a puppet-master, but as my creator who SEES me and wants to bless me.

Until recently, we haven’t shared this story with too many people, but like the Samaritan woman at the well, it was her TELLING her story of her encounter with Jesus that changed other people’s lives. So I’m here, telling our story of when the warmth of spring crept into the cold, dark winter of my heart, hoping that it might be the story that brings someone else hope.