The lonely days…

I’ve never felt more lonely than my first night in Portland, December 1, 2016.

A year ago, I went to Portland for vacation. My friend was supposed to join me but due to a family emergency, she could no longer come on the trip. I was not mentally prepared to be in Portland alone. After exploring the city for a few hours, I sat in my hotel room, crying, determined to find a flight home, ASAP. I was so lonely, I hated it. I had a rental car and my hotel was about 20 minutes outside of the city with not much to do nearby. I sent an SOS to my people…”I gotta come home ASAP” but they convinced me to stay. Why did I feel so alone in this city?

img_2359Those emotions stuck with me, in fact, sometimes, I’m reminded of the chill winds and overcast skies of Portland in the moments I feel lonely. I feel every ounce of uncertainty and unfamiliarity that I felt in that hotel room.

Here’s the thing…

I’ve learned to enjoy being alone but its outside of my personality type. As I’ve gotten older I’ve acquired some introverted tendencies but I’ve always been an extrovert.

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I was lonely in Portland but I pushed past the fear and anxiety that wanted to cripple my soul, got on the meetup app, and found out a small group was gathering for a bible study at Starbucks. I figured this could go well or really bad but I wanted to meet new people so I went anyways. I was greeted by a joyful woman named Kiesha. She introduced me to everyone and they were all so welcoming.

Later that night, I went to a restaurant that a few friends recommended. I needed one seat and the bar seemed like the only place I would snag a seat…I watched as couple after couple overlooked me waiting and took a seat before me. Over time, I locked eyes with a gentleman waiting for a seat as well, we both saw a couple getting up and knew it was our chance to sit down. We began chatting and he told me he immigrated to the States from the middle east and loved Portland because people were so kind and welcoming to him. He asked if I was traveling alone, I told him yes. He proceeded to encourage me to travel more and seek out new adventures.

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It’s in the moments of loneliness that I feel the ache of singleness the most. I ended a relationship earlier this year and it was the right thing to do but very difficult. I knew the end of that relationship meant the feelings of loneliness would come sweeping back in. Growing up in church, they told us to kiss dating goodbye and “wait” because your husband will appear just when you “least expect it”.  A perspective I kissed dating goodbye author Joshua Harris is re-evaluating. The reality is, there is no formula for meeting the person you decide to spend forever with. Every story is unique. While marriage isn’t the ultimate goal of fulfillment for my life, I am keenly aware of my desire to love and be loved by a significant other. We are all wired for connection (thanks, Brene Brown for studying this). I know I am not the only one who feels this way, I’ve talked to girlfriends who are now dreaming about the future for themselves with no one else in mind. This isn’t what most of us had planned but its where we’re at. Welcoming peace and stillness to our hearts is where we learn to walk in the “dark” without fear. Its where we bow out of the rat race and learn to fly.

It’s been a whole year since Portland and I am well-acquainted with the feelings of loneliness;  familiar with the change in seasons with friendships; and well aware of my own sadness when I wish I had a boo. BUT this year, I deepened my friendship with adventure, 7 countries, and 10 US cities later I am more confident, empowered, and determined.

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I’m no longer anxious on lonely days.

I am aware.

From that awareness, I choose to wake up and ignore the self-imposed deadlines I’m “behind” on. Because who’s keeping track of the time anyway?

 

 

I love orphans.

orphansI was a case manager for a year and a half and I got to to work with children in foster care. Before earning a degree in social work, I was very ignorant about the foster care system. I did not know if orphanages still existed in the US or if children were just in foster homes-until I started my job and I met some of the faces that make up “foster care.”

Children in foster care are judged before anyone even meets them. They are probably “bad” or have a lot of “issues.” Potential adoptive parents want young children to complete their family. If you are 7 years old you better pray hard because most likely you will be passed over for a baby because you are far too old to “mold” and “shape”. Thus they are left in the system, growing more emotionally closed and starting to question everyone and everything. They are used to being let down and people giving promises they cannot keep. They shuffle from home to home- trying to learn new rules each time. Have you ever been to a sleepover as a child but you couldn’t sleep well because you were out of your home environment? Children in foster care have to adjust to new homes and wonder if they will be safe. They may not sleep well. They may wet the bed, make failing grades, or be disrespectful.

I was really apathetic towards children in foster care until I saw their faces and learned their names. 

Every time a child ran up to me for a hug or refused to let me leave, my heart melted each time. These children are worthy of love and belonging. Unfortunately the older they are the longer they will permanently bounce from home to home in the foster care system until they age out at 18. By that time many of them are homeless, pregnant, or facing jail time. I can only imagine how they would have turned out if someone took a chance to love them. Loving foster children is risky, especially the older ones, but I believe it is worth it. Did you know that girls in foster care are more likely to become teen mothers or pregnant before age 25?

The teen who taught me the most was one of my greatest challenges at first. She would not talk to me much. She kind of mumbled as she talked. I tried not to pry since they have to talk to several adults about their feelings and it can be overwhelming. So I tried building a rapport with her. I did not see the results of this rapport until a year later. She finally opened up to me. I knew there was something special about her and I wanted to remain involved in her life regardless of where my career led me. She had endured a lot of pain and hurt. She had trouble opening up to people and connecting with adults because one minute they would want her forever and the next they were done. She has a lot of fears and hesitations about being loved. She doesn’t understand true self-sacrificing, unconditional, and selfless love, yet. I am hoping she will be able to see past all of her hurt and pain to see how much love is really surrounding her.

In spite of all this, she has marked my life forever. I think of her all the time. Just thinking about her hurt, pain, and life brings tears to my eyes. There is nothing I can say or do to take away her pain. She is just one of many. She is not a number. She has a name and real life.

Watching a family adopt their 16year old son was so powerful. He was so excited to belong to a family legally but to them he was already family and this just made it official. The concept of leaving the old behind and changing your name is so symbolic to me. National adoption day is my favorite. These adoption moments bring me to tears because these kids are so worthy of love and having a family.

There are well over 6000+ children/teens waiting for good homes. These children are not in an orphanage, they are in foster homes in your own backyard- longing for permanency. You would be surprised how fast some parents relinquish their rights and decide to leave their child in foster care. It’s heartbreaking.

The most fulfilling work I’ve ever done was serve these legends. Remember for every number there is a name and a face-these are precious little lives. I hope your heart can be opened to adoption. It’s a beautiful, tough, rewarding, and life-changing journey.

Get out there people. Open your homes. Love a child or teen.

If you are scared of being in it alone, you won’t be! There are so many support groups that meet in person and online. You will have support.

You will not regret it.

If you don’t feel called to adopt then help someone else financially.

Do your part.

You can learn more about adoption through All In Orphan Care and Arrow Child and Family Ministries.

XOXO

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